Deuteronomy 14 – Living All of Your Life for the LORD
A. Commands regarding separation from pagans.
1. (1) The command to abstain from pagan burial customs.
You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead.
a. You shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead: Among the pagan cultures surrounding Israel, it was common to cut one’s self, or shave the front of one’s head, for the dead – that is, as a part of pagan burial rituals.
i. “The cutting of the body and the shaving of the head were common mourning rites in the ancient Near East and are referred to in many places in the Old Testament (Isaiah 3:24; 15:2; 22:12; Jeremiah 16:6; 41:5; Ezekiel 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16).” (Thompson)
ii. “The mutilation of the body persists still in some countries, e.g. in New Guinea, where a mourner, especially a woman, removes a joint of a finger, and in extreme cases, more than one finger joint.” (Thompson)
b. You are the children of the LORD your God: Among Christians today, there is something wrong if our burial customs are just as the rituals of the ungodly. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13: But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. We may certainly mourn the passing of our loved ones, but as those who have eternal hope in Jesus, we should be different in our mourning.
2. (2) The principle behind the commands for separation.
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
a. You are a holy people: The idea behind holy is “separate.” The people of Israel were a people separate unto the LORD. In Jesus, we also are a holy people: But you are… a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).
b. The LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself: The people of Israel were chosen by God, to be His own special people. In Jesus, we also are a chosen people, special to God: But you are a chosen generation… His own special people (1 Peter 2:9).
c. A special treasure: The people of Israel were a special treasure to God. In Jesus, we also are a special treasure to God: We are His inheritance (Ephesians 1:18).
d. Above all the people who are on the face of the earth: Each of these glorious privileges carried with it a special responsibility. If God regarded Israel as something special among the nations, they had to conduct themselves as something special among the nations.
3. (3-21) The command to separate in regard to foods.
These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals. Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses. These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. All clean birds you may eat. But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds; every raven after its kind; the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the seagull, and the hawk after their kinds; the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl, the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat. Also every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. You may eat all clean birds. You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
a. These are the animals which you may eat: Only certain mammals were allowed to be eaten, and the rule was simple. If an animal had a divided hoof (not a single hoof as a horse has), and chewed its cud, it could be eaten. For example, the camel, the rock hyrax, and the hare all chew the cud, but do not have divided hooves – instead, they have paws – so they are considered unkosher. Additionally, the swine has a divided hoof, but does not chew the cud – so it is considered unkosher.
b. These you may eat of all that are in the waters: Only certain sea creatures could be eaten, and the rule was simple. Any water creature having both fins and scales was kosher and could be eaten. Therefore, most fishes were considered clean – except a fish like the catfish, which has no scales. Shellfish would be unclean, because clams, crabs, oysters, and lobster all do not have fins and scales.
c. All clean birds you may eat: Only certain birds could be eaten; though there is no rule given to determine if a bird is clean or unclean, the specifically mentioned unclean birds (and flying creeping things) are either predators or scavengers; these were considered unclean.
i. Among these animals, they fall into one of three categories: predators (unclean because they ate both the flesh and the blood of animals), scavengers (unclean because they were carriers of disease, and they regularly contacted dead bodies), or potentially poisonous or dangerous foods such as shellfish and the like. Eliminating these from the diet of Israel no doubt had a healthy effect, and one of the reasons for the dietary laws of Israel was to keep Israel healthy!
d. You shall not eat anything that dies of itself: If any animal dies of itself, it has not been properly bled; therefore, it is unkosher.
i. It was important to bleed animals before eating them, because the blood represented the life principle of the animal (Leviticus 17:11), and the life principle belonged to God and God alone. Another reason for the dietary laws was to project an important symbolism to Israel regarding blood and the sanctity of the life principle.
e. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk: This unusual law was a command to not imitate a common pagan fertility ritual. It illustrated the third principle behind the dietary laws of Israel: They were a statement of separation from the nations and prevented Israel from having easy fellowship (sitting down at a common meal) with Gentiles.
i. This law, because of strange rabbinical interpretations, became the reason why one cannot have a kosher cheeseburger. Observant Jews today will not eat milk and meat at the same meal (or even on the same plates with the same utensils cooked in the same pots), because the rabbis insist that the meat in the hamburger may have come from the calf of the cow that gave the milk for the cheese, and the cheese and the meat would “boil” together in one’s stomach and be a violation of this command.
B. The command of the tithe.
1. (22-23) The command to tithe.
You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
a. You shall truly tithe: The word truly is important; since the tithe described giving ten percent, God commanded that it really be ten percent. One might easily imagine Israelites discovering ways to give God less than truly ten percent.
b. All the increase of your grain: Seemingly, this meant the grain left over after the seed-grain was taken out. This meant that the tithe was assessed on the income, not on the total assets.
c. You shall eat before the LORD: When the tithe was delivered to the tabernacle (and later, to the temple), a portion of the tithe was enjoyed in a ceremonial meal “with” the LORD. The remainder was given to the priest.
d. That you may learn to fear the LORD your God always: This was the purpose of tithing; to build an honor and reverence for God. The paraphrase in the Living Bible puts it plainly: The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives (Deuteronomy 14:23b, Living Bible).
2. (24-27) “Long-distance” tithing.
But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
a. But if the journey is too long for you: Since the tithe was to be brought to one place for the whole nation, some would be farther than others. And, if someone was far away, they would find it difficult to transport the grain and livestock the tithe required.
b. You shall exchange it for money: If distance prevented the easy transport of the animals, they could exchange their tithe for money, and then use the money to tithe with when they came to the tabernacle (and later, the temple).
c. You shall rejoice, you and your household: Laws like this show us that God is a common-sense God. He does not place unreasonable demands on His people. He made a way for them to more conveniently tithe.
3. (28-29) The third-year tithe.
At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
a. At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year: Some have said this speaks of another tithe (sometimes called the “poor tithe”) to be brought every three years. Yet since it speaks of the tithe, and since it also went to the Levite and not only to the poor, it is best to understand that this was not an additional tithe, but a command that once every three years the tithe also be available to the poor, not only to the Levite.
i. As Kalland points out: “The Jewish rabbis have usually held that there were three tithes: (1) for the priests and Levites, (2) for the communal meals, (3) every third year for the nonlanded (i.e., the Levites, aliens, fatherless, and widows).” Kalland goes on to object to this rabbinic approach, and accurately observes, “So all the designations of tithes speak of one basic tithe to be put to various uses.”
b. That the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do: God will bless the giving heart. Ask anyone who gives as the Bible instructs them to give – they are blessed.
i. The New Testament nowhere specifically commands tithing, but it certainly does speak of it in a positive light if it is done with a right heart (Luke 11:42).
ii. It is also important to understand that tithing is not a principle dependent on the Mosaic Law; as Hebrews 7:5-9 explains, tithing was practiced and honored by God before the law of Moses.
iii. What the New Testament does speak with great clarity on is the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9).
iv. Since the New Testament doesn’t emphasize tithing, one might not be strict on it for Christians (though some Christians do argue against tithing on the basis of self-interest). Yet since giving is to be proportional, we should be giving some percentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark – and starting place. For some to give ten percent is nowhere near enough; for others, at their present time, five percent may be a massive step of faith.
v. If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” our heart isn’t in the right place at all. We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one (Luke 16:11).
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 13 – Keeping the Worship of God Pure
A. Protecting against those who would entice Israel to serve other gods.
1. (1-3) Protecting against the deceiver who comes with miraculous signs.
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods”; which you have not known; “and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
a. A dreamer of dreams: Dreams can be from God (as in Numbers 12:6, or in Genesis 37:5-11), or they can be false prophesies (as in Jeremiah 23:25-26). We must be careful to not put too much stock in dreams, and instead allow God to bring confirmation to any dream we believe brings a message from Him. It would be very unusual for God to speak alone through a dream, without other confirmation.
b. And the sign or the wonder comes to pass: Moses warned the people that there may arise from among them prophets or workers of signs who could also produce a sign or a wonder.
i. Deuteronomy 18:22 tells what to do with a prophet who speaks a word and it does not come to pass. But this passage tells what to do with a prophet who speaks a word and it comes to pass, but they then speak against what God has already revealed in His word.
c. And the sign or the wonder comes to pass: This sobering fact is ignored by many Christians in our age which neglects discernment. The fact is that signs and wonders can never be the evidence of truth or God’s hand.
i. Those who are immediately convinced at the sight of supernatural power or reality are in danger of great deception. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 reminds us that the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.
ii. This is why Jesus said and these signs will follow those who believe (Mark 16:17). Signs are to follow believers, instead of believers following signs.
d. You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams: Godly discernment will always carefully examine the message of a spiritual leader, instead of the spiritual experiences which may surround him or her.
e. The LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart: This explains one of God’s reasons in allowing such deceivers to exist among His people – to allow the hearts of His people to be tested and proven, to see if they really love the God of truth or are merely seeking a spiritual sign or experience.
i. “And particularly there are many signs, yea, such as men may think to be wonders, which may be wrought by evil spirits, God so permitting it for divers wise and just reasons, not only for the trial of the good, as it here follows, but also for the punishment of ungodly men, who would not receive Divine truths, though attested by many evident and unquestionable miracles, and therefore are most justly exposed to these temptations to believe lies.” (Poole)
2. (4-5) The penalty for the deceiver who comes with miraculous signs.
You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
a. You shall walk after the LORD: Israel was first instructed to not let a deceiver succeed in leading them astray. No matter how attractive the deception, they were to keep focused on a faithful walk with God according to His truth.
b. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death: Ancient Israel was a unique situation, where the civil government was also directly appointed by God and charged with maintaining spiritual order as well as civil order. Therefore, such heresy and deception were capital crimes – punishable by execution.
i. For many centuries, when the church held political power, it often exercised this penalty also. Heretics were often given over to the civil government for execution. Trapp writes in the mid seventeenth century, “This power is still in the Christian magistrate, to inflict capital punishment on gross heretics.”
ii. While we admire their priorities (they judged it much more serious for a heretic to kill men’s eternal souls than to kill their temporal bodies), they were ignorant of an important principle of Jesus’ kingdom in contrast to the ancient kingdom of Israel: Jesus declared that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), while the kingdom of Israel was very much of this world. Never before or since has God appointed such a kingdom as Israel to be His nation in this world as He appointed ancient Israel, so it would be wrong for us to execute heretics today.
iii. Still, the church as a community and Christians as individuals should reject and refuse to support such heretics among them. They should use discernment to set aside those who promote themselves as miracle working men and women of anointing and faith, yet who teach heresy in essential doctrines.
3. (6-11) The penalty for a relative who would lead an Israelite to worship other gods.
If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you.
a. Brother… your son or daughter… the wife… your friend: If any of these close human relationships would lead one to the worship of other gods, they were not only to be rejected (you shall not consent to him or listen to him), they were to be executed (you shall surely kill him).
i. In fact, the relative should be one of the main witnesses against the guilty party: your hand shall be first against him to put him to death. This was the “casting of the first stone,” the initiation of execution by one of the witnesses to the capital crime.
ii. This also demonstrates that God never puts highest priority on family relationships; if a family member forsakes the LORD, we are never to follow them away from the LORD. Jesus always comes first, as He said in Matthew 10:37: He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
b. Secretly entices you: This demonstrates how seriously God regards leading someone else into idolatry. Even if a sympathetic person entices you, and even if they do it in private, enticement to idolatry is not to be tolerated.
i. This brings to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6: But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Anyone who leads one of God’s people astray is greatly offending the heart of God.
c. So all Israel shall hear and fear: Many modern researchers and pundits say that capital punishment is no deterrent to crime. God says it is a deterrent (properly practiced, of course).
B. Protecting the nation as a whole against those who would lead them into idolatry.
1. (12-14a) How to deal with reports of a city given over to idolatry.
If you hear someone in one of your cities, which the LORD your God gives you to dwell in, saying, “Corrupt men have gone out from among you and enticed the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’” which you have not known; then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently.
a. Then you shall inquire: If reports arose regarding an Israelite city given over to idolatry, there was first to be a careful investigation.
b. Search out, and ask diligently: This guarded against a harsh judgment; perhaps there were a few idolaters in the city who needed to be punished, but perhaps the city was not given over to idolatry. God commanded a careful investigation.
2. (14b-18) The penalty for a city given over to idolatry.
And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword; utterly destroying it, all that is in it and its livestock, with the edge of the sword. And you shall gather all its plunder into the middle of the street, and completely burn with fire the city and all its plunder, for the LORD your God. It shall be a heap forever; it shall not be built again. So none of the accursed things shall remain in your hand, that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of His anger and show you mercy, have compassion on you and multiply you, just as He swore to your fathers, because you have listened to the voice of the LORD your God, to keep all His commandments which I command you today, to do what is right in the eyes of the LORD your God.
a. Such an abomination: The word abomination here refers to a gross, offensive idolatry. Later in Daniel and in the New Testament, the word is used in the phrase abomination of desolation, which refers to the ultimate idolatry of the Antichrist – the establishing of an idolatrous image of himself in the most holy place (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
i. “The term abominable thing is used in the Old Testament for something that is totally displeasing to God and denotes something impure, unclean, and totally devoid of holiness.” (Thompson)
b. You shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword; utterly destroying it: If the investigation finds that the city is indeed given over to idolatry, it is then to be treated as a Canaanite city. They were to utterly destroy the city, including its property. The property was to be given to the LORD by destroying it, a form of “sacred destruction.”
i. This made certain that no one could profit materially by declaring a city given over to idolatry. If this provision were not in the Law of Moses one could imagine a city being plundered under this pretense.
ii. “The very same punishment which was inflicted upon the cities of the cursed Canaanites, to whom having made themselves equal in sin, it is but fit and just that God should equal them in punishment.” (Poole)
c. It shall be a heap forever; it shall not be built again: The destroyed town was to be left as a heap forever. The word heap is literally tel, and the word tel is used in Arabic for any ruined sight. Throughout Israel today, one will see curious mounds rising from a plain. These tels are the heaped up remains of ancient destroyed cities, covered over with centuries of dust and accumulated dirt.
d. To do what is right in the eyes of the LORD your God: This demonstrates that Israelites were never to regard ethnic or national bonds greater than the bonds that tied them to the LORD God; if their fellow countrymen were given over to idolatry, they were not to be spared.
i. This chapter asks an important question: What would it take to lead you away from God? Would signs and wonders do it? What if your mate forsook God, or all of your friends? What if culture, or nationalism, or ethnic ties called you away from Jesus? We must never allow such ties to come before our bond to Jesus. We must decide, as the song says, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 12 – The Worship God Commands
A. The place of worship.
1. (1-4) The command to destroy Canaanite places of worship.
These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.
a. You shall utterly destroy all the places: Before anyone can worship God, there must be some places where he will no longer worship. There must be a destruction of the places where the ungodly worship.
i. The practice in the ancient world, which was always short on buildings, was to take a nice building such as a temple previously used to worship a prior god, and simply make it a place to worship one’s own god. The LORD God wanted none of that in His own worship. He commanded that the places of pagan worship be completely destroyed, and that they shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.
ii. This is where the worship of many is corrupted. It isn’t that they worship too little; they worship too much. They worship the LORD, and the things of the world. God doesn’t want such worship. It is an abomination to Him.
iii. Many could really begin to worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24), if they would only “destroy” in their hearts their pagan places of worship. Because they give their hearts to so many other things, there is little to give to the LORD.
b. On the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree: Since much of the pagan worship of the Canaanites was a sexualized worship of fertility and nature, their shrines and temples were often in beautiful outdoor settings. God didn’t want Israel to adopt this approach of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
2. (5-9) The command to worship at God’s appointed place.
But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today; every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you.
a. And there you shall go: Worship was not left to the opinion or whim of the individual Israelite. They had to worship God at His prescribed place, and among other worshippers of God. Worship is not a “do as you please” or a “Lone Ranger” activity.
b. You shall seek the place: It may not be easy to find the place where God wants you to worship, but it is out there. There is a place where He wants you to worship. He has not called you to follow Him in isolation.
c. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices: The place of worship was to be a place of atonement, confession (which was made when hands were laid on the head of the sacrificial victim), and cleansing.
d. There you shall take… your tithes: The place of worship was to be a place of giving. Of course, there were other places where an Israelite could give and be generous but giving had to begin at the place of worship God has appointed.
i. Some have thought that because Deuteronomy 12:6 mentions your tithes, that this is an additional tithe which was commanded of Israel, on top of the tithe commanded in Numbers 18. Some even call this the “festival tithe.” But in context, this passage is only speaking of where to bring the tithe, not commanding an additional one to be brought.
e. There you shall eat before the LORD your God: The place of worship is to be a place of joyful fellowship with God and others.
f. Not at all as we are doing here today – every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes: Before Israel crossed over the Jordan, during the wilderness wanderings, each Israelite pretty much conducted their own worship as they pleased. But God was not really pleased with this; worship was not a matter left up to whatever pleased the individual. Real worship is concerned with what pleases God.
i. Much of what is called worship in today’s church really isn’t worship. It is self-focused, man-focused, and personal-experience-focused instead of being God focused. Much of today’s worship is measured by how I feel instead of being measured by how God was honored and worshipped.
ii. “Singing should be congregational, but it should never be performed for the credit of the congregation. ‘Such remarkable singing! The place is quite renowned for its musical performances!’ This is a poor achievement. Our singing should be such that God hears it with pleasure – singing in which there is not so much art as heart, not so much of musical sound as of spiritual emotion.” (Spurgeon)
3. (10-14) The joy of real worship in God’s appointed place.
But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the LORD chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
a. There will be the place… the place which the LORD chooses: A particular place is important to worship. The man who tells himself, “I can worship God just as well out on the golf course” is a man doing whatever is right in his own eyes. It is fine for him to worship God out on the golf course; but there must also be a specific place where he comes to worship with God’s people.
i. This goes against the trend of our times. Studies find that among baby-boomers, 70% say that you should attend worship services not out of a sense of duty, but only if it “meets your needs.” 80% say you can be a good Christian without attending church.
b. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God: Worship at God’s appointed place must be marked with joy. It is a good thing to come and honor our God and should be done with pleasure and joy.
i. “All Christian duties should be done joyfully; but especially the work of praising the Lord. I have been in congregations where the tune was dolorous to the very last degree; where the time was so dreadfully slow that one wondered whether they would ever be able to sing through the 119 Psalm; whether, to use Watt’s expression, eternity would not be too short from them to get through it; and altogether, the spirit of the people has seemed to be so damp, so heavy, so dead, that we might have supposed that they were met to prepare their minds for a hanging rather than for blessing the ever-gracious God.” (Charles Spurgeon, Praise Thy God, O Zion)
ii. “We ought not to worship God in a half-hearted sort of way; as if it were now our duty to bless God, but we felt it to be a weary business, and we would get it through as quickly as we could, and have done with it; and the sooner the better. No, no; ‘All that is within me, bless his holy name.’ Come, my heart, wake up, and summon all the powers which wait upon thee! Mechanical worship is easy, but worthless. Come rouse yourself, my brother! Rouse thyself, O my own soul!” (Spurgeon)
c. And you shall rejoice: The emphasis on shall shows that rejoicing is commanded. It is also commanded in the New Testament; Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16); Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). If you can’t rejoice out of feeling like it, then rejoice out of being commanded.
i. “No one duty is more pressed in both the Testaments, than this of rejoicing in the Lord always, but specially in his immediate services.” (Trapp)
B. The practice of worship.
1. (15-28) Things permitted and prohibited in regard to butchering animals, sacrificing animals, and respecting the sanctity of blood.
However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike. Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water. You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. But you must eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all to which you put your hands. Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land. When the LORD your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, “Let me eat meat,” because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires. If the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, then you may slaughter from your herd and from your flock which the LORD has given you, just as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your gates as much as your heart desires. Just as the gazelle and the deer are eaten, so you may eat them; the unclean and the clean alike may eat them. Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it on the earth like water. You shall not eat it, that it may go well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD. Only the holy things which you have, and your vowed offerings, you shall take and go to the place which the LORD chooses. And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the meat and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the meat. Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.
a. You may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates: In the ancient world, almost every time an animal was butchered it was sacrificed to a god. Here, the LORD made it clear that not every slaughtered animal was considered a sacrifice to Him.
b. You may not eat within your gates the tithe… the firstlings of your herd… your freewill offerings, or of the heave offerings: This shows that animals which were offered in sacrifice, even if the one offering was to eat a portion, could only be killed at God’s appointed place of worship.
c. Only be sure that you do not eat the blood: Since the blood was the picture of life in any animal or man (for the blood is the life), God would not allow Israel to eat meat that had not been properly bled. Instead, it was to be given to God by pouring it out on the earth.
2. (29-32) The worship of God must be pure.
When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.” You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.
a. That you do not inquire after their gods: Israel was commanded to guard itself against a sinful curiosity (How did these nations serve their gods?). There is an old proverb that says curiosity killed the cat, but ungodly curiosity has also killed many spiritual lives.
b. You shall not worship the LORD your God that way: God would not accept just any offering of worship. He had to be worshipped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24)
c. They burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods: This referred to the practice of Molech worship, where Canaanites offered up their children by placing them alive on a burning hot metal statue of Molech, while drum beats drowned out the screams of the tortured infants.
i. Israel had a tragic history of following after this horrible god Molech.
· At the least, Solomon sanctioned the worship of Molech, building a temple to this idol (1 Kings 11:7).
· King Ahaz of Judah gave his own son to Molech (2 Kings 16:3).
· One of the great crimes of the northern tribes of Israel was their worship of Molech, leading to the Assyrian captivity (2 Kings 17:17).
· King Manasseh of Judah gave his son to Molech (2 Kings 21:6).
· Up to the days of King Josiah of Judah, Molech worship continued, because he destroyed a place of worship to that idol (2 Kings 23:10).
d. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it: The standard for worship was reflected in God’s Word – not in human preference or opinion.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 11 – Rewards for Obedience and the Choice
A. How to be blessed.
1. (1-7) Remember the ways God has already blessed.
Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always. Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the LORD your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm; His signs and His acts which He did in the midst of Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to all his land; what He did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and their chariots: how He made the waters of the Red Sea overflow them as they pursued you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day; what He did for you in the wilderness until you came to this place; and what He did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, their households, their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel; but your eyes have seen every great act of the LORD which He did.
a. Therefore you shall love the LORD your God: God commanded Israel to love Him. Love is not a matter left entirely up to our impulse or our feelings. We choose to love the LORD or not.
i. Additionally, this reminds us of what the LORD really wants from us – our love. We could give Him a hundred other things, but none of it really matters unless we give Him our love. As Jesus said to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. If we lose love, we lose all.
b. And keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments: Love for God never goes against His word. Some people think their so-called love for Jesus allows them to disregard His commands, but this isn’t real love at all.
i. As Jesus said in John 14:15: If you love Me, keep My commandments. Real love for Jesus always translates into obedience.
c. Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen: Moses addressed the generation which saw the works of God among Israel, both in blessing and chastening. He spoke to the generation that should know and remember.
d. Dathan and Abiram: These were the two key associates – perhaps the instigators – in the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16), where God vindicated His servant Moses and leader over Israel, when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged Moses’ leadership.
e. Which He did… what He did… how He made… how the LORD destroyed them… what He did for you… what He did… every great act of the LORD which He did: Moses called Israel to remember what God did in their history.
i. Most of history – both official and personal – is simply concerned with what man has done. But God wants us to look at history and see what He did. We learn far more, and are far more benefited, by looking at what God has done, rather than looking at what man has done.
2. (8-15) Blessings in the new land.
Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD swore to give your fathers, to them and their descendants, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year. “And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.”
a. Therefore you shall keep every commandment: Remembering what God did in history should lead Israel to greater obedience and enable them to take the Promised Land.
b. A land flowing with milk and honey: The sacrifices in obedience were well worth it for Israel. They had the promise of a land which was far superior to Egypt, which did not need to be artificially irrigated, but was watered by rains which God would send upon the obedient nation.
i. In calling Egypt a place where they watered by foot, it refers to the system of artificial irrigation, using foot-driven pumps to lift water from the Nile to nearby fields. Canaan was so rich it did not need this kind of irrigation.
c. If you earnestly obey My commandments: God simply promised to provide for Israel if they chose to obey Him and put Him first. As Jesus said: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).
i. The promise of the blessing of rain was important, because one of the attractive of the Canaanite gods was Baal – the god who was said to control the weather and rain. Perhaps the Israelites would be tempted to think, “well, we are in Canaan, and if we want rain, we should worship the Canaanite god of rain.” But the LORD makes it clear that if they would worship and obey Him, He would supply abundant rain.
d. The early rain and the latter rain: The early rain fell in October and November and was important to help soften the ground for plowing and preparing the soil for the seed. The latter rain fell about April, and helped the crops come to final harvest.
e. A land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year: God declared His special care for the land of Israel, both then and now.
3. (16-17) The danger of blessing: Turning from God in times of prosperity.
Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the LORD’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you.
a. Lest your heart be deceived: God had to warn Israel against the deceptions of prosperity. The person who turns from God in prosperity is simply deceived. They believe they are somehow responsible for the blessings received and become proud and self-reliant.
b. He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain: Just such a judgment came upon Israel in the days of Ahab, the wicked king over Israel in the time Elijah was a prophet (1 Kings 17:1).
i. The constant need for rain kept Israel in constant dependence on the LORD. It is good for us to have things that keep us in constant dependence on the LORD. We should never despise those things and long for the day when we will no longer need to depend on God as much.
4. (18-21) Blessing is gained by keeping the Word of God always before you.
Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
a. Lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul: God called Israel to not only read the Word of God and to know the Word of God, but to treasure it. In the same way, we should love God’s word and miss it when we are separated from the Word of God. We should call it to mind with longing, having laid it up in our heart and soul.
b. Speaking of them: God’s Word was to be the topic of their conversation. We can fairly measure our love for God’s word by how much we will talk about it with others. God doesn’t want us to have a secret love relationship with His word.
B. The Choice.
1. (22-25) The promise of blessing.
For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do; to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him; then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand against you; the LORD your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you.
a. To love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him: All the commandments are summarized in these three phrases. Each of these speaks of more than a bare and compelled obedience; they speak of a real relationship of love between God and His people, with obedience flowing naturally from that relationship.
b. The LORD will drive out… and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations: God promised to fight the battles for an obedient Israel. Many desire God to fight their battles but have little interest in obeying Him – or cultivating the deep relationship of love which obedience grows from.
c. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads: God repeated this promise to Joshua, just when Israel was about to cross over the Jordan River into Canaan (Joshua 1:3).
d. No man shall be able to stand against you: When Israel walked in love with the LORD and was obedient to Him, they were unbeatable. No man could defeat them. Greater was God who was with them than he who was in the world! (1 John 4:4)
2. (26-28) The choice: Blessing or cursing?
Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.
a. Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: The three great elements to the Old Covenant were the law, the sacrifice, and the choice. Israel had a choice – to obey and be blessed, or to disobey and be cursed. It was a cause and effect relationship with God.
i. It is important to recognize that we, in Jesus Christ, do not have an Old Covenant relationship with God. We expect to be blessed, not because of our obedience, but because of our position in Jesus. The curse we deserved was laid upon Him (Galatians 3:10-14). Though there may be an inherent curse of consequences in our disobedience or even in the correcting hand of God, under the New Covenant, He does not punish us or curse us – because all that we deserved, past, present, and future, was poured out upon Jesus.
b. I set before you today: It was up to Israel. If they wanted to be blessed, then they should walk in obedience (as they were in the days of David and Solomon), but if they disobeyed, they would be cursed (as they were in most of the days of the later kings)
i. A choice was required. There was no neutral ground. God wouldn’t just “leave them alone.” It would either be blessing or cursing.
c. To go after other gods which you have not known: Inherent in Israel’s disobedience was idolatry. Whenever we walk in disobedience, we exalt ourselves against God – and declaring that our rules, our standards, our desires, are all more important than His. This is idolatry in its most base – and common – form.
3. (29-32) Making the choice known unto the people.
Now it shall be, when the LORD your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, toward the setting sun, in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the plain opposite Gilgal, beside the terebinth trees of Moreh? For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it. And you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today.
a. You shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal: The recitation of the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal will be detailed in later chapters. Yet it is plain that God wanted the word to get to the entire nation, because the entire nation was part of this covenant with Him.
b. Mount Gerizim… Mount Ebal: The name Gerizim is supposed to be associated with fruitful harvests, and the name Ebal is supposed to be associated with barrenness.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 10 – Recovering after a Fall
A. God’s plan of recovery for Israel after the rebellion at Mount Sinai.
1. (1-5) Israel had to get back to the Word of God, so God commanded the giving of the new tablets of the law.
At that time the LORD said to me, “Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to Me on the mountain and make yourself an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke; and you shall put them in the ark.” So I made an ark of acacia wood, hewed two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain, having the two tablets in my hand. And He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the LORD had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, just as the LORD commanded me.
a. Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first: Moses broke the tablets of the law, not only out of anger, but also as a powerful visual representation of Israel’s breaking of the law of God. Now God commanded that they restore the law by bringing forth two new tablets of the law.
b. He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing: God wanted His written word to be the starting point for Israel’s right walk with Him. Therefore, He restored the tablets, even writing on the second tablets with His own hand.
i. This is a powerful picture of the inspiration of God’s word; though God did not literally write the Scriptures with His own hand, He did perfectly guide the minds and hands of the writers, so that the Scriptures are “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), that is, given by the inspiration of God.
c. And put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are: Getting right with God after a time of rebellion must always begin and center on God’s word. In the days of Josiah, King of Judah, repentance and revival came to the people of God when they focused on God’s word again (2 Kings 22:8-23:25).
2. (6-9) In order to deal with Israel’s sin problem, God established an enduring priesthood.
(Now the children of Israel journeyed from the wells of Bene Jaakan to Moserah, where Aaron died, and where he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his stead. From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of rivers of water. At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day. Therefore Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God promised him.)
a. Where Aaron died, and where he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his stead: This parenthesis speaking about the priesthood demonstrated the need for priestly sacrifice and intercession in getting right with God after a time of rebellion. Israel needed the sacrifice, intercession, and blessing that the Levites would bring to the nation.
i. The need for a priesthood shouted to Israel: “You can’t do it on your own. You need to come to God through a mediator, who will atone for your sin, pray for you, and bless you. If you refuse your priestly mediator, and trust in your own ability to do these things, you will perish.”
b. To stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name: Getting right with God after a time of rebellion must always have a focus on the priestly ministry of Jesus on our behalf. This work of Jesus is shown in His atonement for our sin at the cross, on His intercession for us in heaven, and on the blessing that He brings to us from heaven.
3. (10-11) Israel needed to move on towards the Promised Land, so God gave Moses the command to go forth.
As at the first time, I stayed in the mountain forty days and forty nights; the LORD also heard me at that time, and the LORD chose not to destroy you. Then the LORD said to me, “Arise, begin your journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”
a. Arise, begin your journey: Israel’s rebellion at Mount Sinai with the golden calf was significant; it was no small matter. Yet God was not done with them. After they came back to His word and came through His priesthood, it was time to move on. God had a place to take them and they had to get about the business of getting there.
b. That they may go in and possess the land: Getting right with God after a time of rebellion must always come to a place of progress again. It does no good to come back to the word, come through God’s priesthood in Jesus, and then remain stuck in the same place. God wants us to move on with Him, and when we are walking right with God again, we will go in and possess the land.
B. What God requires of Israel.
1. (12-13) What the LORD requires of His people.
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?
a. Fear the LORD your God: God requires from us a reverential honor towards Him; not a fear that would make us shrink back, but a heart that so honors God that we would be hesitant to offend Him.
b. To walk in all His ways: God requires us to live our lives after the pattern He has set for us; to walk on His road not on our own.
c. To love Him: God requires us to love Him. This means the love He expects isn’t a love that just happens, but it is a love that comes from a decision to set our affection upon Him.
d. To serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul: God requires us to serve Him, to see all that we do as service unto Him, and to do all that we do as if doing it unto Him.
e. To keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes: God requires us to not only know His word, but to keep it – in the sense of possessing it in ourselves, and in the sense of protecting it.
f. For your good: every command of God is given for our good. They are never given so He can exercise His power, or so He can feel important. Every command He makes is with our best interest in mind, even if we cannot sense it or understand it.
2. (14-15) Why God requires this from Israel.
Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.
a. The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them: God requires this conduct from His people because they are His special possession. Though heaven and earth belong to God, He set His focus and attention on Israel beginning with their fathers.
b. You above all peoples, as it is this day: Being chosen – having the special attention of God focused upon you – is a place of great privilege, but also a place of great responsibility. Israel had a special responsibility to obedience.
3. (16) What it takes to fulfill what God requires.
Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
a. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart: All males among Israel had to be circumcised eight days after they were born. But this minor surgery was merely a symbol for the real work of cutting away the flesh that God desired; the work of taking our hearts inclined after the flesh and giving us hearts inclined after the spirit.
b. And be stiff-necked no longer: This theme would be repeated later in the prophets. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts (Jeremiah 4:4). To fulfill God’s law, it takes more than being given a command – it takes an inner transformation, a transformation that only God can bring.
i. God commanded them to do something that only He could do in them to show them the need to have the inner transformation, and to compel them to seek Him for this inner work.
ii. Israel is said to have uncircumcised hearts in Leviticus 26:41, Jeremiah 9:26, and Ezekiel 44:7 and 9.
4. (17-22) A call to obedience, reverence, and compassion.
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name. He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.
a. The LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome: The basis of this brief section of commands is set in the character of God.
b. The great God, mighty and awesome: When God requires us to show justice (no partiality nor takes a bribe), compassion (loves the stranger), and reverence (take oaths in His name), it is because these virtues answer to aspects in God’s own character.
c. Who has done for you these great and awesome things: The obedience God calls us to is always set in the context of what He did for us. Our service and obedience unto the LORD is based on what He has done for us and is to be the grateful response to His goodness. If there is a lack in obedience and reverence, there is almost always a lack of appreciation for what the LORD has done.
d. He is your praise: This is true in two senses. First, He is the object of our praise; second, He is also the One who makes us praiseworthy. Any wisdom, beauty, or skill we show is not to our praise – but He is your praise.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 9 – The Battles Ahead and the Failures Behind
A. Considering the battles ahead.
1. (1-2) The difficulty of the battles ahead.
Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, “Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?”
a. Go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself: God was leading Israel into something too big for them. It was a challenge they could only meet if they trusted in God.
b. Cities great and fortified up to heaven: The cities they would battle against were mighty and the people they would battle against were great and tall. Yet God had called them to enter into this seemingly impossible battle.
i. There was no way Israel could do this in the flesh, or on their strength. God commanded them to do something that was just beyond their ability to do in themselves.
ii. Obviously, God did not inspire Israel with a false sense of confidence or hype. He wanted them to realistically know what the battle ahead would be like.
iii. In the same way, Jesus never calls us with hype or false promises that would lead to false confidence. He plainly says, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24) Jesus let us know right from the beginning that following Him would require giving God everything.
2. (3) Why victory is possible with the difficult battles ahead.
Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you.
a. Understand today: Just as much as Israel had to understand the impossibility of the battle on their own, they also must understand the certainty of victory in the LORD.
b. The LORD your God is He who goes before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them: It was a battle too big for Israel, but not too big for the LORD. Israel could know both facts: That in themselves, the job was impossible (without Me you can do nothing, John 15:5), but in God the battle could not be lost (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4;13).
c. He will destroy them: God was also calling Israel to a partnership in winning the battles. He will destroy them does not contradict you shall quickly drive them out and destroy them quickly. Was God going to do it, or was Israel going to do it? Both, really – God was calling Israel to be workers together with Him (2 Corinthians 6:1).
d. Destroy them quickly: God did not want the Israelites to show mercy to the Canaanites. He wanted Israel to be a unique army of judgment against the Canaanites and their culture, which was so depraved that it deserved this kind of judgment.
i. Archaeologist William F. Albright, in his book From the Stone Age to Christianity, describes what the primary focus of Canaanite religion was: sex. The featured idols recovered by archaeologists are hundreds of nude female forms in sexually suggestive forms, as well as male idols associated with homosexual cults (From the Stone Age to Christianity, pages 232-235).
ii. “Thus the Canaanites, with their orgiastic nature-worship, their cult of fertility in the form of serpent symbols and sensuous nudity, and their gross mythology, were replaced by Israel.” (Albright, page 281).
3. (4-6) The danger of pride when the LORD gives them victory.
Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, “Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land”; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.
a. Do not think in your heart: Israel’s temptation to pride did not come in something they would actually say. Long before we will say proud words we think proud thoughts in our heart. Therefore, Israel must not think in their heart that it was because of their righteousness that the LORD has given them the land.
i. This is a preview of salvation by grace through faith, in which we cannot think that it is our righteousness that has obtained it. Instead, it is the righteousness we have received in Jesus Christ.
ii. When we receive any gift from God, we are tempted to take it and use it to glorify ourselves. Israel must not do this in regard to the gift of the Promised Land, and we must not do it in regard to any gift the LORD would give us.
iii. Sayings or proverbs of the ancient world reflect man’s desire to earn his own righteousness and justification before God. “I will not have heaven for nothing” said one, and another said, “Give me heaven, for Thou owe it to me.” The same idea is expressed in an old Roman Catholic teaching that dying men should pray, “LORD, join my righteousness with Christ’s righteousness” as if the two together could accomplish something. Instead, we look to the righteousness of Jesus alone.
b. For you are a stiff-necked people: The idea is that Israel, like a rebellious domestic animal, would stiffen its neck against the yoke God would put upon it. They would not submit to God’s direction in their life.
i. Stiff-necked “is a figurative expression for stubborn, intractable, obdurate, and hardheaded.” (Kalland)
B. The stiff-necked character of Israel is demonstrated in their past failures.
1. (7) A call to remember their past rebellions.
Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.
a. Remember and do not forget: God’s purpose in reminding Israel of their rebellions against Him was not to discourage them or to make them feel defeated. The purpose was so that they would recognize their own weakness and trust in Him.
b. You have been rebellious against the LORD: The same idea is communicated in the New Testament at 1 Corinthians 10:12: therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. When we remember our sinful nature, we walk in the poverty of spirit Jesus said was essential to a life of blessing (Matthew 5:3).
2. (8-21) Remembering the rebellion at Mount Horeb.
Also in Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry enough with you to have destroyed you. When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. Then the LORD delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. Then the LORD said to me, “Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly; they have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molded image.” Furthermore the LORD spoke to me, saying, “I have seen this people, and indeed they are a stiff-necked people. Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.” So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire; and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God; had made for yourselves a molded calf! You had turned aside quickly from the way which the LORD had commanded you. Then I took the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also. And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain.
a. Also in Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath: This recalls the events at Mount Sinai, where Israel worshipped a golden calf when Moses was gone a long time on Mount Sinai, receiving the law from the LORD (Exodus 19-32).
b. Written with the finger of God: The original tablets of the law Moses received on Mount Sinai were actually written by God Himself and contained the Ten Commandments (all the words which the LORD had spoken to you on the mount from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly, found in Exodus 20).
c. I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they: God told Moses of His desire to wipe out Israel in judgment, and to start over again with a new nation, descended from Moses himself.
d. The mountain burned with fire: The burning fires on Mount Sinai were physical representations of the glory of God and His holy presence. The mountain began to burn when Israel first came to Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18). Those fires had burned for 40 straight days, and they burned at the very time Israel made a golden calf and began to worship it.
e. I took the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes: Moses broke the tablets, “Not by an unbridled passion, but in zeal for God’s honour, and by direction of God’s Spirit, to signify to the people, that the covenant between God and them contained in those tables was broken and made void, and they were now quite cast out of God’s favor, and could expect nothing from him but fiery indignation and severe justice.” (Poole)
f. For I was afraid: The Hebrew word here is a rare word, translated in the Septuagint by the strong word ekphobos, which means “exceedingly frightened” or “stricken with terror.” When he saw the sin of Israel and knew the holiness of God, Moses was very afraid for the sake of the people of Israel.
g. I prayed for Aaron also: Aaron’s sin, detailed in Exodus 32, was so bad, that he surely would have been destroyed by the LORD – except Moses prayed for him. This shows both the prevailing power of Moses’ prayer and the great love in the heart of Moses.
h. Burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small: Moses burnt the idol, ground it up, and sprinkled it in the people’s drinking water for three reasons.
· To show this god was nothing and could be destroyed easily.
· To completely obliterate this idol.
· To make the people pay an immediate consequence of their sin.
3. (22-24) Parenthesis: remembering the rebellions at Taberah, Massah, Kibroth Hattaavah, and Kadesh Barnea.
Also at Taberah and Massah and Kibroth Hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. Likewise, when the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the land which I have given you,” then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and you did not believe Him nor obey His voice. You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
a. Also at Taberah: The name Taberah means “burning,” and in Numbers 11, when the people of Israel first left Mount Sinai to head towards Kadesh Barnea and the Promised Land, they immediately complained, and God sent fires of judgment against them at a place they called Taberah because of the burning fires of God’s judgment.
b. And Massah: Exodus 17:7 describes the naming of a place called Massah, which means “tempted,” because there Israel provoked the LORD by doubting His loving care and concern for them in the wilderness.
c. Kibroth Hattaavah: The name means “graves of craving” and was the place where Israel longed for meat instead of manna, and God gave them meat. However, it became plagued in the mouths of those with greedy and discontent hearts (described in Numbers 11).
d. When the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea: Moses briefly remembered the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea, where Israel doubted God’s love for them and refused to enter the Promised Land by faith – rebelling against the LORD (Numbers 13-14).
e. You did not believe Him nor obey His voice: Israel’s disobedience to God began with their unbelief. They did not believe God loved them and was mighty enough to bring them into the Promised Land.
4. (25-29) Moses’ prayer of intercession for Israel when they rebelled at Mount Horeb.
Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you. Therefore I prayed to the LORD, and said: “O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look on the stubbornness of this people, or on their wickedness or their sin, lest the land from which You brought us should say, ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring them to the land which He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.’ Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your outstretched arm.”
a. Therefore I prayed to the LORD: This great prayer of intercession from Moses is described more fully in Exodus 32. Moses asked for mercy upon Israel because of God’s past faithfulness to them (whom You have redeemed).
b. Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: Moses asked for mercy upon Israel because of God’s past faithfulness to the patriarchs.
c. Lest the land from which You brought us should say, “Because the LORD was not able”: Moses asked for mercy upon Israel because of concern for the glory of God’s own name and His reputation among the nations.
d. Your people… Your inheritance… You brought out… Your mighty power… Your outstretched arm: Moses asked for mercy upon Israel because they were God’s people.
i. We can seek the mercy and power of God through prayer by praying with the same heart and by pleading the same reasons before the LORD. Prayer on solid reasons like these is far more effective than merely casting wishes up towards heaven.
· Because of God’s past faithfulness to us.
· Because of His past faithfulness to our forefathers.
· Because of His own glory and reputation among the nations.
· Because we are His people.
ii. Keeping these things in mind is also a way to refine our prayers. When we pray only for the things consistent with God’s glory, we have our hearts set on the right things.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 8 – A Warning Against Pride
A. God’s work of building humility in Israel during the wilderness wanderings.
1. (1-2) God humbled and tested Israel.
Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
a. Every command… you must be careful to observe: God called Israel to a complete obedience. This obedience was to be based on remembering what the LORD had done among them in the wilderness.
b. To humble you: God humbled Israel. He brought them to a place where all they could do was depend on Him. They had nothing else, and no one else to count on.
i. Some think that God’s work of humbling is accomplished just by bringing us into a humble place. But it is where our heart is while we are in the humble place that God is really concerned about. We may be in a humble place but longing for something different. We may believe that God owes something different to us, and we will soon get it. Instead, God wants us to be content in the humble place He puts us.
c. And test you: God tested Israel. It was not because He didn’t know their hearts, but because they didn’t know their hearts. We have to constantly be corrected of our over-estimation of ourselves.
2. (3-5) God’s education of Israel in the wilderness.
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.
a. So He humbled you: All of God’s education begins here. Some never even make it past this first essential step. If we are not humble and not teachable, there is then no point to the rest of any of God’s education.
b. Allowed you to hunger, and fed you manna: The next grade of God’s education is total dependence on the LORD. Israel had to rely on God beyond their own knowledge (which you did not know), and beyond their own ability.
c. That He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone: In the negative, this was the lesson God wanted them to learn. In the positive, they had to learn that man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Sadly, many still live by bread alone, living only for material things, for what can be bought or sold or earned or possessed materially.
i. This statement is a command; but it is also a simple statement of fact: man shall not live by bread alone. You may exist by material things alone, but you will not live. Anyone thinking they live for bread alone is actually one of the living dead.
ii. Some don’t live by God’s word because they fight with God’s word: “The worst implement with which you can knock a man down, is the Bible; it is intended for us to live upon, – not to be the weapon of our controversies, but our daily food, upon which we rejoice to live.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, not by every feeling we experience. “You have never received spiritual life by your own feelings. It was when you believed God’s Word that you lived; and you will never get an increase of spiritual life, and grow in grace, by your own feelings or your own doings. It must still be by your believing the promises and feeding on the Word.” (Spurgeon)
iv. It is the word of God that is our food and substance, and not our own dreams or imaginations. If you are more excited about some dream or vision than you are about God’s word, then something is wrong. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:28)
v. We live by every word: “In places where they cut diamonds, they sweep up the dust, because the very dust of diamonds is valuable; and in the Word of God, all the truth is so precious that the very tiniest truth, if there be such a thing, is still diamond dust, and is unspeakably precious.” (Spurgeon)
vi. Find life in every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD! “Oh, keep to the Word, my brothers! Keep to it as God’s Word, and as coming out of his mouth. Suck it down into your soul; you cannot have too much of it. Feed on it day and night, for thus will God make you to live the life that is life indeed.” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-10) Blessings in the land for Israel.
Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
a. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God: If Israel would put their focus on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD, then the LORD would take care of all the material things – and bring them into a materially abundant land.
i. God is not against material things – except when they come between Him and us. God wanted to materially bless a spiritually obedient Israel.
ii. “The reference to iron and copper in the hills is remarkably exact. Ancient copper mines and smelters have been discovered in recent years in the Arabah below the Dead Sea, and geological survey has demonstrated the presence of ores of copper and iron in the nearby hills.” (Thompson)
b. Then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you: This is the simple principle of Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
B. A warning against pride.
1. (11-17) The danger of pride in the blessed life.
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end; then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.”
a. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments: When everything is fine and our lives are filled with abundance, it is not hard to have our hearts lifted up. We can easily forget the LORD Himself and forget it was all His work on our behalf.
b. My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth: This is rarely said with the lips; it is said instead in the heart. It is easier to say “God did it” or “It’s all the blessing of the LORD” than it is to really mean these words in the heart.
2. (18) The correcting principle against pride in the blessed life.
And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
a. Remember the LORD your God: In times of abundance, it is easy to forget the LORD, or to at least no longer seek Him with the urgency we once had.
b. It is He who gives you power to get wealth: We often think highly of our own hard work and brilliance. Yet we must see that God gives us the body, the brain, and the talent. It is all of God.
c. That He may establish His covenant: This reminds us why God has blessed us. His plan is that it would ultimately further His eternal purpose. Therefore, we have no right to use our material blessing to further selfish purposes; instead, we use our resources to advance His kingdom.
3. (19-20) The penalty of pride in the blessed life.
Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
a. I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish: Moses loved Israel, but he loved God more. Without hesitation, he would take the witness stand against a disobedient, proud Israel – and warn them before God that they will surely perish because of their pride and disobedience.
b. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so shall you perish: Israel would be tempted to look at the nations being judged in front of them, and to think, “We’re better than them, so we are safe. God would never deal with us that way.” But God would deal with them that way if they rose up in pride against Him.
c. So you shall perish: Pride is the greatest danger in the Christian life. It is the most Satanic of sins because it was by pride that Satan himself fell. Satan prizes a proud believer over the most notorious sinner, because he looks at the proud believer and says, “Now there’s a man just like me!”
i. Pride of face is obnoxious; pride of race is vulgar; but the worst pride is the pride of grace.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 7 – Commands to Conquer and Obey
A. The Conquest of the Canaanites is commanded.
1. (1-5) The command to completely destroy the Canaanites and their culture.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.
a. When the LORD your God: Israel wasn’t in the land yet, but Moses still instructed them as if it were a certainty. This was based on the faithful promise of God, but it was also according to His principle of preparation. God prepares us before He brings us into a place.
b. Greater and mightier than you: “Sure,” Moses said, “the Canaanite nations are greater and mightier than you. But they are not greater and mightier than God.” God brought Israel to face a challenge that was impossible in their own strength – but entirely possible in Him.
c. When the LORD your God delivers them over to you: Not “if,” but when. God could be counted on.
d. You shall conquer them and utterly destroy them: Yet, God would not do it all for them. The extent of the work would depend on their faithful response to what God would do.
i. Utterly destroy them… nor show mercy to them: This principle of battle until absolute victory is the key to victory as we take the Promised Land of blessing and peace God has for us in Jesus. We show no mercy to our enemies in the land, but we destroy them utterly. Many of us, truth be told, simply do not want to completely destroy the sins which keep us from God’s Promised Land of blessing and peace – we want to weaken them, and have some control over them, but we do not want to utterly destroy them.
e. Destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images: We are specially to destroy anything which would lead us into a false or foreign worship.
i. This radical, complete destruction was important because of the depraved nature of the worship of the Canaanites, who worshipped male and female gods of sex and who practiced human sacrifice with their own children.
2. (6-8) Conquer them completely because the LORD loves you.
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
a. For you are a holy people to the LORD your God: Israel was holy in their standing before God before they were holy in their conduct. They were set apart unto God by His choosing (God has chosen you to be a people for Himself) and were then called to live as chosen people.
b. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number: As much as anything, their election meant the LORD set His love on them. Their motivation for such a total obedience was to be that they knew God loved them.
i. This is the great motivation for obedience: knowing and walking in the love of God. When we really believe God loves us, and live with that belief as a conscious fact, we find it so much easier to obey – and to utterly destroy anything that would damage that relationship of love.
3. (9-11) Conquer them completely because you serve a God of justice.
Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.
a. He repays those who hate Him to their face: Over many generations the Canaanites had demonstrated their hatred for God, Now, using Israel as His instrument, God will repay them with judgment.
B. Blessing on an obedient Israel.
1. (12-16) Abundant blessings for obedience.
Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock. And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you. And you shall destroy all the peoples whom the LORD your God delivers over to you; your eye shall have no pity on them; nor shall you serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.
2. (17-24) Have confidence in God’s strength.
If you should say in your heart, “These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?”— you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed. You shall not be terrified of them; for the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is among you. And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, and will inflict defeat upon them until they are destroyed. And He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will destroy their name from under heaven; no one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them.
a. You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did: Their recollection of God’s faithfulness in the past would give them hope for their current struggle.
b. You will be unable to destroy them at once: God would go before Israel and fight for them (the great and awesome God, is among you) but He would not drive all the enemies out at once. Perhaps Israel wanted the land all cleared out before them, but God knew it was not best for the land or for them.
c. Lest the beast of the field become too numerous for you: The way easiest for Israel was for God to clear all Israel’s enemies out at once. But this easy way had consequences Israel could not see or appreciate.
d. Little by little: Sometimes to our frustration, this is the way God often works in our life. He clears things away little by little even though we might prefer it all at once. But God wanted Israel to grow spiritually in the process of taking the Promised Land.
i. Doing it all at once might seem easier and better to us but will have consequences we cannot see or appreciate. God cares that we grow, and so He grows us little by little.
3. (25-26) Do not share in their abominations.
You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. Nor shall you bring an abomination into your house, lest you be doomed to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is an accursed thing.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 6 – Moses Reminds Israel of the Commandment and the Warning
A. The Commandment: The essence of God’s law.
1. (1-3) Remember the commandment before entering Canaan.
Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you; “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
a. Now this is the commandment: The Hebrew is emphatic here. Moses called attention to The Commandment. In the following verses, God reduced the law to one ruling principle – one commandment that encompassed all the commandments.
b. That your days may be prolonged… that it may be well with you: Israel’s fate rested on their obedience to this one great commandment. If they obeyed their commandment, their life would be long and filled with blessing. If they did not obey they could expect to be cursed by God.
2. (4-5) The great commandment: Love the LORD your God.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
a. Hear, O Israel: In Hebrew, these verses are known as the Shema (“hear” in Hebrew). It is the classic Hebrew confession of faith, describing who God is and what our duty is towards Him.
b. The LORD our God, the LORD is one: This is the essential truth about God. He is a person and not a vague pantheistic force. Being one, He cannot be represented by contradictory images. Since the LORD our God is one, He is not Baal, or Ashtoreth – He is the LORD God, and they are not.
i. In the mind of many Jewish people, this verse alone disqualified the New Testament teaching that Jesus is God, and the New Testament teaching of the Trinity – that there is one God, existing in three Persons. At some times and places, as Jewish synagogues said the Shema together, and when the word one (echad) was said, they loudly and strongly repeated that one word for several minutes, as if it were a rebuke to Christians who believed in the Trinity.
ii. Christians must come to a renewed understanding of the unity of God. They must appreciate the fact that the LORD is one, not three, as 1 Corinthians 8:6 says: yet for us there is one God. We worship one God, existing in three persons, not three separate gods.
iii. Yet, the statement the LORD is one certainly does not contradict the truth of the Trinity. In fact, it establishes that truth. The Hebrew word for one is echad, which speaks most literally of a compound unity, instead of using the Hebrew word yacheed, which speaks of an absolute unity or singularity (Genesis 22:2 and Psalm 25:16).
iv. The very first use of echad in the Bible is in Genesis 1:5: So the evening and the morning were the first day. Even here, we see a unity (one day) with the idea of plurality (made up of evening and morning).
· Genesis 2:24 uses echad in saying the two shall become one flesh. Again, the idea of a unity (one flesh), making a plurality (the two).
· In Exodus 26:6 and 11, the fifty gold clasps are used to hold the curtains together, so the tent would be one (echad) – a unity (one) made up of a plurality (the many parts of the tabernacle).
· In Ezekiel 37:17 the LORD tells Ezekiel to join together two sticks (prophetically representing Ephraim and Judah) into one (echad), speaking again of a unity (one stick) made up of a plurality (the two sticks).
v. There is no way that echad has the exclusive idea of an absolute singularity; the idea of One God in Three Persons fits just fine with the term echad.
c. The LORD our God: In addition, even the name of God in this line suggests the plurality of God. The Hebrew word is Elohim and grammatically, it is a plural word used as if it were singular – the verbs and pronouns used with it are generally in the plural.
i. Rabbi Simeon ben Joachi, commenting on the word Elohim: “Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.” Clarke adds: “He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words.”
ii. Leupold quoting Luther on Elohim: “But we have clear testimony that Moses aimed to indicate the Trinity or the three persons in the one divine nature.”
d. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might: Knowing who God is enables us to act towards Him rightly. We give Him His due.
i. God wants a complete love from us. This love is appropriate because He loved us completely: We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
ii. What God most wants from us is our love. We often think God demands a hundred other things from us – our money, our time, our effort, our will, our submission, and so forth – but what God really wants is our love. When we really love the LORD with all of our heart, soul, and mind, then everything else is freely given to the LORD. If we give the LORD all the rest – money, time, effort, will, and so forth – without giving Him our love, it is all wasted – and perhaps, all is lost.
iii. Jesus called this the great commandment (Matthew 22:37-38); and He said the second commandment, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, was like this first, great commandment. When we love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we will find it easy to love our neighbor as ourselves.
3. (6-9) The continual reminder of the Law.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
a. These words which I command you today shall be in your heart: This great command must first be in our heart. Then it must be communicated to our children, the topic of our conversation, and should always be in front of us – as near as our hand or our forehead, as ever before us as our door posts and gates.
b. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand: By the time of Jesus the Jewish people based the practice of wearing phylacteries on this passage. Phylacteries are small boxes holding parchment with scriptures on them, held to the forehead or hand with leather straps.
i. Jesus condemned abuse of the wearing of phylacteries among the Pharisees; they would make their phylactery boxes large and ostentatious as a display of greater spirituality (Matthew 23:5).
ii. In the end times, there will be a Satanic imitation of this practice, when the number of the Antichrist will be applied to either the hand or forehead of all who will take it (Revelation 13:16).
c. You shall write them on the doorposts of your houses: This command leads to the Jewish practice of the mezuzah. This is a small container holding a passage of Scripture that is nailed to a doorpost.
B. The danger of disobedience.
1. (10-12) The danger of leaving God in times of prosperity.
So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant; when you have eaten and are full; then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
a. To give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build: God planned to bring Israel into an abundant, prepared land. In this abundant blessing God had for Israel, there was an inherent danger: That they would forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
b. Lest you forget the LORD: This cycle would be repeated through the history of Israel, especially in the time of the Judges. God would bless an obedient Israel, and they would prosper; they would begin to set their heart on the blessings instead of the LORD who blessed them; God would allow chastisement to turn Israel’s focus back upon Him; Israel would repent and obey again, and God would again bless an obedient Israel and they would prosper.
i. We usually fail to appreciate the danger of success and prosperity; we agree there is a theoretical danger in those things, but rarely think it applies to us.
ii. It is just a lot easier to forget the LORD your brought you out… from the house of bondage when there are no circumstances forcing you to remember Him.
2. (13-19) How to avoid apostasy in times of prosperity: honoring the LORD in everything we do.
You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth. You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the LORD swore to your fathers, to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has spoken.
a. You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him: When we do this, the idea is not of a shrinking fear from an angry God. Instead, the idea of fear is more in the concept of an awe-filled respect, an inner repulsion at the idea of offending such a great, loving God who has done so much for us.
i. This is the passage of Scripture Jesus quoted back to Satan when tempted by Satan to avoid the cross and win back the world if He would only bow down and worship Satan. Jesus rightly replies, based on the truth You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him that it was only right to fear, and worship, and serve God – and it was wrong to bow down to Satan, no matter what might be given Him in return (Matthew 4:8-10).
b. And shall take oaths in His name: although the concept of the oath in God’s name can certainly be abused (as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:33-37), there certainly is a permissible use of oaths by those who follow God – since God Himself uses oaths (Hebrews 6:13). Here, Israel is being told, “you are to swear an oath only in the name of the LORD, not in the name of any other god.”
c. You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him at Massah: In Exodus 17:1-7, Israel tempted the LORD by doubting His love and concern for them. This was tempting or testing God regarding His love for Israel, something that is not only high-handed against the LORD (because we have no right to administer a test to the Almighty) but also disregarding His previous, and constant demonstrations of love and care for Israel (by demanding that God prove His love for them now by giving them what they want).
i. Anytime we deny God’s love for us, or demand He do something for us, we are testing Him as if He must answer to our standards and tempting Him to judge us.
ii. This is the passage of Scripture which Jesus quoted back to Satan in the wilderness, when tempted to make God the Father prove His love for the Son by spectacularly protecting Jesus if He should jump off the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5-7). Jesus knew it was wrong to demand this sort of “proof” from His Father, since every day was proof of God the Father’s love for the Son!
d. And you shall do what is right… that it may be well with you: This theme is constantly repeated. Under the Old Covenant, Israel’s blessing was based on their obedience. When they obeyed they would be blessed; when they disobeyed they would be cursed.
i. This is not the source of blessing in the New Covenant. In the New Covenant, we are blessed by faith in Jesus since He fulfills the law in our place (Romans 8:3-4). The watchwords for blessing under the Old Covenant were earning and deserving; under the New Covenant, blessing comes by believing and receiving.
ii. The New Covenant system works because when we receive the New Covenant, God sends with it an inner transformation, where the law of God and the desire to do His will is now written on our hearts. Through the New Covenant, God makes us “safe” for His grace by this inner transformation.
iii. Under the New Covenant there is no judgment from God for our disobedience, because all the judgment we deserved was put upon Jesus at the cross. However, there may be correction from the hand of a loving God the Father (not in the sense of making us pay for our sin, but in the sense of training us not to continue in sin), and there are the natural consequences of our disobedience, which God has not promised to shield us from.
iv. Christians who fear the “freedom” of a New Covenant relationship with God must ask this question: did Israel come to great obedience to God through the Old Covenant? Does the system of earning and deserving blessing make us truly godlier than the system of believing and receiving? Or does it leave us either in total desperation (where one can then look to Jesus), or in total pride in our own works before God (as were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who had a significant hand in crucifying Him)?
3. (20-25) How to avoid apostasy in times of prosperity: Teach your children to understand and honor the LORD.
When your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the LORD our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the LORD showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”
a. When your son asks you in time to come: Often, the apostasy that comes from prosperity afflicts the next generation more than the present. They grow up expecting such prosperity and blessing, without understanding the repentance and walk with God that led to the prosperity.
b. Then you shall say to your son: Therefore, it was essential for Israel to teach and warn their children, so that the blessings given to one generation would not become a curse to the next generation.
i. Key to the teaching was the simple recounting of Israel’s testimony – how God saved them from the bondage of Egypt. Parents need to relate to their children how they came to a personal relationship with Jesus, so the children understand that they must come to the same relationship.
c. It will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments: If one will obtain true righteousness through the law, it is simple (though not easy): observe all the commandments. But if you are lacking in observing any commandment, then you need the atonement of a Perfect Sacrifice – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Deuteronomy 4 – A Call to Obedience
A. Moses challenges the nation to obedience.
1. (1-8) Moses challenges Israel to learn from the example of Baal-Peor.
“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal Peor; for the LORD your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you. Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?”
a. Now, O Israel, listen: Moses had reminded Israel of their many rebellions against God in the wilderness. Now, as they were ready to enter into the Promised Land, he wanted them to think about their need for present obedience in light of their past rebellions.
i. As noticed before, one of Satan’s great strategies is to make us remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember. If we don’t remember our past sins and rebellions against God, we can easily repeat them, falling into the same sinful patterns and traps: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
b. That you may live: In the larger sense, spiritual life and death depended on Israel’s obedience. Yet also in the more immediate sense, physical life and death depended on their obedience. Israel was about to attack a strong nation and to push them out of the Promised Land – if they didn’t have the blessing of the LORD upon them, they would soon be in a lot of trouble.
i. In fact, Israel’s first military loss in the Promised Land (at Ai, Joshua 7) came specifically because they had disobeyed God. 36 men died at Ai, because one man in Israel (Achan) did not obey the command of the LORD.
c. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it: This is an important principle regarding God’s Word. We are not to add to it (in the sense of making the traditions and opinions of men equal to the law of God), nor are we to take away from it (by bad teaching or explaining away passages).
i. This same idea is repeated in Revelation 22:18-19: For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
d. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal Peor: At Baal Peor, Israel sinned by committing both sexual and spiritual immorality with the women of Moab. Moses warned the people of Israel that if they rejected God now as they did back then, the result would be the same. Many would die in the judgment of the LORD.
e. Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding nation: God’s intention was that through Israel’s obedience to the covenant, He would exalt them among the nations and make them a witness. This was so that foreigners, like the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon at the height of his blessing, would see that the LORD God of Israel was indeed the LORD God (1 Kings 10).
2. (9-20) Moses challenges Israel to learn from the example at Mount Sinai (Horeb).
“Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, “especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess. Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.”
a. Only take heed to yourself: After this warning, Moses then warned them to take the commands of God and teach them to your children and your grandchildren. Israel was not play the hypocritical game of “do what I say and not what I do” with their children. Instead they were to take heedto themselves first, then instruct their children.
b. Especially concerning the day: Moses told the nation to especially tell their children about the experience in Horeb (that is, Mount Sinai) – an experience most of these only knew as children, if at all.
i. At Horeb, the nation of Israel heard God speak (I will let them hear My words). The intention of such a personal encounter was so that they would obey God – but they did not.
c. He declared to you His covenant: At Mount Sinai, Israel did not only receive commandments from God; they also entered into a covenant with Him, promising to obey Him, and God promising to bless an obedient Israel (Exodus 24:1-8).
d. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice: The commands at Horeb had to be obeyed. Because they saw no form of God, therefore God commanded that they must never make an image to represent Him.
i. Israel also was forbidden to worship the creation of God. Neither any beast or bird or the sun, the moon, and the stars are fit for our worship. This is worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
e. The LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace: Because God has delivered us, He has rights over us. He did not deliver us so we could do our own thing, but so we could do His thing.
3. (21-24) Moses challenges Israel to learn from the example of his own failure.
“Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. But I must die in this land, I must not cross over the Jordan; but you shall cross over and possess that good land. Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
a. The LORD was angry with me for your sakes: It was for the sake of Israel that God disciplined Moses, not allowing him to enter the Promised Land. Israel needed to see that no man, not even Moses was above the Law. They also had to understand that it was indeed better that Joshua lead them into the Promised Land instead of Moses.
b. I must die in this land… but you shall cross over and possess that good land: Moses was humble enough to recognize his own sin and failure before Israel, and he had enough faith to believe that they could make it – even without him.
i. Moses knew that he was replaceable. It is a dangerous thing when anybody in the ministry begins to think they are doing something no one else can do, or that they are irreplaceable. God can and does use anyone; if a ministry does depend on one irreplaceable person, then it is of man and not of God. Moses was humble enough, and wise enough, to know this.
c. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire: Moses’ idea was simply, “If God did not spare me when I sinned against Him, don’t think He will spare you if you turn to other gods. God is a consuming fire, and we must take Him and obedience to Him seriously.” The same idea is echoed in Hebrews 12:29.
B. Moses warns the nation about the danger of disobedience.
1. (25-28) The price of serving other gods: exile among the nations.
“When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the LORD your God to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.”
a. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: Creation itself would testify against an idol worshipping Israel. They would be destroyed in the land God promised to give them.
b. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples: God gave Israel the Promised Land, but not unconditionally. If they persisted in idol worship, God would remove them from the land and scatter them among the nations.
i. This is exactly what happened some 550 years later, at the time of the Babylonian Exile of Judah.
c. There you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell: If Israel was exiled, they would then get their fill of idols. God would put them in a land filled with idols.
i. Often, God’s chastisement on us is to give us what our sinful hearts long for. If Israel wanted idols, God would give them idols.
2. (29-31) God’s mercy to exiled Israel.
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice (for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.”
a. From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him: God would not totally abandon Israel in exile. When they were ready to turn back to the LORD, He would be ready to receive them.
b. If you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul: However, if Israel was to find the LORD, they had to seek Him with all their heart and all their soul.
i. In this context, to seek God with the heart has the idea of passionately seeking Him, seeking Him because you really want to love the LORD. Seeking God with the soul has the idea of seeking God with our mind, will, and emotions; with giving all of ourselves to Him.
c. When you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice: This shows that when we seek God with all our heart and all our soul, it will show itself in obedience.
3. (32-40) The sensibility of serving God.
“For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him. Out of heaven He let you hear His voice, that He might instruct you; on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire. And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day. Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
a. For ask now: Moses asked Israel to carefully consider the days that are past, and if God had ever dealt with any other nation the way He had dealt with Israel. Israel needed to know they had a special place in the plan of God.
b. To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God: Israel could know that the LORD was God, because of all the amazing things God did in the life of their nation.
i. In the same way, when we consider how God has touched our lives – how we have experienced the power to free us from sin, to give us hope when we are discouraged, to heal our bodies, to free our bitter hearts, to answer our prayers, to overcome the most difficult obstacles – when we consider these things, we can know that the LORD Himself is God.
c. The LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath, there is no other: Israel heard God’s audible voice from heaven; they saw His holy fire and benefited from His divine choice. They could know this from all God had done for them.
d. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments: In light of who God is, and all He did for Israel, obedience to His commands made perfect sense. It was simply what should be done. We are fools to disobey such a God of love and power.
i. The LORD gives man the invitation: Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD (Isaiah 1:18). When we consider the alternatives, serving God is the only option. We often think that we have it hard serving the LORD, but we would be in an even worse place without Him. It has been said, “Democracy is the worst form of government ever created, except for all the others.” We could also say, “Serving God is the hardest way to live, except for all the other ways.”
4. (41-43) Moses sets apart cities of refuge in the land east of the Jordan River.
Then Moses set apart three cities on this side of the Jordan, toward the rising of the sun, that the manslayer might flee there, who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without having hated him in time past, and that by fleeing to one of these cities he might live: Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.
a. Then Moses set apart three cities on this side of the Jordan: This was part of the essential preparation for entering the Promised Land. God commanded that three cities of refuge be readied on each side of the Jordan River (Numbers 35:14), and here, the three cities on the east side of the Jordan were appointed.
b. Three cities on this side of the Jordan: Moses could not appoint all six cities of refuge, because they had not yet taken the land on the western side of the Jordan River. Still, though he could not obey all of God’s command to appoint six cities of refuge, he did what he could – and appointed the three on the east of the Jordan.
i. “Hence let us learn that, even when we cannot at once entirely carry out what God commands us to do, we are still to be by no means idle. For nothing but sheer laziness stands in our way, unless we speedily commence at God’s command what it is His will to finish.” (Calvin)
5. (44-49) Moses will review the commandments of God with the people of Israel.
Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt, on this side of the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel defeated after they came out of Egypt. And they took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, who were on this side of the Jordan, toward the rising of the sun, from Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, even to Mount Sion (that is, Hermon), and all the plain on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, below the slopes of Pisgah.
a. This is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel: As Moses addressed the nation they were on the threshold of the Promised Land. It had been some 38 years since they received the Law of God at Mount Sinai and now Moses reviewed and explained the Law of God with the new generation.
b. On this side of the Jordan: If they were going to take the Promised Land, they had to be trained in God’s Word. They would not take it by a do-it-yourself spirituality, but only by obedience to the eternal word of God. The same is true for us – we will never walk in the abundant life God has for us unless we do it by His word.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
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