Deuteronomy 4:2, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you”
Deuteronomy 4:6-7, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”
Our Theme – God loves us and desires us to love Him with all our being.
God’s Love Story
Hosea 11:8, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? … My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred”
Many people think of God as an impersonal force, something akin to the law of gravity. The book of Hosea portrays almost the opposite: a God of passion and fury and tears and love. A God in mourning over Israel’s repeated rejection of Him (Hosea 11:8). God the lover does not desire to share His bride with anyone else. Yet, amazingly, when Israel turned her back on God, He stuck with her. He was willing to suffer, in hope that someday she would return to Him. Psalm 103 lists the “benefits” God showers on us in love:
(1) He forgives our sin (v. 3),
(2) He satisfies us with good things (v. 5)
(3) He executes righteousness and justice (v. 6),
(4) He is slow to anger and abounds in mercy (v. 8),
(5) He doesn’t deal with us as our sins deserve (v .10),
(6) He has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west (v. 12)
– Purpose of Deuteronomy –
The people who were about to enter the Promised Land with Joshua were not the same people who left Egypt. These were now the sons and daughters who had not experienced the great miracles of the Exodus of the previous generations. Moses spoke to the people as a reminder of all that God had done for them in the past. These were not the people who had received the Law of God directly. Emphasis needed to be given to God’s holiness and the command for obedience.
The book starts out by giving a brief review of the events that have happened to Israel up until that point. Moses reminds them of:
(1) God’s deliverance out of Egypt,
(2) Of their journey through the wilderness,
(3) Of the spies who went into the land,
(4) Of their refusal to go in and seize the land, and
(5) How God had sentenced them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
But now all that is behind them. They are at the edge of the Promised Land once again. So, the question before them is whether they will rise to the challenge this time. Moses, the only leader these people had known, was about to die and he transferred the leadership of the people over to Joshua and Caleb. These two men were the only other adults, besides Moses, who came out of Egypt and experienced all that God had brought them through. Moses gave a final charge to the people before they entered the battleground that was soon to come.
This new generation needed a renewed message about God and His expectations for them in the Promised Land. Moses’ message to them focused both on God’s love for Israel and God’s desire for Israel to love Him back. Moses explains that if they want their days to be long, if they want it to go well with them, if they want to multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, then they must keep their end of the bargain with God. They must be obedient and keep all the decrees and commandments of God, and they must fear God all the days of their lives.
Since Deuteronomy is a message to God’s people, it doesn’t move the story of Israel’s journey along. Rather, it contains reflections on the past journey, instructions for the present in anticipation of possessing the land, and prophecies about the future. The message was given by God through Moses so the present and future generations might learn to love their loving God.
– Introduction –
Waiting in line or in traffic can drive a person crazy in just a few minutes. However, waiting forty years to finally get home is unimaginable. Forty years is a very long time to wait for anything. What, if anything, do you remember from forty years ago? Do you remember where you were and what you were doing? Here are some examples:
(1) Jan 20, 1981 – Ronald Reagan sworn in as the 40th President of the United States.
(2) Aug 17, 1982 -First Compact Discs (CD’s) are released.
(3) Nov 10, 1983 – Bill Gates introduces Windows 1.0.
(4) Jan 28, 1986 – Space Shuttle Challenger explodes after liftoff killing seven astronauts.
(5) Aug 10, 1995 – Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nicholas are indicated for the Oklahoma City bombing.
I. God’s Love for Israel – (Deuteronomy 1:1-6:3: 7:1-11)
Moses began his look at Israel’s past by recalling what happened when Israel left Mount Sinai (Horeb) for the Promised Land. After the spies had returned from surveying the Promised Land, the people saw the fruit but refused to enter because of the giants in the land (1:25-28). Moses tried to convince the people to go forward based on God’s care for them in the past (1:29-31). Yet, the people refused to believe God. So, God judged them; those twenty years and older died at some point over the next forty years in the wilderness ((1:32-40).
Deuteronomy 2 briefly recounts the wilderness years and then presents Israel’s second approach to the Promised Land. Interestingly, the main focus in the chapter is on what God did for the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites. The Edomites were descendants of Esau (Jacob’s brother), and the Moabites and Ammonites were descendants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew). God had given an inheritance to both Esau (Genesis 36:6-8; Deuteronomy 2:4, 5) and Lot (Deuteronomy 2:9, 19), so the Israelites were not to attack Edom and Moab as they passed by them.
The record of God’s care for Edom, Moab, and Ammon (2:20-21) had to be both an encouragement for Israel as they looked forward and a disappointment as they considered their past. If God provided land for nations because they were simply descended from relatives of the patriarchs, then how much more would He care for the nation He called His own? The former generation of Israelites thought God hated them.
Moses then went on to recount the victories over the Kings whose territories were east of the Jordan River (2:26-3:1). The historical reflection ends with Moses recounting his request to enter the Promised Land. God stood by His decision and told Moses to stop asking. Joshua would lead the people into the Promised Land (3:23-29). Obeying God’s commands and refraining from idolatry would be fundamental to Israel’s enjoying their land. God had promised them at Mount Sinai that, if they were obedient and faithful to Him, they would enjoy the land and live long in it (4:9, 10, 23, 40).
– The Resisters –
Isaiah 30:9 says, “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD.” Things haven’t changed much because it is the same today. “I don’t have to listen to you!” That’s a sentence parents don’t like to hear and moreover God isn’t very pleased either when we by our actions say the very same thing. Sometimes, though, a teen or adult might decide to make that attitude a way of life. When that happens, it’s hard for everyone in the family (as it was for the Israelites and certainly for our Nation today). The teen or adult openly rebels, thinking they would be happier by resisting authority; however, instead, they can actually become miserable in their heart.
The prophet Isaiah told about some resisters – rebellious, lying people who refused to listen to what God was saying as it was with the Israelites prior to going into the Promised Land. In essence they said, “We’ve heard enough. We don’t have to listen to You!” Their heart of resistance turned them against God’s truth. The question is … will the same happen to this new generation?
Rebellion is not only limited to teens or to the people of Moses and Isaiah’s day. Sometimes we too wear the resister label. We read God’s Word and decide it’s too restrictive. Or we sense that God wants us to do something, and we run from it. Why do people run away from God? Is it because of anger, disappointment, despair, disobedience, or a web of rebellion woven from our own desires? The book of Jonah looks at a prophet who rejected God’s call to deliver His word to the people of Nineveh. In Jonah 1:3, 10, we read that Jonah deliberately headed for Tarshish to run away from the Lord
The story of Jonah should cause each of us to be honest about our feelings toward the Lord. Do we harbor resentment for His leniency toward people we feel deserve judgment? Have we forgotten that God has forgiven us? Are we ready to obey His call, whatever it may be, and leave the outcome to Him?
Israel was more privileged than any other nation (4:32-40). They heard God’s voice and received from Him instructions on how to live. Deuteronomy 4:37 is the first mention of God’s love in the book. The fact that it is connected to Israel’s patriarchs is significant. God’s relationship with Israel was always based on His love for them. He didn’t grow to love them; He loved them with an everlasting love (Jermiah 31:3). In the promised Land He wanted them to love Him back. Loving God made perfect sense for the Israelites after all God had done for them.
Moses reintroduced God’s law in the form of the Ten Commandments. He also included the conversation that had gone on after the giving of the law. God longed for Israel to have hearts that were set on obedience to Him (5:29). The reason for His longing was His love for Israel (7:1-11). God chose to love Israel. They had nothing that made them better than anyone else (7:7-8). But what a privilege for Israel to know God as their loving Lord!
II. Israel’s Love for God – (Deuteronomy 6:4-25) After encouraging the people again to be faithful to God, Moses talked about the greatest commandment.
A. The extent of Israel’s love (6:4-9)
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
If the content of the law could be summarized in one concise confessional statement, Deuteronomy 6:4 would likely be that statement. This verse, which later became known to Jews as the Shema. . It’s the equivalent of the Lord’s prayer (“Our Father in heaven…”) in Christian tradition and communicates several critical concepts taught, which are:
(1) That God is the LORD, a name that focuses on God’s faithfulness to His promises. This is the God of the universe and isn’t some whimsical, flawed god found in so many ancient religious texts. The true God is faithful and He keeps His word and promises.
After God promised Abraham, “I will make you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Some 25 years elapsed before the birth of his son Isaac (Genesis 21;5). During that period, Abraham questioned God about his lack of a child (Genesis 15:2), and he even resorted in fathering a son through his wife’s handmaiden Genesis 16:15).
Yet, through the ups and downs, God kept reminding Abraham of His promise to give him a child, while urging him to walk faithfully with Him and believe Gensis 17:1-2). When we claim one of God’s promises in the Bible, whether it is for peace of mind, courage, or provision of our needs, we place ourselves in His hands and on His schedule which is different than ours.
As we wait, it may at times seem as if the Lord has forgotten us (as it was with Abraham). But trust embraces the reality that when we stand on a promise of God, He remains faithful. The assurance is in our hearts, and the timing is in His hands. Remember that all of God’s promises are backed by His wisdom, love, and power.
(2) The verse teaches the LORD is our God. Israel enjoyed a unique and special relationship with God. God was their LORD. His relationship with them was not to the exclusion of outsiders but in order to communicate His character to the outsiders. Israel was God’s chosen people and He was uniquely their God.
(3) God is Israel’s only God. They were to have no other gods. This truth is why some scholars prefer this phrase to be translated, The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.
Jesus described the commandment of Deuteronomy 6:5 as the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38), The natural response to the truth that there is only one God is that His followers should love Him with all their being. Faithfulness to God should not be divided. The terms heart, soul, and might in this verse are not precise terms referring to definite aspects of a person’s being. In Scripture, the heart often refers to the seat of emotion and will, soul refers to one’s being, and might encompasses physical abilities.
However, the use of these three terms together is a descriptive way of saying to love God with all you are. Whether the Israelites were out and about or enjoying the comforts of home, they were to teach the next generation. They were to talk about the commands at bedtime, in the morning, and every time in between. As a family and as a community they were to consider the law.
At one time or another, every parent here today has probably wondered: “What is the greatest gift I can give my child?” And I don’t think just parents wonder this, but grandparents, aunts and uncles as well. Think about it! What might that gift be? Is it a well-rounded education? If so, special effort would be made to ensure that their child studies hard, takes piano and dance lessons, plays sports, and so on. Do they want the children to have a happy and pleasant childhood?
If so, families might emphasize quality time together, to provide a home life with minimal stress and conflict, and to plan exciting family activities and vacations. While a well-rounded education and a happy and pleasant childhood are important, I suggest the greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of Jesus. Let God’s Word of forgiveness in Jesus Christ be, as our text says, upon your heart as a parent so you may impress that Gospel upon your children.
B. Threats to Israel’s love for God (6:10-19).
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that the redeemed will seek to perpetuate their faith. In fact, there are many threats to the faithful transmission of faith. God warned Israel of three threats to passing their faith on to their children.
1. The threat of prosperity (6:10-12).
Moses challenged the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. He warned them about the cities, homes, farms, wells, and material wealth God would give to them as they conquered the land. The nomadic lifestyle they had been living for the past forty years was going to change. God knew this change would tempt Israel to abandon their faith. The new wealth would tempt them to forget that God had delivered them from Egypt. They would be tempted to think they were self-sufficient and that they didn’t need God.
2. The Threat of Pluralism or (Diversity/Variety) (6:13-15)
Pluralism is the belief that reality consists of many parts. There are different types of pluralism in different areas of study. Religious pluralism would teach that different religions contain truth, even though they might contradict each other.
Pluralism then would stand in opposition to the idea of an absolutely correct system or belief. Such pluralism would contradict biblical teaching that there is one absolute and supreme being (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6; 45:5), that Jesus is the only way to be saved from the righteous judgment of God (Acts 4:12), and that the Bible alone is the revealed word of God.
God knew the false religions of the people living in the Promised Land would be a temptation for Israel. Unfortunately, much of Israel’s history is marked by falling into idolatry. Jealousy is a sin when manifested in humanity. However, God is righteously jealous (6:15). He shares His glory with no one and nothing. He alone deserves to be worshiped. As mentioned in the section on God’s love for Israel, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love for Israel. God’s relationship with Israel was like that of a husband and wife. Israel, as His bride, needed to remain faithful to Him.
Pluralism is a view that puts forth that multiple beliefs can coexist within the same person or group of people. Israel became pluralistic when they added local deities to their worship of the Lord. Obviously, this practice was intolerable to God. Pluralism is prevalent in our culture too. People blend Christianity with all sorts of unbiblical beliefs. Pluralism is a serious threat to preserving and continuing one’s faith to the next generation.
3. The threat of doubt (6:16-19)
Shortly after Israel experienced a spectacular deliverance from Egypt, they sinned against God by doubting He was still with them (Exodus 17:7). They had no water and concluded God must not be watching over them. This incident became a reference point for Israel’s repeated episodes of doubt throughout the wilderness wanderings.
Moses challenged Israel not to test God as they had at Massah (6:16). As Israel conquered the Promised Land, temptations to doubt God’s presence with them would arise. Doubting God’s presence would obviously be serious threat to establishing their children in their faith in God. Instead of doubting God’s presence the Israelites needed to diligently keep God’s commandments (6:17). They needed to be so sure that He was with them that obeying Him became their way of life.
Eventually Israel’s doubts about God let to their disobedience and hardship in the land. They never fully realized the blessings God promised them if they would do what was right in His eyes (6:18), and they were never able to completely conquer the Promised Land (6:19). Consequently, future generations were not firmly established in their faith. Faithlessness grew with each passing generation. Doubt of God’s presence created an atmosphere where perpetuating one’s faith seemed to be the exception rather than the norm.
C. Israel’s motivation to love God (6:20-25)
Moses imagined children would ask about the requirements God gave to Israel. Most likely Moses had in mind sincere rather than skeptical questions. Most children go through a stage in which their favorite question is why. Moses viewed their questions as legitimate. He wanted to equip the current generation of parents to provide answers that perpetuated their faith in their children’s lives. The children needed to learn to love God too.
Moses instructed the adults to answer by recounting their merciful redemption from Egypt. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was their fundamental motivation for loving God and living as consecrated to Him. Similarly, the redemption provided in Jesus Christ should motivate believers to love God and live for Him. When people ask why we believe and act the way we do, our answer should point them to Christ’s redemption work on the cross.
Moses’ use of the word righteousness in Deuteronomy 6:25 should not be understood as referring to imputed righteousness. Israelites at that time could no more earn a righteous standing before God than people today could. This righteousness refers to everything being right in the family. God’s blessing would be on the family. The children would learn to love and honor God with their lives. They would be secure in their understanding of God and would want to know and serve Him.
God loves us and desires us to love Him with all our being is our theme for this lesson. I will close with an illustration that we all can relate to, which is entitled “Our Father’s Love”.
A young Christian dad took his parenting role seriously. When his son was an infant, he protected him. As the boy grew, his dad played ball with him, encouraged him, and tried to teach him about God and life. However, in his teen years, the boy went too far and too fast in his move toward independence. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, he rejected his father’s values. He made foolish decisions and got into trouble. The father was deeply disappointed, but he never gave up on him. No matter what he’s done, ”he said, “he is still my son. I’ll never stop loving him. He’ll always be welcome in my house.” The joyful day finally came when father and son were reunited.
The people in Hosea’s day followed a similar pattern, Although God had rescued them from Egypt and nourished them, they turned their backs on Him. The insulted His name by worshiping the gods of the Canaanites. But still God loved them and longed for their return. Do you fear that you may have strayed too far from God to be restored? He who saved and cares for you longs for your return. His arms are open in forgiveness and acceptance. He will never drive you away. How glad we can be for our Father’s love!
God loves us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.