Building a Legacy

 

Week of May 6, 2012

 

Bible Verses:Deuteronomy 6:1-15.

 

Lesson Focus:This lesson is about the importance of building our lives on a foundation of obedience to God and, in turn, leading future generations to build on that same foundation.

 

Build on the Right Foundation:Deuteronomy 6:1-5.

 

[1]"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, [2]that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. [3]Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. [4]"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5]You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.[ESV]

 

[1-3]Verse 1 connects to 5:31 where God instructed Moses to teach the people the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules of the covenant. In chapter 6 Moses obeys that command from God and teaches the people all the covenant commands so that they may do them in the land to which they are going. The exhortation not to turn to the right hand or to the left [5:32] becomes an injunction to fear the Lord your God, a fear that results in obedience to the degrees and commands for generations to come [6:2]. The command to walk in the ways of the Lord [5:33] is also restated, this time in the appeal to hear and obey [6:3]. In both cases it is with the end in view that Godís people might live [5:33] and do so with success, prosperity, and for many years. This would be in a land flowing with milk and honey as God had promised. The phrase milk and honey is a hyperbolic way of describing the richness of the land of promise. These two commodities represent the fullness of blessing associated with the fulfillment of Godís promises. Though obviously not to be taken literally, the description of Canaanís bounty and fertility is much in line with the reality of the situation in that day and time, especially in comparison to the deprivations of the desert which they had experienced.

 

[4-5]The Ten Commandments of Deuteronomy 5:6-21 [Exodus 20:2-17] embodies the great principles of covenant relationship that outline the nature and character of God and spell out Israel's responsibilities to Him. The passage at hand is a further refinement of that great relational truth. It is the expression of the essence of all of Godís person and purposes in sixteen words of Hebrew text. Known to Jewish tradition as the Shema (after the first word of verse 4), this statement, like the Decalogue, is prefaced by its description as the commandment, the statutes and the rules and by injunctions to obey them [6:1-3]. The sentence itself commences with the imperative Hear in the second person singular form. ďTo hear,Ē in Hebrew lexicography, is tantamount to ďto obey,Ē especially in covenant contexts such as this. That is, to hear God without putting into effect the command is not to hear Him at all. The singular form of the verb emphasizes the corporate or collective nature of Israel. The covenant was made with the nation as a whole and so the nation must as a unified community give heed to the command of the Lord. The plurality of the people is also noted here, however, in that it is the Lord our God who is the subject of the following clause. The Lord is one emphasizes both Godís oneness as well as His uniqueness; there are no other gods that we should love and obey. The role of the Shema eventually became the heart of all the law. When Jesus was asked about the greatest of the commandments, He cited this (and its companion in Lev. 19:18) as the fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith. So much did the centrality of this confession find root in the Jewish consciousness that to this very day the observant Jew will recite the Shema at least twice daily. The confession of the Lordís unique oneness leads to the demand that Israel recognize Him as such by obedience to all that His oneness implies. In language appropriate to covenant, that obedience is construed as love; that is, to obey is to love God with every aspect and element of oneís being. This equation has already been made clear in the Decalogue itself, where the Lord said, in reference to the second commandment, that He displays covenant faithfulness (hesed) to the thousands who love Him and keep His commandments [Deut. 5:10]. In covenant terms, then, love is not so much emotive or sensual in its connotation, but it is of the nature of obligation, of legal demand or commitment. Thus because of who and what He is in regard to His people whom He elected and redeemed, the Lord rightly demands of them unqualified obedience. The depth and breadth of that expectation is elaborated upon by the fact that it encompasses the heart, soul, and strength of Godís people, here viewed collectively as a covenant partner. The heart is, in Old Testament anthropology, the seat of the intellect, equivalent to the mind or rational part of humankind. The soul refers to the invisible part of the individual, the essential person including the will and sensibilities. The might (or strength) is, of course, the physical side with all its functions and capacities. That is, Israel must love God with all its essence and expression.

 

Share your Life Message:Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

 

[6]And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7]You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8]You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9]You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.[ESV]

 

An important demand of the covenant relationship was that it be perpetuated beyond the immediate generation of those with whom the Lord made it, for its promises and provisions were for generations yet unborn. In practical terms this necessitated a regular routine of instruction. Father must educate son and son the grandson so that the fact and features of the covenant might never be forgotten. The whole is here described as these words, a term that encompasses the full body of the covenant text as communicated by Moses but which is encapsulated especially in the Shema of 6:4-5. This is evident in the instruction to bind them as a sign on your hand [8] as well as to write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates [9]. In the larger sense they are to be committed to memory as the idiom on your heart makes clear. In the psychology of the Old Testament the heart is not the center of emotional life and response but the seat of the intellect or rational side of humankind. To be on your heart is to be in oneís constant, conscious reflection. So much so is this the case that the covenant recipient must impress the words of covenant faith into the thinking of his children by inscribing them there with indelible sharpness and precision. The image is that of the engraver of a monument who takes hammer and chisel in hand and with painstaking care etches a text into the face of a solid slab of granite. The sheer labor of such a task is daunting indeed, but once done the message is there to stay. Thus it is that the generations of Israelites to come must receive and transmit the words of the Lordís everlasting covenant revelation. Moses said in verse 7 that the way this message is made indelible is by constant repetition. Thus whether while sitting at home or walking in the pathway, whether lying down to sleep or rising for the tasks of a new day, teacher and pupil must be preoccupied with covenant concerns and their faithful transmission. Sitting suggests inactivity; and walking, of course, activity. Together they encompass all of human effort. Likewise, to retire at night and rise up in the morning speaks of the totality of time. So important is covenant truth that it must be at the very center of all oneís labor and life. After ordering that the covenant commandments be worn on the person of the faithful Israelite, Moses expanded the sphere of covenant claim to the house and then to the village. In this manner the person and his entire family and community become identified as the people of the Lord.

 

The pressures of contemporary life make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many families to eat together at any one time in the day but, in order to obey God and apply these verses to our own home-life, every Christian parent should strive for some opportunity to gather the family together for biblical exposition, praise and prayer. Additionally, this love for God and His word must be shared in the community. Displaying the truth on their doorposts and gates makes it unmistakably clear to their neighbors that this family is committed to Godís unchanging yet relevant word. They tell everybody where the household stands. The instructions about carrying the word on the hand and forehead are, by contrast, more personal. They testify to where the individual stands Ė the hand as the symbol of personal action and commitment; the forehead as symbolizing personal direction and deliberate intent. It is possible that the words about frontlets and doorposts were intended to be taken metaphorically to indicate that the covenant demands were to be the central and absorbing feature of their entire life. There is still need for Christians to give their neighbors the opportunity to learn something about our personal faith. With an ever-increasing number of people in our communities who never attend a local church, many believers are making more imaginative use of their homes for friendly hospitality, coffee mornings, informal occasions for neighbors to meet a Christian speaker so that those who live around them are not ignorant of the gospel and, in a relaxed context, are able to share their doubts and uncertainties in an informed biblical discussion about lifeís greatest themes.

 

Keep Your Focus:Deuteronomy 6:10-15.

 

[10]"And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you--with great and good cities that you did not build, [11]and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant--and when you eat and are full, [12]then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. [13]It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. [14]You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you-- [15]for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God--lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.[ESV]

 

[10-12]Remember the Lord. Several of this bookís great key-words have already appeared within this passage: hear [5:27; 6:3-4], fear [5:29; 6:2], keep [5:29], teach [5:31; 6:1], do [5:32], love [6:5]. Another important word in Deuteronomy is remember. When they inhabit the land, the Israelites may quickly forget the generosity God has constantly shown throughout some of their darkest years. Careless forgetfulness is here introduced as a serious peril and, as a good teacher, Moses returns to the theme in his later preaching. The idea has already appeared in different contexts in earlier chapters [4:9,23; 5:15] and it is presented here as a renewed warning. The Israelites are here told that in the highly materialistic culture of Canaan they will be in danger of forgetting four crucial things: Godís gracious promise, incomparable nature, generous gifts and mighty acts. In the years ahead the people are likely to forget what God said. God had not failed them by forgetting the promise He swore to their fathers, but the Lord knew that they would not remember what he had taught them. When the people entered Canaan they were also in danger of forgetting who God is: the faithful God, the only God, and the jealous God who cannot be worshipped as one among others. Moreover, they will soon forget what God gave. In the days to come they were to enjoy the security of cities they did not build, riches they had not earned, water from reservoirs they had not constructed, fruit from vineyards they had not planted. But there was a danger that when they had eaten their fill, they would forget the Giver of all these good things. Throughout history, affluence has often led to spiritual indifference and moral carelessness. In their new-found prosperity, the Israelites would also forget what God did. He had redeemed them, bringing them out of the bitter experience of Egyptian slavery, a great and mighty act of undeserved salvation which ought never to be erased from their corporate memory. It was for this reason that the Hebrew people had their great festivals, especially Passover, to keep all these things in the top level of their minds. Forgetfulness is not a sin confined to the Israelites after they had settled in the prosperous land of Canaan. All Godís people have been in danger of forgetting what He has said, given and done, as well of who He is Ė Father, Guide, Protector, Comforter, Sovereign.

 

[13-15]Serve the Lord. The people are confronted with both a negative and positive exhortation; they are not to forget God [12] and they are to serve [13] Him. Serving the Lord is a central theme in Mosesí preaching. In the passage before us, the Israelites are reminded that service is an act of obedience [13], loyalty [14-19] and gratitude [20-25]. They are to serve God because He says so [13]. Swearing by His name probably refers to their vow of total allegiance to the God of the covenant. They are to serve Him despite competing loyalties. We are always exposed to the lure and attraction of rival deities, the gods of the peoples who are around you [14]. Late twentieth-century society has been subtly infiltrated by worthless idolatry Ė materialism (the god of what I can get), hedonism (the god of what I enjoy), social approval (the god of how I am regarded), vaulting ambition (the god of what I must achieve), and there are many more. The believerís greatest ambition is to serve God and put Him first. Loyalty to God must be expressed in trust. Trusting in dark and difficult times was not an experience required only of the desert pilgrims on their way to Canaan. It would also be expected of their children and their descendants who settled in the land. The land was flowing with milk and honey but life would not always be easy and comfortable. Adversity of one kind or another is bound to arise in all our lives. When things go against them, those of Godís children who serve Him and Him alone, trust Him fully even when they cannot remotely understand His ways.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† Meditate on the meaning and importance of the Shema [6:4-5]. What does it mean to hear God; that The Lord is one? What is the relationship between loving God and obeying Him? What does it mean to love and obey the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might? How can you put this command into practice?

 

2.†††††††† Verses 6-9 indicate the importance of making biblical truth the center of your family life and sharing that truth within your family and community. Think about various ways you can make this instruction work in your own family situation.

 

3.†††††††† What four crucial things were the Israelites in danger of forgetting? All Godís people are susceptible to this same danger of forgetting God. What can you do in order to continually remember all that your God has done and is doing for you?

 

References:

The Message of Deuteronomy, Raymond Brown, Inter Varsity.

Deuteronomy, Eugene Merrill, NAC, Broadman.