You’ve got one shot. You are not long for this world. You will soon die. What will you say to the group of people that you have cared for, shepherded, and led for the past forty years? Final words are always significant, especially when you know that the end is coming.
For all the frustration Moses endured through the grumbling and unbelief of the people, it can be certain that he loved these people that he was leaving behind. They were finally going to enter the promised land after many years of roaming in the desert. Yet Moses was soon going to enter his grave.
Israel’s great leader clearly wanted to send the people on their way with the greatest and most important advice that he could give. The entirety of Deuteronomy speaks to that desire of Moses. In essence, the book serves as one long parting sermon. Moses is encouraging the people, warning the people, and exhorting the people to take heed of God’s word as they finally receive their long-awaited inheritance.
What Moses says in his final message to his people is significant. He says that this message (the message of God’s law) was “no empty word for you.” This is true of all God’s word. Not one sentence, word, or syllable is empty. The Bible has no pointless verbs. God does not use filler material for the Bible. He is not trying to hit a minimum word count. Every word matters. Every word means something. They each have a divine purpose. And each word will hit its intended target. “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5). God says in Isaiah 55:11 that His word will always accomplish what He sends it out to do. God does not fail here. His word is always potent.
His Word is also life-giving. Moses goes beyond the truth that God’s word gives life. He tells the Israelites that God’s Word is their life.
Famously, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy when He was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. In the face of extreme hunger after fasting for forty days, the devil tempted Jesus to turn a stone into some bread. Jesus responded by affirming the life-sustaining quality of God’s Word. Ironically, by quoting a verse about the life-sustaining nature of scripture, Jesus Himself was being sustained by scripture.
Jesus quoted the end of Deuteronomy 8:3:
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” ––Deuteronomy 8:3
How does man live on God’s word? The scriptures yield life. For they lead us to Jesus who is the Word of God (John 1:1) who became flesh. As we partake of Christ through faith, we are given true life, that is eternal life. If we trust in God’s word which proclaims the good news about Jesus, then we will live. Bread and meat sustain our physical bodies. They give us energy. They provide vitamins and nutrients. They give us life. Without food, the body will simply die. In a more significant way, God’s Word is spiritual food for us. It sustains our souls. It provides energy to our spiritual cores. Most importantly, it is our eternal life source. God’s word declares the way of eternal life which is found only in Jesus Christ. If we fail to trust in the gospel as it is defined in Scripture, we will eternally die.
There is an important caveat here. Food does us no good if we merely stare at it. I can have a twelve ounce steak with a baked potato on the side, sitting on a plate six inches in front of me, but unless I partake of that steak and ingest it, I will not reap any of the benefits of that food. So it is with the Word of God. The Bible does us no good if it simply sits on our bookshelves. It yields no eternal rewards if it is read, but not incorporated into the life of the reader. The Word of God must be integrated into our lives. We must feast on it. We must read it. We must meditate upon it. We must memorize it. We must practice it.
For God’s word to give us life, we must bank our lives on it . The promises of God do not come back empty. They always accomplish what God sends them to do. As Christians it is incumbent upon us to position ourselves however we can to reap the life-giving benefits of God’s Word.
This was the message of Israel’s dying shepherd as he was preparing to leave his sheep behind. Recognize the power and potency of God’s Word. Live by it, and receive life.