David began by taking us to words of the prophet Micah:
This famous question appears first in Deuteronomy. It is asked of the Israelites, about to enter the Promised Land, but it is every bit as applicable to us today. In the same way, the answers we find in Deuteronomy are identical for us also.
Today’s passage – Deuteronomy 10:12-22 – has been described as one of the richest texts in the Hebrew Bible. The context is Moses preparing a new generation of God’s people for settlement in the Promised Land. In the previous chapter he reminds them of their epic disobedience with the golden calf; now they need to know exactly what God requires. How are they to live as people belonging to Yahweh?
Virtually everything we read here was re-enforced by Jesus.
In verses 12 and 13 there are five quick-fire answers: fear, walk, love, serve, keep. True religion and true life are encompassed in these five. Each one is repeated numerous times in this book – “keep His commands” appears 65 times.
1. To fear the Lord your God – this is not about becoming His people, but about being them. For their God they (and we) are to have reverence and respect, awe and wonder. A healthy view of God is a high one. The true follower allows Him His rightful place in her life.
Our culture dismisses and disrespects God. David challenged us with another question: do we really fear the Lord, or are we embracing the attitudes of our peers? We need a sense of holy terror. Remember that God almost destroyed the people for their disobedience. Only Moses’ forty days of pleading saved them.
2. To walk in all His ways – i.e. to live in God’s way on a daily basis. Godly people please their Lord with active humility, gentleness, patience, love, peace, joy and self-control. We need to watch where we are walking.
3. To love God. We recall the greatest commandment of all:
Sadly, we can dilute our love, or lose it altogether. But His unconditional love for us is able to draw us back and reawaken our love for Him.
4. To serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. The people of God are to be sold-out servants of the living God. Everything we do can be an expression of service.
5. To keep His commandments. The Israelites are to obey God, not in order to gain His favour but as an expression of their gratitude and love for Him. Why? “For your good” (v.12). God’s commandments are not there to restrict our lives; they truly make life work better.
How well we are obeying each of these?
Moses now mentions two more requirements: sort your heart out (v.16) and show compassion to foreigners, orphans and widows. True religion requires a renovation of the heart, i.e. the cutting away of sin. The opposite is choosing to ignore what God requires.
Sometimes people interpret the message of the Old Testament as a series of external actions, of rituals and routines. In Deuteronomy 10 Moses makes God’s requirements clear: sort out your heart, make it pure – or allow God to purify it, for this is His gracious work.
Lastly, care for the displaced. Israel is to remember they were aliens and slaves in Egypt. (And Christians were slaves to sin in the world.)
The passage concludes with the characteristics of God:
- He owns the cosmos, yet
- He is a personal God
He is unrivalled and mighty
- He cannot be bribed
- He defends the vulnerable and provides for the foreigner
- He is our praise and has done great things for us;
- He is faithful
Therefore, we should fulfil His requirements with joy.