The Greatest Command…

Sworn law enforcement officers are those who have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, their state, and the laws of their agency’s jurisdiction.

Their personal preferences are secondary to the rule of law. In fact, that principle and oath places state and local statutes beneath the constitution.

When we read the 10 commandments given on Mount Sinai, we tend to place them as governing how we relate to God, but we would be wrong.

Our text comes from scriptures that identify the fundamental principles that govern our personal relationship with God.

The rules like the 10 commandments are merely illustrations of how these fundamental principles are to be applied by a people who love God.

Deuteronomy 6 calls on us to dedicate our “heart,” “soul,” and “strength” to loving God.

“Heart” in the Old Testament is the seat of both the mind and emotions. It reflects both the left brain that loves rules and the right brain which prefers attitudes.

“Soul” is best understood here as one’s whole “being.” We are to love God with our whole self, not limit Him to smaller compartments of our lives.

“Strength” suggests the will’s direction of every capacity toward love. We would best define that as character or integrity.

Use of three such powerful terms in a single verse makes it clear that relationship with God calls for wholehearted devotion.

The implication of these chapters is that only a person truly devoted to God will obey Him. Others will feign obedience, but it will be for personal motives or profits. The devoted person obeys regardless of the outcomes.

The 10 Commandments that God had given would matter little if we lack such a devotion to loving God. These commandments paint a picture of how a devoted person lives.

They show us how to love God and others (5:1–21) but it means more than that to the devoted person.

He knew keeping those laws would promote his well-being (vv. 22–33).

Love and reverence for God produce this true obedience and are to be taught to future generations (6:1–25).

Why? God demands our complete allegiance; nothing else is to take first place in our lives.  To do so is idolatry and we are no better than those that God requires be driven from the land so that God could keep His covenant of love with Israel (7:1–26).

“It was not with our fathers . . . but with us” Deut. 5:1–21.

The adults who stood before God at Mount Horeb (Sinai) and first heard the Ten Commandments were dead when Moses proclaimed them to this new generation. Deuteronomy literally means the second ‘duo’ giving of the law.

Yet Moses said God’s covenant was “not with our fathers” but was “with all of us who are alive here today.”

What did Moses mean? Was this a different law? Of course not, but this was a different people.

These were children of the desert, not Egypt. These were the people who were about to claim the promised land instead of fail like their predecessors.

God’s Words never change but they speak to every generation in a way that matters. What I learned about God’s Word as a child hasn’t changed but this world certainly has.

The words of God are always the same, but the message is different to each generation.

God’s Word has a powerful and a present message for each listener. It’s message to our young people is one meant for just them.

God’s Word was first spoken centuries ago, but it is as fresh, vital, and compelling as if it had been just uttered today.

In a real sense, God’s Word is always spoken today. The living God meets us in His Word. All He says there is said to us as well as to generations past.

You and I must never read the Bible as though it were merely a record of something that happened long ago.

We are to read Scripture attentively, expecting God to speak to us in our today.

As the writer of Hebrews says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 3:15). The Bible is God’s voice. Through it He is speaking not only to our fathers, but to us!

“Hear . . . learn . . . and be sure to follow” Deut. 5:1.

Each of these words are also found in Moses’ first words to the assembled Israelites (v. 1). But where they failed was in keeping that relationship with God. They feared God but they did not love God.

It’s important not to confuse loving God and others with sentimental feelings. Love is a choice that holds firm. We love God with more than heart and mind. We love Him with every fiber of our being and strength.

The person who loves God will hear God’s Word, study to understand what that Word means, and then carefully apply it in their daily life.

People often treat a sermon as a speech meant to excite and inspire them. But the weakness there is in the preacher who is giving the sermon. If he doesn’t present a stirring message, they go away unmoved and unchanged.

But if you approach this sermon or any other message as having the potential to reveal God to you in a way that matters; if you listen with all your heart and mind looking for that one more way you can love God; He will speak to your life and more.

“That it might go well with them and their children forever” Deut. 5:22–33.

Some act as if the moral standards revealed in the Ten Commandments are arbitrary and restrictive. They resent the “You shall nots” of Scripture, as if these were intended to spoil mankind’s fun and make human life as miserable as possible.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s laws are actually intended to promote human happiness.

We humans are moral beings, created by God with a sense of right and wrong. Like a train that functions only when running on a track, human beings’ function in a healthy, happy way only when living morally good lives.

That desert generation had a chance to do what their parents would not. They could bring about the promises of God and make their world a better place for them and their children.

Our older generation, my generation, failed in delivering that message to the generations of today. Somewhere, morality slipped out the window and people felt no obligation to do the right thing, the moral thing.

That’s why there is a special urgency in Moses’ call to Israel to obey God. This generation needed to do a better job.

Yes, Israel enjoyed a covenant relationship with God. But in this relationship God was committed not only to bless obedience, but also to punish disobedience.

Unbelievers as well as believers are better off living a morally good life. Time and history have proven that, but God treats us differently. Notice I said differently, not better.

God is actively involved in the life of believers but because God cares so much about us and we have a relationship with Him, you and I are more likely to feel the immediate effect of our sins.

“When you eat and are satisfied” Deut. 6:10–25.

Moses said “when” because he knew that God would surely bless His people. He still does.

For Israel this meant inheriting “a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.”

Still, such blessings are dangerous. When life is too easy, and we become satisfied, we tend to “forget the Lord.”

Moses explained the way for believers to guard themselves when being so blessed. You and I who inherit the labors of those who went before us should pay strict attention.

First, “fear the Lord your God.” The word here means to treat Him with respect, remembering that He is able to discipline as well as to bless.

Then, “keep the commands.” The believer is to “do what is right and good.”

Finally, the believer is “in the future” to pass on faith to the next generation. This is the only way to guard ourselves and our children from empty, meaningless lives.

“You must destroy them totally” Deut. 7:1–6.

The demand that Israel utterly destroy the people who inhabited Canaan before her has troubled many.

How does this command square with all the talk in Deuteronomy 6 of love? How do we understand it in view of God’s revelation of love for all people in Jesus?

To answer we need to make several observations.

First, archeology has confirmed Scripture’s portrait of Canaanite culture as morally and religiously depraved. Some 600 years earlier God had told Abraham that He would not expel the people of the Promised Land then, because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16).

Now that full measure of sinfulness had been reached, and Israel was to be God’s instrument of punishment.

It’s important for us to remember that the God who loves human beings also hates evil. Any concept of God that fails to take His commitment to punish sin is essentially unscriptural.

So, the command to drive the Canaanites from the land or to destroy them if they resisted emphasized Israel’s call to be a holy people.

Intimate association with the Canaanites would (and did!) lead Israel into idolatry. Only by destroying or driving out the Canaanites who currently inhabited the Promised Land could Israel be safe from moral and spiritual corruption.

It would be a strange parent indeed who would stand idly by and watch a much-loved child be infected with a deadly disease. God was simply protecting His children.

Remember. Israel was not commanded to go beyond the borders of Canaan and wipe out the several racial groups represented in Palestine. If they fled, that would be enough.

Sometimes, we forget that we are not the nation of Israel, and this is not the promised land. While God has favored America, they are by no means the epitome of a godly nation.

God’s first concern then and now was for the well-being of His people who occupy this land.

Yes, God does care about everyone. But those who know and love Him are His first priority.

“It was because the Lord loved you” Deut. 7:7–26.

Why did God choose Israel and decide to bless them? Why does God care so much for you and me today? The puzzle is resolved by stating that even greater mystery. Why? “It was because the Lord loved you.”

Understand, God needs no reason other than love to bless us.

Though there are many reasons why it is to our benefit to obey Him, we need no other reason than our love for Him.

Loving God is so important. Surely a love for the Lord is the most important heritage we can pass on to our children.

One Christian father shares a story that we should hear.

When my oldest son was a seventh-grader in our local Christian grammar school, and I was a professor of Christian education at a Christian University, I did an experiment with his class to learn how boys and girls from Christian homes “caught” their parents’ faith.

What I found was that most of the thing’s parents did or did not do to pass on their faith made very little difference in their children’s lives. The one thing that did make a difference is explained in the words Moses spoke millenniums ago.

Moses says that communicating faith begins with a parent’s own love for God. A love “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (v. 5).

This kind of love opens us up to God, so that He can write His commandments on our hearts (v. 6). Why is this so important?

Because as long as God’s commandments seem only like demands engraved in stone, we will never be able to communicate either them or our love for God.

It’s only when God has written His laws on our hearts, and they find expression in our lives that we are able to “impress” them on our children (v. 7).

When God’s love has made us sensitive to His commandments, so that He and they become such an integral part of our lives that we “talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” then the God who is real to us will be real to our children too.

Then our own love for God will find a home in the hearts of our boys and girls.

What makes the difference? Simply this. If God is real to you—if you love Him and follow Him faithfully—then God will be real to your children too. And they will love you for it.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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