From Deuteronomy 3-4
What does God look like? If you were to imaging what God looked like what things come to mind?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Moses continues describing the early history of Israel. When the new generation first begins to enter the promised land they meet hostile armies and defeat them. They defeat them because the LORD is with them. Their is a potential hiccup when the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh want to reside in their inheritance and the other think they will not help them fight for their land. They agree to help them with the remainder of the battles.
Moses recalls he was not allowed to enter the promised land. He is not allowed to enter because Israel has refused to listen to the LORD. This reason is obviously different from Numbers, where Moses was not allowed to enter because he struck the rock instead of telling it to bear water and in doing so did not regard the LORD as holy before the people.
Our passage begins will Moses continuing to exhort Israel to obey the LORD’s commands. He reminds them of the mighty works of the LORD and instructs them to teach generations to come.
4 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. (Dt 4:1–2)
Israel’s life was predicated on their observance of the law (cf. Lev 18.5). They are not to add to, remove from, or modify the commandments the LORD gives them. Moses reminds them what they are doing. They are about to enter the promised land. If they want the LORD to remain with them not offending him by keeping his commands might be a good idea.
3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal-peor, for the LORD your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor. 4 But you who held fast to the LORD your God are all alive today. 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Dt 4:3–5)
Moses recalls what the LORD has done for them so far.
6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (Dt 4:6–8)
The commands of the LORD are intended to make them look good and commend the LORD before the nations around them. Perhaps in doing so they will inspire the other nations to join the faith.
9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. (Dt 4:9–12)
Moses reminds them of when they were at Horeb. Only they weren’t at Horeb, that generation died in the wilderness as a result of their unbelief. Numbers remember? However ‘Moses’ says this as if they also were there with them. So this is how Deuteronomy is pitched. It is written for a later generation of Israel, but the savings events of the exodus and the giving of the law in some way are involving all future generations of Israel as well.
13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. (Dt 4:13–14)
Moses describes the Jewish law as the covenant. Abraham’s covenant gets added to over time. First came circumcision (Gen 17) and now comes the Jewish law. Because of the evolution, the Jews were seen to be the sole beneficiaries of the LORD’s covenant blessings. Provided they upheld their end of the covenant. To keep the law the LORD gave them.
If we jump forward a bit, Moses makes the same connection between the Jewish law and the covenant.
23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Dt 4:23–24)
It might be helpful to remember the golden calf incident. There is every reason for Moses to keep reminding Israel against carved images…. But then later, Moses predicts that Israel will fall away, but after a time they will return and the LORD will accept them back, why? Look what he says about this.
31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. (Dt 4:31)
The LORD binds himself to fulfill his own covenant obligations.
Moses will explain to the people how blessed they are because of what the LORD has done for them. Moses begins to speak more and more about the law. He introduces the idea of cities of refuge. When someone committed a crime or was accused on one normally they would be pursued by the victim or their family and perhaps killed. So Moses setup cities of refuge so they could flee there and hope to get a fair trial.
Our next blog will introduce the covenant law and in particular the most important commandment. The Shema.
Story of Israel
The voice of the LORD is a concept that is remembered through Israel’s history. At the end of Joshua, he instructs the people to obey the LORD’s voice (Josh 24.24). In judges the LORD’s anger is kindled because they do not obey the LORD’s voice (Jdg 2.20; 6.10). Samuel instructs the people to obey the LORD’s voice when they ask for a king over them (1 Sam 12.14-15). More often than not Israel is condemned because they do not listen to the LORD’s voice of obey it (e.g. 1 Ki 18.12; Jer 3.13,25; Dan 9.11). When you read the scriptures, if you read something about someones ‘voice’, remember that it can carry connotations of someone’s speech, their authority and command.
Moses suggested, if Israel obeys the LORD’s voice the nations will be impressed by their wisdom and righteousness. They will want to know more about the LORD. This is actually prophesied in a later prophet.
4 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
2 and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Mic 4:1–2)
Story of Jesus
Jesus briefly referred to his own ‘voice’. Jesus voice has authority, it commands, judges and gives life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (Jn 5:25–29)
He will later allude to Dt 4.11-12 when he condemns the Jews who have rejected him as they have been rejecting the LORD’s voice for so long.
37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (Jn 5:37–40)
All who hear Jesus’ voice and come to him have life. Come to Jesus.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.