The Plea

The Plea

by Jason DeRouchie, Tom Kelby, and Jack Yaeger | A Month in Deuteronomy


JY: Welcome to Gear Talk, a podcast on biblical theology. We’re starting a month in Deuteronomy, this series of four podcasts will look at four major themes in this major book. The themes conveniently all start with the letter P. Today, Tom and Jason will look at the Plea. As he did for our month in the Psalms, month in the Servant Songs, and month in Ruth podcasts, Mark Yeager has created an album cover to go with this series. You’ll find a link to the PDF of this album cover in our show notes.

Introduction to Deuteronomy

TK: Hey Jason, it is you and me together talking about God’s word. After it seems like it hasn’t been, it hasn’t been for a while, huh?

JD: Happy New Year, Tom. Yes, I am delighted to be back. Was refreshed in Advent season and excited about this new year, even of Gear Talk.

TK: Yeah, me too. It’s been fun just visiting about what we have coming up after this. But this next month it is for my soul, it’s going to be great talking about this topic and this really does—what we’re going to talk about really falls into something that you’ve spent a lot of time talking about. So why don’t you introduce it, Jason, where we’re going this next month?

JD: Well, where we are going is a month in the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy was one of Jesus and Paul’s favorite books. They cite it almost more than any other, and it’s because of the place that it played within all the Old Testament. Deuteronomy provides the culmination of the first five books of Moses. I call it the constitution of the united tribes of Israel. It was cited by the prophets more than they ever pointed to the Ten Commandments, it was Deuteronomy as a whole, these four key sermons of Moses that they drew from in order to understand the flow of Israel’s history. And how it would culminate in a coming Messiah, a new covenant mediating prophet like Moses. They drew on Deuteronomy to understand what Israel should be doing and where they were failing. So they drew on Deuteronomy to gain instruction and to indict the people of their sin and they also drew in—go ahead.

TK: Oh, I was going to say—you would say they had Deuteronomy like we have Deuteronomy, correct?

JD: That’s right. I believe when Joshua crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, he had Moses’s four main sermons, a warning song, and a deathbed blessing. These five, sorry, six major documents that make up what we know of as the book of Deuteronomy. A narrator, sometime in the promised land, stitched all of these together. But it seems to me, and we can talk about this at a future podcast. That that narrator was very soon after Moses, even potentially someone like Joshua’s own son, who heard the stories and who put—stitched all of this material together well before even king David came on the scene. But when we read about the book of the law or the Torah scroll, as perhaps it would have been better to talk about. That was Moses—that was the book within the book, the book that Moses shapes, that ultimately, with the narrators stitching, becomes Deuteronomy. It was a foundational document for the entire history of Israel, as I said, giving them a vision for all of salvation history, clarifying the law that they were to live by, loving God and loving neighbor. And then with that, laying out the future promises of provision and protection and divine threat—we call them blessings and curses, covenant blessings, covenant curse—that were to motivate Israel’s loyalty. Encourage them to live the way that God was calling them to live and to flee idolatry. Yet Israel fails to heed the voice of Moses through the prophets. They were declaring promises of future blessing if they would obey, promises of future curse if they would disobey. And ultimately, even Moses is, we’re going to see within our own next four weeks within the book itself, Moses anticipated that the law that he was—the law covenant that he was mediating would ultimately lead to Israel’s destruction. In Paul’s words, it was a law that would condemn Israel bringing them to death, and it would be trumped only by a New Covenant that would lead to righteousness. A new covenant mediated by the one we know of as Jesus. And Moses himself anticipates Israel’s stubbornness, their rebellion that would lead to the covenant’s breaking apart and that would lead then on the other side of exile to an unbelievable restoration with a—being led by a New Covenant mediating prophet that would create a new relationship where God would work in the hearts of the people, all the people who were part of this covenant in a way that he did not work in the hearts for the majority of Old Covenant Israel. And Moses anticipates then the blessings, the curses, and the restoration blessings that are now realized in the New Covenant work of Christ and his church. Moses anticipates it all right here in this book.

TK: And we we’ve tried to capture this in an album cover that Mark Yeager has created. And so we have some images, we’re going to talk about the first one, but in the logo, you’re going to see the gears—we’re called Gear Talk—the sections of the Bible and the first voice tallking, the first gear is colored. It’s like the person is talking about Deuteronomy, but in the second voice that person all the gears are colored saying this person is saying wait a minute, that makes me think of this. You just did it. You started talking about Jesus and Paul and you’re saying all the prophets are referring to this one section in the Bible this one, this one book is casting a shadow, if you want to say it, over all the all the books in the Bible.

JD: It certainly is. And so this discussion of the book of Deuteronomy is going to lead us backwards to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, and it’s going to lead us forwards into the Prophets and the Writings and on into the New Testament, the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. I think it’s going to all be drawn together in our discussion over the next four weeks. So,f Deuteronomy itself, if I could just put it into a single statement, I already called it the constitution. This is a legally binding covenant—covenantal document that was to guide the kings, the priests, the prophets. And so, so I summarize it this way: Deuteronomy legally establishes both the nature and the prospect of lasting covenant relationship in the Moab law covenant, the Moab Torah covenant. So we remember the Sinai Covenant and God made that with the wilderness generation. Now that wilderness generation, apart from figures like Joshua and Caleb, that wilderness generation is coming, has passed away. They are dead. And Israel is on the banks of the Jordan River, in the land of Moab, getting ready to enter in and.

TK: So that we already we already know this, but I just have to ask you, did they learn their lesson in the wilderness? Have the people changed?

JD: Well, Moses is going to declare and we’ll see it, especially in the podcast next week, Lord willing, that Israel is not going to heed Moses’s plea because Israel has a heart problem and that heart problem is going to lead to their destruction. And Moses, already in this book, after leading this same congregation for forty years—he’s buried their parents, he’s buried their grandparents, and now it’s the children of this new generation, and he says your hearts are no different than your parents were. And that’s the grief of this book in its original context. And yet, as Christian scripture, it operates as a challenge for us. Seeing the nature of Israel, seeing the story of salvation that Moses is going to lay out, is supposed to challenge our own hearts to seek to love the Lord. And yet, even before that pursuit, to be able to stand in awe that God has acted on our behalf, doing what the law was powerless to do, weakened as it was by the flesh. God has done through the person of Christ who comes as the God-man, obeying perfectly where Israel failed and securing therefore all the blessings of life that were conditioned on perfect obedience for the people. Israel the people fails, Israel the person in Jesus Messiah succeeds, and because of that we today by faith can stand justified, declared right as if we were among a perfectly obedient Israel. We get to enjoy the blessing of life. Not because of our own obedience, but because of Christ’s perfect obedience for us. God did that through Jesus, through Jesus, making it so that there is now no condemnation and justifying us perfectly, so that the law, perfectly obeyed by Christ, is now counted for us, before the Lord and our lives are changed forever. Now we have a God who is 100% for us already because of the perfect work of Christ.

And Deuteronomy becomes a book of wisdom, even as it’s a book of prophecy. It becomes a book to clarify how wide and how deep, how long and how high love for God is supposed to reach. It becomes a gift to clarify the nature of love, as we’re going to see love is what God called Israel to do. Love is what he calls all of his followers to do. All the other commandments simply clarify how to do it. And many of those commandments get transformed, get annulled, others get maintained and on future podcasts we’ll consider the significance of this law for Christians. But, in this podcast, what we’re wanting to do over the next four weeks is consider thematically the message of Deuteronomy: as Yahweh’s Plea, as the people’s Problem. and then as Yahweh’s Promise first made and then fulfilled. Those are the four elements that we’re going to walk through. And as we look at the album cover this week, what we see in the first image is a figure who is depicting Moses, lifting up, pointing with the number one. And talking to a very dark-hearted people, a congregation that he has led for forty years and he says they are as rebellious and as stubborn as when he first met them. Forty years later they have not heeded his voice, and yet Moses is lifting up the number one, the number one points to first, the first commandment, as we’re going to see that there shall not be to you any other gods before me. The number one points to the Shema Yahweh, our God Yahweh is one. And there’s implications to that reality as we’re going to see today. So dark-hearted people, dark-hearted congregation, with Moses being among the enlightened remnant and then a few out in the crowd—also enlightened like a Joshua like a Caleb, but the majority of Israel dark in their sin. They are the first recipients of this law and this this law covenant, reaffirmed on the banks of the Jordan River in the land of Moab, reaffirming what God did at Mount Sinai, will ultimately bring their destruction. So this focuses on not only the nature of lasting covenant relationship. But the prospect of lasting covenant relationship. In this first episode, we’re going to focus on the nature, what is at the core of what God was calling Israel to do and to be. And as Jesus is going to reaffirm God’s call for Israel is equally his call for all of Christ’s followers.

TK: I think for a lot of us this image of the dark over the mass crowd here—it goes against what, if we grew up in the church, and hearing stories, it contrasts with what we grew up with, which is thinking that Israel entering into the promised land was a golden age of God’s people and an age of mostly obedience with small incidence of disobedience, almost like things are ascending and getting better all the time. But this picture is not depicting that at all. It’s—when you call it the constitution of a people—it’s a constitution being presented to a people that Moses already knows—you cannot keep this constitution, and you won’t.

The Context: Distant and Unknown Gods

JD: That’s right. And we will see that played out within this book. Israel stubbornness and the challenge of their future. But before we even get there, we want to begin today with the plea. It’s a positive plea in light of a magnificent. God, a plea to heed his words and to love him with all one’s heart, all one’s being. all one’s substance. That’s where we’re going today, to consider this radical call to wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-embracing love for God and love for neighbor that truly permeates this book from start to finish.

TK: All right, so where do you find this plea Jason.

JD: Well, what I want to do first is set a context for these words and it may truly help our people. When many people think of the law they’re thinking, well, that’s burden. But for Israel, this was about freedom. Think about the very beginning of the Ten Commandments. How does it start? It puts it in a context of freedom where it says in Deuteronomy 5:6, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the House of Slavery.” That is, what follows is about freedom rather than about slavery. They’re not in bondage. No, now they are following a new king, a new leader who has freed them from captivity, worldly captivity and is now leading them to a promised land. This is a law that in the very framework of how it’s given, stands in contrast to how all the nations around Israel would have been thinking about the nature of a god’s instruction and the closeness of a god’s presence.

So, what I want to do, I want to start by reading a prayer, and I certainly don’t want our readers to pray it. It’s a prayer out of the ancient world found in the—dated in its, in the document to around the time of Isaiah, so far after Moses, but originally deriving from the very context of Moses’s age. So, it really clarifies the worldview of Israel’s neighbors. And I want to read this prayer, it’s called A Prayer to any God. And I want to read it and ask some questions about the prayer and then immediately go into the book of Deuteronomy and consider Moses’s words. So here is A Prayer to any God. You’re going to hear the desperation in the voice of this penitent one:

“May my lords angry heart be reconciled. May the god I do not know, be reconciled. May the goddess I do not know, be reconciled. May the god, whoever he is, be reconciled. May the goddess, whoever she is, be reconciled. May my personal god’s heart be reconciled. May my personal goddesses heart be reconciled. May my god, may my goddess be reconciled with me. May the god who has turned away from me in anger be reconciled. May the goddess who has turned away from me in anger be reconciled. I do not know what wrong I’ve done. I do not, I could not eat for myself the bread I found, I could not drink for myself the water I found. I have perpetrated unwittingly and abomination to my god. I have unwittingly violated a taboo of my goddess. Oh my lord, many are my wrongs; great are my sins. Oh my god, many are my wrongs, great my sins. Oh my goddess. Many are my wrongs. Great my sins. Oh god, whoever you are, many are my wrongs. Great are my sins. Oh, goddess, whoever you are, many are my wrongs. Great are my sins. I don’t know what wrong I have done. I do not know what sin I have committed. I do not know what abomination I have perpetrated. I do not know what taboo I have violated. A lord has glowered at me in the anger of his heart. A god has made me face the fury of his heart. A goddess has become enraged at me and turned me into a sick man. A god, whoever he is, has excoriated me. A goddess, whoever she is, has laid misery upon me. When I wept, they would not draw near, when I would make a complaint, no one would listen. I am miserable, blindfolded, I cannot see. Turn towards me merciful god as I implore you. I do homage to you, my goddess, as I keep groveling before you. Oh, god, whoever you are, turn toward me. I implore you, Oh lord, turn towards me. I implore you. Oh goddess, look upon me. I implore you. Oh, God, whoever you are, turn towards me. I implore you. Oh, goddess, whoever you are, turn towards me. I implore you. How long Oh god, whosoever you are, until your angry heart is calmed? How long, Oh goddess, whoever you are, until your estranged heart is reconciled? Men are slow witted and know nothing no matter how many names they go by. What do they know? They do not know at all if they are doing good or if they are doing evil. Oh my god, though my wrongs be 7 times 7, absolve my wrongs. Oh my goddess, Though my wrongs be 7 times 7, absolve my wrongs, absolve my wrongs. Let me sound your praises as if you were my real mother. Let your heart be reconciled as if you were my real mother, my real father.” The end of the prayer.

It’s a pathetic prayer filled with emotion filled with drama. There is a deep-seated tension in the life of this prayer, Tom, as you listen. What was the problem? What is what’s at stake? Why is this so—this psalmist, as it were—why is he praying?

TK: Ah boy, your heart goes out to this person, doesn’t it? It just breaks hearing it that. So there is—and by the way, I’ve never heard this before, so I’m just hearing this as I would imagine most of the people listening to this podcast are hearing it. And this person is sick and they know that some god, some who they can’t identify as behind it. And they know they did something that caused it, but they have no idea what it is that they’ve done that did cause it. And so they’re trying, pleading for mercy from a God that they don’t know for deeds that they don’t know, that they did them. And it’s really a shot all over in the dark, so trying to cover every possible base of these myriad of gods, whether it’s way out in the universe, whether it’s he talks about or she that their personal god like that, whether it’s the god that I know. But clearly, this person doesn’t know any of the gods, whether it’s his personal god or the ones out there, because kept keeps referring to gods or goddesses or whatever, and his ignorance and their lack of doing anything about it. Like I said, it makes your heart go out to this person like, oh my, living in this torment all the time. You can just play it out. You have bad crops. You could have the same exact prayer. You have something happene to your daughter, your son, whatever it might be, you are going to be doing the exact same thing. Just pleading with—knowing there’s a world of gods in your mind, there’s a world of gods out there and I can’t do a thing about it, but I must do a thing about it. That’s the hardship.

JD: Right, there is this deep sense that if there is sickness—I mean, think about Job’s three friends. If you’ve got a problem in your life, it’s because you’ve done wrong. You did it.

TK: You did it. Right.

JD: And the challenge is this prayer doesn’t know what he did wrong because the gods haven’t revealed their will to him, and yet he’s confident he’s made some god out there mad, and he’s pleading: I want to be reconciled. And yet he declares, oh, all of men—mankind are ignorant, humans are ignorant to the will of the gods and the gods are distant, distant. Into that context, Deuteronomy chapter 4:6 reads.

TK: And just jump jumping in. Even the part of hope in this prayer that we heard, he calls the gods or the god I can’t remember at that point, but merciful at one point. But that was more of a hopeful wish than, I’ve experienced your mercy before, because he has no idea who he’s talking to.

JD: That’s right. That’s right. He has no idea.

TK: It’s almost like if I called you merciful, it would make you merciful you know, something like that.

Israel’s Wisdom: A God Known and Near, Sustaining Right Order

JD: Right, right, right. It’s into that context that God rescues Israel. It’s—I mean, I just want to remind the listeners, this is a prayer that scholars think is dated to the time of Moses. So it clarifies at least some of the worldview that abounded among the nations. The gods are distant. The gods do not speak. The gods do not clarify, and yet they are quick to punish. They are quick to be wrathful. Into that world we read these words in Deuteronomy chapter 4. This is Moses making his plea, “Keep the statutes and do them, for that will be your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples. Who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is wise and understanding—is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation,” asks Moses, “is there that has a God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call upon him. And what great nation is there that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deut 4:6–8). No other nation on the planet had what Israel had: a God that was near and a God that disclosed his person and his will to them. Indeed, at the end of chapter 4, Moses declares, “Has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation by trials by signs by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes. To you, it was shown that you might know that Yahweh is God; there is no other besides him” (Deut 4:34–35). That is at the heart of the book of Deuteronomy. God is giving Israel an amazing gift in making his will known to them. He is not a God who is from a distance, he’s a God who has entered into space and time, and he’s actually saying follow me, and he is leading them in the path, calling them to follow his ways, to treasure his person, to heed his voice. And insofar as Israel will do that—Moses’s words—keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples, the peoples around Israel, watching, looking. And it’s not just that Israel has a law that distinguishes them. It’s their obedience to the law. Keep them and do them for that will be your wisdom and your understanding. It’s their obedience to the law that was to put the holiness, the greatness of God on display for a world living in darkness. God is light.

TK: Obedience would demonstrate you actually knew the God, and you knew what that God wanted.

JD: That’s right. That’s exactly right. And. It would set Israel apart, and in doing so set Yahweh apart. It would—as Israel would heed God’s voice, recognizing that they have a God who is near, who listens to their prayers. Those are the two elements. What God is there, what great nation is there that has a God so near as we do, whenever we call on him.We have a God who answers our prayers. That’s just amazing. And that’s one of the distinguishing factors of biblical religion. God is not distant. He knows our name. He can count the hairs on our head—everyone matters. And then not only is it that we have a God so near, it’s that we have statutes and rules so righteous as this law. They’re about right order in the world, and right order exists, that’s what righteousness is; it’s about right order. And a rightly ordered world is one where God’s at the top. In fact, that’s the only context for right order. Where we value God, and we value those made in his image. Love, God, love neighbor, that’s right order—that’s a rightly ordered reality. In Deuteronomy 16:20, it actually lays it out exactly that way. We don’t see it in the ESV, but had I translated the verse, it would have explicitly said righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue. That is, pursue aligning with God’s passion for right order, wherein he’s at the top and we value those who also display his image—right order, rightly ordered reality. And so that’s what this book is calling for: keep the statutes in order that you might be a people who display God’s greatness to the world, that you might be a people called on mission. And the book of Deuteronomy sets out to clarify that plea, putting God up front in all things. And showing the implications of that for loving our neighbor, valuing those made in his image. So ultimately, even in loving neighbor, it’s a valuing of God and what he’s created.

TK: So there’s no there’s no category of, I am a righteous man because I love my neighbor, even though I have no category for God. Moses would have zero category for that.

JD: That’s the way of the world to have a world that does not take Yahweh as the causer of all things, the creator of heaven and earth. Turning that aside, you have nothing you’re considered stubborn and rebellious if you do not surrender to God over all, as one distinct unique above all things, the only God in the pantheon of heaven. In fact, that’s where I want to go next. Deuteronomy chapter 5 in Moses’s recollection of the Ten Commandments, the very first of the Ten Commandments opens this way, “There shall not be to you any other God besides me” (Deut 5:7). I want to unpack that. This is a fundamental plea in this book. There shall not be to you any other God besides me. What is Yahweh saying when he says that? The prepositional phrase “besides me,” in Hebrew lifne. whenever we see that preposition, throughout the entire Old Testament, when it has a personal object—where it’s a person that’s referred to as the one before whom we’re talking, it’s not before an object, but before a person—it’s always related to location rather than priority. When we read in the ESV, “You shall have no other gods before me,” we might think that has to do with priority: let God be in first place. And that is a true statement of what is called for, but it’s an implication rather than an actual interpretation of this word, of this statement. What it actually says is there shall not be to you any other god besides me. When you envision the throne room of heaven, do not envision any other god next to me besides me, in my presence. The location is what’s at stake.

TK: So it’s not me saying I love God, but I also love basketball. And I love—like in modern times—And I love this, this, this, but I certainly love God most. You’re saying the text isn’t going even there. For modern people who may not have idol, images of idol. If my thing is but I do make God most important in my life, you’re saying the text isn’t even saying that.

JD: No, it’s not. It is saying when you think of the supreme being from whom, through whom and to whom are all things, you can only think of one. He’s not denying that that there aren’t angels, for example, messengers, spiritual beings that God sends forth to do his bidding in the world. But the declaration is they’re not—they don’t get throne, there is only one throne in heaven, one creator, one judge, one being worthy of all worship. And as we know from the whole of Scripture, that is the trinitarian God, Father, Son, Spirit, Seated on the throne of the universe. There is no other God besides me. So don’t confuse matters by fearing, for example, spirits, and what others might do like we saw in that prayer. There are not multiple gods. There are evil spirits, but they are created, and they are dependent. They can only go as far—they’re like a dog on a leash—they can only go as far as God allows. And one day he will put them down. There is only one chief, supreme being. There is no God besides me. And so out of that, what naturally flows is, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them”—that is, these other gods—“or serve them (these other gods); for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Deut 5:8–9). And I just want to pause there, Tom, and consider that statement. Yahweh is jealous for us to recognize him for who he is. And it is right and necessary and loving for God to be jealous for the sake of his name. Why is it right for him to be jealous that we might not view any other being as holding supreme position? So the implication is naturally, I love him most. I do what I do for his sake. I might do it for other immediate sakes, like I love my wife and I love my children and that is not wrong. But it is—it becomes idolatrous if I love anything other than God, not for God’s glory. Is it justifiable for God to live jealously for the sake of his name, to see his name exalted over all and as we’re going to see in Deuteronomy 6:4 for him to call us—6:5 for him to call us to love him with all, with all that we are. Is God right to be jealous in this way? And I want to say he must be. It is right for him because he’s God, chief over all things. I picture—well it is just he is worthy of the highest praise, of the highest allegiance, and there’s nothing else in the universe that is worthy. It is right for him to call us to heed his voice and to live for him wholly to not picture any other thrones in the universe, because he alone is God, he is God alone.

TK: And the challenge for us as we read about this—so looking in 5 verse 9 and reading about God being a jealous God, and we typically have a category for that when we’re talking with each other and we’d say, yeah, jealousy is something that we would see as wrong among humans. So clearly it must be wrong for God to think that way.

JD: The distinction there is the difference between creature and creator. There is only one creator. There is only one supreme being. We cannot put ourselves above others who are equally created. But the creator rightfully does. Indeed the second element, the creator necessarily does now by this site, that’s he must it. I’m not saying that he has a need, but that he must do it in order to maintain right order in reality. Picture a hand that is lifted high as if it’s as if it’s holding up, what is the highest. If God were to take his other hand and say there is something like, think about the balance right, there is something that is more weighty, more substantive than even me. There is something higher, more worthy of praise. All of a sudden God would stop being God. It is not only right for God to be jealous for the sake of his—for our worship. It is necessary because apart from that, he would no longer be God. The universe would dissolve because everything is upheld by the word of his power. He alone is God, and therefore it is right and it is necessary. He must demand our highest allegiance, because only in such a context is right order maintained. But it is the most loving thing he could do.

TK: I can imagine thinking about the album cover with Moses holding up his hand with one finger lifted up, but if the other hand was holding up something else that was at a similar level of that hand and somebody—some of us have lived this way, like God is the most important to me, but there’s also this. But what we’re saying when we say that—so I can imagine Moses holding up money or food or whatever is they—what we’re saying in that spot is they’re equal therefore, and they have equal sway in my world at least. And you’d say that can’t happen for right order to exist.

JD: That’s right. Anything that seeks to stand alongside of Yahweh, or to trump Yahweh, is opposite of right order. We as creatures, human creatures are called to display his greatness. We’re called to image his likeness, to make much of him to show that he is the king of our lives, to value what he values to hate what he hates, so that he is at the forefront of all that we are. That’s right order, and we are righteous in so far as we align with that structure of right order. And the reality is that all of us have fallen short of displaying the glory of God rightly. We lack this level of glorying in God and because of that we need a savior. We needed someone who would come and perfectly align with right order, whose perfect righteousness—that is alignment with God’s passion for right order, wherein he is at the top—whose righteousness could then be regarded as ours imputed to us, counted as ours, despite of who we are. It’s our failure to align with right order that has demanded the need for a savior. Nonetheless, the call of this book is to align with right order. The bar is set at the highest of levels.

Indeed, well, I’ll just add this final note and then we’ll go into Deuteronomy chapter 6, which is the positively stated command for what is stated negatively in the first word of the Ten Commandments. But I just want to add this, that God’s jealousy for our worship, for our lives, for our affection is the most loving thing this God could do, the most loving thing this God could command, because he alone can save. He alone can save. And he saves those who are for him, whose lives have been humbled and who say, I can’t make it on my own. I need you. I need the provision of the substitute that you supply. I need you. In that desperate state, we are helped and he is magnified as the greatest helper. It is the most loving thing he could do because only in him do we find a savior that can overcome our deepest need. In doing so, it is the most loving thing he could do, because in his presence is full joy at his right hand are pleasures forever more. He wants us to have full pleasure for the longest amount of time and so he is jealous for the sake of his name. It’s not that he’s calling us to lack. No, it’s that we desire too little. We settle too quickly. He’s calling us deeper and higher us up. Higher up to the greatest treasure of our lives. So it’s like that parable of the kingdom where a man found a precious jewel buried in the ground, and he sold everything he had in order to purchase that plot of land because he found a treasure, he found the greatest treasure and it was worth his entire life. And this is why it is not only right and necessary, it is loving for God to be jealous for the sake of his name because he’s calling us in to find our deepest longings in this world. And our deepest help in the brokenness of this world met.

TK: It would, yeah—I think to flip it around, it would be unloving to not elevate himself because mankind would perpetually be in that spot that we read in that prayer that we heard.

JD: That’s exactly right and he has entered in so that we wouldn’t be that way.

Deuteronomy 6: Love God with All

JD: Right, time is ticking, Deuteronomy 6, “Hear, oh Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one” (Deut 6:4). In light of everything we just said I hope that the listener can understand what it means to say that the causer of all things is one.

TK: Before Jason, before you—real quick, can you just tell us why people call this the Shema so that—I think that would help us, just because you mentioned it earlier, but we hear that. So where does that come from?

JD: Shema is the Hebrew imperative, the Hebrew command form for listen, hear. And it’s that word that we see at the very front end of 6:4, hear oh, Israel, listen oh Israel. What does Moses want them to hear? Yahweh, our God Yahweh is one. So that there’s this command up front, open up your ears, let your spiritual senses be awakened to the significance of the oneness of God. So that’s why I said this is a positively stated statement of what Moses already commanded, what Yahweh already commanded in the negative. There shall not be to you any other gods besides me. When you think of the heavenly throne room, think of only one God. There’s only one source of life, one source of help, one source of hope. There is only one judge over the universe. Yahweh is one. There is nothing to match him. No parallel to him. “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” Exodus 34:6. That repetition of Yahweh’s name unpacked there in the context of justice and mercy. It’s all bound up in the same statement. Hear O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. And it immediately overflows if there is only one supreme being, and I’m not him and I’m part of the creation rather than the creator. I’m part of the servants, rather than the king. Then this one who is seated high, way above me, deserves my wholehearted allegiance because of his oneness, that there is only one ultimate, controlling being in the universe, only one.

Then, “You shall love the Lord your God with all” (Deut 6:5). Many people have called this the all commandment because it doesn’t leave any closet—in our own lives—any closet shut. Here’s how broad it is: Love God with all your heart. For Moses, the heart was the seat of everything internal. He could say God hasn’t given you a heart to know him, which means that it’s also—it includes both desires, but also the mental, internal realities. Love him with how you think about life. Love him with all that you desire and long for. Love him with everything internal. That’s the heart. But then he moves one step outward. Love him with all your soul. This is the term going all the way back into Genesis 2:7. It says God shaped this little mountain of mud into the form of a person and he breathed into it the breath of life, and the man became a living soul, creature. That’s what we’re talking about here. This creature that was birthed out of the soil is a living soul. So this is—this includes everything internal, the desires, the longings, the thoughts, the emotions. But it’s more than that now. It includes hands, eyes, noses, tongues, ears. It includes a whole body. And God is saying, don’t only love me with everything internal—your drives and your passions, your worldview—love me with your entire being. Let your taste buds declare my glory. Let your eyes look at the world through the lens of my supremacy. Let your hands be involved in what brings me pleasure and that is, and what is for my namesake. Let all that you are in your being declare Yahweh is one and I love him with all of who I am. Finally, it’s love God with your—in my ESV, it says my might in Hebrew it’s m’oth, and what’s strange, this term shows up 298 times in the Old Testament as an adverb. We see it, for example in Genesis 1:31 when it says and God saw all that he had made was very good, very good. In this instance, though—there’s two instances in the Old Testament, the other one in 2 Kings 23, where we’re told of King Josiah, that he turned to the Lord with all of his heart, with all of his being or his soul, and with all of his m’oth, his very-ness. What would it mean to take this term that usually means an excessive amount, as an adverb, your very-ness, and make it into a noun. I think if we start—if we’re right that love God with everything internal, then love God with all of your being, very-ness must mean everything just one step beyond who I am as a person but that is in some way associated with me. That is all of my substance. We’ve moved beyond my desires. We’ve moved beyond my deeds and all that’s going on in my being. Love him with my body, with my actions to now, we’ve moved to my wardrobe. We’ve moved to my music choices and my movies that I watch. We’ve moved to my property and my vehicle and how I engage everything, my own home. Every—all of my substance is to declare the owner of this has only one God. The father of these children has only one God and he loves God with all. This is full-life encompassing.

TK: You know, we’ve all experienced it, and Jason, I know you as a professor see this with your students. But we get assigned something and we ask, like what are you looking for like on this assignment. And you say I’m looking for a two page paper and I want you to have seven sources, let’s say in it. And you’re permitted to have three mistakes or whatever, whatever it would look like. But in saying if your answer to the student was like if they said that, are you looking for that and say no, I want everything you could ever possibly put into it, all your very-ness into this. That’s what I’m talking about. We don’t have any other thing in life that’s like this actually.

JD: It’s just—it is such a radical call and I think as we would see as we meditated more on Deuteronomy, Israel was to feel the weightiness of this. If you’re going to declare that God is your God, that Yahweh is your king, ultimately that Jesus is your Savior and Lord, it does not allow any part of your life left to not be under his supremacy.

TK: You need ultimate trust to do—to even be willing to go here, you need to trust the one that you would say, Yep, I’ll do that.

JD: Oh my goodness, to think that he is this big and deserves this much, it’s—there is nothing on the planet like you were just saying. There’s nothing that is comparable. The level of life-encompassing, community-embracing, whole-hearted surrender of everything—it is not mine, it is his. Oh, God help us. And this was the life displayed in Jesus, not my will yours be done. I have come to do—I only do the will of my father. And he does it perfectly. This is right order. And this is why we desperately need a savior because of the level of this call. What I want us to see at this point is that Moses is calling Israel to this. He’s not declaring Israel is capable of this. He’s declaring and Jesus affirms in Mark chapter 12, he says “This is the first and greatest commandment, hear oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength” (Mark 12:29–30). When Jesus says that, he brings together both this reality of God’s oneness that Israel is to hear and the call to love with all. And he says that’s one commandment. And if you want to be my follower, if you want to live rightly in this world, that’s what God is calling you to. And that is, that’s the standard and every person reading this should, say oh God I need help. I need you to do something. And that’s where Deuteronomy, following the book of Leviticus is so important, because in Leviticus we’ve already seen laid out for us the provision of a substitute. It’s why Exodus preceding Deuteronomy is so important, because in the exodus we’ve already seen the provision not only of the sacrifices of the Tabernacle—that and temple that we already see lay out in Leviticus—but in Exodus it’s the Passover lamb. It’s that unbelievable provision. That though you are a sinner, I will provide a way and punish one who will stand as your substitute. And the readers of Deuteronomy should have said, oh God, I cannot—I haven’t loved you with all and I can’t love you with all. Help me love you with all. Forgive me. How can you justly forgive? Through the provision of the substitute. That would be the answer for those who had ears to hear.

TK: Right.

JD: Moses continues just unpacking and I think what he does in verses 6 through 9, and this will be the end of our podcast here in six through nine, he simply shows that this call to love is indeed as life-encompassing, internal, whole being, and indeed all of our substance. He says these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut 6:6). That’s where they start these words.

TK: And they can’t—if I’ve embraced it—they can’t help but be that because that actually all of what I am is about this.

JD: This is where it all starts: the heart is the wellspring of life. It begins here and it—and again, this is what’s commanded. Think about Jeremiah 31, where now we learn the law is written on the heart. Here it’s commanded, but it’s going to be promised as something that will be realized in the New Covenant. But here it’s commanded. Get it on your heart, but don’t only leave it there. “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” (Deut 6:7). Oh, I wish I could just meditate on this sometime, we’ll just take time to consider parental discipleship as laid out in Scripture. But here you see this call of repetitive—there is only one God, love him with all—this intentional repetition. And then this unexpected but in all context, reaffirmation. When you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise, that when my kids enjoy a hot fudge Sunday, they recognize kids, what do we have that we haven’t received? This is a gift from the one God and we are to love him with all, to let every bite elevate one octave to the point of praise. But not only that, dad loses his job, when Grandma is on her deathbed, when older sister miscarries there is only one God, kids. There is only one causer of all. One ultimate holder of all things, and though we don’t understand his purposes, our hope alone is in him. There is only one God and we will love him with all. God help us, help us love him with all. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is how it is entire life encompassing, even in a cursed and broken world. A call to shape our children’s worldview where there is only one throne over the universe, one judge, one causer, one supreme being, one helper, one savior. Where else can we go? You alone hold the words of eternal life (John 6:68) even when we don’t understand it.

“Bind them”—these words there is only one God and I will love him with all—“bind it as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deut 6:8). May all that you do and all that you see declare there is Yahweh’s supremacy over all things and your love for him in all things. I think that’s what is being talked about there. When it says bind, it is a sign on your hand so that your actions, and I could argue this within the book, your actions and between your eyes, all your perception is declaring Yahweh’s supremacy over all in our call in our—that we love him with all. Finally, I’m going to alter the ESV here a little bit. “You shall write them in”—sorry—“you shall write them on your doorposts, the doorposts of your house and in your gates” (Deut 6:9). The ESV says on your gates, but the preposition changes and I think it’s very significant. Write them on the doorposts of your house so that every time you leave and anytime anyone comes in, they know what is being testified to in this home is there is only one God and we love him with all. It informs the family worship time, but it also informs the family movie night, the game time, the reactions, the actions, what takes place in here is about a God who is one, supreme over all things and whom we love with all we are. You can open up any closet in this room and you won’t find anything that suggests otherwise. You can watch what happens morning after morning as I choose my wardrobe as I stand in front of the mirror as I talk on the phone as I work on the internet—there is only one God and I love him with all. It’s written on the doorposts of my house. But it’s not only that, it’s in the gates. Don’t picture a picket fence, picture a city gate through which you walk, where the elders of the land sit. The wife of noble character, where does her husband sit? At the city gate among the elders of the land. Where did Boaz go in order to claim Ruth as his wife? He went to the city gate to speak to the elders. This is the place of commerce, the place of law. This is the public square and it’s part of my substance. Everywhere I work, wherever it is, it’s to declare all that I do there is only one God and I love him with all.

This is the plea of this book, and it’s to inform all of life, to impact all of my engagements, all of my shopping, all of my tax paying, all of my music listening all of my ministry, all of my play. There is no place in my life where the all command does not reach, because Yahweh is alone, the one seated on the throne of the universe, who rightfully, necessarily, and lovingly calls for my highest allegiance. And it moves us to recognize where the bar is set, how desperately we need a savior. But how desperately we need a helper, so not only a God who justifies us in Christ, but a God who sent Jesus to actually purchase the power that we might now live for him in ways we never could before, to actually be the people that he’s called us to be. This is the ultimate reading of this book as Christian scripture, gaining clarity on the nature of love, the life encompassing nature, of love for God, and how it’s to overflow, then in love for those made in his image.

TK: I am so glad that we have a God who has made himself known. Where we began today listening to the prayer of this man who is living in a cursed world and trying to find answers and cannot find them. And we have a plea from the one true God saying here it is, right here. I am letting you know, and I am calling you. Even the end of that prayer you read, he was he was calling for God as a mother or father to reach out to him, even though he’d never felt that from his gods before. But here we have God, who is coming to us and saying hear and listen. It’s not for our harm. I’m thinking of Adam and Eve and they get one command at the beginning. And the command is, you will not eat of this. And it’s tied to “For in the day you eat of it, you will surely die.” That was not unloving to tell them that, it was ultimate love to tell them, you cannot, you must not eat of this because it will bring death to you. I am your source of life.

JD: That’s right. That’s right. It reminds me—it pushes me to the very end of chapter 6, “The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always” (Deut 6:24).

TK: He’s not looking to ruin our lives.

JD: Not looking to ruin our ruin our lives. “And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to do all this commandment” (Deut 6:25). As we close out this podcast this week I want the listeners to hear the weight of the law covenant. It will be righteousness if we are careful to do all. This commandment—love God with all your heart, all your being, all your substance. You want to be righteous? It will be declared righteousness for us, it will be righteousness for us if you do all. That was the weighty reality of the Old Covenant. And when it—when that plea meets hard hearts, the goal of righteousness can never be met. It will demand a new work of God to make it possible for righteousness to be realized. In the Old Covenant, the righteousness was the goal, not the ground. It wasn’t the basis of their relationship; it was the result of what would come if they were capable of obeying all. And the beauty of the gospel is that where Israel, the people, failed Israel, the person in the person of Jesus obeyed.

TK: And so the fruit, the fruit of that obedience passes on to all who are in him then.

JD: That’s right. And we will see that as we move ahead in this podcast series. The righteousness that was demanded, the righteousness that would come as a fruit of perfect obedience is secured only through our perfect savior. And we can celebrate him here at the start of this brand new year. May we be a people who celebrate our justification, celebrate a Christ who has come to save us, to declare us right, where we were unable. Then to step back and say not only did Jesus die to justify, Jesus died to sanctify, and this call to love God with all knowing now that we have a God who is 100% for us, may it motivate us deeper in and higher up.

TK: Amen. Well, Jason, next week, this was the plea—love God and because of that love neighbor—next week we’re going to talk about the problem and the problem is directly related to the plea. Is that what we’re called—what Israel was called to do, they could not. They could not do it. They had a disability.

JD: That’s right. We will meditate on that more. See you next week, Tom.

TK: All right, bye.

JY: Thank you for joining us for Gear Talk. If you haven’t done so already, go to our show notes and download the album cover for our month in Deuteronomy. This week we covered the plea. Next week we’ll focus on the problem. For more information about Hands to the Plow, visit Follow us on Instagram @HandstothePlowMinistries. Also be sure to visit our YouTube page.