“Love Fostered Obedience” – Deuteronomy 4:1-14

March 26th, 2017
Dt 4:1-14
“Love Fostered Obedience”
Call to Worship: Psalm 119:97-104
Aux. text: John 14:15-24

Service Orientation: God gives us His Law so we might enjoy the best possible life in a fallen world. When we see the superiority of God’s Law we are compelled to love and obey God. This love and obedience should be evident to the whole world.

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. — Psalm 119:97-100

Background Information:
• Chapter 4 serves as an introduction to all the laws of the chapters that follow; it marks the start of a major section of Deuteronomy (chapters 4-28). Chapter 3 has completed the historical retrospect, although there are some flashbacks in chapter 4 as well. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 27)
• This chapter displays a significant change in style–from basically historical reminiscences to explicitly hortatory proclamation. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 114)
• (v. 2) By warning his hearers not to add anything to his word, Moses declares that only that which he (on Yahweh’s behalf) prescribes is normative, and by warning them not to delete anything from his word, he declares that all that he (on Yahweh’s behalf) prescribes is normative. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 117)
• (v. 2) This verse is not saying there will be no more revelation after the Law of Moses. We know that God spoke later and revealed much more to his people, supremely through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This verse is talking about submission to the Word, not about the comprehensiveness of this particular word. Not adding to or subtracting from the Word means having it as our sole authority; living under it. This is such an important command that it is repeated often in the Bible. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 116)
• (v. 2) The primary intention of verse 2 is certainly not to fossilize religious customs for all time; it is rather to urge that God’s laws should be taken with the utmost seriousness, and that we are not at liberty to adjust them to suit our own selfish, thoughtless or misguided, whims and schemes. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 28)
• (v. 3) The call to “give heed” (v. 1) to God’s laws is set against the grave disregard to them which some Israelites had displayed at a place called Baal-peor (v. 3): the story is told in Numbers 25. (Possibly Baal-peor and Beth-peor, 3:29, were one and the same place.) Baal-peor was a town dedicated to pagan worship; there was a shrine there to the Canaanite god Baal (v. 3). (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 27)
• (v. 3) Baal Peor wasn’t a pleasant memory; the details are in Nm 25:1-9. East of the Jordan river, opposite Jericho, Moabite women seduced Israelite men to join them in worshiping Baal. The fertility rites of that worship featured a crude combination of idolatry and adultery. Baal worship was an enormous temptation for Israel throughout her history: Israelite men and women could indulge their filthiest sexual fancies, convinced that as they did so they also would insure the agricultural productivity of the land–and all in the name of religion! One OT scholar has estimated that 90% of the Israelites followed the Baals 90% of the time. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 48)
• (v. 9ff) We have the dominant view in Deuteronomy, which stresses that all generations of Israel are as one (cf. 5:2-5). The solidarity of Israel stretches both backwards and forwards, to the Horeb event on the one hand, and to succeeding generations on the other (“to your children, and to their children,” v. 9). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 107)
• (v. 9) A stronger translation of the line would be: “Be extremely careful to guard your souls from forgetting,” as the word nepes sometimes bears this strong sense, and Deuteronomy typically calls on its hearers not merely to obey God’s words, but to do so with all their being (cf. 6:5: “with heart, soul [nepes] and might”). A theme is struck here, therefore, that goes to the heart of Deuteronomy’s ethic, and indeed of its analysis of Israel’s condition. Obedience to God is not a matter of external observance, but of the mind and will. However, Israel is prone to forget God and his commandments (cf. 8:11-20), and therefore must be vigilant in its moral and religious life. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 105)
• (v. 9) Moses particularly mentions the importance of giving these stories to our children and grandchildren: “Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (4:9c). Children learn truths best through stories. An important time in the life of any Christian family is when they recount the stories of God’s dealings with humans. This may take the form of family devotions or simple conversations at home. Conversation about experiences that the family has had can become a very strong identity-buttressing event in the life of the children. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 125)
• (v. 9) Deuteronomy lays great stress on the parents’ responsibility for their children’s spiritual education. Failure either to remember God’s blessing or to teach these truths to their children would mean spiritual disaster for Israel. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 84)
• (v. 10) The Horeb covenant is here equated with the “Ten Commandments” (13; cf. 9:9-11, 15; 10:8). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 106)
• (v. 10) It is striking that the generation listening to Moses’ speeches in Moab is addressed as if it had itself experienced the exodus from Egypt. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 106)
• (v. 12) Many theologians call special attention to the fact that the God of the Universe calls us to hear and not see in order to recognize truth. This verse is one of many that seems to give confirmation to the fact that God doesn’t want us to follow Him by what we see of Him as much as what we hear of Him. In fact, God forbade for us to represent Him in any way by what the eye could see. And God affirms that we are to hear the Word of the Lord and follow Him by the WORD He gives to us. — Pastor Keith
• (v. 12) Other religions had idols and the like to remind them of their gods. The Israelites did not have those things. What they had was a history of God’s great work among them. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 124)
• (v. 12) There was the remarkable fact that at Sinai God had been heard but not seen. You heard the sound (lit. “voice”) of words but saw no form; there was only a voice (v. 12). And the substance of that voice was not mere noise either, but the specific, clear, terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (v. 13; lit. “the ten words,” see ch. 5). What really mattered at Sinai, then, was not that there had been a theophanic manifestation of God, but that there had been a verbal revelation of God’s mind and will. Sinai was a cosmic audio-visual experience, but it was the audio that mattered. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 50)
• (v. 12) God was to be heard, and through hearing, obeyed. The ear, as the organ of understanding and obedience in relation to the spoken word of God, was more religiously and ethically significant than the eye. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 50)
• (v. 12)The defining mark of the Horeb revelation was that there was only sound, no visual representation of God. Yahweh spoke and the people heard. In 5:4 Israel is said to have had a “face to face” encounter with Yahweh, but again, it was only to hear Yahweh speak. The expression “face to face,” when describing OT theophanies, always refers to speaking and hearing, never to seeing. Because Israel saw no form at Horeb, images of God were disallowed (vv. 15-18). The second commandment put the latter into law (5:8; Ex 20:4). Images of the divine introduce a visual element into religion, and this was rejected in ancient Israel. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 241)

I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the World is communicated to us though this book. — Abraham Lincoln

The questions to be answered are . . . What is so superior about God’s Law? Why did God give us His Law?

Answers: God’s Law instills in the heart of mankind justice, mercy, grace, love, hope, courage, strength, and dignity. God gave mankind His Law because He loves us and wants us to know the truth about Himself and ourselves. When we understand God’s Law, love and obedience are fostered and desired.

Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov: “. . . if God does not exist, everything is permissible.”

The Word for the Day is . . . Fostered

Religion is the major reason the West rose to become the most prosperous civilization in the world. In the Middle Ages, Europe was like a modern Third World country, with little education, widespread poverty, and recurring famine. Medieval Christians thought of holy living as something required only of a spiritual elite–just as the Bible belonged only to an elite, the priests and monks. The common people felt little moral imperative to be honest or industrious.
But the Reformation changed that. The Reformers taught that all believers are called to live holy lives–just as all may read the Bible. Every vocation can be a calling, a way to serve God and the human community. As a result, the Reformation stressed an ethic of honesty, diligence, and thrift–what has been called the Protestant work ethic. It had a profound effect economically. Modern business practices became possible, prosperity blossomed.
Today we have nearly forgotten that the foundation of our economy lies in the Christian moral vision. And as a result, we are seeing our economy dragged down by dishonesty and fraud. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 305)

The warning against tampering with the law by adding or removing anything (repeated in 12:32) expresses a concern for the integrity of God’s revelation. It was not to be treated like a menu from which one could select what suited one’s taste, nor as a mere foundation for personal inventiveness. God’s word must be taken whole in its overall meaning and thrust. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 46)

The divine origin of Scripture was important for the people to remember because the Scriptures give a very counter-cultural message. It would seem foolish to follow such outmoded and unpopular laws–but not if those laws were given by the Creator and Lord of the universe who ultimately calls the shots relating to our lives and the lives of everybody on earth. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 124-5)

Why is love and obedience fostered through an understanding of God’s WORD/Law?:
I. God’s WORD shows us true justice. ( Isa 51:4; Rom 7:12, 16; Jam 2:12)

The neighbors are going to be impressed by the justice behind the laws of the Israelites. They will be impressed by the way people respond to issues such as land disputes, economic relations, crime, the rights and needs of the poor and weak, and accusations brought against citizens. All people have a sense of fair play. When they see God’s people as a righteous society, they will take note. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 123)

The Israelites are uniquely privileged because they know what their God expects of them, and what he expects is absolutely righteous. The Israelites were not the first nation to possess a set body of laws, nor were only their laws deemed by someone to be just. However, whereas elsewhere, tainted by self-interest, the people who promulgated the laws were the ones who deemed them to be just, it is outsiders who look at Israel and conclude that their entire Torah (which includes the laws and Moses’ interpretation of them) is “righteous.” (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 119)

Mere outward conformity to commandments is not what God wants. He wants “sincere love”: an honest, consistent concern for other people that spills over into actions of all kinds. When we love rightly, with the love that the Spirit inspires in us, we cannot help but obey whatever commandments God has given us. For he does not speak with two voices. What he requires is what his Spirit inspires. But because our minds are not perfectly renewed and because we can misunderstand what love requires, we still need commandments to remind us of the absolute demands of God and to keep us on “the straight and narrow.” (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, 437)

When the Bible says I am to love my neighbor, it means I am to be considerate to my neighbor. It has to do with action: what I say, what I do with my money, what I do with my body, what I do that may bring harm and injury to another person. I am to care about other people. Christians should be the most caring, considerate and neighborly people in the world. To be a lover of God requires that we show that love through being kind and considerate to people. (RC Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 226)

Love can enslave a person as surely as can evil. The man motivated by evil is a slave to sin, while the one motivated by love is a slave to others. Consider the boy who spends his last dime on his girl, or the mother who goes without to provide the best for her children. The Christian who loves others, finds himself doing from the heart what the Law once commanded him to do. Now he does it because he WANTS TO, whereas before he was COMMANDED TO. Paul says, don’t use your freedom for evil purposes for you will become slaves to sin. Choose love instead, and become the slaves of each other. When you do, you fulfill the whole Law. Surely it is better to fulfill the Law out of internal desire, than trying to fulfill it by taking heed to the external, legal suggestions of the Judaizers. (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Galatians, 65-6)

There was a justice in the laws and their outworking that would impress the people. The extent to which the OT went to ensure social justice is very impressive. They made sure that everyone in their community had a fair chance and that those who are particularly weak were given special help so they could be helped to progress in life. We see this in some of the passages in Deuteronomy that talk about justice to the poor (e.g., chapter 15). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 122)

It is impossible to righteously govern the world without God and the Bible. — George Washington.

A biblical view of law is one that plays no favorites and shows no partiality. In Dt 16:19, God tells the ancient Israelites: “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality.”
This biblical ideal is what undergirds the rule of law, where the law applies to everyone equally. James Madison wrote that the great aim of government is to be “neutral between different parts of the Society”–so that the law neither privileges nor penalizes any particular group. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 298)

The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teaching of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life. — Herbert Hoover.

Keeping the laws of the Lord is not only appropriate, it is a demonstration of human wisdom. The point is not that the laws themselves are wise. The quality of the laws that matters here is their rightness. Obedience conforms to the command of God, and keeping these laws works; it makes human community stable and ordered. The notion that keeping just laws is the smart thing to do, the wise thing to do, is of course intrinsic to any legal system or good instruction of any sort. Experience has taught that doing as one is commanded makes sense and enables the community to function harmoniously for the good of all. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 55)

The righteous commandments and the keeping of them is the way that God is somehow known and found in the midst of the community. When the prophet Amos calls on the people of Israel to seek the Lord and live, and then equates that with the maintenance of justice in the human community, the same connection between worship and ethics, between the presence of God and obedience, is affirmed and reinforced. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 57)

You cannot live in society without having definitions, laws, rules, and orders. The most primitive societies have found them to be essential; the most advanced forms of society have found them equally essential. A police force is as necessary in Great Britain today as it has ever been; the magistrates and the courts are as necessary as they have ever been. Why? Because you cannot leave questions of law and order to a man himself. When man is a law unto himself the result is nothing but anarchy and chaos. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 6, 234)

II. God’s WORD shows us how to be merciful, gracious and loving. (Mt 7:12; 22:35-40; Rom 13:8-10; 1 Cor ch 13; Gal 5:14; Jam 2:8-12; 1 Jn 4:7-17)

The statutes and ordinances from the Lord through Moses are themselves righteous. What is probably being identified here is the social righteousness of these laws, their concern for the weak, the poor, and the slave. In that the law is humane, even with regard to treatment of the natural order, in that it seeks justice and impartiality in all cases, and in that it makes concern for the powerless and the disadvantaged the primary criterion of a just society, Israel’s law as set forth in Deuteronomy demonstrated indeed a higher righteousness. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 55)

The two texts chosen by Jesus are together sufficiently strong to bear the weight of the whole OT. This does not mean, as some modern ethicists have argued, that “all you need is love,” so that one can dispense with the ethical rules set out in the Torah. It is rather to say that those rules find their true role in working out the practical implications of the love for God and neighbor on which they are based. Far from making the law irrelevant, therefore, love thus becomes “the primary hermeneutical principle for interpreting and applying the law.” (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 847) (red bold emphasis Pastor Keith)

As faith without works is dead, so love that does not manifest itself in a detailed observation and carrying out of the law is nothing but sheer sentimentality and ceases to be true love. Love is orderly, love is lawful, love is the fulfilling of the law. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 13, 174)

There is no question here of the priority of love over law–i.e., one system over another–but of the priority of love within the law. These two commandments are the greatest because all Scripture “hangs” on them; i.e., nothing in Scripture can cohere or be truly obeyed unless these two are observed. The entire biblical revelation demands heart religion marked by total allegiance to God, loving him and loving one’s neighbor. Without these two commandments the Bible is sterile. This pericope prepares the way for the denunciations of 23:1-36 and conforms fully to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 465)

My advice to Sunday Schools, no matter what their denomination, is: Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this Book, are we indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this must we look as our guide in the future. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. — Ulysses S. Grant

Thomas Jefferson served as president of the Washington, D.C. school board during his tenure as president of the United States. One of his duties on the school board was to select the textbooks to be used by the students. He selected the Bible as the primary text with this rationale: “I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens.

Without a moral framework, society disintegrates into warring factions and isolated depraved individuals. The result is a replay of the violence, perversion, and anarchy described in the book of Judges, which at once diagnoses the moral collapse of ancient Palestine and precisely defines postmodernist ethical theory: “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Jdg 21:25 NKJV). (Gene Veith; Postmodern Times, 198)

It is one of the great troubles of life today that people do not like law and contrast it with love, and by love they mean lawlessness, license, lust; that is the whole confusion in modern thinking. But here (Rom 13:8-10) the Apostle shows us the intimate relationship between the two, and if people have not grasped this, they have completely misunderstood the whole nature and purpose of the law. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 13, 172)

The mercy of God to us should melt our hearts into mercy toward others. It is impossible that we should be cruel to others, except we forget how kind and compassionate God hath been to us. (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 86)

The Bible is, first and foremost, a love letter. The words in that letter are like seeds that fall into the soil of our heart. With enough skill, we can precisely measure the seeds, weigh them, and study them. No amount of skill, though, can bring the seeds to life. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. This is true of any word from God that lands in our heart—whether it’s a word voiced through the Scriptures or through nature or through the circumstances of our lives. Each and every word that comes to us will lie dormant in the soil unless the Spirit gives it life. And there it will wait… quiet and still… for the rain. (Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 71)

Observe what the weight and greatness of these commandments is (v. 40); On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets; that is, This is the sum and substance of all those precepts relating to practical religion which were written in men’s hearts by nature, revived by Moses, and backed and enforced by the preaching and writing of the prophets. All hang upon the law of love; take away this, and all falls to the ground, and comes to nothing. Rituals and ceremonials must give way to these, as must all spiritual gifts, for love is the more excellent way. This is the spirit of the law, which animates it, the cement of the law, which joins it; it is the root and spring of all other duties, the compendium of the whole Bible, not only of the law and the prophets, but of the gospel too, only supposing this love to be the fruit of faith, and that we love God in Christ, and our neighbor for his sake. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)

III. God’s WORD cultivates hope, courage and strength in our soul. (Ps 5:11; 7:1; 9:9; 14:6; 16:1; 17:7; 18:1-2, 30, 39; 21:13; 22:15; 25:3, 5, 20-21; 28:7-8; 29:11; 31:1-2, 19, 24; 33:20, 22; 34:8; 37:40; 39:7; 42:5, 11; 43:5; 46:1; 52:9; 62:5, 7-8; 94:22; 96:6-7; 118:14; 119:43, 49, 74, 81, 114, 147; 130:5, 7; 146:5; 2 Tm 3:16-17)

The happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but those who are not afraid of problems. We are not afraid of problems because we know that we can handle them with God’s help and that God will turn every problem into something good. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 122)

Patrick Henry: “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

I am a firm believer in the Divine teaching, perfect example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I believe also in the Holy Scripture as the revealed Word of God to the world for its enlightenment and salvation. — Rutherford B. Hayes

Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe. — Ronald Reagan.

Thus, he (Theodore Roosevelt) made Bible reading and Bible study a vital part of his daily life–and he encouraged others to likewise partake of its great wisdom. “A thorough knowledge of the Bible,” he argued, “is worth more than a college education.” (George Grant, Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt, 173)

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.
Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. — John Jay

If we consider soberly what life will become like, were we to have a future of cumulative moral and social de-restrictions comparable to those which have transformed life the last few decades, we can only foresee a return to the jungle. (Harry Blamires; Recovering the Christian Mind, 112)

The future is as bright as the promises of God. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 43)

IV. God’s WORD shows us the dignity of man. (Gn 1:26-30; Ps ch 8; 139:1-16; Prv 3:11-12; Jn 1:11-12; 3:16; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:5-7; Phil 3:21; Heb 12:5-6; Jam 1:12; 2 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 3:1-2)

“Wherever the Biblical world view has been prevailed, there has been freedom. Where it has been taken away, freedom has been lost.” (Chuck Colson; Session 6: What Do I Do Now? – Segment 2: Wide Angle)

To say I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. — Thomas a Kempis

Horace Greeley: “It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the ground-work of human freedom.” (Henry H. Halley, Bible Handbook, 18-9)

“Humans are the only creatures who, by instinct, do not blindly obey the laws of their nature. Instead, humans enjoy the ability to master their passions, their bigotries, their ignorance. Where 250 million citizens are guarded by an ‘inner’ policeman—a conscience—the number of real policemen can be few. Among people without this inner policeman, there aren’t enough policemen in the world to make society civil.” (“All Things are Not Relative” as quoted in; Reader’s Digest, 11/94, 79)

The positive view of Israel’s law and the Torah of Moses reflected here is celebrated with unrestrained delight in Ps 19:7-11 [8-12] and 119, which is composed as a glorious “Ode to Torah.” These texts provide a welcome and necessary corrective to the common perception of the law in the OT as a burden, a noose around the Israelites’ neck to drag them to their deaths. Moses’ reference to foreign observers reminds us that we must evaluate Israel’s law first and foremost within the context of the world in which it was given. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 119)

My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me. —Henry Ford

V. God’s WORD shows He loves us. (Dt 4:6-8; see also: Ps ch 1; 19:7-14; ch. 119)

Failure to follow the Lord results in death–as following Baal of Peor proved (v. 3; Nm 25). The historical recital in the Thanksgiving Psalm (Ps 106:28) about the experience at Baal Peor served as a constant reminder to the people of later years that the Lord had loved his people though they had grievously sinned against him and the covenant. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 42)

By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact. If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God. How will that individual become more loving, then? Can we grow in love by trying to love more? No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love. The solution, John implies, is to know God better. This is so simple that we miss it all the time: our means for becoming more loving is to know God better. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 146)

“God loves you just the way you are. God loves you too much to allow you to stay there.” — Buddy Greene

Think of all the spiritual advantages the people of Israel enjoyed! Theirs wasn’t a musty collection of myths about the misadventures and misbehavior of their gods, which happened “once upon a time.” God revealed himself in their national life with power and purpose. He rescued them from slavery, journeyed with them through the wilderness, responded with awesome power to their prayers, and shaped their lives with a one-of-a-kind covenant. St. Paul understood the spiritual privileges his people enjoyed. “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew? . . . Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rom 3:1, 2). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 49)

VI. God’s WORD serves as a representation and reminder of His presence. (Dt 4:12-13; see also: Dt 4:15; 1 Kgs 19:11-18; Jn 4:24)

The word of God, when no further qualification is added, is his speaking, his communicating. When God speaks, he expresses his mind, his character and his purposes. Thus God is always present with his word. (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 159)

Assuming that the train of thought between verses 6 and 8 is not intended to be interrupted, the collocation of verses 7 and 8 suggests that the nearness of God and the righteous laws are closely related. Two other passages help confirm this. In Dt 30:11-14, the near/far language appears again and sounds as if one is speaking of the nearness of God who dwells in the heart. But there it is the commandment that is near, not God. What is happening is that the commandment, the law, is almost a surrogate for God. The righteous laws being written on the heart and being kept are in some sense a manifestation of the presence of God. God draws near in the law that God gives. A similar perspective is found in vv. 11-12, where God appears to the people not in any form but as a voice giving the words, the commandments.
Such an understanding of the law gives a different cast to Dt 10:1-5 from the one usually found in interpretations of this passage. It is commonly noted that the ark, which had earlier been viewed as the throne of the invisible presence of God (e.g., Nm 10:35-36; 1 Sm 4:4), in Deuteronomic theology has become simply a container for the tablets of the law. But such an understanding ignores the high view of the divinely given instruction in Deuteronomy. If the law in some way embodies the presence or nearness of God, then the ark continues to function in some fashion as the vehicle for God’s presence in the midst of the people. (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 56-7)

Though the contrast is between Israel and other nations, it involves a contrast between other nations’ gods and the Lord as Israel’s God (the true God). The contrast does not appear to be the lack of nearness of the nations to God as over against Israel’s nearness to him but rather the nations’ distance from their gods and Israel’s nearness to the Lord, who was personally with them and could be personally entreated in prayer. Balaam seems to have understood this situation (Nm 23:21-23). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 44)

God’s Law is an expression of His nature. (Tim Keller; “God’s Law”)

The covenant-treaty stipulations are all sufficient. Whatever adulterates, contradicts, or makes these stipulations ineffective cannot be allowed. God’s word remains settled, if a satisfactory relationship with him is to be maintained. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 42)

Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe who revealed Himself to us through His WORD and showed us the best possible life on a fallen planet. (Dt 1:2-4; Ps 42:6; 77:11; ch 78; 103:2, 17-18; 105:5; 106:7, 12-13, 21; 119:93, 140141, 153-154; 143:5; Isa 46:8-9; Jer 2:32; Jam 1:24-25)

True worship occurs only when that part of man, his spirit, which is akin to the divine nature (for God is spirit), actually meets with God and finds itself praising Him for His love, wisdom, beauty, truth, holiness, compassion, mercy, grace, power, and all His other attributes. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, vol. 1: The Coming of the Light: John 1-4, 296-7)

The laws of God are not illogical mandates drawn up whimsically by some uncaring god wielding lightning bolts. They are sensible rules, founded on a Divine logic. In fact, if you sit down and analyze the Ten Commandments, you’ll see they are the shortest, most concise, perfect guarantee for the greatest good for the greatest number ever imaginable. They are Divine stop signs. (Jay Kesler; Ten Mistakes Parents Make With Teenagers, 49)

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God. (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 108-9)

Those who go against the grain of God’s law shouldn’t complain when they get splinters.

Queen Victoria: “That book accounts for the supremacy of England.”

To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us. God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship. — James Montgomery Boice

The true servant of God bows in submission to the Word, acknowledging his or her fallibility and approaching the Scriptures like a child hungry to be fed. This is not bibliolatry, as some claim; it is a humble recognition that the Bible is the Word of God. So, out of devotion to its author we carefully study its texts so as to get at its meaning and are careful to obey what it commands. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 117)

“We inoculate the world with a mild form of Christianity so that it will be immune to the real thing. (William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas; Resident Aliens, 90)

This moral law expressly teaches us that the Bible is to be our rule for how we corporately worship and even think about God. The Bible (God’s own self-disclosure and revelation)–not our own innovations, imaginations, experiences, opinions, and representations–is to be the source of our idea of God. By the way, this is why Protestant houses of worship have historically been plain, bereft of overt religious symbolism and certainly without representations of deity. The Bible is to be central in forming our image of God and informing our worship of him. And since the how of corporate worship contributes to our image of God, it is exceedingly important that we worship in accordance with the Bible. (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 31)

If people are not governed by internal values, they must be governed by external force. Take away the Bibles that direct a nation’s soul, and the government will bring out the bayonets. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 194)

“Whatever pretenses men make of thankfulness for the word of God, however they speak of it as a privilege to have light and the means of grace, if they do not yield obedience to the light and conform themselves to the commands of it, they are practically unthankful and do in effect cast it behind their backs (Neh 9:26). (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, 127)

He made free use of Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions which would become the pillars of the new government. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He handed out pious stories to the press, especially to the church papers. He showed his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of pious people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity—with no inward reality! (Today in the Word, June 3, 1989)

Gospel Application: Praise be to Jesus Who kept the WORD/Law perfectly for us and suffered and died for us Law breakers so we could enjoy that best possible life.

Why did Moses recall this unhappy history? God means business with his law. He’s just as serious about his threats as he is about his promises. It won’t do us any good to say, “I don’t want a God like that.” It’s God’s nature to hate sin and punish sinners, but it’s also God’s nature to love sinners and to forgive them for the sake of Jesus. When God’s law scares us to death, it won’t work to pretend his law doesn’t exist. The only remedy is to go running to the gospel. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 48)

Puritan author, Samuel Bolton, “The law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified.” The Law informs us of what God requires and the Spirit empowers us as we fulfill our duty. (Alister Begg; Pathway to Freedom, 29)

The law which itself reveals the pattern of good works should drive us to Christ. Christ is the point of the law; Christ is the goal of the law; Christ is the meaning of the law. So if you try to follow and obey the law, but avoid Christ, you have missed the whole point of the law. (R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 178)

The law had been given, but nobody could keep it; teachers have taught, and so have philosophers and others, but they have not helped at all. It is just as if they had never lived. Why? Because man is completely helpless.
So it comes to this: the gospel of Jesus Christ not only establishes my guilt, but establishes that I am so rotten by nature that I must be born again. It tells me that I cannot possibly love my neighbor because my nature is wrong. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 13, 188)

The greatest test of godly love is its willingness to sacrifice its own needs and welfare for the needs and welfare of others, even to the point of forfeiting life if necessary. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). The supreme example of such love was the Lord Jesus Himself, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). We are to be “imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved [us], and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:1-2). As John reminds us, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Romans 9-16, 249)

Christ has indeed fulfilled the law (and the prophets, Mt 5:17), which means not only that he is the perfect embodiment of all that the law demands and the perfect interpreter of its meaning, but also that he represents the climax of the narrative that includes Yahweh’s gracious self-disclosure at Sinai and his mediated self-disclosure through Moses on the plains of Moab. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 38)

The promises of God are not given so that we can do and have, but so that we can be (found in Him). That is why the promises of God are not made to us as individuals but to Jesus, as the apostle explains: “for as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor 1:20). Paul further clarified this to the Galatians: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one: ‘And to your seed’ that is Christ” (Gal 3:16). He reiterated this again in his letter to the Ephesians: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph 1:18-19). (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 67)

Consider this: Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in every respect (Mt 5:17-18), including this command for universal love. His love for others was surely as far-reaching as His own application of the commandment in Luke 10. Therefore, we can be certain that He loved everyone. (John MacArthur, Jr.; The Love of God, 103)

One reason God permits the gift of freedom to result in sin is in order that we can arrive at a consciousness of our own finitude and our own inability to attain righteousness on our own. Hence Luther viewed temptation, sins, and suffering as closely related to providence. A major function of the law (the divine requirement codified in Mosaic law) is to train us to not rely upon our own righteousness. Thus providence works, even through the law, to teach us that we cannot achieve righteousness on our own, apart from God’s sustaining help and grace. The germ of that idea was already present in the patristic writers.
According to Augustine, God would not permit evil at all unless He could draw good out of it. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 298)

How could the young ruler understand his sinfulness if he completely misunderstood God’s law? How can today’s sinners, who are totally ignorant of God’s holy law and its demands upon them, look at themselves as condemned sinners? The idea of sin is strange because God’s law is foreign to their minds. (Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?, 37)

The Law & Judgment of God must be preached . . .because: Judgment precedes and defines mercy. You have to have judgment before mercy is relevant. Judgment is a pre-requisite of mercy and grace. It is no wonder that the people of America do not understand the message of grace. They have a terribly perverted view of justice.

Satan would have us define ourselves as holy by the Law, when God gave us the law to define us as sinners. (Insight for Living 9-9-98)

The fact is, I need God to help me love God. And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans. Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives. (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

Spiritual Challenge: Carefully learn God’s WORD/Law. Carefully follow God’s Law/WORD. Carefully allow the WORD to foster love and obedience so you can be a witness to the world of the superiority of God’s Law and His grace through the life and work of Jesus.

We are to be careful about being careful! Actually in the Hebrew such repetition is a way to stress a point. Here it adds to the importance and seriousness of the pursuit. So it means something like “Be extremely careful to guard your souls” (McConville). If we are not alert to the possibility of carelessness we will unintentionally become careless. We are to be careful about our “soul.” “Soul” (ESV and NASB) is nephesh, which refers to the real self–who we really are. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 124)

Through Israel others will come to understand the nature and ways of God. This mantle has been passed on to the church today. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 121)

The mission of Israel was to be a model to the nations. Mission was not a matter of going but of being; to be what they were, to live as the people of the God Yahweh in the sight of the nations. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 13)

Mahatma Gandhi spoke forcefully to Christians when he said, “You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole of civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world. But you read it as if it were just good literature, and nothing else.

Obedience to the law was not for Israel’s benefit alone. It is a marked feature of the OT that Israel lived on a very public stage. All that happened in its history was open to the comment and reaction of the nations at large. Apart from being inevitable, given the international scene of the ancient Near East, this “visibility” of Israel was a deliberate part of its theological identity and role as the “priesthood” of Yahweh among the nations (cf. Ex 19:4-6). It could be either positive, as here, when the nations are impressed with the wisdom of Israel’s law (cf. 28:10); or negative, as when the nations are shocked by the severity of Israel’s judgment when they abandon the ways of their God (28:37; 29:22-28). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 47)

Israel’s laws are righteous only because they derive from God, who is absolutely righteous and upright (32:4), and because adherence to them always achieves righteous results. Israel may be the least significant people on earth with respect to size and numbers (7:7), but with regard to status Yahweh has elevated them high above the nation for his “praise, fame and honor” (26:19; 28:1, 9-10). His intent is that they might be a blessing (Gn 12:2-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) and light (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 51:4) to the nations. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 119)

“We are the only Bible most people will ever read.”

There are books that people make but the Bible makes people. (Superintendent Ramundo; @ HFM 6-16-13)

The Bible teaches that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prv 1:7; cf. 9:10). So when we cling to God and his Word we become wise people. But usually the world does not recognize the wisdom of godly living. Usually people look up to a nation for its military might, wealth, and political power, not for its righteousness. Often people regard the righteous as good people perhaps, but ultimately as fools because they seem to forgo success because of righteousness. They see us taking up the cross, and they regard the cross as folly. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 121)

Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure ourselves what that life would be if these standards were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves. (George Grant, Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt, 174)

The only part of the Bible you truly believe is the part you obey. (Raymond McHenry, McHenry’s Quips, Quotes & Other Notes)

The reason for this Bible centeredness is obvious: faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17). It is by the word that we are born again (1 Pt 1:23-25). We grow by the “pure milk of the word” (2:2). We are sanctified by the truth of God’s word (Jn 17:17). God’s word is profitable and equips us for every good work (2 Tm 3:16-17). God’s word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17). It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; cf. 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5). It performs its work in us (2:13). It is “like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock” (Jer 23:29). It does not return void, God says, “without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11). (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 275)

It would be silly to leave dirt on your face or your hair in a mess after seeing yourself in a mirror. It is just as silly to look into God’s Word and make no changes in your life. Whether we read God’s Word for ourselves or hear it read, our listening must have an attitude of seriousness and submission that will lead to obedience. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 34)

How do we prepare the soil of our hearts for God’s Word? First, by confessing our sins and asking the Father to forgive us (1 Jn 1:9). Then, by meditating on God’s love and grace and asking Him to “plow up” any hardness in our hearts, “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jer 4:3). Finally, we must have an attitude of “meekness” (1:21). Meekness is the opposite of “wrath” in verses 19 and 20. When you receive the Word with meekness, you accept it, do not argue with it, and honor it as the Word of God. You do not try to twist it to conform it to your thinking. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 53)

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. (Martin Luther; Table Talk)

This communication involved memory and observance. “Do not forget” and do not “let them slip from your heart” (and “remember” in v. 10) go along with the exhortation of v. 2: “Do not add to” and “do not subtract from” the Lord’s commands, and “do not forget the things your eyes have seen” (v. 9). But knowledge of the codes and the Lord’s communication of them (vv. 9-14) was not enough; the people were to “follow them” (vv. 1, 5, 13-14) and “observe them carefully” (v. 6). Active obedience was essential. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 43)

Israel existed for the ultimate purpose of being the vehicle of God’s blessing the nations. That was in their “genetic code” from the very loins of Abraham. Here we find that at least one aspect of the blessing of the nations would be that when exposed to such a model of social justice, the nations would observe and ask questions. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 48-9)

Israel’s God has revealed himself; Israel’s God has declared the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable conduct; and Israel’s God has provided a way of forgiveness that actually solves the human problem of sin. No wonder psalmists celebrated with such joy the life to be found in the Torah (Ps 119). Even as Moses recognizes Israel’s extraordinary privilege as bearer of the revealed will of God, he also declares the nations’ missionary function. In the plan of God through the obedience of his people, they would demonstrate their greatness to the nations and so fulfill the promise to the ancestors and serve as agents of worldwide blessing. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 122)

“God’s Word will never pass away, but looking back to the OT and since the time of Christ, with tears we must say that because of lack of fortitude and faithfulness on the part of God’s people, God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, may our children and grandchildren not say that such can be said about us.” — Dr. Francis Schaffer

While some books inform and others reform, only the Bible transforms.

So What?: Everyone wants a life! God’s Laws are not just idle words for you. They are your life! For God’s presence is in His Law/WORD (Dt 32:47). It is very easy to love and obey God when you fully comprehend what He has done and Who He is. (Lv 18:5; Ps ch. 1; 19:7-14; ch. 119; Lk 7:47; 1 Jn 4:19 – 1 Jn 3:1-5:12)

Christianity must be in the public square because it provides benefits, not just to you and me, not just to the church, but to all citizens.” (Chuck Colson; Session 6: What Do I Do Now? – Segment 2: Wide Angle)

The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him. That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Ps 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Ps 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Ps 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Ps 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Ps 69:9), loving what God loves (Ps 119:72, 97, 103), loving whom God loves (1 Jn 5:1), hating what God hates (Ps 97:10), grieving over sin (Mt 26:75), rejecting the world (1 Jn 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Tm 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (Jn 14:21). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 340)

Bibles that are falling apart usually belong to people who are not.

Ignatius of Loyola defined sin as refusing to believe that God wants my happiness and fulfillment. Human rebellion began in the Garden of Eden when God said in effect, “Trust me. I know what is best for you.” Adam and Eve failed to test, and we have paid the consequences ever since. (Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace, 79)

The theme of vv. 1-4 is that doing the commandments leads to life, a theme occurring throughout Deuteronomy, the corollary to which is prolonged life for Israel in the land (4:1, 40; 5:33; 6:2, 24; 8:1, 3; 11:8-9, 18-21; 16:20; 25:15; 30:6, 16, 19-20; 32:47; cf. Lv 18:5). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 235)

With two potent rhetorical questions, Moses pointed up the distinctive character of these codes: (1) the Lord was near them when they prayed; (2) no other nation had such righteous laws. These righteous laws were communicated and operated through prayer. Not that Israel asked for the laws, but the giving of them brought Israel close to God; and this induced the necessity for communication by prayer (vv. 10-14). The nature of the Lord’s prologue to the laws and their character produced the same necessity for prayer. The experience of receiving the law was to teach Israel to revere the Lord always (v. 10)–to revere him through praise in prayer. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 42-3)

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. Instead it has been found wanting and never tried. — G. K. Chesterton


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