Series: Thru the Bible
Message – Diligently watch yourselves! – Deut. 4
Diligently watch yourselves!
Deuteronomy Chapter 4:
Deut. 4:1-49 HCSB
“(1) Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you to follow, so that you may live, enter, and take possession of the land the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. (2) You must not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, so that you may keep the commands of the LORD your God I am giving you.”
First thing is Moses keeps referring to God as the God of their Fathers. By this Moses did not mean the God of their immediate, natural fathers, for though that was technically true of most of them, the meaning of the phrase runs a little deeper. The phrase, “the Fathers” in Jewish history has always pointed back to the torch bearers of the faith from the past. The Abrahams, Isaacs & Jacobs of any one generation. As such it would have undeniably and unequivocally excluded such characters as Esau whom God hated (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13).
This generation had not yet chosen God for themselves and the words of Moses were intended to influence them towards the right decision.
For those who place very little thought into God, they often make the assumption that they are – in terms of religion – whatever their parents were. It is funny how this same predisposition rarely follows into how they raise children or why type of people they call friends or what political party they are affiliated with…no, it seems to largely be restricted to those areas where little thought or effort is placed and so they simply verbally align themselves with all they have ever known. But, God is not fooled. Each generation has to choose or reject Him for themselves and THAT is what is in the balance here for this second generation of Israel.
Like Jacob, they are going to have to come to the place where they make the decision that God is MY God. For most of Jacob’s life God had been referred to as “the Fear of Issac” or the “Fear of my father” (Gen. 31:53) but once he encountered God at what is traditionally called the dream of “Jacob’s ladder” he awoke and proclaimed that if God would provide for and protect him, then the Lord would be his God.
Gen. 28:10-22, HCSB “(10) Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. (11) He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place. (12) And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. (13) The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. (14) Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. (15) Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (16) When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (17) He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” (18) Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it (19) and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz. (20) Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, (21) and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. (22) This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”
So until that day arrives for this second generation (a time quickly approaching by Moses’ confrontation) Moses, continues to present God as the God as the God of their fathers.
The second thing of interest here is the command to not add to or take away from the words of the commandments. This was immediately tied to their ability to obey what God said. You see, you cannot obey something you cannot clearly see and you cannot clearly see something you distort.
By Jesus day, the Jews had created man made rules around God’s laws that were so strict that if you kept the man made rules you would never be in danger of breaking God’s laws. The trouble is that their understanding of God’s law was mechanical, non-relational and unfeeling and therefore they regularly missed the entire point of God’s laws. So, the “fence laws” they created to protect themselves from breaking God’s laws completely failed! Jesus, in addressing a particularly terrible example of this said that the traditions they had made were making the word of God of no effect (Mark 7:11-13).
Rev. 22:18-19, HCSB “(18) I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. (19) And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.”
Obedience IS Life:
“(3) Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal-peor, for the LORD your God destroyed every one of you who followed Baal of Peor. (4) But you who have remained faithful to the LORD your God are all alive today.”
Rom. 8:1-8, HCSB “(1) Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, (2) because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (3) What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, (4) in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (5) For those whose lives are according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. (8) Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God.”
“(5) Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as the LORD my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. (6) Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ (7) For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call to Him? (8) And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today? (9) “Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.”
Diligence over keeping God’s word in our hearts has ALWAYS been an ongoing theme in the Bible.
While God does encourage His people to be diligent He is NOT placing the safety of your heart in your hands.
Prov. 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
The word Keep means to guard what was entrusted to you. The idea is more that of a guard than a soldier. The watchman of a city kept watch over the city, and sounded an alarm at the advance of anyone suspicious. The actual “keeping” of the city was done by the military. So it is with our hearts. We are NOT owners – not even of our own hearts, we are STEWARDS. God has entrusted us with a stewardship over our mind, will & emotions and be certain that we will give an account for what we did with them. Which is one reason why Jesus could say with such confidence that we will be held accountable for every idle word since words issue forth from the heart. But God never intended that defend our own hearts. We ARE NOT our protectors – GOD IS! You can see this in the very familiar, yet widely misunderstood injunction to not worry in Phil. 4.
Let’s turn there.
Php 4:6-7, HCSB “(6) Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The words DON’T WORRY are quite emphatic! It is anything but a request. It is a demand a requirement of Christians. The rest of the verse explains why.
The words “but in everything, through prayer…” carry with them an implication which is much more discernible in the Greek and is not translated in virtually any way into the English. It implies that God is immediately present. He is, if you will, the atmosphere in which the believer lives, and it is just inappropriate to worry or be anxious it is actually an affront to the king! The notion is much like the danger of bringing anything into the presence of a king which they might find offensive. Like when Nehemiah served wine to King Artaxerxes with a sad heart. When the king asked him about it, Nehemiah was overwhelmed with fear.
The scriptures tell us that there is MUCH about God we do not know. Romans 8 tells us “we do not know how to pray as we ought” the word “ought” always gave be pause so I studied that passage. The correct idea is this, “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what prayers to offer nor in what way to offer them so that they are offered in a manner worthy of God, but the Spirit Himself pleads for us in yearnings which we have no words for”
We DO know that the Bible tells us that when we come into His presence it should be with singing and into His courts with praise – being THANKFUL unto Him and blessing His name For His IS GOOD…His love is eternal and His faithfulness endures throughout all generations.
So, when we worry, we as being ALWAYS in the presence of God – bring something into God’s presence which does not belong there and is in fact an affront to our King!
Phil. 4 is not saying “Don’t worry” as to pacify us, but DON’T WORRY as to correct us! Worry is irreverent! At best it is to forget that God is good…at worst it is to not trust that it is true – in either case it is sin! God’s presence is the atmosphere of the believer!
So this is the intended meaning of those verses in Phil. 4 which will give us insight into our verses here in Deuteronomy.
Do Not worry for you are always within the gaze of God and are enveloped in His presence, so turn to Him in faith, and in an act of devotion and worship make request concerning of God – He’s right there! …and as you hand these would be worries into His hands it will be exchanged for His peace which will overwhelm your mind and guard it against everything that is not in conformity to Jesus.
Wuest had these comments on this passage…
“The preposition “unto” in the Greek text suggests the translation, “in the presence of God,” and is a delicate and suggestive way of hinting that God’s presence is always there, that it is the atmosphere surrounding the Christian. Anxious care is out of place in a heavenly Father’s presence. Requests are always in place with Him. The words “shall keep,” are from a military word, “shall mount guard.” God’s peace, like a sentinel, mounts guard and patrols before the heart’s door, keeping worry out.”
Translation: “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing, but in everything, by prayer whose essence is that of worship and devotion, and by supplication which is a cry for your personal needs, let your requests with thanksgiving for the things asked for be made known in the presence of God, and the peace of God which surpasses all power of comprehension, shall mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
So, concerning this “be diligent” statement in both Deuteronomy 4 and in Prov. 4:23, the idea is that of watching out for any thought which would run contrary to God’s law and commit your mind to thinking on His words. The Keeping of your heart will come from God. You can see this pattern throughout scripture.
Don’t let it slip IS an injunction He is giving to us – which requires diligence to maintain God’s words in our hearts as we are often encouraged to do in scripture.
“(10) The day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people before Me, and I will let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth and may instruct their children.‘ (11) You came near and stood at the base of the mountain, a mountain blazing with fire into the heavens and enveloped in a dense, black cloud. (12) Then the LORD spoke to you from the fire. You kept hearing the sound of the words, but didn’t see a form; there was only a voice. (13) He declared His covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which He wrote on two stone tablets. (14) At that time the LORD commanded me to teach you statutes and ordinances for you to follow in the land you are about to cross into and possess.”
Revering God and teaching His ways to the next generation is another theme which runs consistently throughout scripture.
Revering God (fearing the Lord) not only help us to depart from evil – it IS departing from evil. When we hold God in affectionate reverence – we find ourselves prompt to obey Him, which is a blessed place to be and it answer the second injunction to teach your children or the next generation.
I do not often reference the Amplified because it often OVER amplifies passages causing further misunderstanding rather than clarifying intended meaning, but in 1 Cor. 2 it does a good job. It says, “…the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [THAT IS those who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed].”
God’s abundant goodness is not only held in reserve for, but poured out upon those who revere Him and promptly obey Him with gratitude.
This aids us in our communication with the next generation. Such will not simply hear LAWS, but will see a living testimony to God’s existence and intervention. Which is what Moses said earlier in verse “(7) For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call to Him?”
I’ve often taught you about 2nd and 3rd generation faith and this is something which can break that chain.
Warning against idolatry and an answer to the Invisibleness of God
“(15) “Be extremely careful for your own good–because you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire– (16) not to act corruptly and make an idol for yourselves in the shape of any figure: a male or female form, (17) or the form of any beast on the earth, any winged creature that flies in the sky, (18) any creature that crawls on the ground, or any fish in the waters under the earth. (19) When you look to the heavens and see the sun, moon, and stars–all the array of heaven–do not be led astray to bow down and worship them. The LORD your God has provided them for all people everywhere under heaven. (20) But the LORD selected you and brought you out of Egypt’s iron furnace to be a people for His inheritance, as you are today.”
I’ve taught you about this before. God has always concealed Himself from His people in this life. Even in the garden before the fall, only the Voice of God walked with them in the garden. Jesus Himself affirmed that “No man has ever seen God at any time, except the Son.” John 1:18 and these words are repeated in 1Jn. 4:12. In the past I have given you one of the reasons for this and these words of Moses affirm their truthfulness. Also, I have told you that the fact that God has remained invisible to mankind also offers insight into His intentions for us.
One of the reasons Lucifer’s sin was so egregious as to be beyond forgiveness is because he beheld the image of God and rebelled fully against a God Who was known as fully as an Cherub could know God. When God made man as an answer to the question Lucifer has presented God as to why He should rule and reign, His decision to be a God Who is revealed only to those who seek Him, was part of His plan and purpose – it is in fact part of the answer to Lucifier’s question.
Any human who were to see God as His is, would be overwhelmed. Faith would not be necessary for sight would supersede it. It would be like a king, pursuing a peasant girl. If he pursued her in all his glory, not many women would fail to be wooed by him. But he would never truly know if she loved him for who he is – rather than the position he holds. So, in order to demonstrate that the love and trust was real, he would come to her as a peasant himself and whatever the results – the truth would be known to all.
I believe God has done the same with the scriptures. We have all the evidence we need to demonstrate that the scriptures we have today are authentic and true to the originals, but we have no definitive way of determining which (if any) are the originals. In fact, it is most likely we have no originals and that is good. I believe that God deliberately has seen to it that we DO NOT have originals because the church would have enshrined them and worshiped them rather than read them.
God wants mens hearts – not some affectation of them. Two things we learn from scripture about the invisible nature of God and the ways in which He reveals Himself are these:
- God wants to be known
- God wants to be pursued
“(21) “The LORD was angry with me on your account. He swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. (22) I won’t be crossing the Jordan because I am going to die in this land. But you are about to cross over and take possession of this good land. (23) Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that He made with you, and make an idol for yourselves in the shape of anything He has forbidden you. (24) For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. [Heb. 12 after chastisement] (25) “When you have children and grandchildren and have been in the land a long time, and if you act corruptly, make an idol in the form of anything, and do what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, provoking Him to anger, (26) I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that you will quickly perish from the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed. (27) The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be reduced to a few survivors among the nations where the LORD your God will drive you. (28) There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see, hear, eat, or smell.” God can (people sometimes wonder about these things… here’s your answer)
Notice, as we’ve covered a lot lately, God fills us is with our own devices. He gives you what you want and if what you want is not Him, your desires fulfilled will be your destruction… So be careful what you want and since we often want what we see… Be careful little eyes what you see.
Nothing like getting what you want to prove it isn’t really what you wanted…
“(29) But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.”
God will not be discovered by the casual. He discovers Himself to those whose desires are genuine and filled with passion. Which, if you remember, we discovered much that revealed this desire of God in the burnt offering and the incense altar. [See: https://www.grace-life.org/2018/03/the-incense-altar/ ]
“(30) When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will return to the LORD your God in later days and obey Him. (31) He will not leave you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them by oath, because the LORD your God is a compassionate God. (32) “Indeed, ask about the earlier days that preceded you, from the day God created man on the earth and from one end of the heavens to the other: Has anything like this great event ever happened, or has anything like it been heard of? (33) Has a people ever heard God’s voice speaking from the fire as you have, and lived? (34) Or has a god ever attempted to go and take a nation as his own out of another nation, by trials, signs, wonders, and war, by a strong hand and an outstretched arm, by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (35) You were shown these things so that you would know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides Him.”
God is establishing a nation, a people and a kingdom THROUGH his covenant keeping friend Abraham.
This is the next step in fulfilling His promise of the seed of the woman… Our Messiah, Lord & Savior Jesus the Righteous!
“(36) He let you hear His voice from heaven to instruct you. He showed you His great fire on earth, and you heard His words from the fire. (37) Because He loved your fathers, He chose their descendants after them and brought you out of Egypt by His presence and great power, (38) to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you in and give you their land as an inheritance, as is now taking place.”
Not all of God’s kindness to you is ABOUT you. Many times it is about His keeping His word to those who came before you. We serve a faithful, faithful God!
“(39) Today, recognize and keep in mind that the LORD is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other. (40) Keep His statutes and commands, which I am giving you today, so that you and your children after you may prosper and so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
“(41) Then Moses set apart three cities [refuge cities] across the Jordan to the east, (42) where one could flee who committed manslaughter and killed his neighbor accidentally without previously hating him. He could flee to one of these cities and stay alive: (43) Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau land, belonging to the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, belonging to the Gadites; or Golan in Bashan, belonging to the Manassites. (44) This is the law Moses gave the Israelites. (45) These are the decrees, statutes, and ordinances Moses proclaimed to them after they came out of Egypt, (46) across the Jordan in the valley facing Beth-peor in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites. He lived in Heshbon, and Moses and the Israelites defeated him after they came out of Egypt. (47) They took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two Amorite kings who were across the Jordan to the east, (48) from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Valley as far as Mount Sion (that is, Hermon) (49) and all the Arabah on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Dead Sea below the slopes of Pisgah.”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!
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