1 - 3 Obedience Gives Blessing
1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded [me] to teach you, that you might do [them] in the land where you are going over to possess it, 2 so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do [it], that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, [in] a land flowing with milk and honey.
After the mention in the previous chapter of the ten commandments and the necessity of a mediator, Moses now gives a more detailed description of the commandments. He only passes on what the LORD has commanded him, as befits every good servant (cf. Mt 28:19b). These are commandments to which the people of God are subject, in order to go over into the land and inherit the blessings there (Deu 5:33).
The blessing is presented in “flowing with milk and honey”. It represents abundance and fertility. The expression appears almost twenty times in the Bible (Exo 3:8,17; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27; 14:8; 16:13-14; Deu 6:3; 11:9; 26:9,15; 27:3; 31:20; Jos 5:6; Jer 11:5; 32:22; Eze 20:6,15). One time the expression is used by the rebellious and unbelieving people for the land of slavery, Egypt (Num 16:13). Furthermore, the expression always applies to the promised land.
Milk is a picture of the Word of God as a means to nutritional sustenance and healthy growth in spiritual living (1Pet 2:2). Just as a baby depends on its mother’s milk, so the believer is constantly dependent on God’s Word. This is indispensable for life in the land, but it is present in abundance. Honey represents the sweetness of natural relationships. If there is dependence on God, the mutual relationships will also be enjoyed. The living together of God’s children on that basis is beneficial to every member of God’s people.
In that atmosphere all the other blessings and benefits of the LORD can be fully enjoyed; sharing blessings increases joy.
4 - 5 The Core of Judaism
4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
After the fearing of the LORD in verse 2 as a result of the teaching of the commandments now follows the loving of the LORD as the One and Only (Zec 14:9). The religion of Israel is monotheistic. That gives certainty about God. That certainty is lacking in polytheistic religions. If there are several gods, someone can feel to be in the favor of one god, but live in fear of another god. Such gods never act in harmony in the thinking of their worshipers.
For Israel there is no such thing as a god of Sinai and a god of Hermon, a god for Reuben and a god for Levi. The unity of God guarantees perfect certainty about His will, as He reveals it in His statutes and ordinances. There is no other deity that proclaims something else.
The commandment to love was never given by an earthly ruler. In the face of God, fearing Him and loving Him belong together. To fear God is to have respect for Him.
Knowing God as the LORD Who is One is the core of the Old Testament, in which God’s earthly people take the central place. It is also, but there according to God’s complete revelation in Christ, the core of the New Testament (1Tim 2:5; 1Cor 8:6).
The core of Christendom consists of a completed work of redemption, a Mediator Who is glorified as Man in heaven and God the Holy Spirit who, since the day of Pentecost, lives in the church as a whole and in each individual believer on earth. The believers bear witness to this in their worship, both in their daily lives and in the meetings of the church.
In the Lord Jesus we have come to know God as the triune God: the Father, shown by the Son and revealed by the Spirit. We may know God as Father. Three Persons, yet one God. Because there is only one God, there can be nothing else that divides the heart that is entirely claimed by the LORD for Himself.
To love Him with all the heart and all the soul and all the might is supplemented by the Lord Jesus to include the ‘mind’ (Mk 12:30). To be able to satisfy this love with devotion, “the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16) is necessary. The thinking of Christ is as Christ thinks, it is His mind, in which the power of the Holy Spirit can be active. “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding” (1Jn 5:20). Through this thinking, this understanding, we gain insight into Who God is. For Israel this will become true in the future, when the law will be given and written in their hearts and minds (Heb 8:10; 10:16).
This love and service of God, gives man the greatest possible satisfaction. To this end he is created and equipped by His Creator with qualities that are aimed at serving and honoring Him. When he does this, he finds true rest and peace. Through sin, however, man has become a sinner and an enemy and hater of God. Man does not serve Him and does not love Him. But by grace the believer is reconciled to God (2Cor 5:18) and has received new life, the “divine nature” (2Pet 1:4). This life wants to, and can love and serve God.
6 - 9 Scope of the Commandments
6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The truth about God should not be preserved purely as theory, but the people should know that truth as fact and live up to it in practice. In orthodox churches this truth is incorporated in creeds. It is known as dogma, but where is it worked out in daily life? If the core of Christendom is a reality for everyday life, it will result in the Holy Spirit being given the guidance of personal and church life. God and His Word should be the normal themes of conversation for every member of God’s people, everywhere and at any time.
In the families parents will imprint and engrave upon their children, the core of the faith and train them according to the requirement of their way (Pro 3:1,3; 22:6). This also applies to the family of God. In the local churches, older believers, the fathers in Christ, will impress these things upon the youth. This teaching will only have an effect if it can be seen in the lives of those older believers.
It has been noted that Moses considers his law so simple and easy to understand that every father must be able to teach it to his children. There is no excuse for being negligent in this. It is not a matter of intellect, but of mind, of heart. It is about the careful handing down of the Word of God entrusted to us, to those who come after us, so that they too may be confirmed and blessed in obedience to it.
Love of God is expressed in features that can be seen in us. God's words determine not only our speaking to our children but also our actions. This is indicated here by “bind them as a sign on your hand”. It is visible to everyone, which is indicated by “frontals on your forehead”. The forehead speaks of the open testimony (Rev 13:16; 14:1) that we give of our love for God. When we “set the LORD continually before” us (Psa 16:8), this is manifested throughout our lives. God wants to be involved in every detail of our lives. There is nothing in the lives of His children of which He says: “That does not interest Me.’
Family life takes place in our houses. Family life is influenced by what enters our homes. We can apply the writing on the doorposts to the testing of everything we allow in our house against God’s Word. Are they things that build up or break down family life according to God’s thoughts? Does the relationship with each other, man and woman, parents and children and children among each other, bear the stamp of God’s Word as a property feature? Parental authority, which should always be respected, will certainly be respected when children see that the starting point is love for the Lord and the desire to obey Him.
Because the LORD is One, He is entitled to our undivided devotion. All His features are in perfect harmony with each other. There is no feature that conflicts with any of His other features. He is perfect in love and perfect in righteousness. Never is His love in conflict with His righteousness or the other way around. When He shows love, it never is at the expense of His righteousness. When He exercises righteousness, it never sets His love aside. In all His actions, every feature of Himself is answered perfectly.
10 - 11 The Blessing of the Land
10 “Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied,
After the previous conditions, the land opens up to us, as it were. Here is the first time out of three times in this chapter which talks about entering the land; and every time it is added that God has sworn it (verses 10,18,23). When God affirms His own words with an oath, He does so to meet us in our weakness and thereby provide additional confirmation of His promise (Heb 6:17-18). The oath makes it clear that no matter what happens, God will give His people the land and thereby give them the full enjoyment of its blessing. The foundation is the work of Christ. If God has sworn like this, why should we still doubt?
We always find an oath of God under special circumstances. God swears on four occasions, each time in connection with the land:
1. God promises to Abraham on the basis of the sacrifice of the son of the promise a rich seed in the land of the promise and in his seed a blessing to the whole world (Gen 22:16-18).
2. If the people apostates from God, He swears that the people will not enter the promised land (Psa 95:11).
3. If the people are unfaithful, God will fulfill His promises in the Man of His right hand (Psa 110:1,4).
4. If Christ reigns in the land, every knee will bow before Him, and the repented remnant of His people, who will then be all Israel because all the wicked are cut off, will be in the land (Isa 45:23).
The blessings are ready for us, there is nothing of us in it, God has prepared them. Present in the land, in the first place, are “great and splendid cities”. The church is compared to a city (Rev 21:2,10). Cities can be seen as a picture of local churches, as representations of one church. The cities here find themselves in the land. It proposes local churches that have their permanent foundation in the land, where they live in the riches of the heavenly blessing.
Secondly, there are “houses, full of all good things”. A city consists of houses. A church consists of families. In the letters that especially speak about the heavenly blessings –the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Colossians –, Paul also explicitly discusses the family (Eph 5:22-33; 6:1-4; Col 3:18-22). That is the place where the riches of Christ are shared with each other.
Thirdly, the “hewn cisterns”. These are water basins where the water is collected and from which it can be drawn. It represents ministry through the Lord’s gifts to perfect the saints (Eph 4:11-13).
Fourthly, we find in the land the “vineyards and olive trees”. The vineyards show us that the land is an area of joy. Wine is a picture of joy (Jdg 9:13; Psa 104:15a). Fellowship with the Father and the Son and with each other gives a “joy” that is “complete” (1Jn 1:3-4). The olive trees represent the rich fruit and blessing of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23a). Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:20; 1Jn 2:27).
In between it is pointed out time and again that God’s people did nothing for these blessings. By free grace God has given them His people. So it is with our heavenly blessings. There is no contribution from us. We have received them out of free favor on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus, only because God has had it in His heart to give them to us. Three times we are reminded that we were slaves of sin, but God has delivered us from it (verses 12,21,23).
12 - 15 Do Not Forget the LORD
12 then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 You shall fear [only] the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. 14 You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, 15 for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.
Sometimes we can be so busy with what we have been given, that we forget the Giver. Therefore the warning sounds that we should watch ourselves in our preoccupation with blessings, we then do not forget Who gave them to us.
The fall from the highest level is the most terrible fall. If we do not walk according to the truth that has been given to us, it will be to great harm. Then we are driven out of the land, we lose sight of the things of the land. The worst pain is for Him Who has sworn to bring us into those blessings.
It is about a land that the people will inherit. They are the heirs and as such they may take possession of it. This brings into view the sonship of the believers. The view of sonship, and the fullness of its enjoyment, has been lost because Christians have given in to Satan’s temptation to seek their happiness in the visible world. Not standing before God, but being in an environment that is attractive to the flesh, has seized the hearts. The Lord Jesus did not give in to that temptation. He is the example of how we can stand to the temptation of the devil.
The words of verse 13 compose the first quotation of the three quotations from this book by the Lord Jesus during the forty days He is tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Deu 6:13,16; 8:3; Mt 4:1-10). The Lord uses these words in response to the devil’s temptation to give Him all the kingdoms of the world and their lordship when He falls down before him and worships him (Mt 4:8-10). The devil also has countless means of asking us to kneel down. God has made man able to worship and has given him the need to do so. The only question is: to whom and what does he give his worship.
No man on earth has ever been so desiring to receive the heavenly blessings as Man from God’s hand as the Lord Jesus. Therefore, during the temptation, He plants firm footing on the book of Deuteronomy. He puts himself on the true ground of responsibility and faithfulness, on which the people of God must place themselves in order to take possession of and preserve the heavenly land. He is forty days tried in the wilderness, as Deuteronomy 1-11 look back on the forty years of Israel in the wilderness. Israel has failed there, but He doesn’t fail. The manner in which He takes His stand, we can follow and is the only way.
16 - 19 Do Not Put the Lord to the Test
16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested [Him] at Massah. 17 You should diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18 You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the LORD swore to [give] your fathers, 19 by driving out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has spoken.
Verse 16 gives the second text quoted by the Lord Jesus during the temptation by the devil in the wilderness (Mt 4:5-7). The temptation to which the people are subjected is their doubt as to whether the LORD is among them (Exo 17:7). If there is mistrust of the goodness and faithfulness of God, when there are so many undeniable proofs of it, the temptation arises to test Him to see if He still wants to bless His people. It is not about doubting oneself, but about doubting God, and that is unbelief. Can He forget His people or leave them?
The Lord Jesus cannot be made to doubt about this. In his temptation, the devil cites a few verses from Psalm 91 about God’s safekeeping (Psa 91:11-12). If the Lord Jesus would put God to the test, whether it is indeed as it says, that would prove unbelief. The devil always quotes partially: he extracts text from its context. Thus he does not mention here that it is about walking in the ways of the LORD.
Whosoever walks in the ways of the LORD knows the LORD, and may count on his safekeeping. Such a man has no need of proof that God’s faithfulness endures in blessing toward His people. A lively relationship with Him saves us from putting Him to the test. The Lord Jesus also enjoyed such fellowship uninterruptedly during the forty days of temptation.
Israel will reach the land. As already mentioned, this chapter reminds us no less than three times that the LORD has sworn this (verses 10,18,23). What, then, is there still to be put to the test? It is not without vital significance that God confirms His promise with an oath.
This chapter is about inheriting or taking possession (verses 1,18) of the inheritance. It is in this light that the temptations must be seen, for the quotations to resist the devil come from this chapter. The quotation the Lord makes from Deuteronomy 8 is in connection with sonship. Inheritance and sonship belong together (Gal 4:7). The sonship of the believer is closely linked to knowing and enjoying the inheritance that God has given us, which are the blessings in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3-6).
Taking possession or inheriting does not mean getting something when the testator has died, but that God entrusts a certain property to someone. He can do that now or later. In the New Testament to inherit has to do with sharing with the Lord Jesus in His reign (Eph 1:10-11). To inherit is used for every blessing that God has given us and that we will receive in the heavens.
We are sons and therefore heirs. Through the Spirit of sonship, we are able to get to know the heart of the Father. We are children of God by birth, because we are born of God. This means that we have received His nature, which is light and love. We are also sons, which speaks more of maturity, of understanding God’s thoughts and intentions, and of fellowship.
The highest aspect of the inheritance is the spiritual blessing in the heavenly land, which is our property and which we are already allowed to take possession of. We have received the divine nature that makes us suitable to be in heaven. We are accepted in the Beloved, chosen for the sonship before God. God wants sons for Himself. He wants to have spiritual contact with them to talk about the things in His heart.
20 - 25 Testimony of the Father
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What [do] the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments [mean] which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ 24 So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as [it is] today. 25 It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.
In verse 7 the parents are commanded to speak to their sons about the commandments of the LORD. Here, in verse 20, the son comes with a question. We find four times a son asking a question:
1. The question concerning the Passover; this question is, in picture, about redemption (Exo 12:26).
2. The question about the redemption of the firstborn. Here, in picture, it is about separation for and devotion to the LORD (Exo 13:14).
3. The question regarding the passage through the Jordan, is, in picture, the conquest of the heavenly position by the church through her connection with a once dead, risen and glorified Man (Jos 4:6).
4. The question concerning the meaning of the Word of God (Deu 6:20).
The testimony of the parents is about the redemption from Egypt. But that’s not all. The LORD has redeemed his people from Egypt to bring them into the land which he promised the fathers.
That is also God’s purpose with our redemption. He did not only want to save us from the power of Satan, sin and the world, so that we could have forgiveness of sins and peace with God. His goal with us is also that we will enjoy the blessings of the land. This means that as His own sons we would be “holy and blameless before Him in love” (Eph 1:4-5).