Tag Archives: Deuteronomy

Need is all that you need

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”(Deuteronomy 30:11–20 ESV)

If you have been in the church for a while, then you have likely heard this passage used as a charge for you to walk in obedience.  It certainly is that!  It certainly is a call to obey the Lord’s commands, but what is in view is not some white knuckled, hard fought self reliant form of sanctification.  NO!  Obedience is only possible with new hearts.  It is only by trusting in God’s grace that you will find the fuel to obey His commands.  It is not too hard if the heart has been regenerated.  This text looks forward to a day when the word is in their hearts & mouths so that they would obey (14).  The circumcised heart enables obedience (30:6).  Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10:6-8 to distinguish between a righteousness that comes by faith versus dutiful obedience to the law.  God’s requirement is not superhero like works, but faith in the gospel.  Dependence is all you need; need is all that you need.  Joyful obedience flows from hearts that have been made new.

The options before them were clear and the consequences of their actions were clear, but they didn’t obey – they couldn’t obey rightly.  They did not have believing hearts.  God is not after just any type of obedience, He is after a certain kind of obedience.  God is after loving hearts that overflow in joyful obedience (v16).  Obedience without love is not real obedience – it is external compliance, which does not glorify God.  Moses gives them a choice at the summit of His preaching – it really is about trusting in the goodness, sovereignty & grace of God and walking in glad submission to the Lord of the universe (15-16).

If, however, your heart turns away & your ears become hard of hearing and you worship other gods then you will perish (17-18).  Love, affection & desire are at the heart of man; the very essence of a man is what he decides is worthy of his worship.  We become like that which we worship (Psalm 63:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18).  Moses says that life & death was before them and he implored them to choose life (19-20)!  Life consists of loving God, trusting God & obeying God.  Life comes from Christ and Christ alone (John 10:10).  Jesus is the One that perfectly obeyed the law as a result of His perfect love for God.  He then gave us His perfect obedience and took our sinful rebellion upon Himself in what has been called the “Great Exchange.”  If you are a Christian, then striving to please God is done – God is pleased with you because of the perfect obedience that Jesus gave to you.  You can stop striving and begin walking in joyful submission to the commands of God because you no longer have to earn or prove anything because Jesus victoriously proclaimed, “It is Finished!” (John 19:30)

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Being okay with your smallness

““You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sick— the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath— all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’” (Deuteronomy 29:16–28 ESV)

Beware lest just one person’s heart turns away and chases other gods and idols.  Apparently, idolatry is contagious.  Pride & hardness of heart will lead a person to the point at which he (or she) says, ““I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.” (Deuteronomy 29:19 ESV).  WOW, what arrogance & pride; I’ll walk in disobedience because I am the master of my own fate, master of my own soul.  God’s response to this outright rebellion is wrath.  He will not sit idly by, while His chosen people mock Him openly!  This is rooted in the justice, holiness & jealousy of God.  He has rights on their souls (and ours) and He had been profoundly merciful & gracious towards His people (and towards us), but there is a point at which He exacts justice because He will not allow His people to tread on His holiness.  Mass destruction of the land will ensue because of the people’s rebellion and their neighbors will want to know why God did such a thing.  The answer:  ““It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 29:25 ESV).  The Christian is safe from these curses because a Substitute obeyed perfectly on our behalf. 

What is ironic is that they had no relationship with these false gods, and yet they chased after them thinking that they would produce soul satisfaction (v25-26).  God is completely involved with His people – He cares & is connected, He is not some distant deity!  He is close!  And yet, created gods which are no gods at all, hold power in the hearts of the people.  God, protect us from chasing created gods thinking that they will satisfy our souls!

Verses 24-28 anticipates the people’s rebellion & idolatry as they break the first commandment and chase after other gods!  Chapter 28 weighed blessings & curses, but now it seems apparent that the author anticipates the people’s rebellion because “the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4 ESV).  These are strong words that show us that apart from God’s divine intervention, we will not be able to obey.  Yes, unless the Spirit regenerates the motivations of your heart, you will not be able to believe & obey.  This is no white knuckled effort, this is dependent grace that glorifies God.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV).  God has some secrets that He has chosen not to reveal to us and we are going to have to be okay with that.  We are going to have to trust that He is faithful, good & sovereign.  We are going to have to admit that we aren’t unlimited in our understanding & perspective.  This means that even when I don’t fully understand, I’m called to obey.  This is not mechanical obedience; my obedience is rooted in a relationship of trust, not in trying to earn God’s approval because it has already been earned.  I must walk by faith & not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) because my eyes always fail me, for there is a way that seems right to me, but it really leads to death (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25).  Lord, help me to recognize my limitedness and help me to walk in joyful obedience, trusting in your goodness & grace.

God, give us believing hearts

“And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:2–4 ESV)

The Israelites had been witnesses of the loving care, miraculous power & sovereign rule of God and yet they did not have seeing eyes, hearing ears or understanding hearts.  They had wandered in the desert and their clothes & shoes had not worn out, God had defeated kings and given them their land (29:5-9).  Their obedience was designed to flow out of grateful hearts that remembered their God & His faithfulness to them.  It is easy for us to look down on the Israelites for their unbelief – after all they saw God do mighty miracles with their own eyes!  We ought to be careful with our self-righteousness, because unbelief is our problem as well (“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”” (John 6:29 ESV), see also 1 John 3:23).  Jesus alludes to unbelief by using the same analogy of having a hearing problem (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9, 12 & 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35).

Why didn’t the people obey?  Because the Lord had not given them believing hearts.  Unless the Lord opens our eyes, ears & hearts, we will remain blind, deaf & cold towards Him.  God is the one who opens hearts (Acts 16:14), and enables faith by the regenerating power of His Spirit; our only contribution is the sin that makes reconciliation necessary.  One of the major themes of Deuteronomy is Israel’s need for right hearts; it foreshadows the people’s inability to respond rightly to God (Deuteronomy 5:29, 8:17, 9:4).  It looks forward to a day when God would give His people new hearts (10:16, 30:6), which is a theme that is continued throughout the Old Testament (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Our greatest need is not more impact, influence, morality or even obedience.  Our greatest need are hearts that truly believe the seemingly impossible promises of God.  The Central Promise of the bible is that a good, perfect, holy & all powerful God would make a way for His rebellious creatures to be reconciled into a relationship with Him.  The staggering implications of this should mark our entire lives.  The more that we understand that we are far more sinful than we first thought, but the gracious sacrifice of God in Christ covers our ongoing apathy & rebellion, the more that we walk in dependent humility.  A deeper, fuller understanding of the gospel shatters self-righteousness which is rooted in our own performance & morality.

Let us abandon our propensity of pretending to be godly, and let us actually pursue godliness.  Let us beg God to give us faith to believe, for we cannot produce this on our own.  God, take our far too small faith & multiply it, we do believe, but help us with our unbelief (Mark (9:21-24); help us to behold you for who you really are and cause us to become more like you (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A deceived heart

“Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (Deuteronomy 11:16 ESV).

The warning to guard their heart comes back up again (see 8:11-17).  It seems that abundance has a way of drawing the heart away from the Almighty.  In this situation, it is likely that the Israelites would attribute the bountifulness of the land to the Canaanite’s fertility god.  Allowing their heart’s affections to be pulled off of their God and placed upon another will enrage God, Who has been so long suffering & gracious toward a persistently rebellious people.  We aren’t much different today.

The risk of abundance & affluence has always been a danger to authentic faith; the heart looses its wonder with the provisions of God.  It begins to attribute the abundant blessings to something else like hard work, intelligence, education, savvy, etc.  When this happens the heart’s affections are pulled off of God and placed upon something else – something else becomes the object of our worship.  How do we battle this?  We go to the Scriptures to see God and We beg God to show us His sovereign majesty.  We ask Him to imprint our souls with His goodness & faithfulness.  We seek to understand, at a deep heart level, that we are totally undeserving of the unearned affection of the Creator of the universe because our hearts are prone to want His good gifts far more than we want Him.  When we begin to understand and embrace these truths, our hearts will marvel at His goodness & grace towards us.

Making the Holy Lowly

“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.” (Deuteronomy 5:11 ESV).

We should never utter the name of the Lord worthlessly or deceitfully.  God prohibits using His name in oaths or vows when intentionally left unfulfilled; some take deceptive oaths and tack on God’s name as if to convince others that they are serious.  We should never make the Holy lowly and common by disconnecting His name from His majesty, power and person.  The name of the Lord is sacred & majestic and should conjure up worship and appreciation in us.  It should never be part of our commonplace vernacular like slang.

The mention of God carry’s glory (weight) with it; it should evoke reverence.  We should be aware of using it in a flippant or manipulative way; the Hebrew word for vain is also translated as false, empty, worthless, or lie.  God, and His name, are holy (different, separated & morally pure) – are you approaching Him that way or has He (and His name) become common and mundane?

Abandoning Idolatry

“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deuteronomy 5:8–10 ESV).

God’s revelation to His people was audible, and therefore they should not create a physical image of the Almighty.  He is not physical and nothing that we could craft would accurately represent His glory and majesty.  He is eternal, infinite and almighty – nothing created can capture this.  Carved images were common to represent other gods (especially in Egypt and Canaan).  God is not limited or created, He is eternal and outside of the created order and is not only in one place at one time.  God had dramatically demonstrated that He is so far above competing deities by the plagues in and deliverance from Egypt that the people would likely have recalled this.  See Deuteronomy 4:12, 15–19, 23.  Additionally, God is a jealous God, visiting iniquity to the 3rd and 4th generation.  This is not God punishing, rather this is feeling the effects of our ancestors sins.  But, God is so benevolent because He shows steadfast love to those who are His in heart and showers them with love, mercy and grace for thousands of generations!

How often do we look to created things instead of the Creator of all things?  How often does the weight of our worship (think worth-ship) fall upon these created things.  This seems to be one of the central battles of the human heart.  To what are you looking to provide you with value, significance, worth, safety, security, meaning or love?  What do you dream about happening that you think will make life work or that you can’t live without?  That is the idol that you worship.

Singular Devotion, First Affection

You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7 ESV).

The New Living Translation says “no other god but me.”  God demands exclusive worship because He is incomparable and because there are no other true gods; our God is not part of the created order (i.e. sun, moon, etc), He reigns over creation with all power.  God created all things and sustains all things (John 1:3, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3).  He is not some distant deity, He is all powerful, just and holy and yet He still draws near to His creation.

Our primary problem is a worship problem – we worship all sorts of things to which we ascribe godlike grandeur, but there is only one true God.  When we place the weight of our worship on created things, they buckle because they are not designed to hold the weight that our worship places upon themSingular devotion to Him is how the created order was designed to operate.  This is not because He is insecure or needs anything from us (Acts 17:25), but because it glorifies Him and gives us maximum joy (Psalm 16:11).  What are you worshiping, what is your first affection?

The Ten Commandments: A Response to God’s Grace

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 5:6 ESV)

The Ten Commandments start by reminding the people of what God had done on their behalf.  This is the LORD God (that is Yahweh Elohim – the personal, covenant keeping and yet all powerful God).  The Ten Commandments are built upon what God had done for the people; their obedience was a response in gratitude for what God had graciously done for them – not as a means to earn approval and salvation.

The Israelites are constantly being called to remember the events of the past, particularly how faithful God had been to them.  That is not because they normally had cognitively forgotten what God had done, that is because it was not longer impacting their hearts.  When we are no longer touched by the magnificent grandeur of God and all that He has done on our behalf our faith begins to wither into drudgery and duty.  Because we are prone to forget, we must be disciplined to remember the majesty of God by praying for Him to reveal Himself to us and by searching the scriptures for God’s sovereignty, grace and holiness.