Introduction: Deuteronomy Chapter 11 marks the end of Moses’ general exhortations regarding God’s Law. The remainder of the book largely focuses on the specific statutes that helped to interpret the Ten Commandments. At this transition point, Moses begins his remarks by calling upon the Jews to obey both the Ten Commandments and the statutes and ordinances that interpret them:
“You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.” (Dt. 11:1).
Let obedience be the fruit of your faith1
Moses made similar calls to obedience in each of the preceding chapters. Some Jews might have tired of his message. They might have clapped for Moses while simultaneously tuning him out. The Jews later realized that Moses’ message in this chapter was so important that part of it became enshrined as the second of three parts in the holiest Jewish prayer, the Shema. Many believers today might also ask why they should pay attention. The Bible is also clear that we are saved by our faith alone and not by our works (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:28-30; 4:5; 10:4; Gal. 2:16; 3:24). Why then should a believer care about obeying the Law at all? Jesus is the “I AM” who gave the Ten Commandments (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). He says that, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). If that is not enough to motivate you, Moses offers seven other specific reasons. First, Moses reminded the Jews that God either blessed them or cursed them based upon their actions in the wilderness. The same is true for any believer. Disobedience will not cause a believer to lose his or her salvation. Yet, disobedience can cause pain and turmoil. By contrast, Spirit-led obedience allows God to grant other conditional blessings. If you examine your life in faith, you will see His hand guiding, correcting, and blessing you. Your remembrance of His prior blessings and disciplinary actions in your life will help to bring about a healthy fear of Him. Second, if you obey His Law out of love, He promises to give you the strength to deal with any challenge. Although Moses had stated this promise before, he knew that the Jews lacked the faith to believe it. Third, if you obey God’s Law, He also promises to prolong your life on earth. You may not live to be old. Yet, He will allow you to live longer than you would have lived without His blessing. Fourth, if a country as a whole follows His Law, He also promises to bless the economy of the nation as a whole. Even sinners will benefit if enough of the population is obedient to God’s Law. By contrast, even the righteous may experience economic drought if enough of the country is disobedient to His Law. Fifth, if you are obedient, He also promises to multiply you in your endeavors and possibly your offspring. Sixth, if you are obedient, He further promises to bring you victory over your enemies. Finally, if you are obedient, He also promises to bless you in ways that you cannot imagine. This includes enlarging the borders of your church, organization, family, business, or other endeavors.
Faith allows you to see God’s prior blessings in your life. The generation that observed God part the Sea and destroyed Pharaoh’s army had already died off by the time Moses gave his final address. But he spoke to the Jews as if they personally witnessed God’s miracles. This was no accident. Moses was making a statement that we can see God’s miraculous hand everywhere when we have the faith to look for it: “Know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the Lord your God—His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, 3 and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; 4 and what He did to Egypt’s army, to its horses and its chariots, when He made the water of the Red Sea to engulf them while they were pursuing you, and the Lord completely destroyed them;” (Dt. 11:2-4; Ex. 14). God may not have written on a stone tablet for you to see all the times that He has blessed you. Yet, when you look with faith, His hand becomes visible in your life. Have you given thanks for all the times that He has parted the impossible barriers in front of you and crushed those who would seek to stop you? If He has intervened in your life when you were obedient, isn’t that a sufficient reason to study and obey the Law out of love?
Faith allows you to see God’s prior discipline in your life. Moses also reminded the Jews that God had also disciplined them when they disobeyed. When Korah rebelled with 250 men of renown to challenge God’s appointed ruler, God opened up the ground and cast the living leaders into the pit of hell: “and what He did to you in the wilderness until you came to this place; 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, among all Israel— 7 but your own eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord which He did.” (Dt. 11:5-7; Nu. 16:1-40). God’s corrective hand has also disciplined you when you were wayward in your walk. With faith you can see His prior acts of discipline. Have you given thanks for the prior trials that He has put you through? If He had not corrected you when you were following a self-destructive path of rebellion, wouldn’t you be worse off today? If He can remove His shield of protection when you are disobedient, isn’t that a sufficient reason to study and obey God’s Law out of devotion and not obligation?
Jesus was obedient at the cross out of love for mankind2
Spirit-led obedience brings the right to act boldly in the Holy Spirit. After reminding the Jews of the many times that God either blessed or disciplined them, Moses repeated many of the blessings that God had previously offered to the Jews if they were faithful to keep His laws. This included the promise to bless the Jews with strength: “You shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land into which you are about to cross to possess it;” (Dt. 11:8). You too have the promise of the strength of the Holy Spirit to overcome all challenges when your faith leads to obedience. God has not given us a spirit of fear in facing the enemy. Instead, He has given us a spirit of strength (2 Tim. 1:7). “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Eph. 3:16). “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). With faith, Christ can strengthen you to have no fear (1 Pet. 5:10). Through faith in Christ, you also can have the strength to break any stronghold of the devil or addiction in your life: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). You are encouraged to call out to God in prayer to be “my strength” (Ps. 28:7; Jer. 16:19). Yet, His strength is only perfected in your weakness: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Have you emptied yourself of pride to allow God to strengthen you?
Let God give you the strength to serve Him (2 Timothy 1:7)3
Spirit-led obedience will extend your life longer than it would have been. God not only promised strength to the Jews, He also promised to prolong their life on Earth if they were obedient to God’s Law: “so that you may prolong your days on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Dt. 11:9). The promise of a prolonged life is part of the Fifth Commandment when a child honors his or her parents (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16). This is also a promise that Moses repeated many other times. “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess (Dt. 5:32-33; 4:40; Lev. 18:5). “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” (Dt. 6:1-2). God also promises to prolong your life if your faith leads to obedience. He may extend your time a day, a week, a year, a decade, or longer. You will never know how much longer He extended your life until you get to heaven. For now, He wants you to have the faith to believe that His promises are true. If you doubt His promise of a prolonged life, you should not expect Him to extend your life (Jam. 1:6-7). If you are battling a long term illness or if you simply want to live longer, are you willing to obey in faith and pray in faith for God to prolong your life?
God’s Promised Land brings blessings based upon faith, not the works of the flesh. Some of God’s blessings are contingent upon what a country as a whole does. This might offend some who believe that God wants a strict wall between public and private morality. He doesn’t. He rewards or punishes a country based upon whether it follows His law as a whole. To symbolize this, Moses compared the world to Egypt (where people received their water by building irrigation canals) to the God’s Promised Land (where the people had no control of the rains and had to turn to God in faith for Him to pour out His blessings): “For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.” (Dt. 11:10-12). Rain is a symbol of blessing, life, and God’s Word (Dt. 11:10-17; 32:1-3; 1 Kgs. 18:41-46). The lack of rain is a symbol of His judgment (1 Kgs. 8:33-43). Every good and perfect thing in your life is undeserved “rain” from Him (Jam. 1:17). America was founded as a place that embraced worship. It prayed for the rain and God blessed it as the strongest economy on Earth. Today, America has recently embraced a vision of morality that is based upon secularism. Like the Egyptians did with the canals from the Nile river, America seeks to rely on itself. How has America done as it builds a more secular and humanist society?
Obedience by a country brings blessings to both the righteous and unrighteous. If a nation as whole follows God’s Law, He promises to bless both the righteous and unrighteous people within it: “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.” (Dt. 11:13-15). “He will also bless . . . your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle.” (Dt. 7:13(b)-14; Lev. 26:3-5). Those who preach the “gospel of prosperity” imagine that the Bible promises to make a believer wealthy if he or she is obedient. But that is not what God promises. When He blesses a nation, He uses large scale processes (like rain) that can result in blessings upon those within the society who are undeserving: “ . . .for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45). This should have profound implications for the Church. The Church cannot ignore immorality in the nations around it. It must seek to ensure that God’s definition of morality is adopted by the nations. On matters like the definition of marriage, abortion, drugs, pornography, gambling, and prostitution, the Church must be “salt” in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). This means that believers should “sting” when applied to open wounds of sin. Are you willing to take a stand for God’s law, even if others ridicule you? (Rom. 1:27). Is your church taking a stand on moral issues?
A disobedient nation brings curses upon both the unrighteous and the righteous. Conversely, if enough of a nation is evil, both the unrighteous and the righteous may be impacted by God’s global punishment. This is symbolized in the Bible as a divine drought: “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.” (Dt. 11:16-17). If you are concerned about the immorality around you, are you motivated by love for those in rebellion around you? Do you have contempt for those who despise and defame the Bible? Will you forgive them when you pray for them? If not, how can you ask God to forgive them? If you do not believe that your prayers or actions will make a difference, Satan has already won the battle.
Let God’s Word be visible for others to see in your life. Moses also reminded the Jews that they were to be a light to the unrighteous around them by making God’s Word visible in their lives: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” (Dt. 11:18). This was the second part of the Shema, the Jewish call to worship. These verses were part of the Jews’ daily prayers. They were also part of any special Jewish ceremony. Adult orthodox Jews took these words so seriously that they wore both a leather head box called either “tefillin” or “shel rosh” and leather arm boxes called “tefillin” or “shel yad.” The leather boxes contained three sets of Bible passages: Ex. 13:1-16; Dt. 6:4-9; and Dt. 11:13-21. Jesus most likely wore these leather boxes. Today, believers are not called to wear God’s Word as a physical ornament. Without the right motives, wearing a cross or a leather box with the Word is meaningless. Instead, God’s Word in your life should be visible in your head (your thoughts and words) and in your hands (your works and actions) (Matt. 5:15). Are your thoughts and actions an advertisement for Christianity to non-believers?
Teach God’s Word to your children. Moses also reminded the Jews that they were to ensure that God’s Word was passed down from generation to generation by teaching the Word to their children: “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19). This was the third time that Moses repeated this commandment in Deuteronomy (Dt. 4:9-10; 6:7). Nor would it be the last time that he would repeat it (Dt. 31:12-13). This commandment is also repeated throughout the Bible: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6). “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Heb. 5:12; Eph. 6:4). This commandment was also part of the Shema. Are you teaching God’s Word to your children?
Your obedience should extend to teaching God’s Word to your children4
Obedience allows God to multiply you, your offspring, and your endeavors. The Jews were also required to put God’s Word on display on the doorposts of their houses (Dt. 11:20; 6:4-9). The container with God’s Word for the doorpost of a believer’s house is called a “mezuzah”. This Scripture was also part of the Jewish prayer called the Shema. If the Jews were faithful to do all that God asked, He promised to “multiply” them: “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.” (Dt. 11:20-21). Moses also repeated God’s promise to “multiply” the Jews in the prior chapters. He most likely repeated it because the Jews lacked the faith to believe that this was a real promise of God: “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.” (Dt. 8:1). “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). God also promises to multiply you (Gen. 1:28; Lev. 26:9-10). For a nation that is obedient, this might take the form of an increased growth rate. For the individual, this may or may not take the form of fertility. Hannah, for example, prayed for a child, and God answered her prayers (1 Sam. 1:27). Alternatively, God could “multiply” your days on Earth or your endeavors. He can increase the size of your church or an organization that you are running. He can even “multiply” your business. Do you have the faith to believe that He can “multiply” you or your endeavors when you are faithful? Are you asking faithfully in prayer for God to “multiply” you?
When you are following God’s will, He will win your battles for you. If the Jews were faithful to God, He also promised victory over their enemies: “For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you” (Dt. 11:22-23). “You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.” (Dt. 7:16; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). With only a few hundred men, God allowed Gideon to defeat thousands of Israel’s enemies (Jdgs. 8:10). With God’s help, Jonathon also killed many Philistines (1 Sam. 14:12). God also allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). Is there any person or thing that you fear besides God? If you have repented of your sins, your fear is not from God.
When you obey God, you never need to fear evil5
The boundaries of the Promised Land were only limited by the Jews’ faith. Moses concludes by reminding the Jews that the land that God promised stretched from modern day Israel all the way to modern day Iraq. They were only limited by their faith when it came to seizing the land that God had promised to them: “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea. 25 No man will be able to stand before you; the Lord your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you.” (Dt. 11:24-25). Moses’ words carefully restated God’s land covenant with Abraham: “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites [Syria], Canaanites [Israel], Girgashites and Jebusites.’” (Gen. 15:18-21). God again repeated this promise to Joshua after the Jews invaded the Promised Land: “From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border.” (Josh. 1:4). God promised to “enlarge” the Jews boarders if they were faithful: “When Yahweh your God shall enlarge your border, as He has promised you, and you shall say, I will eat flesh, because your soul desires to eat flesh; you may eat flesh, after all the desire of your soul.” (Dt. 12:20). Because God knew the people lacked the faith to believe this promise, He repeated it many times throughout the Bible: “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders;” (Ex. 34:24). “If Yahweh your God enlarges your border, . . .” (Dt. 19:8). “You have increased the nation, O Yahweh. You have increased the nation! You are glorified! You have enlarged all the borders of the land.” (Is. 26:15). It may be hard to imagine Israel today stretching from Iraq to Egypt. But the world will be radically reorganized during the Millennial Reign of the Messiah. God also wants you to have faith in His promises to “enlarge your borders.” If you don’t believe that God can do this, He won’t: “For without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). When you are obedient, He can enlarge your borders as well. Like Thomas, is your faith in God’s promises limited by what seems possible? Or, are you asking God to stretch your church, family, or business’ boarders in ways that will serve and glorify God?
Trust God to enlarge your borders6
Spirit-led obedience allows God to bless you in many other ways. If the Jews were obedient, God also promised to bless them in other ways: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.” (Dt. 11:27-28). Are you giving God opportunities to bless you in other ways through Spirit-led obedience? Or, are you forcing God to discipline you through “curses”?
Listen to God’s Word to have faith in His promises. Immediately after entering the Promised Land, the Jews were to build their faith by reminding themselves of God’s promises. All of the promises in the Torah were repeated as half the nation stood on one mountain and the other half stood on another, both located in the West Bank near the city of Nablus: “It shall come about, when the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?” (Dt. 11:29-30). After entering the Promised Land, six tribes later stood on each of these two mountains. The ark stood in the middle with the Levites. Joshua later read the Torah to the people to remind them of God’s promises of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (Dt. 27:12-13; Josh. 8:33-34). God selected this location to confirm His covenant because it was one of the first places that Abraham came to in the Promised Land. By sending the Jews to hear the blessings and the curses in this place God reminded them that He would keep His promises to Abraham (Gen 12:6-7). The two mountains symbolized the confirmation of God’s promises. Two is a number symbolizing confirmation in the Bible (Dt. 17:6; 19:5; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1). You have the confirmation of God’s promises by the two Gospels. You also have the dual confirmation of God’s promises through the Word and the Spirit. Yet, like the Jews, you must listen to the Word to have your faith in them grow: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). Are you reading God’s promises of blessings and curses to guide you on your journey? Do you know all of God’s promises for blessings and curses? If you don’t know them, how much faith can you have in them?
Be careful to always follow God’s will in your life. Moses concludes with a final exhortation to follow God in all your circumstances: “For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, 32 and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgments which I am setting before you today.” (Dt. 11:31-32). You too must be careful to always follow God’s Law and His direction in your life. Unless you are walking in divine order, the divine presence of the Holy Spirit may not be fully manifested in your life. God has given you both His Word and the Holy Spirit to be a guiding light to provide order in your life (Ps. 119:105; Jo. 14:26). Are you searching the scriptures diligently to guide your life?