The Word Made Fresh
1“Now here are the rules and regulations and commandments that the LORD your God told me to pass on to you to live by in the land you are about to take over and settle, 2so that you and your children and grandchildren might obey the LORD your God all your lives. If you obey these laws, you will live long there. 3Listen, then, Israel, and carefully abide by these rules so that all will be well with you and you may multiply in a land that is fertile and prosperous just as the LORD your God, God of your ancestors, promised you.
4“Hear, then, Israel, for only the LORD our God is God. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul and all your might. 6Keep the instructions I give you today in your heart. 7Teach them to your children. Talk about them at home and away from home; in bed at night and when you rise in the morning. 8Let these words be attached to your hands and your head. 9Write them on the doorframes of your homes and on the gates of your towns.
10“The LORD your God is sending you into the land sworn to your forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – a land that already has nice houses and towns that you did not build, 11houses full of goods you didn’t put there, wells you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive groves you didn’t plant. But when you have eaten your fill 12make sure that you do not forget the LORD who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. 13Fear the LORD your God. Serve the LORD your God. Swear by no other name. 14Don’t attach yourselves to any of the gods of the people living all around you 15because the LORD your God who is always with you will not allow that and would be angry with you and wipe you off the face of the earth.
16“Never again test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. 17Steadfastly keep the commandments, instructions, and laws the LORD your God has ordered you to keep. 18Do what is good and right in the LORD’s eyes, and it will go well with you and you will go in and take over the good land the LORD promised your ancestors. 19You will throw out your enemies. They will run from you as the LORD has promised.
20“In the days to come, when your children ask you, ‘Why did the LORD order us to keep all these rules and regulations and laws,’ 21tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD rescued us 22and, right before our eyes, performed signs and wonders that demonstrated the LORD was against Pharaoh and his whole family, 23then brought us out of there to give us the land the LORD promised our ancestors. 24Then the LORD gave us these rules and laws for our own good that we may respect the LORD who watches over us and protects our lives. 25If we are careful to stand by all these rules the LORD our God has given us, we will always be right before the LORD.’”
1-3: God’s gifts to Israel can be grouped into Law, Land, and Lineage. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of multitudes. That promise of lineage has been fulfilled through the offspring of Jacob, who are the symbolic heads of the twelve tribes. The Law was given at Mt. Sinai and is repeated now beyond the Jordan at the edge of Canaan. The Land was promised also to Abraham’s descendants, and now they are on the verge of re-entering it after 440 years away from it. The actual conquest of the land is treated almost as a foregone conclusion. Moses is more concerned with another threat: the threat of forsaking their covenant with God. To guard against that, he gives them practical counsel here that will enable them to continue to be faithful to God so that God will continue to be faithful to them.
4-6: First, he tells them to love God with heart and soul and strength.
7-9: Second, he tells them to recite the Law until they know it by heart, and to teach it to all the children.
10-15: Third, he tells them that, when they enter the land, they must not “forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,” and they must not follow other gods.
16-19: Fourth, he says, don’t test God as they did at Massah (see Exodus 17).
20-25: Finally, he tells them not to forget how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and to teach their children the history of God’s saving activity.
Keep in mind that all these things going on in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) are setting the stage for the faith history of Israel that unfolds throughout the Old Testament, and sets the stage for God’s entry into the world to take part in human life and death and give the promise of life to come.