Deuteronomy Chapter 5: Reiteration of the Ten CommandmentsFeb 10th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Deuteronomy, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Deuteronomy Chapter 5: Reiteration of the Ten Commandments
Deut. 5:1 And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.
Chapter 5 contains a reiteration of the Ten Commandments. This enumeration, which took place just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, was essentially the same as that in Exodus 20. Following a probable intermission, Moses “called all Israel” to hearken. When it was time to continue the oration, he commanded their attention by calling, “Hear, O Israel”!
Comment: We, too, are to “hear” the instructions, principles, doctrines, etc., in Holy Writ so that we may learn, keep, and do them.
Deut. 5:2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
Horeb is more or less synonymous with Mount Sinai. The slight distinction between the two was more noticeable by those who were standing there.
Deut. 5:3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
Verse 3 is clearly understood in the Hebrew to mean “the LORD made not this covenant with our fathers only, but [also] with us … who are … here alive this day.” The Law Covenant was originally made with the “fathers,” that is, with the older generation, the great majority of whom had perished during the 40 years in the wilderness. Stated another way, Moses was now speaking 40 years later, after half of the nation had perished. Forty years previous, God had spoken from Mount Sinai, and most of those who were now alive to hear Moses’ final oration at Beth-peor had no doubt actually witnessed that occasion.
Comment: The translators added the word “even.” With the omission of that word, Moses was very forceful in commanding the attention of the Israelites. “The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, us, who are all of us here alive this day!”
Q: Wouldn’t “the fathers” refer back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
A: That interpretation could be given, but Moses had been speaking so much about the Israelites’ experience at Horeb that it seems to make more sense to realize he was talking to the children of parents who had come out of Egypt. Those children survived because they were not of sufficient age to be reckoned culpable for the wrong deeds done by the older generation during the 40 years of wandering. Moses was reiterating the responsibility under the Law Covenant, of which the Israelites had said, “All these things we will do.” At that time, they had wanted Moses to speak to them, not the Heavenly Father, lest they perish.
Deut. 5:4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,
Deut. 5:5 (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to show you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying,
Deut. 5:6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the from the house of bondage.
Verse 5 is parenthetical, so Moses was saying, “The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, saying, ‘I am the LORD thy God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.’”
The parenthetical portion shows Moses’ role as mediator: “(I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to show you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;).” Even though Moses was the mediator, he properly included himself as the leader of the great nation of Israel by saying the covenant was made “with us”land of Egypt, (verse 3). He was chosen to be the mediator, but nevertheless, he was responsible, as well as the rest of the Israelites. His thinking and attitude show he was well chosen by the Heavenly Father for the role he occupied at that time. Similarly, Jesus was God’s choice, and that choice could not have been better.
Comment: Exodus 19:9,16 helps us to understand the people’s fear: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD…. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.”
Reply: The experience and God’s words were to be seared into the Israelites’ memories. Consider what they experienced. God’s voice was so powerful, fearful, and dreadful that they felt they would literally die if they continued to hear the conversation without cessation. But how short their memories were! In spite of that dramatic appearance, they soon forgot because they did not treasure God’s words in their hearts. Their forgetfulness shows that in the Kingdom Age, even though the knowledge of God will be as the sun sevenfold, people who are not in proper heart harmony will soon forget—especially when the Messiah is invisible. The people will see only the earthly representatives of the glorified Church and their Head.
Deut. 5:7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
Verse 7 is the First Commandment. When Jesus condensed the Ten Commandments into two, he combined the first four for “Love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength” and the last six for “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The reasonable supposition by many is that on one tablet, or slab of stone, was duty toward God, including honoring the sabbath, and on the other tablet was duty to one’s neighbor.
Deut. 5:8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
Deut. 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
Verse 8 is the Second Commandment. Verses 8 and 9 are omitted in the Roman Catholic faith, and instead the Tenth Commandment is split into two parts to make up the ten.
Comment: The Egyptians and other heathen peoples that the Israelites interacted with made graven images, and the Israelites fell into this idolatrous practice rather quickly.
Reply: Yes, both in Egypt and after the decease of Joshua, the Israelites made graven images, but they did this in greater fashion after the Prophet Samuel.
A “graven image” was a carved image (usually a statue), of which there were several kinds. (1) The stone was scored into a concave or a convex image depending on the stylus used and the technique and purpose. (2) A sculptured image was a carved three-dimensional statue. The graven likenesses “of any thing that is in heaven above” were of the sun, moon, and planets. Hebrew, Grecian, and Roman mythology tended to use the bodies in our own solar system rather than the distant stars. However, as time went on, the idolatry became more and more complex and began to include the zodiac.
If read by itself, verse 8 does convey the correct thought. Verse 9 is part of the context, for it is the making of an image and bowing down to it that constitutes idolatry. For example, the carved bulls that held up the laver for Solomon’s Temple not only were not disobedience but were sanctioned by the Lord. And graven images of cherubim were on the sanctuary walls both inside and outside the immediate walls of the Holy. The images represented qualities of character and attributes of wisdom, justice, and power. However, when the Jews began to idolize images, that “bowing down” constituted disobedience. This Second Commandment prohibits bowing down to images of saints and of the Virgin Mary and praying to them, as though statues have ears and hear prayers.
God is a jealous God, who visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” The influence of genetics versus environment on a person’s character has been debated over the years. Actually both factors are involved, although one factor can override the other depending on an individual’s heart attitude and actions.
Q: Is one reason for the punishment going to the third and fourth generations that the generations can be contemporaries?
A: Yes, that is true.
Deut. 5:10 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
From a moral standpoint, why was verse 10 included after the first two commandments?
Comment: Of the 2 million Jews who were living at this time, “thousands” loved God and kept His commandments.
Comment: When verses 9 and 10 are considered together, one lesson is that those who loved God and kept His commandments were spared—even if they were among the iniquitous generation who received punishment. The two verses show the justice and the mercy of God.
Q: From another perspective, do verses 9 and 10 establish a principle or precedent that only a remnant is ever really obedient, at least until the Kingdom? That principle would carry forward down the stream of time to the Holy Remnant in the near future.
A: Yes, that practical observation is true.
Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Verse 11 is the Third Commandment. God will not hold guiltless those who take His name in vain. Such individuals are judged in proportion to the circumstance under which they commit this violation.
As Christians, we understand this commandment to mean we should not be hypocrites. The role of being ambassadors for Christ is very honorable. If any foolishness on our part is misconstrued by observers, there is a certain degree of responsibility.
Taking the Lord’s name in vain can occur in such a subtle manner that one does not realize it is happening. One example is the common and excessive rote usage of the Lord’s name and “God bless you,” which takes away from the intended depth of meaning. The old man can be very clever. We should guard against trying to give the impression that we are very religious by always using the Lord’s name in a complimentary sense, for that practice could be sowing seeds of pride. It is helpful to take inventory and discard extraneous habits that can lead to more detrimental things. Habits can be caused by either genetics or our environment.
The Decalogue, the moral code of the Law, is worthy of consideration for the Christian, for it is God’s will and thinking. The principles of the moral Law are appropriate for all of God’s people, whether they are in the world, in the Church, in the Kingdom, or after the Kingdom.
God’s principles are forever, whereas mercy is not, for mercy will end at the close of the Kingdom Age. Anyone who sins after the Kingdom Age will be dealt with peremptorily, for perfect obedience will then be demanded of perfect creatures. But thank God, He will be merciful in establishing the Kingdom and allowing mankind to walk up the highway of holiness, and we thank Him now for the Grace Covenant, whereby we can serve, please, and communicate with Him and have the extraordinary high calling, which is open to those who pursue it with their whole heart, soul, and being. Mercy was certainly extended in the Jewish Age, for over and over God forgave the Israelites in spite of their serving Molech, for example.
To not take the Lord’s name in vain is our endeavor. Each of us knows privately we have thought on or done things, even after consecration, that we want expunged from our soul and being. By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, we are kept from getting too discouraged, and we keep pressing on in the narrow way.
Deut. 5:12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
Deut. 5:13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
Verse 12 is the Fourth Commandment. How carefully Moses enunciated these principles—and without a podium and a typed manuscript! He spoke with the power of the Holy Spirit and his heart. What a tremendous servant of Jehovah he was! He even offered to have the Lord blot him out and kill him rather than the nation. Our hearts are filled with admiration, for he is an exemplar of what we would like to have ingrained into our characters.
How reasonable to work for six days and then have a seventh day for rest and meditation on the Lord! In principle, the Christian does not have to necessarily observe the Jewish sabbath day but one out of every seven days. During the Gospel Age, the Christian follows the culture of the nation he is living in and uses that seventh day as his “sabbath.” Each nation has a rest day every seven days even from just a pragmatic standpoint, and the Christian can use that day for doing the Lord’s will rather than for recreation.
Comment: The provision of manna for six days with a double portion on the sixth day and nothing on the seventh was a practical reminder for those years in the wilderness that the Israelites were to rest on the sabbath.
Comment: Exodus 31:13 states that God gave the sabbath as a sign to Israel so that the people would know, “I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.”
Reply: As Christians, we must set aside some time during the week for the Lord. Thus the principle applies of keeping a “sabbath.”
Deut. 5:14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
Notice the comprehensiveness of the sabbath rest. It applied to all Israelites, servants, animals, and strangers.
Deut. 5:15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
Verses 13-15 are a detailed enumeration of the principle involved in keeping the sabbath. The sabbath not only honored the Lord God of Israel but also, at the same time, worked out for the spiritual good of the nation, for that day was devoted in large part to devotional study or meditation on the commandments of the Lord. In addition, the sabbath had a pragmatic effect in the sense of affording rest to all, including the animals. The great and mighty God is of such a tender disposition that He had in mind all of His creation.
Comment: The fact Moses mentioned the Israelites’ bondage in Egypt must mean they worked seven days a week while in bondage.
Reply: Yes, that was the case.
Deut. 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Here is the Fifth Commandment, an instruction with regard to honoring father and mother.
Q: If one’s parents are not obeying God’s Word, what should he do?
A: The implication is that the individual should still honor his father and his mother. The Apostle Paul’s advice in the New Testament helps to answer the question. He spoke about the attitude a consecrated husband or wife should have toward the consecrated or unconsecrated spouse. He also discussed the attitude of a consecrated master toward his consecrated or unconsecrated slave, and the attitude of a consecrated slave toward his consecrated or unconsecrated master. In all cases, the deference or distinction was to be kept in mind, and the Lord was pleased with a slave who rendered submission. If both master and slave were consecrated, the slave was not to be insurrectional but was to render an honest day’s service.
Comment: Under the Law, a son who did not properly honor his parents was put to death.
Reply: If the son, even though a minor, cursed his father or his mother, he was to be stoned to death, and the parents were to throw the first stone (Exod. 21:17; Lev. 20:9).
By extrapolation, as one meditates on the requirement for obedience to parents, he realizes that respect goes down the line to the elderly. Similarly, the principle of honoring and keeping the sabbath has many ramifications. In fact, the commandment to honor the sabbath and keep it holy is a terse, overall perspective of the duties of an Israelite to the God of Israel. God later explained further details to Moses predicated on the principles of the Ten Commandments. In other words, the Ten Commandments were purposely brief to serve as reminders of certain principles to ever keep in mind. Then, subsequently, God gave several examples to Moses to show, based on these principles, how to handle various situations.
Of course it is difficult for a child to honor his parents when the parents are inordinate in their demands of respect and they make him do something unreasonable. Nevertheless, the parents were to be obeyed, and in time, the problem would be ironed out, especially when the son or daughter became a parent. Similarly, the Israelites were supposed to learn from their bondage in Egypt what not to do when they were in a position of authority.
Deut. 5:17 Thou shalt not kill.
Verse 17 is the Sixth Commandment. The thought of “thou shalt not kill” is “thou shalt not murder.” This commandment applies to sentient beings and not, for example, to killing animals for food or out of mercy to end their suffering. Any reasonable extrapolation of this commandment has to be carefully done.
Comment: At times in their history, the Israelites were instructed to kill every man, woman, and child of an enemy. However, these individuals were already so vile and evil because iniquity had reached its fullness that to leave them on the earth would have been a greater evil. The temptations that resulted from the vile actions had to be removed.
Reply: Of course God gave the orders, and He had His own good reasons.
Environment influences the genetic strain. A person who lives in an environment for any length of time develops characteristics that even seem to enter the genome of the individual. Given time, inherited genes and environment have a reasonably equal influence on a person.
Therefore, people can develop such corrupt habits that even their children and infants have that strain. The giant (nephilim) strain in the genome is a good example. In time, even the babes had to be put to death so as not to corrupt the new immigration of Israelites in the land. An opportunity for life will be given in the Kingdom Age. Since the entire human race is under Adamic condemnation and all in Adam die, it is rather immaterial from the standpoint of justice whether an individual lives for a day, a week, or a hundred years. A wonderful blessing is awareness of the fact that the human race will be awakened from the tomb with the later opportunity for complete resurrection.
Comment: To realize that this commandment prohibits murder and not killing per se influences a lot of thinking, even among Christians. For example, the obedient will do whatever the Lord instructs. Saul lost the kingdom because he failed to obey the commandment to kill Agag and men, women, and children. With regard to the spurious account in John 7:53–8:11 of the adulterous woman, where Jesus is supposed to have said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,” the reality is that God’s Law required stoning for adultery. To do anything short of that was to go contrary to the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the real intent of the Sixth Commandment pertains to murder, where there is no rightful cause to slay an individual.
Reply: Of course that account in John is spurious, for had the incident actually occurred with the scribes and Pharisees bringing a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he would have been forced to say she should be put to death. One proof the account never occurred is that if Jesus had said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” his words would have ended all criticism of wrongdoing by the Lord’s people or even by the unconsecrated. Another proof the account is spurious is that Jesus is said to have written in the sand with his finger, but he was in the court of the Temple, which had a stone floor.
Comment: Because the Israelites did not kill according to God’s instruction, the offspring of those enemies have become more and more adversarial down through the generations, the Palestinians being an example.
Comment: Every Christian has personal obstacles (“enemies”) to overcome, and he is expected to put them to death, spiritually speaking.
Reply: From a spiritual standpoint, the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, etc., can be thoughts or suggestions that are ingrained in the new creature, the Christian mind. Such foes must be dealt with sharply and firmly. Christians are to take positive action against sin when it appears and not to parley lest there be compromise.
Deut. 5:18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
Verse 18 is the Seventh Commandment. Notice that fornication, although involved, is not mentioned here because the commandment is given succinctly. God elaborated on every one of the Ten Commandments when He instructed Moses on various types of situations that might arise. In adultery, at least one of the guilty parties is married. This commandment shows that the marriage vow is to be honored.
Deut. 5:19 Neither shalt thou steal.
Verse 19 is the Eighth Commandment. There are many ramifications to stealing, for instance, selling fraudulent stock, dishonoring contracts, and issuing counterfeit money. Stealing, which is related to defrauding in one way or another, means taking money, goods, property, honor, esteem, authority, etc., from another person.
Remember, God originally spoke the Ten Commandments with an audible voice so powerful that the people could hardly understand it. In fact, they thought that if He went into detail, they would die. Even the effect of angels who appeared in a somewhat glorified state was to cause humans to fall down. In a couple of instances, Daniel was knocked off his feet and made dumb. But when angels appeared as men, that is, in a more normalized sense, a human could eat and talk with them and be unaware of their status.
Just as succinct commandments are helpful to the memory, so the Lord’s Prayer is uttered at times when the mind and emotions are overwhelmed. As a result, the individual is uplifted.
Deut. 5:20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Verse 20 is the Ninth Commandment. While this commandment could be considered part of the preceding commandment, “Neither shalt thou steal [defraud],” it was necessary to list this one separately because it can be so easily violated. The great majority of people would not steal, but bearing “false witness” is a sly act that can be done without the perpetrator’s realization. Therefore, although bearing false witness really falls under the category of defrauding another person, it merits separate consideration because it is so common.
Comment: Evil speaking is included under this commandment not to bear false witness.
Comment: A false witness can also be given by shrugging the shoulders or nodding the head or even by silence if a misstatement is made about another. Silence can be understood as consent.
Reply: Yes, bearing false witness is commonly done in many different ways. Of course the tongue is involved. When we hear certain statements, we tend to become judgmental, but did we see the act ourselves? Is the information firsthand? As information is passed on, going from mouth to mouth, subsequent versions are usually quite different from the original statement. Then, when we make a judgment, we may be judging the wrong person. Family relationships and friendships also tend to warp what is repeated, with the result that the report is construed to favor the wrong party. Firsthand information is the most desirable. A judge who sits on the bench wants to get down to the root of a matter. Moreover, there are times when both parties are guilty, or in rare instances, both parties could be innocent.
Deut. 5:21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Verse 21 is the Tenth Commandment. Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:36-40). The word “neighbour” originated from the Father’s vocabulary in the Ten Commandments. Thus we can see how the Son, hearkening to these commandments, used the language of his Father and summarized them in principle. In the encounters between Jesus and those who disputed with him, his replies usually had to be short and concise to meet the situation. Sometimes he wanted to talk on another topic, so he handled the interruptions briefly and then got to the real point he wanted to make.
Comment: When Jesus gave an answer, the others were amazed.
Reply: Yes. For instance, the Pharisees thought they had Jesus cornered with their question “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22:15-22). They thought that whatever he answered would cause problems. But how did Jesus respond? “Whose superscription and image are on this coin?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” The Pharisees were startled by Jesus’ reply, especially because they were so convinced he could not answer the question. How well it was said in John 7:46, “Never man spake like this man”!
The Ten Commandments are easy to understand, but their depth is another matter. We need the robe of Christ’s righteousness because there are so many subtleties of the depraved human mind. Although consecrated, we still have this treasure in an earthen vessel that was originally born in sin and “shapen in iniquity” (Psa. 51:5). Thank God, a robe of mercy has been given to the gospel Church of this age that enables us not only to be in friendship with God but even to be considered as sons and daughters if we are faithful in intent and the sincerity of our vows.
Deut. 5:22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.
Verse 22 gives the circumstance under which God spoke to the nation of Israel in an audible fashion in the initial giving of the Ten Commandments while they were in the valley below, on the Plain of Rahah. Notice all of the detail: fire, a cloud, thick darkness, an awesome voice, and then the writing on two tablets of stone, which were delivered to Moses. Thus there was an earthquake, and God spoke to the Israelites out of darkness, adding to the fact they did not see any similitude. If the cloud had been white, the people could have imagined all kinds of things such as a face, a lion, or a tree, but darkness prevented their seeing any shapes and emphasized the voice they heard. Great power was seen and felt—for instance, Mount Sinai shook—but no similitude was seen. The backdrop was awesome, yet the Israelites forgot God’s works.
Incidentally, the conciseness of the Ten Commandments was suitable for their being written on the two stone tablets.
Deut. 5:23 And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;
Deut. 5:24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shown us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth.
Deut. 5:25 Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die.
Deut. 5:26 For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?
Deut. 5:27 Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.
The elders, the heads of the tribes, came near to Moses because the people said they could not stand the fire and God’s glory any longer. Feeling they would be consumed, they pleaded with the elders to speak to Moses. When this scene, which has no doubt been recorded, is played back in the Kingdom, it will bring stunning silence to future created beings.
Q: Is this account the same as Psalm 68:8, “The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel”?
A: Yes. The event is mentioned several times in the Psalms. Psalm 114:4,6 tells of the echoing effect of the thunder—the reverberations and auxiliary sounds. “The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs…. Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?” While the sound started with tremendous, awesome thunder, the next auxiliary sound was like “rams,” and succeeding reverberations, or auxiliary sounds, echoed like little “lambs.” In other words, there was a gentleness in the aftereffects of this great power. We think of the Scripture “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15). The great Jehovah, God Almighty, condescends to visit the humble and the contrite of heart. The sound of the thunder was meant to indicate this principle.
Not only was the voice awesome, but the fire above was evidently so large that it seemed to be right next to the host, who stood at attention at the foot of Mount Sinai. The combination was so powerful that the people felt it would consume them. A representative of the people, perhaps Joshua, voiced to Moses the people’s concern about perishing, asking him to go near and hear what God had to say. Then Moses was to inform the people of God’s requirements, and they would keep them. Verse 26 indicates the magnitude of the experience: “Who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?”
Comment: “And we will hear it, and do it.” How wonderful that the people, at least at that time, not only were willing to hear their responsibilities but also were pledging to do them!
Reply: Many of us, when we individually gave our heart to the Lord, were very much moved to make that consecration. The commitment was a giant step, but keeping the commitment and the fervor and zeal of our first love is very difficult. Continuing to do God’s will with zeal and desire will determine whether or not we are of the Very Elect.
Q: Did the people feel the great fire would consume them because the voice was getting louder or because the fire was spreading?
A: The Bible indicates that God’s voice kept rising in decibels and penetration and that the fire increased in illumination at the same time. In the background, the earth trembled with the rumbling of an earthquake. One account even seems to indicate that lightning flashes were involved with the fire. Thus lightning, thunder, and earthquake rumblings were the backdrop to God’s speaking. Of course His voice overrode the accompanying sounds.
Comment: Exodus 20:18,19 reads, “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
Reply: How awesome the scene must have been! The people fell back in fear. Their falling back reminds us of Jesus’ apprehension in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he manifested his power by causing his apprehenders to fall backward momentarily. Jesus thus demonstrated not only that he had the power to free himself but also that he was willingly submitting to capture and, ultimately, crucifixion.
David was given supernatural understanding to be able to write about the Exodus and the giving of the Law. And what did he say? “O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psa. 119:97).
Deut. 5:28 And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.
God said (through Moses), “They [the people] have well said all that they have spoken.”
Sometimes wisdom comes forth out of the mouth of babes, and the words of the people were very appropriate on that occasion. They were saying that they needed a mediator in their dealings with the Almighty God lest they perish.
Deut. 5:29 O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
The Lord God continued, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always”! God’s people, whether Jews back there or Christians now, are to retain and keep before their minds the responsibilities they have as ambassadors of God or Christ before the world.
Comment: What pathos God expressed, for He knew the end from the beginning—He knew what lay ahead! We are privileged to be given insight into the sentiments of the great Jehovah.
Reply: God’s revealing Himself on different occasions enables us to see that “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” has compassion and sympathy for those who are of a lowly and contrite disposition (Isa. 57:15). He has emotions, which we can relate to because of our own emotions. We are dealing with a living God in two senses of the word. Not only does He exist, but as Christians, we can feel more personally involved and in touch with that existence.
Comment: Psalm 81:10-14 reads, “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.”
Reply: That reference is very appropriate, one tie-in being the expression “Oh.”
Deut. 5:30 Go say to them, Get you into your tents again.
Deut. 5:31 But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.
The Israelites were given affirmation that in spite of the previous and subsequent murmurings,
God approved of and had chosen Moses as His mouthpiece before them. He told Moses, “I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.” God intended to discuss the details that were involved in keeping the Ten Commandments. With those commandments being only a brief description of His will concerning His people, other ordinances were needed to show how His will affects many avenues of experience in daily living. The people would benefit by having the proper teaching authority call attention to those ordinances: commandments, statutes, and judgments. The “commandments” were like verbal expressions in writing that the people were to obey. “Statutes” were rules or regulations on how they were to conduct themselves for the communal benefit. In other words, there was personal as well as communal responsibility. “Judgments” were the actions to be taken in the doing of God’s will. The conscience, which is God-given, can be instructed as to right and wrong. Knowledge is necessary for one to correctly judge what is right, good, and proper, as well as what is wrong and improper. The Holy Spirit operates on our conscience and helps us to see what is proper. Our God-given instinct of right and wrong is impaired because of Adamic weakness and thus needs instruction and knowledge. The Holy Spirit enlightens, informs, and helps us to discern, and then God searches and examines our will to obey, judging whether we are fit subjects to be given the authority of His high calling in Christ Jesus, namely, to be kings and priests. No wonder it has taken more than 120 years to get the last members!
Deut. 5:32 Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
“Ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” In trying to do God’s will in cases where it is difficult to make a proper judgment, we usually look for two or three confirming evidences to assure us as to what God’s thought is on a particular matter. However, the devil operates through the old man and gives two or three witnesses as to why we should do the wrong thing. Thus the flesh has its arguments, but we should look to the Lord’s will and ignore the thinking of the flesh. In decision making, the old man gives alternative suggestions for going astray, but we are to see what is good and proper from God’s standpoint.
Comment: Hebrews 12:13 instructs, “Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way.” We are to go straight ahead and not try to find a way out of direct obedience to God and His principles.
Reply: Yes, we are reminded of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. When Pilgrim was on his journey to the Heavenly City, there were numerous bypaths and distractions to surmount.
And that is the experience of the Christian. Incidentally, in popularity, that book was next to the Bible in being internationally read, but little has been heard about it in recent decades.
Comment: Not turning to the left or to the right is a reminder of Ezekiel 1:12. The four living beings, God’s attributes, “went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not [to the left or to the right] when they went.” As God is holy and His purposes are straightforward and all in alignment, so we want to be in our imperfect way.
Reply: Yes, and we are also reminded of the prophet who was told to deliver a message to Jeroboam. The prophet acted properly in going, but on the return trip, he deviated (1 Kings 13:11-26). Instead of coming back direct, as instructed, he listened to an old man, another prophet, who suggested that he stay for a meal before continuing on his journey. To add to the deception, the old man claimed the message was from God.
Comment: Isaiah 30:21 reads, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
Reply: While the Christian can get instruction from that Scripture, the primary setting is the Kingdom Age. At that time, the voice of instruction will be behind, whereas now, of our own volition or self-will, we have to respond to God, the Great Shepherd, who uses Jesus as the Good Shepherd to lead us. Since we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, the Gospel Age principle is different from that which will occur in the Kingdom Age. At that time, instruction will be given in a mandatory fashion—the voice will be behind instead of in front, or before.
Comment: We are cautioned not to be blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). The Heavenly Father is not ambiguous with the commands He gives. It is our natural reasoning assisted by the Adversary, who started way back in the Garden of Eden, that creates a lot of gray areas. And that is what happened with Israel. The Scriptures have few, if any, gray areas.
Reply: The mature man of God is “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” and “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16,17). Of course we are responsible for exercising ourselves according to that instruction in order to be thoroughly complete. There is sufficiency in the Word of God, so with effort and prayer, we try to discern God’s will. Our senses are dull, but when His will is seen, it is plain and seems so right.
Deut. 5:33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.
Comment: “Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you.” If a person broke one of the commandments, he broke them all, so perfect obedience was required under the Law to get life.
Reply: Yes, it took the disobedience of only one commandment to be guilty of the whole Law.
It was not that the individual was disobeying the other nine commandments, but that he was disobeying the intent of the Ten Commandments. To infract one commandment was infracting the cohesive whole.
It is interesting about the prolonging of days. Of course the Israelites knew it was just a matter of time before a person died. To all appearances, everyone ends up in the tomb. Therefore, God was saying that generally speaking, endeavoring to keep His Law during the Jewish dispensation had the effect of prolonging one’s days beyond the normal life span. Even during the Gospel Age, feeding on God’s Word seems to give strength to the marrow of the bones.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Prov. 3:5-8).
God’s Word is health to the flesh. An evidence to that effect is the fact that Moses at the age of 120 years, just before his death, was in the full vigor of life (Deut. 34:7). He did not lack for energy, stamina, and health. Another example is Joshua, who lived to be 110 (Josh. 24:29).
Very few Christians can be like Stephen, who was most unusual, but he was supplanted by a still more unusual person, the Apostle Paul. Stephen died a death of victory in a very short time span of obedience to his commitment to Christ. If we knew that we had made our calling and election sure, we would want to be transformed right away, but because we are not sure our characters are crystallized in proper development, we want to wait a little longer to see if we can do better and thus be made fit for an inheritance of the saints in light. As we press on in the narrow way, we begin to see our faults more and more, and we realize not only how much we need instruction and the robe of Christ’s righteousness but that development in Christlikeness takes time. We begin to see the requirements of those who will be the kings and priests of the next age and who will merit worthiness in God’s sight to be given immortality. To give immortality is the fullest confidence that God can have in any individual. In summary, God’s Word is a blessing, and we are thankful for the opportunity that each day provides for learning His will and, hopefully, for being faithful to our commitment.