In the first eleven verses of this chapter, Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s great mercy to them, notwithstanding their provocations that he mentioned in chapter 9 – especially their sin of making the golden calf. Here we see several things by which the Lord showed Himself to be reconciled to His people after that great sin. First, He gave them His law again. In the same way, God has entrusted us with Bibles, Lord’s Days, and sacraments as tokens of His presence and favor. Second, God led the people forward toward the land of Canaan – just as He is continually leading His people to the heavenly land of promise. Third, He appointed a standing ministry among them for holy things, by separating the tribe of Levi for this service. And now, under the Gospel – when the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit is more plentiful and powerful – the succession of holy ministers is continually kept up by the Spirit’s work on certain men’s hearts, qualifying and making them willing for that work. Fourth, the Lord accepted Moses as an advocate or intercessor for His people; and therefore, He appointed him to be their prince and leader toward the Promised Land. In this position, Moses was a picture of Christ, Who always lives and pleads for us, and has all power in heaven and on earth.
In the second part of this chapter, God’s people are taught their duty to Him – both in principle and in practice. Nothing can be more persuasive than the words which Moses here uses – which are based upon what he had just said before – to prevail upon Israel to love God. He began this section like an orator, with an appeal to his audience: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?” (verse 12) When we have received mercy from the Lord, it is only right that we should enquire what returns we can make to Him – just as David did in Psalm 116:12: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
Moses describes the whole sum and substance of our duty to God as consisting in fearing Him, walking in His ways, loving Him, serving Him, and keeping His commandments (verses 12, 13). Having given ourselves up to His service, we must make His revealed will (in the Bible) to be our rule and standard in everything – believing that all that He commands is for our good. Whatever we do in His service, we must do it cheerfully and with goodwill. And we must cling to Him (verse 20) – faithfully and constantly abiding with Him; never forsaking Him; and holding fast to Him as One Whom we love and delight in, and trust and confide in.
Here we are also taught our duty to our neighbor (verse 19). The Lord directed the Israelites to show love to those who were foreigners to them. And if we are to love those who are foreigners to us, ought we not to be even more inclined to show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ? We must have a tender concern for all who share our human nature; and every time that we have an opportunity, we must do good to all people, according to their necessities and our abilities. God’s common blessings to mankind in general oblige us to love all people, who are “one blood” with us (Acts 17:26). He takes special notice of and shows particular care to those who are in distress (verse 18; Ps. 146:7-9), and should we not be eager to make ourselves His instruments of kindness to such persons? The people of Israel, in particular, were directed to remember that they themselves had once been a people that was greatly in distress under the slavery of Egypt. Those who have been through hard times themselves, and have found mercy with God, should be ready to show the same kindness to those who are in similar circumstances.
Moses spoke of our duty to ourselves as well. The Lord tells us that we are to circumcise our hearts (verse 16) – that is, we are to cast away and put to death all corrupt affections and inclinations which hinder us from fearing and loving God. Christ even goes so far as to tell us to rid ourselves of even our right hand or our right eye, if they are instruments that are causing us to commit sin – thereby teaching us that we must mortify the sinful deeds of the flesh, no matter how dear they are to us. By nature, we do not love God; we are full of sin. The Apostle says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:5-9).
Let us immediately come and cling to our reconciled God in Jesus Christ! It is only through Christ that we love, serve, and obey the Lord acceptably. In ourselves, we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; but all our sufficiency is in God!
As the people of God, we are urged to consider His greatness and glory (verses 14-17), and His goodness and grace (verses 15, 18, 21, 22), as persuasions to do what He requires of us. The Israelites, in particular, were reminded of how God made a gracious choice of their forefathers (not for any merit that was in them), and how He had done great things for them – not the least of which was that they had increased from a family of 70 persons to a multitude compared to the number of the stars, in only a few generations! Truly, the Lord is good to His people; let us pray for grace to serve, praise, and love Him as our covenant God!
O Redeemer, You are our strength and our sufficiency! Being united with You, we are accepted in Your righteousness. Help us to live and walk humbly with You! Amen. (Mic. 6:8)
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