The Bible teaches that there are very specific ways that people are to respond to the Living God. Since God is the Author of life and everything good, then one MUST consider God’s Word when seeking to do good in life that He provides. The people of God do not have the liberty of responding to God in anyway that one personally sees fit. One cannot worship God according to one’s own personal affections and desires. Since the eternally self-existing and self-sustaining God is the Provider of all things, one must seek to serve and worship God according to the standards that He has determined acceptable and good through His Word. Those who seek to approach, serve, or worship God in ways that are different that the ways He set forth in the Bible are considered as those who seek to develop their own sense of righteousness in pride and will be rejected by God.
Moses taught the children of Israel these points as he reminded them of God’s statutes when they prepared to enter into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 6:16-19 the Bible testifies that Moses reminded the children of Israel about “tempting the Lord.” The Bible explains that “tempting the Lord” is when a person doubts God’s power and provision. Deuteronomy 6:16-19 refers to a specific instance in Israel’s history when they “tempted the Lord” so as to illustrate an example of doubting the Lord. Moses referred to the time when the children of Israel “tempted” the Lord at Massah.
The instance that Moses referred to is first documented in Exodus 17:1-7. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and started to complain about their water provision. Though God had done incredible works to remove the children of Israel from bondage, save them from destruction, and provide for their basic needs, Exodus 17:7 explains that the children of Israel doubted God’s presence, God’s ability, and God’s willingness to provide for His people. In essence, when the children of Israel “tempted the Lord,” they denied the identity and promises of God as if He was unavailable or unfaithful.
The testimony of the children of Israel at Massah also reveals that when the children of Israel sought the Lord, they did so with an attitude of complaining, expecting God to do things beyond His gracious promises. Hence, the doubt that the children of Israel demonstrated was on account of the dissatisfaction the children of Israel had with God and the work He was determined to do. Though God had done great things for Israel in ways the world had never seen before, the Israelites wanted Him to do more to satisfy their fleshly cravings. The scriptures show that the dissatisfaction, complaints, and unbelief of the people was collectively considered “tempting the Lord.”
As Moses reminded the children of Israel to refrain from tempting the Lord in Deuteronomy 6:16-19, he provided the solution to keep the people from doing so. God does not simply tell His people what to keep from doing. Rather, the Lord is helpful to provide practical solutions to protect His people from doing wrong. When Moses commanded the children of Israel to abstain from tempting the Lord, he also told them to “keep God’s commands” and also to “do what they say.” The Bible reveals that the people of God should not only keep God’s Word in mind, but also do what God’s Word says. The Apostle James put it this way:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues [in it], and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25).”
When one keeps the Word in mind and possesses it internally, allowing the Word to govern one’s thoughts and actions, one will naturally be compelled to refrain from tempting the Lord. One’s recognition and obedience to the Word will remind one of God’s righteousness and cause one to see the wrong in doubting God. Continually being reminded of God’s righteousness and holiness by the Word will remind one that God is almighty and faithful, thereby keeping one from complaining and rebelling against Him! Moses told the children of Israel that they should “diligently” keep the Law, referring to the fact that they should intensely study the Word of God and the fine details of it. This is the proper prescription to keep from tempting the Lord.
When Moses commanded the children of Israel to do as the Law commanded, he stated that the children of Israel needed to do what was right and good in the sight of the Lord. This is in contrast to the children of Israel that complained at Massah. They felt their complaints were right and good, and that their approach to Moses with bitter attitudes of unbelief were justified. They might have been right in their eyes, but the Bible clearly explains that they were wrong in God’s eyes. The Bible candidly expresses that the people of God are to do what is right and good according to God’s standards as explained by His Word. One does not have the liberty to redefine what is “good” based on one’s individual affections and experiences. One MUST look to the Word of God to understand God and His righteousness in order to do good since He is the Author of goodness.
When one understands these truths, one must come to the conclusion that one must look to the Word to know God and His righteousness in order to receive His approval and avoid offending Him in unbelief. Human tendency is to doubt God and complain against Him. God revealed Himself, His attributes, His holiness, His righteousness, His judgments, and His faithfulness to all people in His Word so that as one diligently studies, keeps, and does the Word, one will frequently be reminded about the truth of God and be mindful to be humbly fearful and repentant towards Him rather than self-righteous and prideful. Moses reminded the children of Israel that good things happen when one keeps and does as the Word says; holding to God’s standards of goodness and righteousness rather than trying to usurp God’s authority to redefine “good” and “right.” Deuteronomy 6:16-19 explains that when the children of Israel were obedient to keep and do God’s laws, God would respond by allowing the people to enjoy the benefits of His promises (the Land), and be sustained in them, receiving God’s protection and providential care. History shows the Bible to be true: when the people of God are diligent to heed God’s Word and do it in a state of humbly fearful repentance, good things happen through the assurance one gains of one’s position in God’s eternally unconditional promises!
The desire of God to have an exclusive relationship with His people is reasonable and beneficial to God’s people. God expects His people to consider His Word as supreme and to exalt Him to the highest position of authority. God desires to be first in the lives of all of His people, and rightly so. The Bible explains that God is worthy of being the priority of life and is worthy to be praised. As the scriptures explain the goodness of God, one must conclude that it is reasonable and logical to obey God since His commands result in His own goodness and righteousness.
When Moses retaught the children of Israel God’s commands before they moved into the Promised Land, he reminded them about keeping God as the priority in life. Though Moses had already repeated the 10 Commandments that address the issue about worshiping false gods, Moses stated the same command in a different way. Clearly this is a point of emphasis from God! Moses reminded the children of Israel that God is a jealous God. He does not want to share His people with others – others being other ideas, philosophies, or entities that would compete with one’s affection and fear of Him. Moses warned the children of Israel that flirting with other gods would cause Yahweh Elohim to become angry; and if the children of Israel were persistent in their pursuit of other gods, Yahweh Elohim would destroy those who reject Him for others.
The contents of Deuteronomy 6:10-15 explain that God had good reason to give such stern warnings. The scriptures explain that God was about to take His people into the Promised Land. As Moses retaught the Law, he spoke in such a way that God’s promises were a certainty. It was not a matter of “if” God would lead the Israelites into the Land; it was only a matter of “when” He would do it. God made eternally unconditional promises to Abraham, and then repeated them to Isaac, and Jacob. God even swore upon Himself several times regarding these promises because there was none greater to swear by in order to assure the beneficiaries of His promises that He would be faithful to fulfill them.
As such, Moses reminded the children of Israel about the quality of God’s promises concerning the Promised Land. The children of Israel were about to enter a “good” land. The children of Israel were about to inherit land that was large and beautiful. The children of Israel were about to inherit houses already built and filled with good things. The children of Israel were about to go into land that already had wells dug, vineyards and olive trees plated, and would be able to go into such a land to enjoy it! Understanding these truths, the children of Israel were to recognize a few things about God. First, God gives good gifts! Since God is omnibenevolent (the God of all goodness), He can only produce good things. His gifts are no exception. Jesus even made the point that if people are able to give good gifts, certainly the Father in heaven is able to give far greater gifts!
Secondly, the children of Israel were to recognize that God’s gifts are given on the premise of grace. As Moses spoke to the children of Israel, Deuteronomy 6:10-15 emphasizes the point that the gift of God was good, but Israel did nothing to make it good. The gift of God was good before Israel took possession of it. Based on their rebellious history, their opportunity to receive the benefits of God’s promises were based on “unmerited favor,” which by definition is grace. Hence, all of God’s gifts are good and given on the foundation of grace!
This is why Moses made such a great effort to plead with the people to keep God in priority and focus on His Word. God already made amazing promises. God already made efforts to fulfill those promises. God was already preparing His people to receive the benefits of those promises. God had already proven His merits in spite of the responses of His people. Thus, the only reasonable response towards God’s goodness and grace is repentance, humility, and submission to His good ways! Moses continually pleaded with the people to keep God’s laws, statutes, judgments, and testimonies because he knew that one’s focus on the Law would keep from safe from forgetting the Lord, which is often taught to be a tragic human habit. Since humans have the natural tendency to forget about God (because of sin), the people of God should continually stay focused on Him through the Word to be sure that God is treated in the appropriate manner considering the goodness He’s already shown.
Therefore, the warning that God gave in Deuteronomy 6:10-15 is a reasonable warning. God is just to destroy those who serve other gods since such worship is reflective of one that has forgotten God and His work to free His people from bondage (sin). Those who forget God in this way are those who neglect the Word of God, which is intended to remind God’s people of who He is. Therefore, the worship of false gods is reflective of those who neglect God’s Word and God’s goodness based on sinful affections that separate one from Him, even though He has already provided access and opportunity to the greatest gifts known to mankind. God’s judgments are right and fair. The grace of God is too good to neglect and cast aside. Therefore, God’s people would be wise to consider the quality and extent of God’s gifts of grace and respond appropriately in gratitude according to the Word.
As children of God, the Word of God should be the most paramount thing in life. The Bible commands that the people of God focus on the Word in faith, considering the contents of God’s Word to be truthful, reliable, beneficial, and essential. One’s affection on the Word is an indication of one’s affection for God and one’s trust in the spiritual substance of life that He provides. The scriptures explain that the Word became flesh when Jesus came into the world. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. Thus, as Jesus said that He is the “Bread of life (John 6:35),” He taught that He is the method by which spiritual life is birthed and sustained. Since Jesus is the Word, then the Word of God is the method by which the people have spiritual life, and the diligence one puts into the Word by faith will determine the spiritual strength one has.
When Moses taught the children of Israel about the Lord as they prepared to move into the Promised Land, He reminded them about the importance of the Word and the position of priority that the Word needed to take in the lives of all of God’s people. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 the scriptures show that Moses taught the children of Israel to place the Word of God in the highest possible position of priority. The laws, statutes, commands, judgments, and testimonies that God gave Israel at Mount Sinai were to be the driving force of all of their lives. Moses told the children of Israel that they needed to keep God’s Word in their hearts. Previously, Moses taught that the children of Israel were to love the Lord God with all of their essence, and began by referencing the hearts of the people. Jesus later explained that God’s greatest commandment was the command God gave in Deuteronomy 6:5. Therefore, it is important to recognize that one’s diligence in the Word, to keep the Word in one’s heart, is the catalyst that allows one to “love God” with all of one’s heart. Unless the Word is kept in one’s heart, one cannot love God.
The Hebrew language explains that one’s “heart” refers to the inner being of a person. The Hebrew word for heart refers to the English word for soul. The heart of a person refers to the mind of a person that drives the will of a person. This includes the conscience of a person, which drive the desires of a person. Essentially, the “heart” of a person is that which makes a person uniquely individual. The Bible commands the people of God to allow the Word of God to be the driving force of one’s heart. In other words, the Word of God is to be what defines a person as a unique individual – not one’s personal affections or fleshly appetites. The Word of God is to be kept within the deeps depths of a person’s soul so that the Word of God is the method by which one is motivated, activated, and identified.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 also explained that the people of God were to teach the Word to their children. Many today wonder why the world is in the condition that it is. When one examines the testimony of the Book of Acts and recognizes the ground that the Gospel took, it is difficult to see how different things are today. This difference can only be attributed to the negligence of the fundamental command of God for the people of God to teach their children the Word. One must consider what this means to the older generations of God’s people. In order to teach, one must become a student first. Moses had already exhorted the children of Israel to be students and learners of the Word. The command to “teach” the Word further emphasizes the need of the children of Israel to study and learn the meaning of God’s Word. The commands that God gave reflect His desire for His people to assimilate into the Word and be transformed by it. This calls for God’s people to engage deeply in the Word to know its meaning, thereby knowing its Author. This type of understanding cannot be achieved by simply reading quickly and passively through the Word. One must not only know what God’s Word says, but what it means, and who God is by extension.
Upon studying the scriptures in this in-depth way, God’s people were to then share that understanding with their children. How would the knowledge and understanding of God continue on if the people of God failed to teach? Many times people become outwardly focused to the point that their own children are spiritually compromised. The commands of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 clearly state that one’s priority to God is to be filled with the Word to one’s own diligence to the Word, and then immediately pour out into one’s children. This is the work and responsibility God entrusted to His people as servants. Consider this thought: if loving God requires one to keep God’s Word, how can one’s children love God and keep the greatest commandment if the Word is not taught to them? Notice that the teaching responsibility falls upon all parents – not people with titles, not church, and not Christian schools. This means that ALL of God’s people must be responsible to engage appropriately in the Word and then must be accountable to spiritually nourish their children!
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 explains the depth of teaching that God expected the children of Israel to undergo. Moses taught that the children of Israel should “diligently” teach their children the Word. The word “diligently” means “sharply.” This means that the teaching of the Word from parents needs to be focused and pointed. This means that the affect of such teaching should enable the younger generations of God’s people to be sharp in understanding God’s laws, precepts, statutes, judgments, and testimonies. The younger generations of God’s people should grow up to be sharp concerning the truth of God. While many feel unqualified to perform such a task, the Bible explains that God’s people are fully equipped with God’s Spirit. Thus, excuses are inexcusable. The level of diligence that was to be demonstrated was to be reflected in the time that the children of Israel spent teaching their children.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 explains that parents were to sit down and talk to their children about the Word in the morning, in the evening, and any other opportunity. This required the people of God to make time to do these things. They needed to make time in the morning. They needed to make time in the evening. They needed to recognize opportunities throughout the day. This is why Moses first said that the Word needed to be kept in their hearts. Without the Word in one’s heart, one would not be motivated or opportunistic to do these things as frequently as required. When the Word is not kept in one’s heart, it becomes easy to allow other things in life to take priority. The Bible clearly explains that this should not be so for the people of God.
Moses taught that the children of Israel were to identify themselves by the Word in every way possible. They were to “bind” the Word of God on their hands, which refers to having the Word motivate one’s actions. The children of Israel were to “bind” the Word to their foreheads, which refer to the Word dominating the thoughts of God’s people. The Word was to be posted on the doors and gates of the Israelites so that all would know that Yahweh Elohim was the God of Israel. Jesus said it this way, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). He also said that one must be willing to “confess” Him before others so that He in turn will confess them before His Father. Throughout the Bible one will find that God expects His people to publically proclaim Him through the understanding and doing of His Word so that He would be glorified.
Seeing these truths in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, one must come to the following conclusion. The distribution of the Word of God is dependent on one’s desire for God as an individual, recognizing the identity of God and the magnitude of mercy and grace He offers. The distribution of the Word of God is dependent on an individual commitment to learn the Word. The distribution of the Word of God is dependent on the willingness of the individual to be accountable to open one’s mouth to teach the Word to one’s children and to lead one’s family as a doer of the Word. The distribution of the Word of God has nothing to do with the building that God’s people meet in. The distribution of the Word of God has nothing to do with the funding that people receive. The distribution of the Word of God has nothing to do with the activities that are planned. The distribution of the Word of God is based on the individual child of God learning and understanding God as an individual, being diligent in the Word, and then imparting that knowledge to the next generation through discipleship – especially and most importantly, one’s own children.
It is one thing to know that God exists. It is another thing to know who God is. Yet, it is even another thing to respond in the appropriate manner to the knowledge of God. The Bible explains that those who know of God and trust in God are expected to respond a certain way towards God. The knowledge of God calls for a unique response so that one’s claim to faith in God is substantiated by one’s conduct that is in line with scripture. Though the Holy Spirit is the One that facilities such conduct in worship today, the Bible teaches that God has always had specific expectations regarding how His people should respond to the knowledge of His being and essence.
When Moses prepared the children of Israel to enter into the Promised Land, he reminded the people about who God is. He began by reminding the children of Israel of God’s identity as Yahweh Elohim. He reminded the children of Israel that God is self-existing and self-sustaining as Creator of the heavens and the earth. He reminded the children of Israel that as such, God made powerful promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on the basis of His grace. Moses reminded the children of Israel that since God is uniquely Yahweh Elohim, and there are none like Him, no one can contend with God or affect God’s ability to fulfill His promises. Moses taught that this knowledge required a specific response.
In Deuteronomy 6:5 Moses gave “the greatest” of the commandments. Moses told the children of Israel that they were to “love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and all their strength.” When Jesus as approached by a lawyer in Matthew Chapter 22 and was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. The command to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, and strength is considered to be the greatest of all the commandments. Thus, one could make the strong argument that one’s purpose in life is to do this very thing. Since Moses first taught about the identity of God, and then gave this command, it is important to understand that one’s knowledge of God’s identity as Yahweh Elohim demands one to love Him with all of one’s essence. In this way, one’s purpose in life as a child of God is to learn of God’s identity and essence, and then respond back to Him in “love.”
In order to obey this command, it is critical to understand the Biblical meaning of love. Since the greatest commandment is predicated on the concept of “love,” one must understand God’s perspective of love if one expects to obey God’s greatest command. One cannot obey God’s greatest command by making up one’s own version of love and expect God to be pleased. Considering the magnitude of God’s identity as Yahweh Elohim, one must be careful to respond in a manner that is appropriate to the Creator of all things! As one might confess that one “loves” cheeseburgers, one cannot expect God to be pleased if one expresses the same affection towards Him as one would express towards a burger. Likewise, while one might love one’s husband, wife, parents, or children, one cannot expect God to be pleased with a quality of affection that is equal to people that did not create all things and sustain all life. One’s love towards God must be unique since God is uniquely Yahweh Elohim.
The Bible explains that “love” is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. When the Bible explains that God “loved” the world (John 3:16), the Bible explains that God expressed His love by “giving His only begotten Son.” When the Bible explains that God “demonstrated” His love (Romans 5:9), the Bible explains that Jesus died on behalf of sinners. Perhaps the most powerful of verses concerning the unique nature of “love” comes in the statement that “God is love (1 John 4:8).” This means that the essence of God is love. Thus, one can deductively conclude that, since Jesus is the Son of God (God in flesh), and God is love, then Jesus is love as well. This is why when God loved the world He gave Jesus. This is why when God demonstrated His love, it was done when Jesus fulfilled His purpose as God in flesh (death). Hence, love is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. This is what makes God’s love unique. Love is not God’s motive to do what He does, it is the tool He uses to accomplish His will (Christ).
Understanding this truth, one must then apply this truth to God’s greatest command. Since God is love, one must reflect God back to God in order to love Him. The Bible teaches that God dwells within the hearts of His people to revive and restore the spirits of His people by His own Spirit. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit testifies of the person and work of Jesus Christ, transforming the people of God into the image of Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the image of God so that as God’s Spirit transforms God’s people, they resemble Him. Consequently, in order to love God, the Holy Spirit must transform one into the image of His Son so that one’s motives and conduct resemble the image of Jesus (God in flesh). Therefore, it is IMPOSSIBLE to love God and obey the greatest command unless one has faith in the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, and humbly submits to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. One cannot reflect the essence of God back towards God in “love” unless one looks to Jesus trusting in His essence as the prototype and example of righteousness, then submits to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. This is the ONLY appropriate response to one’s understanding of the identity of God as Yahweh Elohim!
Deuteronomy 6:5 additionally explains that one is to “love” God with all of one’s heart, soul, and strength. These words refer to the triune nature of mankind. When God created Adam in the Garden of Eden, He spoke to Jesus and said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Genesis 1:26)." It is important to notice that God was determined to form mankind into His own image and likeness. This means two things: mankind is “like” God, not identical to God; and mankind is comparable to God having a triune nature as God does.
The identity of God as Yahweh Elohim explains that God is 3-in-1. He is one God having 3 distinct forms – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mankind is comparable in this sense as humans have mind, body and soul; or as Deuteronomy 6:5 puts it, heart, soul, and strength. Hence, as God exercises His will as the Father to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises by the Son and Holy Spirit, He demonstrates “love.” Since God “loves” this way, He commanded that His people love in the same way. As God “loves” exercising His triune nature to focus people on the identity of His Son, God demands that His people exercise their triune nature to focus their identity on the Son just the same. In fact, when one examines God’s motives in the creation account, one will find that God created mankind this way for this singular purpose! Human beings are triune in nature specifically for the purpose of “loving” God according to the greatest command. Subsequently, the meaning of human life is simply proclaimed in scripture: to seek and know the living God by denying one’s self to pursue God through Jesus Christ in humble repentance in order that one will be transformed into the image of Christ, motivated by Christ, conduct one’s self like Christ, and glorify the Father like Christ. This is love. This is the only way to obey God’s greatest command!
Though there are some that hold to the belief that all religion is pretty much the same, and that all deities mimic one another conceptually and philosophically, the Bible does not allow one to say that about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The Bible teaches that “Yahweh Elohim” is uniquely God and that there is no other god. All other concepts and ideas of deity forms are merely imaginative, unproductive concepts that stem from corrupted minds seeking to replace the one true Living God. The scriptures are filled with examples in which God’s people test the responsiveness of other deities that unanimously were proven to be futile, directly contrasting the powerful proactive providence of Yahweh Elohim! When one approaches the Bible as a genuine seeker of truth, one will find that the Lord God is God alone, and His holy Word does not allow for any other conclusion.
Perhaps one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible that proclaims this truth comes from Deuteronomy 6:4. When Moses prepared the children of Israel to enter into the Promised Land, he was compelled to remind them of God’s righteousness by reminding them of God’s commands. Moses reminded the children of Israel of God’s holiness by reminding them about their past experiences with God that tangibly proved God’s sovereign authority. Thus, before getting into the meat and potatoes of God’s Word, Moses reminded the children of Israel about the identity of God in order that they would take careful heed to the teaching of God’s Word.
Deuteronomy 6:4 is a simple phrase in the English language, but powerfully complex in the original Hebrew language. The English translation of the verse reads:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD [is] one!”
There are three important words that one must understand the meaning of in order to understand the emphasis that Moses was teaching. For one to understand the commands of God, one must understand the identity of God. In order to understand the Word of God, one must know the Author. The English word “LORD” is the Hebrew word Yĕhovah, which is where the English words “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” come from (both refer to the same God, but are spelled differently based on the absence of vowels in the original language so that the original language reads YHWH). The Hebrew name of God as “Yahweh” is used to describe God in a variety of ways. God is first called Yahweh in Genesis 2:4, referring to God as Creator. Genesis 2:4 explains that “Yahweh” created the heavens and the earth. However, the first time that God refers to Himself as “Yahweh” is in Exodus 3:15 when God was speaking to Moses through the burning bush. There the scriptures say:
“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, [when] I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What [is] His name?' what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' ‘Moreover God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This [is] My name forever, and this [is] My memorial to all generations.'”
The conversation that God had with Moses about His name explains two things. First, God’s identity as “Yahweh” is synonymous with God’s identity as “I AM.” God’s identity as “I AM” is a reference to God’s aseity, which means that God is self-existing in nature. He has no beginning, nor does He have an end. God has no creator. He exists within Himself, and is not dependent on any other creative force to exist. He is infinitely powerful and self-sustaining. God is TOTALLY unique in this way, and it is this unique attribute of God that allows Him to be Creator AND Sustainer of all things! Secondly, God referred to Himself as “Yahweh” in the context of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is for this reason that many scholars refer to the name “Yahweh” as God’s “Promise Name.”
God’s point in addressing Himself in this way is monumentally critical to understand concerning all of His promises. Since God is self-existing, He is able to create all things. As one examines the evidence of His eternal power and godhead in His creation, one can see evidence of God’s sovereignty and everlasting ability, thereby giving one great confidence in His ability to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises! God referred to Himself as “Yahweh” when speaking to Moses to encourage him. As Moses understood that the God who created the heavens and the earth was the same God that made awesome promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses should have understood that no one can contend with God, nor keep Him from doing as He pleases. The magnitude of power that God demonstrated in creation, and the power He continues to demonstrate to sustain it as Yahweh transcends all other forces, laws, principles, or imaginary philosophies. Nothing can compete with God since He alone decides what will exist, and what will not, as the sole distributor of life/functionality. For this reason, God’s promises should be most precious to God’s people, and ones trust in them should be of the highest quality!
Next, Deuteronomy 6:4 refers to Yahweh as “God.” The English translation refers to Him as “LORD” and “God.” This is because the original language uses two different Hebrew words to refer to God. The English word “God” comes from the Hebrew word “Elohim.” This word is a bit tricky. The Hebrew language has several versions of the English word “God.” In the Hebrew language, words are often used in a plural form to designate majesty and/or greatness. Thus, the Hebrew word for a single deity is “el.” However, the Hebrew language attributes the highest degree majesty to the number three. The plural form of “el” that designates the number 3 (highest form of majesty/greatness) is “Elohim.” As Moses explained the identity of God, he explained that Yahweh is the highest form of majesty for all of the reasons just explained.
There is additional meaning to the usage of “Elohim” to describe God. It is not by coincidence that the Hebrew language attributes the number 3 to the greatest quality of majesty to the concepts of deity. The Bible emphatically teaches that God has a “triune” nature. This means that He is 3-in-1. The usage of the name Elohim refers to God’s identity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As Moses taught about the identity of God, he taught that the self-existing Creator of all things that gave eternally unconditional promises to the children of Israel exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is confirmed in scripture. The first time the Hebrew word “Elohim” is used in the Bible is in Genesis 1:1. Genesis 1:1 states that “God” created the heavens and the earth, thereby making “Elohim” synonymous with “Yahweh.” The name “Yahweh” explains certain truths about the nature of God, while the name “Elohim” explains the functionality of God in how He reveals Himself to people.
This idea is also presented in the creation account in Genesis Chapter 1 by identifying the co-equal existence, authority, and participation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when “God” created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:2 identifies the existence of the Holy Spirit as He hovered over the face of the deep. Genesis 1:3 identifies the existence of the Son in Messianic references when God said, “Let there be light.” The Bible does not say that “created” light. The term “let there be” is the same Hebrew word that God used to identify Himself as “I AM” in Exodus 3:14. God “revealed” light by His Word. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus (the Son of God) is the Word of God incarnate (John 1:14) and is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12). Therefore, God’s revelation of “light” in contrast to the darkness that existed is the manifestation of the Son of God in a form consistent with Jesus’ Messianic responsibilities. Since “God” is the One that is making these determinations, the Bible describes that God has a will and intelligent purpose as He reveals Himself and works. The will and purposes of God are attributed to God as “the Father.”
While the Hebrew identification of God in Deuteronomy 6:4 presents some confusion about the nature of God, the text (in both Hebrew and English) makes God’s nature clear. Some believe that the use of “Elohim” makes it seem that God is a collective of many gods. This is not what the text teaches, nor was this Moses’ intent. Some feel the usage of the title “Yahweh” and “Elohim” teaches the same pluralistic concept. Once again, this is not what the text teaches, nor was it Moses’ intent. While Deuteronomy 6:4 uses two titles to refer to the same God, and uses a plural word to identify Him, the statement resolves itself by plainly proclaiming that “Yahweh is one.” God is not a collective of gods. God is one God. He exists in three distinct forms, but is a singular entity. Some are confused by this concept. There is no need to be. The Book of Genesis teaches that human beings were made in the likeness of God. So as God is 3-in-1, so too are human beings. Human beings are uniquely mind, body, and soul (or heart, soul, and strength in Hebrew phrasing). Each person is uniquely individual, but has a 3-part essence. The same is true of Yahweh Elohim.
Knowing these things of God is critical. Not only does the Bible explain the identity of God in a way that is TOTALLY unique to other deity concepts, these titles tie God’s identity to God’s work, which prove His identity as true. Since God is self-existing, self-sustaining, and eternally powerful and sovereign, then His commands, statutes, laws, judgments, and testimonies are the most important information a human being can possess, and it is a privilege to receive this information about God from God Himself! Additionally, as one knows and meditates on the identity of God as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4, one can grow confident in the eternally unconditional promises of God, especially concerning forgiveness of sins and salvation through Christ, and boldly proclaim truth in the same manner as Moses did.
The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Proverbs 8:13). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is to be clean and to endure forever (Psalm 19:9). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord results in prolonged days (Proverbs 10:27). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the method by which God’s people depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6). The Bible instructs God’s people to be zealous and passionate about the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 23:17). The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is God’s own treasure (Isaiah 33:6). The Bible teaches that the fear of the method by which God increased and multiplied His church through the Spirit (Acts 9:31).
Clearly the scriptures emphasize the fear of the Lord. It is not a light subject in the Bible. In fact, the Bible contextually explains that the fear of the Lord is the first step towards salvation as it is an integral part of repentant faith! The Apostle Paul instructed the Philippian church to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He told bondservants to exercise fear and trembling towards their masters as unto Christ (Ephesians 6:5). When Jesus rose a young man from the dead in the Gospel of Luke, the scriptures state that the people responded with fear, but also glorified God saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us,” and also, “God has visited His people (Luke 7:16).” It is important to recognize that this “fear” is a legitimate fear. In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, these usages of the word “fear” refer to dread and terror. While God does not desire His people to be terrified of Him so that we depart from Him, He does want His people to dread offending Him so that hearing His voice, considering His Word, and obeying His commands is the only possible response.
Since the Bible emphasizes the “fear of the Lord” to be such a critical matter, it is good that the Bible also teaches how one receives “the fear of the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 6:1-3 the Bible clearly explains where the fear of the Lord comes from. As Moses began to instruct the children of Israel as they prepared to enter into the Promised Land, he explained the importance of God’s Word – especially God’s commandments. Moses instructed the people, not only to learn God’s Word and commands, but also to learn them to the degree that they would be able to teach them to future generations. Moses’ reasoning for this was simple: it is one’s understanding of God’s righteousness as communicated by the Law that causes “the fear of the Lord!”
Deuteronomy 6:1-3 explains that God’s Word, specifically His commandments, laws, statutes, and testimonies as explained in the Old Testament is the manner by which God’s people learn to fear Him. Since the Law states and teaches of God’s righteousness and judgments, one is able to know of the holiness of God and learn to fear Him in the appropriate manner. This is the reason that Moses emphasized the children of Israel learn the Law to the extent that they could teach it. If one does not hear of the righteousness, judgments, and holiness of God by His commandments, one will not learn to fear the Lord. If one does not fear the Lord, one is unable to have knowledge of God, or wisdom from God. If one does not learn of God through the Law, one will not learn to fear God and will not learn to hate evil. If one does not learn of God through His Law, one will not learn to fear God and will not be clean, able to endure forever with prolonged days, drinking from the fountain of life. If one does not learn of God through His Law, one will not learn to fear God and risks the opportunity to be considered God’s own treasure as part of the body of Christ (the church). Therefore, the teaching of Moses concerning the Law of God has TREMENDOUS affect on the lives of ALL of God’s people!
This is not to say that one must know the Law to adopt its commands in terms of sacrifices. On the contrary, one must seek to know the intents of God’s Law to understand how it was merely a shadow of things to come through Christ (Hebrews 10:1). One’s understanding of the Law does not obligate one to practice animal sacrifices to be saved. Instead, one’s understanding of the righteousness of God as communicated by the Law sets the basis for one’s understanding of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! The Law is a critical component to the salvation of ALL of God’s people – not just Jewish ones. While God had specific purposes for the Law concerning Israel, one cannot ignore the statement of Moses that the Law influences one’s fear of the Lord, and that the Lord multiplies His church by such fear. Though “the fear of the Lord” provided special benefits to the Israelites that Moses addressed at the time Deuteronomy 6:1-3 was written, the scriptures declare the magnitude of such a concept nonetheless.
The Law was effective to teach the children of Israel about God’s righteousness so that upon hearing the Word, they would learn to fear God appropriately, keep God’s Word in response, and then be blessed by possessing the good land that God promised to Abraham. However, God is not so small that His blessings are limited to the possession of land for a small group of people. While God’s promises to Israel are essential parts of God’s work and promises, that work for Israel is only to serve as an illustration of greater spiritual works the Lord is determined to do for everyone! Therefore, the teaching of the Law for the purpose of providing understanding of God’s righteousness, judgments, and His holiness is profitable to teach the fear of the Lord, which births salvation and multiplies God’s church! Thus, the people of God should be zealous to know Him this way in order to be enriched in salvation for the glory of the Savior!
The Bible teaches that God is the Lord Almighty! The Bible teaches that God is the Most High God that resides above all. The Bible teaches that God’s glory is such that He clothes Himself in light. The Bible teaches that God is the holy and righteous judge that is merciful to those who seek mercy, but vengeful to those who reject Him. The Bible teaches that God’s wrath is terrible and true. As a result of these truths, one should fear the self-existing creator of all things. The fear of the Lord is most important. The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is to hate evil as God does. The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the method by which the people of God are saved since it is the motivation to faith. The fear of the Lord is the method by which God grew His church. While God’s people should not be afraid of God, they should be afraid of offending God! Thus, one must not only respect God, but genuinely fear His wrath and that which is contrary to Him so that one is highly charged and motivated to respond according to His standards of righteousness. Otherwise, the Bible explains that God will cast off those who do not fear Him.
In Deuteronomy 5:28-33 the Bible explains that God responded to the children of Israel as they saw the glory and righteousness of God at Mount Sinai. The scriptures previously declared that the children of Israel could not endure the Word of God. Hearing the voice of God speak of His own righteousness by the Law was too much for the people of Israel to bear so that they asked Moses to go to God on their behalf. Their sinful condition was in too stark of contrast to the righteousness of God. While God was merciful to speak His Word directly to His people, His people were not able to bear the magnitude of God’s grace. However, Deuteronomy 5:28-33 explains why the people were not able to bear and receive God’s mercy.
When God heard the children of Israel respond to His commands at Mount Sinai, God told Moses to send the people away. Upon sending the people away, God said that He would indeed speak to Moses, and only Moses. God declared that He would speak and teach His statutes to Moses and then Moses was to speak and teach God’s Word to the people. While God’s people were in position to hear from God Himself, their response to the voice of God changed the dynamics of their relationship. Their response caused God to use a mediator since the children of Israel could not endure the Word of God directly.
God explained the reason. The scriptures state that God said, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” This means that the children of Israel were unable to bear the Word of God because of their hearts. They were rebellious in nature. They did not want to hear God’s Word and so they became unable to bear it when it was spoken. Their indifference to God turned into a repellant of God. The children of Israel did not fear God, but instead rebelled against Him. Their arrogance against God (instead of fear) was demonstrated in that they complained against God’s provision, they questioned His presence, and rejected God’s people and plans. Though God demonstrated His ability and willingness to destroy those that opposed Him in the Egyptians, the children of Israel tempted the Lord without regard to consequence. This attitude caused them to despise God’s Word such to the extent that the Bible testifies that when Moses spoke with God on Mount Sinai, the children of Israel fashioned the golden calf to worship instead of God. Though they could still see the cloud, fire, and darkness of God that consumed Mount Sinai, they sought to reject God without fear of consequence of any kind.
Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, those who do not fear the Lord do not have knowledge or wisdom. It is for this reason that the children of Israel made foolish decisions in unbelief that ultimately led to their demise. While God desired the Israelites to accept Him in gratitude and fear His righteous judgments in order to bless them and their children, the children of Israel rejected God’s desires, God’s work, and God’s eternally unconditional promises. The scriptures show that there are severe consequences for those who do not fear the Lord. It is important to notice God sent the rebellious Israelites away. Since they did not fear Him, they did not desire Him. Since they did not desire Him, they were unable to endure His Word and His righteousness. Since they were not able to endure His Word and righteousness, God sent the people away and distanced Himself from them. Such is the consequence of those who do not learn to fear the Lord, His authority, His sovereignty, His glory, His holiness, and His righteous judgments. Those who deny the Lord in arrogance and self-righteousness will find that over time, they are simply unable to hear and accept the righteousness of God, leaving them in a terrible place of separation from God. Deuteronomy 5:28-33 shows that those who fear the Lord and desire Him as Moses are drawn near the Lord by the Word to understand God’s righteousness and receive the glorious blessings of God that come with His righteousness. On the contrary, those who deny the Lord and cannot endure the Word, are separated from Him in judgment. The right choice should be obvious...
The Bible is something that should be cherished by God’s people like nothing else on this planet. It is a privilege to have God’s Word packaged in such a manner. Especially when one considers the amazing availability of the scriptures one should be thankful. When one considers the immediate access one has to know the Living God by His Word, and the availability to teaching resources, one should be thankful. The world has never been so saturated with opportunity to know and understand God. However, the world does not resemble a group of people that receive these opportunities with the highest levels of gratitude. The world resembles a place that has rejected God’s Word or is indifferent to it while distracted by things of little to no value. So how should one respond to this reality? What will God do to a generation that has such incredible access to His Word but refuses to receive it? What is God’s perspective regarding these things? The scriptures make the answers to these questions very clear.
In Deuteronomy 5:22-27 the Bible explains that Moses reminded the children of Israel about the circumstances when God first spoke His commandments to them at Mount Sinai. Moses had repeated and retaught the 10 Commandments, then reminded the people about the manner in which they received those commandments. God spoke His Word by His own mouth. The entire congregation of Israel was gathered before God at Mount Sinai and witnessed His glory in the form of a massive fire, thick cloud, and darkness that surrounded the mountain because of the cloud. The Bible says that the people were terrified and mesmerized at the same time. They saw a portion of God’s glory though the supernatural phenomena they witnessed at the mountain, but then also audibly heard the voice of the Living God speak! When the children of Israel heard the 10 Commandments, they heard them from God Himself.
As the Law of God reveals the righteousness and judgments of God, the children of Israel heard God reveal His own righteousness and judgments. Moses reminded them that when God spoke at Mount Sinai, He spoke as Moses repeated, and did not add or speak any more than what was declared. In other words, Moses said the same things the children of Israel heard God say. As God sought to reveal His righteousness, He stated all that needed to be said concerning it, and didn’t add anymore – and neither did Moses. Then, upon declaring all that He desired, Moses reminded the people that God wrote the things that He said with His own finger upon two stone tablets, then gave those tablets to Moses! God took great care to ensure His people understood His commands, laws, statutes, judgments, and testimonies by audibly declaring them according to His righteousness before all of His people, then writing them down by His own hand in order that His Word would be accurately documented. The children of Israel were without excuse concerning the Word of God.
Deuteronomy 5:22-27 reminded the generation of Israelites that Moses addressed about the response of God’s people when they saw and heard the work of God at Mount Sinai. They understood the unique position of privilege they were in. Moses reminded the people that their ancestors acknowledged that no one had ever heard the voice of God as they did, and lived. The children of Israel recognized that the righteousness of God was so great compared to their pitiful and sinful position, that they had no business hearing from God in such a way, and had no business living after hearing God in such a way. In other words, the children of Israel acknowledged the incredible righteousness of God, but also the phenomenal mercy of the Living God. The Bible explains that God even told Moses that no one can see God and live. His righteousness stands in stark contrast to the sinful nature of human beings. God’s holiness and glory are so great that those who saw shadows of His glory fell to the ground in terror, or were even rendered unconscious as with Peter, James, and John in Jesus’ Transfiguration. The children of Israel were in a TREMENDOUS position of privilege. God had not only declared His righteousness to undeserving pitiful sinners, but did so in such a way that they could live, and even respond to His Words in obedience!
As Moses recounted the testimony of Mount Sinai, he stated that the children of Israel asked God to stop. They recognized the amount of mercy they had already received. They recognized the righteousness of God as communicated by His Law. Deuteronomy 5:22-27 explains that the people could not endure God’s righteousness. Being as sinful and depraved as they were, as God spoke, it was hard to bear. They were incredibly humbled. They understood that no one had heard the voice of God “in the flesh” and was able to keep on living. They valued their lives, were understanding of the extent of God’s righteousness and the power of God’s Word compared to their sinful condition. They understood that they were hearing God on account of mercy, and did not want to remain in circumstances that required that amount of mercy to be continually distributed. Therefore, the children of Israel asked God to speak to Moses only, and Moses could relay the Word of God to the people as a mediator. Not wanting to tempt their position in contrast to God’s glory, holiness, and righteousness, they asked Moses to receive God’s Word on their behalf and then they could listen to his voice to know God’s Word.
The Bible declares that even the rebellious generation of Israelites that was restricted from the Promised Land on account of unbelief understood the magnitude of value and glory of God’s Word and commands. Even they knew the extent of privilege that was afforded to them. Even they knew the amount of mercy they had received. Even they knew the weakness of their flesh could not endure the righteousness, holiness, and glory of God. Today, very little has changed except that God’s people are even more privileged as God has imparted His Spirit unto those who trust in the identity and work of His Son in order to endure the Word of God. While Israel was unable to endure the glory of God, the people of God are now able to possess His glory by His Spirit though faith as they are transformed into the image of His Son, which is the incarnation of the Word. Hence, while God’s people are still receiving incredible mercy to live, and the weakness of the flesh still cannot endure the righteousness, holiness, and glory of God, Jesus has done incredible work to change the circumstances. The work of Jesus has allowed pitifully weak and sinful people who cannot endure the glory and righteousness of God to receive God’s Word, be transformed by God’s Word, supernaturally communicate the truth of God’s Word, and bring glory to the Living God by demonstrating the power of God as ambassadors of the Gospel! All of this happens by His Spirit, so that while God’s people respected God’s Word through fear but were separated from God by it, God’s people are made one with the Living God on account of it because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit!
The Lord God is clear to communicate in the scriptures how He expects people to treat Him. The Bible plainly teaches that God’s people are to exalt the Lord to the highest position of priority in one’s life. Since God is the Author of life, God’s people are expected to honor God with the life that He gives in service to Him. Since God is the Author of goodness, the Lord expects that His people follow His commands, laws, statutes, judgments, and testimonies in order to do that which He deems as “good.” The scriptures proclaim that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the one true living God and there is no other. As He desires good things for His people, and graciously proves such on a daily basis, one should respond appropriately in humble gratitude, trusting His Word to be true.
The scriptures also explain that as God is good to His people, He expects His people to be good to each other. As God expects His people to respect, fear, and honor Him in humility, the Bible teaches that God’s people should respond towards one another in the same kind of manner, reflecting the patience, mercy, and grace of God that He shows to His people. The Bible testifies that Moses retaught the 10 Commandments to the children of Israel as they prepared to enter into the Promised Land. Moses felt it was helpful for the Israelites to be reminded of the fundamental issues of God’s Law in order that they would have a better chance of keeping the Law and pleasing God. While the first 4 commandments dealt with how the children of Israel were to treat God, the last 6 of the 10 Commandments dealt with how the children of Israel were to deal with each other.
Deuteronomy 5:16-21 outlines the last 6 of the 10 Commandments. According to scripture, one’s willingness to obey the first 4 commandments would enable one to obey the following 6 commandments. One’s relationship with others is dependent on one’s relationship with God. Since God is love and love comes from God, one cannot love others unless one first has a favorable relationship with God thereby receiving His essence in love to distribute amongst others. Those who serve other gods or idols, profane the name of God, or seek to rebel against God in considering Him in a Sabbath manner, likely do not have a Biblical relationship with God, have not received His love, and consequently are unable to love others according to God’s commands as God does.
Deuteronomy 5:16-21 explains that the people of God were to “honor their father and mother.” As the Lord gave this command, He also provided a promise to accompany it. He promised that those who honor father and mother would have prolonged days in the land. This means that God would ensure that His people would enjoy the benefits of His blessings for the duration that He intended. The command to “honor” is important to understand. The original Hebrew word is used in a variety of ways, but in this context refers to increasing one’s position. This too can be done in a variety of ways. When the word is first used in scripture, the word refers to riches that Abraham received from the Lord in the form of cattle. As God promised to prosper Abraham, He did so by increasing Abraham’s wealth. Abraham’s increase is referred to as “honor.” Therefore, the command God gave refers to one “increasing” the position of one’s parents in a variety of ways, but ultimately leads back to finances. The people of God were expected to financially provide for their parents when their parents and children reached the appropriate ages. God’s people were not to let their parents be shamed by allowing their parents to grow old, being unable to have their basic needs met. Rather, God’s people were to care for their parents and ensure that their position was increased as they got older – ensuring their basic needs were met and their integrity as human beings was upheld.
Deuteronomy 5:16-21 then explains that God’s people were to honor each other in other ways as well. The 6th commandment explained that God’s people were not to murder, thereby respecting the authority of God as the Author of life. God’s people were to practice restraint and submission, holding their anger and malice in check in order to promote life as God does, rather than destroy that which is God’s. The 7th commandment called for God’s people to refrain from adultery. God wanted His people to respect and honor the ministry of marriage. Since God ordained marriage for the purpose of teaching “oneness” to provide illustrations of the relationship He desires to have with His people through Jesus, God commanded His people to ensure the integrity of His prophetic picture in marriage. The 8th commandment called for the people of God to refrain from stealing. God’s people were supposed respect and honor the possessions of others. The Bible explains that God is fair and just, thereby giving people possessions according to His will and purposes. The people of God were to respect and honor God’s sovereignty by practicing contentment with God’s provision, refraining from taking what God ordained someone else to have. The 9th commandment dealt with bearing false witness. God did not want His people to bear false witness. The people of God were to respect and honor truth, fairness, and justice. They were not to misrepresent truth for selfish gain. They were not to compromise righteousness for any reason at all. Lastly, the 10th commandment called for God’s people to abstain from coveting that, which belonged to another. Once again, God wanted His people to practice contentment rather that lust for possessions that God ordained unto others.
Upon examining these commandments, one should see that obedience to the last 6 of the 10 Commandments was really a reflection of one’s relationship and trust in the Lord. Those who obeyed the commandments outlined in Deuteronomy 5:16-21 were those who understood the gracious care of God, the desire of God for life, the purpose of God’s Messiah, the sovereign authority of God, the identity of God as truth, and the position of God as righteous. Those who sought to obey God’s commands were those who trusted in God’s identity as these things whereas those who denied God’s commands were those that denied God Himself. The trust that one has in the Living God will be directly related to the ways one treats God’s people and vice versa. This was the reason Moses sought to remind the children of Israel of these commands, and such is the reason the scriptures continually repeat these commands throughout the Bible.
The Bible teaches that those who sin are slaves to sin. Likewise, the Bible also teaches that all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Therefore, one must conclude that all people are slaves to sin as sinner. However, before God added form to the earth, God saw that darkness was in the midst of it. The condition of the world was chaotic, void, and formless – completely against God’s character and nature. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel testify that such darkness was likely on account of the devil since he was cast out of heaven for his rebellion. However, on the first day, upon acknowledging the condition of the world, God revealed Himself as light. God revealed Himself in such a way that opposed darkness. He then added form and purpose to the world in the midst of the chaos and void that defined the world. In this work, God showed that, while the natural condition of the world is contrary to Him as dark, He is able to overcome the darkness, is able to transform the darkness, and does not require the assistance of any created being in order to do so.
Later, when Jesus came into the world in flesh, He proclaimed to be “the Light of the world.” This means that, when the Father said, “Let there be light,” Jesus was made manifest as the Messiah; appointed to oppose darkness. While God showed that He is willing to destroy darkness and the effects of it on account of His creation, He showed that Jesus is the method by which that work will be done. Jesus taught that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Jesus taught that He did not come to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. Jesus came to free those who were captive. In other words, the Father understands the flawed condition of the world based on the presence of darkness, is committed to addressing it by destroying it on behalf of His people, and accomplishes that work through Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God in order that those who are slaves to sin could be set free through forgiveness received in faith by the grace of God! The work of Jesus Christ as the Light of the world is the work that sets people free from the bondage of sin and the effects of that bondage – mainly death.
God did a similar work for the children of Israel in order to demonstrate His commitment to this work. God was determined to show His people and the world that He is able and willing to free His people from bondage. When the children of Israel were held captive in Egypt, the Bible teaches that God exercised His power to free the children of Israel from that bondage and did so with an outstretched arm and great authority! When Moses taught the children of Israel God’s laws, statutes, judgments, and testimonies, he often referenced this work that God did in order to impress upon the people that God is worth obeying. In Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Moses reminded the children of Israel about the Sabbath day. God originally communicated His commands concerning the Sabbath day when the children of Israel were at Mount Sinai, and included the instructions about the Sabbath day as part of the 10 Commandments. The Sabbath day was important to God. In fact, God referred to the Sabbath day as His own day. Moses explained why that was so in Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
Moses reminded the children of Israel that the Sabbath day was supposed to be kept holy. Holiness in the Bible refers to separation. That which is “holy” is reflective of that which is “separate.” God is holy because God is separate from His creation. Since the Genesis account of creation identifies the reality that darkness is a part of the world today, God is holy because He is separate from that darkness. God does not resemble darkness, sin, corruption, or death in any sort of way. Therefore, God proclaims that He is “holy,” which means apart from the world and the sin that is in it. God commanded that the Sabbath day was to be holy as well. This means that the Sabbath day was to possess the characteristics of God being separate from sin and the world. It was to be a day in which the people who practiced it focused on God as the model for holiness; and God had specific expectations for the means by which He wanted this day to be practiced.
God told His people that they were supposed to work for 6 days. Part of the curse of sin was that mankind would labor in sin but produce vain and unsatisfying results. One cannot avoid this reality. It is important to consider that when God spoke of the Sabbath day, He always reminded the people that they were to work for 6 days – no more and no less. One that sought to work more or less was equal to one that sought to rebel against the judgment of God. This is important to understand since God intended for the Sabbath day to bring a practical form of rest to His people, but also serve as a teaching tool to demonstrate the faithfulness of God according to His promises. God expected the children of Israel to yield to His judgments concerning sin and labor for six days. God also expected the children of Israel to cease from that labor on the seventh day. This was the fundamental way that the Sabbath was to be kept “holy” and “separate.” No customary work was to be done on this day. God wanted His people to take a day out of the week to separate from the daily grind that resembled the curse of sin in order to focus on Him in rest.
When Moses reminded the children of Israel about the Sabbath day in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, he explained God’s purpose for the Sabbath day. Moses told the children of Israel to remember that it was Yahweh Elohim that removed them from the bondage of Egypt. God brought His people out of the darkness and suffering of bondage while in Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. God made it clear that He was in favor of the people and was willing to do the work that His people could not do for themselves. Therefore, the children of Israel were expected to keep the Sabbath. The day of rest that God ordained was not intended to be a day in which the Israelites were led into more bondage, plaguing their minds with rules and regulations about the activities that constitute “labor.” The day of rest that God ordained was designed to keep the children of Israel from doing the work of labor that was normally done in order to be freed from the distractions that can distort one’s vision and appreciation of God.
The workweek was difficult on account of the bondage and curse of sin. God ordained a day of rest in order to show His people that a greater day of “rest” will come. The Sabbath day was to be symbolic of the day that God would ultimately free His people from the bondage of sin just as He did from the bondage of Egypt (which Biblically serves to be a picture of sin). The Sabbath day was supposed to be day in which God’s people were to rest in hope, considering the past work that God did to redeem His people, looking forward to the work God would do to complete the spiritual facets of those promises through the Messiah. Since God freed His people from the bondage of Egypt, it was reasonable for the children of Israel to take a break from the daily grind in order to examine the work of God in creation as He did on the first Sabbath, enjoy the benefits of God’s promises, consider the full extent of God’s promises, and express gratitude to God for His promises that have been fulfilled and will be fulfilled. Likewise, God’s people today would be wise to exercise this habit on a daily basis. One should not observe the Sabbath day in a legalistic way as many of the Jews have over history, but rather seek to make each day holy, and separate from sin, looking to God and acknowledging His promises in gratitude for the work He has accomplished through His Son, in anticipation for the work that His Son has yet to complete, looking forward to the “rest” that comes to God’s people in eternity!