After the Commandments – Deuteronomy 6

Read the Passage: Deuteronomy 6

Keeping the Law (6:1–3)

After reviewing the Ten Commandments in Deut. 5:1–22, Moses records the people’s reaction to the law in Deut. 5:23–33. The people’s main reaction to the law was one of fear, as Moses reports the people’s claim, “If we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die” (Deut. 5:25). While this verse may lead us to conclude that the people were afraid of God’s voice—as well as, perhaps, the thunder, the lightning, the trumpet blasts, and the like—we learn later that their fear arose because “they could not endure what was commanded” (Heb. 12:20). So, while the supernatural phenomena certainly were a cause for concern, it was the moral law itself that caused the greatest fear and prompted the people to ask for a mediator (cf. Deut. 5:27). Observe that in Deut. 5:29 Moses records God’s desire that Israel would continually revere Him and obey the law, in order that they might prosper.

After exhorting Israel to follow the Lord in Deut. 5:32–33, Moses reminds the people in Deut. 6:1–3 that he had reiterated the moral law so that the people would follow it and be blessed. In this passage Moses identified three general results of keeping the law. First, Moses writes that the moral law ought to be kept so “that your days may be prolonged” (Deut. 6:2). Second, the people are encouraged to obey “that it may be well with you” (Deut. 6:3a). Recall that within the Ten Commandments, God had encouraged obedience “that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut. 5:16). Third, Moses admonished Israel to obey “that you may multiply greatly” (Deut. 6:3b). These results of keeping the moral law—longevity, prosperity, and fertility—are best viewed not as specific guarantees, but as general principles of obedience to God and His moral law.

Loving the Law (6:4–9)

Deut. 6:4–9 contains what has become known in the Jewish tradition as the Shema. Here Moses commanded, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5). Certainly, this is a confession of monotheism, but more importantly, the Shema shows the place of the moral law in believers’ lives—that is, in one’s heart and soul. In other words, God is not after rote obedience, but He desires life transformation. Said differently, the moral law is to be kept out of desire, not duty. Moses declared, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:6). In Deut. 6:7–9 Moses details the importance of teaching children the moral law, noting that this must be done frequently and thoroughly. Moses is describing teaching both by verbal articulation and by life transformation.

Possessing the Law (6:10–25)

In Deut. 6:10–19 Moses warns the people, somewhat ironically, about the dangers that can accompany the reception of divine blessings. In a similar manner to Deut. 6:2–3, in Deut. 6:10–11 Moses reviews some of the benefits that stem from obeying the moral law, which include: inheriting the Promised Land, inhabiting great cities, dwelling in houses full of good things, and enjoying abundant sources of water and food. While these things are to be enjoyed, in Deut. 6:12–19 Moses warns the people about not forgetting the Lord amid their material prosperity. Here Moses writes that spiritual decay is evidenced in our lives by failing to remember what God has done, by worshiping other gods, and by tempting God. Throughout this passage Moses exhorts the people to fear God, to serve God, to take oaths in God’s name, to keep God’s moral law, and to obey God’s good commands.

In Deut. 6:20–25 Moses explains that when Israel kept God’s law, it would prompt their children to ask, “What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?” (Deut. 6:20). The answer Moses instructs the people to give is interesting. First, in Deut. 6:21–23 Moses directs the people to respond by retelling their children about their bondage in Egypt and deliverance by God. The point here is that just as God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt, so the moral law delivers man from bondage to sin. Indeed, it is “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25). Second, in Deut. 6:24–25 Moses notes that God has commanded Israel to keep the law, as it will preserve and bless the people. In summary, then, the meaning of the law is that it reminds God’s people of their deliverance and it leads God’s people to blessings.

Application Questions:

  1. Considering that the Ten Commandment were given in Exod. 20:1–17, why did God’s people need them repeated in Deut. 5:6–21 and applied in Deut. 6–30?
  2. Why is God sometimes viewed by Christians as being more wrathful in the Old Testament and more loving in the New Testament (cf. Exod. 34:6–7)?
  3. Can Moses’ teachings about the consequences of obeying or disobeying the moral law be demonstrated in the history of Israel? Can they be shown in your own life?
  4. What is the best way to teach: by our words or by our actions? Can you have one without the other (cf. Prov. 23:7; Matt. 12:34; 15:18)?
  5. What did James mean when he referred to the Ten Commandments as “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25)?