Bible Focus: Deuteronomy 4-11
But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors, he brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love him and keep his commands. But he directly pays back and destroys those who hate him. He will not hesitate to pay back directly the one who hates him. So keep the command–the statutes and ordinances–that I am giving you to follow today.Deuteronomy 7:8-11 CSB
If you knew that you had only a short time left to live, what kind of message would you give to those loved ones who would carry on without you? Maybe you’d tell them how much you love them. Maybe you’d seek forgiveness or understanding about some past wrongs. Maybe you’d tell them your life story. Or maybe you’d tell them how to handle the assets of your estate.
Whatever you chose to tell them, you’d probably include at least a few urgent words of direction or advice. And maybe your loved ones would especially listen to your words and try to follow them. They would know your time is short, and they would hopefully believe your motives are pure, because they’ve seen evidence of your love for them throughout their life.
When we first hear of God’s commands, we might struggle to see all those commands as the pure, caring words of a loving God. We naturally recoil at rules we don’t like, and we tend to suspect folks who lay down rules supposedly for our own good. But if we see evidence that God loves us, then we’ll probably have an easier time accepting that his rules are good–even if we still struggle to understand and obey them.
When Moses reached the end of his life, he had served God as the leader of the nation of Israel for over 40 years. He had seen God free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and had seen God protect them and provide for them even as they rebelled against him in the wilderness. He had seen an entire generation pass away and a new generation take their place. He also saw them begin to have victory over their enemies, and he knew that they would soon enter the land that God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Moses also knew how much God loved the people. So when Moses stood before the people to give his last public address, he reviewed the story of how God had loved and cared for them, including the commands that God had given the people when they had first left Egypt. Moses urged them to forsake all other gods, love God, and follow God’s commands. Those commands were for their good, and if they followed those commands, God would bless them.
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul? Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.Deuteronomy 10:12-17 CSB
The commands that God gave the Israelites were not meaningless rules. Many commands instructed the people how to live according to God’s character and righteousness. Many other commands instructed the people how to worship God, particularly through a system of animal sacrifice. Those commands constantly reminded the people that they needed to be cleansed of their sin–and that sin could only be cleansed through a blood sacrifice. Those commands would find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, who would one day give his life for the sin of the world.
In short, all of these commands had a purpose. By following them, the Israelites would constantly be reminded of the God who loved them and wanted to bless them. In the same way, God loves us and wants to bless us. He has proved his love for us by sending his Son Jesus to give his life as a once-for-all sacrifice for our sin. But if we really believe that, then we have to also believe that the commands of God are good. Even though we may struggle to follow them, we should strive to understand and obey the commands of God.
You are good, and you do what is good; teach me your statutes.Psalm 119:68 CSB
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