As we start this new book, here is a head’s up that we’ll be going back to our normal six chapters per week rhythm as we read through Deuteronomy. Sundays will go back to being a rest (or catch-up) day. For an overview (or refresher) on Deuteronomy, click here.
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Read Deuteronomy 5
The Ten Commandments
5 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
6 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
7 “You shall have no other gods before me.
8 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
11 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
17 “You shall not murder.
18 “You shall not commit adultery.
19 “You shall not steal.
20 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
22 These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me.24 And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty,and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lordour God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”
28 The Lord heard you when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good.29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
30 “Go, tell them to return to their tents. 31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.”
32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lordyour God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Some families like to tell stories of joint memories or have “inside jokes” from shared experiences. While they may share these stories with younger generations, the details can fade, and the full meaning can become diluted over time. The memories may not hold as much emotion, and the inside jokes just aren’t as funny. We walk into this type of situation in Deuteronomy 5.
When we first read this chapter, it may seem like a simple repetition of Exodus 20 (when God spoke to the Israelites and gave them the Ten Commandments). While the words of the commandments are the same as in Exodus, the context is completely different. The Israelites in Deuteronomy were a different group of people with a different plan than those in Exodus.
The Exodus group had lived around and among the Egyptian deities and beliefs for all their lives. Moses came, and God delivered them from the plagues, the passover, and the Red Sea. Then, God Himself spoke directly to them, setting out the Ten Commandments, teaching them how to be faithful to the one, true God, and how He was different from all the other gods they knew.
About 40 years later, Moses calls the Israelites together and we see the beginning of his speech in Chapter 5. The Deuteronomy Israelites are the next generation, and they are warriors. They were raised by the Exodus generation and had heard all the stories. They just defeated other nations and are preparing to settle the Promised Land. Moses gathers and reminds them of the Ten Commandments and God’s faithfulness. He does this to reinforce that their God is the one, true God, and warn them not to be led astray by other gods they will encounter in the new lands.
In verses 32-33, Moses declares why this is so important:
“So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all 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.”
It is for the people’s good. This is true for us, as well. God gives us the Ten Commandments, Jesus’s teachings, and the whole Bible, for our own good. God is true and faithful whether we follow His words or not. All the gods of Egypt, the deities encountered in the Promised Land, or the idols we see in our society require something from their believers to receive favor, but not our God. He made us; He knows us; He loves us; and He gave His son Jesus for us. He knows the way. God gave us His commandments so that we may know the way too, and can “live and prosper” with Him. Not to hold us back by rules and regulations, but to free us through obedience to His all-knowing wisdom.
- Re-read the Ten Commandments, verses 6-21. Which command feels restricting? How might God’s wisdom in that command protect and free you?
- What are two practical ways you can carefully follow that command today?
- What does this chapter teach us about God’s character?
By the Way
A mechanical translation of Hebrew in verse 32 is “you will safeguard to do just as YHWH your Elohiym directed you…” The Hebrew word used for safeguard is šāmar meaning “to guard” or “to keep.” It is the same word used in Genesis 2 when God put man in the Garden of Eden to guard or keep it.
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