When the Lord makes promises, the overall intent of God’s promises is to bring benefit and goodness to His people – even in judgment. The Bible teaches that God is an omnibenevolent God. This means that God is good – and only good. The Book of Genesis shows that God is the Author of good. He is the authority that determines that which is good and that which is not good. The scriptures show that when God does a work, He determines it to be good; and since He is without sin, it is impossible for God’s work to resemble anything except good. Therefore, as God speaks commands to His people, those who strive for obedience can expect a response that is “good” according to God’s standards. Though God’s commands may be hard and may seem odd according to human reason, they are good according to God’s nature. God’s promises are good. God’s laws and statutes are good. Thus, God does not desire to give commands that cripple and deprave His people, but instead facilitate blessings, rewards, and goodness.
This truth can be seen in the contents of Deuteronomy 12:15-28. In this portion of scripture, the Bible shows that God spoke to the children of Israel about the ways that they needed to handle their food according to the location of the tabernacle. Recall that the Law called for the people to eat certain food within certain boundaries of the tabernacle if those foods were intended to be sacrifices. Since the children of Israel were preparing to move into the Promised Land and settle in the land, God wanted to address the logistics regarding the consumption of those types of foods. Consider that while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, all of the families within the twelve tribes of Israel were camped around the tabernacle and within relatively close proximity of the tabernacle. Thus, one’s responsibility to take certain sacrificial or sanctified foods to the tabernacle to be consumed was reasonable and mostly convenient. However, as the Lord was preparing to move His people into the Promised Land, many of the people would be extremely long distances from the tabernacle, making it difficult to adhere to God’s previous commands. Therefore, God knowing all things, and wanting to express the basis of His motives and heart, sought to address this matter in Deuteronomy 12:15-28.
The scriptures first explain that God’s intent of the Law was not to be restrictive in nature but liberating. The Bible teaches that God’s purpose for the Law was to be a teacher or a “school master” in order to lead His people to the understanding of His righteousness by Messiah – Jesus Christ. The Law was intended to display the righteousness of God while also pointing out the flaws of God’s people, thereby showing the need of a savior that is greater than normal flesh and blood. Upon coming to this understanding, one could look to the promises of God of Messiah and rest assured in His own provision since He alone is righteous. Knowing this, the people of God were to take comfort in the freedom of God’s promises of Messiah and enjoy the benefits of His promises rather than be bound into further bondage through restrictions and regulations. God did not remove His people from the bondage of Egypt in order to confine them and further enslave them by another device.
Deuteronomy 12:15-28 begins by informing the people about their freedom in opportunity. God told the people that they were free to slaughter and eat the meat of their cattle that He provided according to the desire of their hearts. The people were not required to eat every meal in certain places, in certain ways, at certain times. God provided the children of Israel with a rich abundance of cattle. The scriptures show that God did so with the intent of allowing His people to enjoy His provision. God told the people that they could eat the clean and unclean animals according to the desires of their hearts – the deer and the gazelle alike. The Lord told them that they could eat as much meat as they wanted. The Lord did not desire the children of Israel to feel guilty about consuming the increase that He provided. The Lord provided increase to His people in order to enjoy the benefits of His own goodness and riches. The Lord did not provide His people with an abundance in order to tease His people and deprave them. Holiness is predicated on one’s separation from sin, not one’s denial of the joy God desires to give. There are many who think that since Jesus promised suffering to believers that God’s people will suffer and not have joy. This is an inaccurate interpretation of scripture and reflects an ignorance of the character of God. While God’s people are promised suffering in salvation, God’s intent is to bring joy in the midst of such suffering to show that His quality of joy transcends circumstances. This is the quality of joy that God desires His people to enjoy richly!
There were only two “regulations” attached to the command that God gave in Deuteronomy 12:15-28. While God commanded His people to enjoy the benefits of the increase that He provided, He did not want the people to consume the blood of the animals. God was very clear about this particular restriction. God mentions this same command twice in this portion of scripture. God was gracious to provide an abundance of food to the people, and desired that they consume the fruit of His goodness freely. However, He did not want the people to consume the blood of those animals in any way, shape, or form. Thankfully, God was willing to explain the purpose of His restriction. God reminded the children of Israel that life comes from blood. While God desired His people to consume the fruit of His goodness, He did not want His people consuming the essence of His possession. The Bible teaches that God alone is God. He is the Author and the Finisher of all things – including life. He determines that which lives, and that which dies as the holy and righteous Judge of all things. Therefore, life is His and His alone. Since God said that life is in the blood of His creatures, one is not able to consume that which belongs to God.
While God wanted His people to enjoy the benefits of His provision and promises, He did not want His people to do so at the expense of His authority. God restricted the people from consuming blood so that the people would not get in the habit of thinking that they had any authority over life. God did not want His people to develop a taste for blood or get “blood thirsty,” and figure that they could assume that which was God’s as their own possession, consuming it freely as if they were equal in authority to God concerning life. God alone is sovereign over life. God does not want His people to become comfortable with the idea that one can freely consume that which is His. Thus, while God gave a restriction to the people concerning His provision, it was only with the intent to preserve the integrity of His authority, thereby preserving the ability of God’s people to continually receive God’s goodness without further restriction. Deuteronomy 12:15-28 explains that God further promised that if the people kept this command and refrained from consuming the blood of the animals, they would be able to continue to enjoy the benefits of God’s goodness without issue. As the people respected and honored God’s authority over life, God would continue to increase the quality of their life and allow them to enjoy such benefits!
Lastly, the scriptures explained that there was a certain type of food that was to be consumed within the boundaries of the tabernacle as with the traditions that were commanded in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 12:15-28 explains that the people could not freely consume their tithes of grain, new wine, oil, the firstborn of their heard/flock, their freewill offerings, or their heave offerings. The foods dedicated to those purposes had to be consumed within the gates of the tabernacle. One must notice that the foods God described in this segment refer to the foods that were dedicated to holy purpose as tithes and offerings. These were foods that were to be set apart from the rest in order to give unto the Lord as demonstrations of gratitude and thanksgiving. Thus, God still expected His people to tithe, regardless of the increase. In fact, one could make the argument that the people were expected to tithe “because” of the increase, as a way of showing thanks to God.
Additionally, God wanted to ensure that ALL of His people were able to receive the benefits of the increase and abundance in the Promised Land. Recall that the Levites were not given an inheritance. Instead, the Lord made it so that the provision of the Levites would come from the tithes, offerings, and sacrifices of the people since the Levites were allowed to take certain portions of those offerings for themselves to feed their families. Hence, if the people remained obedient to tithe in the tabernacle according to the Law, the Levites would be adequately accounted for and be able to enjoy the benefits of the land like everyone else. If the people neglected God’s laws, became self-absorbed, the Levites (the servants of God dedicated to facilitating sacrifice and worship of God) would have suffered. Subsequently, one can examine the contents of Deuteronomy 12:15-28 and see the goodness AND fairness of God. It is true that God desires to richly increase His people by His own standard of goodness; but not at the expense of His own authority and righteousness, and not at the expense of His people. While God does give an abundance for some to enjoy, those people are not to use such increase to exalt themselves in self-righteousness, and are not to horde such abundance at the expense of God’s other people – especially those that minister as God’s anointed servants. God is good, but desires His goodness to be equally and fairly distributed amongst all people that desire to partake!
It is important to recognize and acknowledge the extent of authority, sovereignty, and holiness that God has. He is in charge of all things. As Creator, He is above all things and all things are His. The Bible teaches that in Him, all things consist. One of the main facets that places God above all things and gives Him supreme authority is that He is holy. He is without sin. Therefore, there is no substance within Him that is corrupt, perverse, or wrong. Consequently, God is pure, wholesome, and right, and without any corrupt substance in Him, there is nothing that can change His perfect nature. That said, one must recognize that God calls all the shots – especially concerning worship! The scriptures show that God desires to be worshiped, but since He is who He is, He expects to be worshiped a certain way, in a certain place, and for certain reasons – all of which one is expected to submit to, not contend with.
These truths are communicated in Deuteronomy 12:1-14. In this portion of scripture Moses prepared the children of Israel to know how to worship God once they were in the Promised Land. The children of Israel wandered through the wilderness for 40 years and had grown accustomed to worshiping God a certain way according to the Law with the tabernacle as the centralized worship center. God did not change the method of His law, but as the children of Israel were preparing to cross over the Jordan River, God did change the location that His people were to worship in. This was important to God. The contents and details of Deuteronomy 12:1-14 show that God is interested in EVERY facet of worship to ensure it is done correctly by His perfect standards. While the physical location is not necessarily the major concern, location is still a critical part of worship according to the scriptures.
As Moses prepared the people to cross into the Promised Land, he reminded the people about the things that needed to be done to the land once they took it over. The people that were living in Canaan were pagan idol worshipers. This is why the Lord was determined to destroy those people. The things that the native inhabitants of the land worshiped, and the manner in which they did so, were vile and perverse. God didn’t want His people, that were to resemble His holy image, to have anything to do with those things. Therefore God commanded that the people utterly destroy all of the previously existing places of worship in Canaan. The children of Israel were to were to destroy all of the altars. The children of Israel were to break all of the sacred pillars. The children of Israel were to burn all of the wooden images with fire. The children of Israel were to cut down every carved image and destroy the name of every false god. In other words, the children of Israel were to utterly destroy and obliterate anything that resembled a culture of worldliness, corrupt darkness, and idolatry.
Deuteronomy 12:1-14 candidly explains that God does not way ANY of those things associated with the worship that is directed towards Him. The scriptures plainly read, “You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.” This means that there is not to be compromise. God’s people were explicitly commanded not to integrate the things of non-believers and false god worshipers with the ways of God and His Word. God commanded His people to be holy, which in its simplest definition means, to be separate. God wanted to assure that His people remained separate from corruption and darkness by commanding them to destroy any resemblance of it, knowing the dangers that were amongst them. Hence, one’s worship to God should not resemble the ways of the world in any way, shape, or form. The processes and practices of worship should not contain any likeness to the world and paganism in any sort of way. The worship of the one true living God should be based only on the commands and authority of scripture because God is holy and is the only One able to speak with righteous authority about worship.
As Moses reminded the children of Israel of these things, Moses also informed the people that God would reveal the proper place of worship. Once the children of Israel purged the land of impurities set in idolatry, God promised to reveal the place that He desired to dwell, enabling the children of Israel to know where to set up the tabernacle. God did not want to be worshiped in the places that were traditional according to the native inhabitants of the land. God wanted to be worshiped in a place that He desired to dwell. Thus, the people of God must pay attention to the location of one’s worship to ensure that the presence of God rests there. While today one’s body serves as the temple of the Holy Spirit, one must be aware of one’s surrounding environment to make sure that one’s worship and service to God is in a place that the Lord dwells, that is not facilitating conduct and attitudes that are opposite His nature. Since God is holy, He decides where He wants to dwell. It is then up to the people of God to seek His presence and reside where He is – not pick their own place and expect God to submit to the will of people. God is the authority. God is sovereign. God is Yahweh. He will dwell where He wants, and will not dwell in the midst of darkness. Thus, the people of God must learn to discern the presence of God and be in those places.
Moses told the children of Israel that they should depart from the sinful habits that were demonstrated in the wilderness. God had a new phase of work to do through the children of Israel. For this reason, the children of Israel were to leave old things behind. The old ways of Israel were stated in this way: every man was doing whatever was right in their own eyes. This means that the habits of the people were motivated by the ideas and traditions of men, not the authority of the Word of God. The children of Israel were not to live that way any more. They were to submit to His authority as communicated by His Word. Moses taught the people that God’s promises had not yet be fully fulfilled, and so in order to receive the benefits of God’s work to fulfill those promises, the people had to depart from self-righteousness and submit to the standards of God’s law without compromise.
God assured the people that He was about to take them across the Jordan River. The Bible teaches that the crossing of the Jordan River is like a prophetic picture of God’s people being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Baptism of the Holy Spirit is when God’s people receive His power to communicate the Gospel by His Spirit in ways that result in His salvation! Therefore, when one places all of these ideas together, one must come to the following conclusion. God’s promises were set on giving a weak and pitiful group of people His own power in order to communicate and impart eternal life! Since the fulfillment of God’s promises come from Messiah, God’s promise to Israel were founded on revealing Messiah to the people in order for them to possess His power. This is made evident in that, when the presence of God rested in the land in order for the children of Israel to set up the tabernacle, He settled in Shiloh. Shiloh is a Hebrew word translated in two ways. The first translation is, “a place of rest.” The Bible refers to “rest” in the context of God’s rest on the 7th day, which serves as a picture of salvation. The second translation is, “He who’s right it is.” This is a direct reference to the Messiah, speaking of His authority as the Son of God and King of Israel as stated in Genesis 49:10. The Bible teaches that God’s people are expected to utterly destroy every way of darkness and completely separate from those things to dwell in the holy presence of God so that one can be a beneficiary of God’s promises that are rooted in the revelation of Jesus as Savior, enjoying eternal life, and possessing the power of God to impart it unto others!
The command of God to decimate any resemblance of paganism and worldly culture rooted in darkness seems harsh – and rightly so. The command of God to pursue the resting place of His presence is critical to one’s ability to worship correctly. This doesn’t necessarily refer to physical location – though it might also entail that. Instead, one must recognize that Moses point to the hearts of the people to show that they were previously doing wrong. When the hearts of people are dark, God’s presence will depart. Since the people that wandered through the wilderness were determined to do things their own way rather than God’s way, the scriptures show that there was distance between them and the presence of the Lord. This is not good. In order for one to be close to the Lord, one must depart from one’s own ideas and ways and surrender to the authority of God’s Word without compromise. The place that one should seek is the place of humility, meekness, and humility since the Bible teaches that this is the type of heart God dwells inside of. For one’s own personal accountability sake, one should ensure one is pursuing God in this way. For the purpose of one’s corporate worship in the context of the body, one should look for the group of people that holds the Word of God as the supreme standard of all things and is governed by its contents, and only its contents, without the integration of worldliness, paganism, idolatry, and unfaithfulness, since God will not dwell in those places as the holy God.
It is important to understand that while there are benefits to doing as the Lord commands in obedience, there are serious consequences for disobedience as well. The Bible teaches that God is patient, merciful, and gracious. However, God is not such at the expense of His just and righteous nature. In other words, while God is slow to anger, at a certain point, He will respond in anger. While God is merciful, He still judges those who rebel against Him. While God is gracious, His favor is never at the expense of justice. Therefore, it becomes a critical matter for the people of God to know the righteousness of God according to His Word in order to do what is right in His sight in order to receive the benefits of God’s blessings rather than the curses He also communicated.
This truth is explained well in Deuteronomy 11:26-32. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Moses re-taught the Law to the children of Israel before they entered into the Promised Land. God commanded Moses to repeat His commands to ensure the people had clear understanding of God’s expectations concerning their faith while in the Promised Land. God was faithful to give the people the land. The land was going to be given to the people, and this truth was emphasized in Deuteronomy 11:26-32. However, God had specific expectations for the people in terms of a response of gratitude that He wanted to see from the people.
The scriptures explain that God set forth blessings and curses in His law. The law was filled with promises of benefits and gains as well as promises of loss and destruction. Deuteronomy 11:26-32 plainly presented the only two options for Israel to choose from. God told the children of Israel that once in the land, they had the freedom to choose obedience, and if they did, they would receive blessings. The Bible previously explained that “obedience” was contextually defined as “love,” “walking” in God’s ways, and “holding fast” to God through the Word. It is important to recognize that obedience had little to do with what the children of Israel did. Obedience was not entirely predicated on works. Obedience was more fundamentally predicated on affection based on faith.
Consider the Biblical explanation of obedience. Obedience was equated to “love.” The Bible explains that love is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. Since God commanded the children of Israel to “love” Him before the manifestation of the Messiah (Jesus Christ), then the children of Israel were to demonstrate the righteousness of the Messiah as communicated by the Law. Before doing so, the children of Israel had to trust the Law to be good, right, and true according to God’s own righteousness. Thus, while it would have been “good works” that were manifested in obedience, it was the faith of the people in the righteousness of God in the Law that would have motivated it. Such is true of the command to “walk in God’s ways” and also “hold fast” to God’s commands. Jesus taught that where one’s treasure is, a person’s heart will also be there. Consequently, those whose focus was on the commands and words of God, trusting them to be good and right, would have been motivated to live according to them. This would have resulted in “blessings.”
This process does not entirely translate to God’s New Covenant promises. The covenant of the Law was merely an illustration to show God’s people how He would perform a greater work through the Messiah since the Law proved people are not naturally obedient because people do not naturally have an affection for God. The parallel between the Law and God’s promises fulfilled through Jesus is that, as obedience was a reflection of faith in God’s righteousness before (through the focal point of the Law), obedience is STILL a reflection of faith in God’s righteousness today (through the focal point of Jesus as the Lord Our Righteousness). Therefore, the command to be obedient still stands. The difference today however is that obedience does not facilitate “the blessing.” Jesus facilitates “the blessing” in salvation as He died to offer forgiveness of sins. Rather, obedience is the outward evidence of saving faith that one has already received the blessing by faith. While obedience determined whether the children of Israel were blessed or cursed, obedience today simply serves as evidence of those who are already blessed or cursed based on their faith (or lack there of) in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah.
Deuteronomy 11:26-32 also explains that God communicated curses in the Law. This means that God was candid about the consequences of rejecting His righteousness through the Law. While God did not get into specifics of the curses in Deuteronomy 11:26-32, He did assure the people that bad things would happen if they did not obey. God told the people that disobedience was reflective of rebellion. God told the people to go one way, but disobedience would reflect the desire to go another way as if it was better. God told the people that disobedience was reflective of idolatry and spiritual adultery. God told the people to exclusively worship Him by holding Him in the highest regard as an appropriate response to the favor He had already given and continued to give. However, the Bible explains that disobedience was reflective of a heart that did not appreciate the work of God, but instead desired other carnal affections. Rightly so, God promised that those who’s hearts were focused on such things would be cursed. As obedience was a reflection of faith, disobedience was a reflection of unbelief.
The choice was simple, and the choice was based on the individuals that made up the nation of Israel. God explained that there were only two choices to make. Obedience that reflected faith in God’s goodness and promises would result in awesome blessings. Disobedience that reflected unbelief in God’s goodness and promises would result in curses. This means that one cannot deny God’s goodness and despise God’s promises and expect no consequence. God was going to do good things for the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 11:26-32 boldly predicted that the children of Israel “would” go into the land, that the native inhabitants “would” be destroyed, and that the children of Israel “would” possess the Promised Land. There was no disputing these truths. God was going to do this work. However, once God did this work, God expected gratitude towards His grace, and expected that gratitude to be based on trust in His goodness through obedience to His Word.
God commanded the children of Israel that upon entering the Land, they were to take the entire Law with them and make it the standard by which the nation would be governed. He commanded them to take the blessings to Mount Gerizim, and the curses to Mount Ebal. Both of these mountains were in the middle of Canaan, which meant that if the children of Israel were going to climb these mountains, they had to be victorious to conquer the land. God wanted the Law exalted on these mountains – the blessings on one, and the curses on the other – both exalted as God’s standard of righteousness. God wanted the people to place the entirety of God’s Law above the people so that the nation could acknowledge it as the chief authority for all things and the children of Israel could stand in agreement before the Law, professing their desire to obey. Joshua 8:33 explains that this is exactly what happened when the children of Israel went into the Land, which proves that God’s promises to His people are true. If God’s promises are true, proving God to be faithful, then obedience to His Word should not be a burden, but an opportunity to thank God for the tremendous favor He first shows His people – especially in salvation! Since salvation is so great a gift from God, no wonder such strong curses and consequences exist for those who would deny His gift. With only two options to select from, the right choice seems obvious!
The Bible teaches that one of the 16 Old Testament names of God is Jehovah Nissi – the Lord Is My Banner. This refers to the victory that God brings on behalf of His people. The Bible teaches that victory belongs to God. God is sovereign and in control of all things, and is able to decide the outcome of all conflicts between any group of people. Additionally, another one of God’s Old Testament names is Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord Of Hosts. This refers to God’s sovereignty over the armies of the world. The scriptures teach that He is control of all armies in heaven and on earth. He is able to cause any people group He desires to engage in battle and win against any other people group or collective of people groups. Since God is the God Most High, no one can contend with Him and His will is always done. Thus, when God promised the children of Israel that He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel, He was well qualified to fulfill such a heavy promise!
Since God possesses the authority to determine the outcome of any conflict, those who are on the favorable side of God’s will are allowed to share in the victories that He has already swore and promised to come. For example, in Deuteronomy 11:22-25 the Bible explains that God repeated His promise to take the children of Israel into the Promised Land and provide victory over the native inhabitants of the land. This was a promise that God made to Abraham several generations before God communicated these promises through Moses. Since God is sovereign, almighty, and faithful, victory was inevitable. However, God communicated important instructions to the children of Israel to ensure they were able to enjoy the benefits of God’s victory.
Deuteronomy 11:22-25 explains that the children of Israel were expected to “carefully keep all” of God’s commandments. The children of Israel were not to be selective regarding God’s commands. The children of Israel did not have the liberty to pick and choose which commands seemed favorable to their personal affections and fleshly desires. The children of Israel were expected to receive “all” of God’s commands, regardless of their personal opinions about them. The children of Israel were to trust in God as omnibenevolent (all good) so that all of His commands were all good by extension. In that the children of Israel were to “carefully” keep each command, God communicated His expectation for the people to take great care about how much attention they paid to the Word, how well they retained the Word, how well they understood the Word, and how well they kept the integrity of the Word through their conduct and example.
As God repeated His expectation for the children of Israel to carefully keep His commands, He also repeated His command to love Him. However, in this portion of scripture, the Lord used the word “love” in the context of two other commands in order to define how “love” towards God should look. God said that His people must “walk” in all of His ways. This means that the children of Israel were expected to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. They were to conduct themselves according to the righteousness of God as communicated by the Law. The children of Israel were to dedicate themselves to the Word so that they were obedient to keep the laws, feast days, and sacrifices according to the righteousness of God.
Furthermore God commanded the children of Israel to “hold fast” to Him. This means that the children of Israel were to possess God by the Law. They were to hold a deep affection for the Word so that the righteousness of God dominated their minds, motivated their actions, and manifested in their lives. The children of Israel were to “hold fast” to God in the sense that they were to crave His righteousness and cherish His presence and promises. In other words, God wanted His people to consider Him, the things He promised, the things He had done to fulfill those promises so far, and desire Him. Thus, God defined “love” towards Him as one’s obedience to “walk in His ways” and also “hold fast to Him.” Since this is the conduct that mirrors the conduct of Jesus Christ, the scriptures are consistent in their presentation and definition of love.
Deuteronomy 11:22-25 is predicated on a great promise from God. God promised that if His people were to love Him in the manner that He described, they would be able to partake in awesome victories and expand their boarders to great depths! Though the nations that dwelt in the Promised Land were more in number and mightier in ability, God swore that the children of Israel would defeat them and remain victorious if they would simply love God in the manner that He described. One must then consider the names and attributes of God in the context of this promise. God was already the Banner of victory. God was already the Lord of hosts. God had already made His promises to Abraham and already demonstrated His faithfulness to keep and fulfill those promises. Consequently, God already proved Himself qualified to achieve victory and had already committed Himself to defeating the native inhabitants of the land because of their sins. Victory was imminent. God was going to be victorious Himself over the native inhabitants of the land. Hence, the love that the people showed to God would not inspire God to fight for the people; but instead allow the people to enjoy the benefits of the work God had already sworn to do!
The reality is that God is already victorious over all things. From the perspective of Deuteronomy 11:22-25, God had already won against the people of Canaan. When God decided to engage against them, victory was already declared since none can oppose God and win. Likewise, God is already victorious over sin, death, and the devil. When God decided to engage against sin, death and the devil, neither were able to oppose Him, which was proved when Jesus raised Himself from the dead! If the eyewitness testimonies of the Gospels prove the resurrection of Jesus as true, then God’s victory over sin, death, and the devil have already been proven. Therefore, one can make the following comparison to Deuteronomy 11:22-25. The obedience and love of the children of Israel were not going to inspire God to do new things. The children of Israel did not have to love God to earn His favor. Since God already swore upon Himself before Abraham to give the land to the children of Israel, God was going to provide favor to the people on the basis of grace. The obedience and love of God’s people would simply allow them to enjoy the benefits of God’s grace and also participate in the work that God would do to achieve victory.
Salvation works in the same way. God promised that He would address the issues of sin, death, and the devil on behalf of all people before people even had the chance to sin. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah prove that God’s promises have indeed been fulfilled in that regard. Therefore, victory over sin, death, and the devil has already been delivered. Consequently, one’s obedience and love towards God allows one to receive the benefits of victory that God has already produced. God has already won the fight. One’s obedience and love merely allows one to enjoy being on the winning side; and until one enters into God’s presence in eternity, one is also privileged to engage in the battle, equipped by God’s own Spirit, in order to bring God further glory! One does not have to earn God’s favor through obedience and love. God has already shown favor to defeat sin, death, and the devil. Like the children of Israel, one’s love and obedience towards God – as defined in the scriptures (not by human standards) – allows one to receive the benefits of God’s work as The Lord Our Banner and the sovereign Lord of Hosts!
The Bible explains that the Word of God should be the most precious and important thing in the lives of all of God’s people! The Word of God should not take second place to ANYTHING! The Word of God must come before one’s kids, one’s profession, and one’s personal obligations since the Word of God is the essence of life, and that more abundantly. While the world is filled with many ways to fill time, the Bible is candid to explain that the true people of God that know God and love Him should spend every opportunity possible to seek the Lord through His Word, and consider the Word as one’s chief motivator for all things in life.
This truth is powerfully explained in Deuteronomy 11:18-21. In this portion of scripture the Lord explained the degree of importance and priority the Word should take in the lives of His people. The Lord first said that His Word should reside in the hearts and souls of His people. This means that the Word of God should define the people of God. The Word of God should motivate the people of God. The Word of God should fuel the people of God. The essence of who a person is as a child of God should be founded on and premised by the Word! Worldly things should not define the people of God. The people of God should not be defined by the pursuit of fleshly desires. The people of God should be defined by the pursuit of God through His Word, and the people should hunger, thirst for, and crave the Holy Scriptures. As the Word should reside in the hearts and souls of God’s people, the people of God should grow, mature, and be governed by the Word.
The Lord provided practical examples that He expected His people to practice as ways to ensure that the Word was the standard and authority of all things in life. Deuteronomy 11:18-21 first stated that the people of God were to bind the Word as a sign on their hands and the frontlets of their eyes. Unfortunately, many Jewish people have missed the point of God’s command and have constructed elaborate phylacteries to literally put scrolls of scripture in cases that they wear on their wrists and on their foreheads. This is not what God was referring to. Instead, God was speaking about the emphasis of the Word in one’s life. When God told the children of Israel to bind the Word on their hands, He was teaching the children of Israel to allow their work and actions to be motivated by and governed by the Word. The actions of God’s people and the motives for their work should be determined by the things that God’s Word communicates and teaches in order that the effects of such work is representative of God’s righteousness. Likewise, when God said to bind His Word on the frontlets of their eyes, He was teaching the people to continually consider the Word in their minds, see the world through the lens of scripture, and as the Apostle Paul later wrote, take every thought captive and make it subject to Christ. This is the extent of importance that one should place on the Bible.
Next, Deuteronomy 11:18-21 repeated God’s command to seek, pursue, and create opportunities to teach the Word to one’s kids and the younger generations. If God’s people are obedient to place the Word as the supreme authority over one’s life so that it governs one’s thoughts, actions, and attitudes, then God’s people will become well equipped to teach the Word, being doers of the Word. This is God’s will. The Bible explains that God expects His people to know the Word well enough to teach it, and that the focus of one’s teaching should be on one’s own children. The scriptures are direct to state that parents should have their minds focused on teaching the Word to their children when they are at home sitting down, when they are out and about, in the morning, and in the evening. In other words, God’s people should CONTINUALLY have their minds focused on seeking any and every opportunity to turn life into a teaching lesson about who God is as documented in the Word. A parent that does not teach their children the Word in this way is a parent that is operating against the will of God per the scriptures. One’s ministry is fundamentally attached to one’s obligation to ensure their children know God according to His holy Word so that the life of a parent should be dedicated to that responsibility. No other pursuit in life should supersede this command.
Lastly, Deuteronomy 11:18-21 explains that God wanted His people to write His Word on the doorposts of their homes and upon the gates of their cities. Once again, the Jewish people have mistakenly interpreted this so that they developed mezuzahs, which are boxes that hold scripture to the doorposts of homes. Not that these are bad or foolish, but the development of these tools misses the point that God was making. God’s command to have the Word on doorposts was reflective of the fact that God wanted the homes of His people identified by the Word. His command was all about identification as all of the commands found in Deuteronomy 11:18-21. God wanted the homes of His people to be founded on the Word as evidenced by His command for parents to teach children, and all people to be governed by and motivated by His Word. In essence, the Word of God must reign supreme in every facet of life so that Bible is that which identifies and defines God’s people in every sense. There should NEVER be any thing, idea, goal, person, or consideration that trumps the position of priority of the Word in the lives of God’s people. God communicated this clearly, and so God’s people are expected to comply.
There are many people that have a hard time understanding how it is possible that Jesus would die for the sins of the world, but somehow it be possible that people still end up in hell. How can the debt of sin be paid, but some people have debt in sin remaining in judgment? God, understanding the complexity of this concept, took time to explain His processes to His people. The concept of Jesus as propitiation (satisfaction of wrath for the world) and the necessity of individual accountability in faith is a concept that was explained through illustrations since the inception of the Law. Thus, those that dismiss the significance of the Law often miss out on full depth of understanding concerning the purpose and fulfillment of Jesus Christ, which can lead to some under-appreciating Jesus as a whole.
In Deuteronomy 11:13-17 the Bible shows that God took multiple efforts to explain the same principles of His Law. God was not content to state His purposes and expectations once. He was helpful to repeat Himself for the benefit of His people. The Lord was helpful to be thorough, providing multiple angles of understanding to reveal His own identity as well as the specifics of His commandments. In Deuteronomy 11:13-17 the Bible shows that God repeated His command to “love” Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. However, God explained His command to “love” in a subtly different way. In this portion of scripture, the Bible shows that God equated His command to “love” to His expectation to “obey.” The verse reads:
“And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all of your soul...”
The Bible teaches that in order to “love” God, one must earnestly obey God’s commands. The Bible contextually teaches “love” is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah for the purpose of salvation unto those who believe. Since Jesus came into the world as a “servant” in order to fulfill His role as the Messiah, the Bible explains that Jesus was “obedient until the point of death.” Jesus did this in order to fulfill the promises of the Father concerning the Messiah and the forgiveness of sins. Subsequently, if one desires to reveal the characteristics of Jesus as the Messiah, one must present one’s self as a servant, and surrender one’s will to the will of the Father in obedience. It is impossible to be disobedient to the Lord’s commands and resemble the characteristics Jesus. If one is not resembling the character of Jesus in faith, it is impossible to “love” God in the manner that He loved the world.
The scriptures then go on to explain how God’s promises to the children of Israel worked. God explained that if the children of Israel “loved” Him by obeying His commands, then He would respond favorably. The favor that God explained was explained through the provision of sustenance. The Lord had already promised to bring the children of Israel into the Land. Thus, whether the children of Israel were obedient or not, Israel was going to dwell in the land. However, disobedience to God would cause God to relent in sustaining the people. Therefore, they would be in the land, but the land would not bear fruit. God promised that disobedience would result in dried out land, infertile grass, and the good land would no longer be good. The people would be in the land but not be able to enjoy the benefits of it. God would not allow rain to come into the land making it sterile and unproductive. Though God would have fulfilled His promise to bring the people into the land, they would not have been able to enjoy the condition of the land and God’s promises because of disobedience.
On the contrary, God promised that if the children of Israel were obedient, He would ensure that the land was well watered, fertile, and fruitful. In other words, obedience would cause the children of Israel to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises. Obedience is equal to love. Love is equal to the revelation of Jesus. The revelation of Jesus ensures God’s people enjoy the benefits of His promises. Without “love,” God fulfills His promises, but those people do not get to enjoy the benefits of such fulfillment. In New Covenant terms, this means that, one must possess faith. When one has faith, one is equipped with the Holy Spirit and sanctified so that one is able to resemble the characteristics of Jesus. As one submits to the transformative work of the Spirit, one is able to “love” as God loves, which facilitates obedience to God’s commands by extension. Then and only then are people able to take advantage of God’s promises. Jesus died for the sins of the world in the same way that God took the children of Israel into the Land. However, only those who resembled His own nature in “love” through faith that was demonstrated by obedience were able to participate in the benefits of God’s work. Disobedience was reflective of unbelief so that, while God fulfilled His promise concerning the land, their corruption would corrupt the land. Much in the same way, when one disobeys God’s commands through unbelief, one is unable to enjoy the benefits of God’s grace even though God fulfilled His promise to offer it to the world.
Deuteronomy 11:13-17 explains that deception would serve that the root cause of the Israelites missing out on the benefits of His promises. God told the children of Israel to take heed and “earnestly” seek the Lord through His Word in order that they would not be deceived. The deception that God referred to in this portion of scripture is important. God did not want the people to be deceived into thinking that they could enjoy the benefits of God’s promises while being disobedient to His commands and worshiping false gods in pursuit of their own wicked affections of the flesh. God did not want His people to fall into the trap and lie that it is possible to deny God, reject His Word, and oppose Him in conduct, and still receive the benefits of His promises, dismissing the holiness, righteousness, and justice of God. Deuteronomy 11:13-17 clearly explains that it is impossible to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises while continuing in sin, dismissing the righteousness of God altogether in pursuit of one’s fleshly and carnal desires. Jesus died for the sins of the world and offers forgiveness to anyone that believes in the Bible’s testimony of His identity and work. However, one is only able to receive the benefits of Jesus’ work in faith. One is only able to receive the benefits of forgiveness when one trusts in the provision of God’s Word, obeys it in faith, and love’s God by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform one into the image of Christ. The benefits are freely available to all, but the “land” is only fruitful to those who believe and demonstrate such faith through obedience to God’s Word.
The place of focus of God’s people should be the same place where God focuses. For instances, since God focuses on eternal things, then God’s people that are filled with and governed by God’s Spirit should also have an eternal focus. Since God is focused on His righteousness and holiness (identity outside of sin), then God’s people that are filled with and governed by God’s Spirit should also be focused on God’s righteousness and an identity outside of sin. Since God is focused on salvation through the distribution of the testimony of His Son, then God’s people that are filled with and governed by God’s Spirit should also be focused on salvation through the distribution of the testimony of Jesus Christ.
God communicated this expectation very clearly in Deuteronomy 11:8-12. The Bible explains that God’s works are centered on doing good things that provide awesome benefits for the people of God. Therefore, God expects His people to be diligently focused on God’s Word, God’s work, and have a confident expectation in the results of God’s efforts, trusting in the fulfillment of His Word and effects of His work to produce good. In Deuteronomy 11:8-12 the Bible explains that God continued to address the children of Israel through Moses to prepare them to enter the Promised Land. The beginning of Chapter 11 explains that God reminded the children of Israel to observe and keep His commandments. God referenced the past works He had done to reveal certain characteristics of His nature that the children of Israel were witness to. God referred to His work as Redeemer to remove the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. The children of Israel were eyewitnesses to that work. The Lord referred to His work as Savior to rescues the children of Israel from their Egyptian enemies by destroying them through the Red Sea crossing. The children of Israel were eyewitnesses to that event. God referenced His work as Judge when He caused the ground to open up and swallow Dathan, Abiram, and others who rebelled against the appointment of Moses as leader. The children of Israel were eyewitnesses to this event as well.
Since the Israelites saw God do these things and knew God as Redeemer, Savior, and Judge, they were expected to walk according to God’s commands. Yet Deuteronomy 11:8-12 explains that God promised three things to the Israelites for walking in His ways according to His commands. God promised that if the children of Israel walked in His ways according to His commands, they would be strong, they would inherit the Promised Land, and they would prolong their days in the land, sustaining the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises! Though God gave difficult commands to follow that required the children of Israel to embrace the struggle against their flesh and sin, the commands of God were aimed at imparting strength to the people. God had commanded the children of Israel to advance and take the land that He had promised. The nations that were living in the land at that time were strong and mighty people, well equipped for warfare. The children of Israel would need strength. According to the Bible, the focus and attention the people put on God’s righteousness through the Law would provide the people with the strength they needed to do a job they were otherwise unqualified to do. For this reason, one must consider the commands and words of God as good since the served to provide the people with that which was needed to enjoy the benefits God sought to give.
Secondly, the people’s focus on the commands of God would ensure that the people actually received the Promised Land. According to the scriptures, God desired to give the people the land nearly 40 years before. God gave His law and commands long before the time that Deuteronomy 11:8-12 was written. Thus, the children of Israel had that which was needed to be strong and overtake the land God promised. Yet the generation that had that opportunity first was judged in the wilderness for unbelief. They did not trust that God’s commands were supreme and sufficient to do as God promised. Those people did not believe in God’s promises and desired other things that were contrary to God. Consequently, those people died without seeing or receiving the benefits that God sought to give. Deuteronomy 11:8-12 explains that the diligence of the people concerning the Law would ensure that the people received the Promised Land and guaranteed their ability to possess it. The reason God could make this guarantee is because God would do the necessary work to destroy the native inhabitants of the Land. God promised to fight on behalf of the children of Israel and since God is almighty, no one would succeed in opposing Him. So long as the children of Israel sought the righteousness of God, outside of sin, then they would be able to participate in the victory that God would achieve Himself, and enjoy the spoils of those victories.
Lastly, God promised that the children of Israel would be able to prolong their days while in the Promised Land. God’s promises to Abraham were eternal in nature since God is an eternal God. His desire is to provide lasting benefits to His people. Though the children of Israel have been removed from the land on several occasions throughout their history, the Bible teaches that this is contrary to God’s desire. God prepared the land and tended to it in order to keep His people in it. Deuteronomy 11:8-12 explains that the land that the children of Israel were commanded to take was a good land that flowed with milk and honey. It was a land that was filled with hills and valleys that drank water from the rains of heaven. The scriptures explain that the Promised Land was nothing like where the Israelites had come from in Egypt. God reminded the Israelites that the land they dwelt in before in Egypt was rough and miserable. The people in Egypt had to labor for the land in ways that were tiresome. The land was not watered by the rains, but by the strenuous efforts of the people. The land was not filled with fruit and produce, but required the people to sow their own seeds in intense and meticulous labor. In other words, Egypt was a place based on the laborious efforts of the people to produce little positive effect. In contrast, the Promised Land was a place where the children of Israel could rest from that labor and enjoy the effects of God’s own labor instead!
The Bible teaches that the reason the Promised Land was in such a good condition was because it was the place where God Himself focused. Deuteronomy 11:8-12 explains that God Himself cared for that region of land. The scriptures explain that the Promised Land was the place where God’s own eyes were set since “the beginning of years to the very end of the year.” God took care of that land all year long to ensure that it was continuously fruitful. Since the children of Israel had witnessed the faithful power of God, they were well equipped to know that God is able to produce the finest quality of fruit, and sustain such a quality for any duration He desires. God wanted His people to be focused on the Word in order to be equipped to receive His blessings in the land. God wanted His people to desire the Land because the land was good based on the effects of His own works with His own hands. God wanted the people to trust that the things He was saying about His promises were true because they witnessed His previous work and knew that God was able to do awesome and amazing things. Hence, while God wanted His people to leave the ways of Egypt and the wilderness behind, it was only so that they could enjoy the fruit of His labor rather than toil in the fruitless efforts of their own.
The scriptures explain that the acquisition of the Promised Land serves as a picture of God’s greater work in salvation. Thus, while God wanted the children of Israel to forsake the ways of Egypt and the wilderness, it speaks to God’s desire for His people to leave the ways of the world and sin. As the lives of the Israelites were predicated on fruitless labor that didn’t satisfy, the Bible compares such living to the ways of the world where people labor in self-righteous works to try to satisfy self in vain. God wants His people to depart from such living and turn to His Word. In turning to God’s Word and commands, there is difficulty and sacrifice so to speak. One must die to self and place one’s personal affections of the flesh on “the altar.” However, as God promised strength to His people before, God promises strength to His people today. As the children of Israel were ill equipped and unqualified to defeat their enemies to overtake the Promised Land without God, so too are all people concerning the kingdom of heaven. No person is able to stand against sin, death, or the devil without God. That is a battle that all will die fighting without the provision of God through Jesus. Hence, God will equip His people to overcome when faith is made manifest through focus on the Word, which is Jesus Christ. Consequently, one will be able to advance in strength and posses the fruit of God’s own labor, which satisfies the soul for prolonged days that are equal to eternity!
Every now and then, a non-believer will press a believer with the cliché question: How can God expect all people to have faith in Jesus – what about people in the jungles that have never read the Bible? This question of course presents the foolish assumption that the fictitious ignorant jungle dweller will burn in hell for all of eternity because they do not have Bibles to learn about Jesus. When this point comes across, one must first acknowledge that the non-believer does not care about the jungle dweller. If the non-believer were so concerned about the ignorance of people in the jungles, they would probably do something to address it, lest they look just as bad as the God they criticize. Secondly, it is important to know that the people dwelling in the remote parts of the world are doing just fine when it comes to the Gospel. Many missionaries have plainly testified that those living in remote areas are often more passionate in their faith than many of the people dwelling in densely populated areas with all of the resources. This doesn’t mean that the Gospel has reached every corner of the world, but it is spreading in the manner that God desires.
The most important point when it comes to this subject stems from the fairness and righteous justice of God. God does not hold people accountable to information they don’t have. The Bible teaches this plain and clear. God is merciful and gracious by nature. God desires that none would perish but that all would come to repentance. It is not in His nature to just write people off because they’ve never read a Bible. This truth is revealed in Deuteronomy 11:1-7. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that God addressed the children of Israel as they prepared to move into the Promised Land, but only a specific demographic within the congregation. God did not address the entire congregation. Since 40 years had passed though the wilderness journey, God was dealing with a mixed crowd of Israelites. It is true that the generation that came out of Egypt would not enter the land. However, during the 40-year journey, Israel multiplied and a new generation was born. Yet in 40 years, God spoke as if three generations were relevant at the time Moses addressed the people in Deuteronomy – the generation that came out of Egypt as adults, the generation that came out of Egypt as children, and the generation that was born in the wilderness.
God only spoke to the middle generation in Deuteronomy 11:1-7. This is important to recognize. This portion of scripture begins by repeating the command that the children of Israel were to love the Lord God based on the work that He had done. God referenced the fact that when Israel first went into Egypt under the care of Joseph, there were only 70 people amongst the 12 tribes. However, the scriptures testify that there were many more than 70 Israelites that left Egypt in the Exodus! God made a comparison that the number of Israelites that left in the Exodus was, “as many as the stars in heaven.” This is a common Jewish idiom to refer to hundreds of thousands of people – an almost innumerable amount of people. Thus, since God was faithful to fulfill His promise to Abraham to make Israel “a great nation,” God expected the children of Israel to respond in gratitude through love. The appropriate response to the fulfillment of God’s promises is love according to His standards.
However, it was at this point where God singled out one particular generation. God plainly said, “Know that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God.” While God expected a response of gratitude and worship from the children of Israel in the form of “love,” He only expect to receive it from those who knew Him as witnesses to His Word and His works. God did not expect the younger generation to respond in love because that generation had not seen the works that God had done. God referenced three specific moments in Israeli history that were critical points to observe to know God enough to respond to Him in love. God first referenced the Exodus from Egypt. This was God’s deliverance. The redemption that God performed to take His people out of bondage and set them free was a critical point of God’s work that revealed His identity as Redeemer and Deliverer. Secondly, God referenced the crossing of the Red Sea. This was representative of God’s work in salvation. As the Egyptians chased the children of Israel down to destroy them, God parted the Red Sea, thereby saving Israel and destroying their enemy. This work was critical to reveal God’s identity as Savior. Lastly, God referenced the instance where He caused the ground to open up and swallow Dathan and Abiram for their rebellion against Moses. This event speaks of God’s judgment and reveals the righteousness and holiness of God to judge and purge sin.
According to Deuteronomy 11:1-7 the younger generation of Israelites had not witnessed these events in order to understand God as Redeemer, Savior, and Judge. Therefore, they had no basis to respond to God with gratitude and were unable to love God in the manner He expected. The scriptures reveal that God did not hold that younger generation accountable for information they didn’t have. God excluded the younger generation from His address. While God expected the second generation to teach about His identity, they were not yet in a position to know Him, and thus, unable to love Him according to the scriptures. This did not excuse the second generation of Israelites however. Since the second generation of Israelites did witness God’s works, hear His Words, and learn of His identity, they were without excuse. Their knowledge of God by their experience with Him made them highly accountable to love God in gratitude for His faithful work to fulfill His promises, and to teach their children about Him. Consequently, those who do not know are not expected to do as those who do know. Yet, the Bible clearly explains that those who do know are to respond in love towards God, which means reveal the characteristics of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, thereby teaching the younger generations through speech AND conduct, making is so that both older and younger generations are ultimately without excuse.
The Bible teaches that God goes great lengths to provide benefits for His people. The Old Testament explains all of the work that God did for Israel, which included (but was not limited to) rescuing them from the bondage of Egypt through the plagues, destroying Egypt by the Red Sea, providing for them through the wilderness journey, and demonstrating great patience towards Israel while they made their way towards the Promised Land. God’s mercy and grace was obvious and profound towards Israel as they ventured to the Promised Land. However, that work pales in comparison to the work that God did to offer forgiveness of sins. The work that God did as Jesus Christ is far superior as Jesus took the form of flesh in order to fulfill the Law and commands that people were unable to, and then gave Himself up as a sacrifice on behalf of all people that deserved death. The scriptures explain that this was always God’s plan, showing that the lengths God went to provide salvation for believers transcends all collective efforts and even time itself!
When the people of God genuinely understand the favor that God shows to His people, the scriptures explain that there is really only one suitable way to respond to God. In Deuteronomy 10:12-22 the Bible explains that for all of the favor that God showed the children of Israel, He only expected one thing in return – love. However, anytime the word “love” is mentioned in the Bible, it is CRITICAL that one understand the meaning of the word. While the people of God cannot repay God for the work that He has done favorably for His people, one is expected to show gratitude through worship – both of which are predicated on the concept of “love.” Since God’s favor is so great in magnitude, then the “love” one shows must be within a reasonable ratio of greatness in response. In other words, God’s people do not have the liberty to make up one’s own brand of “love” out of personal affection or convenience when it comes to properly responding towards God’s favor. The brand of love that God expects is very specific, and rightly so.
The Bible explains that “love” is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah for the purpose of salvation. As God “loved” the world, He gave His only begotten Son for the purpose of salvation. God’s love was specific as it was made manifest through the presentation of Jesus as God in flesh to fulfill God’s eternally unconditional promises that are centered on the destruction of sin to facilitate eternal life. The scriptures explain that God gives His Spirit to His people in order to equip His people to “love” in the same manner. Thus, as one seeks God through repentant faith, one is then equipped to reveal the characteristics of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah as “love.” Deuteronomy 10:12-22 goes even further to explain how this brand of love should look and why it is the only appropriate response of gratitude from God’s people.
First, Deuteronomy 10:12-22 explains that one’s response towards God in “love” is predicated on one’s fear of Him. The first thing that God said to Israel when commanding them to love Him was that they should fear Him! God wanted the children of Israel to consider the holiness, the power, and sovereignty, and the judgments of God and recognize that there is great consequence for those that oppose Him. God previously explained the quality of mercy and grace that Israel had received while they had wandered through the wilderness. While love is a sort of affection, according to the Bible, that affection cannot be genuine unless one has a clear understanding of the mercy and grace one has received. One cannot fully appreciate the mercy and grace one has received unless one understands the judgment one actually deserves. One cannot be thankful to escape such judgment unless one trusts in the holiness, righteousness, and judgments of God. Thus, it is necessary to consider these facets of God in order to love Him in the ways that He requires. After all, if love is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, one must recognize the attributes of Christ concerning His own holiness, righteousness, and judgments as Messiah, which identify half of His purposes!
Deuteronomy 10:12-22 then explains that the people of God must respond in such fear through obedience to God’s Word and commands. God clearly stated that He expected His people to walk in His ways as defined by the Law, and serve Him according to the standards of the Law. Considering that God’s Law identified the righteousness of God, the children of Israel were not at liberty to make up their own methods of service. The children of Israel could not do their own things and arbitrarily consider their deeds to be service unto God. God had already communicated the ways that He desired to be served, and since He had already provided a great amount of favor towards Israel, it was reasonable for God to have such expectations. Hence, if the people of God were truly thankful for the favor they had received, they would have looked to His Word to understand the righteousness of God and thereby know how to serve Him rightly. Upon learning these things, the people of God were expected to do them. Collectively, this conduct would have been identified by God as “love” since this is the same manner of conduct that one sees in Jesus.
The scriptures go on to remind the children of Israel about the identity of God. God reminded the children of Israel that He is the God Most High. God reminded the children of Israel that He is the Creator of all things in heaven and in the earth beneath. God reminded the children of Israel that He is the God of gods and the Lord of lords and does not show favoritism to anyone. God reminded the children of Israel that He is mighty and awesome and that there are none like Him. God reminded the children of Israel that He is the administrator of justice and is merciful and gracious in nature. God reminded the children of Israel about the favor that He showed them as they were a Godless nation prior to Abraham. They were fatherless strangers that were obscure in nature and pitiful in condition until God mercifully and graciously revealed Himself to Abraham. The promises of God were good and intended to improve and benefit Israel; and God was the initiator of such a relationship and the results of it.
When God explained that His version of “love” was predicated on obedience to display His righteousness, He did not do so expecting the Israelites to work to earn His favor. They had already received His favor. God was not interested in the children of Israel performing “tasks” that the children of Israel did to be righteous. God already defined righteousness through the Law. In fact, God didn’t even command the children of Israel to perfect the Law, but instead to “keep,” “observe” and “walk” in the Law. While these words imply obedience, God understood that His people were not able to obey the Law to perfection. Thus, Deuteronomy 10:12-22 explains that God only desired the hearts and affections of the people. God wanted the children of Israel to recognize the pitiful position they were in before Him. God wanted the children of Israel to remember the promises that God made and the awesome and mighty works He had performed to fulfill those promises. God wanted the children of Israel to recognize the holiness, righteousness, and justice of God and desire it. God wanted His people to simply acknowledge Him and be thankful for who He is based on His revelations through the Word and works He performed.
This point is proven to be true in that, while the covenant of circumcision was instituted through Abraham, God did not emphasize the “works” part of that covenant when He mentioned it in Deuteronomy 10:12-22. Instead, God told the children of Israel to circumcise their hearts. God wanted the children of Israel to cut off the corrupted desires of the flesh that keep His people from recognizing Him, from considering Him, and from desiring Him. Since God’s commands and promises were meant for good, God wanted His people to shed the things that would result in causing harm to His people and ultimately keep them from receiving the benefits of His promises. It is not unreasonable for God to want the people He gives life, provision and benefits to desire Him with their inner being. It is not unreasonable for God to command a certain brand of love that He desires since He alone is the Author of good. How could a naturally corrupted being produce a quality of love that is actually good? Knowing this, God only asked His people to depart from that which was corrupt and bad in order to be joined to Him as good; and since that conduct resembles the conduct of Christ, it is considered love. Then, when God’s people realize this to be true, Deuteronomy 10:12-22 explains that as God showed Israel this favor out of grace, He desired His people to show this favor to each other and others in the same way, again, demonstrating the character of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. Since God does not change, the same is expected of God’s people today.
It is a privilege to receive the mercy and grace of God. It is a greater privilege to be able to bring honor to the name and identity of God once one has received His mercy and grace! The Bible teaches that God has great purposes for His people in salvation. If salvation was only about the benefits of eternal life, then God would immediately uplift His people into His kingdom the moment they are saved. Yet God does not do that. Instead, the Bible teaches that God leaves His people here and imparts His Spirit into them to perform works as a witness to His own righteousness and holiness. In fact, the Gospel of John explains that when Jesus prayed to the Father before He was taken captive, He prayed that the Father leave His disciples in the world so that others could witness the miracle of salvation and receive it just the same. While some consider the task and commands of God in salvation to be burdensome and difficult, the Bible teaches that God separating His people for special purposes is a great honor that should be embraced with zealous humility.
In Deuteronomy 10:6-11 the scriptures state that Moses recounted the wilderness journey to the children of Israel, specifically focusing on the work God appointed to the Levites. Moses reminded the children of Israel about the various places that they went, but that at a certain time, God separated the Levites to bear the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people with it. The scriptures use interesting phrasing to describe God’s appointment and God’s response to His own appointment. The Bible teaches that the Levites were to possess and carry the Ark, but that their obedience to do so would actually bless the Lord. The purpose that God appointed to the Levites was a blessing to the Lord when executed according to His commands.
In order to understand how the Levites were able to “bless” the Living God, one must understand the meaning of “blessing” and the nature of the Levites’ work. First, the scriptures use the English word “blessing” to refer to salvation. The Bible refers to those that are “blessed” as those that have received the mercy and grace of God in salvation. One must then consider, if God does not need to be “saved” since He is the Author of salvation, how does the word “blessing” refer to God? Deuteronomy 10:6-11 explains specifically that the “name of God” would be blessed upon the Levites carrying out their purpose. The name of God refers to the identity of God. Thus, the identity of God would be “blessed” by the Levites. This means that the name of God would be honored and proven as true.
When one examines the language of Moses in Deuteronomy 10:6-11, one can better understand how God’s name was uplifted and honored by the Levites. When God commanded the Levites to bear the Ark, He specifically referred to it as “the Ark of the Covenant.” This means that the Levites were to bear the vessel that contained the symbols of God’s promises. The scriptures explain that the Ark contained Aaron’s staff that budded almost blossoms to miraculously confirm the anointing of Aaron. The Ark also contained some of the manna bread that God sent from heaven, and most importantly, the Ark contained the tablets of God’s testimony – the Law that revealed the righteousness of God. Each of these items was symbolic of God’s eternally unconditional promises that were previously made to Abraham. The Levites would have brought honor to God because they possessed the vessel of God’s promises, bore them before the people, and led the people by them. Since the items in the Ark were all foreshadowing pictures of Jesus as Messiah, then the Ark was symbolic of God’s Messianic promises. Thus, the Levites’ obedience to God’s commands concerning the Ark would have served as a picture of Israel receiving Jesus as Messiah, bearing the fulfillment of God’s promises by Jesus as Messiah, and being led by Jesus as Messiah. This picture would have pleased God and brought great honor to His name especially since Jesus is one with the Father as the Messiah!
Seeing that the anointing and purpose of the Levites blessed God, God’s people can look at the Levites today to understand how to bless the Lord in salvation just like the Levites. The Levites were expected to possess the Ark. In the same way, God’s people are expected to possess the promises of God through faith in Jesus as the fulfillment of those promises. The Levites were supposed to bear the Ark before the children of Israel. In the same way, the people of God are to bear the image of the Son of God in sanctification by the Spirit of God. The people of God are to be conformed into the image of Jesus as a witness to the restorative work that God does in salvation. Lastly, the Levites were supposed to lead Israel with the Ark, almost as a banner or light that displayed the promises of God prominently. In the same way, the people of God are to be led by Jesus as the Word of God incarnate. The people of God are to look to Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises, trusting that He is the fulfillment of God’s righteousness and the manner by which all people receive victory over sin, death, and the devil. When people receive salvation through faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, God is blessed and His name is honored. When God’s people walk in the manner of the Christ, His identity is glorified and exalted by the witness of His people.