Remembering the Deeds of God 1-8
This chapter begins with the word “now”, as to say “see what the Lord has done. (Chapter 1-3) We are told to “listen” to the revelation of God. In remembering the deeds of God at Baal-Peor (Numbers 27:12) and the revelation which God shared (Verses 5-6) three elements are primary. The action of God, (Verses 1-4) the knowledge of God, (Verses 5-6) and the presence of God. (Verses 7-8)
The Action of God 1-4
In this exhortation the people are told not to add or subtract from the words that the Lord has given them. God’s word is adequate. Those of faith and unfaithfulness should know that God’s actions are for their instruction. For the faithless at Baal-Peor their fate was clear, “Your eyes have seen what the LORD has done in the case of Baal-Peor, for all the men who followed Baal-Peor, the LORD your God has destroyed them from among you.” The fate of the faithful is just as instructive. “But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you.”
The Knowledge of God 5-6
Moses was faithful in his teaching of what God had told him. God’s action among the people precipitated the knowledge of God. God’s knowledge in the lives of His people is experiential and dynamic. The teaching of God will bring about three things in the lives of His listeners. They will keep what God teaches, they will do what God teaches, and others will discover, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
The Presence of God 7-8
The greatest gift in life is the gift of self. And that is what God has given to His people, Himself. From the Exodus forward the presence of God among His people was the context they lived in. The concept of God’s presence was from the beginning when He called Moses. This was true in corporate Israel. “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?” With the presence of God the people also had His law. The law was not given as a penalty but as a light to guide His people in fulfilling the covenant relationship.
Remembering the Revelation of God
The second exhortation of Moses to Israel focused on remembering the revelation of God. Someone has said that the forth chapter of Deuteronomy is a commentary on the second commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why is this so? Because God is not revealed through an idol but through the creative Word. God was not revealed to Israel at Sinai by images but by words and deeds of redemption.
Revelation and Remembrance are Inseparable 9
The people were not only to remember God’s revelation but they were to share His revelation with their children. The emphasis is on learning and teaching and is consistent in Deuteronomy. The use of the words remember and forget is more than the issue of forgetting or a lapse of memory. Remembering is to be a deliberate act of commitment to remembering and deliberate acts to not repudiation or forget. We are to guard the treasure of our experience with the Lord. There is an element of nurture in maintaining ones relationship with God.
Revelation and Word are Inseparable 10-14
The word of revelation may be audible or inaudible. In Psalm 19:3-4 we read, “There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun.” At Sinai Israel saw no form but they heard the Lord’s voice. The word of God’s revelation must be communicated to the people. The word came through reverential awe or “fear”, and is transmitted or taught to one’s children.
Revelation and Idolatry are Incompatible 15-24
Idolatry was rejected in Israel because it made God into an object which reduced God to a single object. The revelation of God comes through His word, living, active, and dynamic. There are times His word is like new wine, fermenting and active, churning in the heat of its own movement and unable to rest in old wineskins.
The idols of today’s contemporary world are subtle but are rampant in society. An understanding of God that limits Him to a single aspect of His nature and character is a subtle form of idolatry. God comes to us in the reality of His Word, the creative and redeeming power of God in our lives to address our inner person and effective for the whole person.
Remembering the Alternatives of God 25-31
Deuteronomy often cast its message through the use of polarities. In addition to the polarities in the larger speeches in which God’s action or character are set against human response other patterns also emerge. For example, the closing cycle of the book places cursing and blessing before the people or the ways of life and death. So here also, the polar alternatives of God are clear, scattered among the nations (25-28) or searching for God. (20-31)
Scattered Among the Nations 25-28
This alternative to serving God happened to Israel when they were exiled to Babylon. Israel was confronted with this alternative when they began idol worship. “When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God so as to provoke Him to anger.” As a result God scattered them among the nations. If we abandon our relationship with God we also lose our hedge of protection.
Searching For God 29-31
God is a compassionate God and if we seek Him, even as we have been scattered, He will bring us back into His fold. “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” The decision is ours to make, to abide in the Lord or to reject Him, and the fate of that decision is ours to bear.
Remembering the Uniqueness of God
This exhortation to Israel, as to later covenant persons, closes with five characteristics of God in relationship to the covenant community, plus a final exhortation.
Unique in Action 32
The whole of history is filled with the uniqueness of God. When looking at the religions of the world we can discover positive moral factors or exemplary human figures. But none can find a comparable emphasis on God’s unique action in history as what can be seen in the Bible. The challenge is clear for all to see, go back as far in time as the creation “inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it?” The actions of God in history and to this day are completely unique in the world’s history.
Unique in Revelation 33
God is unique in that He spoke to Israel. Whether one understands the nature of speaking as external and audible or inaudible, God is unique in His revelation. The world’s gods are revealed in fixed forms of the idols. But God’s revelation comes through the living Word. It is the uniqueness of the Word of God that gives the revelation of God and it was manifested when “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Unique in Redemption 34
God’s redemptive activity is unique. No other god had redeemed his people as God had redeemed His. “Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” God’s redemptive work through the Exodus of His people could be extended to other acts of redemption in history. The prime example can be seen on a hill outside of the city walls of Jerusalem. Concluding with the empty tomb by a risen redeemer. No other deity has acted in a unique fashion to redeem humanity.
Unique in Communion 35-36
There are two aspects of God’s communion generated through God’s redemption that are significant. The uniqueness of the Exodus and at Sinai is in order that, “you might know that the LORD, He is God.” God also shared Himself through His Word to “hear His voice to discipline you.” His discipline is to teach, to give advice, and to listen and reason. God has given Himself to us that we might learn and be led by Him in discipleship.
Unique in Devotion 37-40
The Lord is uniquely devoted to His people. His devotion is because “He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants.” Because of His devotion and the promises that He made to the patriarchs the Lord chose to give them a land for their inheritance. It the context of such a devotion they should know “there is no other besides Him.”
Knowing the uniqueness of God and who He is we should chose to live out our lives in His revelation.
Cities of Refuge 41-43
Chapter 19 deals more fully with the cities of refuge.
The Character of God and the Conduct of Man
The Ten Words, (Deuteronomy 4:13) more commonly known as the Ten Commandments, appear in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. They constitute the highly compressed stipulations attached to covenant relationships and convey the demand of God for the redeemed persons. But viewed from another perspective, the Ten Words are also an index to the character of God. Just as legislation passed by a state or national legislature is an index to the character of elected officials, so the Ten Words portray the character of God. The polarity to God’s character is the conduct of persons. For chapters 6-11 constitute a clearly delineated statement of what it means to be the people of God. Hence one might outline the second speech of Moses according to the character of God (chapter 5) and the conduct of man. (Chapters 6-11)
Giving the Law
But prior to the beginning of Moses’ second speech, there is an introduction to the giving of the law. First the law was described with regard to its content and to the locale of its declaration. The law consisted of the testimonies, the statutes, and the ordinances. While these three categories should not be interpreted as rigid distinctions, they did come from a late Old Testament era when the law had fully developed. Each word gives a careful distinction of categories within the larger law. Second, the law was ascribed to the time when Israel encamped to Moab, across the Jordan; and according to Deuteronomy, Moses gave the law a second time. The giving of the law was also linked to the conquest of the trans-Jordan tribes.