3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, (Deuteronomy 1:3)
The very fact that Deuteronomy exists is a testimony to the grace of God. The word “Deuteronomy” means “second law.” And as we heard in the Bible Recap podcast this morning, there’s a lot of repetition in the book. It’s Moses’ farewell speech, his own Bible Recap, in which he stands on the edge of the Promised Land and lays down the law for a new generation.
Some people might think it’s unnecessary. The people had the law. Why did Moses need to repeat it? Some of us might have groaned a little when we heard Tara-Leigh introduce the book we are starting today. We’ve just slogged through two books of nothing but law. Can’t we skip “second law” and get back to the action?
And there are some people who think having to repeat yourself is a sign of bad leadership. “I told you once, and I don’t stutter” is their mantra. And if their instructions aren’t followed to a T the first time, they lose it.
For several years, I was a coordinator for a Christian summer camp. At the beginning of the summer, I helped train the young adults who would be running the camp for the rest of the summer. Then I would come back to the camp midsummer to evaluate how they were doing.
I will never forget coming back to one of my locations and talking with the Recreation Director, the staffer who was in charge of teaching the Bible study leaders the games and activities they would use to reinforce the Bible study. He was struggling. His team wasn’t following his leadership well.
I rode with him in his truck one day during recreation. The rec field was kind of a big bowl, with a road running around the rim. We stopped at a couple of places, and he would call out corrections to the Bible study leaders with his megaphone.
“This is the worst rec staff I’ve ever worked with,” he complained. “They don’t listen. They make up their own rules. They’ve forgotten everything I told them at training week.”
I looked at his truck. I looked at where we were up on the hill, compared to where the staff were, down on the rec field. I looked at the megaphone. I said, “Man, if that’s the case, what are we doing up here?”
“I stay up here so I can keep an eye on everything they’re doing wrong.” he said.
“Why aren’t you down there with them?” I asked. “You know, helping them remember?”
“Why should I have to?” he defended. “We’ve been through these games. Everything is written down. They just don’t read it.”
I told them once. And I don’t stutter.
Oh, the grace of Deuteronomy. The grace of hearing the Law a second time, and a third, a fourth, and a ten millionth. The grace of God giving the Israelites a leader who literally did stutter (Exodus 4:10). Moses probably had to repeat himself a lot. And that’s a good thing, because for forty years, the people needed to be told the same things, over and over.
The fact of Deuteronomy is a testimony to God’s patience and long-suffering. His slow-to-angerness. His abounding in steadfast love to a thousand generations. The fact of Deuteronomy points to the Incarnation itself: when God knew He couldn’t just stay at the top of the hill, keeping an eye on everything we were doing wrong, shouting His corrections to us with a megaphone.
He came down to the field and walked alongside us. Teaching. Correcting.