"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Monday, January 2, 2023

DEUTERONOMY: A REHEARSAL ON HOLINESS, A CALL TO FAITHFULNESS – Chapter 6

Contributing commentaries by pastors Sonny Islas, Albert Lopez, and James Fire

DEUTERONOMY 6: “FEARING The ONE TRUE GOD!” by James Fire, check out the teaching on this chapter by pastor Sonny Islas here!

INTRODUCTION: We’ve heard the expression, “No fear!” and deny its effects when it would pounce on us. Too much fear can be destructive and lead to anxiety. Too little fear can lead us into dangers best avoided. For pretended dangers as in movies and thrill rides at amusement parks, those can be fun because we know the danger isn’t real. It’s been said that “Fear is wisdom in the face of [real] danger.”

For a world full of sinners in the hands of an angry GOD, this is good advice. Nobody that’s not redeemed wants to face the Real, Holy GOD on Judgment Day, because it will mean their real eternal damnation (without parole, without bail: upon death, there’s no going back for do-overs!).

Once a soul is redeemed however, there is another kind of fear: it’s a reverential, humble, thankful, and respectful expression in the light of GOD’s sacrificial love Who took our sin, our judgment in our place, not willing that any of us should perish, but have eternal life (JOHN 3:16)!

Because GOD has loved us with this incredibly intense and mind-boggling love we desire to reciprocate and lay down our lives in His service, just as He laid down His life for our salvation!

We fear GOD because He is Holy, and Awesome, and Almighty and All-knowing. We fear GOD because of His heart towards us – such a tender heart of overwhelming love, that we fear to hurt His precious heart by sinning.

DEUTERONOMY 6:1-3
1 "Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 "that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 "Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you-'a land flowing with milk and honey.'


These commandments from the LORD were instructions that Moses taught the children of Israel, and these instructions and teachings were like goads to the nature of man. We don’t think about goads because we don’t plow with animals anymore. Goads were sharpened poles that the plowman would use if ever the ox or mule got unruly. It would discourage that sort of behavior and encourage the beast to keep plowing.

As we understand it, the Law of GOD pricks our conscience, it stabs us, causing the pain of conviction, and provokes us to “keep plowing” – that is, to show respect to the command of the LORD and follow through by observing and doing.

This reverence for the LORD was to be taught to later generations who weren’t there to see GOD’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. Even the generation that Moses was teaching here in Deuteronomy weren’t around to see them, but they themselves were taught by their parents and they heard all about it from Moses (and Aaron when he was still alive), and Joshua and Caleb who were all eyewitnesses.

A reverence for GOD leads to obedience to GOD, and obeying from the heart shows a genuine, reverential worship and love for the LORD. “To obey is better than sacrifice”! (1 SAM 15:22). In vs. 3 where it speaks of being “careful to observe” the LORD’s commandments, the picture here is that of a person placing something valuable under guard, like placing precious things in a safe – for safe keeping. And ALL of the commandments are kept – not just the ones we like or the ones that don’t step on our toes.

This attitude of guarding the Word of the LORD, to hide it away in our hearts so that we don’t sin against Him (PS 119:11) – is a lifelong devotion: “all the days of our lives” as it states in vs. 2. Not only do we observe (as one would with their eyes) but we also “hear” which is more than merely listening. It’s listening with the intent to obey:

It’s the difference between a student listening to the teacher’s lecture, while doodling on some paper and a soldier standing at attention receiving orders from their superior officer!

Not only is our obedience glorifying to the LORD, not only is it a rebuke to a rebellious, sinful world that hates the Light and the Law of the LORD, but it’s also a benefit to ourselves: Israel was promised that “it will be well” with them: their days prolonged, and they’d be multiplied greatly, and enter into this “land flowing with milk and honey”.

Obeying the Gospel and following JESUS means blessing not so much in the here and now (though this is absolutely the case) but to a far greater degree, eternal blessings that will never fade away or “get used up”, reserved in heaven for us His saints:
1 PETER 1:3-5
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
DEUTERONOMY 6:4-5
4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.


This verse is known to the Jewish people as the Shema [see the linked article from Bible Project on a detailed treatment of this verse/prayer] – the Hebrew word that means to “listen, to understand, and having understood, respond to” the love of GOD by loving Him back wholeheartedly! This love is the sort that motivates action, loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion.
This is far more so a covenant of love, not so much a legal covenant with YHWH – His love motivates Him to bless His people with Himself firstly, and secondly with all the ways He would bless them in families and farms, in peace and prosperity, in spiritual and sensible ways.
All that GOD required of them, was that they listened to and followed all of His commandments, from a heart devoted to Him for His own sake, not the ‘goodies’ He offers.

As I said it before, GOD desires us to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, because that’s how GOD loves us – and proved it on the Cross! And will keep proving it through all eternity!

Jews, as well as cults like Jehovah’s witnesses and certain denominations like Oneness Pentecostals like to point to this verse to denounce the idea of the Trinity. Each of these groups teach that GOD is singular Person, He is one Person, they say.

But in the Hebrew, the word for a numeral one is yachid.
If the Holy Spirit wanted to convey that GOD is a singular Person, He would have had Moses use this word, but he didn’t. The Hebrew word used here is echad, which is a united one.
A football team is one, in the echad sense of the word. They are a unit of 11 members on the field, but they represent one team.
So think of the Trinity like that, on “Team GOD” there are Three Players: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each member is a Person in their own right, they have their own role to play (just as each football player has theirs), but each of Them is GOD just as much as the other Two. Not three GODs in three Persons, but One GOD in three Persons.

We see a hint of this in GENESIS 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


In this verse, the Hebrew word used for “GOD” is not El (which is the singular form), but Elohim (plural), but the Hebrew word for “created” is barah – which is the singular form. Typically one would have the verb tense agree with the noun, but here the noun is plural, and the verb is singular – showing that all Three Members of the Trinity were involved in the act of the creation (GEN 1:2 points to the Holy Spirit; JOHN 1:3 points to the Word Who is Jesus Christ; GEN 1:1 points to GOD the Father).

DEUTERONOMY 6:6-9
6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 "You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.


We keep our Bibles on our desks, on a book shelf, on our phones, but where does GOD want us to keep His Word? In our hearts! Furthermore, to allow the Word of GOD to so fill our hearts that it overflows – as with John Bunyan of whom it was said, “prick him and he bleeds Scripture”. The Word is to overflow into our children as we teach them, to the saints in fellowship, to disciples eager to learn – diligently: that means with piercing, convicting power pointing out our sinful ways; to show the holiness of GOD, to bring understanding of what’s expected of us as well as what we can expect from GOD!

Binding the Word of GOD upon the forehead and on the hand began among the rabbi’s as early as the 4th century BC. They would write various Scriptures out on vellum made from the skins of a Levitically clean animals, verses from DEUTERONOMY, NUMBERS and EXODUS and place them in small leather boxes called phylacteries, and literally bind them with leather straps to arms, hands, and head.

From the meaning in the Hebrew, a case could be made that these boxes were to be literally bound (the Hebrew literally means this) for a sign (ensign, flag, beacon) upon the Hebrew people as an indication of their love and devotion to the LORD.

The act of binding is associated with covenants: GOD had bound Himself to His Word and cannot do other than that which He has declared (in other words, He can't go back on His Word). Likewise Israel (and we as the church) are bound to GOD by covenants - the everlasting covenant for the church and for Israel in the near future when they receive their Messiah Y'shua!
PSALM 118:26-29
 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. 27 God is the LORD, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. 29 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever
.
But these could also be used merely for religious show, without any true love for GOD; this was one of the sever criticisms our LORD had against the hypocritical religious leadership in Israel (MATT 23:5).

Today, a professing Christian might plaster their car with bumper stickers from bumper to bumper or might deck themselves out with all kinds of Jesus jewelry and T-shirts. Yet what does any of it mean, if it doesn’t come from a heart devoted to the LORD?

DEUTERONOMY 6:10-12
10 "So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 "houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant-when you have eaten and are full 12 "then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.


Israel was to follow the will of the LORD according to His commandments, seeking how they may please their Holy, Heavenly King Who reigns supreme in His kingdom, and as they did this, the LORD would provide for them cities and houses they didn’t build, but filled with all the necessities of life, wells with clean, fresh water that they didn’t dig, plentiful produce that they didn’t plant.

This is rather like the admonition from the LORD Jesus Christ:
MATTHEW 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Yet in the midst of these blessings, Israel was to beware – that in the plentiful provision of prosperity, they wouldn’t get puffed up with pride and forget the LORD their GOD.
It’s a sad fact that when the LORD blesses His children, there’s a real chance that in that GOD given prosperity, we forget the LORD Who brought us out of this condemned world, from the bondage of sin, chained as we were to a sinking ship going down in the lake of fire (see PSALM 103, esp. vs. 2: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits”).

Sadly, the LORD often times has to send adversity our way in order to draw us back. “draw us back”??!! Why would such a loving, tender hearted, merciful, kind and gracious GOD ever need to draw His own children back to Himself?

Of course, His children would want to stay as close as possible, while ever seeking ways to get closer to our Abba Father, right??
Yet I see in my own life, when I would drift – and when the LORD brought me back by sending adversity, and I was once again communing with Him, I’d find myself ashamed of my waywardness, and with tears of pain, repent of my stubbornness and receive my Abba’s merciful forgiveness and joyous restoration of fellowship!
PROVERBS 30:7-9
7 Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): 8 Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches-Feed me with the food allotted to me; 9 Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
DEUTERONOMY 6:13-16
13 "You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him and shall take oaths in His name. 14 "You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15 '(for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth. 16 "You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah.


In the next chapter we’ll address this idea of a suzerain, and it involves a greater power ruling over a lesser power, which receives benefits and blessings in exchange for their submission to the will of the greater power.

GOD here represents the greater power, the Greatest in fact, and Israel as the lesser. Because of the covenant agreement Israel has with the LORD GOD, they are forbidden from making any kind of allegiances with the false gods of the pagan nations. Should they do so, they’ll have tempted GOD, broken their part of the covenant and witness judgment rendered upon them by the LORD GOD.

DEUTERONOMY 6:17-19
17 "You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18 "And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the LORD swore to your fathers, 19 "to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has spoken.


In vs. 3 of our text, we read “be careful to observe it” – that is, the commandment of the LORD. The same Hebrew word is used here for “diligently keep” (shamar) – “to hedge about, guard, protect, attend to, be watchful, observe, preserve, to keep” the commandment of the LORD.

GOD only asks that His saints “do what is right” – to walk in righteousness: that which is good in the sight of the LORD.
Our righteousness is in the risen Christ, full of grace and truth, and as Christ walked, we as His disciples should walk likewise: well pleasing to the LORD!

PSALM 85:10-13
10 Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth
[the resurrected Christ], And righteousness shall look down from heaven [the propitiation by which the Father is satisfied]. 12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good; And our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness will go before Him and shall make His footsteps our pathway [the path of life! PS. 16:11].

The LORD swore that His people would inherit the land promised (vs. 18), and all their enemies would be cast out (vs. 19). Having escaped Egypt, Israel becomes a type for the church and our justification – being led out of condemnation and into a new life in Christ.

Crossing the Jordan was the beginning of sanctification and represents a type of the church overcoming sinfulness and a sinful world.

DEUTERONOMY 6:20-25
20 "When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the LORD our God has commanded you?' 21 "then you shall say to your son: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; 22 'and the LORD showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. 23 'Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. 24 'And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. 25 'Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.'


So the children of the Hebrews would inquire about these historical events, and the parents were not only commanded to faithfully give an account of the marvelous deeds of the LORD, the true Deliverer of Israel, but also to speak the Word of GOD to them: to “…fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life…” and “you shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up”.

The teaching of the children is the primary responsibility of the parents, particularly the fathers. They don’t come alongside the Sunday School and Youth pastors and help them: it’s the Sunday School and Youth pastors that come alongside the parents and help them! GOD isn’t going to hold teachers responsible for raising up godly children; that is a charge for the parents.

Discipleship is for parents who are to minister to their own children, not just in the teaching by word, but by example also!

May the fear of the LORD, the deep reverence, adoration, worship and obedience for the LORD’s sake, after all that He has done for us, become not something radical and rare among us, but the reasonable, rational and regular conduct of the righteous saints of the church of Jesus Christ!
ROMANS 12:1-13
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
AMEN!!

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