Introduction: In this chapter, God uses a series of different stories to convey seven truths about how God’s Word has the power to transform your life. First, from the story of Moses’ building of a temporary ark, we learn that God intends for you to hide His Word in your heart. The Word is unlikely to transform you if you don’t internalize it. Second, from the account of God’s provision at four resting places in the wilderness, we learn that God has promised to provide for His believers. In exchange, He has called all believers to be set apart for service to Him. Third, from Moses’ 40 days in prayer in the wilderness, God shows that His believers are also expected to be in constant prayer for guidance. Fourth, through Moses, God exhorts believers to love Him with all their heart and soul. When a believer does this, he or she will want to follow God’s Law out devotion and not obligation. Fifth, to be receptive to God’s continued guidance, a believer must “circumcise” his or her heart by being humble enough to accept correction and discipline. Sixth, once you know the Law and are obedient to His instruction, you should use it to practice justice and compassion toward the less fortunate around you. Jesus referred to this as the “weightier” aspect of the Law (Matt. 23:23). Finally, Moses exhorted believers to serve and “cling” to God. In all things you do, honor God. Among other things, God wants you to serve Him by making vows in His name, i.e. wedding vows. This is the highest form of expression for your devotion to Him. Yet, He only wants you to make serious vows that you will keep. Just as He is faithful to you, He wants you to be faithful to your vows to Him.
God will give you multiple second chances when you repent. As a result of Moses’ intercessory prayer for the Jewish nation, God forgave them for building the golden calf and their many other sins. Out of love for His people, God offered to renew His covenant in the form of the Ten Commandments without any preconditions: “At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to Me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood for yourself. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered, and you shall put them in the ark.’” (Dt. 10:1-2). God does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He sent Jesus so that all the “world might be saved through Him.” (Jo. 3:17). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). He forgives you not just one or twice, but at least “seventy times seven” times. You must do the same with others who have hurt you (Matt. 18:21-22). Are you showing gratitude toward God for your second chances? Or, are you using God’s mercy and grace as a license to sin?
Moses prepared to receive God’s Word. In Deuteronomy, Moses tells us that he built an ark to house the second set of the Ten Commandments at Mount Horab / Sinai: “So I made an ark of acacia wood and cut out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hand.” (Dt. 10:3). Yet, the ark that Moses built was only a temporary one. The building of the permanent ark was an honor that would fall upon Bezalel, a person who was never mentioned again in Scripture: “Now Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; its length was two and a half cubits, and its width one and a half cubits, and its height one and a half cubits;” (Ex. 37:1). The temporary ark symbolized God’s temporary presence with the Jews in the wilderness and Jesus’ initial temporary presence on Earth. God now dwells permanently inside each one of us through the Holy Spirit. These passages also have a separate meaning. God has a role for everyone in His army. His tasks are not just reserved for His leaders. Whether you are a Moses or a Bezalel, the message is the same. You must prepare to receive God’s Word for God to use you. This requires constant reading of the Word and prayer for the Spirit to apply the Word to your life. Your walk with God is a journey and not a destination. Are you looking to the Word to be a light unto your path? (Ps. 119:105).
Hide God’s Word in your heart. Moses tells us that he carefully kept God’s Word in the first ark to protect it: “He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me.” (Dt. 10:4-5). Today, your body is the temple where the Holy Spirit is kept (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:22; Heb. 3:6). The Holy Spirit will help you to remember the Word that lies within you: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). Yet, in order for the Holy Spirit to remind you of God’s Word, you must put it in your heart by memorizing important verses: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8). “The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.” (Ps. 37:31). Have you hidden many Words in the ark of your heart? If you have not memorized many verses, what will the Holy Spirit use to remind you of God’s Word?
The hidden Law in your heart will expose your sins. The first time Moses went up Mount Horeb / Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, God told Moses to bring Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders part of the way up. All of the leaders previously promised to do all that God had asked (Ex. 24:3). Yet, none of them followed the Law. This time, Moses went alone Why didn’t God have these same leaders come up the Mountain to repeat their promises to keep the Law? God had showed the people that they were unable to keep their promises to uphold the Law. He designed the Law to show the people their sins and their need for atonement (Ro. 3:20).
God will provide for all your needs in the desert. Before telling the Jews that his priests would need to be set apart and sacrifice for God, Moses reminded the Jews of four of their many stops in the wilderness. To some critics, this text is out of place and breaks up the flow of Moses’ story. Yet, Moses mentions these four specific places because they symbolized God’s provision for each of their needs while in the wilderness where they could not provide for themselves: “Now the sons of Israel set out from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died and there he was buried and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his place. From there they set out to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water.” (Dt. 10:6-7). In each of these places, God provided for the Jews. First, Moses mentions their stay at “Beeroth Bene-jaakan,” a place not recorded elsewhere in the Bible. Its name means “wells of (the) sons of Jaakan.” Although this was a God-forsaken and now forgotten place, God did not forsake His people there. He gave them water. The next place they stayed was at “Moserah.” Here, He again provided for the Jews. He provided for their spiritual needs by providing the High Priest Eleazar after Aaron died. The next place that they stayed was at “Gudgodah,” means the “cave of the Gidgad” (Nu. 33:32-33). In the context of the other names, this place symbolized the refuge that God provided in the desert. Finally, the Jews came to Jotbathah (Nu. 33:33). Its name means “good.” By referring to it as a “land of brooks of water” Moses was again indicating that God was taking the Jews to a good place where they would live. God also is bringing you to the Promised Land. While you travel in the wilderness on your way there, do you have any reason to doubt that God will provide the things that you need to survive? (Matt. 6:25-34).
Be a light to others. Like believers today, the Levities were given a special honor. They were to carry the Word of God to share it with others: “At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day.” (Dt. 10:8). The Jews were given God’s Word to be light to the rest of the world (Is. 49:6). Today, like the Levities, you are part of His holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). You are commanded to carry His Word to share it with others. The light of the Word that lies within the ark of your heart is to be a light to others (Matt. 5:14). “So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Phil. 2:15). You are to use the Word to make disciples throughout the nations: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matt. 28:19). Are you a light to others? Are you sharing the Word that lies within you to others?
Store up your treasures in heaven. With the Levities great privilege came great responsibility. The Levities were to forgo their inheritance on Earth and store up their treasures in heaven: “Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord your God spoke to him.” (Dt. 10:9). You also are commanded to forgo pleasures on Earth and to store them up in heaven: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” (Matt. 6:20). Are you denying yourself of pleasures? If the answer is no, what treasures will you have in heaven?
Become a slave to righteousness. The Levities were given to be slaves for God as a substitute for the firstborn from every family (Nu. 8:16-17; 3:41). If they had not done this, the firstborn of each family would have been given to the Lord as a substitute for the death caused by the tenth and final plague in Egypt (Ex. 13:1-16). This also foreshadowed Christ’s role as a substitute for us today. Today, you are part of God’s nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). You are to be a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). In other terms, you are bondservant or a freed slave who chooses to bind himself or herself to the master out of love (Jam. 1:1; 2 Per. 1:1). Yet, a bondservant cannot have two masters (Matt. 6:24). Do you consider yourself to belong entirely to Jesus? Or, is your love divided equally between Him and the world?
Turn to God in prayer for guidance in all matters. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting for God to forgive the Jews (Dt. 9:18). After God forgave the Jews, Moses then prayed and presumably fasted again for 40 days to seek God’s guidance: “I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the Lord listened to me that time also; the Lord was not willing to destroy you. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’” (Dt. 10:10-11). You must also constantly seek the Lord in prayer. If you do, He will guide you with the wisdom to know how to handle any situation: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” (Job 32:8). Are you seeking God’s wisdom only in times of crisis? Or, are you seeking His direction in all that you do?
The love of God brings the desire to do good, walk with Him, and serve Him. Another part of what God requires is that you serve Him in all that you do out of love: “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Dt. 10:12). When God wants to emphasize something He states it more than once. This is a restatement of the Shema or call to worship: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dt. 6:4-5). This is also what Jesus called the “greatest commandment” under the Law: “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.”” (Matt. 22:36-38). If you love God you will want to walk in all His ways, not your own. If you seek God with all your heart and soul, He promises that you will find Him: “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Dt. 4:29; 11:13). Do you feel that God is distant or disconnected in your life? If so, are you loving and serving Him with all your heart and soul? Is your service to God motivated by love? If Jesus were to rate the intensity of your service and love for Him on a scale of 1 to 10, what number would you expect to receive?
The love of God also brings the desire to keep God’s commandments. Another part of what comes from the Love of God is the desire to keep His Commandments: “and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Dt. 10:13). Jesus is the “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). If you love Jesus, you will want to keep His commandments out of love: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). [I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). Jesus did not come to stop people from following the 10 Commandments. He instead came to correct people’s motives when doing so. His wants you to be motivated by love and not obligation. He therefore summarized His Ten Commandments as something that comes naturally once a person loves Him and his or her neighbor (Matt. 22:35-38; Lk. 10:27, quoting Dt. 6:5). Moses taught us to live obediently as it is written. Jesus taught us to love obediently as it is written. Are you rebelling in any area of God’s Law?
Love the Lord because He loves you. Moses sought to encourage the Jews that they were not loving a cold and distant God. They were instead loving a God who intensely loved them: “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.” (Dt. 10:14-15). You too can take comfort that God loves and chose you before you chose Him: “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thess. 1:4). “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:13). “[F]or the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (Jo. 16:27). If you claim that you love God but then “hate” another person (including someone who has hurt you) is the love of God within you? (1 Jo. 4:20).
Expose your heart to God’s correction in your life. The eighth day after birth was the day that a child was to be circumcised (Lev. 12:3). The child was circumcised on that day because Isaac was circumcised on that day (Gen. 21:4). The purpose of the circumcision was to symbolize a person’s covenant with God (Gen. 17:10-11). Although the covenant was a sign of a person’s relationship with God, it was a sign that no one else could see. God cares more about your inward relationship with Him than any outward signs. Thus, the Jews were told to also circumcise their hearts: “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” (Dt. 10:16; 30:6; Ro. 2:28-29; Col 2:10-11). When you accept Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, God will circumcise your heart: “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;” (Col. 2:11). When you soften or circumcise your heart, God will reward you with a heart to know Him: “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” (Jer. 24:7). “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jer. 31:33; Col. 2:11). Is God’s Law and His love written in your heart or the standards of the world around you? Where would God find you stiff necked in your walk with Him?
Be impartial and a person of integrity. God not only wanted the Jews to show love towards Him, He also wanted them to be a people with integrity in their dealings with each other the same way He was and is with them: “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.” (Dt. 10:17). God does not show partiality in judging sin: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:17-19). Believers are also warned not to favor people based upon their status or wealth: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Lev. 19:15). A believer must also never accept a bribe: “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” (Ex. 23:8). “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Dt. 16:19). Are your business practices an honest and ethical light to others?
Show love and compassion and plead for those who are less fortunate. If any person claims to be religious, that person must also fight for justice and correct the wrongs that the weakest members of society suffer: “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). God also expects you to: “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). “Learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Prov. 31:9). “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern.” (Prov. 29:7). “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” (Prov. 14:31). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). Would Jesus call you a religious person?
Showing justice and compassion is more important than other aspects of the Law. Jesus condemned those who claimed to follow the Law but failed to show justice and compassion: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23). “For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Lk. 11:42). Are you ignoring the weightier matters of the Law? How many times in the last year have you been an instrument of God’s justice on Earth? How have you shown compassion and helped the less fortunate?
Believers will be held to account for their treatment of the less fortunate. God’s commandments regarding justice and compassion cannot be casually ignored. On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will ask what each person did for the poor and the needy: “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40). Have you been a force for Biblical justice in the world? Are you helping the less fortunate? Have you done anything for the needy in the last year?
God blesses those who help the poor and defenseless. A believer should never do good motivated by the promise of a reward. Yet, for those who show justice, kindness, and compassion for the less fortunate, God promises to bless them: “How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.” (Ps. 41:1). “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17). Are you missing out on the blessing of being delivered in times of trouble?
Show compassion for immigrants. Moses concludes God’s list of people deserving compassion by listing one of the groups that it may be hardest to show compassion to: -- immigrants: “So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Dt. 10:19). “You shall not wrong a stranger [foreigner] or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 22:21). “You shall not oppress a stranger [foreigner], since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 23:9). “When a stranger [foreigner] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger [foreigner] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:33-34). “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow's garment in pledge. But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.” (Dt. 24:17-18). Moses declared that there was “one law” for the Jews and “alien sojourns,” i.e., foreigners (Nu. 15:14-16, 29). God also watches over the aliens or immigrants in the land: “The LORD protects the strangers [foreigners]; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.” (Ps. 146:9). Immigrants must still obey immigration laws (Rom. 13:3). Yet, when immigrants enter your country illegally or if they have stayed passed their permitted visa period, do you have compassion for them?
In some cases, an alien has a right to inherit land. In some cases, compassion toward an alien requires allowing the alien to stay and inherit land like any other citizen: ‘“You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And in the tribe with which the alien stays, there you shall give him his inheritance,’ declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek. 47:22-23). This again does not mean that an immigrant is free to break a country’s immigration laws. Divine justice requires that there be consequences when alien breaks the law (Rom. 13:3). Yet, through the Holy Spirit, we are to treat immigrants with compassion. In some cases, this includes a right to inherit, buy, and sell property like anyone else.
God blesses those who help immigrants. God also promises to bless those who help or provide for immigrants: “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Dt. 24:19). Have you given God any reason to bless you?
Serve, cling, and swear by God’s name. Moses also urged believers to not only fear God, but to serve Him and cling to Him. He further urged believers to “swear” oaths by His name: “You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.” (Dt. 10:20). In other words, believers were to honor God by all their actions. Centuries later, Jesus partially repeated this instruction: “you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.” (Matt. 5:33). Jesus, however, warned that it is better not to make a vow than to make one and break it: “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet . . . But let your statements be, ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’; anything else beyond these is of evil.” (Matt. 5:34-37; James 5:12). Jesus condemned the people of His day who claimed that a temple vow had no meaning unless it was a vow made based upon the temple’s gold (Matt. 23:16). Jesus also asked that we count the cost before making a vow to Him (Lk. 14:28-33). This is why Jesus spelled out the cost of discipleship before someone chose to walk closer to Him as a disciple as opposed to a mere follower (Lk. 9:57-62). How do we reconcile these statements? Jesus wants you to make vows before God that are important and that you plan to keep. A wedding vow or a vow to tell the truth in a legal proceeding are two examples. A vow made in God’s name is a promise to cling to God no matter what. It is the highest promise of devotion that a believer can make. Have you been faithful in your vows before God? Has your conduct honored God?
Praise God for His blessings. A believer should also be grateful at all times and sing praises for his or her blessings: “He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.” (Dt. 10:21). The Jews sang God’s praise after crossing the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1-21). The next song that God felt worthy of noting in the Bible did not happen until the end of their 40-year journey in the wilderness (Nu. 21:18). Can you find praise for God even while you are wandering in the wilderness? (Ps. 118:24). Do you believe in the desert that all things are working together for good because you love God and are called according to His purpose? (Rom. 8:28). When things go well, who should you praise for all your blessings? (1 Cor. 9:15; Col. 3:17; 3:23).
God is faithful; let His covenant bless and multiply you. (Gen. 1:28). When the Jews left for Egypt, they had only 70 members (Gen. 46:27; Acts 7:14). Yet, because God was faithful, He fulfilled His covenant by multiplying the Jews to be as numerous as the stars: “Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” (Dt. 10:22). This fulfilled a promise that God made to Abraham: “And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” (Gen 15:5; Heb. 11:12). If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are part of Abraham’s descendants. You are an adopted child of God (Rom. 8:14-17). Like Abraham, God also promises to be faithful to you. He will bless and multiply you when you are faithful (Lev. 26:9-10). These blessings include, but are not limited to, the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Through faith and obedience, have you given God many reasons to bless and multiply your endeavors?