“Love’s Motivations, Part 1” – Deuteronomy 5:23-33


June 25th, 2017

Dt 5:23-33

“Love’s Motivations – Pt 1”

Aux Text: Hebrews 12:14-29.

Call to Worship: Psalm 111


Service OrientationBEWARE: Lest we forget that without the grace and protection of Jesus, we would be annihilated in God’s Holy presence.  God loved us so much that He sent Jesus so Jesus would shield us by His perfection, holiness and righteousness so those who are IN CHRIST could enjoy an intimate relationship with God Almighty.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . . —  Deuteronomy 10:12


Background Information:

  • Both in Exodus and Deuteronomy, the Ten Commandments are treated as the fundamental laws or principles governing Israel’s community life and its relationship with God; the many other rules and regulations are seen as the outworkings of the Decalogue. This section of Deuteronomy draws a distinction between the two.  The Decalogue was declared to all Israel by the voice of God himself, and then written down, again by God himself, on two stone tablets (v. 22); the remainder of the law (yet to be outlined) is revealed to Moses, whose task it will be to teach it.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 44)
  • We are backtracking now to what happened before the commandments were written on stone (v. 22b), which happens every now and then in Hebrew narrative. The people were frightened by the Horeb revelation, expressing amazement that they managed to survive.  Nothing quite like that had ever happened before (4:33).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 300)
  • Fearing God is the characteristic term for describing OT religion, somewhat like belief in the NT. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 249)
  • (v. 23) These “ten words” (commands) are made still more emphatic by Moses’ declaration that at the particular time the Ten Commandments were given, these commands and these alone were spoken to the Israelites directly by God. He uttered them in a loud voice from the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the deep darkness.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 61)
  • (v. 29) God’s words as recorded in verse 29 are some of the most moving within the entire book of Deuteronomy. Here the reader can sense the yearning of God’s heart as He expresses His wish for Israel.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 113)
  • (v. 32) As long as the nation remained true to the Lord and the covenant-treaty, the people as a nation would live and prosper and could prolong their days in the land. Before once again stating and explaining the specific laws, Moses urged the people to do what the Lord had commanded–and exactly what he had commanded (v. 32).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 62)
  • Only in these last two verses does Moses now return to the direct speech to the people with which the chapter opened (5:1), and exhort them to obey the commands that have been given. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 133)
  • It is significant that in this book focusing on obedience to God there are so many exhortations about being careful to obey. Certainly in my life I have seen that most of the times I have stumbled, it has been because I was not careful.  I have come to understand certain things about the life of holiness, and I know that if I become slack in an area I can begin to slide on a slippery slope that leads to sin.  If I am not careful to avoid those steps, I will live to regret it.  We cannot be careless when it comes to the life of holiness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 248)


The question to be answered is . . . What is Moses trying to tell us in these 11 verses?


Answer:  God is transcendent and no one can endure His presence.  God is imminent and no one should be threatened in His presence.  It is God’s grace in our Mediator Jesus that reconciles these two divine truths and motivates us to reverence, love and obedience.


Alpine climbers revel in the thrill of scaling the majestic heights but must never lose sight of the awesomeness of the mountain.  Deep-sea fishermen toil with joy and garner a harvest in the foaming waves, but they know they must never treat the mighty rolling ocean with anything but respect.  Small aircraft pilots, they tell me, come in two varieties:  old ones and bold ones.  There are no old, bold ones.  Those who enjoy the freedom of flying like a bird do so conscious of the awesomeness of the heavens in which they soar.

The fear of the Lord involves glad submission to his gracious majesty.  (Stuart Briscoe, Choices for a Lifetime, 44)


The fear of the Lord is the heart and core of Biblical religion.  It involves a recognition of the absolute holiness of God; it is a fear based upon the recognition of that holiness and coupled with full reverence before Him.  Such a holy fear had been manifested in the attitude of the seraphs above the throne of the Lord.  The phrase itself is the practical equivalent of true piety and devotion.  True religion is a reverent and godly fear, for it recognizes that the creature is but dust before the holy Creator, and it prostrates itself in His presence, expressing itself in reverential awe.  The Spirit produces the fear of the Lord in those to whom He gives this gift.  Even the Messiah will be imbued with the fear of the Lord in order to accomplish His mighty work.  (Edward J. Young; The Book of Isaiah: A Commentary by Vol. 1, 383)


The Word for the Day is . . . Fear


The fear of God in some ways defies our attempts at definition, because it is really another way of saying ‘knowing God.’  It is a heart-felt love for him because of who he is and what he has done; a sense of being in his majestic presence.  It is a thrilling awareness that we have this greatest of all privileges, mingled with a realization that now the only thing that really matters is his opinion.  To have the assurance of his smile is everything; to feel that he frowns on what we do is desolation.  To fear God is to be sensitive to both his greatness and his graciousness.  It is to know him and to love him wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

To fear God, to trust God, to love God, and to know God–these are really one and the same thing.  In fact, the fear of God about which the Pundit speaks arises from the discovery of God’s love for us in our sin and weakness.  It is the sense of awe that results from the discovery that he knows me through and through, means to destroy all that is sinful in me, and yet does so because he loves me with an intensely faithful love.  That stretches my mind and emotions to their limit.  (Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Pundit’s Folly, 74)


“Fear without love is an imperfection; love without fear is nothing at all.”  (Hasidic tradition as quoted by Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 107)


What is Moses trying to tell us in these 11 verses?

I-  We fear God because He is transcendent, perfect and holy and no one should be able to exist in His presence.  (Dt 5:25-26; see also: Dt 4:33; 10:12; Jdg 6:20-23; 13:18-23; Job 11:7-9; 36:26; 37:1-24; Ps 145:3, 17; Prv 30:4; Isa 6:3-5; 40:12-31; 55:8-9; Ez 39:7; Mt 19:17; Acts 5:5, 11; Rom 11:33-34; 1 Cor 2:10-16; 1 Tm 5:20; Heb 10:31; 1 Jn 1:5; Rv 4:8)


To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)


The fear of God is the soul of godliness.  (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 229)


According to the Bible’s teaching, an unbeliever can be knowledgeable, intelligent, clever and shrewd, but ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111:10).  As Dr. J. I. Packer puts it, ‘Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty…acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.’  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 202)


Yahweh is a consuming fire before whom mortals rightfully recoil.  Although the “Word becoming flesh” in Christ highlights God’s continued determination to communicate with human beings, he does so in ways that sacrifice nothing of his glory (Jn 1:14).  As he was before ancient Israel, so God remains before all who have been grafted in and made heirs of the promises.  He is a consuming fire, before whom acceptable service will always arise out of deep reverence and awe (Heb 12:28-29).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 178-9)


Yahweh acknowledged that he overheard the people’s request to Moses (cf. 4:28) and affirmed their response.  He also expressed his wish that the Israelites would never lose their present reverential disposition toward him.  If they would demonstrate it by obedience to all his commands forever, then their well-being would be assured forever.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 176)


Like the OT, the NT mentions that people stand in dread of God’s actions toward them.  At times this dread is produced unintentionally by God (e.g., Mt 17:7; 28:10; Lk 5:10), though often He causes it intentionally as a sign of His judgment on sin (e.g., Lk 12:5; Acts 5:5, 11; 1 Tm 5:20).  Perhaps the most famous statement relating terror and God is Heb 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Here the context is clearly one of judgment 9cf. Vv. 27, 30).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 292)


“No fears, no grace,” said Bunyan.  “Though there is not always grace where there is fear of hell, yet, to be sure, there is no grace where is no fear of God.”  And again, “I care not at all for that profession which begins not in heaviness of mind…For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and they that lack the beginning have neither middle nor end.”  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 18)


“The fear of God” was required in the following ways:  by keeping His commandments (Ex 20:20); by serving Him and keeping His statutes (Dt 6:13, 24); by hearkening to His voice (1 Sm 12:14); and by worshiping in His Temple (Ps 5:7).  Moses’ strict injunction to Israel was, “You shall fear your God” (Lv 19:14b).  Furthermore he said, “the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive” (Dt 6:24).  From early times rewards were promised for Jehovah worship.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)


Job is the best example of one who has a great reverence for God (even God says so, 1:8; 2:3) but also an almost overwhelming terror of Him.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 290)


Jesus’ deeds often inspired awe or reverence (e.g., Mt 17:6; Lk 5:26).  Paul warned the Roman Christians not to be proud but to stand in awe (Rom 11:20).  Reverence for Christ should cause believers to be subject to one another (Eph 5:21).  Heb 5:7 states that Jesus’ prayers were answered because of His “godly fear.”  In 12:28 the author exhorts his readers to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (but note the element of terror that immediately follows–“for our God is a consuming fire”).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 292)


The man who does not fear God becomes so proud that he cannot detect his own sinfulness.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 242)


Herein is terror for the wicked.  Those who defy Him, who break His laws, who have no concern for His glory, but who live their lives as though He existed not, must not suppose that, when at the last they shall cry to Him for mercy, He will alter His will, revoke His word, and rescind His awful threatenings.  Lo, He has declared, “Therefore will I also deal in fury:  Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity:  and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ez 8:18).  God will not deny Himself to gratify their lusts.  God is holy, unchangingly so.  Therefore God hates sin, eternally hates it.  Hence the eternality of the punishment of all who die in their sins.  (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 40)


Because God is holy He hates all sin.  He loves everything which is in conformity to His law, and loathes everything which is contrary to it.  (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 43)


He is righteous, he hates sin, and he will punish sin.  So you do not have a feeling that this is the one thing that this modern world of ours needs to know?  This world that feels that it can dismiss God, and laugh at him, and break all his laws with impunity.  My friends, is not this the thing we need to preach to the world, that God is holy, that God is righteous, that he hates sin with an eternal hatred, and will punish sin.  That is his own revelation of himself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 232)


The sin of presumption is the antithesis of the fear of the Lord.  It is the harbinger of future defeat.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 142)


One of the central points of the book (Eccl) is one of the keys that connects Ecclesiastes to the theology of previous texts:  Fear God, for this is what life is all about.  The book of Deuteronomy had made “the fear of the Lord” a focal point of concern (Dt 4:10; 5:29; 6:2, 13, 24; 8;6; 10:12, 20; 13:4; 14:23; 17:19; 28:58; 31:12-13).  Indeed, “To fear the Lord” was to commit oneself to Yahweh by faith, as did some of the Egyptians (Ex 9:20, 30) who formed part of the mixed multitude that left Egypt with Israel (Ex 12:38).  That fear was not some extraordinary, numinous feeling of terror or even of awe, but instead it was an attitude of receptivity that manifested itself in belief, obedience, and love for the living God.  (Kaiser, Walter C. Jr., Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 33-4)


God has not only told us the best, but He has not withheld the worst.  He has faithfully described the ruin which the Fall has effected.  He has faithfully diagnosed the terrible state which sin has produced.  He has faithfully made known his inveterate hatred of evil, and that He must punish the same.  He has faithfully warned us that He is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).  (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 54)


Those who have tasted transcendental reality can never again be convinced that this world and the society that regulates them can satisfy their needs.  Those who have tasted of the heavenly gift will always hunger because they know there is more to life, and that something more is not controlled by the system but lies beyond anything that the rulers of the system can provide.  Out of such holy discontentment new movements are born.  The sense of what is absent makes us discontented with what is present.  (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, 144-5)


Therefore we ought to be so disposed in mind and speech that we neither think nor say anything concerning God and his mysteries, without reverence and much soberness.  (Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.22)


They acknowledged that Yahweh had revealed his glory and majesty and that they had heard his voice from the midst of the fire.  They expressed amazement that they survived the experience (v. 24) but then they were not so sure they had actually escaped (vv. 25-26).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 176)


The majesty and holiness of God cannot but incite fear in man.  “God is clothed with terrible majesty.  The Almighty–we cannot find him; he is great in power and justice, and abundant righteousness he will not violate.  Therefore men fear him” (Job 37:22-24).  Anything of magnitude that dwarfs man by contrast incites fear in him.  As man gazes into a deep canyon, or into limitless stellar space, or across a boundless ocean, he senses a feeling of awesome fear.  How much more is this effect in the presence of God who is vastly greater than all these.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)


II-  We fear God because God is immanent and we need not be threatened in His presence.  (Dt 5:23-24; see also: Dt 4:7; Ps 23:4; 145:18-19; Mt 1:23; Jn 1:1-14; 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 2:13; Heb 1:1-4; 4:16; 10:19-22; Jam 4:8)


The fear of God is the realization of his unchanging power and justice (3:14).  It delivers from wickedness and self-righteousness (7:18) and leads to a hatred of sin (5:6f.; 8:12f.).  If it is the ‘beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10) it also is the end, the conclusion; no progress in the believer’s life leaves it behind.  Nor is the testimony of the NT any different (cf. 2 Cor 7:1).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 156)


“You asked for a loving God:  You have one.  The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “Lord of terrible aspect,” is present:  not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes . . .  It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”  (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 46-7)


When Moses went to meet with God, nothing–not even a layer of cloth–was allowed to hinder his gaze upon God.

That passage gives us insight into two things:  the deep revelation of God, and the change it brings to those who experience it.  The greater the revelation, the greater the transformation.  Unveiled in his worship and given incredible access to the presence of God, Moses also became a changed worshiper who glowed with the glory of God.

The NT has amazing news for us that we, too, can be unveiled worshipers:  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

God has invited us into an incredibly privileged place in worship.  In one sense, the Almighty need not reveal Himself to anyone.  He is a consuming fire, blazing with power and holiness.  And yet He burns with a heart of love for His people, longing to usher each one of us into deeper levels of glory.  It is there we are transformed ever more into His likeness.  As someone once put it, “Beholding is becoming.” (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper; 62-3)


We cannot preach Christ by faith unless we have a deep faith in Christ.  We cannot cultivate this faith apart from knowing God’s awesome holiness.  His hatred of sin, and the extent and severity of human sin, including our own.  Only as we are gripped by the greatness of our need before God can we understand faith in Christ and experience the spiritual power that faith gives to life.  We are not likely to get this kind of faith unless we slow down and take time to lay hold of the power of the Cross.  (C. Miller; Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, 126)


Both divine holiness and human sinfulness are also related to the fear of God.  Obviously God’s holiness requires the judgment of human sin, and people’s awareness of this requirement often causes them to be in dread of Him (e.g., Gn 3:10; Dt 9:19; Ps 76:8 [MT9]).  But the grace that characterizes God (cf. the formula in Ex 34:6, repeated in Neh 9:17; Ps 103:8; 145:8; Jon 4:2) and His forgiveness can change that dread into reverence (Ps 130:4), so that His terrible name may be praised (Ps 99:3; 111:9; cf. Becker, 42-6).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 291)


Here is the capstone of Solomon’s theme:  God’s work is perfect and eternal.  His purposes and plans are unalterable, and no one can keep Him from fulfilling what He intends to do.  Thus, if we can learn to rest in God’s purposes, receive His gifts, and take up our work according to His plan, we can do good and serve the purposes of eternity.  The fear of the Lord is integral here, for by it we acknowledge His might and accept our place of humility in His sight (cf. Ps 76).  (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, May 19, 2011)


The most practical of mundane duties derive their inspiration and impetus from the fear of God (cf. 2 Sm 23:3; Col 3:22).  The highest reaches of sanctification are realized only in the fear of God (cf. 2 Cor 7:1).  (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 231)


Having the true and proper fear of God will help us not to be so self-righteous.  We will know that God sees us as we really are, and this will teach us not to pretend to be something we are not.  The fear of God will also keep us from living a wicked life, because when we understand his holiness, the last thing we will want to do is fall under his judgment.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 168)


The gifts that God gives us and the power to enjoy those gifts come separately.  This is why having more money can never guarantee that we will find any enjoyment.  Without God, we will still be discontent.  It is only when we keep him at the center of our existence that we experience real joy in the gifts that God may give.  The fear of the Lord is not just the beginning of knowledge; it is also the source of satisfaction.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 141)


III-  We fear God because He has provided a mediator Who reconciles these two divine truths.  (Dt 5:27-31; see also: Ex 24:7; Dt 18:17-18; Isa 53:10-12; Rom 5:1-2; Eph 2:13-18; 3:12; 1 Tm 2:5-6; Heb 2:17; 4:14-15; 9:11-15; 10:11-21; 12:24; 1 Jn 2:1-2)


Sinful men and women need a go-between to put right what’s gone wrong between them and a holy God.  St. Paul lamented his status before God according to the law (Rom 7:24), but he found relief in the gospel:  “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Tm 2:5, 6).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 68)


Here Moses becomes a type of Christ.  And Christ becomes the perfect Mediator between God and humans:  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tm 2:5).  Unlike during Moses’ time, we have Jesus with us always and so have direct access to God through Christ.  Hebrews talks about this and twice uses the word “confidence” or “boldness” about our approach to God’s throne (Heb 4:16; 10:19-22).  The fear that the Israelites expressed has been replaced by boldness in Christ.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 245-6)


A superficial reading of the original account in Ex 20:18-21 might yield the erroneous conclusion that the people were to be faulted for wanting to receive God’s revelation by the hands of another human being.  “If only,” their critics explain, “they had had the courage to hear God’s voice directly instead of receiving his truth secondhand.”

God did not share this viewpoint.  Instead, he commended the people for their recognition that they were ill equipped to encounter the word of God through direct revelation.  Instead of revealing a substandard spirituality, the people’s request for a mediator was on target.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 74-5)


The redeemed are dependent on God for all.  All that we have—wisdom, the pardon of sin, deliverance, acceptance in God’s favor, grace, holiness, true comfort and happiness, eternal life and glory—we have from God by a Mediator; and this Mediator is God.  God not only gives us the Mediator, and accepts His mediation, and of His power and grace bestows the things purchased by the Mediator, but He is the Mediator.  Our blessings are what we have by purchase; and the purchase is made of God; the blessings are purchased of Him; and not only so, but God is the purchaser.  Yes, God is both the purchaser and the price; for Christ, who is God, purchased these blessings by offering Himself as the price of our salvation.  —Jonathan Edwards


In their fear, Israel asked Moses to be their go-between.  They would die, they feared, if they had to go on listening to God’s voice speaking from the fire.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 68)


Yahweh overheard the people asking Moses to be a mediator (cf. 1:34) and said their words were well spoken (18:17), meaning the request was approved.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 301-2)


The background passage in Exodus is Ex 19:18-21.  The issue in both these texts is the people’s need of a mediator between them and God because of the danger to them of experiencing God’s presence directly.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 131)



Only two possibilities were open to Israel.  They could flee in a vain attempt to escape from responsibility to obey God’s authoritative word, or they could find a mediator who could listen and report to them what he had said.  The content of the message was powerful all by itself, but the form in which God had delivered it inspired terror in the people.  A mediator might be able to get past the method of delivery and bring God’s word back to them.

As a result, the leaders asked Moses to go near and listen to all God would say, then tell them whatever the LORD said.  The people recognized (at this time at least) the supreme value of God’s word.  They wanted to hear it, but in a form that did not terrify them, recognizing that mortal man had never heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire and survived.  The nation committed itself, once the message was delivered, to obey what God said.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 74)


The people decide that mediation will be best for the future:  Moses should approach God, hear him, and then relay his word to them (cf. Ex 20:19).  The people promise that what they hear from Moses they will do (cf. Ex 24:7).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 301)


They asserted that they would do whatever God told Moses they should do.  Moses reminded them that the Lord had accepted this arrangement (v. 28).  Moses had been their intermediary ever since he had returned to Egypt to lead the people out of bondage.  At Horeb, however, Moses became the intermediary between the Lord and the people for the establishment of the covenantal stipulations.  The people accepted the covenant with all these stipulations (v. 27; Ex 20:19; 24:3).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 61)


Heidelberg Catechism questions 13-19

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

  1. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).


Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

  1. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mt 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).


14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

  1. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ez 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).


Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

  1. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; John 1:1).


Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

  1. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).


Q17. Why must he also be true God?

  1. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).


Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).


Q19. How do you come to know this?

  1. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gen 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).


Because the Messiah will be characterized by this fear of the Lord, he can be depended upon to perceive correctly (Jn 2:24, 25; Mk 2:8) and to act with integrity (Lk 4:1-13).  The person who knows God in a full-orbed way and is supremely concerned to please him can be depended upon not to allow self-serving to cloud the issue, to cause him to trample other people.  If there should come One in whom God’s Spirit could dwell completely and purely, that person could be the Savior of the world (61:1).  The testimony of the NT (Lk 4:14, 18; Jn 1:14) and of the Christian Church is that Jesus of Nazareth is that person. (John N. Oswalt; The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah 1-39, 280)


Worship Point:  Worship the Awesome God of the Universe Who spoke the Galaxies into existence with the word of His mouth and yet He was willing to provide us with a Mediator.  If we do not fear God we cannot even begin to worship Him. 


Fear of God trumps all other fears.  —Ted Landell April 2nd, 2017


If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.  There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him.  One thing is sure.  I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind!  That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe.  It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 85)


So if worship is going to be in accordance with his nature, and his nature is transcendent, infinite, and incomprehensible, then how else can we worship other than by the direction of his word?  Once again, our doctrine of God impinges upon our doctrine of worship.  Given the distance between Creator and creature (a point of emphasis in Calvin, the Scholastics, Westminster, Van Til, and even Barth!), given the undeniable biblical reality that God’s ways and thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth (Isa 55:8-9), what makes us think we can possibly fathom what would please God, apart from his telling us what to do in his word?  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 54)


. . .  our Sunday morning routines certainly haven’t left the world standing in awe of our God.  (Andy Stanley;  Visioneering, 226)


God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach to Him with cheerfulness; He is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; He is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with the deepest humility; He is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address Him with purity; He is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we must therefore acknowledge His excellency in all that we do, and in our measures contribute to His glory, by having the highest aims in His worship; He is a spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and Intercessor.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 371)


Our worship services need to be relevant without being irreverent.  —Juli Yoder


Several applications flow from this principle and its violation in the golden-calf event: (1) impatience with God’s timing is an enemy of faith; (2) we cannot choose our own mediator; (3) we cannot picture the true God as we wish or will; (4) we cannot worship the true God and something else; (5) we cannot worship the true God except in the way he commands; and (6) false worship leads to false living and immorality.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 37)


“What is lost in the translation of religion to television?  The answer is:  Nearly everything that makes religion real.  The chief loss is a sense of the transcendent.  God is missing.  Postman says, “Everything that makes religion an historic, profound and sacred human activity is stripped away; there is no ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology, and above all, no sense of spiritual transcendence.  On these shows, the preacher is tops.  God comes out as second banana.”  (Neil Postman; Amusing Ourselves to Death, 116-7)


Gospel Application:  We cheapen the work of our Mediator Jesus and God’s grace when we forget God is a consuming fire and that no one could possibly exist in His presence.  (Isa 11:2-3; 53:4-12; 2 Cor 5:21; )


If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying!  — Tim Keller


Do you want a vision of divine wrath?  Of intense holiness?  Of righteous judgment?  Look at the Cross!  Do you want to know divine love?  Mercy?  Grace?  Look at the Cross.  But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation.  Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment.  Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness.   (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)


Moses knows only too well how short-lived will be the Israelites’ fearful disposition.  While in 10:16 he will call on the Israelites to circumcise their hearts, ultimately he will declare (30:6) that this too involves a divine act of grace.  People with hearts of stone rebel against God and insist on their own ways; those with circumcised hearts fear God and walk in his ways.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 179)


Although Moses has acknowledged earlier that the present generation is not faithless like their parents (4:3-4), for the first time he hints that all is not what it appears to be.  Verses 28-29 suggest that Yahweh lacks confidence in his people and that their present enthusiasm will be short-lived.

This motif will return in chapter 31, where Yahweh declares explicitly that as soon as Moses is gone, the people will go after other gods, abandon him, and break his covenant (31:16).  But Yahweh goes further.  When he has brought the people into the land “oozing with milk and honey” and they prosper, they will serve other gods, spurn Yahweh, and break his covenant (31:20).  Moses concurs.  He knows how rebellious and stubborn the people are, even while he is alive; as soon as he has died, they will give full vent to their rebellion (31:27).  The history of Israel proves how warranted Yahweh’s present reservations are here.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 178)


Their promise, that they would do all things which God should command, undoubtedly proceeded from the fervor of their zeal; and therefore, God soon afterwards praises their answer.  Their words were to the same effect, as if they had said that they would value whatever Moses might set before them, as if God Himself should thunder from heaven.  Meanwhile, as to themselves, their levity and inconsistency was soon discovered.  Thus do men often hastily and rashly consent to promise what they are not able to perform, although they do not intentionally desire to deceive, from neglecting to examine their own powers.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 336)


‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

and grace my fears relieved.

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Here is a fear which can deliver us from all other fears.  It is a powerful divine immunization which builds up resistance in our hearts enabling us to reject and overcome the anxieties which plague our lives and destroy our peace.  (Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Pundit’s Folly, 73)


Spiritual Challenge:  Never forget God is a consuming fire.  But, also never forget God’s desire to prosper you and to have an intimate relationship with you; that is only possible because of the work of Jesus.  (Ps ch 1; 6:5; 119:37; 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10; 10:27; 14:27; 15:33; 16:6; 22:4; Heb 4:16; 10:19-22)


If one does not have the fear of the Lord, kings and people alike turn in self-reliance to their “own wisdom” (Prv 3:5, 7; 18:2; 26:12).  Although this “way” of one’s own wisdom seems right, it leads to death in the end (14:12; 16:25).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 555)


That the fear of the Lord should be a key theme in the OT should not surprise us because the OT focused a lot on the majesty and holiness of God, and fear is the natural response to such.  However, the fear of the Lord in the Bible is liberating; it is not something that binds us with terror.  So the Bible describes it as “a fountain of life” (Prv 14:27).  Essentially this is because of who God is.  The fear of the Lord comes from knowing that God rewards those who obey him and punishes those who disobey him.  Far from binding us, it opens the door to true freedom.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 249)


It is the biblical notion of the fear of the Lord that fosters reliance on God and receptivity to divine wisdom, in contrast to self-reliance and dependence on one’s own understanding.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 557)


“Surely one of the reasons in these days for low moral standards is the lack of awareness of the majesty and holiness of God and of our accountability toward him.  To a certain degree the same deficiencies can be seen among professing Christians.  One of the marks of spiritual decline is that “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps 36:1).  Instead we fill ourselves with confidence in our own sufficiently.  This is the complete antithesis of holiness.” (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 21)


Another benevolent work of the fear of God is its restraining force.  Constantly the Israelites were warned of the consequences of wrong doing.  Moses taught, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD . . .” (Dt 10:12).  One Heb. philosopher said, “by the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil” (Prv 16:6).  Clearly, all these references to the fear of God mean the Jehovah religion, worship and service of God.  Consequences of failure to do so are clearly stated, as in the major categories of infidelity, injustice, and insincerity.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)


In the wisdom lit. it is stated:  “The fear of the LORD prolongs life” (Prv 10:27); “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life” (14:27); “. . . leads to life” (22:4; cf. Ps 61:5; 119:37f.).  One of the most familiar Proverbs is “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prv 9:10; Ps 111:10).  Similar ones are: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prv 1:7), and “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom” (15:33).  David summarized religious benefits in two statements:  “He fulfills the desire of all who fear him” (Ps 145:19), and “O how abundant is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for those who fear thee” (Ps 31:19; cf. 34:9).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)


Nothing is more pertinent than our Lord’s word, “Be not afraid of them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28; cf. Lk 12:4, 5).  Jesus is pleading the necessity of that kind of fear which arises from the consideration of the judgment which God executes in the place of woe.  It is futile to attempt to eliminate from the fear enjoined the terror which the thought of the final judgment of God is calculated to arouse.  The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews urges the fear of coming short as the incentive to diligence and perseverance.  “Let us fear therefore, lest by any means, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb 4:1).  And the same writer is not loath to bring the fearful expectation of judgment and the fierceness of the fire to God’s vengeance, as the issues of apostasy, to bear upon the necessity of undeviating faith (Heb 10:27).  He brings the warning to a conclusion by reminding us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (v. 31).  (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 234)


  1. Banishing fear–freedom from fear. By precept and example Jesus taught His disciples to make conquest of their fears.  It can be done.
  2. By the presence of God.  David said triumphantly, “I fear no evil; for thou art with me” (Ps 23:4b).  Long before this, God had said to Abraham, “fear not, Abram, I am your shield” (Gn 15:1).  to Isaiah He said for Israel, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. . . Fear not, for I am with you” (Isa 43:1, 5; cf. Zeph 3:15; Jn 12:15).  Divine visible presence, after the first startling moments, always dispelled fears (Ex 3:6; Lk 1:30; 2:10; Mt 14:27; 17:6f.).  Moreover, God’s unseen presence hovers over His own and protects them.  Elisha had at his command a mountain covered with “horses and chariots of fire” (2 Kgs 6:17).  And, Jesus had in reserve “more than twelve legions of angels” (Mt 26:53).
  3. By perfected love.  “The fear of God” in the OT yielded to “The love of God” in the NT.  Though the awesome nature of God will never diminish, His Fatherly love was manifested through Jesus.  His tenderness has replaced terror.  Consequently, John could give the Christian antidote for fear:  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn 4:18).  The Christian should have no fear of hunger, nakedness, sickness, suffering, wicked people, death, nor judgment.  All have lost their power of fear in the love of Christ.  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 520-1)


In the biblical view, the wise are righteous and the righteous are wise:  these are people who love and fear God, affirm God’s world, live gladly within its borders, and make music there according to divine time and key signatures.  The wise are always “in order.”  Insofar as they live right, they also live well.   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 115)


The fear of God is the realization of his unchanging power and justice (3:14).  It delivers from wickedness and self-righteousness (7:18) and leads to a hatred of sin (5:6f.; 8:12f.).  If it is the ‘beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10) it also is the end, the conclusion; no progress in the believer’s life leaves it behind.  Nor is the testimony of the NT any different (cf. 2 Cor 7:1).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 156)


So What?:  If we are not desirous of obeying God and if we have no affections for Jesus (Dt 5:32-33); we should ask ourselves, “Do I really have faith in Jesus?” (Bk of James) We obviously do not fear God.  And, we may not possess saving faith.  Beg Jesus to give you saving faith in Him and His work on your behalf.


Wherever the fear of God is uppermost in the heart, there will be a respect to all his commandments and care to keep them.  In vain do we pretend to fear God if we do not make conscience of our duty to him.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1052)


People need to be fed the Word so they can learn how to obey it in the places where they live and work.  Three times in Deuteronomy there are instructions to gather and teach the people so they will fear God and obey his commandments (4:10; 6:1, 2; 31:12, 13).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 251)


Many Christians today are trying to have the best of both worlds–God’s Kingdom and the ways of the flesh.  Jesus warned against this (Mt 6:24) and Paul said it’s oil and water (Gal 5:16ff.).  Yet we don’t hear much about repentance within the Christian community.  We prefer to think of God as infinitely patient with us, willing to forebear our sins and selfish ways, like the loving father of the prodigal son.  And so He is; but He also calls us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:14) and to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor 7:1).  We need to rediscover the way of repentance, so that we may avert the Lord’s discipline and press on to prove our citizenship in the Kingdom of God (2 Pt 1:5-11).  (T. M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, 07/24/11)


They say, “. . . and we will hear and do it” (Dt 5:27b).  The ensuing record shows that God accepts their words.  Yet we are faced with the sad story of how these same people who saw the awesomeness of God and promised to obey him later flagrantly violated this covenant.  How much more amazing that today we do the same thing as these Israelites did.  We have a fuller revelation of the nature of God than they had.  Yet we continue to disobey God, even after receiving his salvation.  Ultimately, then, the secret of holiness is not knowledge alone.  Indeed, that is vital, but as God wishes in verse 29, what we need most is “a mind. . . to fear [God] and to keep all [his] commandments.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 246)


If you hear the Word of God, you will learn to fear God.  And if you fear God you will keep his commandments.  One who fears God and desires to please him will regularly seek his guidance through learning from the Word.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 250)


“Walking in the way (of Yahweh)” has ethical implications in the OT (Muilenburg 1961b), translating into loving, serving, and fearing Yahweh.  In Deuteronomy it means keeping Yahweh’s commandments (5:33; 6:7; 8:6; 10:12; 11:19, 22; 13:6[5]; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16; cf. Ex 18:20).  The phrase “to walk in (all) Yahweh’s/his way(s)” is stock in Deuteronomy (Driver 1895, lxxxi no. 31; Weinfeld 1972, 333 nos. 6-6a), occurring also in Jeremiah (Jer 5:4-5 6:16).  Christians in the early church were said to belong to “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:14, 22).  Walking in Yahweh’s way leads to life, increase, and blessing (30:16); turning aside from it, seen most blatantly in going after other gods, leads to death (11:28).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 302-3)


Abraham’s obedience demonstrated his fear of God.  It was because Abraham feared the Lord that he obeyed God’s voice.  (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 239)


In the Magnificat, which is composed of various OT phrases, Mary states, “His mercy is on those who fear him” (Lk 1:50; cf. Ps 103:13, 17).  Acts 9:31 states that the church was built up and multiplied by “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”  In Col 3:22f. Paul links fearing the Lord with obeying and serving the Lord.”  Peter commands:  “love the brotherhood.  Fear God” (1 Pt 2:17; cf. Lk 18:2, 4 for a contrasting divine-human correlation).  In Rv 11:18 prophets, saints, and those who fear God are rewarded.  In 14:6f. an angel proclaims the “eternal gospel”:  “Fear God and give him glory. . . and worship him” (cf. 15:4).  In 19:5 God’s servants are identified with those who fear him.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 292)


To fear God is to revere him and to tremble at his mighty power.  Both the Psalms and the Proverbs say that such fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom and that anyone who fails to see this is a fool (Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7).  In fact, when we get to the end of Ecclesiastes, we will discover that this is the point of the whole book.  After saying everything else that he has to say, the Preacher will leave us with this simple instruction: “Fear God” (Eccl 12:13).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 96)



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