I honestly do not know how to shape things from today’s reading into a single, coherent, devotional thought. Yet there are big thoughts from the Lord to see in Deuteronomy 4.
Deuteronomy 4:2 – You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
Verse 2 caught my attention, because it is so very familiar, and yet it is not where I expected to find it. I know that the Proverbs and the book of Revelation have verses that warn against adding to or taking from or changing the word of God. But I had honestly forgotten that the same command happens right here at the end of the ministry of Moses. And because it feels new to me, it helps me to stop and realize the significant point that the Lord is making in his word time-and-time again.
God has given us his word. God has given us his commands. His word is solid and sure. To add to his word, take from his word, change his word, manipulate his word, ignore his word, or battle against his word is to sin against the Lord. His word is how we know him. His word is how we serve him. His word is central to any relationship with God.
So, first, we must ask if we truly understand the unfathomable gift of the word of God. The Bible is God allowing us to know him and to obey him. Do we treasure his word enough? Do we learn it? Do we keep it? O may we not allow our own minds, our own best guesses, our own sinfully tainted hearts develop for us our view of the Lord. Instead, may we keep his word.
Deuteronomy 4:9-13 – 9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.
As Moses reminds the Israelites of the things they have experienced, the revelation of God at Mt. Sinai 38 years before, he says something that grabs my heart today. The Lord revealed himself to his people and he commands them to remember. The Lord calls on the present generation not to turn up their noses at the things they learned as children, at the things their parents saw as adults, at the things which shook their souls to their core as they realized they stood in the presence of a holy God.
Consider the command of verse 9: keep your soul diligently. God calls on his people to battle to keep our souls. This is no argument against a New Testament doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Rather, it is the means by which we participate in that doctrine. The Lord keeps his own. But the Lord commands his own to keep their souls.
We face a hard world full of skeptics, critics, and temptations. It is so very easy for us to let the sinful thoughts and evil practices of the world seep into our souls. Eventually, if we are not diligent, we will find that our thinking is turned away from the Lord. We will find that our hearts grow cold against the Lord. We will find that our desires are no longer those of the Lord. We must fight. Yes, God will keep his own. Yes, God’s Spirit in us will preserve us. Yes, God will move us. But we must pray, repent, love his word, and battle to keep our souls in these evil days.
And, finally in this section, notice the word “commanded” in verse 13. As God leads Moses to point the people to the Ten Commandments, the terms of his covenant with national Israel, God says that he commanded them to keep those words. Please note that God did not grovel to persuade Israel. God did not beg or plead. Instead, God identified himself as the Lord. God showed them he is God, the Creator and Ruler of all. And God commanded the people to obey his word. He commanded repentance. He commanded obedience.
I wonder, in our day, if we are preaching strongly enough that repentance is not simply a persuasive option we are to hold out to others. I wonder if we are spending time trying to get people to like God enough to maybe give him their time. I wonder if we are acting as though God is having a sale and they should at least drop by and check out the prices. No! This is not the way of the Lord. God is God. God is Lord. God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). We are not to turn to God based on emotion or our liking of his offer—though it is great if we do. Rather, we are to bow to our God as Lord and submit to his authority as the God over all.