Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week’s lesson dealt with God “remembering” or blessing Rachel. She conceives her first child, Joseph. Rachel is the wife Jacob loves and after waiting many years and watching other women bear children, Rachel has a son. Finally, with a son from the wife Jacob loves, he is ready to leave his Uncle Laban and return to Canaan. In an effort to convince Jacob to stay, Laban tells Jacob to “name his price” (wages). Jacob finally changes his mind and agrees to stay if Laban will give him all the spotted and speckled sheep, goats and cattle. Ordinarily this would be a great deal for Laban since only a small number of sheep, goats, and cattle would have spots. But Jacob’s herds grew so much that he became “exceedingly rich and had large flocks, and male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys”. Last week’s lesson ends the fall quarter’s focus on the patriarchs and how the Hebrew people came to understand their blessings from God. This week begins the second quarter. For the next three months lessons from both the Old and New Testament will focus on various aspects of our love of God and God’s love for us. In this week’s lesson, the descendants of Jacob are gathered at the bank of the Jordan river after wandering through the wilderness nearly 40 years. They await further instruction from God. Boyd’s and Townsend Title this week’s lesson “Love and Devotion”. Standard titles the lesson “Love and Obey God”. The Scripture text comes from Deuteronomy 6:1-9.
Deuteronomy is the fourth book of the Torah. TheTorah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament. One of the meanings of Torah is “law”. In this book (chapters 12-24) God delivers the Deuteronomic Code which includes religious ceremonies, and civil and criminal law among other commands. Scholars note that there are 613 commands in the Old Testament.
At this point the Hebrew people are known as the nation of Israel. Moses is credited as Deuteronomy’s author and they are located on the plains of Moab. The descendants of Jacob have escaped from slavery in Egypt; they have wandered through the wilderness almost 40 years, and now they await instruction to enter The Promised Land – Canaan. Although the people have been unfaithful to God, God still honors the promise to bring them to a land that is now described as “flowing with milk and honey”. Abraham’s original covenant with God (Genesis 12:2, 3) is still valid.
What takes place in this passage:
As the people await entry into the Promised Land, Moses begins with a command from God. Moses is to teach them to observe these commands so that God’s instruction will not be forgotten when they cross into the Promised Land. In fact, they are to listen and learn so intently that their children and their children’s children will “fear the Lord and keep all the commands, so that your days may be long”. This command is followed with a promise. In other words, Moses is telling them, if you do what God is telling you to do, things will go well with you, you will multiply greatly, and you will have a land flowing with milk and honey just as God promised our ancestors and you.
He cautions them. “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone”. Moses wants them to understand there is but one God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. Then he admonishes them to keep these words “in your heart. Recite them to yourchildren”, talk about them and essentially keep them foremost in every aspect of their lives.
Although Deuteronomy is “presented anonymously through most of the text, many traditional scholars credit Moses as its author”(Townsend). As the Israelite people await entry into the Promised Land they must understand God’s commands so that future generations will keep the commands of God. These commands are to be passed on to the children and their children’s children. Utmost in their understanding must be that there is only one God. “The Lord does not take different forms and is not to be confused with other gods by supposing that they are manifestations of the same Lord God but under a different name” (NISB). For example, even though God may appear in the storm God is not to be confused with the pagan “storm god” or gods of fertility.
The central point in this passage is verse 5. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. Instead of fear and awe as seen on Mount Horeb where the Ten Commandments were given (chapter 6), God directs them toward a heart of love and complete devotion. Additionally, Jesus referenced this verse in Matthew 22:34-40: vs 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him,“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
Key Characters in the text:
The Lord God –
Moses – Believed to be the author of Deuteronomy.
The people of Israel – Afterwandering nearly 40 years in the wilderness, they await instruction from God before entering the promised land.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
- Devotion – the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.
- Command – An explicit statement of God’s will.
Themes in this Lesson:
- Love and devotion to God
- Heart, mind, body, and soul.
1. The Israelites weren’t faithful to God on numerous occasions, yet God demonstrates an unconditional faithfulness to them. Why?
“I Am Dedicated To You” a popular wedding song written by Phil and Brenda Nicolas. https://youtu.be/xa-jVdPh79w
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week deals with a familiar passage where Joshua asks the people to “choose whom you will serve”. It continues the theme of our love for God and God’s love for us. Joshua is now the successor of Moses and has taken leadership of the nation of Israel.