The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The text is Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 and at first glance may seem to be a heavily weighted presentation of the Law. However, there are some important realities to be considered in this regard. As Jon Levenson, a Jewish scholar, says, “Deuteronomy is the biblical book of the love of God par excellence...” (The Love of God). This is not how most Christians would think of Deuteronomy. Some of the disconnect comes from the title of the book. Deuteronomy means “Second Law” and is thus named because it is the second listing of the Ten Commandments, but this is not the Hebrew title. הַדְּבָרִ֗ים אֵ֣לֶּה (El-leh had-de-va-Rim) means “These are the Words.” In Hebrew, what we identify as the Ten Commandments are called the Ten Words.

The Book of Deuteronomy is a beautiful description of the relationship between God and His people. Luther is clear in stating that these statutes and rules are given to those who are already the children of God. Thus, they are a description of what the child of God looks like—how they walk, talk, teach, live, and have their being! Today, we might refer to this as our “baptismal identity.” Because we are the baptized children of God this is how we live, this is what we look like. It is a beautiful relationship of husband and wife, Bridegroom and bride, God and man—a relationship of love, covenantal love!

Levenson writes:

“Positively, the covenantal love of God means heeding the LORD’s commandments and walking in his ways. Negatively, it means scrupulously avoiding actions that signal disloyalty: sacrificing to, or invoking the name of, another god, for example; imitating the modes of worship of the idolatrous Canaanites; or following a prophet or family member who urges the worship of another god” (p. 13).

Reading our pericope, and the entire Book of Deuteronomy, with this in mind changes this from a Law orientated text to a description of the sanctified life of the child of God.

Another important, and not unrelated aspect of this relationship is seen in verse 7. “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us...” This is the big distinction between Israel’s (and our) God and the gods of the nation’s surrounding them. Their God (our God) is near us/with us. This is the motif of “Real Presence” which begins in the Garden of Eden and continues throughout Scripture. Our God dwells among us, walks with us, and even shows Himself (think Sacrament of the Altar). This is a beautiful, loving relationship. God desires to dwell with His people so one day they will dwell with Him in everlasting life!

God desires to dwell with His people so one day they will dwell with Him in everlasting life"

4:1 שְׁמַע (she-Ma) Qal, Imperative: “to hear; Listen/Hear!”

מְלַמֵּד (me-lam-Med) root: למד(law-mad) Piel, Participle: “to teach”

לַעֲשֹוֹת (la-a-Sot) root: עשֹה (aw-saw) Qal, Infinitive: “to do; to make; to observe”

4:2 לֹא תֹסִפוּ (lo to-Si-fu) “Do not add; You shall not add”

וְלֹא תִגְרְעוּ (ve-Lo tig-re-U) root: גרע (gaw-rah) Qal: “to take (away from); diminish; lessen; And do not take...”

4:6 וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִֹיתֶם (u-she-mar-Tem va-a-si-Tem) “Keep them and do them”

וּבִינַתְכֶם (u-Vi-nat-Chem) from: בִּינָה (bee-naw) “understanding; discernment”

4:7 גוֹי גָּדוֹל (Goy ga-Dol) “great nation”

קְרֹבִים (ke-ro-Vim) “close; near; so near; being close to”

קָרְאֵנוּ (ka-re-E-nu) root: קרא (kaw-raw) Qal: “to call; we may call”

4:8 כְּכֹל הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת (ke-Chol hat-to-Rah haz-Zot) Usually translated, “As all this law.” I would translate it, “As all this teaching.”

4:9 תִּשְׁכַּח (tish-Kach) root: שׁכח (shaw-kakh) Piel: “to forget”

מִלְּבָבְךָ (mil-le-Va-ve-cha) “From your heart”

וְהוֹדַעְתָּם (ve-ho-da-Tam) root: ידע (yaw-dah) Hiphil: “to know; make them known; cause them to be made known; and teach them”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Walter A Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9.