The Plains of Moab Sermon

Deuteronomy is a sermon—actually a series of sermons. It is the longest sermon in the Bible and maybe the longest sermon ever. Deuteronomy presents Moses, standing on the Plains of Moab with all Israel assembled before him, preaching. It is his last sermon. When he completes it, he will leave his pulpit on the plains, climb a mountain, and die.

The setting is stirring and emotion-packed. Moses had entered the biblical store of salvation as a little baby born in Egypt under a death threat. Now, 120 years later, eyesight sharp as ever and walking with “a spring in his step,” he preaches this immense sermon and dies, still brimming with words and life.

This sermon does what all sermons are intended to do: Take God’s words, written and spoken in the past, take the human experience, ancestral and personal, of the listening congregation, then reproduce the words and experiences as a single event right now, in this present moment. No word that God has spoken is a mere literary artifact to be studied; no human experience is dead history merely to be regretted or admired. The continuous and insistent Mosaic repetitions of “today” and “this day” throughout these sermons keep attentions taut and responsive. The complete range of human experience is brought to life and salvation by the full revelation of God: Live this! Now!

Salvation and Providence

The Plains of Moab are the last stop on the forty-year journey from Egyptian slavery to Promised Land freedom. The People of Israel have experienced a lot as a congregation: deliverance, wanderings, rebellions, wars. Providence, worship, guidance. The People of Israel have heard a lot from God: commandments, covenant conditions, sacrificial procedures. And now, poised at the River Jordan, ready to cross over and possess the new land, Moses, preaching his great Plains of Moab sermon, makes sure they don’t leave any of it behind, not so much as one detail of their experience or God’s revelation: He puts their entire experience of salvation and providence into the present tense; he puts the entire revelation of commandment and covenant into the present tense; and then wraps it all up in a charge and a song and a blessing to launch them into today’s obedience and believing.

You’ve been reading from the introduction to the book of Deuteronomy found in The Message//REMIX , a special edition of The Message Bible . // REMIX ’s unique design reveals that what’s inside is something special. Surprising readers with its vivid language, The Message compels readers to recognize their own lives from a new perspective—God’s perspective.