Israel Must Obey God
1Israel, listen to these laws and teachings! If you obey them, you will live, and you will go in and take the land that the Lord is giving you. He is the God your ancestors worshiped, 2 and now he is your God. I am telling you everything he has commanded, so don't add anything or take anything away.
3 You saw how he killed everyone who worshiped the god Baal Peor. 4But all of you that were faithful to the Lord your God are still alive today.
5-8 No other nation has laws that are as fair as the ones the Lord my God told me to give you. If you faithfully obey them when you enter the land, you will show other nations how wise you are. In fact, everyone that hears about your laws will say, “That great nation certainly is wise!” And what makes us greater than other nations? We have a God who is close to us and answers our prayers.
9You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well. 10Do you remember the day you stood in the Lord's presence at Mount Sinai? The Lord said, “Moses, bring the people of Israel here. I want to speak to them so they will obey me as long as they live, and so they will teach their children to obey me too.”
11 Mount Sinai was surrounded by deep dark clouds, and fire went up to the sky. You came to the foot of the mountain, 12and the Lord spoke to you from the fire. You could hear him and understand what he was saying, but you couldn't see him. 13 The Lord said he was making an agreement with you, and he told you that your part of the agreement is to obey the Ten Commandments. Then the Lord wrote these Commandments on two flat stones.
14 That's when the Lord commanded me to give you the laws and teachings you must obey in the land that you will conquer west of the Jordan River.
32-34When the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt, you saw how he fought for you and showed his great power by performing terrifying miracles. You became his people, and at Mount Sinai you heard him talking to you out of fiery flames. And yet you are still alive! Has anything like this ever happened since the time God created humans? No matter where you go or who you ask, you will get the same answer. No one has ever heard of another god even trying to do such things as the Lord your God has done for you.
35-36 The Lord wants you to know he is the only true God, and he wants you to obey him. That's why he let you see his mighty miracles and his fierce fire on earth, and why you heard his voice from that fire and from the sky.
37The Lord loved your ancestors and decided that you would be his people. So the Lord used his great power to bring you out of Egypt. 38Now you face other nations more powerful than you are, but the Lord has already started forcing them out of their land and giving it to you.
39So remember that the Lord is the only true God, whether in the sky above or on the earth below. 40Today I am explaining his laws and teachings. And if you always obey them, you and your descendants will live long and be successful in the land the Lord is giving you.
Success formulas are everywhere. Moses had a formula too. It was simple and catchy – listen to God, obey his commands and you will live well and prosper. Listen, obey, live well and prosper. That almost sounds like Spock in a Star Trek movie trailer. The difference, and it is an enormous one, is that this one comes with a proven track record. This isn’t just hope at the end of a script writer’s pen. It has been tested on the fiery mountain of God. It was forged in the furnace of Israel’s experience in the desert. Moses reminds them again. They had seen, he said. They had heard. They knew from first-hand experience that God is faithful to those he calls.
That might have been fine for Israel, but what does it mean for me today? Can such simple rules meet the complexities of my contemporary challenges? Moses gives us his advice; listen, obey, trust. And it comes straight from the Lord, who, as scripture later says, “is maker of heaven and earth.” The claim is sweeping, even stunning in its audacity. This is not some local god talking, not some regional deity. This is “the only true God, whether in the sky above or on the earth below” (4:39). Moses is making a cosmic claim.
Life comes to us moment by moment, not all at once. So finding our way is an act of trust. We step out in faith, just as they did. In the up and down of its pulse, none other than God himself has promised the outcome. And just like the people that Moses led, we see, we hear, and we know too. The only true God wants us to obey him, and he is calling us again today.
Faithful Father, you have called us to obey and our hearts are drawn to you. Teach us the discipline of careful listening. We are drawing upon the experience of generations gone by. Guide us today as you did them to seek and serve you always. Hear our prayer, Oh Lord. Amen.
Dr. Wood is Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at The King's University and Dean of the Natural Sciences Faculty. His research is on urban ecology, campus sustainability and food insects. John was born in Japan, grew up on a clear-cut in western Washington State and attended North Park University in Chicago. He has written and spoken widely on caring for creation to church and campus groups. His recent publications include: How Then Shall We Eat? Insect-Eating Attitudes and Sustainable Foodways; Stewarding the gift of land: Christian campuses as land management models; and Sustainable Missions: Ethical Principles for Holistic Practice in a Broken World.