Now let me give you an outline for Deuteronomy. You have a preamble in the first five verses of chapter 1. Then you have three addresses by Moses. Now scholars break them up in different ways, but generally we can divide them up like this: Moses’ first address (Deut. 1:6-4:43) gives a review of the people’s past journey from Mount Sinai to the borders of Canaan; Moses’ second address (Deut. 4:44-26:19) summarizes, restates, and applies God’s law and urges it on the people; and Moses’ third address (Deut. 27-30) is an enactment of the covenant between God and the people, according to which they are going to be blessed for their obedience and cursed for their disobedience.
Following this is a short historical section, and then what I have called the second song of Moses (Deut. 31-32). And in the final chapters, Moses blesses the tribes, and his death is recorded (Deut. 33-34).
Seminaries teach that a sermon is supposed to have one clear point that can be stated in a short sentence. Though Moses’ point is not a short sentence, his basic message is this: Look at your past and see from experience what your dealings with God have been. When you’ve obeyed God, He’s blessed you, and when you have disobeyed God, you’ve suffered for it.
Moses’ sermon has four parts. First, he has a section dealing with disobedience (see Deut. 1:6-2:23). This is what resulted in the thirty-eight years of desert wandering. The people didn’t trust God to go into the land, and they suffered for their unbelief. Second, there is a section dealing with obedience that leads to victory (see Deut. 2:24-3:20). When the people did obey God, He gave them victory over the two kings, Sihon and Og, in preparation for their invasion of the land of promise. A third section (see Deut. 3:21-29) recounts Moses’ personal disobedience, when he dishonored God and was punished by not being able to go into the land. What happened to the nation also happened to Moses, and it is an exhortation to obedience.
The only unique part of this review of past history in the first three parts is that this time it is given from Moses’ own personal and emotional perspective on what is going on. When you read those earlier narratives in Exodus through Numbers, which Moses himself has written, you do not really know how Moses felt. But when a person preaches, he sometimes reveals a bit more personal information or perspective. Moses is doing that here. He is telling us how he feels, and relating the burden he carried in having to govern so many people, and his frustrations at the people’s unbelief when they were first on the borders of Canaan. The people were weary, but so was Moses. But then he had been glad when the Israelites defeated Sihon and Og. Finally, Moses’ tells of his painful pleading with the Lord to be allowed to enter the land of promise. He asked the Lord again and again until God finally got tired of his asking and told him not to ask anymore because the Lord had said no.
The fourth part is the most important section of this address (Deut. 4:1-40), because there, over and over, Moses exhorts the people to obey God on the basis of this historical review (see vv. 1, 6, 9, 15, 23, 39-40). Deuteronomy 4:2 is an important verse, teaching the sufficiency of the Word of God, and warning the people not to add to or take anything away from it. The language is similar to what you find at the very end of the book of Revelation (see Rev. 22:18-19). Moses says, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” The Bible is God’s great gift to us. We must not add to it, and we better not take anything from it. There is a curse in Revelation for anybody who does either of those. The Bible is sufficient for what we need, and it is as relevant today as it was in Moses’ day.