The outward expression of an inward reality

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 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.” (Deuteronomy 6:5–9 ESV)

The laws, statues & commandments of Deuteronomy 6-11 should be viewed as the outward expression of the ultimate command:  to love God with all of your heart, soul & strength.  Obedience to the commands demonstrated that the people loved God.  The law was not given to save.  In the same way, we should strive to obey out of love rather than duty or obligation.  Jesus said the same thing – if you love me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15).  This is not a way of earning Jesus’ blessing – this is an increasingly natural outflow of a heart that has a growing love for God.  “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”” (John 14:21 ESV)

Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 in Matthew 22:37-38, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27 and summarizes it by saying that to love God is the great and first commandment (Matthew 22:38).  The thought is completed by indicating that this is not some cognitive, head knowledge, but is to penetrate all the way to the heart.  We are to love God with every fiber of our being – all of our obedience was designed to flow out of a heart that loves God.  The work is to love God and the scripture addresses this from different angles – abide in Christ (John 15), our work is one of belief (John 6:29), as we behold Him we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).  These are ways in which we grow in our love for God.  Loving God is not produced by our hard fought, white knuckled discipline – it is a Spirit wrought, utterly dependent, monergistic endeavor that glorifies God because we can’t produce it on our own.  Loving God involves our begging Him to produce in us that which we can not produce on our own.

God’s requirement for a heart that fully loves Him is seen throughout Deuteronomy as it is looking forward to a day when God will write His laws on the hearts of His people and they will worship Him with their new hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Romans 2:25-29, 8:14; Galatians 5:16, 18, 25; Colossians 2:11; Hebrews 7:18-19, 8:8-12, 9:9, 14 (purify our conscience), 10:1, 15-18, 10:22 (draw near with a true heart); Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:16, 29:4, 30:6-8).  Jesus fulfills this promise as He makes our dead hearts alive to God – He regenerates us.  We are not only to have these commands on our own hearts, but are to teach our children and those around us the same thing.  This is the foundation of discipleship.  Many of the Jews did this externally, but missed it internally.  How often do we pass down a code of moral conduct to our children that is void of a passionate love for God?  The thing(s) that we love, we talk about.  What do you love, really?

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The awe of the Almighty

“Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV).

God knows the open rebellion that His people (and all people) will continue to walk in and the cost to buy back this rebellious lot.  The awe of the Almighty should leave an imprint on our souls that we fear and revere Him.  There should be a  growing awareness of the chasm between the eternally, holy, transcendent Creator and us which produces awe, admiration, reverence and obedience that flows out of a place of gratitude that He would make a way for us, not that He will “get us” if we don’t obey.  Please reveal your glory so that we may fear and follow.

I worship what I want

“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’” (Deuteronomy 5:21 ESV).

Coveting is a deep-seated longing to possess something that is not yours.  Purity of heart is in focus here because to covet your neighbor’s wife is to lust after her – to want her instead of whom you are in a covenant relationship with (see here).  Likewise to desire what your neighbor has as better than what you have is the first step towards breaking the 8th commandment of not stealing (here).

God is after the heart (Matthew 5:21-30) and always has been!  When we covet something else, we bring it in to our hearts and tell ourselves, “if only I had this then life would be worth living, I would be happy, fulfilled, significant or worthwhile.”  This comes back to the first commandment of not having any other gods before the one true God.  Coveting leads to idolatry which leads to all sorts of behavioral problems because what is in our heart is what drives our thoughts, motivations, emotions and actions; we are defiled not because of what we put into us, but because of what comes out of us (Mark 7:20-23).  Whatever is on the throne of our heart is what we worship.

Lying perverts justice

‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20 ESV)

What seems to be in view here is to intentionally lie in a legal setting so as to meaningfully cause your neighbor harm.  Lying perverts justice and is not an accurate reflector of who God is and how He operates, which is one of our primary callings as His image bearers.  When we lie, we are saying to all of creation, “this is what God is like.”  We have such a proclivity towards using our words in destructive and hurtful ways.  Even “small, white lies,” can cause harm.

The call here is to live a truthful life.  We need help with this because we are so driven by the approval of others that we frequently “bend” the truth in order to present ourselves in a more favorable light.  We need to rest in the truth that we are accepted by God because of the perfectly lived life of Christ so we no longer need to be driven by the opinions of others.  It’s simple, but certainly not easy!

The Gospel Centered Life

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13 ESV)

Paul is grateful for the Philippians’ gift to him & for their partnership in the gospel (1:5), but he has learned a contentment that transcends his external circumstances.  To be content means to be OK with the lot that we have in life or with the means that have been afforded to us, regardless of whether they are slim or plentiful.  However, we normally associate lacking contentment with being in need.  For most that are reading this, that is not the case –…

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Don’t steal, be content

“And you shall not steal.” (Deuteronomy 5:19 ESV)

Implicit to this commandment is the right for people to own their own property, thus fueling a strong work ethic.  This commandment often times reveals the depravity of our hearts as we become discontent with what God has given us.  Discontentment leads to coveting, complaining, stealing and victimizing.  Every man should be content with the lot God has given him, but not lazily living there.  We should be industrious in all of our endeavors, knowing that Adam & Eve were given a work to do prior to the fall and we have the same mission today – though it is in a thorn laden creation that wars against us.  Stealing what does not belong to you is an attack on your neighbor and his rights and disrupts a healthy rhythm of society.  Stealing reveals that we are not content with what God has given us.

Lust filled hearts are not free hearts

“‘you shall not commit adultery.” (Deuteronomy 5:18, Exodus 20:14 ESV)

One can fulfill the external requirement of this commandment (and probably feel self righteous about it), but can utterly fail the internal, heart requirement of it – lust.  Though this commandment was about a man having sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else, the broader context and teaching of the bible makes it clear that sexual purity (external & an internal purity of the heart) is what God is calling us to.  We should never long for & desire (lust after) anyone that we are not in a covenantal relationship with.  This gets to the heart and trusting God with the marriage that He has placed you in.  What fuels your fantasies?  Jesus unpacks the original intent of this commandment in Matthew 5:27-30 and the drastic measures He calls us to in killing it in our lives.  Staying free from the external act of adultery, but burning with lust within is not freedom of heart.

The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient, the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious

““Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” (Deuteronomy 8:11–17 ESV)

When we are in times of relative prosperity, ease, comfort and blessing, we must be aware that we don’t forget the Lord, who benevolently gave us all that we have.  Our hearts run the risk of being “lifted up” and forgetting the Lord.  Remember, remember remember that God delivered you, led you, provided for you, loved you – even in your rebellion.  Beware and remember the benevolence of God and your weak, frail, depravity, “lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” (Deuteronomy 8:17 ESV).  We deserve nothing, not EVEN breath!  Everything is a gift from on high, it is not because we unlocked the secret spiritual code, executed better than others, worked harder, were wiser or did something on our own to deserve the good that we have.  God’s grace is the reason that you have any of these things.  REMEMBER AND BE OBEDIENT OUT OF GRATITUDE FOR GOD’S GOODNESS AND PROVISION FOR YOU!

The people are warned not to say in their heart, “‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’” (Deuteronomy 9:4 ESV).  If the Israelites were prone to forget God’s miraculous provision even though they had experienced profound miracles, how much more are we prone to forget.  The Lord is the One who thrust their adversaries out of the land because of their wickedness and because of His covenant to Abraham.  It is “not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land” (Deuteronomy 9:5 ESV).  These people are the recipients of God’s grace – unearned, undeserved, unmerited.  They are not receiving the land because the followed well enough, trusted deeply enough or were more spiritually attuned.  No!  They were being given the land because of God’s righteousness, glory and grace.

The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient, the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious – we deserve nothing except wrath because of our rebellious nature.  The Israelites would have viewed their military victories as a result of their righteousness and God rewarding them for that – this is the same way that we think today, but God completely obliterates that thinking.  “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9:6 ESV)  He reminds them of their rebellion every since He had delivered them from Egypt.  We are cut from the same cloth as these ancient people.  We readily take credit for the good in our lives as if we deserve them and quickly cast blame (often times on God) for hardships in life.

We must work to remember & believe that God is good, does good and is able to accomplish His purposes.  When we believe this then we are able to handle good & bad things because we know that our good Father is sovereignly reigning over all things – even things that we can’t understand.  We no longer have to carry the weight of being god in our world because we know that there is a God who is on the throne.

Remember

““Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’”
Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land
“Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”
(Deuteronomy 9:4-7 ESV)

The people are called to go into an intimidating land and conquer it – a land that is populated with those who are greater & mightier with fortified cities.  This is why they didn’t go into the land the first time – the spies (except Joshua & Caleb) said that the people were too mighty for Israel to over throw (Numbers 13:28-14:10).  The Israelites are reminded that these people were indeed mighty and their cities were fortified, but their God was mightier!

God then issues a warning to the people: “Do not say in your heart, ‘it is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land” (verse 4, also 8:17).  They would have viewed their military victories as God rewarding them for their righteousness; God completely obliterates that thinking.  God reminds them that they were the recipients of His grace – unearned, undeserved, unmerited.  They were not receiving the land because they followed or obeyed well enough, trusted deeply enough or were more spiritually attuned.  No!  They were being given the land because of God’s righteousness, glory and grace (see verses 5-7).

We are not much different than the Israelites.  We tend to believe that the good things in our lives are the result of our obedience, intelligence or hard work.  We think that God is our cosmic genie who is obligated to reward us; He owes us.  Nothing could be further from the truth that the bible paints for us.  The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient; the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious – we deserve nothing, but wrath because of our (ongoing) rebellion.  All good things are a gift as Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “what do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”  We are owed nothing, not even breath – everything is a gift from on high, it is not because you unlocked the secret spiritual code, executed better than others, worked harder, were wiser or did something on your own to deserve the good that you have.  God’s grace is the reason that you have any good things.

It seems like we are hard wired to take credit for the good in our lives and forget the grace of God.  So how do keep the right perspective that it is God who benevolently gives us good because He is gracious, not because we are deserving?  The answer is to REMEMBER.  Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us to “remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” and 9:7 tells us to “remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”  The people were called to remember their moral failures and disobedience in the wilderness to crush their self righteous pride.

You are called to remember that God delivered you, led you, provided for you, loved you – even in your rebellion.  You were dead in your trespasses, but God, being rich in mercy, made you alive (Ephesians 2:4–5).  You did not do anything to deserve it, you didn’t earn it, it is only by His benevolent grace that He made your heart alive to spiritual things.

Remembering involves deliberate, dependent discipline.  There is indeed action on our part.  Our role is to get ourselves in proximity to the waterfall of God’s grace and beg Him to ignite our hearts.  The Spirit ignites the kindling that we gather around us.  So let us work at gathering kindling and get ourselves in close proximity to the Almighty and beg Him to ignite our souls.

Moses the Mediator

“And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’” (Deuteronomy 5:24–27 ESV)

In verse 27, the people request a mediator because they feared the glory of the Lord; their reverence & fear is appropriate because man does not get to speak with the Almighty and live, unless He is merciful.  The glory was too great for their souls to bear, this is reminiscent of Isaiah’s experience in the temple when he was struck with fear at the presence of the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-7).  Most people lack this awe of the Almighty today.  The people feared the voice of the Lord so greatly that that were content to have Moses listen to God and relay the message.  It is ironic that they were so moved with fear of the living God then they quickly left Him and complained against Him as if He were like the impotent idols of Egypt.

God deems their assessment as true and right (v28), but the Sovereign, who is out side of time, laments:  “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV).  He knows the open rebellion that His people (and all people) will continue to walk in and the cost to buy back this rebellious lot.

God obliges the people and gives Moses His laws.  The purpose of the law was to reflect His perfection, to restrain sinful behavior in the community, to reveal our sinful hearts and to point us to the perfect Fulfiller of the law.  “You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”  God calls them to obey and He will protect & prosper them.  Ultimately, we know, the people could not obey.  Thankfully, Someone has obeyed on our behalf.  (Deuteronomy 5:33 ESV).

Moses is a picture of the perfect Mediator (Hebrews 9:15 & 12:24) that was to come – One who would stand between us and a holy & perfect God to resolve the conflict the existed due to our openly rebellious hearts.  We are not worthy, but He set His saving affections upon us anyway.  This Mediator not just intercedes on your behalf, but He also gives you His perfect obedience to law so you can stop strivingThe proclamation of the cross is “it is finished.”