"For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him—then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea, shall be your territory." -Deuteronomy 11:22
The love and obedience God seeks from His people is preceded by what God has first made known to us about Himself and His will. Because of who He is, love should be the natural response. Obedience will then follow based upon God's revealed greatness and wisdom. Like Israel, God reveals Himself and His Will and then puts us to the test. How well we are able to act on what we know to be true about God and His will determines whether He can then entrust us with His blessing or whether He must retrain us in the school of His Spirit. His goal is to show His mighty power and blessing on our behalf. But His mighty blessings would only destroy us if we have not first learned how to, in humility, use and enjoy His blessing according to our love and obedience. He asks for our love and obedience (11:22).
Moses, on this basis, declared to the people of Israel, "Behold I set before you today a blessing and a curse" (11:26). A blessing if we live in harmony with His will; a curse and chastening if we rebel against His will yet foolishly believe we can seek to enjoy His blessing. Christ says the same to us today. He has set before us a path that if approached by love and obedience will lead us to divine and eternal blessing. Remove love and obedience and God will remove His blessing. He will then use the consequences of our wayward hearts to chasten us, to teach us the folly of rebellion against His love and obedience to His will. If we understand this, life becomes rather simple. Don't try to make it more complicated than it is! God has set before us as a narrow path that leads to an abundance of life in Him. This fallen world offers us a wide path that leads to destruction. Each day we choose blessing or curse, life or destruction, narrow path or wide. Let love and its resulting obedience keep you on the path of life!
NKJV Bible Text
The Essence of the Law
12 "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? 14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. 15 The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name. 21 He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.
The Essence of the Law
v. 12 what does the Lord your God require of you – God's desires for Israel are explained here in terms of verbs, ancient words, which each express a heart attitude toward God. Those actions are to fear, to walk, to love, to serve, and to keep. However, all of this is only commanded to Israel after Moses reminds them of how faithful God has been to them in choosing them, delivering them, and forgiving their iniquities and rebellion. These five exhortations will be further explained in the next section of Deuteronomy, chapters 10:12-11:32.
v. 14 Heaven and the highest heavens – "The Heavens" were described in three categories (also 2 Cor. 12:2). The first Heaven was the sky, which they could see around them during the day. The second Heaven was what we would consider outer space, which holds the sun and stars and galaxies. The third Heaven was that pace in which God dwelt. Here, the Spirit expresses through Moses that from the expanse of the sky, the universe, and the throne room of God, all belong to Him by virtue of creation and His majesty.
v. 16 circumcise the foreskins of your heart – In Genesis 17:10-14, the Lord confirmed His covenant with Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, and commanded him to circumcise himself and his descendants as a sign that they would walk with God and belong to Him. The act of circumcision is a cutting away of the flesh, symbolic of a man being open to the dealings of God with his sinful nature and pride, even in his most vulnerable areas. Here, as well as in other places in Scripture, we are reminded that the physical act of circumcision was not the actual point of the covenant. Rather, the actual point of the covenant was openness toward God's dealings in a person's heart. An uncircumcised heart is closed to God's purposes, and so here God exhorts them to deal with anything that hinders open allegiance to Him.
v. 17 God Of gods, Lord Of lords, the great God – All of these awesome titles for God were reminders to the Hebrews of the great Shema of Deuteronomy 6. They are affirmations of God's singularity, as opposed to the polytheistic nature of the religions around them. Interestingly, the title "King of kings and Lord of lords" is applied to Jesus in Revelation 19:16, and therefore, makes up part of a strong case for the Deity of Jesus.
v. 19 for you were strangers in the land of Egypt – God constantly reaffirms His care and concern for the stranger, or non-Jew, who might live in Israel along with God's people. He strongly exhorts His people throughout the Law to treat those aliens kindly. Here He commands them to "love the stranger," calling to mind the days when they were strangers themselves in Egypt and how it felt to be mistreated. The ultimate desired end of loving these strangers is that they would want to give their allegiance to the God of Israel and be saved.
v. 21 He is your praise – The Lord Himself is to be the sole recipient of Israel's praise and worship, and God reiterates throughout the Law that praise to Him should be a vital part of their daily existence, and an important part of their covenantal requirement.
Love and Obedience Rewarded
1 "Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always. 2 Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the LORD your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm— 3 His signs and His acts which He did in the midst of Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to all his land; 4 what He did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and their chariots: how He made the waters of the Red Sea overflow them as they pursued you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day; 5 what He did for 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: how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, their households, their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel— 7 but your eyes have seen every great act of the LORD which He did.
Love and Obedience Rewarded
v. 1 you shall love the Lord your God – Chapter 11 is a remarkable reminder of the priority of loving God. In all that God is commanding Israel to do, the central focus He always returns to is His desire to see them love Him as He loves them. Therefore, throughout this chapter the exhortations to love God and the rewards for loving Him are repeated again and again from various perspectives. In this verse, the first result of a true love relationship with God that is specifically named is that we will obey His commandments (see also John 14:15, 15:9-14).
v. 2 I do not speak with your children – The Lord is not holding the young children, but only adults, responsible for obeying the words of the Law. He held the mothers and fathers accountable for obedience in a way that He did not hold their children, for those young ones did not see God's power displayed in the wilderness in the way their parents had. This is the same privilege He had granted that same generation of adults He was now speaking to when they were children. Numbers 14:29 tells of how God did not hold accountable the children who were under 20 years of age for the sins of their fathers in the wilderness.
v. 6 Dathan and Abiram – The Lord uses Dathan and Abiram as examples of men who had seen His mighty power and still hardened their hearts and rebelled against Him, experiencing judgment as a result (Num. 16). Those men fought against the leadership of God's chosen representative (Moses) by claiming that Moses had led them out of Egypt, a land of milk and honey, and into the wilderness instead of the Promised Land. Consequently, God destroyed them. This example was meant to stick fast in the hearts of the Israelites and inspire them to submit to the Lord rather than rebel against His authority and experience judgment.
8 "Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess, 9 and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD swore to give your fathers, to them and their descendants, 'a land flowing with milk and honey.' 10 For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; 11 but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, 12 a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.
13 'And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. 15 And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.' 16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, 17 lest the LORD's anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you.
18 "Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
v. 10 sowed your seed and watered it by foot – Because there was very little rainfall in Egypt, the Egyptians used the water of the Nile to irrigate their crops each year. When it overflowed, water was plentiful; but for the majority of the year it needed to be pumped out of the river manually and fed into irrigation ditches. To accomplish this, the ancient Egyptians devised an ingenious device resembling a stationary bicycle, which dipped buckets into the river and poured the water out into the ditches. Unfortunately for Israel, this was done by the labor of the slaves, which the Hebrews had been in Egypt for over 400 years. Therefore, the Lord brings them a word of refreshment, assuring them that the Land to which He was leading them was a land of hills and valleys. Much rain fell there, and the land would not need to be watered through the exploitation of other human beings.
v. 12 to the very end of the year – In contrast to the Nile River in Egypt, which only overflowed its banks once a year, leaving them the rest of the year to manually bring water to their crops, the Promised Land received rainfall twice a year. The beginning and the end of the growing season were both provided for. All this was to be remembered as the blessing of the Lord.
v. 14 the early rain and the latter rain – The early rain fell in our month of October and provided water right after seed-time so that the crops would take root and spring up. The latter rain fell in our month of March, ensuring that the crops ripened as well.
v. 17 He shut up the heavens – Starting in verse 13, the Lord inspires Moses to change to the "first person" speaking point of view, indicating that the Lord is now speaking directly through Him to Israel. Here, God claims to be the One responsible for the sending of rain in the Promised Land and the One Who could withhold it if Israel were to turn their backs on Him. It is interesting that He had allowed the rain to fall on the Land even before Israel entered it, causing it to flourish and become a land of milk and honey before He led His people in. This reminds us that God allows the "rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). However, because Israel is a nation that had entered into covenant relationship with Him, if they were to rebel against Him He would cause the rain to cease. This would be part of the "chastisement" which God has warned them about repeatedly in the book of Deuteronomy — If Israel gives themselves over to disobedience, He will chastise them as a father chastens his children. This may not happen with nations that never knew the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews picks up this theme and applies it to our lives as Christians in Hebrews 12:5-11.
22 "For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him— 23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea, shall be your territory. 25 No man shall be able to stand against you; the LORD your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you.
26 "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known. 29 Now it shall be, when the LORD your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, toward the setting sun, in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the plain opposite Gilgal, beside the terebinth trees of Moreh? 31 For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it. 32 And you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today.
v. 24 shall be yours – Walking a piece of property was the equivalent of taking ownership of it in those days. When God told Abraham to walk the length and width of Canaan (Gen. 13:17), He was promising to give Abraham's descendants that land. Here, God is promising to fulfill that vow as Israel walks the length and width of the Promised Land, thus taking ownership of it.
v. 29 blessing on Mount Gerazim and cursing on Mount Ebal – As will be explained in chapter 27, those two mountains would become significant in Israel's typology, standing for either blessing or cursing. In later chapters of Deuteronomy, God will order some of the tribes of Israel to stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce out loud the curses, which would result if His people disobeyed and forsook His Word. Others stood on Mount Gerazim and pronounced the promised blessings that would result from obedience to the Word.
v. 30 the Terebinth trees of Moreh – To desert travelers in that day, certain trees became important landmarks, denoting important paths or events in their journeys. In Genesis 12:6-7, God appeared to Israel's father Abraham at these same trees and made a promise to give them the very land they were heading into over 400 years later. Thus those trees were a meaningful symbol to the people of Israel.