DEUTERONOMY 5, 6 and 7
Growing up in a God-fearing, Bible-believing home does have its drawbacks. It is tempting to think that all the real action happened between your parents and the Lord, before you were born, and that you are just a kind of afterthought or add-on to your parents’ blessings. The Children of Israel were in a similar position: all the real action and promises had occurred 40 years previously at Sinai, before most of them were born; what did it have to do with them?
God answers this by saying “I made the covenant with you at Mt Horeb, not just with your parents; I spoke with you out of the fire, face to face, and you heard my voice”. In fact, he underlines the fact that the present, living, generation are the real beneficiaries of his covenant (and certainly, to benefit from the Old Covenant, you needed to be alive!). The Old Covenant was made to all the descendants of Jacob, present and future, so this generation was included at Mount Horeb as the one living at the time. Under the New Covenant, all who are in Christ are equal beneficiaries of its blessings, and all the ‘action’ did not end in the First Century AD.
I’ve covered the Ten Commandments previously in these notes (on Exodus 20), but we will just look at a couple of them again. Number One is almost like a marriage contract: “No other gods but me” means to be faithful to the Lord alone. To break that one is a kind of spiritual adultery. Number Two does not really repeat the first one but specifies how not to worship the true God: “Avoid using images or things that I have created, as methods of worship”, He is saying. Deuteronomy 12:4, 31 explain this further.
Commandment Five – “Honour your Father and Mother” is the only positive one (“You shall…”) and underscores the fact that the Kingdom is based not primarily on the model of citizenship of a nation, but on families and households that have a deep relational connection with one another. The basis of any strong society is the family (and they come in all shapes and sizes) and, historically, those societies that have sought to undermine this or to de-support it have suffered greatly.
At the end of Deuteronomy 5, is the cry of God’s heart: “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” We see his motives and desires for Israel exposed, and these motives are out of love for them. The great commandment follows in the next chapter:
“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.”
The commands of God, then, were given for Israel’s prosperity and their long life; they were to be discussed at all times of the day and night and written down and told to their children. Meditation on the Word of God always produces abundant life (Joshua 1:8).
In Deuteronomy 7, it goes on to say that God chose Israel and set his affection on them. Why? If you read on, it never really gives an answer that is any different from “I chose you because I loved you, because I chose you…”! Such is the sovereignty of the Lord, and some things will remain mysteries until the Age to Come arrives. Israel just needed to love the Lord back, by being obedient to his commands, and then their lives would be entirely full of blessing from beginning to end.
In terms of the nations who were already in the land, Israel had two commands: (1) Do not make treaties or intermarry, show them no mercy or pity, break their idols, and kill them all – or else they will contaminate the true faith and offend the true God. (2) Do not be afraid of them but remember how God has acted powerfully on your behalf in the past; this builds faith for the present and an expectation of miracles grows in us now. 7:22 explains that God does these miracles in his own time and at his own pace, but that he will get the job done for us. We simply must trust him to get on with it, and just be obedient ourselves.