In Deuteronomy the relationship between Deuteronomy 5 (containing the Ten Commandments) and Deuteronomy 6 is very similar to the relationship between Deuteronomy 7 and Deuteronomy 8. Since we looked at 5&7 in the last post, we will now focus on 6&8.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37-38, Luke 10:27 adding strength, Mark 12:29-30 adding also Deut 6:4). This is a quote of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 known as the Shema among the Jewish people. Shema means “hear.” “Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one. You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart/soul/might.” As you can already see, these are very important chapters for our devotion.
It is also worth noting that all three responses of Jesus to Satan in the wilderness temptations were from Deuteronomy 6 & 8. Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” This is written in Deuteronomy 8:3. Matthew 4:7, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” This is written in Deuteronomy 6:16. And Matthew 4:10, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.'” This is written in Deuteronomy 6:13. Thus Jesus understood that there was a close link between Deuteronomy 6 & 8. This reflects someone who studied the book closely.
Indeed these chapters are especially appropriate ones for Jesus to reflect upon while being tempted in the wilderness. The quote about living by bread alone is in the context of a discussion about manna, which is how Israel was fed in the wilderness. In fact, chapter 8 says: “You shall remember the whole way that YHWH your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut 8:2). The point being that the 40 years of testing in the wilderness were being recalled so that they would remember these lessons in the land — lessons from the wilderness for their life in the land. Likewise, the full quote of “You shall not put YHWH your God to the test” continues “as you tested Him at Massah,” that is, in the wilderness. And the other quote Jesus makes is in the context of remembering God in the Promised Land after they have received all of its blessings.
Chapter 6 says, “And when YHWH your God brings you into the land…with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget YHWH, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deut 6:10ff). Chapter 8 renews the warning: “Take care lest you forget YHWH your God by not keeping His commandments and His rules and His statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no wate,…Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth'” (Deut 8:11ff).
These two chapter continue familiar themes of Deuteronomy. For example, as in chapter 4, this is not just to be some external conformity: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (6:6). And this is to be taught: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (6:7-9).
Likewise in chapter 8 obedience is from the heart: “testing you to know what was in your heart” (Deut 8:2), “know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, YHWH your God disciplines you” (Deut 8:5), “lest…then your heart be lifted up, and you forget YHWH your God” (Deut 8:14) and, also as quoted above, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth'” (Deut 8:17). The role of discipline then is to humble the heart: “in the wilderness, that He might humble you” (8:2), “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna” (3), “who fed you in the wilderness with manna your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end” (16). It is worth noting that the discipline of our children has the same purpose and that it is part of our responsibility in teaching them the commandments of God.
Chapter 6 also gives us yet another example of catechism: “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that YHWH our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And YHWH brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And YHWH showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in and give us the land that He swore to give to our fathers. And YHWH commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear YHWH our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before YHWH our God, as He has commanded us” (Deut 6:20-25).
Thus it is no suprise that chapter 6 says, “You shall diligently keep the commandments of YHWH your God, and His testimonies and His statutes, which He has commanded you” (Deut 6:17) and chapter 8 had stated it negatively as we quoted above, “Take care lest you forget…” (Deut 8:11). And chapter 6 warns “for YHWH your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of YHWH your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth” (Deut 6:15) and chapter 8 warns, “And if you forget YHWH your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that YHWH makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of YHWH your God” (Deut 8:19-20).
If Israel kept the law then it would be counted as righteousness for them, but the law itself required heart obedience and the nation awaited a circumcised heart (see discussion of Deuteronomy 10 coming next).