Last week, we stopped to see Christ typified in the cities of refuge. Tonight, we'll pick up the pace a bit as we continue through our study of Deuteronomy.
We've already looked at the time frame from which Deuteronomy arose - the Israelites have wandered in the wilderness, and then moved north, conquering the two kingdoms of the Amorites. Now, before they go westward, crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses reminds them of the Law.
Moses gathered the people together to hear the Law. He knew that for them to learn God's Word and observe God's Word, they had to hear God's Word. This week, I have spoken with so many people who spent years in church but never learned anything, because the Word of God was neither read nor taught.
My philosophy of ministry is that,
Rom. 10:17 ...faith comes from hearing...
Heb. 11:6 ...without faith it is impossible to please Him...
So, there's no way to expect God's people to walk in a way that's pleasing to Him unless we're teaching them the Word of God.
Moses also made sure before he began to teach that they understood this was not just a history lesson. This wasn't simply ancient history - God's Word was given to them. His covenant was with them. Saints, the study of the Word isn't simply academic, it is to be pandemic - touching and affecting all of us. Otherwise, we're just fooling ourselves:
James 1:22 ...prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
Moses begins with the essentials of the Law - the Ten Commandments.
"Not other gods before Me," the Lord said. The word "before" is "paw-NEEM," which means, "In the face of." God is saying, "Don't have other gods in My face, in My presence, in My sight."
Since God is all-seeing, it is not simply a matter of not having gods in our lives that are more important than Him, but no other gods at all. Jesus said,
Luke 4:8 ..."It is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'"
Similarly, we are not to make idols - representations of gods, whether the true and living God, or any other false god.
There are people in churches today who pray in front of pictures and statues of God. When asked, most of them will assert that they are not praying to these things, but simply that the picture or statue helps them to see God, to focus on Who they are praying to. But as we discussed a couple of Thursday nights ago, the Lord forbade this, saying,
Deut. 4:15-16 "So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure..."
God purposely did not show Himself, lest the people make statues and pictures of Him. God does not want to be represented by a statue or picture. They cannot represent His glory, His majesty, or His size. Remember,
2Chr. 2:6 ...the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him...
Jesus rebuked Thomas for having a sight-based faith:
John 20:29 ..."Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
So, any representation we would make of God would rob Him of His glory. Some people have difficulty imagining God when they are talking to Him. I don't even try to imagine God, because if the heavens cannot contain Him, then my imagination can't either. John told us...
1John 3:20 ...God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and present everywhere. I simply know that when I pray, He hears. I don't need an idol.
When God forbade idols, He said, "Don't worship or serve them, because I'm jealous, and I visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations." Because of this statement, there has arisen in the church a doctrine called, "generational curses."
The basic idea of generational curses is that when you're sick or terrible things are happening to you, it's probably because your parents or grandparents had sin in the past that they never repented of.
But if you read the passage in context, you see that God visits iniquity upon people that reject and hate Him, but those that love Him are shown mercy.
Now, it is true that the sins of fathers tend to become the sins of the sons. Some examples are:
- Isaac fell into the sin of his father Abraham.
- King Akh-az-YAW sinned in the way of his father King Ahab (1Kings 22:52).
- King Ab-ee-YAWM sinned in the way of his father King Rehoboam (1Kings 15:3).
And research frequently shows that people tend to have the same addictions and behaviors that their parents had. The psalmist wrote:
Psa. 106:6 We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.
Often, the son sins in the same manner as his father. But regardless, each person is responsible for their own sins. The Law says,
Deut. 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin."
Ezekiel 18 is really the definitive chapter for understanding the truth about this idea of "generational curses." In it, God says:
Ezek. 18:14 "Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father's sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise."
This tells us that regardless of whether the sins of the father became the sins of the son, this is not a "generational curse" - the son does not have to follow - he has a choice, and can choose to not sin in the manner of his father. If you've struggled with this issue, or have been accused of having a "generational curse," I encourage you to read through all of Ezekiel 18. This chapter makes it crystal clear that the Lord absolutely does not punish the children for the parents' sins.
This commandment is often quoted by those who hear an unbeliever using God's name to curse. But in reality, it is far more accurate to apply this to believers. After all, the commandment is, "YOU shall not take the name of the Lord YOUR God in vain."
And that doesn't just mean that believers should refrain from the classic curses which use God's name. Certainly they should avoid those things, for the Bible says,
Eph. 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth...
However, this commandment applies to much more than cursing. You see, the word "vain" in Hebrew means, "emptiness, vanity, falsehood, nothingness, lying, worthlessness."
In other words, don't make God's name mean nothing. Don't use it in a frivolous way. One thing that really grieves my heart is to hear Christians always saying, "The Lord told me this," "God's leading me to do this," and "God wants me to tell you this."
Often, these statements are proven wrong. They say, "God told me that I'm going to do this," but then they don't. "The Lord revealed that I'm going to buy this," but then they can't. "God spoke and said that would happen," but then it doesn't. That is using the Lord's name in vain - using God's name as their spiritual stamp, their mark of approval, but treating it as nothing. Just slap God's name in there and now it's truth. This is no different than the prophets who the Lord said were..
Ezek. 22:28 ...saying, Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD has not spoken.
God will not hold people guiltless when they do this. Jeremiah was told,
Jer. 14:14 ..."The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds."
I am very fearful to say, "The Lord revealed this to me," or "God told me that."
The Sabbath Day is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in the church today. More and more sects are forming, insisting that the sabbath be observed.
But there are big problems with their doctrine. Number one, God made it clear that the sabbath was specifically for the sons of Israel. He told Moses,
Ex. 31:13-14 "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you...'"
Ex. 31:16-17 "So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed."
Their observance of it is a sign that the Israelis are God's chosen people. It was not a sign for others to see, but for themselves to be reminded that the Lord had set them apart.
Another issue is that as Gentiles, we were not commanded to observe the Sabbath. When the church in Jerusalem met to discuss the issue of Gentile Christians in Acts 15, they were given only a short list from the Law. They said,
Acts 15:28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials"
Those essentials did not include Sabbath Day observation.
There are many other Biblical proofs that we are not under the Sabbath Day law. But in a nutshell, all we need to do is read what Paul wrote to the Colossians:
Col. 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
If someone begins to give you grief about having church on Sunday instead of Saturday, don't get into the argument. They are free to worship when they want, but are forbidden to judge you for what day you worship.
Paul pointed out that this is the first of the Ten Commandments to contain a promise (Eph. 6:2). But how do you honor your father and mother? What does it mean to "honor" your parents?
"Honor" is the Hebrew word "Ka-BOD." It means to "honor, glorify, give weight to." When quoted in Greek, the word is "tim-AH-o," which means "to fix the value of, revere, or venerate."
So, to honor our parents means to give weight and value to them.
The final five commandments - don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't bear false witness, and don't covet, really don't need much explanation, except to cover the following:
It is not "kill," but "murder" covered by the commandment. God commanded capital punishment and numerous wars, which involved killing. But the word here is "murder," which speaks of taking life without legal or moral right.
"Thou shalt not steal" has no dollar amount attached to it. No matter how small, it is still stealing.
To "covet" is to desire greatly. Coveting other people's possessions, loved ones, salaries, etc. will lead to terrible sin.
5:23-33 Walk In His Ways To Prolong Your Days
When the Israelites heard God, they were afraid, saying, "We will hear and do it!" God was pleased, saying that they had done well, and wished that they and their descendants would keep that commitment.
If a people chooses to walk in God's ways, it will be well with them.