Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 4:1-49, Luke 6:39-7:10, Psalm 68:1-18, Proverbs 11:28.
We begin today’s reading with Moses reminding the Israelites of truth and reminding them of the consequences of not adhering to the truth.
Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
Moses was giving them a truth-filled pep talk before the game begins. They are about to enter the long-awaited Promise land and he has only 40 days to get them ready. He is going to teach them the laws and decrees of God. Surely, they have heard these before. But it was the first generation of Israelites, the ones who have now died out, who originally received these instructions. This is the second generation, and Moses needs to make sure they understand. He sums up his message at the beginning. He follows the old speech writers’ method: Tell ‘em what you are going to tell them, then tell it, then tell what you told them.
He begins this oracle with a reason to listen intently: Follow them so that you may live. These instructions are words and actions that bring life, not death; blessing, not cursing; pleasure, not pain. And these commandments should not be added to or subtracted from. They should not be adjusted to be more pleasing nor tweaked to be easier to follow. They have been established and they are what they are.
Next, he taps into their experience. It was this second generation who experienced the plague at Baal Peor. And what is this he is referring to? It is the episode when Balaam told Balak how to trip up the Israelites. “Send in the women,” he said. It was not just the sexual sin that was the problem. It was the idolatry. These sin seduced the men, but also invited and encouraged them to worship their false gods. And they did. And it did not go well with them. All those who participated in this revelry died in the plague.
3 You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.
Moses is speaking to those who did not participate in sin. They displayed great wisdom in this choice. Yes, wisdom indeed is to learn from others mistakes so you don’t have to make them, too. And all of those who held fast to the Lord were listening now. And he reminds them to continue to hold fast.
23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
An interesting comparison is between the first generation and the second generation. Both generations were guilty of idolatry—the first generation made a golden calf as an idol; the second generation followed after the gods of the Midianites. They needed to be reminded of some things. They needed to know of their bent toward idolatry, lest the same mistakes be repeated generation after generation. And he reminds them once again about the responsibility to remember.
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
What is the lesson for our practical application? First, we must remember that we, too, are prone to idolatry. We can make an idol of anything. Even good, godly things can become an idol. Anything we believe in our hearts or acknowledge with our actions as more important than our relationship with God is an idol. And what is the remedy, the protection for our propensity to make idols? Remembrance. Be very careful and watch yourself closely so you don’t forget. We must remember who He is, what He has done, and what He promises to do. And then, we pass this faith, this remembrance, down to our children and grandchildren.
Today, ask the Lord to reveal if there is anything that is an idol in our lives. And then be willing to repent and renounce the idol’s position in your heart.
28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.
Praise God for His mercy!