In Deut. 3:28 God told Moses to “charge Joshua and encourage him,” because he was called to lead Israel into the Promised Land. Both Moses and Joshua were types of Christ, because Jesus Christ Himself was the Author of both the Old and New Covenants. Yet because the Old Covenant was designed to fail in order to make way for the “better covenant” (Heb. 7:22), it was necessary that Joshua should finish the work that Moses began.
Moses then proceeded to give Israel the most important advice that he knew. Deut. 4:1 says,
1 And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, in order that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
Possessing the Promised Land requires hearing and obeying. In this case, faith without works is lazy, as James 2:26 says literally. Under Moses and his Old Covenant, perfect obedience was impossible, because the flesh was weak. But under Joshua (Yeshua) and His New Covenant plan, Jesus was perfectly obedient, and His righteousness has been imputed to us by faith.
We may, therefore, obtain the promises of God on the basis of imputed righteousness—at least up to a point. Ultimately, we must become actually righteous in order to obtain the promises in the fullest sense of the word. This requires the second work of Christ, as I set out in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming.
Adding and Subtracting from the Word
2 You shall not add [yasaph] to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
The way many have interpreted this verse presents a problem. Men have often used this statement, along with a similar one in Revelation 22:18, to indicate that the Bible as a whole is a complete book. But Moses did not say this, for otherwise the prophets and the psalms must be excluded from Scripture. Shall we exclude the writings of David, the prophets, and the New Testament itself?
There is a better and more realistic way to understand this. Moses forbids that men add meaning to his words which he did not intend. Moses used the word yasaph, or “to add.” This is the same word from which we get the name Joseph. Recall that Joseph was named as a prophetic statement: “God will add to me another son” (Gen. 30:24). The added son in that case was Benjamin.
Yasaph is translated “add” 28 times, but also rendered “more” (70) and “again” (54). Moses' injunction is seen most clearly in what the people actually did to violate this in later years.
The New Testament Joshua (Yeshua-Jesus) said in Matt. 15:3,
3 . . . And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
In verse 9 Jesus quoted Isaiah, who also saw the same problem in his own day:
9 But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.
When men lean upon their own understanding, contrary to Solomon's injunction in Prov. 3:5, they soon add many laws to that which God has given. These are “the traditions of men.” They stand in contrast to the inspired words of God, because these traditions are not based upon hearing the voice of God, but upon human reasoning.
What about Supreme Court Rulings?
In Num. 9:6-14 we see a situation where it was necessary to add a law to that which had been given in Exodus. Men were commanded to keep Passover, but they were also forbidden to keep a feast if they were unclean for having touched a dead body. Some of the men had buried their father just before Passover and were thus forbidden to keep the feast. So they came to Moses and asked him what they should do.
Moses got a Supreme Court ruling on this and established the Second Passover. The men could keep the feast a month later. But this was not part of the original law of Passover given in Exodus 12. This incident literally added something to the law of God. Was that wrong? Of course not.
God can add to His Word as much as He desires. In fact, we might even say that every time God speaks, He is adding to His Word. Only a small portion of His words are actually written down and placed as Scripture, but God is speaking constantly. “Day to day pours forth speech,” David says in Ps. 19:2.
Divine inspiration is available to all. We need inspiration from the Holy Spirit in order to interpret and apply the laws of God in the way that God intended. The Bible speaks in terms of oxen rather than tractors, but if we understand the spirit of the law, we can apply the principles of law to modern times. However, it takes genuine inspiration in order to prevent such applications from becoming just another tradition of men.
Hence, when Moses tells us not to add to the word, he was forbidding us to be led by human reasoning and carnal motivations which might become established as if it were the inspired word of God.
Moses’ Negative Example of Adding to the Word
Moses then continues by giving a good example of what it means to add to the word:
3 Your eyes have seen what the Lord has done in the case of Baal-peor, for all the men who followed Baal-peor, the Lord your God has destroyed them from among you. 4 But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you.
The incident of Baal-peor in Numbers 25 shows the people joining in the worship of the Moabites and Midianites. In other words, when some of the Israelites ate the sacrifices of Baal-peor, it signified that they were “eating” (assimilating) false teachings—that is, “the precepts of men.” One of those precepts involved fornication, as the story shows.
This sin was also found in the church of Pergamum, for we read in Rev. 2:14,
14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.
When we understand that The Seven Churches were prophetic time frames of the Church in the Pentecostal Age, we place Pergamum within the time frame of 313-529 A.D. Specifically, the doctrine of Balaam was about the unification of Christianity with paganism, which occurred during this time period.
There are seven churches of the Old Testament, which correlate directly with the seven churches of the New Testament. In this case, the Balaam Church of the Old Testament correlated with the New Testament Church of Pergamum, in that both faced the same problem. Once again, there were some who overcame, while others fell as a result of Balaam's policy of immorality in the guise of religious unity. See my book on The Seven Churches.
The root of the problem, Moses says, is adding to the word of God by treating the doctrines of men as if they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Some mistakenly believe that the solution to the problem is to refuse to hear God's voice. They think that if they hear anything further, they are adding to the word of God and thus violating Deut. 4:2. In hardening their ears to hearing God's voice, they actually set themselves up for a fall. It is only in learning to hear God's voice that we can learn to discern between the Holy Spirit and the teachings of men.
Those who are afraid to hear God's voice are like the Israelites at Mount Sinai, who were also afraid (Ex. 20:19-21). Their fear disqualified them from experiencing Pentecost at that time. Many today need to recognize this problem and correct it.