Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Five Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verses 1-3: "Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: 'Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.'" Moses continued to speak to the leaders and people of Israel during the last 30-days of his life. This was the time when he spoke the Book of Deuteronomy out loud to them. As an analogy to this chapter, those who drive automobiles are aware of the importance of stop signs and other laws governing our behavior on the road. Those who don't obey such signals and signs involve themselves and others in auto accidents, and when caught breaking the law, we are subject to fines and possibly jail sentences for infractions. And note in these verses that even though traffic laws were invented by our grandparents or possibly our great grandparents, we are subject to those laws right now as though they just became law today. Israel was subject to the Law of God as seen in this chapter and so are we.
Verses 4-6: "The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, 5 while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, 6 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.'" This was a younger generation, but Moses spoke to them as though they personally remembered these events from the past, but it was their parents who heard the original words spoken in Exodus 20. Moses was still alive, Joshua and Caleb were—otherwise it was Israel's deceased parents and grandparents who received God's Law at Mount Horeb (Sinai). We were not present then either, but read the words of this chapter carefully, for you and I are responsible before God to respond to these words from so long ago. Atheists pretend that God doesn't exist because they are afraid. At some deep level all of us KNOW that the Lord exists, but we fear Him who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and He is our Judge. Like Israel, we are instead meant to be continually thankful—much like they were delivered from slavery in Egypt, we are saved from sin and death by Christ Jesus. Verse 6 is the beginning of the First Commandment, which continues into Verse 7.
When we finally see that the Living God is our Creator, understanding that He, the One who loves us, has become our Savior, we begin to recognize that we belong to God. Then the words of Verse 7 make perfect sense: "You shall have no other gods before Me." We are His and He became ours through His work on the Cross. We have no other creator, no other lord, and nothing, no one else can save us. Our money cannot be our "god" because it, along with everything else, belongs to the Lord. Our bodies belong to Him along with all that is, and it's time to wake up, turn to Him and trust in the Lord who gave His life for you and me. The Lord is our God... and Savior.
Verses 8-10: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." The Lord God created you, He sustains you, and He intends that you will inherit everything good, now and forever. He knows the dangers you face, infinitely better than you do, and He jealously guards the faith, hearts and lives of those who trust in Him—for all eternity. To "hate" the Lord (as seen in Verse 9) is simply refusing to have faith in Him. Most in humanity regard our children as greatly important, which draws us to the words of Acts 2:38-39—The promise of repentance resulting in the remission of sins through Jesus Christ coupled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, "is to you, your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." If you place your faith in the Lord, others will be drawn to Him, too.
Verse 11: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." It has become unsettlingly common to speak words such as "God" in a careless manner, which is the concern here. Yes it is terrible to use this and other related words as profanity, but an abbreviated phrase such as "OMG" is also the thrust of this verse. God is holy. Everything about Him is holy, which is to say—set apart, completely outside of the sinfulness of mankind. He is absolutely pure, just and true, and His character, His name, any description of Him is holy as well. Note carefully that punishment will visit those who use His name in vain, learning first-hand the words of Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:5-6—"whom the Lord loves He corrects." He loves even the profane person to the extent that His rod of correction will be applied to all who take God's name in vain.
Verses 12-15: "Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." It's thought by many that we should be industrious at all times and never be what is called "lazy." The history of Israel at that time included centuries of slavery in which they were never allowed to rest. Industriousness is good but so is the rest we were created to need. Notice here that it is not only the owner or manager who is to rest, but also your workers, animals, family and any visitors you might have. David, who worked diligently but also saw the importance of rest, observed, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him," and he continued, "Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way" (Psalm 37:7). We need REST, defined by David as resting "in the Lord," waiting patiently for Him, not being concerned about the one who makes money on the day we don't work. Jesus touched our deepest need when He said, "Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Verse 16: "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you." Ephesians 6:1-4 teaches children to "Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right," and parents are to learn: "You, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Among the last verses of Deuteronomy 4, we saw that cities in Israel were set up as places of refuge. Someone could run there for safety from any vigilante justice that pursued them. The family was created as a place of refuge. If everyone is against us, our family should offer safety within a troubled world. But something is terribly wrong because members of families often only listen to themselves and family members war against each other like armies invading a foreign land. If family members are like enemies, it's time to remember the Lord's words in Matthew 5:44—"Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you..." Such concern for enemies, family or not, is humanly impossible, except that, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). And you can, too.
The verses in Deuteronomy 5:17-20 contain the Sixth through the Ninth Commandments: 17 "You shall not murder. 18 You shall not commit adultery. 19 You shall not steal. 20 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Can you imagine what the world would be like if nobody murdered anyone; adultery and stealing never happened, and lies were a thing of the past? For one thing, the world's newscasters would go out of business, along with attorneys, police and others needed to keep the peace in this very angry world. Verse 17 is not about accidentally killing somebody—it forbids the crime of premeditated murder. And carefully note the Lord's words in Matthew 5, where He points out that even our murderous or adulterous THOUGHTS condemn us in the sight of God. Thinking is where it starts for all of these deviant acts, including stealing and lies, which start in the mind and end in big trouble for all concerned. We must be "born again... born of the Spirit," as Jesus taught in John 3:7-8, stopping this cycle of sin and death where it starts—in ourselves.
The idea that wrong actions come out of sinful thoughts is borne out in Verse 21, the Tenth Commandment: "You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." This is the commandment which brought the Apostle Paul to his knees and it should do the same for us. The Law against coveting revealed to this outwardly religious man that he was a sinner like everybody else. As all have done, Paul coveted (wanted) what or who did not belong to him, lamenting in Romans 7:7 and forward, "I would not have known sin except through the Law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the Law had said, 'You shall not covet..." That's what the Law is all about—it exposes to the smug and self-righteous that all of us, you and me, are sinners in need of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Verses 22-27: "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23 And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24 You said, 'Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. 25 Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die. 26 For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27 Go near and hear all that the Lord our God says; then speak to us all that the Lord our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’" It's one thing to hear about something good and approve of it, but something else to DO what is good. The people agreed with the words expressed by the Lord through Moses, but history reveals that hearing and doing are unfortunately two very different things. The one who admires the Law cheats on his income tax. My father taught me to not steal, but after his death we noted from the contents of boxes in his garage that he pilfered items from work on a regular basis. Sadly, you have broken and will break the Law of God. Faith accepts that "the blood of Jesus Christ (God's) Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7); operative through the heartfelt response to 1 John 1:9—"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." James said it this way: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:10). Jesus saves!
Verses 28-33: "The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, 'I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! 30 Go, say to them, 'Return to your tents.' 31 But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess. 32 So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.'" If you, your organization, or your country rejects the Law of God, it's a real concern and you need to pray! The Commandments are God's message to the world that we desperately need the Lord, and note Verse 28: The Lord hears you, hears your words, knows your thoughts—at all times. His Law is a life-long test like in a classroom and we all fail the test. But join Paul the Apostle in the words of Romans 7:25-8:1—"I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." He continued, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." We haven't fully understood the homework and our performance on tests has been poor, but we pass the test though faith in Christ Jesus. We trust in Him who did what we cannot do. Our certificate of graduation is God's Holy Spirit—He Himself lives in us.
Father, I am a sinner in need of salvation. I confess my sins and place my faith, trust, hope and heart into the Hands of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. I am Yours, Lord. Please forgive me and give me life—in You. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.