Chapter 6


The Greatest Commandment

        • This is the command, the statutes and ordinances, that the Lord has instructed me to teach you so that you can obey them in the land that you are about to enter and live in. Obey these commands so that you and your descendants will fear the Lord and have long lives. Listen closely Israel, so that you will be prosperous and greatly increase your numbers in this land flowing with milk and honey just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.

          • Guzik notes, “The Hebrew is emphatic here. Moses called attention to The Commandment. In the following verses, God reduced the law to one ruling principle – one commandment that encompassed all the commandments… Israel’s fate rested on their obedience to this one great commandment. If they obeyed their commandment, their life would be long and filled with blessing. If they did not obey they could expect to be cursed by God.”

        • Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, He is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”

          • These verses (4-5) are known in Judaism as “the Shema.” The NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains, “The Shema is the fundamental statement of Israel’s faith. Jesus described these verses as the greatest of the commandments (Matthew 22:34-39; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28), a sentiment shared by ancient and modern Judaism. The rabbi Hillel (first century BC) spoke of the Shema as the central theological idea of the Hebrew Bible (the OT), calling the rest mere commentary.”

          • The Shema is often cited by adherents of Judaism to claim that Christianity is polytheistic rather than monotheistic due to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Guzik gives an excellent overview of the subject:

            • In the mind of many Jewish people, this verse alone disqualified the New Testament teaching that Jesus is God, and the New Testament teaching of the Trinity – that there is one God, existing in three Persons. At some times and places, as Jewish synagogues said the Shema together, and when the word one (echad) was said, they loudly and strongly repeated that one word for several minutes, as if it were a rebuke to Christians who believed in the Trinity…Christians must come to a renewed understanding of the unity of God. They must appreciate the fact that the LORD is one, not three, as 1 Corinthians 8:6 says: yet for us there is one God. We worship one God, existing in three persons, not three separate gods.”

              • Yet, the statement the LORD is one certainly does not contradict the truth of the Trinity. In fact, it establishes that truth. The Hebrew word for one is echad, which speaks most literally of a compound unity, instead of using the Hebrew word yacheed, which speaks of an absolute unity or singularity (Genesis 22:2 and Psalm 25:16).The very first use of echad in the Bible is in Genesis 1:5: So the evening and the morning were the first day. Even here, we see a unity (one day) with the idea of plurality (made up of evening and morning)…Genesis 2:24 uses echad in saying the two shall become one flesh. Again, the idea of a unity (one flesh), making a plurality (the two)…In Exodus 26:6 and 11, the fifty gold clasps are used to hold the curtains together, so the tent would be one (echad) – a unity (one) made up of a plurality (the many parts of the tabernacle)…In Ezekiel 37:17 the LORD tells Ezekiel to join together two sticks (prophetically representing Ephraim and Judah) into one (echad), speaking again of a unity (one stick) made up of a plurality (the two sticks)…There is no way that echad has the exclusive idea of an absolute singularity; the idea of One God in Three Persons fits just fine with the term echad.”

            • In addition, even the name of God in this line suggests the plurality of God. The Hebrew word is Elohim and grammatically, it is a plural word used as if it were singular – the verbs and pronouns used with it are generally in the plural…Rabbi Simeon ben Joachi, commenting on the word Elohim: ‘Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.’ Clarke adds: ‘He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words.’…Leupold quoting Luther on Elohim: ‘But we have clear testimony that Moses aimed to indicate the Trinity or the three persons in the one divine nature.’”

        • These words that I am giving to you today must be committed to your heart. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting at home, or walking along the road, when you’re going to bed, and in the morning when you wake up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

          • Guzik notes, “By the time of Jesus the Jewish people based the practice of wearing phylacteries on this passage. Phylacteries are small boxes holding parchment with scriptures on them, held to the forehead or hand with leather straps…Jesus condemned abuse of the wearing of phylacteries among the Pharisees; they would make their phylactery boxes large and ostentatious as a display of greater spirituality (Matthew 23:5)…This command (write them on your doorposts and gates) leads to the Jewish practice of the mezuzah. This is a small container holding a passage of Scripture that is nailed to a doorpost.”

          • HCSB clarifies, “The expectation here is not that Scripture should be taught to children in every waking moment, to the exclusion of everything else. By means of a figure of speech Moses uses opposites- sitting and walking, lying down and rising up- to suggest that any time is appropriate for instruction in the ways of the Lord.”

Remembering God through Obedience

        • When the Lord brings you into the land that He swore to your fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) that He would give to you- this land that comes complete with big, beautiful cities you didn’t build, houses stocked with good things you didn’t provide, wells that you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive groves you didn’t plant, and when you have eaten and are satisfied, be very careful not to forget the Lord who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.

          • Guzik writes, “God planned to bring Israel into an abundant, prepared land. In this abundant blessing God had for Israel, there was an inherent danger: That they would forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of EgyptThis cycle would be repeated through the history of Israel, especially in the time of the Judges. God would bless an obedient Israel, and they would prosper; they would begin to set their heart on the blessings instead of the LORD who blessed them; God would allow chastisement to turn Israel’s focus back upon Him; Israel would repent and obey again, and God would again bless an obedient Israel and they would prosper…We usually fail to appreciate the danger of success and prosperity; we agree there is a theoretical danger in those things, but rarely think it applies to us…It is just a lot easier to forget the LORD your brought you out… from the house of bondage when there are no circumstances forcing you to remember Him.”

        • Fear the Lord your God, worship Him, and when you make an oath do so in His name.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Though Israel inherited the land and cities of the Canaanites, they were not to inherit their gods. One way to demonstrate rejection of these gods was to refuse to take oaths in their name, thus denying their power.”

            • Guzik adds, “…the idea of fear is more in the concept of an awe-filled respect, an inner repulsion at the idea of offending such a great, loving God who has done so much for us…This is the passage of Scripture Jesus quoted back to Satan when tempted by Satan to avoid the cross and win back the world if He would only bow down and worship Satan. Jesus rightly replies, based on the truth You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him that it was only right to fear, and worship, and serve God – and it was wrong to bow down to Satan, no matter what might be given Him in return (Matthew 4:8-10).”

        • Don’t worship any of the gods worshiped by the nations surrounding you because the Lord who lives among you is a jealous God who will become angry and wipe you off the earth. Don’t test the Lord like you did when you complained at Massah. Diligently obey the commands, decrees, and statutes He has given you and do what is right in His sight so that you will be prosperous, successfully drive out your enemies, and take possession of the land that God swore to your fathers that He would give you.

          • Guzik writes, “In Exodus 17:1-7, Israel tempted the LORD by doubting His love and concern for them. This was tempting or testing God regarding His love for Israel, something that is not only high-handed against the LORD (because we have no right to administer a test to the Almighty) but also disregarding His previous, and constant demonstrations of love and care for Israel (by demanding that God prove His love for them now by giving them what they want)…Anytime we deny God’s love for us, or demand He do something for us, we are testing Him as if He must answer to our standards and tempting Him to judge us…This is the passage of Scripture which Jesus quoted back to Satan in the wilderness, when tempted to make God the Father prove His love for the Son by spectacularly protecting Jesus if He should jump off the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5-7). Jesus knew it was wrong to demand this sort of ‘proof’ from His Father, since every day was proof of God the Father’s love for the Son!”

          • Those not familiar with groups that teach adherence to Mosaic Law (or various interpretations of it) may be surprised to learn that they almost unanimously contain a false “prosperity gospel” element that is specifically derived from these Mosaic promises of physical or material blessings for “doing what is right” in God’s sight. Certainly not in the modern day (Joel Osteen for example) sense, but damaging and inaccurate from a NT perspective none the less since under the New Covenant God makes no such promises. In fact, NT followers of Christ are virtually assured suffering. Inevitably this includes a discussion of the role of faith/grace as opposed to works justification. Guzik provides an excellent commentary on this topic:

            • This theme is constantly repeated. Under the Old Covenant, Israel’s blessing was based on their obedience. When they obeyed they would be blessed; when they disobeyed they would be cursed…This is not the source of blessing in the New Covenant.”

            • In the New Covenant, we are blessed by faith in Jesus since He fulfills the law in our place (Romans 8:3-4). The watchwords for blessing under the Old Covenant were earning and deserving; under the New Covenant, blessing comes by believing and receiving…The New Covenant system works because when we receive the New Covenant, God sends with it an inner transformation, where the law of God and the desire to do His will is now written on our hearts. Through the New Covenant, God makes us ‘safe’ for His grace by this inner transformation.”

            • Under the New Covenant there is no judgment from God for our disobedience, because all the judgment we deserved was put upon Jesus at the cross. However, there may be correction from the hand of a loving God the Father (not in the sense of making us pay for our sin, but in the sense of training us not to continue in sin), and there are the natural consequences of our disobedience, which God has not promised to shield us from.”

            • Christians who fear the ‘freedom’ of a New Covenant relationship with God must ask this question: did Israel come to great obedience to God through the Old Covenant? Does the system of earning and deserving blessing make us truly godlier than the system of believing and receiving? Or does it leave us either in total desperation (where one can then look to Jesus), or in total pride in our own works before God (as were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who had a significant hand in crucifying Him)?”

          • In the future when your children ask you, “What is the meaning of all of these decrees, statutes, and ordinances that the Lord has commanded us to obey?” you are to respond with the following: “Once we were slaves to the Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord rescued us by His power. We witnessed with our own eyes the miraculous signs and wonders that the Lord performed on Egypt, Pharaoh, and his people- both great and terrible. He rescued us for the purpose of giving us this land that He swore to give our ancestors. He instructed us to follow all of His commands and to fear Him so that He will continue to bless us by making us prosperous and for our very own preservation, as He as done to this day. If we obey all of these commands that He has given to us, we will be counted as righteous.”

          • Guzik writes, “Often, the apostasy that comes from prosperity afflicts the next generation more than the present. They grow up expecting such prosperity and blessing, without understanding the repentance and walk with God that led to the prosperity…Therefore, it was essential for Israel to teach and warn their children, so that the blessings given to one generation would not become a curse to the next generation.”

          • On obtaining righteousness through the law Guzik adds, “If one will obtain true righteousness through the law, it is simple (though not easy): observe all the commandments. But if you are lacking in observing any commandment, then you need the atonement of a Perfect Sacrifice – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”