“Love’s Exclusivity, Part 1” – Deuteronomy 4:44-5:10

April 16th, 2017  —  EASTER

Dt 4:44-5:10

“Love’s Exclusivity – Pt 1”

Aux Text: Luke 24:1-12


Service Orientation:  The Good News is:  Easter is about God’s promise of life after death.  The Bad News is:  the only person who can enjoy that promise is the one who has kept God’s contractual agreement.  The Really Good News is:  Jesus has kept that contractual agreement for us.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .— 1 Peter 1:3


Background Information:

  • Easter by itself is an encouraging story. Easter in context with the book of Deuteronomy is an incredibly great discovery of God’s love and grace for mankind. — Pastor Keith
  • Many go to the Bible for an emotional high, some inspiring thought, or some promise they can claim to calm their troubled minds. Indeed, the Bible does often have this effect upon us.  But we also go to the Bible as students wanting to learn how to live.  Even deep study can be an experience of worship if we always go to the Scriptures with a desire to learn and obey.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 158)
  • The law as understood in Deuteronomy is not simply prohibition, but precept, a training in right living. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 123)
  • The point of this introduction is not merely to identify Yahweh, but precisely to establish a relationship between Israel’s experience of deliverance and the obligations that would now be imposed. The juxtaposition of Egypt, ‘the house of slaves,’ and the laws given by Yahweh, shows strikingly that this law will not be enslaving, because of the nature of its giver as a deliverer from slavery.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 125)
  • (v. 4:44) By using several corresponding words for “law,” Moses broadens our understanding of the upcoming stipulations.

The word translated law in verse 44 is the Hebrew word Torah, which means teaching or instruction.  When they hear the word “law,” many Christians think of “law” in contrast to “gospel”–God announcements of judgment and punishment vs. his promises of grace and forgiveness.  But Torah means more than God’s demands; it also included his promises.  It is both law and gospel.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 59)

  • (v. 4:49) The “Sea of the Arabah” is another name for the Salt Sea or Dead Sea. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 263)
  • (v. 5:1) The statutes and the ordinances. (Decrees and laws – NIV) A stock expression for the Deuteronomic laws beyond the Ten Commandments.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 266)
  • (v 5:1) Note the constant emphasis on the ear as the organ of response and obedience, corresponding to the reality of Yahweh as the God who could not be seen but was unmistakably heard. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 62)
  • (v 5:3) It was the responsibility of every Israelite in every generation to identify with Israel’s ancestors and through collective memory and faith to participate in their experience of God’s deliverance. There is an emphasis on the covenant relationship between God and His people that transcends the boundaries of time.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 97)
  • (v 5:3) Christians employ the “corporate personality” concept when they conceive of every subsequent generation as having stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It is expressed in the spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 268)
  • (v 5:3) Every generation must think that the Torah was given directly to them (Gersonides). Moses did not want them to think that the agreement had expired simply because the generation with whom it had originally been made was dead.  God of course knew in advance that that generation would not actually enter the land; in any case, the Torah is given not to those who originally received it but to those who are living in every generation (Abarbanel).  (Rubin Jps Miqra’ot, The Commentators’ Bible: Dt,  38-9)
  • (v 5:5) The Ten Commandments were given to a people who three months previously (Ex 19:1f.) had been groaning in political, economic, social, and spiritual bondage. Liberated from that, how were they to organize their own community life?  How could a liberated people preserve the benefits of their liberty?  In the light of the exodus, the Ten Commandments became a kind of “Bill of Rights” for a free people under a covenant that was expressed in characteristic biblical language of responsibility.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 64)
  • (v 5:5) This is the only material in the Bible inscribed on two tablets of stone by the finger of God (Ex 24:12; Dt 5:22; 10:1-5). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 162)
  • (v 5:6) Chris Wright says that the sequence in which the commands appear in the Decalogue may suggest priority. The highest priority is relating to God.  Next comes relating to other humans such as family members, the society in which we live, and our neighbors.  Third comes property.  It seems that today we have reversed this order.  Today wealth is the most important value in life; then come people.  And God is generally ignored.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 163)
  • (vss. 5:9-10) The distinction between punishment unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate the Lord and love extended to thousands who love him and keep his commandments suggests that God’s love far surpasses his retribution. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 54)
  • (v 5:9) The third and fourth generations of a family covers the generations in a family that a person normally sees during their lifetime. (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 450)
  • (v 5:9) When He commanded the people of Canaan to be destroyed, it is certain that those, who then were living, were worthy of this punishment; yet, inasmuch as God foretold that their iniquities were not yet full, we infer that He then inflicted the punishment upon them which He had deferred for 400 years. On this ground, Christ declares that the Jews of His time were guilty of all the blood that had been shed from that of Abel to the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, (Mt 23:35).  But if it be not agreeable to our judgment that God should repay every one according to his deserts, and yet that He at the same time requires the sins of their fathers of the children, we should remember that His judgments are a great depth; and, therefore, if anything in His dealings is incomprehensible to us, we must bow to it with sobriety and reverence.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 114-5)
  • (v 5:10) A thousand generations is metaphorical in this assertion, and the reality of the unlimited extent and degree of God’s love is asserted and celebrated. (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 452)
  • (v 5:10) The imbalance between the fourth generation and “a thousand generations” is a striking affirmation that mercy finally outweighs judgment. This is expressed further in Dt 7:9, in the context of Yahweh’s choice of Israel and his attachment to them into an indefinite future.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 127-8)
  • (v 5:10) The term, in any case, should not be taken literally. The point is that Yahweh’s steadfast love is boundless, far exceeding his wrath.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 281)


The questions to be answered are . . . What does Deuteronomy have to do with Easter?


Answer:  All God’s people have a covenant relationship with God.  Deuteronomy is clear:  covenant obedience means life.  Covenant disobedience means death.  God provides life.  Easter is God’s “AMEN” regarding the work of Jesus to provide us with life.


The Word for the Day is . . . Life


What do we need to learn to enjoy Easter?:

I-  All God’s covenant followers are under a covenantal contract to love, follow and obey God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.  (Dt 4:44-45; 5:1-3 see also: Dt 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2-10; Mt 22:37; 26:26-28; Mk 12:33; 14:22-24; Lk 10:27; 22:19; Jn 14:15; 15:10, 17; Acts 3:25; Rom 11:27, 1 Cor 11:24-25; Heb 7:22; 8:6-13; 9:15-20; 10:29; Jam 1:22-2:26; 1 Jn 5:3)


God requires exclusive loyalty, and no rivals are allowed.  The Bible often compares God’s relationship with his covenant people with the relationship between a husband and wife (see especially the book of Hosea).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 171)


The expression “cut a covenant” reflects a ceremony such as the one described in Gn 15:17-21 and Jer 34:18-20, where a calf was cut in two and people passed between the severed parts.  If one party failed to live up to the covenant, it would suffer the fate of the severed animal.  The Horeb covenant was a covenant of mutual obligation.  Yahweh agreed to hold up his end, and Israel had to do likewise, or the covenant would be declared broken.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 267)


Moses has something important to say about the covenant Yahweh cut with Israel at Horeb.  It was not only with the generation who stood beneath the holy mountain that Yahweh cut this covenant, but with the generation now standing before Moses in the plains of Moab, all whom are alive in the present day.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 269)


God says that the blessing of hesedh is for “those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Loving obedience to a loving God could be considered as the dominant theme of Deuteronomy.  As we see the picture of the nature of God in this passage, what else would be appropriate and wise for humans?  May we never let Satan deceive us into thinking, even for a moment, that a life of disobedience is worth anything of value.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 173)


In a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor.  And you have a relationship as long as  the vendor is giving you a product at a good price.  But you are always looking to an upgrade.   And so you say to your vendor, “We have a relationship.  But, you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out-a-here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” . . . But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. . . . A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I have made a promise.  And the relationship is more important than my needs.  My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.”

Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter; that will be bad for the covenanter; that covenant will be exploited.  (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)


If you get into a covenant relationship . . . you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety a place where you can finally be yourself.  You see in a consumer relationship you are always marketing, you are always selling yourself, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to meet the other person’s need or they’re out.  But in a covenant, in a marriage . . . you can finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades, you can finally let him know, her know about your insecurities.  You can finally be yourself.   (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)


When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow.  For example:  The other covenant relationship is the relationship between parents and children. . . . In parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up.   You give and you give and you never get back. It is not a consumer relationship at all.  You adjust to them. . . . What is weird is you do it and you are so invested in your children so that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them.  There is a deeper richer kind of feeling because you are invested in them.  And in the same way, if you treat your marriage . . . as a covenant relationship, if you are committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow.   (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)


It is strongly emphasized in verse 3 that these laws were no relic from a previous era (like Og’s “bedstead”!), but had direct and immediate relevance to the listeners.  (Verse 3 would be better translated “It was not so much with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant as with us . . .”)  God’s word is always for today.  The first readers of Deuteronomy will have been challenged in the same way; they too were reminded of the immediacy of God’s call to obedience.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 36)


We have here the clearest expression in Deuteronomy of one of its main contentions, namely that Israel in all its generations stands in principle once again at Horeb, confronted with the covenant commands as if about to be given for the first time (see also on Dt 4:9-14).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 124)


The commandments were given to Israel, not so they could perhaps gain salvation by keeping them, but because God had already redeemed them and this was how they were to live in the light of that fact.  This prefatory sentence to the Decalogue thus mirrors the very shape of Exodus, which has nineteen chapters of salvation before any chapters of law.  The pivotal text, Ex 19:3-6, makes the same important point.  “You have seen what I have done. . .,” said God, thus directing Israel’s attention to God’s own redemptive initiative before calling for their responsive obedience and covenant loyalty.  Similarly, in Dt 6:20-25 the very meaning of the law that fathers are to give to inquiring children is nothing less than a narrative of redemption.  The priority of saving grace to human responsive obedience is as much a principle of OT ethics as of NT theology.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 63)


Taken together, they lay down the basic duties of man; or to consider the other side of the coin, they make clear basic human rights and also (indeed, first and foremost) basic divine rights.  Only those who have entered into a covenant with God, can be expected to obey the earlier commandments in the list, although we should not underestimate the universal values enshrined in the Decalogue; but all those who are in such a relationship with God are expected to heed and respect these ten principles.  Christians, as the NT assures us, are not subject to the wide range of regulations of the Jewish law; but the rights of God and man are neglected by Christians at their peril.  Nor can we pick and choose among the ten; some Christians behave as if they can ignore their fellow men so long as they give God his due.  James 2:10ff. has the answer to that attitude!  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 37)


What security there is when we know that God jealously guards his relationship with us.  We can be sure that he will look after us if he is so committed to us.  And when we know that he is the almighty Lord over the universe, our security peaks!  There can be no higher security than having the God who is able to do anything he wants totally committed to us.  But because he refuses to force his will on us, he will not stop us if we want to be unfaithful.  But at the same time he will keep providing ways of escape so that we will not fall into sin (1 Cor 10:13).  The knowledge of his jealous love and the fact that he helps us find a way of escape when we are tempted give us the courage to help that we, too, could be totally committed to him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 171-2)


The Hebrew word translated “steadfast love,” hesedh, is a very important word that appears 238 times in the OT.  It is the word used for God’s covenant love.  It usually refers to God’s faithfulness to his people in keeping with his covenant.  The ESV and the NRSV usually translate it as “steadfast love,” and the NIV (though not here) sometimes translates it as “unfailing love.”  The REB translates it here as “I keep faith.”  God is a faithful God who will remain true to his commitment to his covenant people.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 172-3)


II-  God is an awesome, jealous God and cannot tolerate anything less than 100% love and contractual obedience to Him and Him alone.  (Dt 5:6-10 see also: Ex 20:5; 34:14; Dt 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:21; Josh 24:19; 1 Kgs 14:22; Ezek 16:42; 23:25; 36:6; Bk of Hosea;  Joel 2:18; Nah 1:2; Zep 3:8; Zec 1:14; 8:2; Mt 6:24)


There were two dangers in idolatry.  The first was that the image would be confused with the deity it represented.  (It is true that ancient pagan theologians did not make this confusion; but one imagines that many ordinary worshipers found the distinction an over-subtle one.)  The second danger was the belief that God could be manipulated just as easily as an inanimate object, like an idol, could be moved about.  The wish to manipulate God, and the foolish idea that it can be done, are by no means absent from the Churches today.  The best word to describe the attempt to bend God to our wills is “magic”; true religion consists in the willingness to let God bend us to his will!  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 39)


Yahweh is the living God, and any carved statue is necessarily lifeless.  Something that can do nothing is no image of the God who can do all things.  The only legitimate image of God, therefore, is the image God created in his own likeness–the living, thinking, working, speaking, breathing, relating human being (not even a human statue will do, but only the living person).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 70-1)


In love God adopted the Israelites as his covenant people.  He now showed them in the Ten Commandments how to respond to his unearned love by living according to his will.  God gave his commandments to Israel within a relationship of grace.  Israel’s obedience could never earn God’s favor; it could only reflect that God had already been good to them.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 61)


The Bible is clear that nothing, absolutely nothing, must take the supreme place of God in the lives of believers.  If they embrace other gods, they must be warned of dire consequences.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 168)


He is jealous for you now, jealous for your spiritual welfare, jealous for you in every temptation and in every trial, jealous lest you should be robbed by covetousness, compromise, worldliness, prayerlessness or disobedience in any shape or form.  He is jealous that you should have that fullness of blessing, those riches of grace that he longs to bestow upon every one of his people.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 261)


Moses’ characterization of Yahweh as El Qanna (Impassioned El) is equally dramatic.  The usual interpretation as “jealous” is misleading because we commonly view jealousy as in illegitimate disposition akin to envy or covetousness.  However, in the OT, this term usually speaks of the legitimate passion that is aroused when interference from a third party threatens a proper relationship.  Particularly a marriage relationship when another “lover” enters the picture.  Yahweh is an impassioned God, who treasures Israel as his covenant people.  This love is fueled, not by an exploitative need to dominate, but by ardor for the well-being of the object.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 132)


God intended us to live in blessed fellowship with him, with our consciences clear and our lives pure because we obey him.  He intended us to be joyful because we have achieved the end for which we were made:  enjoying intimacy with the God whom we love deeply.  This beautiful plan is destroyed when idols and nature take the place of God in our lives. We become corrupted, spoiled.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 128)


God is jealous.  God doesn’t want to lose to another what He possesses.  He knows He is the best for us and so He is jealous when we give our time, resources, money, or our affections to anything else than Him.  Why is God jealous?  Because He loves you so much He wants you to have the best.  And the best is God.


The sense here is that God’s zeal for his people is such that he will not tolerate unfaithfulness or seeing his people dishonored.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 135)


The more bountifully God deals with us, the more heinous and intolerable is the crime of ingratitude, unless we willingly come to Him when He calls us, and submit ourselves to His instruction.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 341)


Let us then understand, after all, that those alone are accounted the legitimate worshipers of God who bid adieu to all figments, and cleave to Him alone.  Nor can it be doubted that these words comprehend the inward worship of God, since this commandment differs from the next, whereby external idolatry will be seen to be condemned.  It is sufficiently notorious, that men may make to themselves gods in other ways besides in statues, and pictures, and in visible forms.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II: BK I, 419)


When God’s anger came on the Israelites, it was because they had failed to perform their covenant responsibilities (cf. Dt 7:4; 11:17; 29:25-28; Josh 23:16; Jdg 2:20).  (Frank E. Gæbelein; Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 667)


Many devout people have misinterpreted this command, understanding it to mean that God is forbidding art.  In fact, God instructed the Israelites to make images of cherubim and seraphim to beautify the tabernacle.  God is not against image-making; rather He is against image-making for the purpose of idolatry, because such idolatry is based on a lie, making it evil.  The lie says, “Life comes through imitation.”  The ancient Near Eastern man believed that if he could capture the image of his god through engraving, painting, or whatever, he could manipulate the god to his own purposes.  He also thought if he could imitate the acts of a god, he could capture the life of that god.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 100)


The transition from worshiping God to worshiping an idol is very easily made.  The purpose of an image is to remind us of God, and our intention is to look at the image and more readily focus our thoughts on God.  What happens, though, is that slowly the image ceases to represent God and itself becomes the object of worship.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 100)


The OT is a story of God’s redemptive history.  God first saves us, and the laws are a consequence of that salvation.  They help us continue in the life with which God has gifted us.  In other religions the gods show people how to live, and that way of life is primary to the religion.  In Biblical religion what is primary is the way to life through the salvation God gives.  Often we hear people say that all religions teach basically the same thing:  how to be good.  Not Biblical religion!  Biblical religion is founded upon God’s acts of redemption.  The Law flows from that.  Law follows gospel.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 160-1)


Verse 6 begins by indicating the basis for the demands that follow; God had claimed Israel’s allegiance by rescuing them from Egypt.  We are not called to honor God just because he exists, but because of his unfailing goodness to us, and because of the salvation he has provided in Christ.  The first commandment (v. 7) follows logically:  in a world where many gods were worshiped, Israel was called to the exclusive worship of the one and only God who had rescued his people.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 38)


When they started settling in the land they would naturally assume an agricultural way of life.  Before long the novelty of farming would wear off and they would discover that agriculture and religion were closely related.  For the Canaanite farmer, the role of the fertility gods was at least as important as the necessary tasks of plowing the field and planting the seed.  The Hebrews, however, would have to learn to farm using the Canaanite farmers’ tools but not their gods of fertility.  They must learn that Yahweh is not only the God of history but also of nature.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 99)


Even if it is Me you believe in, you must not have gods other than me with which you perform magic rituals.  This, by the way, is what Laban’s idols (which he called “gods,” Gn 31:30) were:  images used for magic.  Similarly, we read in Ex 20:20, “With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver,” that is, “You shall not make them even if you continue to believe in Me.”  Again, “Whoever sacrifices to a god other than the LORD alone shall be proscribed” (Ex 22:19)–it is forbidden to sacrifice to Him and to others as well.  (Rashbam 7)


The central requirement of the covenant is total allegiance, unfeigned covenant love, to Yahweh alone.  The exclusivity of Yahweh is vaguely paralleled in other ancient Near Eastern treaty texts, but in the form of an allegiance of the human vassal to his human suzerain and his many gods.  Yahweh alone is God; he does not function in or with a community of gods, as the gods of the other nations did.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 450)


In this commandment God enjoins that He alone should be worshiped, and requires a worship free from all superstition.  For although it seems to be a simple prohibition, yet must we deduce an affirmation from the negative, as will be more apparent from the following words.  Therefore does He set Himself before them, in order that the Israelites may look to Him alone; and claims His own just right, in order that it may not be transferred elsewhere.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 417-8)


The history of the ark was, for the Hebrews, a kind of theological handbook.  It provided an account of the presence of God among the people.  Its history showed the importance of having God with you and the danger of trying to use God or carry him around.  And so the ark itself was important in that it emphasized that God was with his people, and that God was over and above his people (for God quite obviously was not in the box).  The ark was the symbol not the reality.  When the ark was treated as a talisman, as a curio or as a magical device with which to manipulate God, everything went wrong.  God cannot be contained or used.  (Eugene H. Peterson;  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Discipleship in an Instant Society, 160-1)


These commands are not only to be learned but are also to be obeyed.  They are apodictic.  They come directly from the Lord their God–the God who brought them up from Egypt, the land of slavery.  Their relationship with God is rooted in history, and that history is one of God’s intervention for their benefit.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 53)


We are always in danger of having too small a conception of God, and idols are among the worst ways of expressing that.  What a contrast there is between lifelessness and life, between doing nothing and doing all things.  Yet God cannot be seen by the human eye, and we can lose touch with God through unbelief, neglect, or disobedience.  Then we will begin to doubt that he can do all things, and we may turn to something that is more tangible like an idol to represent God to us.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 170)


The command excludes the worship of other gods alongside Yahweh, since syncretism (the mixing of religions) was a feature of the biblical world.  Israel would, from time to time, worship other gods, such as Baal, as well as Yahweh.  The specific imagery of Yahweh’s “face” may be illustrated from an inscription found at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (or Horvat Teman), late ninth to early eighth centuries, in eastern Sinai, which refers to “Yahweh and his Asherah” (see Hess 1991), reflecting a belief then in that place (or among its pilgrims) that Yahweh had a goddess consort, Asherah, just as the powerful Canaanite deities (El and Baal) had.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 125-6)


The reason given for the prohibition is definitely personal, both on the part of the Lord and on the part of the people (vv. 9b-10).  The people either hate the Lord or love and obey him, and they receive from him punishment or love commensurate with their hate or love and obedience.  Those who adhere to the covenant-treaty stipulations get its promised benefits; those who do not adhere to them get its punishments.  The effect of one generation on succeeding generations is noted often in the OT.  Here, however, the children are not punished for the sins that their father committed; the children who sin as their fathers sinned are punished for their own sins (cf. 24:16).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 54)


III-  Jesus did what we’ve failed to do and God verified Jesus’ work in Easter (by raising Jesus from the dead).  We enjoy life and the promises of God through Jesus alone.  (Mt 5:17; Rom 1:4, 17; 3:19-4:18-25; 5:8-21; 6:4-13; 10:3-4; 1 Cor 15:21; 2 Cor 1:20; 5:17-21; Gal 3:10-5:15; Phil 3:7-11)


The Resurrection is God’s “Amen!” to Christ’s statement, “It is Finished.”  – S. Lewis Johnson


The resurrection is the proclamation of the fact that God is fully and completely satisfied with the work that His Son did upon the Cross.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, 244)


In Jesus’ resurrection, the believer has the divine guarantee of his justification and reconciliation.  The ground for these fundamental blessings is to be found in Christ’s atoning death (Rom 5:10, 17-19), but without the resurrection that death would have had no atoning power.  The cross without the resurrection would mean that God had not been satisfied by Jesus’ death.  The resurrection is God’s “Amen” to Jesus’ loud cry:  “It is finished,” and therefore the guarantee that by Jesus’ death the believer has indeed been reconciled to God and made righteous.  For this reason Paul can say that the fact that Christ has been raised is of greater importance than His death (Rom 8:32, 33).

When Christ was raised, the believers whom He represented in His death and resurrection, were raised with Him (Col 3:1).  His death meant the end of the burden of sin that was upon Him, and when He arose, He entered upon a life without that burden.  From now on He lives to God in freedom and glory (Rom 6:9-11).  Because of his union with Christ the believer must reckon himself dead to sin, and putting to death all sin, he must live the new resurrection life in fellowship with his risen Lord (Rom 6:5, 6, 12-14; Col 3:5).

Jesus’ resurrection in a glorious, immortal, powerful, spiritual body of flesh guarantees the believer his future resurrection in a similar body (Rom 6:5; 1 Cor 15:46f.; Phil 3:21; 1 Jn 3:2).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, 82-3)


If God had not raised Him from the grave we might draw the conclusion that our Lord was not able to bear the punishment of the guilt of our sins, that it was too much for Him, and that His death was the end.  But He was raised from the dead; and in raising Him up God was proclaiming that His Son had completed the work, that full expiation has been made, that He is propitiated and completely satisfied.  The resurrection declares that, and it is in that sense that He is “risen again for our justification.”  It is there we see it clearly.  The work was done on the Cross, but here is the proclamation that it is enough.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, 244)


Now, again, it will be well for us to consider how far even the holiest fall short of the perfect keeping of the Law, and perfect love of God; and therefore we need not wonder if they experience in many respects the failure of this grace, and only enjoy some slight taste of it.  In any case, the goodness of God ever superabounds, so that His grace, if it does not shine with full splendor, still appears in bright sparks unto a thousand generations.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. I: Bk II, 112-3)


Paul is thus firmly on the same page as the gospel writers.  The main meaning of the resurrection of Jesus for him is that God’s new world has been brought into being through this event, the long-promised new world in which the covenant will be renewed, sins will be forgiven, and death itself will be done away with.  The resurrection is neither an isolated and out-of-character divine miracle nor simply the promise of eternal life beyond the grave.  It is, rather, the decisive start of the worldwide rule of the Jewish Messiah, in which sins are already forgiven and the promise of the eventual new world of justice and incorruptible life assured.  (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 247-8)


In Christian worship we are not merely asked to believe in Jesus Christ, but to live, die, and be resurrected again with him.  Life is not an intellectual construct, but a journey of death and rebirth.  When our life story is brought up into the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, it then gains meaning and purpose.  (Robert E. Webber, Worship is a Verb, 25)


In order, therefore, to encourage His worshipers to earnest piety, He declares that He will be kind, not only to themselves, but to their posterity, even for a thousand generations.  But this is the proof of His inestimable kindness, and even indulgence, that He deigns to bind Himself to His servants, to whom He owes nothing, so far as to acknowledge, in His favor towards them, their seed also for His people.  For hence it appears, that it is wrong to infer merit from the promised reward, because He does not say that He will be faithful or just towards the keepers of His Law, but merciful.  Let then the most perfect come forward, and he can require nothing better of God than that He should be favorable to him on the grounds of His gratuitous liberality.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 111)



Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe Who provided for us what we could never obtain on our own. (Lv 21:8; Dt 9:5-6; Rom 1:17; 10:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:7-11)


We have been made for relationship with God.  Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God.  But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is.  We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it.  We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-6)


Opposed to spiritual worship is superstitious worship.  Superstitious worship is motivated not by the Spirit but by dread of God, by un unholy fear of God and an anxiety about his will toward us.  The worship of an “unknown God” is superstitious worship that tries to appease a shadowy, dark divinity seen from the standpoint of the guilt of those who have not kept his commandments rather than from the standpoint of grace, the standpoint of the thousand generations of those who know him and keep his commandments.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, p. 427)


God, therefore, calls for the affections of the heart, that He alone may be spiritually worshiped; and the expression “before my face,” may be not inaptly referred to this; because, although their impiety, who secretly turn aside to false worship, and cherish their errors within their own bosoms, may be able to evade the eyes of men, yet their hypocrisy and treachery will not escape the notice of God.  Hence, again, it follows, that the one God is not rightly worshiped, unless He be separated from all figments.  Wherefore it is not enough to make use of His name, unless all corruptions opposed to His word be laid aside; and thence we arrive at the distinction between true religion and false superstitions; for since God has prescribed to us how He would be worshiped by us, whenever we turn away in the very smallest degree from this rule, we make to ourselves other gods, and degrade Him from his right place.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 419)


Gospel Application:  Jesus died the death we deserved to die as covenant breakers; and lived the life we were supposed to live as a covenant keeper.  He did it all because He loves us.  (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8-21; 6:23; 2 Cor 5:21)


But in Christ’s death on the cross, there is the highest possible expression of divine love.  He, who is love, sent His precious Son to die as an atonement for sin.  If your sense of fair play is outraged by that–good!  It ought to be shocking.  It ought to be astonishing.  It ought to stagger you.  Think it through, and you’ll begin to get a picture of the enormity of the price God paid to manifest His love.  (John MacArthur, The Love of God 38)


The crunch comes in verse 17 (1 Cor 15):  if the Messiah isn’t raised, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  In other words, with the resurrection of Jesus a new world has dawned in which forgiveness of sins is not simply a private experience; it is a fact about the cosmos.  Sin is the root cause of death; if death has been defeated, it must mean that sin has been dealt with.  But if the Messiah has not been raised, we are still in a world where sin reigns supreme and undefeated so that the foundational Christian belief, that God has dealt with our sins in Christ, is based on thin air and is reduced to whistling in the dark.  (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 247)


The Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone, yet ultimately there is only one way anybody is ever saved in the presence of God, and that is through works.  The question is not whether we are going to be saved through works; the question is whose works.  We are saved through the works of the one who alone fulfilled the terms of the covenant of works.  That is why it is not just the death of Christ that redeems us, but it is also the life of Christ.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 178)


It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.  The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day.  Our salvation is “external to ourselves.”  I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.  Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 54)


Spiritual Challenge:  Don’t listen to the culture that promotes becoming right with God by death.  There is only one way to life and heaven.  It is through Jesus and Jesus alone.  (Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; Jam 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15-16)


The popular American doctrine of justification for our age is justification by death.  — R. C. Sproul


So the Ten Commandments begin with a call to exclusive loyalty to God.  But as we saw in the earlier chapter and here, this is the God who has redeemed us and who has entered into a covenant with us, and his steadfast covenant love is a major ingredient of our relationship with him.  We can be sure then that if we are faithful to God he will look after us.

Why is it then that so many within the Christian community seem to wilt when things are tough and temptation gets severe?  They act as if God will not look after them, and they give in to idolatry.  They do not exercise their faith:  they do not trust God to look after them.  The key is trusting God to do what is best for us.  That is the theme of Hebrews 11.  The heroes mentioned there believed God and refused to give up on his way when the going was tough.  And it will be tough–that was the promise of God.  But if we cling to God’s promise to work things out for good, we will see victory and will be like these heroes.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 173)


Hudson Taylor says, “Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses; and how shall we escape from it, but by looking at him, and observing his faithfulness? . . . All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 173)


If the children group in an environment where God is not respected, it is very likely that they will reject God just as their parents did.  So they will be judged–not for their parents’ sins, but for their own.  Usually the extended families in those days had three or four generations living together.  Of course, there will be exceptions.  The Bible is clear that no one who repents and turns to God will be rejected by God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 172)


So What?:  Your eternal destiny hangs upon your understanding, believing and trusting in Jesus.  (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim 2:5-6)


Tim Keller, at the Gospel Coalition conference in 2013, made an intriguing statement:  ‘Resurrection makes Christianity the most irritating religion on earth.’  Why is that?  Because you can argue about ethics, doctrines, rituals until you are blue in the face; people are free to believe what they want.  What does it matter?  But the resurrection means everything is changed.  If Christ is not raised, then Christians are to be pitied for wasting our lives.  But if Christ is raised, then that means it would be insane to ignore Him and His claims.  (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 109)






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