Does following God sometimes feel burdensome to you? Can it seem like there are so many rules, and your heart and mind are not inclined to follow those rules? If you’ve ever thought or felt something close to that, you’re not alone. Many people have wondered why following God’s ways can be so difficult. Most of know, however, that just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean it is impossible. Rather it means you might have to invest some energy and sweat into it. It might be costly. But will it be worth it? Following God’s ways raises all these questions. Keep reading as we conclude our study of Deuteronomy 11 today and tomorrow, examining the ramifications of Moses’ teaching for our lives. In the previous three posts, we’ve looked at sections 1 through 6 of Deuteronomy 11, seeking a pattern Moses seemed to have utilized each time.
How will Moses wrap this seventh and final section? Look at verses 26-32. In section 7 the order is reversed from all the previous sections, as the rationale comes first, and the action follows.
So first, why does he want them to do this? In verses 26-28, he wants them to understand God’s covenant treaty of blessings and curses resulting from their obedience or disobedience of God’s commands.
What is the thing he wants them to do? In verses 29-30, he says they need to proclaim this treaty in a ceremony when they enter the land. They were to go up to two mountains that faced each other and proclaim the blessings and curses of the treaty, thus reenacting and renewing the treaty, this covenant between the nation and God. If you read ahead in the book of Joshua, chapter 8, you see they actually perform the ceremony.
Finally, then, we come to verses 31-32 which are a summary of the whole passage: “You are about to enter the land, I am giving you. Obey my commands.”
Let’s take a step back and look at the whole chapter. Have you seen the pattern? Moses tells the people of Israel the same thing seven times in a row: Show that you love God by observing his commands, and he will bless you. But disobey, and you will be cursed.
Clearly Moses wants the people to pursue the blessings! He wants them to thoroughly love Yahweh, which they will demonstrate by obeying his commands. He also wants them to make it such a priority, that they teach the next generation to do the same. It should be an ever-present discussion in their lives, in their homes, in their travels.
We Christians are in a different covenant with God. Israel had a unique treaty covenant with God that we don’t have. We have new covenant, written for us in the New Testament. But there are clearly principles that carry over.
What principles about God’s heart do we see in Deuteronomy 11? Today we look at the principle that flows from all the sections, and tomorrow we’ll return to that axiom we started the series with: “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
So today we see that God loves his people, provides for his people, and wants to be in relationship with his people. God makes his commands known, and he asks his people to follow his commands, because he has their best interest in mind.
When we hear the label “commands”, that loving relationship and God’s desire for our best interest can get lost in the supposed negativity of command language. We can think that his commands are burdensome, and oftentimes make no sense, or seem outdated. We can lose any semblance of seeing how his commands are in our best interest.
But Deuteronomy 11 reminds us that God’s heart for his commands is not that he would be some kind of dictator with ridiculous or oppressive rules, but God’s heart for his commands is human flourishing. I encourage you to skim through this chapter again. What do we see over and over and over? God wants his people to be cared for, provided for, to have food and land and protection. And he himself wants to be intimately involved in providing that. God wants them to flourish. That kind of abundance is at the heart of his reason for giving his commands.
Jesus reflects on this in John 15:15-21. You might pause and read that.
The context is a close, loving relationship between God and his people. He is not some distant ruler who makes proclamations from on high, and then never visits you to learn how you are actually doing. How many of you work for companies whose decisions from corporate affect you every day, but they are distant, maybe even headquartered in another country? In politics we say, “Harrisburg did this or that. Washington is doing this or that.” Those seats of power seem distant, disconnected, and it makes us grumpy when the decisions that happen there affect us negatively.
God is different. God is close. He is right there in the land, in their midst, affecting things. He has always been right there. We Christians know this as well, as our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, “Honor God with your body.” We see, therefore, the same kind of principle in the New Testament. God has our best interest in mind. When we obey his commands, we show we love him, and we find that his commands are not burdensome!