Deuteronomy: Holiness and its Benefits

     The “Second law” has proven to be instrumental in pointing a new generation of God followers to a way of life separate and apart from the lives of those that have chosen to live contrary to the Mandates of God. They were reminded of the things God did on their behalf as well as the consequences of allowing the fallacy of falsehoods to dominate their lives. The evidence is that God is just and will honour His Word even in the face of those that have no trust or reliance on Him. Even more God is faithful to those that have been faithful to Him. This is the reason that holiness cannot and will not go unrewarded.

     Deuteronomy 28:3 clearly shows that those that heed the voice of the Lord our God are promised “ Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.” This very idea of being blessed in both the city and the field is indicative of the fact that God remains with those that love Him. God is faithful and will not leave His people alone. Just as the promise of God to bless the obedient people of holiness in the city and the field meant that He would not leave that young generation of Israelites. The promise is repeated by Jesus to those other adherents of the Word. Just prior to His ascension Christ’s words of encouragement were “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

     But words of comfort are not uncommon to the people of God. Promises not to leave the faithful holy ones are evident throughout the holy writ. Take, for instance, the dream of Jacob recorded in Genesis chapter fifteen. The encouraging words of God are, “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land” (vs. 15). There is no doubt that Jacob would travel in the city and in the field. God was with Jacob’s fathers Abraham and Isaac and would continue to be with those that love, trust and obey His standard of holiness.

     Yet the fact of the blessings of God outlined in Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight is conditional. God does not haphazardly bestow blessings without a cost. The cost of God’s blessings are certain and sure in that the adherents of His Word must “not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them” (vs. 14). Instead faithfulness to God and His command are a must so that the people of God will be rewarded for faithfulness to the call to holiness. And should that call be heeded  “The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways” (vs. 9).

Deuteronomy: No Holiness No Benefit

     Holiness is not a request of God it is an absolute mandate. Moses made this point abundantly clear throughout the Pentateuch and repeated the necessity for holiness in “The Second Law.” Excuses were not to be made nor were exceptions applicable to the lives of those that chose to follow Jehovah God. Evidence of the consequences of pulling from the standards of God are clear as depicted in Joshua chapters six through seven. Holiness is an idea made very serious by God and should be the lifestyle of all that trust in the Almighty.

     Deuteronomy 27:10 shows Moses reiterating the importance of obedience to God. His words, “Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the Lord thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command thee this day” present no idea of a suggestion rather the directive is  an absolute mandate to heed God’s words. The words Moses referred to were the Law of the Pentateuch which was a guiding force to the people of God. They were not to move from it either to the left or right rather it was to be obeyed completely and without exception. Disobedience to the standard brought about sure and sudden consequences which had the impact of the people fearing and honoring God.

     It is for this reason that Moses seeks to avoid disobedience to God’s Word by pulling away from the standard of holiness. The Second Law served then and continues to serve now as a reminder of God’s love for His people but also of the dire consequences of not holding to the holiness mandated by Him. This why Moses emphatically urged the people to obey God. The lack of obedience, or the lack of holiness, would meet with no positive benefit for those who have chosen and who continue to act contrary to the standards of holiness. And, if there are no benefits to the lack of holiness there, by necessity, are curses and those curses are spelled out by Moses.

     Chapters twenty-seven and twenty-eight of Deuteronomy outline a number of curses that are brought to bear for those that choose not holiness. By outlining these curses Moses makes it evident that those that pull from holiness will suffer by reason of their disobedience. No good thing will come to the rebellious ones. The curses make it clear that God has received no pleasure in the lack of holiness. Further the curses are an indicator of the fact that those receiving the curses have chosen not to be holy rather the decision was made to act against the standards of God.

     Deuteronomy 28:15-20 provides some insight into what will happen to the disobedient. The text reads, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.  Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.”

     The fact is that disobedience to God is counted as wickedness. It is because of this wickedness that the curses must be employed. God cannot and will not allow sin to stand in His presence. This is especially true when the people have been warned time and time again as Moses did with the Israelites. Yet many found no reason to honour the Most High God. The decision not to follow God then was wrought in the same premise many choose to disobey God today – the works of the flesh. The sin of the flesh and the traditions of men is what caused and continues to cause wickedness today.

     Galatians 5:19-21 points out the works of the flesh and clearly presents the curse caused by the works. The text reads, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

     No, there are no good things in pulling away from the mandates of God. Disobeying God is tantamount to telling God that He is not worth listening to and as such His law needs not be heeded. God cannot let sin stand. Thereby He must answer and that answer is with the curses as outlined by Moses. Yes, the lack of holiness mandates an answer from God. Yes, if there is no holiness there is no benefit.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy: Holiness Through the Promise

     The idea of holiness was to be a way of life for God’s people. God never intended His people to be like the others in serving false gods, living immoral lives and giving into the lusts of the flesh just because of simple cravings. God’s people were never at liberty to live as others did rather they were to live by a standard set down by God. That standard is reflected in the Law as God had given it to Moses. Part of that law is known as the Ten Commandments which begins with instructions for God’s people to have no gods other than the God of all. This primary instruction, if heeded, allows for no sin because the love toward God would be without barriers alleviating the need for sin.

     Unfortunately man had already proven that his love for God was often fickle at best.  Throughout biblical text God’s people loved Him one moment and seemed to despise Him the next. This is why God had to detail what is now considered the Mosaic Law. There were six hundred thirteen such laws which touched every avenue of life. Yet God knew that man could not adhere to the law without assistance. The real base of the Law was to love God. This is the reason it is the first commandment. Even so, man had a difficult time in following this first and simple mandate. It was extremely evident that man was fickle as the Hebrew children wandered in the wilderness for an extended period of time because of their hard hearts and stiff necks. It is for this reason that Moses looked through the annals of time and saw the coming Messiah.

     Promises of the Messiah were made as early as Genesis chapter three and continued until His manifestation in the Gospels. Moses’ words showed the Messiah as a Prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15. The words “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” say much about what was to come in the form of a Saviour. It is more than obvious that this Prophet is a direct reference to Jesus the Christ for at least three reasons that are outlined in the verse. The first is that the Prophet would come from the midst of the people. That is to say that this Prophet would be born into the Hebrew lineage. The Prophet would also be elevated by God and that same Prophet would be heard by the people.

     The promise of the Prophet is reiterated in verse 18 with “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” This Prophet was to be sent because the people would not live a holy life on their own. Left to their whims the people would pull from holiness and celebrate not only false gods but their lives would be the very antithesis of what it meant to love God. The love for the true and living God would wax colder and colder whilst love for inordinate affections would be on the rise. With this the Prophet would turn the hearts of the people back to the God that loved them unconditionally. The whoremonging, backstabbing, loveless people would need to be taught how to be holy in the face of unholy surroundings. The Prophet needed to come before man’s false love would be his eternal downfall.   

     Mary was another that received information from on High that Jesus would be born as prophesied in the Second Law. Luke 1:31-33 reads, “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” And so was the birth of Jesus. He not only falls in the lineage of David but also reigns over the house of Jacob even to this day. His Words were not His own rather He spoke in accordance with the will of the Father (John 12:49-50). The will of the Father was and remains simple, to have a people that love Him and are willing to separate themselves from the things of the world in order to live life more fully.

     Holiness was never a suggestion from God rather it has always been a way of life for those that choose to live a life after His mandates. The law dictated how holy lives were to be lived but the law did little to change the hearts of man. As such there was a need for the Father to send His only begotten Son to die in order to restore a right relationship from man to the Father. That relationship has everything to do with holiness of actions as well as holiness of the heart. The promise in the Second Law pointed to the Holy One (Deuteronomy 33:8) while the Gospels show fulfillment of the promise. Recognizing the true intent of the Law and understanding the fulfillment of the promise is the basis to lead all God’s people to a life of love to Him which results in holiness. That holiness is predicated upon resting in the promise of the revealed Prophet Who came in the spirit of restoration.

 

Deuteronomy: Holiness Through Worship

     When reading through the “second law” that is Deuteronomy it becomes evident that God required that His people be distinctly different than other people. God’s call to holiness was not a mere state of mind rather the call was a call for action. The call of God for holiness meant that His people were to separate themselves from every aspect of life that would pull away from the standard God set down through his servant Moses. God did not want even the stench of other gods on His people so the requirement to serve Him and Him alone was a cry from God to His people to leave paganism, among other heretical teachings, alone for the godless.

     One promise God consistently made to the Israelites was that if they kept His Word the adherents of His Word would enjoy long life. Deuteronomy 6:1-2 clearly shows this with the words, “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.” The commands of God indeed are multifaceted yet extremely simplistic in nature. God’s law requires absolute dedication to Him and that dedication becomes evident through worship. It is the worship of God by His people that separate the people of God from all others.

     Deuteronomy 6:5 reads, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Note that this text is not a suggestion that the people of God love Him rather it is an absolute demand made clear with the words “thou shalt”. There are no choices provide in this context. The children of God are to love God without exception and that love is best shown in worship. While much can be said in respect to the term “worship” one cannot leave out the idea of exceptional devotion by the renunciation of anything that stands against that dedication. It is for this reason that God required the Israelites to have no other gods before Him (Deuteronomy 5:7). God knew that if His people worshipped and served false gods then it would be impossible for them to worship Him with whole hearts.  

     Taken a bit further, if one is dedicated to God by worshipping Him and Him alone the love for Him would become evident. This love means that nothing will become more important to God’s children than that love. Furthermore, this requirement is not simply because God seeks to thrive on the accolades of His subjects rather God sought and continues to seek “an enduring relationship, regularly renewed in successive generations. The covenant into which Israel had entered was not simply the legal acquiescence to a detailed contract, but rather a living relationship that required the loving commitment of both parties.”[1] Because this is a mutual relationship it becomes evident that the dedication God requires of His people He wholly employs to the extent that God gave His Son so that none would have to perish by reason of sin (John 3:16).

     With this worship becomes a way of life. Worship becomes an intricate part of the followers of God to the extent that there is no other mind but to love God. Deuteronomy 13:4 becomes not just words to the former people of God rather the words burn themselves on the hearts of those that truly love God. Those words, “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him” present the ideal way to worship God. In obeying these simple words one is pulled from the false gods and is found in the arms of the true and living God. This practice of worship sets the stage for holiness.

     Hebrews 12:14 shows holiness as being a prerequisite to seeing God. The holiness discussed in Hebrews is the same holiness God required in Deuteronomy. The juxtaposition of holiness and worship are not accidental in that the two work in conjunction one with the other. One cannot be holy while serving false gods nor can one worship false gods while serving the true and living God. The law dictated absolutely dedication. Grace requires unfailing love. Both lead to worship and holiness which leads to eternal life.   

 


[1] Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard.  An Introduction to the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan 2006), 114

Deuteronomy: The Law Then and Its Impact Today

     There is little doubt that the fifth book of the Pentateuch is a fascinating one. It is fascinating on many levels particularly in light of the fact that Moses is found rehearsing the law just prior to his death. The fact that Moses is rehearsing the law brings much to light about what Deuteronomy truly is. It is not a record of a dying man just getting some burdens relieved from his chest rather it is the work of a man of God providing focus to a new generation of followers.

 

     Before the new followers of God are brought to the forefront it needs to be noted that Moses, from an early age, was welcomed into Pharaoh’s house. He was taught by the best and dined well. Yet over a period of time Moses came to realize that he really did not belong to Pharaoh but that he had a much longer and sure history with the Hebrews; that is the Israelites. God used Moses to lead His people from the hands of tyrannical leadership that refused to let the Israelites worship God. After much ado the children were allowed to leave the house of bondage which was Egypt. After the release the people of God became rebellious and stiff-necked.  Unthankfulness was the order of the day even while God continued to provide for and protect His people.

 

     Because of their rebellion the Israelites, with Moses, wandered in the wilderness for a generation. During this time God provided Moses with the law the Israelis were to abide by. Meanwhile the older and rebellious people were dying in the wilderness leaving the younger people unfamiliar with the entire law. It is for this reason that there had to be a reiteration or a repeating of the Law. This is what “Deuteronomy” loosely means. It is a repeating or restating of the law. With this the new generation of God’s followers had to be instructed in the Law which is what prompted Moses to give a series of three speeches revisiting not just the law but also the very nuances of it.

     Moses, in chapter four provides distinct a warning in respect to the Word of God, or the Law. His warning was “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” The reason for this warning was to prevent what happened to the older generation who chose not only to rebel against the Law but often served other gods as is evidenced in Exodus 32:4. And while the term “law” is not used in the text the Law is most definitely referenced with the term “Commandments” and these commandments are from the Lord.

     The Law was to guide the people while the more important matter of the Law was to present a holy people before a holy God. The Israelites were to be separate from the world in every aspect of their lives. This is why the nuances of the Law were so important as laid out by Moses.  The people of God were to be holy from the onset and they were to see themselves as “an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6) The people of God were never to be like other peoples and had to be separated from things that were an offense to God. This is what holiness is about and this is what the Law sought to do- keep the people of God separate and apart from ungodly offenses.

     In order to maintain holiness the people of God were not to alter the Law in any form. It was to remain intact without exception. This can be furthered by the fact that because God is holy His Word must also be holy. This is why it cannot be altered and must be honored in whole. Revelation 22:18-19 repeats the very idea mentioned in Deuteronomy. The text reads, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Clearly the first freed generation of Israelites was caught in certain plagues because they chose not to adhere to the holiness of God’s Word.

     With this it is important to know that the Law (Word of God) was put in place for the holiness of a people. While it is evident that the Law was directed to the Israelites present day followers of God have been grafted into the Tree of Life (Romans 11). That Tree of Life is Jesus who came not to destroy the Law rather He came fulfill the Law. Matthew 5:17 makes this point abundantly clear. The Law, while the ceremonial aspects of it are not in use today, is directive for the holiness of a people. Moses, during his speeches, pointed the people to holiness. Jesus in His life lived holiness. Christians today need to take the Word of God and hide it in our hearts so that the impact of the law will be holiness. The fact is that without holiness no man shall see God yet with a life of holiness man walks with God. The Law then was pointing to holiness; the impact now, a life of holiness.