Taken by God: Deuteronomy 4
In Summary: Moses keeps on preaching here, providing further evidence that Baptists have been around for a long, long time. He begins this chapter reminding the people about the importance of the Law of God that they have received. He also notes its completeness: Deuteronomy 4:2 explicitly denies any additions the people may make. God’s Word can only come from God, and not from the whims of people. That still matters.
Moses continues to exhort the people by reminding them of all the matters which God has taught them, both in words and deeds. The people who held fast are there, and those who know His statutes and judgments. These are reminded that God is compassionate, even as they face certain hardships. Moses also reminds them that God is a consuming fire, and that they must recall both aspects of the Deity they serve. That still matters.
Moses follows the legal formulae of the time. This involved charging the people with their obligations, and then establishing the witnesses to the covenant. Witnesses not only reported to one side or the other about covenant compliance, but also offered warnings and guidance before strict action was necessary. As frequently seen, multiple witnesses are important, and usually treaties called upon local deities to supervise them. This covenant focuses on monotheism, and so there are no deities to call. Instead, Moses calls heaven and earth—all of creation—to witness the covenant. The whole of creation testifies to the people of Israel, the people of God, to the covenant. By extension, the creation also takes the first steps of accountability to the covenant. That still matters.
Moses finishes this section by reminding the people that they will hear the voice of God to discipline them. Remembering that discipline is about both rewarding the good and removing the bad, the people are also challenged to take it to heart that there is no other God. Not only in heaven above, but on earth below. That still matters.
In Focus: In focus, Moses asks the people an important question: Has any God, ever, taken a people from among a nation and made them a people of their own, to serve Him alone?
Historically speaking, it’s a great question even today. (Very broadly speaking here) Most cultural traditions are of people who served the same gods as their forefathers. Some cultures reflect the idea of a subset of the population favoring a different deity than the majority, then taking power in his name. Or they reflect an idea of a deity in an area that the migrants adopted after moving to an area. But the concept of a God reaching into a culture, taking a nearly assimilated people group and claiming them, then moving them elsewhere?
This isn’t a major feature in most cultures. Moses highlights that this is the story of Israel, though, as we see in Deuteronomy 4:34. He takes the people for His own, to so demonstrate His might and glory that the world knows it clearly.
In Practice: The practical side of this? Quite simply: we glorify God in our lives. Rather than thinking that our faith is about us, our benefits, or our fame, we need to understand that this is about the glory of God.
Extending that, we should strive to bring our lives into line with the covenant God and His Word. His glory, as revealed in all that He has done, has no end. He has no equal. Yet we chase after so much else. God will take a people for Himself, taken by grace and revealed in obedience. Let us consider that.
In Nerdiness: Go back and take a look at the 4 “That still matters” statements above. First: God’s Word is what it is. There are hard parts to grasp. There are difficult parts to do. There are things we’d like excuses to not have to obey. No changes, though, and we should see that clearly.
Second, we live in a world that polarizes. Many assert that we cannot be both American and Christian. Both evangelistic and predestinarian. Baptist and elder-led. Grace-loving and sin-despising. Guess what? God is both compassionate and consuming. There are roads that run both ways, according to the response of those who go upon it.
Third, witness in the heavens and the earth. From looking at Creation in wide-eyed wonder, which drives us to ask questions and grow in our understanding. Plus,what do we see in Creation as sin continues ever since Eden? It gets worse.
Fourth, God’s Word, God’s Voice, is what changes us. Not we ourselves, though we respond. And certainly not the voice of others—when others try to change you, validate it against the Word of God. Always.