Deuteronomy 6–7: The Secrets of Obedience

 

A complete audio of this session can be found here.

Moses was a wise teacher of God’s truth and, despite his concern expressed at the burning bush, an accomplished public speaker. In the book of Deuteronomy, first, he reviewed what the Lord had done for Israel (Deut. 1–4) and reminded the people of God’s mercy and goodness. Then he reaffirmed the basic principles of God’s Law (Deut. 5–6).  In chapters 6 and 7, Moses discussed motives for obedience and explained why the people should honor God’s laws. He wanted the nation’s obedience to be based on spiritual principles, not just personal opinions and emotions.

God gave his law to build the people individually and collectively: How could they be a nation without individual and corporate laws?

The Law was also meant to reveal God and draw the people closer to Him. If Israel was to be a holy people and a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:1–8), they needed a holy law to guide them.

Many scholars attribute Psalm 119 to King David, as we carefully read it we can discover what God’s Law meant to the Israelites:

  • They saw God’s Law

o   Not as a heavy yoke, but as honey (v. 103)

o   As light (v. 105)

o   As a treasure (vv. 14, 72, 127, 162)

o   As freedom (v. 45)

o   As a source of joy (v. 14)

  • They saw the Law, not in stone, but hidden in their hearts (v. 10–11)

As we study chapter six, it’s interesting to note that “fear of the Lord” is mentioned in verses 2, 13, and 24 and, within the same chapter “love the Lord” is mentioned in verse five. The fear Moses mentions isn’t the fear we often associate with scary or harmful things. Rather, this fear is an awe and respect for our Creator. And, this kind of fear, deep respect, and awe, can be the motivation for deep, genuine love. Moses is instructing them that obedience to God’s commandments comes, not from the arbitrary orders of a stern taskmaster, but from a deeply personal reverence and love for Him.

Chapter six also features the key verse of Deuteronomy, in Hebrew, known as the Shema. The Shema is the centerpiece of the daily morning and evening prayer services and is considered by some the most essential prayer in all of Judaism. An affirmation of God’s singularity and kingship, its daily recitation is regarded by traditionally observant Jews as a biblical commandment.[1] The first verse of the Shema is considered the essential declaration of the Jewish faith — the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. The passage that follows details the particular ways in which that faith should be lived: Love God with all of your being, teach it to your children, recite it when you wake and lie down, bind it as a symbol on your body.[2]

Reading these verses, we can’t help but find that God wants complete love from His children. We often think God demands a hundred other things from us—our money, our time, our effort, our will, our submission, and so forth—but what God really wants is our love. When we really love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, then everything else is freely given to the Lord. If we give the Lord all the rest—money, time, effort, will, and so forth—without giving Him our love, it is all wasted—and perhaps, all is lost.

Moses also points out the danger of leaving God behind in times of prosperity. He knows that once the Israelites enter the Promised Land and reap the promised benefits of a land “flowing with milk and honey” they could easily forget God. Pastor Jon Courson wrote in his commentary, “There is a peril in prosperity. When things are going well, when things come our way which blesses and amaze us, there is an insidious danger, for it is in those days that we can forget the Lord and think that it’s our energy, our effort, our creativity, ingenuity, or hard work which got us where we are.”[3]

Moses, showing his wisdom, gives the remedy in verses thirteen through nineteen— ‘You shall fear the Lord and serve Him.” When we do that, in all things we do, we won’t be caught in the self-righteous thinking prosperity can bring to us.

Deuteronomy 6 stresses the importance of a proper relationship with God. Deuteronomy 7 gives instructions concerning Israel’s relationship to the other nations in Canaan. Just as Israel needs to recognize the presence of the Lord and the power of His word, she also needs to recognize the enemy and where she must draw the line. Moses’ counsel is clear: Do not fraternize with your neighbors.

Chapter seven clearly speaks to us about separation unto the Lord. They were God’s chosen people. Throughout her history, when Israel maintained a separated position by obeying God’s laws and seeking to please Him, she succeeded in all that she did. But when she began to compromise with the other nations and to worship their gods, it led to failure and defeat.

Chapter seven ends with Moses encouraging them to totally defeat their enemies and having confidence, not in themselves but in God’s strength. It’s quite natural for the people, standing on the threshold of the Promised Land and facing strong enemies, to be fearful. Chapter seven ends with Moses’ plan to lift the people out of their fearful feelings and prepare them for battle. He implores them to concentrate on God’s greatness and not the strength of their enemies.

OBSERVATIONS:

  1. God’s gracious promise to the patriarchs gave Israel ownership of the land, but it was their own obedience to the Lord that guaranteed their possession and enjoyment of the land.
  2. God’s response to Israel’s obedience is overwhelming. God promises to love them, bless them and protect them—and He will give them victory. We have no reason to believe God wouldn’t respond the same way to our obedience to His will and ways.
  3. We need to ask ourselves, “What blocks me from total victory?” What obstacles or fears keep us from destroying our enemies (sin, bad memories, etc.) and entering the Promised Land?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-shema/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Courson, Jon. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume One: Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

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