Deuteronomy 4 - "Confirmed By God's Oath"
For the next eight weeks we’re going to be listening to God speak to us from the book of Deuteronomy. This is not going to be an easy book to consider, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend time listening and doing the hard work of understanding. I love the book of Deuteronomy! The people of Israel are on the banks of the Jordan River and are looking over to the other side. There’s a bit of relief and they might even be wondering if they will actually get to step to the other side. Their parents had been here before. They had been just about ready to cross into the Land of Promise. They sent a scout from each tribe to go spy out the land. They came back and said, “The people are huge!” Two said, “God will take care of this, just like he took care of Pharaoh.” Ten of them said, “We were like grasshoppers. We can’t do this!”
Note the perspective difference. This will be the difference underlying the whole book of Deuteronomy. Indeed, it is the difference underlying the whole of Scripture. We are not able. // God is able. And the question comes to us this morning, as it does every morning, “Will you trust your own strength and ability to understand? Or will you trust God and his ability?” Salvation is something done for us and to us and in us. It is not something that we are able to accomplish on our own. God has to reveal himself to us. We do not find him. He stoops down to show us his might and mercy.
In Jesus, the promises to Israel are brought to fulfillment. We follow along the shadow (Hebrews) that was cast in the life and history of Israel…and we see the Messiah standing. We see the Sun of Righteousness who existed from all eternity shining…The purpose of the entire OT program. SO the entire OT must be read through the lens of Jesus. We need to understand how the OT was understood by the original hearers, but as the present-day hearers, we must look through the life and history of the Promised Messiah who came and conquered. For Them…AND For Us.
And by the Spirit that we celebrated last week, we are given life. And like wild branches we are grafted into the people of God. How are we wild? As Gentiles who did not know YHWH of Israel—we did not know God’s ways. We were untamed and wandering. And so we come to our book and our chapter in Deuteronomy.
I’m simply going to read each paragraph and give a short explanation to get the lay of the land for the rest of the book.
Deuteronomy 4.1-9 - Law Means Life
Notice I did not say, the Law gives life. Only God does that. Remember, this book and God’s Law from Mt. Sinai came after he redeemed his people from Egypt. That’s the way the Ten Commandments begin, isn’t it? Exod 20 // Deut 5: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
So what is the Law? Paul says, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7.12). The Law stems from the heart of God himself. What would it look like if God were to show up and live among his people? He would love his neighbor as himself. He would make sure the widow and the orphan were taken care of. He would castigate the religious for holding feasts while others went hungry. He would condemn those who would cling to the letter of the Law and not obey the Spirit of the Law.
Other gods of the ANE did not tell their people how to live. Instead, people would have to go to the priest and whatever he said would be what the worshipper had to do. It could change from day to day. This is why v.2 is so important: You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. Israel was to live their lives as a people set apart. They took a day of rest, unlike the nations around them. They didn’t kill their children like the nations around them. They didn’t eat certain foods to mark them as a people set apart.
The Law, then:
Reveals the heart of God. Guides & Convicts the Believer. Points to Messiah
We don’t follow the Law as Israel did because its purpose had been fulfilled. We don’t go back to the shadows. We see Jesus fulfilling it and telling us that the Law & the Prophets are summed up in his one Law: Love God. Love People.
Deuteronomy 4.9-14 — Ministry of All People
Even here, we see glimpses of the fact that God never intended for ministry to be relegated to a select few—the priests. Parents are to be the primary disciple-makers of their children. They are to tell their kids about the great fear and dread that took place at the mountain. Very appropriate for Father’s Day.
Deut. 6:20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And 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, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
For our ministries to be real and effective, did you notice the depth of experience the parents have? Ministers help and instruct…but primarily so that others can experience and teach others. This is not just for parents, though. Why do you think the Apostle Paul continually calls Timothy—“my true son in the faith”? // Each of us, are called to minister and share the good news with others—not thinking it’s only the job of those “called” into ministry. ALL are “called” by God to be ministers. Even Fathers & Mothers: Your primary calling is to disciple your children. BUT NOT YOUR ONLY CALLING. As you go to the highways and by-ways…take your biological children so they can see their spiritual bothers and sisters.
Deuteronomy 4.15-24 — Watch Out!
If even the great leader Moses was not exempt from rebellion and punishment, God’s people ought never to think that even the seemingly trivial disobediences will not go unpunished. Remember, the rebellion that kept Moses from entering the Promised Land was a matter of motive and heart.
Beware of idolatry! We are just as prone to this today. We diminish what we do not see and begin to put our faith in what we can touch and see. God has revealed himself in mercy and grace…and he means to consume you with that love. But if you run to money and being thought well of, beware! These are just as much idols as wood and clay and stone. We want something we can touch. Do not give in to the world’s tendency toward bigger and shinier is better. All that glitters, only shines because of God’s light. All that glitters, will fade and tarnish and rust.
Deuteronomy 4.25-31 — Be Humble
It’s not just that they might rebel. God foretells that his people will do the very things that he warns them against and they will go into Exile. What an amazing thing! Consider that Moses is saying this before they go into the Promised Land…before the Judges…before David and Solomon…before the rebellious kings.
Even here, the Promised Land is only a shadow of a greater reality. They don’t completely find rest for their souls until the Perfect and True Israel shows up in the womb of a virgin.
And we read even here that, while God is a consuming fire, v. 31: For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
Just as the initial freedom of slavery was dependent on the Lord, the way that God’s people will arrive completely in his Promised Land of Rest—the New Heavens and New Earth—is because of the persevering love of God.
Deuteronomy 4.32-40 — The LORD is the Ground, the Reason, and the Goal
He is the one driving out the enemies. He is the one who will exercise the might of his arm. He is the one who will conquer the Greatest Enemy of Sin that keeps his people from experiencing True Rest.
The goal is not sheer obedience. The God of the Bible is not trying to make your life difficult. He’s not standing in heaven with lightning bolts ready to snuff out your fun. He has explained what a full and meaningful life looks like. It looks like trusting in the unseen. It looks like not worrying when things don’t go the way we planned. V.40: Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
Intimacy with God. V.4: You who held fast to the LORD your God. V.7: For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? V.10: You stood before the LORD your God at Horeb. V.11: You came near. V.12: You heard. // Very essence of idolatry denies his nearness. An idol is limited to a place.
Pray— Sunday Morning: 10a. TOGETHER.
Push—Each of us is called to minister. We push out into the world. BUT we must experience intimacy with this God who is near. Intimacy. Push in.