Love and Obey the Lord
11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.
Here Moses traces back the mighty acts of God in order to encourage the Israelites to respond to God’s revelation. Acts and words go together as do obedience and love. God commanded Israel to love Him; the Hebrew translation here means to have affection for. Love is not a matter left up to our impulse or our feelings. We choose to love the LORD or not. Additionally, this reminds us of what the LORD really wants from us, our love. We could give Him a hundred other things, but none of it really matters unless we give Him our love. As Jesus said to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. If we lose love, we lose all. Love for God never goes against His word. Some people think their so-called love for Jesus allows them to disregard His commands, but this isn’t real love at all. As Jesus said in John 14:15: If you love Me, keep My commandments. Real love for Jesus always translates into obedience.
Moses is speaking to the generation which saw the works of God among Israel, both in blessing and chastening. He spoke to the generation that should know and remember. Using examples of these Moses uses Pharoh and the Red Sea, pointing out all that God had done for them in the wilderness; and then he points out Dathan and Abiram, who rebelled against Aaron’s priesthood and lose their lives. These were the two key associates, perhaps the instigators in the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16, where God vindicated His servant Moses and leader over Israel, when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged Moses’ leadership. Moses called Israel to remember what God did in their history. Most of history both official and personal is simply concerned with what man has done. But God wants us to look at history and see what He did. We learn far more, and are far more benefited, by looking at what God has done, rather than looking at what man has done.
8 Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 9 and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
Remembering what God did in history should lead Israel to greater obedience and enable them to take the Promised Land. The sacrifices in obedience were well worth it for Israel. They had the promise of a land which was far superior to Egypt, which did not need to be artificially irrigated, but was watered by rains which God would send upon the obedient nation. In calling Egypt a place where they watered by foot, it refers to the system of artificial irrigation, using foot-driven pumps to lift water from the Nile to nearby fields. Canaan was so rich it did not need this kind of irrigation. God simply promised to provide for Israel if they chose to obey Him and put Him first. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. The LORD makes it clear that if they would worship and obey Him, He would supply abundant rain.
The autumn (early) rain fell in October and November and was important to help soften the ground for plowing and preparing the soil for the seed. The spring (latter) rain fell beginning in April and helped the crops come to final harvest. God declared His special care for the land of Israel, both then and now.
16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you.
The promise of the blessing of rain was important, because one of the attractions of the Canaanite gods was Baal, the god who was said to control the weather and rain. Perhaps the Israelites would be tempted to think, “well, we are in Canaan, and if we want rain, we should worship the Canaanite god of rain.” God had to warn Israel against the deceptions of prosperity. The person who turns from God in prosperity is simply deceived. They believe they are somehow responsible for the blessings received and become proud and self-reliant. Just such a judgment came upon Israel in the days of Ahab, the wicked king over Israel in the time Elijah, a prophet in 1 Kings 17:1. The constant need for rain kept Israel in constant dependence on the LORD. It is good for us to have things that keep us in constant dependence on the LORD. We should never despise those things and long for the day when we will no longer need to depend on God as much.
18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
God called Israel to not only read the Word of God and to know the Word of God, but to treasure it. In the same way, we should love God’s word and miss it when we are separated from the Word of God. We should call it to mind with longing, having laid it up in our heart and soul. God’s Word was to be the topic of their conversation. We can fairly measure our love for God’s word by how much we will talk about it with others. God doesn’t want us to have a secret love relationship with His word.
22 If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him— 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. 24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. 25 No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.
All the commandments are summarized in these three phrases. Each of these speaks of more than a bare and compelled obedience; they speak of a real relationship of love between God and His people, with obedience flowing naturally from that relationship. God promised to fight the battles for an obedient Israel. Many desire God to fight their battles but have little interest in obeying Him or cultivating the deep relationship of love which obedience grows from.
Every place you set your foot: God repeated this promise to Joshua, just when Israel was about to cross over the Jordan River into Canaan in Joshua 1:3. When Israel walked in love with the LORD and was obedient to Him, they were unbeatable. No man could defeat them. Greater was God who was with them than he who was in the world! 1 John 4:4.
26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
The three great elements to the Old Covenant were the law, the sacrifice, and the choice. Israel had a choice either to obey and be blessed, or to disobey and be cursed. It was a cause and effect relationship with God.
It is important to recognize that we, in Jesus Christ, do not have an Old Covenant relationship with God. We expect to be blessed, not because of our obedience, but because of our position in Jesus. The curse we deserved was laid upon Him in Galatians 3:10-14.Though there may be an inherent curse of consequences in our disobedience or even in the correcting hand of God, under the New Covenant, He does not punish us or curse us because all that we deserved, past, present, and future, was poured out upon Jesus.
It was up to Israel. If they wanted to be blessed, then they should walk in obedience (as they had in the days of David and Solomon), but if they disobeyed, they would be cursed (as they were in most of the days of the later kings). A choice was required. There was no neutral ground. God wouldn’t just “leave them alone.” It would either be blessing or cursing. Inherent in Israel’s disobedience was idolatry. Whenever we walk in disobedience, we exalt ourselves against God declaring that our rules, our standards, our desires, are all more important than His. This is idolatry in its most base and common form.
29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. 30 As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, westward, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. 31 You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, 32 be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.
The recitation of the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal will be detailed in later chapters. Yet it is plain that God wanted the word to get to the entire nation, because the entire nation was part of this covenant with Him.
The Israelites are once again reminded to be sure they obey all the decrees and laws Moses had given them.
- Deuteronomy 11:4 Or the Sea of Reeds
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