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CRITICAL NOTES.—Moses had rehearsed the law, reminded the people of the circumstances in which it was given, and now he sets forth its essential and fundamental doctrines, the nature and attributes of God and the mode of worshipping Him.
Deuteronomy 6:1. Commandments. lit., commandment (sing. noun), equivalent to “the law,” cf. Deuteronomy 4:44, i.e., the sum and substance of all that Jehovah had given (cf. Keil). Statutes, etc., explanatory of the command.
Deuteronomy 6:2. Reason for giving law to awaken fear and obedience to every injunction.
Deuteronomy 6:3. Constant fear of God would result in prosperity and increase of the nation. of Genesis 12:1; Genesis 17:6; Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The exposition now begins with a declaration concerning Jehovah (Elohim plu.). This “does not relate to the unity of God, but simply states that to Him alone, the name Jehovah rightfully belongs, as the one absolute God to whom no other Elohim can be compared, cf. Zechariah 14:9.”—Keil.
Deuteronomy 6:5. To this one God, who is Israel’s God, a love must be given, with the heart, seat of feeling and affection; the soul, thy breath, the vital spirit, or rational soul, capable of intelligence and thought, Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; strength of body and soul.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7. True love will be regulated by regard to the commandments, which must be laid up in the heart, ever present to thought and will; taught to children, and talked about on all fitting occasions. Teach, lit., whet or sharpen, a figure for earnest and frequent instruction.
Deuteronomy 6:8. Sign, token, memorial, as rings used on wrists and fingers containing religious sentiment, John 3:33; 2 Timothy 2:19. Frontlets, Exodus 13:16. Moses here turns to good account usages prevalent in his times, and still common in the East. (See Speak Com.)
Deuteronomy 6:9. Posts, Exodus 12:7; Deuteronomy 11:20; Job 19:23; Job 19:25.
Deuteronomy 6:10-15. After specific duties, Moses gives warnings and cautions against dangers to which prosperity would expose them, viz., of forgetting God and His mercies. Entrance into Canaan brought them into possessions for which they did not labour with their own hands; beautiful towns, houses full of good things, wells of water, vineyards and olive plantations. Swearing (Deuteronomy 6:13) refers to judicial oaths in court. “Moses refers to legal swearing; our Lord to swearing in common conversation,” God’s worship precludes idolatry (Deuteronomy 6:14-15), which a jealous God will not endure, but punish with destruction from the face of the earth.
Deuteronomy 6:16-19. Tempting God by murmuring and unbelief as at Massah, i.e., Rephidim (Exodus 17:1-7), is forbidden; diligent observance of commandments and right-doing are urged. To cast out, (Deuteronomy 6:19) the casting out, the result of obedience. Exodus 23:27; Exodus 34:11.
Deuteronomy 6:20-25. Directions for the instruction of children more fully given than in Deuteronomy 6:7. Signs (22) and wonders, cf. Deuteronomy 4:34. Mighty hand, exercise of great power. Psalms 105:23; Psalms 105:28. ur good, (24), first reason for serving God, it is right; other blessings follow. Righteousness, i.e., observance of law constitutes their title to the land and gives them acceptance with God. Before the Lord, in his right and according to his judgment, cf. Psalms 56:13; Psalms 116:9.
THE FEAR OF GOD THE END OF THE COMMANDMENTS.—Deuteronomy 6:1-3
Two objects are indicated in these verses as sought by the Law-giver in thus expounding anew these important duties. He aims at awakening a holy fear of God in the heart of his people; a fear which shall manifest itself in steadfast fulfilment of the covenant; and he seeks no less the temporal prosperity of Israel, which is shown as a certain result upon such fidelity. Thus the glory of God and the welfare of man are seen to be the grand ends he has in view.—Speak. Com.
I. The Commandments of God should be the rule of Life. “That ye might do them.” Plato and other philosophers taught that perfection consisted in conformity to certain forms or ideas laid down for man by his Creator. But for one thing to be the standard or measure of another it must be fixed and true. Sophists would persuade us that there is nothing fixed and permanent. Our senses deceive us, the laws of nature change, right and wrong, virtue and vice, are fancies and vary with individual feelings and tastes. But God’s law is unchangeable, His truth is sure and eternal. He has given rules for moral life and conduct. Our own sensations must not be set forth, our own opinions exalted into standards of truth. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
II. The fear of God is the most powerful principle to produce obedience to this rule. Love to the Lawgiver begets respect for his law. We cannot honour a master, nor be happy in his service without love for his character. Affection influences the will and prompts to happy obedience. Service from any other motive would not be disinterested and true, either in religion or daily life. The fear, or the love of God in the heart therefore, is the only power to produce loyal obedience to God.
“I cannot worship what I cannot love.”
III. To beget this obedience is the design of religious instruction. “The Lord your God commanded to teach you.” We must know a person before we can love and serve him; so the law of God must be known before it can be observed. The people must be taught the character and will of God. The children must he trained and educated, not for their own glory, nor that of their parents, but for the service and glory of God. Obedience to God’s law must be the design of family training and economy. “Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.”
IV. The results of religious instruction and obedience to God’s law will be beneficent. Since the law of God consults our highest good, obedience will always be to our interest. God mercifully teaches what is good, and promises to bestow that good upon us. In various ways, personal and social, temporal and spiritual, benefits come to help us to remember Him who is “the highest good,” “God over all, and blessed for evermore.”
1. In personal happiness. “Well with thee” in body, mind, and estate. “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him” (Isaiah 3:10). “But it shall not be well with the wicked because he feareth not before God” (Ecclesiastes 8:13).
2. In length of life. “That thy days may be prolonged.” “The wicked shall not live out half their days.”
3. In the increase of posterity. “That ye may increase mightily.” Virtue always tends to promote health, material prosperity, and national welfare. Without recognition of God and obedience to His commands, we cannot secure earthly or heavenly inheritance “in the land that floweth with milk and honey.”
DIVINE REQUIREMENTS.—Deuteronomy 6:4-5
These verses assert that Jehovah is one, indivisible and supreme God, and worthy of love supreme and undivided. It is not enough to hear, we must obey and obey with all the heart and soul.
I. God is worthy of our love and service. We love a person for what he is in himself and for what he does to others. God is excellent and exalted in himself. He alone is God, and therefore deserves our homage. Goethe taught that “beauty, truth and goodness” are the objects of human worship. But this is “the religion of culture,” the worship of the “creature rather than the Creator,” and does not satisfy personal wants. God is a Living Being, on whom we can think and with whom we can converse—the centre and cause of all beauty, goodness and truth. In Him these are objects for worship, and subjects for enjoyment. He does good, makes good and communicates His blessings unto His creatures. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.”
II. God requires us to love and serve Him with entire self-surrender. The terms used to indicate this are most comprehensive.
1. Affectionately, “with all thine heart,” without indolence, unfaithfulness or half-heartedness. With fervent, undivided affection. If the heart, the whole heart be withheld, apostacy will be the result.
2. Intelligently, “with all thy mind,” (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The intellect and understanding must be concerned as well as the heart. God’s service is not a blind, unreasonable service. “We know what we worship.”
3. Energetically, “with all thy might” of will and active powers. If not free and cheerful, it is slavish and irksome. “If ye be willing and obedient,” (Isaiah 1:19).
4. Entirely, “with all thy soul.” It must be sincere and constant, not superficial but “rooted in love,” (Ephesians 3:17). God must be loved above all creatures, with all our powers and with all the energy of those powers. “The royal law according to the scripture.”
III. God’s relationship to us is a motive to prompt this required service. “The Lord thy God.” Jehovah was Israel’s God and had shown Himself such. Nothing can touch the will, and excite to motion which we do not perceive and appreciate. What is out of the view of mind and heart cannot affect them. God’s presence had been seen and His goodness displayed in wonderful ways. He made a covenant with Israel, claimed them for His people, and gave them every reason to honour and obey Him. “I am the Lord thy God.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 6:3. Hearing and doing. “Hear O Israel and observe to do it.”
1. The Word heard. Man deaf and blind in spiritual things. “Having ears, he hears not; having eyes he sees not.” Only when God speaks does the heart open (Lydia) with new power of attention and interest.” “Be more ready to hear.”
2. The Word considered. “Observe”—attendance is not attention—eyes and ears must be open. “In order to learn,” says Coleridge, “we must attend; in order to profit by what we have learnt, we must think.” “Take heed how ye hear.”
3. The Word obeyed. “Do it.” We look for novelty and not for edification. “Our great object is to be impressed and affected, and to have old and new truths reduced to experience and practice.”—Judge Hale.
Deuteronomy 6:4. The unity of God.
1. The centre of Israel’s belief. How sound in principle, elevated in tone and powerful in moral influence, compared with heathen religions!
2. The foundation of Israel’s polity. Polytheism was the basis of other social fabrics. “This clause not merely forbids polytheism, but also syncretism, which reduces the one absolute God, as King over all the earth, to a national deity, a Baal (Hosea 2:18), and in fact every form of theism and deism, which creates for itself a supreme God according to philosophical abstractions and ideas” (Keil).
3. The law of harmony in our moral constitution. The mind is not capable of containing more than one object at a time. The heart and affections can only be loyally attached to one Sovereign, and fully developed by one person.
Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 5:1. The command. “Hear, O Israel.” God seeks to make us attentive to what He is in Himself, and what He is to us—to check our presumption—kindle our affection and dissipate our fear.
2. The duty. Love God with all thine heart. First the heart and then the deed. We must first be right before we can do right. “It is greater to conquer by means of the heart, than to conquer the heart,” says Schiller. “Give me thine heart.”
3. The method of performing this duty. (a) Willingly. God sometimes accepts the will for the deed; never the deed without the will. (b) Sincerely. Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart (2 Chronicles 25:2). (c) Constantly. “Blessed is he that doeth righteousness at all times” (Psalms 106:3).
Moral life proceeds from the heart, and manifests itself without, in the three forms of activity indicated. The impulse Godward proceeds from the heart, and is realised in the life through the affection, which feeds on that supreme object; through the will, which consecrates itself actively to the accomplishment of His will; and through the mind which pursues the track of His thoughts in all His works.—Godet.
THE METHOD OF PRESERVING THE DIVINE LAW.—Deuteronomy 6:6-9
To keep a sense of duty in their minds, it was ordered that Israel should carry great principles into daily life. A system of parental instruction was instituted, and provision was made for the remembrance of the commandments in most familiar and oft-recurring scenes of life. The means of preserving religion are minutely specified.
I. In personal experience. “Shall be in thine heart.” The memory may be good and the tongue glib without any feeling of heart. The truth must not only be received by the mind, but deposited and warmed by the heart. We must understand, value and love the Bible. Since we are in danger of losing the things, if we forget the words: “these words” must be matters of experience and conversation. Our soul must be brought under their influence and direction. “The law of God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide” (Psalms 37:31.
II. In home training. “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children. Children are ignorant and self-willed. They will never instinctively or intuitively develop into saints. And while their secular education must not be forgotten their religious training must be first and most diligent. This may be given.
1. In various ways. In domestic intercourse, “when thou sittest in thine house;” in ordinary walking, “when thou walkest by the way;” in the times of the day, “when thou liest down and risest up;” by common representations, “for signs and frontlets,” and by constant writing, “thou shalt write them.”
2. In diligent methods. “Diligently,” sharpen up the children by earnest, assiduous and repeated instruction. As tools are prepared for work, so children should be taught for God and prepared for life.
III. In Religious Conversation. “Talk of them.” In the present age knowledge is spread by writing more than by speech. In earlier ages oral communications were the means of instruction. The living voice is still a great power in the world, and its mighty influence will be felt in future generations. Conversation was one of the methods employed by Jewish doctors and Jesus Himself, for imparting knowledge. Among friends and companions, in the domestic and social circle, in walking in a journey and in retiring to rest, we may converse about Divine things. “I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.” Psalms 119:46.
PARENTAL OBLIGATION.—Deuteronomy 6:7-8
In these verses it appears—
(1) That parents are bound to give their children a religious education, to sow in their hearts the seeds of scriptural truth, to teach them the elements of christrian doctrine, to inculcate upon them the observance of moral duties, and to beget in them an attachment to the ordinances of religion, in their attendance on which we may expect the communication of the grace of the Holy Spirit, to render the word of truth, the power of God unto their salvation.
(2) God’s testimonies must not only be taught to our children, but the utmost diligence must be used to make them understand them. “Thou shalt teach them diligently.” That is, again and again, as one who whets a blunt instrument in order to sharpen it, which is done by reiterated friction or grinding. This part of parental duty is a most difficult task, and it requires much patience, much prudence, much judgment and much piety in the parents, to enable them to do this good, this most important work, in the best and most effectual manner.
(3) Parents are required to embrace every opportunity of inculcating the Divine commands upon their children.
1. This duty must be performed at home and abroad; “When thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way.”
2. It must be done in the night season and in the daytime; “when thou liest down and when thou risest up.”
(4) This command shows that every father had access to scripture, in a language which he and his children understood. Moses entertained no fear that the people would misinterpret it, or wrest it to their destruction. It is probable that many a Jew did so; nevertheless, that was no reason against every Jew possessing a copy of the law. The fact is, that under the Jewish law, the scriptures were put into the hands of all kinds of persons, young and old, male and female, learned and unlearned, priest and people with a command to read them and teach them to others, so that faith of all might rest on the foundation.—Rev. J. Wilson.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 6:6-7. The Bible—the Family Book. To be read and taught in the family to promote personal piety and religious education. “The most precious legacy you can leave your children is a thoroughly sound Christian education. This will never be finally and for ever forgotten for in the worst and most distant aberation from God, some early light struck out in the early years of childhood, will leap like a live spark from memory, as was the case with John Newton, when a prodigal at the helm in a tempestuous sea—the text forgotten for twenty years, but taught him by his mother in the nursery, was the first on which turned his everlasting and happy destiny.—Dr. Cumming.
Deuteronomy 6:7. Children should be taught the principles which they understand not.
(1.) That they might have occasion much to think of the things that are so much and commonly urged.
(2.) That if any extremity should come, they might have certain seeds of comfort and direction to guide and support them.
(3.) That their condemnation might be more just, if having these so much in their mouths, they should not get something of them into their hearts.—Trapp.
Deuteronomy 6:9. “Write them upon the posts.”
1. At the time this command was given there were few written copies of the whole law, and the people had it read to them only at the feast of tabernacles. God, therefore, seemed to have appointed, at least for the present, that some select sentences of the law should literally be written upon their gates and walls, or on slips of parchment, to be worn about their wrists, or bound upon their foreheads.
2. The spirit of the command, however, and the chief thing intended, undoubtedly was that they should give all diligence, and use all means to keep God’s laws always in remembrance; as men frequently bind something upon their hands or put something before their eyes, to prevent forgetfulness of a thing that they much desire to remember. But the Jews, forgetting the spirit and design of this precept, used these things as superstitious people do amulets or charms. They used also to put these slips of parchment into a piece of cane, or other hollow wood, and fasten that to the door of their houses, and of each particular door in them, and as often as they go in and out they make it a part of their devotion to touch the parchment and kiss it.—J. Wilson.
THE DANGERS OF PROSPERITY.—Deuteronomy 6:10-12
Moses anticipates the time when Israel will come into possession of Canaan with all the good promised. But he also sees the dangers to which this prosperity will expose them—forgetfulness, idolatry (Deuteronomy 6:14) and distrust (Deuteronomy 6:16). He warns them against these dangers, and describes the remedy. “Forewarned, forearmed.”
I. Prosperity renders the heart insensible when we should be grateful “When thou shalt have eaten and be full; then beware lest thou forget the Lord.” In poverty we despond, murmur or blaspheme; in prosperity we deny God (Proverbs 30:9). “Prosperity doth best discover vices,” says Bacon. Exaltation often intoxicates, and blessings easily gained are not often valued. We are most sensible of things which cost us dearly; but unmindful of the giver when the gifts come easily and freely. We riot in carnal luxuries, and the heart becomes effeminate and self-indulgent, hardened to the reproofs of the Divine law and to the goodness and claims of the Lawgiver. “They did eat, and were filled, and became fat (senseless, doltish, cf. Isaiah 6:10), Nehemiah 9:25.
II. Prosperity begets pride when we should be humble. Man depends upon God for everything, yet often casts off God, expects nothing and fears nothing from Him. He is proud of rank, talent, and acquisitions, like Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30). We forget our need of God, our obligations to Him, and become self-sufficient instead of humble. “In all time of our wealth, Good Lord deliver us.”
III. Prosperity lulls into carnal security when we should be watchful. “Beware” of the danger and guard against it. A self-indulgent life, incapacitates for vigourous watchful obedience to God’s commands. Nature is subdued by that which feeds it, its sensitiveness and spirituality die away, and carnal security leads to ease and perfect indifference.
“O souls! In whom no heavenly fire is found,
Fat minds and ever grovelling on the ground.”—Dryden.
FORGETFULNESS OF GOD.—Deuteronomy 6:12-15
When we give our thoughts and hearts to the world God is soon forgotten. He is displaced and ignored, and we become guilty of ingratitude, robbery, and idolatry.
I. The danger pointed out. “Beware, lest thou forget God.”
1. Non-recognition of God’s presence. Even amid sensible and awful displays of that presence “they forgot God and His wonders that He had showed them.” Disregard of God’s providence. “Which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt.” A providence most constant and striking, yet despised when they should have remembered it most.” They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red Sea (Psalms 106:7). Disobedience to God’s law. We cannot serve and obey those whom we forget. God has the greatest claim upon our gratitude and love. But “when the danger is past God is forgotten.” Men cry for mercy in trouble and adversity, but when these are changed for sunshine and substance “they forsake God who made them, and lightly esteem His law.”
“Satan now is wiser than of yore,
And tempts by making rich, not making poor.”—Pope.
II. The Method of avoiding this danger specified. God provides safeguards against dangers into which we are apt to fall. Some are given in these words:
1. The fear of God. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God.” Reverence for God is the great preservative from sin. On this principle Abraham educated his children and governed his household. Joseph feared to offend God and was directed to wisest counsels. “Happy is the man that feareth alway.”
2. Obedience to God. “Serve Him.” We cannot forget God if we walk with Him and continually obey His will. Servants must not neglect their master’s commands, nor soldiers rush out of the ranks. Disobedience is disrespectful, disloyal, and insolent. “Be not hasty to go out of his sight.”
3. non-conformity to evil customs. “Ye shall not go after other Gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you,” (Deuteronomy 6:14.) Israel would be tempted by the license and indulgence of idol worship around them. Numbers influence and attract men. The fashions, the principles, and the maxims of the world govern many professors. But we must not join a majority in any sinful cause, however prevalent and popular. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.”
4. Public confession of God. “And shalt swear by His name.” God is the source of truth and the avenger of wrong. In all covenants and appeals we must regard Him. In ordinary intercourse and in common affairs of life we must be truthful. We must recognise the presence and majesty of God and not assert anything but what is right. God in the fulfilment of His word must be recognised as our example of faithfulness. “He that sweareth in the earth, shall swear by the God of truth” (lit. the God of Amen, i.e., firm and true, cf. Revelation 3:14; Revelation 19:11) Isaiah 65:16.
THE FORBIDDEN PATH.—Deuteronomy 6:14-15
In all our hearts there is a tendency to depart from God, to forget what He commands, “to go after” what He forbids. This forbidden path is described—
1. It is entered by many. The path of “the people,” “the gods” of the age. But the vox populi is not always the vox Dei. Idolatry of every kind is the root and nourisher of error and superstition—the expression and epitome of human nature—the foul dishonour to God and His supremacy. “Go not after other gods to serve them and to worship them” (Jeremiah 25:6).
2. It is offensive to God. It stirs up God’s anger and rouses His jealousy. Bp. Patrick observes, that we never find in law or prophets, anger, or fury, or jealousy or indignation, attributed to God, but upon occasion of idolatry.
3. It is destructive in its end. “Destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” Idolatry corrupts the holy and petrifies the heart. Like a withering mildew it overspreads the earth and blights the nations. God has condemned and cursed it, and will punish all who are guilty. The warning voice from above should be heard; “Ye shall bear the sins of your idols, and ye shall know that I am the Lord God.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 6:13. Threefold characteristics of God’s service.
1. God to be honoured.
2. God to be feared.
3. God to be served. “Not forgetting” is described from a positive point of view as fearing God, serving Him, and swearing by His name. Fear is placed first, as the fundamental characteristic of the Israelitish worship of God. It was no slavish fear, but simply the holy awe of a sinner before the holy God, which includes love rather than excludes it. “Fearing” is a matter of the heart; “serving,” a matter of working and striving; and “swearing in His name,” the practical manifestation of the worship of God in word and conversation.—Keil.
Deuteronomy 6:13 to Deuteronomy 16:1. The fear of God the principle of service.
2. The preventative from idolatry (Deuteronomy 6:14-15).
3. The remedy for unbelief.
Deuteronomy 6:14-15. Ye shall not go after.
1. The course forbidden.
2. The warnings to keep from it; God’s anger and God’s jealousy.
3. The consequences of disregarding these warnings. “Destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” When lesser warnings will not serve, God looks into His quiver for deadly arrows.” “From hardness of heart,” etc. Serving God. Inquire—I. What it is to serve God.
1. To dedicate ourselves wholly to Him.
2. To make His law the rule of our life.
3. To endeavour to please Him in all things. II. Why should we serve Him? Because He is—
1. Our Maker.
2. Our Preserver.
3. Our Redeemer.
4. Our Master by covenant. III. The nature of the exhortation here given.
1. Directions: serve Him scripturally, obediently, willingly, cheerfully, faithfully, etc.
2. Motives: This is the end of your creation and of all God’s mercies to you; it is the work of heaven, and will be well rewarded.—Wm. Stevens.
TEMPTING GOD.—Deuteronomy 6:16
The word “tempt,” here means to try to prove; and mindful of the circumstances alluded to God was not only provoked, but “tested” in His power and goodness. This sin we are warned against, for the apostle distinctly recognises that events in Israel’s history were typical and filled with Divine purpose and warning. “All these things happened unto them for ensamples (types, patterns to admonish and instruct” 1 Corinthians 10:2.) How did Israel and how can we tempt God?
I. By doubting God’s presence and power to help. God was present with them night and day in the wonderful pillar, yet they cried, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7.) God had destroyed their enemies, delivered them from famine and danger, yet they “tempted God in their hearts” and cried in unbelief, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” (Psalms 78:18-20.) We murmur at our daily mercies—the manna and the stream; count actual enjoyments nothing, if they do not conform to our fancy; and pine for some imaginary good. When we circumscribe to infinite wisdom, mistrust omnipotent power to accomplish His purpose, we “limit (sign, requiring miracle to satisfy us) the Holy One of Israel” (Psalms 78:41.)
II. By rebelling against God’s authority. We find fault with God’s will, set up our own will instead, and thus insult God. At the Red Sea and the waters of Marah, in the wilderness of sin and in Rephidim, they provoked God their Creator and Lawgiver. They were base enough to deny His presence, doubt His power, and abuse His servant. In their wicked disposition “they sinned still,” went on sinning and rebelling, and were not “in a mood to be convinced.” “Yea, they spake against God.”
III. By provoking God’s patience. He led them in the wilderness, gave them plentiful supplies, but their gratitude was not commensurate with His goodness. “How often did they provoke Him?” Times enough did they rebel, and were as constant in provocation as God was in kindness. “They have tempted me these ten times” (i.e., often and in full measure), Numbers 14:22; but at last God’s patience was provoked, and they were punished for their sins. God is not insensible to our conduct. We may vex His Holy Spirit, which would have been long ago withdrawn if God had not been merciful to us. We are dependent, and need God’s guidance and grace; let us not “grieve Him in the desert.” As Israel tried God by longing for the things left behind in Egypt and distrusted for the future, so we may tempt and offend God by hankering after pleasures which are forbidden, longing for that liberty in sin from which Christ has delivered us. “Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (1 Corinthians 10:9).
THE WAY OF LIFE AND SAFETY.—Deuteronomy 6:17-19
God is never indifferent to His claims upon us. Epicurus depicted his gods as totally regardless, and scorning the affairs of earth. But our God has “set his heart on man,” desires his eternal good, and points out the way to secure it. Amid the darkness and dangers of our journey God has provided help, “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23).
I. A way in which God’s word must be our constant guide. “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God.” The way has not to be invented or found out; it is revealed. We have not to make, but keep the command. “The way of life is above to the wise.” It is of heavenly, not of earthly origin, neither devised nor discerned by foolish men. We must constantly recognise and devoutly consult God’s word as our guide in our journey.
1. Carefully, as travellers anxious to be right and not lose the way. Some give careless service to God, and careless attention to His word. There must be no cold and formal observance, but effort to please and obey.
2. Earnestly. Diligence signifies not only energy and activity, but heart and affection. Heartiness and love must be displayed (Diligently the Latin tor lovingly). When Aristotle was asked what benefit he had derived from his philosophy, he replied: “I have learnt to do without constraint that which others do from fear of the law.” “I will delight myself in thy commandments which I have loved.”
3. Constantly. Not fitful or accidental, but patient and continual regard. Many forget and forsake the law. If it is displeasing to us, we easily neglect it; but when our hearts and minds are fixed upon it, then we love and practise it continually. When governed by the Word we are wise, safe, and strong. “Happy is the mind to which the word is a special companion,” says Bernard (cf. Psalms 119:7; Psalms 119:24; Proverbs 6:22).
II. A way in which God’s will must be our constant regard. “Do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord.” The will of God is the standard of duty, and this must not be lowered to meet the opinions and wishes of men. It is not what is useful or expedient before men, but what is right before God. That alone is right which is pleasing to Him, which He commands, and which He requires from us. Conformity to God’s will and character must be the aim of our life. In this respect Christ is our example, who came to do the will of Him that sent Him, and could say, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 6:29).
III. A way which leads to our present and future good. Religion confers the highest blessings upon us. The will of God is the fountain of all happiness, and the service of God the source of well being.
1. Our present good. “That it may be well with thee.” If it is not well with us, if we are not benefited by serving God, we may suspect something to be wrong. Our thoughts, employments, and pursuits may be opposed to God’s will, and then it cannot be well with us. “It shall be well with them that fear God, but it shall not be well with the wicked.”
2. Our future good. Man has a future of weal or woe. To forget this future is simply to court destruction. But continual regard to God’s will, and dependence upon God’s grace (a) will help us to overcome enemies. “To cast out all thine enemies from before thee.” We cannot overcome in our own attitude and strength. God dislodges our enemies, and clears our way to heaven (cf. Exodus 23:22; Joshua 24:8); (b) will secure to us the inheritance—residence on earth, progress and grace in Christian life, and heaven at length. Thus do the Scriptures set before us the way of life. Are we walking in it? “What man is he that desireth life and loveth (good days, or days of good, Seventy) many days, that he may see good” (Psalms 34:12).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 6:16. Tempting God (Psalms 78:18). They tempted God, tried His patience over and over again, made as it were another experiment upon it, and, from the expression of “tempting Him in their heart,” it would seem as if they had made it a thing of mental calculation whether He would still bear with them (T. Chalmers on Psalms 78:18).
1. They tempted God’s patience.
2. They tempted God’s Wisdom
3. They tempted God’s power.
4. They tempted God’s wrath. Herein, as in a mirror, we see ourselves. Israel in the wilderness acted out, as in a drama, all the story of man’s conduct towards his God.—Treasury of David.
Deuteronomy 6:17. Notice.
1. The Lawgiver. “The Lord your God.”
2. The authority interposed. Testimonies and statutes “which He commanded thee.”
3. The regard for this authority required. “Keep the commandments.”
Deuteronomy 6:17 to Deuteronomy 19:1. The end desired—“good.”
2. The method of securing it. Filial obedience to God.
3. The results which follow. “Possess the good land,” etc.
The charge of Moses to Israel. In this passage we remark—I. A solemn charge given.
1. Hear the word of the Lord.
2. Observe the word of the Lord, doctrine, precept, promise.
3. Obey the word of the Lord. II. Important benefits proposed.
3. Peaceful possession of Canaan.—Zeta.
THE RELIGION OF ENQUIRY.—Deuteronomy 6:20-25
God’s remarkable dealings with His people could not fail to excite their curiosity even to the latest generations. There was an express injunction that in every succeeding age they should carefully acquaint their children with the facts of their history. There must be a perpetual memorial of their great deliverance and a profound reverence in the mind of the nation of that Supreme Power to whom they were indebted for their civil and religious privileges. Questions were to be encouraged, parents were to answer questions by explaining divine institutions, that the laws of God might be perpetuated, family religion nourished, and national good secured.
I. The Religion of the Bible cultivates free enquiry. “When thy son asketh thee what mean the testimonies.” Man thinks. Reason is the attribute of his soul. The religion for man must not therefore overlook his intellect. Christianity is adapted to man in his capacity for knowledge and in his power to reason and conclude from that knowledge. “Come let us reason together,” is the language of our Creator. Many declare that Christianity is only fit for the ignorant and weak minded, and that it affords no scope for free enquiry. But it affords the finest scope for reason in which the mind can be exercised. Examination and enquiry are demanded from everyone. We are to “think on these things,” to “search the scriptures,” and “prove all things (test like money changers) and hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
II. God has made provision for the demands of free enquiry. We cannot help but ask “from whence am I and whither am I going?” “How can man be just with God?” “What mean the testimonies,” etc. Solemn questions will prompt themselves which neither the philosophy of man nor the light of nature can answer. But God answers man’s enquiries—
1. In the facts of history. “We were bondsmen in Egypt.” In the Bible we have a record of facts beginning with the Creation and leading us through various dispensations to the consummation of God’s purpose in the death and work of Christ. In the lives of the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, in the events of Jewish history and in the works of Jesus Christ we have grand historic facts, which are the basis of religion, the foundation of our faith, and the elements, “the rudiments of childhood’s lessons” (cf. Galatians 3:24; Galatians 4:3).
2. In the doctrines of Scripture. Upon the facts of history the doctrines of religion are built. There is a growing tendency to take ideas without facts; to separate events from their supernatural surroundings; and to find in Scripture “a legendary summary of primitive belief.” But in the facts and doctrines of Christianity God has provided for the necessities of our nature and not left us to “cunningly devised fables.”
3. In the records of Providence. God’s power and presence were seen in His dealings with Israel. His purpose and promise have been fulfilled in the history of nations. The system of Providence is accommodatory to our nature in teaching by sensible signs and striking events. “The Lord showed signs and wonders.”
III. It is our interest to enquire and possess this Religion. The facts and doctrines of Scripture must be confirmed in our experience and traced in our life conduct. “He that believeth hath the witness in himself.” If we fear God and keep His commandments we shall realise the power of God to help; the grace of God to pardon and renew, the need of the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide.
1. It will be for our good, Deuteronomy 6:24. To investigate truth, to follow God will not only be enjoyment but “our good.” Our views will be enlarged, our convictions deepened, and we shall find that every event of Providence and every command of God contribute to “our good always.”
2. It will be for our righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25). Just as loyal obedience secured to Israel their standing and inheritance, so Christians can only justify their claims and position as God’s people by holy life. They are God’s peculiar people, redeemed to serve Him and to train future generations in their holy faith. Just as youth are embued with righteousness and truth, and posterity taught the will and works of God, will the Christian church and the nation have within themselves the principle of perpetuation and the security of natural life and religious position. “That they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.”
A WONDERFUL HISTORY.—Deuteronomy 6:21-23
Israel’s history from first to last is a process of moral education. In its gradual progress, its divine symbols and its spiritual design, we see divine purpose comprehend in the good of the nation and the redemption of the world. In these words we have two or three remarkable epochs or displays filled with moral instruction.
I. The Great Deliverance. “The Lord brought us out of Egypt.” For generations Israel had been oppressed and held in bondage most bitter. But in “the self-same day” of promise, they were rescued without delay. Slavery ended, task-masters gone and liberty gained! Salvation most complete and joy unspeakable. All escaped. Promises and deliverance in Christ to those in bondage of sin and death. He gives life, liberty, joy and glory.
II. The wonderful way in which it was accomplished.
1. By Divine might. “With a mighty hand.” Pharaoh could not resist the omnipotence of God. The “strong man armed” can only “keep his palace” until “the stronger than he cometh.”
2. By marvellous deeds. “Signs and wonders, great and sore.” Most alarming were the judgments of God upon Egypt. God touched the support of life and the objects of worship—annoyed with pain and disease—turned the wealthy land into a wilderness. Then came the dark shadow and finally the stroke of death itself upon “the chief of all their strength.” Judgments upon sin may be light at first, but if disregarded will destroy in the end the wicked treasure, “wrath against the day of wrath,” “because of the blindness (hardness) of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18).
III. The Gracious Design. “To give us the land.” Canaan, acquired, not by valour and human skill, a gift of God. “To give us.” Patriarchs had been sojourners and strangers there; now descendents in full possession.
1. An inheritance promised. “which he sware unto our fathers.” The covenant 400 years before now to be established; God never forgets. “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out.” (Buffon). With Him a thousand years as one day (Psalms 90:4).
2. An inheritance into which they were guided. “He brought us out, that He might bring us in.” Canaan not only offered, but Israel helped to get it. The way long, the dangers great, but the Angel of the Covenant never forsook them. God will guide us by the written word and the Holy Spirit if we follow Him. “I will instruct thee.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 6:20-21. Notice—
1. Divine Institutions have meaning and design.
2. Our duty to enquire al out them.
3. Children especially should be encouraged to question, etc. A Persian philosopher was asked by what method he had acquired so much knowledge, answered, “By not being prevented by shame from asking questions when I am ignorant.”
Deuteronomy 6:20. The Children’s Question.
1. Children to be encouraged to seek knowledge concerning the Bible and the Church. 2. Patiently and wisely explain, doctrines, duties and privileges.
3. Early teach children to acknowledge God and refer deliverances and all other blessings to Him.
4. Believe that the Holy Spirit will impress youthful hearts with what they see and hear in God’s house. The School in the Family, pupils, teachers, lessons to be learned, and benefit of practising them.
Deuteronomy 6:24-25. God’s commands, our life and righteousness.
1. Israel to be a separated people (Deuteronomy 6:23).
2. Their continued existence depended upon obedience to God (Deuteronomy 6:24).
3. In this continued existence would be the justification of their character and position (Deuteronomy 6:25). “Every Israelite who yielded an external obedience to the Mosaic law was termed righteous, and had a claim in virtue of that obedience, to the land of Canaan; so that doing these things, he lived by them (Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 5:33). The import of the statement in these verses, then, is that a faithful observance of “all these commandments” should constitute their title to the promised blessings of the covenant.”—Jamieson.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 6
Deuteronomy 6:1-3. Fear. This fear of God is the foundation of religion; for the great support of virtue among men is the sense upon their minds of a supreme Governor and Judge of the universe, who will finally and effectually reward what is in itself essentially worthy of reward, and punishment what is worthy of punishment. Consequently fear brings us into subjection to God’s authority and enforces the practice of duty; for the fear of the Lord is to depart from evil. (Duty of Man) Love. Our affections are drawn to an attractive object as naturally as iron is charmed by loadstone. God made us to love; and when brought near to such an object our feelings in-twine themselves around it, as the soft and pliant tendrils of the vine do around the support it clothes with leaves, and hangs with purple clusters. Such analogy is there between the laws of mind and matter.—Dr. Guthrie.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5. One Lord. We believe God to be one, so we believe Him to be in such manner one, that there cannot possibly be another, for all things must derive their being from Him, and whatsoever being has its existence from another cannot be God, but must be a creature. This unity of God is of universal obligation to be believed that we may be fixed as to the object of our worship, and place our religious adoration there only, where it is due; and also that we may give Him that honour, which is due to Him alone; part whereof is, that we have no other Gods but one, in him only must we trust and love with all our hearts, because He only is infinite goodness, beauty and glory.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Write. It is now customary among the Arabs, and the Oriental nations, to write passages of the Koran, and other moral sentences, on the gates of cities, walls, and doorposts.—Dr. Boothroyd.
Teach. It was the godly practice of the patriarchs to instruct their children concerning the creation of the world, transgression of man, destruction of the old world, God’s providence, the Messiah to be revealed, and the like. The parents’ mouths were large books, in which their children did read the noble acts of the Lord. Philip was glad that Alexander was born whilst Aristotle lived, that he might be instructed by Aristotle in philosophy. It is no mean mercy that thy children are born in the days of the Gospel, a land of light, where they may be instructed in Christianity.—Geo. Swinnock.
Deuteronomy 6:10-12. Forget. Prosperity is a more refined and severe test of character than adversity, as one hour of summer sunshine produces greater corruption than the longest winter day.—Eliza Cook.
Deuteronomy 6:12-15. Forget God. Men who put their supreme idea of life in self-indulgence, cannot understand what God means, who makes self-exertion, in Himself, in angelic powers, in all His creatures, the test of real being. If men are seeking to be supine, to have infinite enjoyment without earning it, and God is determined they shall be stirred up by storms of hope and fear, pain and ease, in order that they may grow and develop, of course they cannot understand Him or His administration. The prizes in this world are placed where those men shall get them who by development, by opening and educating their powers, seek them.—Beecher.
Deuteronomy 6:14-16. Tempt. Although God cannot be tempted with evil, he may justly be said to be tempted, whensoever men, by being dissatisfied with His dealings, virtually ask that He will alter those dealings, and proceed in a way more congenial with their feelings. Suppose a man to be discontented with the appointments of Providence; suppose him to murmur and repine at what the Almighty allots him to do or to bear, is he not to be charged with provoking God to change His purposes? and what is this if it be not “tempting” God—a striving to induce Him to swerve from His plans, though every one of these plans has been settled by infinite wisdom. In short, unbelief of every kind and degree may be said to be a tempting of God; for not to believe on the evidence which he has seen fit to give, is to tempt him to give more than He has already given—offering our possible assent, if proof were increased, as an inducement to him to go beyond what his wisdom has prescribed.—H. Melvill.
Deuteronomy 6:20-25. What mean the testimonies? The mother of a family was married to an infidel, who made a jest of religion in presence of his own children; yet she succeeded in bringing them all up in the fear of the Lord. I one day asked her how she preserved them from the influence of a father whose sentiments were so openly opposed to her own? She answered: “Because to the authority of a father I did not oppose the authority of a mother, but that of God. From earliest years my children have always seen the Bible upon the table. This Holy Book has constituted the whole of their religious instruction. I was silent that I might allow it to speak. Did they propose a question; did they commit any fault; did they perform any good action; I opened the Bible, and the Bible answered, reproved or encouraged them. The constant reading of the Scriptures has alone wrought the prodigy which surprises you” (A. Monod). “Young man, attend to the voice of one who possesses certain degree of fame in the world,” said Dr. Samuel Johnson, “and who will shortly appear before his Maker—read the Bible every day of your life.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany