Meditations in Deuteronomy : 18 : Fidelity & Testimony
(Focus: Deut 6:13-25)
Deut 6:13-15 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.
Our verses today point to a major truth in Scripture which almost gets lost by law-keepers. This is very natural because, as we have pointed out a number of times, Deuteronomy is all about the law but that actually ISN’T its central focus. We might think it is the Land and all that is involved in taking it, but it isn’t! The central focus is having a relationship with the Lord. It is so easy to lose this fact in the midst of everything else.
God, the one and only true God, has called them into a relationship with Him at Sinai and all that follows is to be about how they live out that relationship. He has called them for a purpose – to reveal Him to the rest of the world and they will do that by the way they live. Remember we saw previously, “this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” (4:6). The ‘this’ that is at the beginning of this quote is their obedience to God. That is what will reveal them and Him to the rest of the world.
Thus everything we have now is about the Lord and how they view Him and respond (or not) to Him. It starts with attitude: “Fear the LORD your God.” Hold Him in great respect. How will they show that? “Serve him only,” and if you’re not sure about what that means, “do not follow other gods, the gods of the people around you.” After all that they have been through with the Lord, this might seem an unnecessary instruction, yet it is vital.
It is all about their relationship with Him, and if they turn to idols that relationship will be abandoned. So Moses gives them a warning: “The LORD… is a jealous God.” Don’t see that negatively. Jealousy can be a right emotion when there is a right relationship. It means God wants to protect them from other ‘suitors’, false beliefs and gods who are no god, idols that are purely pieces of carved wood. The Lord wants to keep them from straying from The Truth, Himself.
In fact, if they do, His anger will be expressed and He will destroy them as a nation. If they are to be representing Him to the rest of the earth, if they turn to idols they will be representing something far from the truth and the world will be led astray and God will not have that! Israel are to stick to the Lord and put their trust in Him alone.
On various occasions in their desert travels they had grumbled against Him, as if He could not provide for them: “Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.” (v.16.) You can see what happened there in Exodus 17. Instead of asking Moses to ask the Lord to help them and provide water, they grumbled and complained and doubted God. They had yet to learn that they could utterly trust Him. So now, whenever they think about the laws of God, they should see them as God’s blessing for them and not something onerous. They should not doubt God.
So, he goes on, “Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said.” (6:17-19). There are the same ‘ingredients’ as before: a call to keep the laws, to enable God’s blessing to be upon them as they go in and take the Land.
Then comes a further ‘ingredient’ that we have noted before – a stipulation to pass them on to their children and make sure future generations know about them and keep them: “In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders–great and terrible–upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (6:20-25)
When their children ask about the laws of Moses, the people are to refer them back to their origins, how God brought them out of Egypt and how He took them into the Promised Land. The purpose of the laws, he goes on, is to enable us to prosper. When we keep them, we will be living rightly in accordance with God’s design (righteously) and he will bless us and we will be blessed!
Similarly today, the way we live is to reveal the Lord: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16). May it be so!