By Sam E. Stone
Today’s suggested devotional reading, Micah 6:1-8, presents the same principles taught in our printed text. Both passages show the importance God places on how his people treat others. All of our lessons so far this quarter have been based on sections of “the law,” the first five books of the Old Testament. The book called Deuteronomy literally means “second law.”
Moses had given the law to the people at Mount Sinai years before. But because of their rebellious spirit and disobedience, God did not permit them to enter the promised land. Now as the time drew closer for the people to cross the Jordan, Moses summarized the Lord’s expectations once more. None of God’s commands had changed in this period, but the people were reminded of exactly what was expected of them. These same requirements were repeated by Jesus when he discussed the “greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:34-40).
The Lord’s Requirement
God’s expectations for his children are summarized: Fear the Lord your God . . . walk in all his ways . . . love him . . . serve the Lord your God with all your heart and . . . soul. A healthy fear of God is essential if one is to serve him. Ronald Youngblood observed, “Fear . . . has the sense of reverential trust in God that includes commitment to his revealed will (word).” Later Solomon declared, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The believer’s response to God includes more than simply obeying a list of rules; instead, the child of God is to have a heart whose only desire is to please and serve him. The people were to submit to his rule and love him from their hearts (compare Romans 2:29). It seems inconceivable that God, the one true and living Creator of the universe, should take such special interest in the children of Israel. Yet this is exactly what happened! The Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them . . . He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.
Physical circumcision was a long-standing practice of Abraham’s descendants. It served as a sign of the covenant the Lord had made with his people (Genesis 17:10-14). This was not enough, however. God wanted the hearts of the people, too. C. F. Keil observes, “They were to . . . lay aside all insensibility of the heart to impressions from the love of God (see Leviticus 26:41).” The New Testament makes it clear that this is what God expects today as well (see Galatians 5:6; 6:15; Romans 2:28, 29; Colossians 2:11).
The Lord’s Nature
Deuteronomy 10:17, 18
The God of Israel is above all other so-called gods. These are merely pretenders; no one is like him. Unlike people, God shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He treats everyone fairly, uninfluenced by any type of prejudice (see Acts 10:34). Once again Moses emphasizes the Lord’s concern for the fatherless, the widow, and the alien. The alien (foreigner) should always remind the people of their difficult years of bondage in Egypt, from which God had rescued them.
Deuteronomy 10:19-21; 16:18-20
Just as God loves the alien, so must his people. Loving the unlovely is essential if one wants to follow in his steps. The circumcised heart loves God and those whom he loves (1 John 3:10, 17). Moses describes the fear of God in three ways: serving God, holding fast to him (Deuteronomy 4:4), and taking oaths in his name (see 6:13). Hebrew scholars note that these verses are not written in the normal order (subject-verb-object). Instead the object (the Lord) comes first. This is designed to place even greater emphasis on “the Lord.”
Though the children of Israel numbered only 70 when they went down to Egypt (10:22), they multiplied with God’s blessing. Later, just as the Lord promised Abraham, they became as numerous as the stars in the sky. They were preparing now to live in a new place under different conditions. Moses would no longer be present as their prophet, mediator, and judge after they entered into Canaan. Those placed in the responsible role as judges must be impartial, dealing justly with everyone. Justice, and nothing but justice, is essential (6:20). In this way by faithfully practicing justice, the people could live and possess the land given them by God.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.