Deuteronomy 5–7 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5).These chapters identify the fundamental principles of personal relationship with God. The rules which come later are merely illustrations of how these fundamental principles are to be applied by a people who love God.
Definition of Key Terms
Deuteronomy 6 calls on us to dedicate “heart,” “soul,” and “strength” to loving God. “Heart” in the Old Testament is the seat of both the mind and emotions. “Soul” is best understood here as one’s “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. 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. Ten Commandments. Ten brief, basic rules showing human beings how to love God and other persons. For explanation of the Ten Commandments, see Exodus Reading 19.
The 10 basic commandments given at Sinai show how to love God and others (5:1–21). Keeping them promotes well-being (vv. 22–33). Love and reverence for God produce obedience, and are to be taught to future generations (6:1–25). God demands complete allegiance; competing faiths were to be driven from the land so that God could keep His covenant of love with Israel (7:1–26).
Understanding the Text
“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. 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? That God’s Word has a powerful, present message for each listener. 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 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 is found in Moses’ first words to the assembled Israelites (v. 1). The Ten Commandments state fundamental principles which are to be applied in our relationship with God and with others. It’s important not to confuse loving God and others with love feelings. Love is a choice. The person who loves God will hear God’s Word, study to understand what that Word means, and then carefully apply it in daily life. “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. There is a special urgency in Moses’ call to Israel to obey God. Israel enjoyed a covenant relationship with God. 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. But God is actively involved in the life of believers. Because God cares so much about us, 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. 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 blessed. 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 into account is essentially unscriptural. Second, the command to destroy the Canaanites emphasized Israel’s call to be a holy people. Intimate association with the Canaanites would (and did!) lead Israel into idolatry. Only by destroying 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 protecting His children. One other observation. Israel was not commanded to go beyond the borders of Canaan and wipe out the several racial groups represented in Palestine. God’s first concern was for the well-being of His people. 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 an even greater mystery. Why? “It was because the Lord loved you.” God needs no reason other than love to bless us. Though there are many reasons why it is to our benefit to obey, we need no other reason than love for Him.
“Communicating God’s Love”(Deut. 6:4–8)
Loving God is so important. Surely a love for the Lord is the most important heritage we can pass on to our children. When my oldest son was a seventh-grader in our local Christian grammar school, and I was a professor of Christian education at Wheaton College Graduate School, 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 things 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 here, in words spoken by Moses 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 a 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.
Show your love for God daily by your commitment to doing His will.