Deuteronomy 5 - Moses Reminds Israel of their Covenant with God at Sinai
A. The requirements of God’s covenant with Israel.
1. (1-5) The setting of the covenant.
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said:”
a. Hear, O Israel: Israel was bound to the covenant they agreed to in Exodus 24:1-8, yet the covenant was made with the previous generation which perished in the wilderness. The present generation had to understand and embrace the covenant if they were to enjoy the blessings of the covenant.
b. Made a covenant: Literally, this is to “cut a covenant.” The idea of “cutting” is associated with covenant because covenants were always sealed with sacrifice - the cutting of a sacrificial victim.
c. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us: In fact, the covenant was originally made with the previous generation, and Moses did not deny this. But he drove the point home: This was their covenant; it is a covenant of the living, not of the dead.
d. The LORD talked with you face to face: This demonstrates that the term face to face does not mean “literal face to literal face,” but is a Hebraic figure of speech meaning “intimate, free communication.”
i. Deuteronomy 4:12 specifically says that Israel saw no form; you only heard a voice. Yet they had a remarkably transparent communication with God, so the figure of speech face to face applies.
ii. This is why Exodus 33:11 says So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, and in Exodus 33:20 the LORD says, You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live. The use of face to face in Exodus 33:11 is a figure of speech, meaning Moses had free and unhindered communication with the LORD.
iii. “Face to face seems to mean ‘in person,’ that is, in the immediacy of personal contact.” (Thompson)
e. I stood between the LORD and you at that time: Israel could not bear such free and unhindered communication with the LORD, so they asked Moses to speak to God on their behalf.
2. (6-7) The first commandment: no other gods before Me.
I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
a. I am the LORD your God: Before God commanded anything of man, He declared who He was and what He did for Israel (who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage). The foundation was clear: because of whom God was and what He did for His people, He has the right to tell us what to do - and we have the obligation to obey Him.
b. You shall have no other gods before Me: The first commandment logically flows from understanding who God is and what He has done for us. Nothing is to come before God and He is the only God we worship and serve.
i. In the days of ancient Israel, there was great temptation to worship the gods of materialism (Baal, the god of weather and financial success) and sex (Ashtoreth, the goddess of sex, romance, and reproduction), or any number of other local deities. We are tempted to worship the same gods, but without the old-fashioned names and images.
c. No other gods before Me: This did not imply that it was permissible to have other gods, as long as they lined up behind the true God. Instead the idea is that there are to be no other gods before the sight of the true God in our life. Before Me is literally, “to My face.”
i. This means God demands to be more than “added” to our lives. We don’t just add Jesus to the life we already have. We must give Him all our lives.
ii. Failure to obey this commandment is called idolatry. We are to flee idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Those lives marked by habitual idolatry will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:8, 22:15). Idolatry is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20), which marks our old life instead of the new (1 Peter 4:3), and we are not to associate with those who call themselves Christians who are idolaters (1 Corinthians 5:11).
3. (8-10) The second commandment: You shall not make for yourself any carved image . . . you shall not bow down to them.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image; any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
a. You shall not make for yourself a carved image: The second commandment prohibited not only idolatry regarding false gods, it also dealt with making an image of any created thing which we might worship.
b. Or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath: In that day as well as in our own, worship was tied closely with images - idealized images, or even images in the mind of man. God will not allow us to depict Him with any such image, nor replace Him with another image.
i. The second commandment didn’t forbid making an image of something for artistic purposes. God Himself commanded Israel make images of cherubim (Exodus 25:18, 26:31). It forbade the making of images as an “aid” to worship.
ii. “To countenance its image worship, the Roman Catholic Church has left the whole of this second commandment out of the decalogue, and thus lost one whole commandment out of the ten; but to keep up the number they have divided the tenth into two.” (Clarke)
iii. John 4:24 explains the rationale behind the second commandment: God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The use of images and other material things as a focus or “help” to worship denies who God is (Spirit) and how we must worship Him (in spirit and truth).
iv. Paul reminds us of the futility of trying to make God into our own image: Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:22-23)
c. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God: How can it be said that God is a jealous God? “God’s jealousy is love in action. He refuses to share the human heart with any rival, not because He is selfish and wants us all for Himself, but because He knows that upon that loyalty to Him depends our very moral life . . . God is not jealous of us: He is jealous for us.” (Redpath)
d. Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me: This does not mean God punishes us directly for the sins of our ancestors. The important words are of those who hate Me - if the descendants love God, they will not have the iniquity of the fathers visited on them.
i. “‘This necessarily implies - IF the children walk in the steps of their fathers; for no man can be condemned by Divine justice for a crime of which he was never guilty.” (Clarke)
ii. Yet, the focus here is on idolatry, and this refers to judgment on a national scale - nations that forsake the LORD will be judged, and that judgment will have effects throughout generations.
4. (11) The third commandment: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
a. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: We can break the third commandment through profanity (using the name of God in blasphemy and cursing), frivolity (using the name of God in a superficial, stupid way), and hypocrisy (claiming the name of God but acting in a way that disgraces Him).
i. . Jesus communicated the idea of this command in the disciple’s prayer, when He taught us to have a regard for the holiness of God’s name (Hallowed be Your name, Matthew 6:9).
b. For the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain: The strength of this command has led to strange traditions among the Jewish people. Some go to extreme lengths in attempting to fulfill this command, refusing to even write out the name of God, in the fear that the paper might be destroyed and the name of God be written in vain.
5. (12-15) The fourth commandment: Remember the Sabbath day.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
a. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: The seventh day (Saturday) was commanded to be respected as a day of rest. This rest was for all of Israel - servants and slaves as well as visitors.
i. This is an important principle that might be too easily passed over. Here God declared the essential humanity and dignity of women, slaves, and strangers, and said they had the same right to a day of rest as the free Israeli man. This was certainly a radical concept in the ancient world.
ii. In fact, in Moses’ exposition of the Law here in Deuteronomy, he pays special stress on the fact that the Sabbath is for the foreign-born slaves among Israel. Deuteronomy 5:15 (And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt) is not cited in Exodus 20.
b. To keep it holy: In their traditions, the Jewish people came to carefully quantify what they thought could and could not be done on the Sabbath day, in order to keep it holy.
i. For example, in Luke 6:1-2, in the mind of the Jewish leaders, the disciples were guilty of four violations of the Sabbath every time they took a bite of grain out in the field, because they reaped, threshed, winnowed, and prepared food.
ii. Ancient Rabbis taught that on the Sabbath, a man could not carry something in his right hand or in his left hand, across his chest or on his shoulder. But he could carry something with the back of his hand, his foot, his elbow, or in his ear, his hair, or in the hem of his shirt, or in his shoe or sandal. Or, on the Sabbath, you Israelites were forbidden to tie a knot - except, a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well, an Israelite could not tie a rope to the bucket, but a woman could tie her girdle to the bucket and pull it up from the well.
iii. In observant Jewish homes today, one cannot turn on a light, a stove, or a switch on the Sabbath. It is forbidden to drive a certain distance or to make a telephone call - all carefully regulated by traditions seeking to spell out the law exactly.
c. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth: God established the pattern for the Sabbath at the time of creation. When He rested from His works on the seventh day, God made the seventh day a day of rest from all our works (Genesis 2:3). But the most important purpose of the Sabbath was to serve as a shadow of the rest we have in Jesus.
i. Some claim that Christians are required to keep the Sabbath today. But the New Testament makes it clear that Christians are not under obligation to observe a Sabbath day (Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 4:9-11), because Jesus fulfilled the purpose and plan of the Sabbath for us and in us (Hebrews 4:9-11).
ii. Galatians 4:10 tells us that Christians are not bound to observe days and months and seasons and years. The rest we enter into as Christians is something to experience every day, not just one day a week - the rest of knowing we don’t have to work to save ourselves, but our salvation is accomplished in Jesus (Hebrews 4:9-10).
iii. The Sabbath commanded here and observed by Israel was a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). We have a rest in Jesus that is ours to live in every day. Therefore, since the shadow of the Sabbath is fulfilled in Jesus, we are free to keep any day - or no day - as a Sabbath after the custom of ancient Israel.
iv. However, though we are free from the legal obligation of the Sabbath, we dare not ignore the importance of a day of rest - God has built us so that we need one. Like a car that needs regular maintenance, we need regular rest - or we will not “wear” well. Some people are like high mileage cars that haven’t been maintained well, and it shows.
v. Some Christians are also dogmatic about observing Saturday as the Sabbath as opposed to Sunday. But because we are free to regard all days as given to God, it makes no difference. But in some ways, Sunday is more appropriate; being the day Jesus rose from the dead (Mark 16:9), and first met with His disciples (John 20:19), and a day when Christians gathered for fellowship (Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2). Under Law, men worked towards God’s rest; but after Jesus’ finished work on the cross, the believer enters into rest and goes from that rest out to work.
vi. But we are also commanded to work six days. “He who idles his time away in the six days is equally culpable in the sight of God as he who works on the seventh.” (Clarke) Many Christians should give more “leisure time” to the work of the LORD. Every Christian should have a deliberate was to serve God and advance the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
6. (16) The fifth commandment: honor your father and your mother.
Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
a. Honor your father and your mother: Honor for fathers and mothers is an essential building block for the stability and health of all society. If the younger generations are constantly at war with older generations, the foundations of society will be destroyed.
i. Jesus used the way the Pharisees interpreted this commandment as an example of how one might keep the law with a limited interpretation, yet violate the spirit of the commandment (Matthew 15:3-6).
b. That your days may be long: In Ephesians 6:2 Paul repeated this command, emphasizing the promise stated here: that your days may be long upon the land. Rebellion is costly, and many have paid a high price personally for their rebellion against their parents.
7. (17) The sixth commandment: You shall not murder.
You shall not murder.
a. You shall not murder: Some wonder how God can approve both capital punishment (Exodus 19:12) and this prohibition of murder. The simple answer is that in Hebrew as well as English, there is a distinction between to kill and to murder. As opposed to killing, murder is the taking of life without legal justification (execution after due process) or moral justification (killing in defense).
b. You shall not murder: Jesus carefully explained the heart of this commandment. He showed that it also prohibits us from hating someone else (Matthew 5:21-26), because we can wish someone dead in our hearts, yet never have the “courage” to commit the deed. Someone may not kill from a lack of courage or initiative, though his or her heart is filled with hatred.
8. (18) The seventh commandment: You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not commit adultery.
a. You shall not commit adultery: Recognize that the act itself is condemned. God allows no justification for the ways that many people often seek to justify extra-marital sex, such as saying “my partner doesn’t understand me” or “we are in love” or “God led us to be with each other” or any other excuse.
i. Michael English, who lost his recording contract and marriage over adultery with another Christian music singer, says of his adultery and its aftermath: “Maybe God allowed this to happen to make me see I needed some freedom.” No!
b. You shall not commit adultery: The New Testament clearly condemns adultery: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication uncleanness, licentiousness . . . (Galatians 5:19). But more than the act itself, Jesus carefully explained the heart of this commandment. It prohibits us from looking at a woman to lust for her, where we commit adultery in our heart or mind, yet may not have the courage or opportunity to do the act (Matthew 5:27-30). We aren’t innocent just because we didn’t have the opportunity to sin the way we really wanted to.
9. (19) The eighth commandment: You shall not steal.
You shall not steal.
a. Not steal: This command is another important foundation for human society, establishing the right to personal property. God has clearly entrusted certain possessions to certain individuals, and other people or states are not permitted to take that property without due process of law.
b. Not steal: We can also steal from God. Of course, this demands we honor God with our financial resources, so we are not guilty of robbing Him (Malachi 3:8-10). But we can also rob God by refusing to give Him ourselves for obedience and His service, because He bought us and owns us: knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19); For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).
c. Not steal: Ephesians 4:28 gives the solution to stealing. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
10. (20) The ninth commandment: You shall not bear false witness.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
a. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: We can break the ninth commandment through slander, talebearing, creating false impressions, by silence, by questioning the motives behind someone’s actions, or even by flattery.
i. “Slander . . . is a lie invented and spread with intent to do harm. That is the worst form of injury a person can do to another. Compared to one who does this, a gangster is a gentleman, and a murderer is kind, because he ends life in a moment with a stroke and with little pain. But the man guilty of slander ruins a reputation which may never be regained, and causes lifelong suffering.” (Redpath)
ii. “Talebearing . . . is repeating a report about a person without careful investigation. Many, many times I have known what it is to suffer with that. To repeat a story which brings discredit and dishonor to another person without making sure of the facts, is breaking this commandment . . . How many people, especially Christian people, revel in this, and delight in working havoc by telling tales about others. To excuse the action by saying they believed the report to be true, or that there was no intention to malign, is no justification.” (Redpath)
iii. What about inappropriate silence? “When someone utters a falsity about another and a third person is present who knows that statement to be untrue but, for reasons of fear or being disliked, remains quiet, that third person is as guilty of breaking this law as if he had told a lie.” (Redpath)
b. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: The New Testament puts it simply. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds (Colossians 3:9) “How very strange that we have ever come to think that Christian maturity is shown by the ability to speak our minds, whereas it is really expressed in controlling our tongues.” (Redpath)
i. “What a startling revelation it would be if a tape recording could be played of all that every church member has said about his fellow members in one week!” (Redpath)
ii. Satan is always there to encourage a lie (John 8:44; Acts 5:3); and Jesus Himself was the victim of false witness (Mark 14:57); in some ways, we might say this was the sin that sent Jesus to the cross.
11. (21) The tenth commandment: You shall not covet.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
a. You shall not covet: All the first nine commands focus more on things we do; the tenth deals straight with the heart and its desires.
i. Literally, the word for “covet” here means “to pant after.” Covetousness works like this: the eyes look upon an object, the mind admires it, the will goes over to it, and the body moves in to possess it. Just because you have not taken the final step does not mean you are not in the process of coveting right now.
b. Your neighbor’s house . . . wife . . . ox . . . donkey: Covetousness can be expressed towards all sorts of things; it is the itch to have and to possess what someone else has. It speaks of a dissatisfaction with what we have, and a jealously towards those who have something “better.”
i. Hebrews 13:5 puts it well: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
ii. This last commandment is closely connected with the first commandment against idolatry: For this you know, that no . . . covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).
iii. Jesus gave a special warning about covetousness, which explained the core philosophy of the covetous heart: And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
B. The response of Israel and the response of God at Mount Sinai.
1. (22-27) The response of Israel: shrinking fear.
“These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. And you said: ‘Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? You go near and hear all that the LORD our God may say, and tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.’“
a. In the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice: The whole scene was indeed awesome: The LORD spoke; there was fire, a cloud, thick darkness, a loud voice; and it all made such an impression on Israel that they asked Moses to not have God speak to them so directly any more.
i. Why should we die? . . . if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die makes it plain. The Mount Sinai experience was not one of sweet fellowship with God. The message of Mount Sinai was not “come unto Me,” but “stay away, for I am holy and you are not.”
ii. This is exactly the message of the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12:18-24: We, under the New Covenant, have not come to Mount Sinai and the message “stay away”; we have come to Mount Zion, where God’s message is “come unto Me.”
b. Tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it: Israel was far too confident in their ability to keep the law of God. Their experience at Mount Sinai convinced them of God’s glory, but not of their own corruption and inability.
2. (28-33) God responds with hopeful pleasure in Israel.
“Then the LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’ Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”
a. They are right in all they have spoken: God was pleased with Israel’s response. Their response was evidence that they took Him seriously.
b. Oh, that they had such a heart: The feeling is that God liked what He saw in Israel, but “hoped” (to use a figure of speech, because God doesn’t “hope” for things the way we do) that they would keep the same attitude of heart. In fact, Israel did not keep this heart; not 40 days later they danced in worship around a golden calf.
c. That it might be well with them and their children forever! This is God’s motive in calling for our obedience - that it might be well with us. Every command of God is rooted in love for us, not some obsessive desire for control, or mean-spirited attitude towards us.
d. Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you: Knowing the glory of God (as revealed at Mount Sinai) and the love of God (as revealed by His longing that it might be well with them), gave them all the more reason to obey God.
i. When we have trouble obeying God, we are clearly lacking in one or both of these areas. Either we forget His glory or we forget His love for us, or we forget both of them.
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 which 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). 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 and 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 more godly 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 which 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 which 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.
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 especially 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 they were loved by God.
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.
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 impliment 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 us and Him. 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 this 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 thinking 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.
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