Editorial: Reading Deuteronomy For God’s People Today -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 18:3 (Fall 2014)
Article: Editorial: Reading Deuteronomy For God’s People Today
Author: Stephen J. Wellum


Editorial: Reading Deuteronomy For God’s People Today

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He received his Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is the author of numerous essays and articles and the co-author of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012).

It is difficult to overstate the importance of Deuteronomy in Scripture and God’s unfolding redemptive plan. Positioned strategically at the end of the Pentateuch, concluding the incredible life and ministry of Moses, renewing and expanding the Sinai covenant for the post-wilderness generation, Deuteronomy serves as the covenant instruction (torah) for a new generation posed to enter the Promised Land. Finally, after thirty-eight years of delay and the death of the previous generation due to their rebellion in the wilderness, God’s patriarchal promises are now finally being fulfilled as the people of Israel are on the verge of entering the land. But Deuteronomy gives us more than a mere recounting of this unique episode in Israel’s history. Through Moses’ instruction, Deuteronomy also describes the future of the nation, which later biblical authors use as a template to interpret Israel’s history and to hold out hope for a new and better covenant (see e.g., Deut 29-30). Deuteronomy, rightly understood and placed in its location in redemptive-history, is far more than an ancient history book of Israel. In truth, it is a Gospel book which describes beautifully the covenant relationship between Yahweh and his people, the deep and abiding problem of the human heart, and the only remedy for uncircumcised hearts, namely, God’s sovereign and gracious action to redeem by the provision of a greater and better Israel, the true obedient Son and servant King. Let us highlight each of these areas in turn.

First, Deuteronomy beautifully describes the covenant relationship between God and his people. There is no greater privilege for humans than to know, love, obey, and serve our glorious covenant Lord. For God to say to any people: “I am your God and you are my people” is the very reason and purpose for our existence as God’s image-bearers. In the storyline of Scripture, Israel was privileged to be in this position, not because they were better or more numerous than the nations (Deut 7:7), but solely due to God’s sovereign choice and his covenant loyalty to Abraham (Ex 19:4; Deut 7:8). In fact, given sin’s entrance into the world, Israel’s role in the world ...

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