Thursday, September 20, 2012

LX - The Book of Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy

Human Author:     Moses
Place:                     East Side of Jordan River; Across From Jerico
Main Subject:        Review of the Laws; Call to Obedience

Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book of what is known as the Pentetauch (The Law).  The word deuteronomy is derived from two Greek words, "deuteros" meaning second, and "nomos" meaning law.  So the meaning of the word "Deuteronomy" means The Second Giving of the Law.

In reading this book, you'll find it to be a series of sermons given by Moses.  Moses knows he is going to die soon, and feels compelled to go over everything one more time.  He knows that these Israelites are a "stiff necked" people who are inclined to disregard basics when times get tough.  He knows also that they are easily led astray.  It seems Moses is saying "Don't forget this, and Don't forget that" in one last sincere attempt to prepare these people for what lies before them.

The book of Deuteronomy includes three major addresses by Moses.  His first address majored upon Israel's History.  He wisely began with a review of Israel's past (Chapters1-3).  For forty years Israel had wandered, and most of the older generation had died in the wilderness.  Soon the new generation would begin to possess the Promised Land.  They needed to know how they had come to be in that place at that point in time.  So, as you read this book, bear in mind that these things Moses is talking about have already happened.  Therefore this book serves as a great review of all the events since Exodus.

In the fourth chapter Moses drew lessons from History and gave encouragement to Israel and warnings about God.  He then takes a moment and actually assigns Cities of Refuge for the three territories east of the Jordan River.  The city of Bezer for the Reubenites, Ramoth for the Gadites, and Bolan for the half tribe of Manasseh.  The cities of refuge for the territories west of the Jordan will be appointed later.

In chapter 5, Moses goes over the Ten Commandments again and expounds on them briefly.  Again, Moses is trying to get it all covered before he must depart.  He knows Joshua will be a capable replacement, but Moses still feels it necessary for the people to hear this from him one more time.

Adam, the sixth chapter contains those beautiful verses you chose to serve as a sub-title to this blog page.  Please suffer me a moment to expound on these verses, although I'll begin with verse 4.  This passage is commonly known among Jewish Bible students as the "Shema".  This Shema somewhat enshrines a brief confession of faith and the necessity of totally responding to God.  It is usually the very first Scripture taught to Jewish children and is recited twice a day by the orthodox Jews.  Every   synagogue service opens with its recitation.  In verse 4 the word "hear" is a command rather than an exhortation.  It calls for commitment.  It means "to hear with the intent to obey".  This was not to be taken lightly.  In the second half of verse 4, the basic truth of our faith is set forth:  The Lord our God is one Lord.  The word "Lord" (Lord, Yahweh, Jehovah) is the personal, distinctive name of God.  God had revealed its fuller meaning to Moses in the burning bush experience and on Mt. Sinai.  He, and He alone, was God, and He was unique  -  One of a kind.  Other nations had gods and plenty of them.  Egypt had over 2000 gods.  The Israelites were going to Canaan where every village or encampment had its own god.  But Israel was to worship only the One True God.  The Creator of everything.  It was the first commandment.  {Such a statement of monotheism does not conflict with the doctrine of the Trinity, which I expounded on in Genesis.  We'll address that in totality later in the Old and the New Testiments}
Verse 5  -  The word "love" was used in the ancient world to specify that attitude which was expected of a loyal subject to his king or ruler.  It was to be the love that expressed itself in faithful service.  This response to God was an act of will.  Man chose to respond to Him in love.  The word "heart" in the Old Testament referred to one's will.  As a deliberate act, one determined to love God (see Genesis about Jacob after he wrestled with God).  The word "soul" here referred to the total person.  One's love for God was to consume the entire being.  Love of God was not to be merely sentimentalism or something that comes and goes with moods, but was to be expressed in deeds.  Attitudes expressed themselves in acts.  The word "strength" indicates the strength by which one lived daily.  In that strength, love for God was to be demonstrated.

Verse 6  -  Two basic acts were to characterize those who loved the Lord.  The first was a commitment to live life daily in continuous awareness of God and the demands of God's word.  One's mind was to be fixed upon God and His word.  In so doing, one's life would become conformed to that word.

Verse 7  -   The second act was their commitment to share their faith, especially to their children.  The primary place to excersize this commitment was in the home, just like it is today.  One's own children and family are to serve as the first mission field.  NIV says "impress them on your children".  This means to inundate your children with references to God and His word.  Always talk about Him, so that your children will never question your own commitment.  Diligent teaching means all of life.  Every part of it.  Discussion of God and His statutes should be a part of every-day life.  That's what it means in this verse when it uses the terms:  sit, walk, lie down, and get up.

Verses 8-9  -  God's great truths were also to influence one's whole being.  They were to guide both the hand and the eye in all of their actions.  In later years "phylacteries" (little containers with Scripture in them) were literally worn on the body.  Some on the forehead.  {Many Pharisees wore these on their foreheads, in plain view.}  Also, these truths were to influence the atmosphere of the home.  In later years a small container called a "mezuzah" was fastened to the door frame of the house of an Israelite.  These commands in verses 8 and 9 were not intended to be taken literally, but rather symbolically, as a constant reminder of God and His expectations.  {But I really do think reminders are important, whatever a person might chose to have as one.  Especially in today's world, filled with distractions.}

Next post:  Reminders of the Past

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