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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 4

Verses 1-43

  1. Intro:
    1. A man was discussing the fragility of many marriages with his girlfriend and posed the following question, “What if you wake up one morning and don’t love me anymore?” She immediately responded, “There’s always obedience.”
      1. We often think of obedience this way, in the negative.
      2. But obedience to God is always in the positive because He is One we can fully trust. He is One whom always is purposeful in every thing in which He asks of us.
    2. Peter T. Forsythe (1848-1921 Scottish theologian) was right when he said, “The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master”.
      1. We seem to always be trying to find our freedom of choice, freedom of will, freedom to do it our way. When we should be full throttle after our Master & His choices, His will, His way.
    3. Thomas a Kempis shares its seriousness, Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace.
    4. Moses takes the nation back to Sinai where God’s glory and greatness were revealed, and where the nation trembled at God’s Law.
      1. The people were in danger of forgetting the glory and greatness of God.
      2. Moses points out a couple dangers: Forgetting the Word & Turning to Idols.
    5. Moses gives a clarion cry, a passionate call to obey...based on 3 reasons: Because of their past; because of their future; because of the character of their God.
  2. OBEY BECAUSE YOU LOOK BACK/past (1-24)
    1. Stated & implied examples of Israel’s former unbelief.
      1. Sexual idolatry at Baal-Peor (3). Numb.25:1-4.
      2. The golden calf incident at Mnt Sinai (15-17). Ex.32:1-35.
      3. The Rebellion in the wilderness of Zin (where even Moses tripped up) (21). Num.20:2-13
    2. Another reason to keep God’s statutes was to show their wisdom & understanding to the nations (6)
      1. Israel’s wisdom, & skill in living,came from divine revelation, not human reasoning.
        1. I.e. Imagine if back in that day they understood germs? Yet God clues Israel in to hygiene tips, they didn’t know why, were just following orders.
    3. (4) Held Fast - cling, cleave, be joined.
      1. Same word Moses used for the marriage relationship in Gen.2:24 leave his father/ mother & be joined to his wife.
        1. This is right from God’s vocabulary of tenderness.
    4. (6) Just obey and the other nations will think you’re smart!
      1. Don’t be smart be obedient. And through your obedience He will give you wisdom & understanding.
    5. (12) Saw no form - so of course you couldn’t/shouldn’t try to replicate/reproduce Me in phys form!
  3. OBEY BECAUSE YOU LOOK FORWARD/future (25-31)
    1. ​​​​​​​(27) Promised exile for disobedience.
      1. Like when Adam & Eve (Gen.3:24) & Cain (Gen.4:16) were exiled from their special lands.
      2. He now anticipated the future exile of Israel to Assyria & Judah to Babylon.
    2. Tough Yet Tender - Every conscientious parent recognizes how difficult it is to exercise his God-given authority over his children. The delicate balance of being tough yet tender is not easy to maintain. Many parents intensify a rebellious spirit by being dictatorial and harsh. Others yield when their authority is tested. When a strong-willed child resists, the pressure to give in for the sake of peace and harmony can become overpowering. I am reminded of the mother who wanted to have the last word but couldn’t handle the hassle that resulted whenever she said no to her young son. After an especially trying day, she finally flung up her hands and shouted, “All right, Billy, do whatever you want! Now let me see you disobey THAT!” Our Daily Bread, August 7
      1. Actually, Billy can’t disobey that. Because as Jonathan Edwards said in his great work on “The Will”, we choose according to that which we desire most.
      2. Motives have a certain weight with you, motives for and against.
        1. ​​​​​​​Reading a book, for example, are weighed in the balance of your mind; the motives that outweigh all others, are what you indeed choose to follow.
        2. You, being a rational person, will always choose what seems to you to be the right thing, the wise thing, the most advisable thing to do at that moment.
        3. If you choose not to do the right thing, the advisable thing, the thing that you are inclined to do, you would, of coarse, be insane. (You would be choosing something that you did not choose).
  4. OBEY BECAUSE YOU LOOK UP/God (32-40)
    1. ​​​​​​​Their loyalty to God should not be based on fear but on gratitude for His Great Goodness.
    2. “Do it...because I said so!” - sound familiar?
      1. This approach isn’t very effective for parents to use with their children & it isn’t used by God with His children either.
        1. God’s approach is relational. He says, “I love you, I made you, I’ve done great things for you, & I care for you every day, so I also know what’s best for you.” (Shepherds Notes, Deuteronomy, pg.25.)
    3. So Moses ends his 1st sermon by calling Israel to obey simply because of who God is.
      1. He gives a series of rhetorical questions. God is totally & absolutely unique (32-34).
        1. No other god speaks audibly, w/o man-made form (33, 36)
        2. No other god redeemed a miserable people from slavery & forged them into a great and feared nation (34)
        3. No other god cares enough for people to discipline & love them (36-37)
        4. No other god in fact, even exists (35, 39)
          1. For these reasons alone, Israel ought to respond with obedience.
    4. Faithful Dog: How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master. Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”Our Daily Bread,Jan19.
      1. What’s the difference in this story between us & God? He would never give us wrong instructions. Thus, we can trust Him.
  5. POSTSCRIPT/3 cities of refuge (41-43)
    1. ​​​​​​​This is an appropriate place for this list, as his 1st sermon dealt with the conquest & settlement of Transjordan by Israel.
      1. Cities of Refuge - cities where a person could flee to, if they had committed manslaughter(not murder) & wait there till they had a fair trial. [Aimed at curtailing blood revenge]
      2. Joshua will designate 3 more cities of refuge in the land of Canaan (totaling 6).
      3. By providing cities of refuge God showed Himself to be both gracious & just.
    2. Wrap up: Every negative precept, for every Thou shalt not there are always 2 positive principles.
      1. One, God gives them to protect us. Two, He gives them to provide for us.
      2. He’s not a cosmic killjoy who wants to take the fun out of life.
        1. A story of a high school guy who wanted to go swimming with his girlfriend at midnight. The neighbors down the block had a pool, and he knew it. So they ran down there and scaled the fence even though there were No Trespassing and Do Not Enter signs. Just as he hit the diving board, the girl yelled, but it was too late. There was only a foot of water in the pool. He broke his neck, and he’s in therapy to this day. He didn’t realize that the signs on the fence - the precepts - would have protected him. (Josh McDowell, New Man, March/April 1995, p. 55)
    3. Trust & Obey
      ​​​​​​​When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way.
      While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.

      Refrain:
      Trust and obey, for there’s no other wayTo be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

      Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away;
      Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, Can abide while we trust and obey.

      Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, But our toil He doth richly repay;
      Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, But is blessed if we trust and obey.

      But we never can prove the delights of His love Until all on the altar we lay;
      For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey.

      Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
      What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey.

Verses 44-49

  1. 2ND SERMON OVERVIEW (4:44-25:19)
    1. The start of Moses’ 2nd sermon, the longest in Deut. (4 all together)
      1. He sought to prepare Israel for life in the promised land.
    2. 2nd sermon overview:
      1. Moses restated the 10 commandments 5:1-21.
      2. Moses provided general principles 6:1-11:32.
      3. Moses provided specific stipulations 12:1-25:16.
        1. Throughout the Near East there are many secular documents that follow the same form as the covenant-making between God and man. In Biblical scholarship, these are called Suzerain-Vassal treaties.
          1. A suzerain is a lord or king; a vassal is someone inferior who pays tribute to him or fights in his army.
          2. These treaties (or covenants) follow a standard form. i.e. general principles & specific stipulations.
        2. So, its a treaty drawn up by the greater power (usually a king, this case God) to establish conditions on the weaker power (the vassal, this case Israel).
  2. THE 10 COMMANDMENTS (see 4:13)
    1. The 10 Commandments Hebrew phrase = 10 words.
      1. They are as a whole called the covenant (Deut. 4:13) the tables of the covenant (9:9,11; Heb. 9:4), and the testimony.
      2. AKA the decalogue (deca/10 + logos/book). The ancient code. 10 Rules for Living.
      3. Jesus summed up these 10 words into 1 law of Love.
      4. These rules serve as a guidepost to finer (first-rate) & fuller living.
      1. These are not arbitrary rules but foundational principles.
        1. Einstein didn’t start each day by reciting the multiplication table, yet he never ignored the fact that 2x2=4.
        2. ​​​​​​​Modern scientists do not stop each morning in an apple orchard on their way to work to test the law of gravity.
        3. The same is true of the Ancient Code.
          1. To violate it brings disaster to the individual & to society as a whole.
          2. To observe it is to plant our feet on the road to a fuller individual & social life.
    1. The great leading principle of the Mosaic law is that it is essentially theocratic; i.e., it refers at once to the commandment of God as the foundation of all human duty.
      1. ​​​​​​​Note picture on keynote: 2 tablets form a heart.
  3. TORAH (4:44-49)
    1. ​​​​​​​(44) Law - Torah. Simply Instructions.
      1. ​​​​​​​Specifically, this Instruction(Torah) included testimonies/stipulations, statutes/ decrees & judgments/ordinances/laws.
    2. Human beings were not created autonomous (free to be a law to themselves) but theonomous (subject to the law of God)
      1. This is not a hardship/bummer because God had created man in such a way that grateful obedience would bring him the highest happiness.
      2. Duty & delight coincide, as they did in Jesus.
      3. Yet, the fallen human heart hates God’s law, both because it is a law & because it comes from God.
    3. Law - a rule of action. However, the laws were of different kinds, with different purposes.
      1. The Ceremonial Law is prescribed under the OT rites and ceremonies of worship. This law was obligatory only till Christ, of whom these rites were typical, had finished His work. It was fulfilled rather than revoked by the gospel.
      2. The Judicial Law directed the civil policy of the Hebrew nation.
      3. The Moral Law reflects His holy character & His purposes for created human beings. It is the revealed will of God as to human conduct, binding on all men to the end of time. Although binding on all, we’re not under it as a covenant of works. It reflects His holy character & His purposes for created human beings.
        1. So, the Judicial/political & Ceremonial/ritual laws were of limited application.
        2. The Moral laws from immediate context & from Jesus’ teachings were an unchanging universal decree of His laws.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/deuteronomy-4.html. 2017.