Meditations in Deuteronomy : 15 : Reinforcement
(Focus: Deut 5:22-33)
Deut 5:22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
I have suggested at various times in these studies that Deuteronomy is all about Moses restating the Law to Israel on the plains to the east of the Jordan, but what keeps on coming through is Moses insistence on putting it all in an historical context. These laws came in a particular way in a particular time in a particular place in history. In his desire to encourage Israel to keep these laws, he emphasises this again and again to remind them that these are God’s laws and that they are answerable to God – and that God has shown Himself as One who deals with people on the basis of righteousness, and He does hold people accountable for the way they behave. All of this is in the background to Moses’ declaring the Law. His primary thrust is that Israel MUST obey these laws and these are the reasons for that.
So having just restated the Ten Commandments he immediately puts them into historical context: God gave them on Mount Sinai on two stone tablets. But that isn’t enough. He wants Israel to be reminded of what happened back there forty years ago. He has spoken of the Sinai encounter already (1:6,19, 4:10-15, 5:2-5); in fact he continually reminds them of it, and so here, now, he reminds them yet again what their response had been: “When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me. And you said, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” (5:23-27). Yes, it had been a scary encounter and one that should remain in their memories. Indeed it is important that they do continue to remember it and pass it on to their children and future generations of children so that they will know exactly what had happened back there at Sinai.
He reminds them of the Lord’s response: “The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. 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! “Go, tell them to return to their tents. But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.” (5:28-31) There had been a two-way conversation and the Lord also had spoken to Moses to tell him how to handle the situation. The Lord hadn’t just spoken out the laws and that was it; there was a relationship there between He and Moses where the Lord instructed and guided Moses as to how he should proceed.
Now, yet again, we see that Moses says all these things by way of encouraging Israel to obey the Law that God has given: “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (5:32,33) There it is, yet a further exhortation to obey these laws. Now we could become bored with this repetitious encouraging of Israel to obey the Law but it tells us something very obvious about both the Lord and about us.
First, it tells us that we are prone to forgetting and we often need constant reminding of what has been said or done. Isn’t this the very reason for the Lord Jesus’ instructions about Communion: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk 22:19). He knew that we would need constantly reminding of the basis of the Gospel, that he had died for us. Hence it is one of the few things he specifically instructed us to do regularly. But this constant repetition also shows us that God knows we need these reminders and this encouragement and so He provides it in Moses’ words. The Lord seeks to meet our weakness but in so doing takes away any excuses Israel might have made for ‘not knowing’. This repetition is so great in these chapters that there is no space for anyone in Israel to say in the future, “But we didn’t know.” They do and they will be held accountable. Grounds for faith are there in the Bible for anyone who seeks. Failure to look for it simply indicates that state of heart that is there. We have no excuses!