The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The text is Deuteronomy 7:6-9 and follows a section of Scripture many people struggle with. Prior to this text, the LORD is telling the people of Israel to drive out all the inhabitants of the land, showing no mercy. The instruction is to tear down their altars to false gods and do not intermarry with them—completely destroy them. These seem like harsh actions and cause many to question what kind of God demands this of His people. Some have even suggested that the God of the Old Testament is angry, full of wrath, different from the God of the New Testament. This is, of course, not true and the verses of our pericope help us to understand why the LORD God instructs His people to deal severely with the other nations.

The people of Israel are chosen by the LORD, not because they are better or more wonderful or more numerous than other nations, but rather because the LORD loves them. They are His treasured possession whom He has brought into a relationship with Him. However, for this relationship to thrive the people must be holy. This holiness is not their own, it is bestowed upon them by the presence of God in their midst. Now, they live holy lives so they can continue in this God-established relationship. In other words, to dwell with a Holy God in their camp, they lead holy lives. Anything standing in the way of and threatening this holy relationship must be avoided or eliminated.

This holiness is not their own, it is bestowed upon them by the presence of God in their midst.

There is a lot at stake, so the people of Israel are called upon to drive out the other nations: Do not worship their gods, do not marry into their people. If the other nations do not leave the land, then they must be destroyed. The people of Israel must be preserved holy. First, because their identity as God’s bride is of great importance. Second, because they need to be a holy nation from which the Messiah will come in order to suffer, die, and redeem the whole world. Again, there is a lot at stake!

These four verses clearly point out who is the One who is doing all the acting. The LORD declares/makes holy. The LORD chooses. The LORD loves. The LORD keeps His oath. The LORD brought out of Egypt. The LORD redeemed/rescued. The LORD keeps His covenant/shows steadfast love. In other words, the LORD is doing all the action. Then, and only then, does man respond to what the LORD has done. Man’s actions accomplish nothing more than what has already been done for them by the LORD. Man’s actions to love and keep are a response to the One who has first loved and kept. This is the purpose of all the commands, the statutes, and laws of the LORD, so they might live as the holy people He has already made them. Today, we say the LORD has justified us so we might live as His holy people (sanctification).

An excellent book on this from a Jewish perspective is The Love of God, by Jon Levenson.

7:6 כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ (ki am ka-do-Vosh at-Tah le-Yah-weh e-lo-Hei-cha) “because/for you are a people holy to the LORD your God”

*This answers the question of ‘why’ following verses 1-5 and sets up a further explanation of verses 6-26.

בָּחַר (ba-Char) Qal: “to choose”

סְגֻלָּה (se-gul-Lah) “treasured possession; valued property”

7:7 מֵרֻבְּכֶם (me-rub-be-Chem) root: רב (robe) Qal: “to be numerous; to be many”

חָשַׁק (cha-Shak) Qal: “to be very attached to; to love”

הַמְעַט (ham-At) “fewest, least (in number)”

7:8 מֵאַהֲבַת (me-a-ha-Vat) root: אהב (a-hab-aw) Qal, particple: “to love” “loving”

וּמִשָּׁמְרוֹ (u-mish-sha-me-Ro) root: שׁמר (shaw-mar) Qal, infinitive: “to keep”

הַשְּׁבֻעָה; (hash-she-vu-Ah) “oath”

חֲזָקָה] (cha-za-Kah) “strong”

וַיִּפְדְּךָ: (vai-yif-de-Cha) root: פדה (paw-daw) Qal: “to redeem; to ransom”

7:9 וְיָדַעְתָּ> (ve-Ya-da-ta) root: ידע (yaw-dah) Qal: “to know”

הַנֶּאֱמָן; (han-ne-e-Man) root: אמן (aw-man) Niphal: “to be trustworthy; to be faithful”

לְאֶלֶף דּוֹר (le-E-lef Dor) “for a thousand generations”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Deuteronomy 7:6-9.