Deuteronomy 4–5: The God We Worship


Please go here for a complete audio version of this session’s teaching.

After rehearsing the history of the nation (Deut. 1–3), Moses reminded the people of the character of the God of Israel and how they should respond to Him. If we don’t know the character of the God we worship, how can we worship Him “in spirit and in truth”? (John 4:24).

Moses’ narration begins with a challenge to the Israelites to learn from the example of Baal-Peor. The verb used to express “to hear” is used nearly 100 times in the Book of Deuteronomy. It means, “to pay attention, to understand and obey.” Concerning this word, Pastor Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Hearing the Word of God involves much more than sound waves impacting the human ear. Hearing God’s Word is a matter of focusing our whole being—mind, heart, and will—on the Lord, receiving what he says to us and obeying it. The Word of God must penetrate our hearts and become a part of our inner being if it is to change our lives.”[1]

Moses continues his plea to the Israelites to remember (often using the phrase, “Lest you forget”) what God did for them (freeing them from bondage, caring for them in the desert wilderness) and do what God commanded them. Why? Because the spiritual life and death of Israel depended upon obedience. In order to attack a much stronger military force in the Promised Land, Israel needed the blessing of the Lord and disobedience to His Word would not provide this blessing.

Moses also wants them to understand that other nations would be watching them, and he hoped these neighboring nations would see three things:

  • The Israelites would know how to apply God’s knowledge so as to have discernment and to be able to judge matters accurately.
  • Faithfulness to the Lord would allow the nations to see that the Lord had established intimacy with Israel (v. 7).
  • The nations would see that Israel’s law was distinctive, for its source was the Lord indicating its character was righteous (v. 8).

Not only did Moses teach them from their failure at Baal-Peor, but he also points to his own failure. This humble leader doesn’t hide or bury his own mistakes, and his idea is simple, “If God did not spare me when I blew it, don’t think He will spare you if you turn to other gods. God is a consuming fire, and we must take Him and obedience to Him seriously.”

When studying this chapter, we cannot overlook Moses’ words in verses 32–40. This section of Scripture is one of the most beautiful in Deuteronomy because it focuses on God instead of on the people. The theme here is that God communicates with His chosen people. Verses 32–38 deal with how God communicates and verses 39–40 deal with why He does.

Moses then begins his second speech which lasts twenty-one chapters. For a man who claimed he was slow to speak, Moses certainly could preach and teach! He begins this second oration with a reminder of the Israelites covenant with God at Sinai. Once he firmly sets this foundation, he moves into a review of the Ten Commandments.

What we need to clearly understand is the Ten Commandments were given to an already redeemed people and enabled them to express love for and have fellowship with a holy God. The Commandments was never given to enable them to achieve justification, for that has always been granted through faith (See: Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4). These commands demanded a response of obedience, not because that would somehow allow them to accumulate credit in the sight of God, but because the grace of God, experienced in the liberation from Egypt, demanded evidence of their gratitude and love.

The chapter ends with a reminder of the Israelites’ confident response to the original Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. God is pleased with their response and their response shows how seriously they took His Words.

God’s words as recorded in verse twenty-nine (“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!”) are some of the most moving within the book of Deuteronomy. Here we can sense the yearning of God’s heart as He expresses His wish for Israel. In his Life Principles Study Bible, Dr. Charles F. Stanly wrote a note that is associated with this verse: “Here God states the desire of His own heart. He longs that a godly fear of Him would prompt us to eagerly keep His commandments so that He could bless us and our descendants forever. That is a gracious God!”


  1. We must find our life and victory in God’s Word. Unless we know what God commands, we can’t obey Him; but if we know His commandments, believe them, and obey them, then His power goes to work in our lives. “And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, NKJV). Obeying the Lord becomes a joyful privilege when you realize that His commandments are expressions of His love, assurances of His strength, invitations to His blessing, opportunities to grow and bring Him glory, and occasions to enjoy His love and fellowship as we seek to please Him. God’s Word is the open door into the treasury of His grace.
  2. It’s important for us to know the Law of God so that we might better know the God of the Law and please Him. Jesus has fulfilled the types and symbols found in the Law, so we no longer practice the Old Testament rituals as Israel did. Jesus bore the curse of the Law on the cross (Gal. 3:10–13) so that we need not fear judgment (Rom. 8:1). But the moral law still stands, and God still judges sin. It’s as wrong today to lie, steal, commit adultery, and murder as it was when Moses received the tables of the Law at Mount Sinai. In fact, it’s worse, because we have today the full revelation of God’s will through Jesus Christ.
  3. God is a personal one; Israel was never expected to believe, obey, and love a distant, impersonal God. God is not saying to His people, “When you love Me supremely, I will redeem you out of Egypt.” He is saying, “I have delivered you, now, therefore, yield to Me.” For centuries Israel had a master. In Egypt, it was a cruel taskmaster, Pharaoh. Now God is wanting His rightful place as Master of their lives.
  4. Allow the events of your life—both the pleasant and the painful—to prompt you to turn to God and ask, “Lord, are you asking for my attention?” We can’t allow ourselves miss what the Lord wants to tell us. We need to train ourselves to give Him our full attention.


[1] Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Equipped. “Be” Commentary Series. Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1999.

[2] Charles F.  Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005.


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