Moses in this chapter reminds Israel that their real purpose in receiving the land was to serve as representatives of their God. Israel is His witness and testimony to a lost and dying world, they still are today in their national unbelief. They were bringing the King and His Kingdom to the Land preparing the way for the Messiah. The Talmud teaches: “All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah” (Berachot 34B). They were not just entering physical warfare but spiritual as well. Their redemption from Egypt meant that they were purchased by God (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23), with privilege comes responsibility.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2 As Israel prepared to cross the Jordan to begin their war, Moses didn’t discuss military strategy. Instead he focused on their spiritual condition. If they were not right with God, they would not have victory, peace and blessing in the land. All land belongs to the Lord, but especially this land (Ps. 32:8-9; Ps. 24:1). The Land had a purpose in the past, as it does today and will in the future. The Canaanites were removed because of their sin and rebellion and when Israel did the same, they were expelled. Their security and blessings depended on abiding in Him and His Word (John 15:4-11). Moses warned them not to add to God’s Word which is what legalism does as it invalidates God’s Word (Mark 7:9-13). Israel must not subtract from God’s Word either (2 Tim. 3:16; Rev. 22:18-19).
Deuteronomy 4:3-4 To illustrate the importance of taking God’s law seriously Moses reminds this new generation of what the Lord did at Baal Peor (Num. 25). Israel was ensnared by the women of Moab to worship their gods, which involved immorality. The result was a plague of judgment that only ended when the leaders involved were executed. 24,000 people died as a result of God’s discipline. Most listening here lost relatives, friends and people they knew. These. survivors were standing in the very spot where those events happened (v 46).
Deuteronomy 4:5-8. The commands given to Israel were not man made but from the creator and sustainer of the universe. If observed, they would demonstrate Israel’s wisdom and attract the world to God and His Word. They would be light to the nations (Isa. 49:6) and His blessings would entice the nations to forsake their gods who are not gods. Israel would then teach them His ways (Micah 4:2).
Deuteronomy 4:9-14 Moses warns of the danger of forgetting, which would lead to carelessness in their walk. Israel was religious when they fell into idolatry, because they forgot their past which is recorded in God’s Word. Faith and obedience come from knowing and studying God’s Word (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 2:15-16). Moses called the nation to remember the day they stood before the Lord at Mount Sinai. They didn’t have Bibles like we have, only scrolls but the remnant would buy or make their own copies to study and teach their children (6:6-7). He reminded them of the day they stood terrified at the foot of the mountain and received God’s word and covenant (Exodus 19).
Deuteronomy 4:15-20. Moses applied their experience at Sinai when God appeared without any form. Israel worshiped the unseen God and were not to become like the nations in their idol worship. Nor were they to look at the skies and think that the sun, moon and the stars were worthy of worship. They were to serve as a testimony of His grace, order and goodness (Ps. 19:1-6). Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was described as an iron furnace whose function was to melt down metals under intense heat to remove dross and purify. The Lord allowed Israel to experience trials to refine them for their role and inheritance (Zch 13:9; Mal 3:3).
Deuteronomy 4:21-24 Moses used himself as an example describing the events of Num. 20. God said he would not be able enter the land but would die on the east side of the Jordan. While his sins were forgiven, he became an illustration of the consequences that could not be overcome even with godly sorrow and repentance. The point is that Israel needed to be careful not to forget the covenant that God had made with them chief among them was idolatry. Their failure would provoke him to righteous anger and judgment since He was their husband and a consuming fire and a jealous God. “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility” Prov. 15:33.
Deuteronomy 4:25-28 These verses are prophetic not simply describing what would happen when they break covenant, but it also describes the nation’s future as well. The northern 10 tribes were exiled to Assyria in 722 BC (2 Kings 17) and the southern tribes were deported to Babylon in 605–586 BC (2 Kings 24–25). The discipline in these verses is given in even greater detail in Deut. 28.
Deuteronomy 4:29-31 When Israel went into exile, they would find the Lord when they sought Him with all their heart and soul. The Lord’s promises to His people will come to pass because He is faithful to His Word (30:6-8; Rom 11:25-26). He will transform His people by His grace so that they will be able to believe, repent, and return (Rm 11:28-32).
Deuteronomy 4:32-34 The calling of Israel out of Egypt was and remains as one of the most momentous events in history. It set in motion the establishment of Israel as a nation and set the stage for influencing the world through the Scriptures and the Messiah who came from them. Their national deliverance became the model for personal deliverance They were taken from bondage, brought to Mt. Sinai, and led and protected by God and given the land promised to their fathers, all by God’s grace
Deuteronomy 4:35-40 The Lord did all that He did so Israel would know and understand that there is no other God besides Him. Israel heard His voice and saw His works and beheld His presence in the fire on the mountain and the fire that was with them in the wilderness. God personally brought the nation out of Egypt (v. 37) because of His covenant love. He fought against their enemies leading them in battle and giving them their land. It is this love that should motivate them as well as us to respond in love, trust and obedience so that they and their children will experience His blessings (1 Cor. 10:6-11).
Deuteronomy 4:41-43 In light of this love Moses then transitions to how the nation will provide for truth and justice to exist. His covenant laid down laws that would facilitate how it will govern. 3 cities on the East bank of the Jordan were designated as places of refuge for persons guilty of manslaughter, which is defined in v 42. Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan were strategically placed so that a person who unintentionally killed someone could find refuge from an avenger until a trial could be arranged to determine guilt or innocence. Later after their victories in the land on the other side of the Jordan three more cities of refuge will be designated (Josh 20:7-8).
Deuteronomy 4:44-49 The first 4 chapters have been a prologue for why this covenant and laws should be heeded. God’s law, (Torah in Hebrew), is stated in testimonies, statutes and ordinances. Testimonies are the basic covenant terms (Deuteronomy 5:6–21); statutes were fixed commands; ordinances are decisions made by a judge after examining the facts and reflecting on the statutes and evidence. This is the basis for most legal systems of justice today. Legal decisions would be based on the merits of the situation, as well as God’s decrees and laws. The difference between these terms are minor. They were now in the land of the Amorites, territory that God gave them beyond his original promises proving His goodness and faithfulness.