Friday, July 20, 2007

Deuteronomy 4:32–40

Deuteronomy 4:32–40: God is the Only God

Synopsis

In this passage, Moses tries to demonstrate to the Israelites not only that there is no “god” other than God, but that the Israelites also have a very special relationship with Him. He starts by reminding them what God has done for them:

Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (verses 32–34)

Moses tells the Israelites that the reason God has shown them these things is so that they would “know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other” (verse 35). He spoke to them from heaven, and He gave them a pillar of fire to see. And He did this because He loved the Israelites’ forefathers. Therefore, He is going to bring them into the Promised Land, and give it to them as an inheritance, even though the people currently living there are stronger than the Israelites.

Moses sums up thusly:

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. (verses 39–40)

Thoughts

There are two, related, arguments that Moses is making in this passage:
  1. There is no other “god” besides God Himself
  2. The Israelites should remember all that God has done for them, thus far, and therefore continue to trust Him going forward
I don’t know how well modern-day Christians feel they can relate to the first point. I think there’s a common understanding between us that there is only one God; we don’t worship Baal, or other “gods.” In fact, we tend to look down on the Old Testament Israelites, for what we consider to be their stupidity—“how could they possibly worship a golden calf?!? How backwards!”

When we’re tempted into idolatry, it’s not usually in the sense that we’re building physical idols, or specifically worshipping other gods. Instead, our idolatry is the type of idolatry where we put money ahead of God, or our own desires ahead of God, or that type of thing. But the same concepts apply; God (through Moses) was saying to the Israelites, in effect, “Why would you ever worship another god? What other god has done the things that I have done?” And you could ask the same question of money, or your own desires: could money ever do for you all of the things that God can do? Even if you had all the money you’d ever want, could it do for you what God could do?

The second point is easier to relate to our own, modern-day lives. Based on all that God has done, for the Israelites and throughout the rest of history, we have all the reason in the world to trust Him. Moses was trying to prod the Israelites to worship Him properly, and avoid other gods, but the message still applies to us.
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