Repeating the commandments, renewing the covenant

Posted Sep 26, 2016

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Daily Scripture: Deuteronomy 1:1,5; 5:1-22

1:1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan River, in the desert, on the plain across from Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.

5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this Instruction.

5:1 Moses called out to all Israel, saying to them: “Israel! Listen to the regulations and the case laws that I’m recounting in your hearing right now. Learn them and carefully do them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Mount Horeb. 3 The Lord didn’t make this covenant with our ancestors but with us—all of us who are here and alive right now. 4 The Lord spoke with you face-to-face on the mountain from the very fire itself. 5 At that time, I was standing between the Lord and you, declaring to you the Lord’s word, because you were terrified of the fire and didn’t go up on the mountain.”

The Lord said:

6 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

7 You must have no other gods before me. 8 Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 9 Do not bow down to them or worship them because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins—even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. 10 But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11 Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.

12 Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the Lord your God commanded: 13 Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Don’t do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your oxen or donkeys or any of your animals, or the immigrant who is living among you—so that your male and female servants can rest just like you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That’s why the Lord your God commands you to keep the Sabbath day.

16 Honor your father and your mother, exactly as the Lord your God requires, so that your life will be long and so that things will go well for you on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you.

17 Do not kill.

18 Do not commit adultery.

19 Do not steal.

20 Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.

21 Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife.

Do not crave your neighbor’s house, field, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

22 Those are the words the Lord spoke to your entire assembly with a loud voice while on the mountain, from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick smoke. He added no more. God wrote them on two stone tablets, then gave them to me.

Reflection Questions

“Deuteronomy” comes from Greek words that meant “second law,” first used to identify the book in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Many mainline and Hebrew scholars believe the book may have been put in the form in which we now have it around the time of Judah’s righteous King Josiah (cf. 2 Kings 22:8-13). It preserved the essence of Moses’ final words to Israel. Early on, it stressed God’s covenant love for Israel, and recited (with some slightly modified words) the Ten Commandments.

  • Deuteronomy was set at the end of Israel’s wilderness wandering. They prepared to enter the Promised Land now that the fearful generation we learned about last week died (cf. Numbers 14:21-23). What made it important for Moses to emphasize that “the Lord didn’t make this covenant with our ancestors but with us—all of us who are here and alive right now”? We humans are time-bounded, but God is eternal. What helps you trust that as a believer today you are also included in God’s unending covenant love?
  • If God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, how could the wording in Deuteronomy 5 differ, even slightly, from that in Exodus 20? Remember, Israel stored the stone tablets in the Most Holy Place of the Temple, where only the high priest could go, and only on the yearly Day of Atonement. The writer, in one or both books, couldn’t just call up the exact wording on his smart phone! Did the eternal value of the Commandments rest in the exact words, or in the timeless life principles they expressed?

Prayer

Holy God, thank you for being a God of your word, whose love and commitment to us don’t change even when we struggle. Inscribe the principles of your law on my heart. Amen.

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Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves with the Communications Ministry working on special projects.

Now that I’m doing the empty nest thing, I’ve been reflecting on my children’s faith journey. I think back with gratitude to the firm foundation of faith that was set when they were little – both through prayer in our home and the children’s ministry programs at the church we attended where I was blessed to be the director of that ministry. Since I chose or wrote the Sunday school curriculum and planned out the Vacation Bible School lessons and activities, I felt pretty much in control of their journey and quite confident they weren’t traveling down any wrong paths.

Funny what happens to that control and confidence when the teenage years hit.

Gone were VBS and Sunday school craft projects with yarn and popsicle sticks. Instead they entered the most peer-pressure filled time of anyone’s life, and – as it has been well documented – a time they least want to hear from mom and dad… about rules for living… about what God wants for them and from them… about A-N-Y-THING!

Last week while cleaning out a drawer in my son’s room (don’t worry – he gave me permission, so I wasn’t snooping!), I came across a letter I had written to him and his sister during those awful, awesome, worry-filled, laughter-filled, eye-rolling, smile-tugging teenage years. In it I described some of the dangerous traps they could fall into. My written words reflected both my fearful desperation and faithful determination to share my hopes for their journey. And oh how I prayed that they would just get it!

I think Moses was at this same point with his people. They had complained a lot and frequently stopped listening to him – probably more than a few eye rolls in the crowd. Yet he loves them, yearns to save them from the pain of bad choices and wants so much good for them! So once more he goes through the Ten Commandments – fearfully desperate and faithfully determined that his children would travel on the right path as they continued on their journey – praying that they would just get it.

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