The first four chapters of Deuteronomy records Moses’ first sermon to the people of Israel as they are only weeks away from crossing over the Jordan River and entering the promised land. Remember that this book records the sermons of Moses who is not giving the law a second time but is explaining and teaching the meaning of the law to the people. The first sermon called upon Israel to see the faithfulness of God and understand the road to success for entering into glorious land promised to them. The second sermon of Moses begins in chapter 5, with its introduction in 4:44-4:49, and continues through chapter 26. So we will break down this sermon into smaller parts over the next few lessons looking at how Moses is encouraging and preparing the people to enter the land.
The Covenant Declared (5:1-33)
Moses stands on the edge of the promised land and summons Israel to listen to the statutes that he will speak to them (5:1). The people were to learn the law of God and keep it. Moses tells them that this was a special covenant in that it was only given to them (5:2). This law was not given to other peoples. It was not given to other nations. It was not given to Gentiles. It was not given to anyone except these people of Israel who were now standing at the mountain (5:3). God came down on that mountain and Moses stood between the Lord and the people, declaring the word of the Lord to them (5:4-5). Moses took the role of intercessor and mediator, standing between God and the people.
Before declaring the commandments, I want you to notice what God said in verse 6. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God declares what he has done for Israel. I rescued you. The law comes after God’s gracious salvation. Obedience is a joyful response to the Lord who has loved us and redeemed us. We are to obey because God has saved us. This is the message as the covenant is declared to the people. I saved you. Therefore, have no other gods but me. Therefore, do not have any idols. Therefore, do not misuse my name. Therefore, keep my Sabbath holy. Therefore, honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, and do not covet. God says that he saved Israel and now makes a glorious covenant with them.
Then Moses tells them about the grace of God that had been revealed on that mountain. Look at verses 24-26. “This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived?” (Deuteronomy 5:24–26 ESV)
God’s voice displayed the power and glory of God. Imagine how powerful God’s voice was so that the people thought they were going to die. It caused the people to realize that no one should be able to hear God’s voice and still live. In verse 28 you will notice that the Lord says that their reaction was correct. The fear of the Lord was correct and understanding the power of God’s voice so that they will listen and obey. Verse 29 is the key to chapter 5.
Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV)
This is what God desires: that we would have a heart to fear God and keep all his commands. Not a heart that keeps some of his commands, but every single one. We would not excuse ourselves from some of God’s command. We desire to do all of them. God wants us to revere him. We are to respect his words. When God speaks, we listen. What God says, we will do. This is everything to being a follower of Jesus. Rebellion begins from not caring to keep God’s word. Disobedience comes from not having this fear of God’s voice. We must have a respect for the word of God. God has spoken to us and we hold it in our hands with these 66 books. This respect leads to our obedience. Look at verses 32-33.
You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. (Deuteronomy 5:32–33 ESV)
Moses’ second sermon begins with God as savior and rescuer, which calls for his people to listen and obey what God says because we revere and respect the voice of God. Be in awe of our saving God. But there is another reason we ought to obey God which is revealed in 6:1-3. “Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 6:3 ESV)
God’s laws are for our good. Obedience is for our good. God does not demand obedience simply because he wants to see if we will obey, which he has the authority and right to do. But that is not the reason. The laws are given for the good of the people. Obey so that it will go well with you.
The Heart of the Law (6:4-6)
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5 ESV)
God wants us to love him. God wants us to love him. Please consider that loving God is not on our terms but on his terms. We do not decide what a loving act is. God decides and loving God means that we revere his word and do all that he says. What is easy to miss is that this is everything! So often we can think of all of these rules and regulations under the Law of Moses. But Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew and Mark. But consider what was asked as recorded in Luke’s gospel.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25–28 ESV)
Jesus confirms that this declaration is everything. Jesus does not disagree with the lawyer’s assessment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. So we need to understand what God is asking of us since Jesus confirms that this is the greatest command. Sometimes we tune out this command because of our familiarity of it. We might even think that this statement is just made for emphasis. But there is a beautiful picture and an intensity for what God is looking for in our lives.
First, love the Lord with all your heart. The heart was considered the seat of emotions and will as well as the mind and thought. Essentially, the heart is a picture of the inner being. We often relegate the heart to our emotions because that is how we use the heart in our culture. But in their culture, their heart includes not only the emotions but all the will, the desire, and the logical thinking process. In our wording, we would say to love the Lord with your heart and your mind.
Second, love the Lord with all your soul. Now we have to be careful because we often take the soul to be inner being. But that is the meaning from the Greeks, and what we would mean in the New Testament if we are referring to the distinction between body, soul, and spirit. But in Hebrew “soul” is not referring merely to your inner being. That is the heart, which we just noted. This word speaks more to the whole person, everything that makes up the person, inside and outside. It is the whole life of the person. For example, Psalm 103:1 we read:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1 ESV)
Notice that the psalmist is not just saying that it is just the inside of him but his whole being, body and inner will. The blessings will be with the lips along with the heart and mind. So loving with your soul is adding to the intensity of the love. Love God, not with just your mind and emotions, but with all of who you are, including your body.
Finally, love the Lord with all your might. The idea might be best captured with the idea of resources. Love the Lord with all your resources, which would include your abilities, your strength, your actions, and all you possess. Therefore, the call of God is to love him without reservation or qualification. It is to be an unrestrained love. Nothing is to be held back. Does this help us see why Jesus asks of people what he does? This explains why he calls for people to leave their possessions, to leave their family, to leave all kinds of things to follow him. Jesus is not asking something irrational of his followers. He is simply asking us to love him with all our heart, soul, and strength. All that you claim as who you are and what you possess are given in love to Jesus. Now these New Testament teachings make a lot of sense.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:4–6 NIV)
Why can’t we say that we love God and not keep his commands? Because loving God means loving him with everything we have. Loving God means our will, thoughts, and desires are directed to God. Loving God means our whole being, inside and out, are given to God. Loving God means our actions and resources are given to God. This is why this statement in Deuteronomy 6:5 is the greatest commandment. This is why this statement is how one inherits eternal life. Loving God is not just a feeling. Loving God is not simply going to worship. Loving God is not only reading his word. Loving God is giving everything you are and everything you have to God.
This is not a small request of God. But it is something that we should desire to do because God has rescued us from slavery to sin and given us this covenant for our good. Everything God does is love to you. In response, love him without reservation. God did not hold back his love for us which we see in the cross of Jesus. We must not hold back our love for him. So we must consider ourselves. Do we love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might? What needs changing so that we truly have this love for our Savior?