Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Chosen By The Lord
Verses 1-2: "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." Note God's commands in this chapter. Not all of them are for everybody because some were specific to Israel, God's chosen nation—blessedly not all are called to invade the land of Canaan. We are, nowever, to obey without question the commands that are directed to us. Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-40, quoted Deuteronomy 6:5—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." He continued, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," citing Leviticus 19:18. He concluded, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." We are to love God with everything we've got, helping those around us as though we are doing it for ourselves. We are to KEEP the commands which sum up the Law for us all. Loving someone to such a degree is humanly impossible, but blessedly, He makes all things possible for those who trust in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 3-6: "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. 4 But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you. 5 See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. 6 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'" Most people believe in something called "luck," described as events out of our control with outcomes that may seem randomly "good" or "bad" for us. But the concept of "luck" doesn't recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives. He is continually shaping events with the intention that we will discover Him and connect with Him through faith. That is why Moses was here reminding Israel of recent events that went well for some and were disasters for others. It was God who destroyed the idolators at Baal-peor, and it was God who kept His faithful ones alive to this moment when Moses addressed the nation. We are to look into Scripture, see His deliverance, and also look back on our lives, for God has rescued us many times. Even the "bad" we experience becomes good when it leads to faith in the Lord (Romans 8:28). And the bonus for us, if we trust in the Lord, is that others will see our changed lives and want Him, too.
Verses 7-9: "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? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? 9 Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons." Humanity is a race of idolators. All over the world, people idolize money, control, relationships, power; coveting what they don't have with frantic zeal, worshiping things instead of God. Nations everywhere make strict laws, but fail to recognize the Law of God. We are to look at the Lord through His works recorded in Scripture and understand what life is all about. We are to see what the Lord has done and discover our need of Him, then telling His wondrous works to our children and all who will listen.
Verses 10-13: "Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.' 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. 13 So 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." God is communicating with every one of us. Just like the Ten Commandments were given to Israel, as seen in Exodus 20 and as we will see in Deuteronomy 5, God is speaking to everyone, especially those who will listen. He speaks through Scripture, which is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). His Holy Spirit "will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). He listens and responds when we pray (Mark 11:22-24). The Ten Commandments, written on stone, were given so we might see our sinfulness and need (Romans 7:12-14), and Jesus Christ, written on our hearts, was sent to rescue us from sin and death (Romans 7:24-25).
Verses 14-19: "The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it. 15 So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, 16 so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth. 19 And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." The word "Horeb" we saw in Verse 10 is another name for Mount Sinai, the place where Moses received the Law he is discussing at this moment. We are so easily drawn into worshiping the things of this world, and people typically don't recognize the idolatry they have fallen into; so God kept the people from seeing the events revealed to Moses, lest they be drawn into idol worship by some outward aspect of what happened. These words are a reminder of the Second Commandment revealed in Deuteronomy 5:8-9. Anything that draws our attention away from the God who created us, is idolatry. That's why, even though we are surrounded by angelic beings at this moment, we do not see them—God is saving us from sin.
Verses 20-24: "But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today. 21 Now the Lord was angry with me on your account, and swore that I would not cross the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 22 For I will die in this land, I shall not cross the Jordan, but you shall cross and take possession of this good land. 23 So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." God chose Israel, taking them out of Egypt, a place of slavery that felt to the people like an "iron furnace." Christ took us out of the iron furnace of death and delivered us into eternal life (Romans 6:23). Moses was just a man and would not be able to perform the act of leading the people into Canaan, but Jesus, who became a man, was also the Son of God who leads us into eternity as our inheritance. We are to watch ourselves because we easily become distracted by things like money, power and possessions—instead of the God who jealously guards us.
Verses 25-28: "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, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you. 28 There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell." Has it ever occurred to you that the money people will work for, steal and even risk death for, is actually just pieces of paper or bits of metal, cleverly inscribed, but actually worthless—except that people agree to fool themselves, pretending that money has value. People say "money talks" but it really doesn't. The faces, the images on money don't see, hear, eat or smell—they have no intelligence or love that will help you. Gold is just a soft, pretty metal that has no value except that people pretend it does. Our only hope, our only deliverance from the idolatry of this world, is to to trust in the Lord. He brings infinite value to your life and mine. Faith in the Lord leads to life. Idolatry leads to destruction and the ultimate loss of everything we have been given.
Verses 29-31: "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. 31 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." At some point, as someone proceeds on the downward path to destruction, he or she will "hit bottom," providing an opportunity to look up and find the Lord. God will say in His compassion to those who look to Him, "Here I am," and you will finally meet Him, deep in the center of your being. You will praise to the Lord who has sought you and waited for you all this time, finding the covenant of His peace offered to all who at last find faith in the Lord.
Verses 32-35: "Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and 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? 33 Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? 34 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? 35 To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him." The Lord reveals Himself to His people, delivering those who trust in Him. When Israel was saved from slavery in Egypt, God rescued the nation with great miracles and Moses reminded them of the power and love of God in these verses. The nation Israel is a living parable—God keeps His word and delivers His people. There have been miracles in your life and mine, some of which we might have noticed, though many of His actions for us are "below the radar" of our understanding. We are to see that "the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him."
Verses 36-40: "Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37 Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, 38 driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. 39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. 40 So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time." God intends that you will see He is utterly strong, full of love, intelligent and wise. He is able to deliver you and He wants to do it. As your contribution, you are to believe, to trust in Him who loves you. Just as Israel was delivered from Egypt, He longs to deliver you from sin and death, which is why Jesus died for us on the cross. All humanity is in desperate need of the Lord, who did the work of redemption that is too great for us. We failed to keep His commands, but "The Father "made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus, our Great Sacrifice, died for you and me.
Verses 41-43: "Then Moses set apart three cities across the Jordan to the east, 42 that a manslayer might flee there, who unintentionally slew his neighbor without having enmity toward him in time past; and by fleeing to one of these cities he might live: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau for the Reubenites, and Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites." Can you place yourself into the culture of that time? Consider how it would feel to accidentally kill someone and be chased by the angry family of the deceased. Vengeance fills the minds of your pursuers as you run for your life. So here were three cities east of the Jordan River, ordained by God to be places of refuge, safety, until an impartial hearing could be held to determine your guilt or innocence. We have such a place. We are offered a "strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:18). Our city of refuge is the New Jerusalem, reserved for those who hope in the Lord. Yes we have sinned, but we are safe in Him who has declared our innocence in Christ Jesus.
Verses 44-49: "Now this is the law which Moses set before the sons of Israel; 45 these are the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, when they came out from Egypt, 46 across the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the sons of Israel defeated when they came out from Egypt. 47 They took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who were across the Jordan to the east, 48 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon, even as far as Mount Sion (that is, Hermon), 49 with all the Arabah across the Jordan to the east, even as far as the sea of the Arabah, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah." The words of these verses were very personal to Joshua, the secretary of Moses, who was being named as Moses' successor. Moses was the author, but Joshua likely was the scribe who wrote the words of Moses, which were actually from the Holy Spirit. All this was especially pertinent to this younger man, who needed his spirits lifted by these reminders that God who had delivered them in the past would do so in the future. And note that God, who has allowed you to trust in His Son, has said about you, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you..." to receive the miracle of salvation in Christ Jesus (John 15:16).
Lord, I am astonished. Just as You chose Moses, Joshua, Peter, John and the nation Israel, You have chosen me for salvation and healing. I say "yes" to You, Lord. I trust in You. I am Yours. Thank You. Please forgive my sins and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name. Amen.