November 16, 2015.
Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 4-6.
Background: Deuteronomy 1-3.
Concepts and Connections.
The people of God: After going over their history in the past three chapters, Moses now turns to the people of God to command their obedience. They were about to enter the promised land, and Moses wanted to remind them who they were, who they belonged to and how they should serve the Lord their God. He reminds them of the rebellion at Baal-peor where the Lord struck down those who had yoked themselves to idolatry and forsaken Him, and how those who had not fallen into this idolatry were still with them today (see Numbers 25). The people of God were to keep the statues of the Lord, so that they might be a light to the earth. Those in the nations around them were supposed to be able to look on the children of Israel and see the glory of the Lord God of Israel through them. They were a special people, chosen by the Creator, and here they are charged to act like it. Moses reminds the people how they were given the ten commandments at Horeb (also called Sinai) in a great display of the Lord’s glory and power. They were to keep these statutes and commands in the land in which they were about to enter into and continue closely with the Lord their God. As they had seen the glory of God at Horeb, but not shape or form, they are gravely warned here not to make idols in any form, in the likeness of any creature or heavenly body, that they might bow down and worship before lifeless gods. The judgment of the Lord had already been cultivated against Moses and the generation that died in the wilderness because of their stubbornness and rebellion in following the word of the Lord, and because of this Moses was not allowed to enter into the promised land. The children of Israel were to take this as a warning and example, so that they would be careful not to forget the covenant the the Lord had made with them, for the Lord is a consuming fire and a jealous God (see Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 20:5).
Though the Lord is indeed a consuming fire, the children of Israel are also reminded of His mercy and compassion here. If they do begin to fall down and worship other gods when they enter into the land, or if their children or children’s children do such, they would indeed be punished by the Lord, and they would be scattered among the nations. However, if then they turned back to seek the Lord with their whole heart and soul, obeying His voice, then the Lord would turn back to them and not forget the covenant He made with their fathers. This is a constant characteristic of God seen throughout scripture. For the Lord is a great God, above all, full of justice and mercy. Moses reminds the people here just who they serve, telling of the greatness and superiority of the Lord God of Israel. No other god of any other people had done what He had done, for they were no gods at all. There is no other god besides the Lord God of Israel. This assertion of monotheism was unique among the nations surrounding the children of Israel. After he finishes with his speech, the cities of refuge are recorded and an introduction to the law is given in the final section of this chapter.
The Ten Commandments: As the introduction to the law is given at the end of the previous chapter, Moses recounts to the children of Israel the giving of the Ten Commandments by God at Horeb (also called Sinai). He reminds them of the glory they saw on the mountain, so much that they were afraid and told Moses to be the intercession between them and God so that they would not die from hearing the voice of the Lord (see Exodus 19-20). The the Lord told Moses that the people were right in this fear, and even praised them that they had such humility before Him and drive to keep His commandments. Thus Moses became the intermediary between the people and their God. At Horeb, the Lord their God who brought them up out of the land of Egypt gave them the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20):
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make a carved image (idol) or bow down/serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, full of justice and compassion.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
- You shall observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, doing no work on that day (this applies to everyone, man, woman, child, servant).
- You shall honor your father and mother, that your days my be long and well (the first command with promise, see Ephesians 6:2).
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness.
- You shall not covet.
“Hear, O Israel”: After the giving of the Ten Commandments, Moses turns to the people and puts forth what Jesus would call the greatest command, for it encompasses all the Law. The Shema (“hear”) is given here in verses 4-9, stating that the Lord God is one and the people were to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might. They were to dwell in His statutes and hold them in high reverence, having them on their mind wherever they went. They were even told to make physical reminders of the statutes, binding them as a sign on their hand and as frontlets between their eyes. They were to write them on their doorposts and gates. It is obvious that the Lord expected the people to go to lengths to remember the commandments and keep them on their mind. This would likely serve us well today, as we too are typically a forgetful people (out of sight, out of mind, as is said). Preparing to go into the land flowing with milk and honey, promised to their father’s offspring, the commands and statutes of the Lord were placed front and center as they were going to be given a land and possessions for which they did not labor. They were not to forget that it was the Lord, and the Lord only, who brought them out of the land of Egypt and into this promised land. They were not to serve any other gods, lest the anger of the Lord be kindled against them and they be destroyed. They were to keep the statutes and teach their children to do the same. When their children asked the meaning of the statutes, they were to tell them the story of how the Lord had brought them out from slavery in Egypt by great signs and wonders into this great land, and given them the righteous Law for them to keep before the Lord. This Law would be righteousness to them so long as they were careful to keep it.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Chronicles 25-28.
The Lord God is one.
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