The title of the book of Deuteronomy literally means second law. Moses is reiterating for the people of Israel the commands of God. The nation left Egypt nearly four decades ago, an entire generation lies buried in the desert. And now it will be time for the people of God to enter and take possession of the land.
Before the nation enters the land, God will use Moses as his spokesman one final time. God will have Moses remind the people of the laws of God that the nation received when they were still children, fresh out of Egypt. For the first 3 chapters of this book, Moses reminded the people of their basic history. In chapter 4, Moses begins to point to the law. And what Moses has to say is beautiful.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2 – 1 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 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.
As God prepares to send Israel into her land, he points them directly to his word and his promise. He has promised them the land. But he has also shown them, as a people, how to live so as to be under his favor. And it all centers on the word of God.
Moses tells the people not to add to or take from the word of God. They are not to make up new commands, laws, or styles of worship that God did not command. They were not to adopt the religious practices and pagan moralities of the people living in Canaan. Nor were they to bring to the table new, fresh, never-before-seen ideas about who God is and how he is to be considered. They were to stick with the revelation of God they had received.
Neither was the nation to take from the word of God. It was not for Israel to enter the land and then ignore what God had commanded them about sacrifice, about marriage, or about justice. They were to worship as God prescribed. They were to shape their society as God had prescribed. And they, if they were to continue to be in God’s favor, were to keep his law without cutting it down.
As Christians who live under the New Covenant, we are not necessarily required to obey the laws that God gave to Israel about camping in the desert or the laws of sacrifice that were a shadow of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. But we would be fools not to see that the law of God shows who God is and what are his standards. God’s law teaches us about justice, genuine justice. God’s law teaches us about marriage and family. God’s law teaches us about God’s requirements for human sexuality. God’s law teaches us about God’s holiness. God’s law shows us that no sin has ever been forgiven without a substitutionary sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice—the sacrifice of Jesus—making atonement.
When God had Moses tell the people to keep his law and neither to add to nor take from it, God was showing the people that he had blessed them greatly. God had given them the information they needed to live as his people. This is a kindness from God beyond what we can imagine. God is not required by any external standard to let us know who he is or what he desires. God has every right to cast us into hell for sin even if he never tells us what sin is. But God chose to graciously reveal himself in his word. God chose to graciously reveal his worship, his standards, and his ways in his word.
May we never be a people who do anything less than treasure God’s word. Yes, from time to time we will need to examine Old Testament law closely to learn what is the timeless principle for today’s application. But there is such a thing. God’s law is perfect. God’s word is good. And we as the people of God love the law of God because that law reveals to us the God we worship if indeed we worship the true God. Never let any part of the word of God go. Never stop loving the word of God. Never change or twist the word of God. Let the law of God reveal to you our God and lead you to worship Jesus, the Son of God, who perfectly fulfilled the law of God on our behalf.