My favorite book of the Bible is SHOCKING to many Christians
Hey friends, Josh here. I bet that if you were to ask any Christian in our day and age what their favorite book of the Bible was, you’d probably hear a variety of answers but a majority would answer maybe the Gospel of John or Romans or Genesis or the Psalms or maybe even Revelation.
In my nearly two-decades of full-time ministry and in all of my life as a disciple of Jesus up to this point, I haven’t heard too many people say that Leviticus or Esther or Obadiah were their favorite books. I’d venture to guess you haven’t either.
No, Leviticus is not my favorite book. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. But what if I were to tell you that my favorite book of the Bible is Deuteronomy?
Would you put me in the same category as the weirdos who like Leviticus and Obadiah?
I hope not, because I do have Jesus to back me up - he seemed to really like Deuteronomy - in the Gospels, he quotes a lot of passages from it.
So you might be asking, ok by why? Why is Deuteronomy your favorite book? What does Deuteronomy have to do with me and my relationship with Jesus? I mean, isn’t that why you read the Bible anyways? To see that Jesus fulfilled lots of prophecy by coming and dying for my sins on the cross and being raised on the third day so that I can have a restored relationship with God and if I believe in Jesus and believe he has a great plan for my life then go to heaven when I die?
Well, I hope you sense the sarcasm in my voice. Because the Bible’s story is about something so much bigger than that.
And this is where Deuteronomy comes in. Deuteronomy can be my favorite book of the Bible first because the Bible is not mostly about me. Yes, thanks to the enlightenment, Western culture is very individualistic and the air that we breathe today even in the church is often made up of oxygen, nitrogen, and narcissism. We love to read ourselves into every passage in the Bible and when it doesn’t fit or make sense or we can’t spiritualize it too well, we move it to the background and it becomes just part of the “where’s Waldo” or the “where’s Jesus” game that we play when we read the Bible. Now I have another video here on my channel that I’ll link in the description below called “the Bible was not written to you” where I develop this specific idea a bit more.
But when I began to realize that the Bible was inviting me into a bigger story than what God was doing with me and my personal life or the vision of my church or the spiritual destiny of my nation, the scriptures began to open up in a way like they never had before. Verses and chapters and even whole books began to make more sense. And one of those was the book of Deuteronomy.
So what is Deuteronomy even about? Well, we’ve gotta go back to Genesis, specifically Genesis 3 and Genesis 12. As I’m sure you’re familiar of the story of the garden in Eden and God’s curse on humanity to return to the dust in Genesis 3, we jump forward just a few chapters to Genesis 12 where God promises to a man named Abraham that it would be through him and his family that all the rest of the families of the earth, the nations, would be blessed - that the curse of Genesis 3 would be lifted. The book of Genesis goes on to trace the stories of Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob, and then Jacob’s twelve sons. Why? Because it’s through his family that life and immortality is going to return to humanity.
Now if we go on reading the Bible, we’d get to Exodus, where we see Abraham’s family oppressed in Egypt and God doing something so monumental for them - he delivers them from slavery to the Egyptians in dramatic fashion. And if you read the details, he brings the plagues on Egypt and delivers the people of Israel not just because he’s a nice God and cares for suffering people, which he does of course, but the main reason we see over and over again is because he’s made a commitment, he’s made a covenant with their ancestor Abraham. So God brings them out to Mount Sinai where the whole nation then enters into a covenant with him. And this covenant is significant for the rest of the story because of what God says in Exodus 19 verses 5 and 6: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”
So through Israel’s obedience to God’s instructions and through their keeping of the covenant, God promises to make them a unique, distinct nation that’s different from the others, and that they would be a kingdom of priests. To be a priest doesn’t just mean they will have a nice warm relationship with God and that they’ll have some great quiet times. The role of a priest is to do more than just sing to God and worship him. The whole nation’s calling is to introduce the nations to their God, help them come and meet with him, to navigate what it means to be in relationship with him, to intercede or stand in the gap on behalf of the nations, and to distribute resources to those in need. This is what priesthood is. So just as Moses was a priest to the people of Israel, so Israel is the kingdom of priests to the rest of the nations. Does that make sense? Of course this is all in line with what God promised to Abraham all the way back in Genesis 12:1-3 - that he would bless Abraham’s family SO THAT they would be a blessing to the rest of the nations.
But here’s the problem - Israel began to show not all that long after they agree to the terms of the covenant with God at Mount Sinai that they just didn’t really want to be holy or different. It wasn’t because of inability - the terms of the covenant that they made with God weren’t too hard for them to do, as the Moses would later say. Their problem was unwillingness.
But Israel’s unwillingness to obey and their seemingly perpetual desire to be just like the rest of the nations doesn’t thwart God’s intentions to keep the covenant he made with Abraham. He’s bound himself to that people group and that covenant, and isn’t going to change his mind about how he’s planned to bring all the nations back to him and undo the curse of Genesis 3. And this is what brings us to Deuteronomy.
Now Moses does something so unique in Deuteronomy that causes it to be come extremely significant for the rest of the story of the Bible. Deuteronomy is essentially the beginning of using narrative and history to explain God’s plan of redemption. What do I mean by that? Well Deuteronomy was supposedly written at the end of the 40 years that Israel spent wandering in the wilderness. And Moses begins by recounting some of the major things that have happened in Israel’s history - not only the exodus from Egypt but Sinai and some battles on the way to the promised land, all to show that God is faithful and is keeping the covenant that he promised to Abraham. He’s not just acting randomly based on how he feels that day. Moses is framing God’s actions with Israel in context to the covenant. He’s moving and guiding and leading and responding to Israel through the lens of the covenant.
Now not only does Moses frame Israel’s past in context to the covenant, he frames Israel’s future that way too. Passages like Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 28-32 - just to name a few - speak ahead to Israel’s future and what will happen to the nation in both near and far days ahead. The way God acted in the past, if we see it through the lens of the covenant, is very predictable. Because of that, Israel’s future is predicable - through the lens of the covenant.
Deuteronomy lays out a simple cycle that can be seen in Israel’s history and projected forward to Israel’s future - it’s the cycle of transgression and covenant breaking - meaning Israel turns aside from obedience to the things God gave them at Sinai, then God raises up a voice or prophet of some kind to remind Israel of the covenant and call them back to it. Then third, Israel doesn’t respond to the prophet and so God is faithful to do what he promised he would - to bring discipline upon them as he said in Leviticus 26 and Deuteromony 28 - a discipline not of a final rejection of them, but to bring them back to repentance. That discipline often comes in the form of exile from the promised land. And then in the last part of the cycle, there’s a remnant of people in Israel who recognize their disobedience and repent. They turn back to obedience to the terms of the covenant and then God restores them to the land.
With that simple cycle in mind and with that basic understanding that God’s actions are predictable through the lens of the covenant, we can look forward to the ministry of the prophets and even to the ministry of Jesus and explain what’s going on. This covenantal lens is how Isaiah is interpreting the events of the invasion of Senaccherib and Assyria. Same thing with Jeremiah and the Babylonians and the destruction of Jerusalem and the 70 years in exile. This use of narrative and history to explain events essentially becomes a mechanism that the prophets use to remind people that God’s judgment didn’t mean God’s rejection and forsaking of the of his promises to Abraham and his family. Discipline is maintenance of the covenant - he’s maintaining his promise to do what he said. It’s actually the opposite to what we often think, right? If God didn’t discipline Israel and scatter them, he wouldn’t be faithful to do what he promised, because the discipline is part of the terms of the covenant that they made with him at Sinai.
So the story of the Bible is not random, all those things don’t just act as some kind of platform for Jesus and the spiritual salvation he brought or something, and history is not meandering aimlessly. His covenant with Israel represents his plan to redeem all the families of the earth. Even the story we find in the Gospels - the story of John the Baptist and Jesus and his ministry to Israel in the first century can and should be understood in this light. I have 150 videos here on my Youtube channel walking through the Gospels to show you this. Said differently, the cycle is playing out again - Israel disobeys, they reject God’s messengers, so God scatters them away from the land, and then a remnant repents and returns. This is why I think the more commonly held view - sometimes called replacement theology or even more confusingly “covenant theology” - is completely missing the mark. Jesus’ first coming didn’t redefine anything. There’s not some new people because God rejected his old people. No. God’s maintaining his covenant with them and still intends to redeem all the families of the earth through them.
And as Deuteronomy lays out, this cycle will not go on forever. There’s a time coming when God will act definitively, where he will do something so significant in history and something so profound in the hearts of the people Israel that they will never again turn aside from disobedience. The cycle comes to an end, and they live in the land and all the families of the earth are blessed through them. Death is no more, and they walk out their role as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
And this is what Deuteronomy lays out, and why I think Deuteronomy has become one of my favorite books of the Bible. It’s where history is “theologized” around the covenant. And without that specific understanding, the ministry of the prophets and John the Baptist and Jesus to Israel doesn’t make all that much sense.
Of course there’s so much more I could say, so if you’re looking for a deeper discussion of these things, I’ve linked to a couple of episodes on a podcast below where a few other ministry leaders and I have walked through it in much more detail. Of course I have lots of other videos here on my channel talking about these themes. But if this has been provoking to you to maybe begin to dig into Deuteronomy, drop a like and a comment below. Well, until next time, God bless, and Maranatha.