These chapters record the final instructions of Moses. In Deuteronomy 5-26, Moses unpacked the ten commandments as instruction for Israel’s soon-to-be situation in Canaan. In Deuteronomy 27-30, he set forth covenant blessings and curses (chs. 27-28) and provided a concluding charge for Israel to obey God (chs. 29-30).
Moses first instructed Israel to remember the law (Deut 27:1-8). Once Israel crossed into Canaan, they were to copy the law onto plaster-covered stones that would be set on Mount Ebal (Deut 27:1-4, 8; see Josh 8:30-35). Moses then described the ceremony of corporate confession the Levites were to lead once Israel entered Canaan (Deut 27:9-26). Israel was to echo covenant blessings and curses from Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The focus of these words is upon the individual Israelite, who would be recompensed according to his faithfulness to the law (see Deut 5:6-21).
Deuteronomy 28 is the record of stipulations Moses established for Israel’s success in the land. As Israel obeyed the law, they could expect God’s blessing of protection and provision (Deut 28:7-13). Likewise, Israel’s unfaithfulness to the law would be recompensed with curses (Deut 28:15-68). These curses include not only a removal of the Lord’s protection and lack of the Lord’s provision, but the fact that Israel’s unfaithfulness would place them in a position of being God’s enemy. Sadly, once in Canaan Israel did not obey the law—and they were deported from the land (see 2 Kings 17, 24).
In Deuteronomy 29-30, Moses exhorted the people to be faithful to the law they had received at Mount Sinai. Moses reviewed God’s call and blessings upon Israel, exhorting them on the plains of Moab to obey so that they would succeed in their conquest of Canaan (Deut 29:1-8). Though all of the people assembled to acknowledge the covenant (Deut 29:10-15), Moses vividly described how future generations would come and see the destruction God had brought to the land because of the infidelity of the people (Deut 29:16-29). Moses nonetheless encouraged Israel to return to the Lord (Deut 30:1-10) and choose life in the land (Deut 30:11-20). Moses’ closing words display the rubric for the Sinai covenant: as Israel obeyed the covenant, they would live (i.e., “be saved”) in Canaan; if they were unfaithful to their gracious Lord, they would perish.
Moses acknowledged that in his day, the Lord had not yet given the people eyes and ears of spiritual sensitivity that they might heed God’s instruction (Deut 29:4). Yet, Moses exhorted Israel that the law was not a distant message, but near them, in their mouth and heart, that they would submit to what God had revealed to them (Deut 30:14). The prophetic tone of Moses’ messages toward the end of Deuteronomy was taken up by Jesus and the authors of the New Testament in calling their audiences to live in accord with the new covenant.
(1) Jesus employed Deut 29:4 to explain to the disciples why so many rejected His message. When Jesus began to speak in parables with increasing frequency, the disciples asked Him to explain why (Matt 13:10//Mark 4:10//Luke 8:9). Moses told Israel that God had not given them an ability to understand and Jesus told the disciples that the messages of His parables could not be understood by those who were in the same spiritual state as Moses’ audience. But the disciples were in a different state. Jesus told His disciples that the secrets of the kingdom of heaven were given to them but not to everyone following Jesus in the crowds (Matt 13:11//Mark 4:11//Luke 8:10).
(2) In Rom 10:6-8, Paul quoted from Deut 30:12-14 to describe the proximity of the gospel message. Paul ministered in the new covenant, when God changed the hearts of both Jews and Gentiles so that they would believe. Throughout Romans, Paul argued that since the gospel is received by faith, Jews and Greeks have equal access to the righteousness of God in Christ. The message of the kingdom of God in Christ is near to all. Paul noted that while Moses said in Lev 18:5 that Israel would live in the Promised Land if they practiced the law, Moses also said in Deut 30:12-14 that God’s command was near and ready to be followed. Paul saw in Deut 30:12-14 a framework for explaining justification by faith. Paul urged his readers to see the gospel as near, available, ready to be believed.