Israel stood on the precipice of the Promised Land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, they were finally about to take the promise they had waited so long receive. Moses had followed the Lord and Israel had followed Moses. But now he would not enter the Promised Land with them; he would die and they would go on without him. He would have to trust that they had learned what God had taught them and that Joshua could receive his mantle. He reminded them of what they had realized and gathered in their time learning from God. Deuteronomy 4:45-49 reads,
These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the rules, which Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt, 46 beyond the Jordan in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the people of Israel defeated when they came out of Egypt. 47 And they took possession of his land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan; 48 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, as far as Mount Sirion (that is, Hermon), 49 together with all the Arabah on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, under the slopes of Pisgah.
When we are on the threshold from the wilderness to the promise, we often have to wait, a period of rest and quiet. It is a time to reflect on what our suffering has taught, how we have changed, and who we have become through it. It is not easy to have patience. We want the promise now. The promise is not going anywhere. It will be no less the gift one week or eleven days from now as it is now. In fact it will be more of a blessing when it comes to us prepared and at the right time.
My friend Jim often uses the example of a young child asking her father for a Ferrari. The father promises to give it to her, but he waits until she is old enough to drive it. I can extend the metaphor by saying that he waits to give her that car until she drives well, has driven and cared for a jalopy, then moved on to being a safe driver and maintain a newer car, and then when she is able to handle the responsibility of the power of the Ferrari he gives her that car promised a decade earlier.
We have to learn the basics first, how to drive. Then we move on to the responsibility of the inexpensive used but safe car. That’s the car that we can’t speed in because the engine is too small or the transmission can’t handle high speeds. We learn what happens when we break the rules and get a ticket for not stopping at the stop sign. Then we move on to a better car and we show that we can drive that one without speeding, even though we now could. And then and only then does our father give us the sports car. But before he does, he sits down with us and reminds us about the rules and laws that came with the promise.
So Moses, The Lord’s friend spoke to Israel and reminded them the laws and statues that they were given in the Wilderness. Chapter 5 Verses 1-5 read,
And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, 5 while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:
Israel, these people standing in front of Moses, not their fathers but they themselves had received the Law and they themselves had agreed to keep it. The next generations would each agree based on that agreement. There would come a point in their lives when they had to agree with The Lord and choose to keep the Law themselves. They were circumcised, not as an agreement to keep the Moses Law, but as a sign of Abraham’s promise that they were part of His chosen treasured possession. Each man’s circumcision was his father’s agreement to raise him as God’s own. Keeping the Law is a covenant that each man makes with God himself.
Your parents can teach you. Your Sunday school teacher can present the facts. Your friends can testify. But only you can choose Christ for yourself. Only you can accept the contract for Jesus to be payment for your sins and make Jesus your Lord in order to enter the Promised Land of eternal life with Jesus. God may have prearranged your marriage to Christ, but He does not force you to say ‘I do.’
In verses 6-21 The Lord reminded Israel of the basics, the core of the law, the Ten Commandments.
“‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
7 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.
8 “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
11 “‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
17 “‘You shall not murder.
18 “‘And you shall not commit adultery.
19 “‘And you shall not steal.
20 “‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
21 “‘And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.’
Unlike the Levitical laws of sacrifices, feasts, and offerings which taught what sin was and that payment for sin required death, these are the laws that exemplify loving God and loving people. These laws did not dissolve when Christ died on the cross. They remain because love remains. Fulfilling the law of love means we obey the Ten Commandments, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Verses 22-29 read,
“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23 And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders.24 And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. 25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27 Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’
28 “And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”
Moses reminded Israel how great God is. He reminded them even His voice was too much for them to bear, that they had been in His presence and lived, and how they had felt because of it. It was too much for Israel. And God who loves them so much wished they would always remember the fear they had for Him that day so that they would not sin and suffer, so that he would not have to destroy Israel and scatter the remnant.
When I drive, I endeavor not to speed. I wish I could say I don’t speed because I respect the law that much. That should be the reason but the real reason is, I am afraid to get a speeding ticket. That is why the consequences are in place, to keep us from breaking the law.
Remembering who The LORD is can help us remember He is Justice, He is the Lion of Judah, He is the Wrath of the Lamb and He is the Lord Almighty. It is the first step to knowing God instead of knowing about God. Knowing about God without knowing Him can lead to removing Him from the equation and rather than walk in the Spirit, we walk in ritual. We go to church because it is time to go to church. We serve the poor because we are on the committee. We do what we do because we are supposed to do it. God is Yahweh, I Am. He is The LORD your God. He is Creator. He is The Lord God of Hosts!
The Lord had compassion on Israel, they could not bear His presence. Moses could, because Moses had God’s Spirit on Him, Moses was God’s friend. Believers have that closeness with God today. His Spirit indwells us. He calls us friend. We move from keeping the law out of fear of death to keeping the law out of love and expression of who God is. Verses 30-33 read,
“Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31 But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’ 32 You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
We have to remember what we learned in the wilderness to live long in the promise He give us. Suffering removes your heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, which The Spirit then writes His law on. Ezekiel 36:24-28 says,
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.