Sunday, April 25, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 3 - Dream a Dream

  I’ve shared this story before, but over a decade ago I had this dream. I was sweeping out a garage of a house in a neighborhood. It was a house I had never lived in, but in the dream I knew it was my house. The driveway was sloped up to the garage, and I had just finished cleaning the whole thing out and making it look nice. It was a spring day, and the sun was out, but it wasn’t hot. That’s when I saw it, a snake making its way into the garage. I didn’t panic, but instead, started poking the snake with the broom in my hand. I played around with the snake for a while and then I woke up. In the moment I woke up God spoke to me and I knew the dream was more than just regular dream. I knew in that moment that the dream meant something more. The house was me, my life. It was cleaned out, and looked good, on both the outside and the inside. The snake was sin, and instead of getting rid of the snake as soon as I saw it, I played with it. This is where God revealed to me that though he had saved me and made me clean, I was playing with sin in my life. 

Since that moment, I have understood that God still gives dreams today that can reveal something that he desires us to know.

This brings us back into our Gospel of Matthew series where we’ll be picking it back up in Matthew chapter 1, starting in verse 18. And as we open up to Matthew 1:18, let’s recap our first two weeks in our series. 

So far in our Gospel of Matthew series, we’ve talked about understanding the background and history of the Scriptures. In the first week we talked about knowing the human author that God used to bring about this Gospel. We walked away with the understanding that by knowing more about the author, we can better understand the way in which he writes. Because Matthew was both a Jew and a close disciple to Jesus, we talked about how we need to understand the Jewishness of Jesus as we read through Matthew’s writing. 

In the second week we talked again about understanding the background and history of what has been written, because even though it’s easy to quickly overlook the genealogies that the Bible presents, they actually contain valuable insight into both the salvation work of God and the trustworthiness of God’s Word. 

With that fresh in our minds, let’s open up to Matthew chapter 1, starting in verse 18 and read together.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

This passage is the start of the Christmas story in Matthew. But it’s approached differently than in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke’s Gospel the emphasis in on Mary, but in Matthew’s Gospel the emphasis in on Joseph. The reason for this is probably because we just got done reading through Jospeh’s genealogy. We are following the adopted father of Jesus’ story. This is one of the reasons why having multiple Gospel accounts is important. By having Matthew focus mostly on Jospeh, and Luke focusing mostly on Mary, we get a more well rounded account of the whole situation. In addition to that, we get insight into why Matthew focus’ on Jospeh; this is because the Hebrew line follows the male descendant. This plays into first born and inheritance practices for the Jewish culture. 

But what happens to Jospeh in this passage? A lot of the time we tend to focus on the angel’s words in verses 20 and 21 about a son being born to Mary even though she is a virgin. Then we follow up these words, by focusing on Matthew’s own commentary in verses 22 and 23, that what the angel said was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. 

Because this part of the passage gets so much attention, due to its connection with Christmas, I think that a simple understanding that we can take away from it, is that that Matthew is, again, helping us understand that God fulfills his spoken word. We saw this in the genealogies, and we see it again here with Matthew taking time to reveal it to us. 

But it’s here that I think we need to notice something else that is happening. Matthew lets us know that Jospeh has this encounter with the angel in a dream. This is different than Mary’s encounter with an angel (Luke 1:26-38), where the angel physically shows up. This reveals something very important. See a lot of the time there tends to be a disconnect for us Christians between the Old and New Testaments. Our reading of the Bible tends to focus on the New Testament, and the idea can develop that it’s for us as Christians, and the Old Testament is for the Jews.

Yet what the Holy Spirit reveals here, is that God consistently works in similar fashion throughout history. Dreams are an extremely important way in the Old Testament by which divine proclamations, or insights are given to humanity. Mathew is showing us that God still is working through dreams, which helps connect the New Testament work of God to his work in the Old Testament.

Let me given a few examples of this work in the Old Testament.

In Genesis 20, Abraham meets a man by the name of Abimelek. Being that Abraham’s wife was really pretty, Abraham told Abimelek that she was his sister. This was to save Abraham from being killed and his wife being taken anyway. So the Scriptures say that Abimelek takes her, which literally means to have as a wife for the marriage bed. But before he consummates the marriage, God comes to Abimelek in a dream and we get this back and forth between the two starting in verse 3 of Genesis chapter 20. Let read through the encounter, “3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, ‘You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.’

“4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.’

“6 Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.’”

Even though Abraham is deceitful in this moment, almost causing another man to sin against God, God intervenes through the dream to make sure that Abimelek did not sin. This is an example of God using dreams to give insight into a situation for a human’s benefit. 

Later on in the Bible, in the book of Judges chapter 7, Gideon is called by God to attack an army, but Gideon is afraid. So, God tells him to go to his servant’s tent and listen. And so, starting in verse 13 of Judges chapter 7, we get this, “13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. ‘I had a dream,’ he was saying. ‘A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.’ 14 His friend responded, ‘This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.’”

In the next verse we get Gideon’s response. “15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’”

God sending a dream to the friend of Gideon’s servant, gave strength and confidence to Gideon as he was called out to battle. This is an example of divine revelation being given out, so that encouragement could occur for the people that God called to action.

The final Old Testament example I want to given you is in 1st Kings chapter 3. Early in the life of Solomon, God came to him in a dream and had this interaction, “5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’

“6 Solomon answered, ‘You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “‘Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’

“10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.’”

In this dream, God comes to the new king of Israel and asks him what blessing would he like from God. Solomon asks for wisdom, and because he does, God blesses him with wealth and honor greater than any king living at that time. In this dream we see God using it as a point of interaction where he gives out a blessing on a human. 

In each of these situations, God uses dreams to bring about different outcomes. For one it was so he wouldn’t sin, for another it was for encouragement, and for another it was a blessing. These are just some of the instances of God using dreams. We haven’t even mentioned the dream and interpretations of both Jospeh and Daniel, or the other dreams that are given in the Old Testament. 

We must understand dreams are an important Old Testament vehicle, in which God reveals divine proclamations, or gives insights to humanity. And here in Matthew’s opening chapter, we see that God again is using this Old Testament device to reveal something to Jospeh. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel is the only place in the New Testament that we get God revealing things by dreams. In other parts of the New Testament we see that God uses another vehicle of revelation called visions. The basic difference between the two, is that your awake for a vision and asleep for a dream. 

It’s only in Matthew’s Gospel where we get revelation by way of dreams. Jospeh gets four dreams himself. First, the one we read about taking Mary to be his wife. Then in chapter two we get the need to escape from Egypt (v.12), the return from Egypt (v.19) and the need to live in Galilee (v. 22). In addition to Jospeh receiving dreams, two other parties receive dreams as well. The first is the Magi in chapter 2 verse 12, and the second is Pilate’s wife in chapter 27 verse 9. God gives these dreams at the beginning and end of Jesus’ life.  And these dreams are give to non-Jewish people, showing us, like in the genealogies, that God’s salvation work is for all of humanity. 

The only two times that dreams are mentioned again in the New Testament is once by Peter in Acts 2:1, where he tells the people that God gives dreams as a part of God’s pouring out his Spirit on his people. The other time is when Jude writes a warning to the Church that tells them to be on the lookout for people who relay on false dreams to push their agendas (1:8).

By showing us that dreams were a part of Jesus’ birth story, Matthew helps us understand that God’s work in the Old Testament, is carried over into the New Testament. That what we divide into two Testaments is one overarching story of God’s work to bring humanity out of its sin and back to its Creator. 

This should give us a moment of pause, to examine ourselves and ask do I do this? Do I separate the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament from each other. Do I look at the Old Testament as something that isn’t of value? We must realize that the God of the Old, is the God of the New. 

It’s easy to separate the work of God form the Old and New Testaments, but all of God’s Word and work is for our benefit, and we must recognize that it all works together.

Paul states in 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

When Paul writes this, the Scriptures he’s referring to are the Old Testament Scriptures. And Matthew shows us that there is no disconnect between the two. He does this through showing us the fulfillment of prophecy, and through the work of God in dreams.  

This week I want to challenge you to read through the dream accounts of Jospeh (Genesis 37-41) and Daniel (1-7), comparing and contrasting what God was doing in each of the dreams, and how God brings about his divine proclamations and insights to humanity.

Let us be people who seek the work of God in our own lives. The work that he has been doing since the beginning of time and into today. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 2 - The Ancestry

  How many of you have a paper, or a book, or something like it that tells your family tree? Personal my family doesn’t have such a thing that I know of. In fact in my family, our extended family isn’t something that we have a lot of contact with. For a good chunk of my life all I knew was one of my grandfathers and a few cousins. There’s a lot of hurt and family issues that lead to my core family not having a lot to do with my extended family, so the family tree wasn’t a big deal growing up. But there are people that have an extended family trees that they can trace back hundreds of years. 

In fact, the trend of online groups that will help you look for connections in your family tree has only grown in the past decade. Places like, 23 and me, and a host of others seek to help people connect with their ancestry. 

And it’s this idea of family trees, or as the Bible puts it genealogies, that brings us back into our Matthew series, where we’re going to jump into our first week of studying the book. So let’s start at Matthew chapter 1 verse 1. Now as we start in chapter 1 of Matthew, this is probably the first or second most skipped over section of Scripture in the New Testament. The only other one that could beat it, is Luke chapter 3, which is another genealogy of Jesus. And I think the reason that we tend to skip over genealogies is that in our culture, extensive genealogies aren’t that interesting. Instead we’re interested in the highlights of family trees. 

Take me for example, I know very little about both sides of my parents’ lineage. I’ve been told that we get our last name from a piece of land in England called Holcomb, that was taken by William the Conquer. I’ve been told that on my dad’s mom’s side that when the Scotts were fighting the English, an Irishman came over to help and was given the land of Buchanan as a thank you. To which I am related to the 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan. And all I know of my heritage on my mom’s side, is that my grandfather is from the island of Madeira off the Portugal coast, hence his last name was Maderios. There’s a little more, but that’s about it. Just some highlights.

Now, for us as individuals, our ancestry might be really interesting, but for others, maybe not so much. And I think that’s why we just want to hit the highlights, and skip over the things that don’t seem all that important. But for the Bible, genealogies are extremely important, because they set the historical background of how and through whom, things come about. And as we saw from last week, the understanding of the historical background of the Bible, helps us better understand just what God intended us to know.

So as we jump into Matthew chapter 1, verses 1-17, the way we’re going to approach this is by hitting some highlights of the genealogy and how God put it together. Hopefully by the end of today, you’ll see the importance of it, and dive deeper into for yourselves this week.

Now, we’re not going to read through the whole thing for two reasons: first, time and the second, you don’t need to see how good I am at saying biblical names. I don’t want to make others feel bad on how good I am, and how poor some of these scholars are in how they pronounce these names. So instead, will hit some especially important names and how Matthew ties all of this together. 

But first I want us to drop down to verse 17 and read this verse, so we can get it out of the way quickly. Verse 17 reads, “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.”

Here’s the reality, technically speaking, there are more than fourteen generations between each of these. In Hebrew numbering, round numbers are ideal. For a modern example, when I go out to eat, to figure up the tip, I round up to the nearest dollar amount and then proceed to figure out what 10% is, then I double that to get 20% and from there I decide if I want to go up more. Round numbers make things easier, and the Hebrews were all about making things easier. This is referred to as idealized numbers. So Matthew is using a common Hebrew way of dividing three eras of genealogies into acceptable Hebrew numbering. The three eras that Matthew divides Jesus’ genealogy into are, theocracy, monarchy, hierarchy. 

Now let’s highlight some of the names that Matthew gives us. The first four are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah. These first four names establish Jesus all the way to the patriarchs of the Hebrew people. This lets the reader know that Jesus can trace his linage all the way back to Abraham through the fourth son of Jacob, which is Judah. This is important, because it brings us to the root of the Hebrew people in Abraham, and gives us Jesus’ tribal heritage in the person of Judah.  

But then we get a strange name, Tamar. This is the first of four names of women that Matthew sights, which isn’t customary to see in a Hebrew genealogy. Since this isn’t customary, we need to realize that the inclusion of these women is very important for both Jesus’ heritage and God’s overall plan. So let’s talk about each of the four women.

In Genesis 38, we get Tamar’s Story. Tamar was given as a wife to Judah’s oldest son Er. Er died without any sons, and as custom Tamar was given to the next oldest son. The next son died, again with no heirs, so Judah the father promised his third son to Tamar when he was old enough, but never delivered on this promise. Years later Tamar indulged Judah’s lust and slept with him, without him knowing that it was his daughter-in-law. Later when Judah heard that Tamar had prostituted herself and became pregnant, he became indignant and order that she be killed. That’s when Tamar revealed that it was Judah who was the one she prostituted herself to, and became pregnant by. In the biblical account, Judah makes this comment, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah (shell-a) (Genesis 38:26).” Tamar eventually gives birth to twins, with the first being Perez (Pee-rez), Jesus’ ancestor.

The next woman is Rahab, and we get her story in the second chapter of Joshua. Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho when two Israelite spies came to gather intel on the city. Rehab recognized that the God of Israel was going to give victory to the Hebrews over her city, and so she helped keep them safe from the guards that were looking for them. Rehab and her entire family was saved, and brought into the nation of Israel as the wife of Salmon (Sa-mon).

Our third woman is Ruth and her story is told through an entire book of the Bible, the Book of Ruth: A woman named Naomi, her husband and two sons went to the land of Moab during a great famine in Israel. Naomi’s husband died and she married her two sons to two Moabite women. After ten years, the two sons died without heirs, and she released her daughter-in-laws to return to their families, and she would be returning to hers. Ruth decided to stay with her mother-in-law and worked as she could as a poor widow in the grain fields. Eventually she befriended and married a man named Boaz, an Israelite man and family member to her deceased husband.

Finally, we’re given the last woman’s name as, Uriah’s Wife, which is Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. It’s interesting that Matthew doesn’t give us her direct name. I think this might be Matthew emphasizing the way in which her son Solomon came to be born. The story goes as, King David did not go to off to war with his army and instead stayed behind in his palace. One night he saw a woman bathing on her roof, he sent for her, slept with her, and she became pregnant. To cover all this up, David tried to get the woman’s husband Uriah, to come back from war and sleep with her. But he refused and David sent him to the front lines where he was killed. David took Bathsheba as his wife, and their first baby died. Their second child was Solomon, who became the king after David.

These four woman show us God’s redemptive work, not just for the nation of Israel, but for the world as a whole. Tamar was more than likely a Canaanite woman and not a Hebrew, but Rahab and Ruth definitely were not Hebrew woman. God’s intentional inclusion to make these women a part of Jesus’ linage, points to the inclusion of God’s work for not just the Hebrew people, but all peoples. Bathsheba being included, speaks to God’s redemption of our sin. Thereby pointing us to this understanding that no matter who you are, or what you’ve done, salvation is available for you. This makes the words of Paul in Romans 8:28, all the more poignant. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God purposefully placed these women in the linage of Jesus, leading Matthew to include them uncustomary in this genealogy so that we may see the redemptive work of God in every aspect of Jesus’ life, even his family tree.

One finally highlight we need to see are some of the kings mentioned. I want to point out two briefly. There’s David, and Jechoniah (Jek-o-niah). What’s important here is David’s line. In 2 Samuel 7:16, God tells David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” And in Jeremiah 23:5-6, God states through the prophet, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”

In both these prophetic passages of the coming Messiah, God reveals that the Messiah must be in David’s line. But there’s a problem, Jechoniah. Jechoniah inherited the kingdom of Judah from his father, who lost a war against King Nebuchadnezzar, through which the father became a vassal king of Babylon. Eventually though, the father rebelled against Babylon, won a brief independence, but died soon after. Jechoniah took the throne at age eighteen and the Scriptures tell us in 2 Kings 24:9 that, “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done.” Within three months of Jechoniah’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar came, took back Jerusalem for himself, and brought the line of David into captivity, officially ending the Israelite monarchy. This is where the prophet Jeremiah prophesies these words in chapter 22 of his book, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah (Jeremiah 22:30).’” 

How can God both give David’s throne to a descendant and keep it from his offspring at the same time? God does this in two ways. First, Jospeh adopts Jesus, therefore Jesus is not a biological son. This fulfills the curse on Jechoniah’s line. The second way that God fulfills this is through Jospeh’s other half of his linage. In Luke 3:31 we’re told that Joseph is also connected to David through David’s son Nathan. On the one hand the curse is fulfilled in Jesus, because of his adoption, and on the other hand, Jesus fulfills the promise of God that a descendant of David would be the Messiah. In both cases, both through Jechoniah and Nathan, God fulfills his curse and his promise. 

In just what we have highlighted today, we can walk away with two reasons why the genealogies of the Bible are important. First, it gives us insight into the redemptive work of God throughout the ages. Every person that God writes down in his word, is a person that had some role in bringing about his salvation work. Some of those people followed God closely as Uzziah did; others did horrible things like Rehoboam. Yet, God worked through both to bring about his salvation work through Jesus. This should give us a realization that I am responsible for my own walk with God. I can learn from those who have come before me, and I can set an example for those that will come after me, but in the end, I must chose for myself to follow God.

The second reason why genealogies are important, is that is shows us God’s trustworthiness. God uses genealogies to connect people throughout time to show how a promise given to one, is fulfilled in another. In Jesus we see both a curse and a promise fulfilled in his genealogy. This should help us trust in God’s Word all the more. That what he says will come to pass, does. So when God says we are sinners, that’s true. When God says we can’t do enough good to fix our sin, he’s right. And when God’s Word says we need to accept Jesus as our Savior and walk with him, he’s trustworthy and we must. 

The genealogies in God’s Word open up a window to the salvation work of God throughout the centuries. So this week I want to challenge you to go through each of the names in Matthew 1:1-16 and discover who these people are. People God used to bring about Jesus. As you learn about each, be on the lookout to see how each was used in God’s salvation work. There are about 40 names listed in Jesus’ genealogy, which by the way is an interesting fact on its own, so I want to challenge you to research at least ten of those names apart from the ones we talked about today.

Because even though it’s hard to read through the genealogies given in Scripture, they are threads that connect the work of God through the centuries. Let us be a people that honor those that have come before us, because like them, if we have placed our trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are a name in the genealogy of Jesus, adopted sons and daughters in the line of the King. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 1 - The Author

  One of my favorite series of books are the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In fact, I love the whole world that Tolkien created. From Hobbiton to Mordor, to the Western shores, I love the depth of the lore and world building that the books contain. In fact I’ve read all the published books of Tolkien and some of the books that were prepared by his family through his notes. I’ve also listened to lectures on the background of how Tolkien brought together his world. From the lush country sides of England’s rolling hills for Hobbiton, to the smoke towers of London for Mordor. The world that surrounded Tolkien became the world that Bilbo and Frodo lived in. 

It’s the same for all great writers. The more you know about the author, the greater insight into their writings you get. From John Bunyan’s time spent in prison because he stood firm in his Christian faith coming out in Pilgrim’s Progress, to C.S. Lewis’ fascination with ancient myths that come alive in his Chronicles of Narnia series. The author behind the writings, gives insight into the writings themselves. 

And it’s this idea of knowing the person behind the writings that brings us to our summer series where we are going to be taking this summer, and most likely next summer, to go through the Gospel of Matthew. I say we might be taking two summers to go through Matthew, because it took us two summers to go through the Gospel of Mark. Mark only contains sixteen chapters, while Mathew has 28. 

As we open up into Matthew, for some of you, today might feel a little unneeded. We’re going to take this week so that we can walk through the background of the Gospel of Matthew. We’re doing this so that we can have a better understanding of the Gospel as we make our way through it. At first this might seem like a waste of time, but by the end, I hope that you will see why this is so necessary.

First, let’s talk about the author. In the book Ecclesiastical History the historian Eusebius quotes an early church father named Origen. Origen lived toward the end of the second century and is quoted as saying, “Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts of Judaism (6:25).”

Though the author of the Gospel of Matthew never states their name, since the second century the Church has held that not only was the Apostle Matthew the author, but it was the first of all the Gospels written. Without getting into all the scholarly work, we just need to know that even today, Matthew is the accepted author of the writing. He has all the necessary qualifications to write the account, being a tax collector for Rome and the insight needed to tell the story, being both a Jew and an eyewitness to the events.

Understanding that Matthew is the author helps us place the writing of the Gospel. Matthew is traditionally said to have died in the city of Nadabah, in Ethiopia, around 60AD ( That means that the latest we can have the writing would be 60AD; with scholars placing it earlier roughly between 50-55AD.

Knowing that Matthew is the author also helps us understand the purpose behind the writing. As we read from Eusebius earlier, Origen states that the the purpose was to help Jewish converts to Christianity. And as we walk through the Gospel of Matthew we will see the hard work that Matthew has done to bring out the Jewishness of Jesus. A reader of the Gospel cannot not miss the Jesus who is both the Savior of humanity from sin, and the long awaited Jewish Messiah of the Old Testament. Every verse of Matthew’s Gospel brings out the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the person of Jesus. From the opening genealogy to the final commission. Each page contains the bridge from the God at work in Israel’s past, to how he worked through the person of Jesus, and how that work is to continue into the future.

In fact, Matthew not only shows how the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus, he organizes his Gospel in line with the writings of the Old Testament. A parallel in how Matthew structures his writing can be found in the book of Deuteronomy. Matthew structures his Gospel around five primary discourses or sermons that Jesus gives. This is fashioned after the six sermons of Moses that the book of Deuteronomy is structured around. The purposeful connection in structure with a Mosaic book, is just another way Matthew brings out the fulfillment of the Jewish Messiah in Jesus. 

Finally, let’s touch briefly on the place that Matthew wrote his Gospel. Some scholars place the writing in Antioch, which was the first heavily non-Jewish church of the region. This is possible because Antioch had some problems with Jewish believers trying to get the Gentiles to follow the Jewish law and customs. This could have been a reason for Matthew to sit down and show how Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law, which in turn would help the Jewish believers let go of the traditions that were no longer necessary as they pursued the grace of Jesus that was the fulfillment of the law of Moses. Because of this we can understand that by Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament Law, the grace of God is better seen in our own lives. As Matthew walks us through, point by point, the requirements of the law, we see how great the grace of God is through the cross at the end. 

But why did we just take a good portion of our time to look at the background of Matthew? Something that is very easy to do is to forget that God purposefully used certain people, at certain times, in certain places, to communicate his Word. Because of that, we must try to keep the books of the Bible in their rightful place. Matthew needs to be understood in the moment of time it was written. We cannot approach any part of Scripture from our own point in history, because when we do, there’s the good chance that we will read things into the text that were never intended to be there. If we do not try and place the Scripture in the time that God ordained it to be written in, we can make the writing say anything we want to. 

Let me give you a recent example. In Genesis 3:1-4 we get this interaction between Eve and the serpent, “1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”’ 2 The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’ 4 ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. 5 ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

The common interpretation of this passage is that the death that God is speaking about is not instantaneous death. In other words, God’s intention, when he says, “…you will certainly die (Genesis 2:17b)…” is not that Adam and Eve would die immediately upon eating the fruit of the tree; as if one bite would drop them down dead.

But in a sermon given on February 25 in 2018 a man by the name of Branden Robertson takes this interaction and says that because Eve didn’t instantaneously die, that the serpent was telling the truth and God was the liar ( Robertson interprets this passage with God being the liar, because later on in his sermon, he makes the idea of truth, mean whatever we personally want it to mean. But his interpretation flies in the face of other Scripture passages such as Numbers 23:19 where Moses states, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Or Titus 1:2 where Paul states, “…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…”

But Robertson has an agenda that must be upheld at all cost, and to do so, he must change the interpretation of God’s Word to fit his beliefs. We must stay away from this. So, even before we jump into the Gospel of Matthew, let’s put it where God placed it.

When we understand the Scriptures as God placed them, by understanding the who, what, when, where, why, and how of it, then we will be better prepared to understand how God’s Word applies to our lives today.

In chapter 4 of Hebrews, the writer says this about God’s Word, “12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

One of God’s purposes for his Word is to help us come closer to him. God’s Word divides us from the world and all its trappings, so that we are brought into conformity with God’s will. But in order for God’s Word to work the way he intended it, we must allow it to speak for itself. I don’t know if you had this issue with kids, but we would constantly be telling our daughters not to speak for our son. That he needed to speak for himself so that we could understand what he wanted or needed. It’s the same with God’s Word. We must not manipulate the Word of God with our preconceived 21st century thoughts, but rather understand it the way God intended it. If we can do that, we will be transformed by it into the people that God created us to be. 

This week I want to challenge you to explore who Matthew is. Who is this man that God used to write this Gospel that we will be studying for the next two summers. A couple of places to read about Matthew is in Mark 2:1-17, and Luke 5:27-32. An interesting thing is, Matthew doesn’t tell us his own conversation story. One reason I think this is, is because Matthew’s emphasis is on the Jewish Messiah, and him being a take collector for the Romans might detract from that. 

But take this week and learn about Matthew from his conversion story, in the other Gospels so that when we come back next week, we’re ready to dive into his Gospel with a better understanding of who God used to write this part of his Word, for the purposes that we will explore.

In doing this, we will be a people brought closer to Christ and more inline with his will. Amen.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Academic Study of Deuteronomy 6:1-25

 Main Idea

In the following paper I have been assigned the pleasure of exploring the book of Deuteronomy with a focus on chapter 6. In this paper, I will be exploring the historical/cultural background of Deuteronomy, examining its literary vein, and drawing several theological implications from the passage.

The book of Deuteronomy can be sectioned into at least four parts: A review of Israel from Sinai to Moab (ch. 1-4), a deeper understanding of the Law (ch. 5-26), ramifications of the covenantal relationship (ch. 27-30), and Moses’ final gestures (31-34). We can break down our passage, Deuteronomy 6, into three parts: The God of the Covenant (v. 1-4), the implementing God’s word (v.5-9), and a reminder of what God has done for Israel (v.10-25).

As we enter into this paper, we must seek to understand, not necessarily everything that God has in his word, but rather everything that he desires to show us from this brief engagement with it. I pray that this paper will deepen the reader’s insight into the book of Deuteronomy and that God would draw them close to himself through it. Amen.


“’eḥāḏ Yahweh ’ĕlōhênū yiśrā’êl šəma’ ūḇəḵāl ləḇāḇəḵā bəḵōl ’ĕlōheḵā Yahweh ’êṯ wə’āhaḇtā mə’ōḏeḵā ūḇəḵāl nap̄šeḵā” 

“4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The Shema, is one of the most recognizable prayers of the Jewish people. The Jewish website,, refers to the Shema as, “…the centerpiece of the daily morning and evening prayer services and is considered by some the most essential prayer in all of Judaism.” This simple prayer relays God's fullness and the relationships he desires to have with humanity in both a simplistic and extraordinary way. This simple prayer reverberates across the Scriptures and into today, as all God’s people are called to this confession of who this Holy God is.

Yet this prayer comes within a setting that brings into focus the entirety of who God is and how his people are to relate to him. Within the greater context of the verses, chapters, and books of Scripture that surround this prayer, seekers of God genuinely learn what it means to be in relationship with the One who called all that we see into existence.

The following paper explores this greater context focusing primarily on the chapter in which it is found, Deuteronomy 6:1-25. Through a historical exploration, we will come to understand the location in which the first hearers resided. We will seek to answer questions such as, what does the title mean, who is the author, when was the book written, and where do we find it in the course of human history?

After exploring this passage's historical context, we will then turn our attention to its literary compilation. The Scriptures are full of different literary structures and devices. We will seek to navigate the literary categories that we find in both the book and in Deuteronomy 6:1-25. This navigation will take us to this chapter’s place in the overall canon of Scripture, the genre(s)  in which the writing resides, and a brief look at the book’s structure on both a macro and micro scale. As we understand how the chapter is brought together from literary regard, we will understand how the first hearers would have understood its first recitation. 

Finally, we will explore the theological implications of the passage, walking through the centuries, analyzing how the passage has been understood to our faith's forerunners and into our modern day. After we have exhausted our time together, we will apply that theology into our own lives so that we may walk as James the half-brother of Jesus called us to, “22…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

Let us therefore walk in the footsteps of men and women who have pursued the calling of God in their lives, that we may know the Holy One of Israel, the Lord who is God, the Lord who is one.

Historical & Cultural Background

As we begin, let us first turn our attention to the historical and cultural background of the book of Deuteronomy. In my own studies, I have come to know this as a macro or panoramic view. Stepping back from the text to get a bird's eye view of the context helps us understand the place in which the writing originated. We must work to rid ourselves, as best we can, of our current historical setting, and modern ideas. We must seek not to layer our place in history onto the text, and therefore start off on the wrong foot, misinterpreting that which we strive to see more clearly. 

Therefore in this section, we shall seek to understand the author and the title was given to the writing, briefly identifying both the traditional view and the more layered view. After we have understood the author, we will turn our attention to the date of the writing, again, looking at both the traditional and layered views. Finally, in this section, we will look at the setting of the writing, both in the general environment of the book in which we find ourselves and the specific environment of the passage within its historical place.

First, the authorship and dating of Deuteronomy need to be addressed as one thought. Traditionally Deuteronomy is considered to be written by Moses roughly around 1400 B.C. The first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, are all traditionally attributed to Moses throughout his leading of the Israelite people starting roughly around 1446 B.C. Some scholars disagree, believing Deuteronomy was written sometime in the seventh or fourth century before the common era. Walter C. Kaiser points out one such theologian is Wilhelm M.L. de Wette (1780-1849).

Scholars like Kaiser and Richard S. Hess reject this idea based upon vassal treaties found in the ancient Near East during the second millennium.  Elmer L. Towns also rejects this idea of an author other than Moses by pointing to Moses’ “spiritual insight…legal mentality, and…leadership qualities.” Towns also points to Jesus and the New Testament writers who reference Deuteronomy as being written by Moses. For our purposes here, we do not need to go any more in-depth with this topic; instead, agreeing with Kaiser, Hess, and Towns that the author is, in fact, Moses. Yet we must also understand that there might be additional authors who have fine-tuned the writing, such as we see in Deuteronomy 34, where it chronicles Moses's death, something that Moses himself most likely did not pen. 

With the author and date of the writing before us, let us now turn to answer the question, Why is it called Deuteronomy?” The word Deuteronomy is the Greek word Deuteronomion, which is literally translated as “second law.” But as Irving L. Jenson, in his book, Jensen's Survey of the Old Testament, comments, “This latter title came from the Septuagint’s mistranslation of the phrase ‘a copy of this law’…”. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. agrees with Jenson's assessment of the Septuagint’s mistranslation as second law, rather than what Deuteronomy truly is, a copy of the law already given to the Israelite people. As Kaiser points out, “In Hebrew, Deuteronomy starts with, “these are the words”; therefore it was simply called Debraim, “The Words.’” Though our modern title of Deuteronomy is a is a mistranslation, we should not concern ourselves too much with it. The reason for this is found in the New Testament writers, who do not seek to name specific books of the Old Testament. Since the New Testament writers do not put forth any disagreements with the Septuagint’s titling, neither should we concern ourselves with it.. Instead, let us turn our attention to the historical setting of the book.

With the author and date of the writing understood, and its title fixed in our minds, we now turn to examine the book's setting and passage. Scholars Paul R. House and Eric Mitchell note, "When Numbers ends, a new generation has emerged. Raised in the desert, this group seems determined to avoid their parent's mistakes. Moses is determined to prepare them for entry into the land.” As observers of historical events, we find ourselves between two eras when we come to Deuteronomy. At this point, Israel has come out of the land of Egypt, where they had lived for hundreds of years. Roughly forty years before this point in history, the generation that saw the great works of God, had rejected his call for them to take the land of Canaan.

As we open Deuteronomy, that generation who had rejected God’s call, has now died off. Their sons and daughters now stand poised to receive the land promised to the people when Moses first brought them to hope in Exodus 4:29-31. At this moment between eras, scholar Paul N. Benware writes, “The book of Deuteronomy complements Numbers; it does not advance the story of the Old Testament.” Benware’s observation that Deuteronomy is a book that does not advance the Old Testament story, but rather gives us a bridge that brings together two generations, helps us understand the cultural situation the first hearers were in when Moses first spoke these words. On this bridge between generations, we see one generation that was unfaithful, and the other that would go on to be faithful.

At this point of understanding the moment between eras, we can now look to the location in which this moment takes place. Benware rightfully recognizes Israel's location as it gathers to hear what would become the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is bookended with locational markers. In the first chapter, we read, "These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea." When we come to the end of Deuteronomy, we read the following in the last chapter, "Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho." And so, in this moment between eras, the people of Israel wait on the eastward side of the Jordan River. They are on the brink of a new chapter in Israelite history, both in terms of their physical location and their spiritual readiness to follow God. It is here that the book of Deuteronomy unfolds in their midsts as they enter into the land that God had promised.

Finally, in the opening chapters of the book, we get a summation of Israel's history. In this summation we see Moses purposeful connect the current generation and those that came before them. House and Mitchell write, “Moses first reminds the nation of their history (Dt 1-4). Even though this generation did not participate in the events of the Exodus 1- Numbers 20, Moses says ‘you’ chose spies, rebelled against God and so on…”  House and Mitchell point out that Moses links the current generation to that of the previous one to spur them to follow God's commands and walk in the obedience that their parents did not. It is after Moses’ summation of Israel’s history and connecting the two generations, that we find chapter 6. 

We find Deuteronomy at the point of transition when the generation that failed is left behind, and a new generation is called to succeed. When the nation's leadership would transition from Moses, the leader of the Exodus, to Joshua, the conqueror of Canaan. When the people of God would move from a transient population to one with a land of their own. This historical point of transition now turns our attention to the Literary Structure of the book and passage that we are exploring.

Literary Structure

Now that we have looked at the historical setting of Deuteronomy 6:1-25, we turn our focus to the literary structure of both the book and the passage. In a brief analysis of Deuteronomy 6, we will proceed to look at its place in the canon of Scripture, the genre in which it dwells, and the structure that encompasses it. Each aspect will then help us better understand its theological implications in our final section.

First, let us look at the place in which we find Deuteronomy within the canon of Scripture. Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Pentateuch, which in turn makes up the core of Jewish Law, also known as the Torah. As I have stated earlier, Deuteronomy's title, though directly translated as "second law," would be better understood as "a copy of the law." This helps us see that the book of Deuteronomy is not an addition to the Law given by God through Moses, but rather is a restating of the Law with more detail. 

In his essay, “Moses at Moab, Lincoln at Gettysburg? On the Genre of Deuteronomy, Again*” Brent A. Strawn draws a comparison between President Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg and Moses’ writing of Deuteronomy. As Strawn points out, Lincoln has been criticized for changing the interpretation of the constitution. Yet, Strawn writes of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, “The GA (Gettysburg Address) did not replace either the Declaration of Independence or the CUSA (Constitution of the USA).” The parallel that Strawn draws between Lincoln’s speech and the book of Deuteronomy is that both seek to expand on the already established work that had come before. Lincoln with the Thirteenth amendment and Moses with the more profound understanding of the Law and Covenant of God found in Deuteronomy. Therefore, instead of seeing the book of Deuteronomy as a subversion to the Law given in Exodus, we can see it for what it is, a more thorough look at the Law’s practical application in the daily lives of the people.

Recognizing Deuteronomy as a deeper understanding of what came before it, Irvine L. Jensen makes an interesting observation of the book’s placement and connection to other Pentateuch books. Jensen writes, "…Deuteronomy resembles Leviticus in its lack of action sections. The books are also similar in that the instructions contained in each were given to Israel while they were in standby encampment—at Sinai (Leviticus) and on the plains of Moab (Deuteronomy)." Jensen connects Deuteronomy to Leviticus by noticing that one precedes the forty years of wandering (Leviticus), while the other precedes the conquest of Canaan (Deuteronomy).

A distinction that Jensen makes between the two books, which I believe will help us in our theological insights, is that Leviticus is written primarily as a priestly instructional book. In contrast, Deuteronomy is written for the be applied by every Israelite. Thinking of the books that specifically dealt with Moses and the Israelite journey from Egypt to Canaan, leaving off Genesis as prior history, one can see an intriguing setup. Exodus is primarily the historical journey of Israel from Egypt to Sinai, with Leviticus coming as primary instruction to the priests at God's mountain. Numbers then has the journey from the mountain of God to the promised land of Canaan, with Deuteronomy coming as instruction for the people of God in how they must live their lives in this new land. The second and third books of the Pentateuch set up God's power and the priestly responsibilities, while the fourth and fifth books set up God’s relationship with all his people.

The specific place of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Scriptures, also carries with it an important place, when looking at the whole of the Christian canon. As noted by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Deuteronomy is referenced several times by other Old Testament authors, such as Hosea and Amos. Yet in the ministry of Jesus, the full impact of the book of Deuteronomy can be felt. I have found that Jesus directly quotes Deuteronomy thirteen times, and makes references to the book roughly forty-two times. Only the book of Psalms, with its twenty-three references, is referred to more. The New Testament also extensively uses the book of Deuteronomy, with around twenty-two references to the last book of the Pentateuch. With these extensive references, Deuteronomy is not simply a book of the Bible but rather a monumental point of contact between God's work through Israel and God's specific work through Jesus.

With Deuteronomy now placed within the canon of Scripture, we turn our focus to the book's genre. In their work, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology, Andreas J. Köstenberger, and Richard D. Patterson, point us to the overall genre of the book, Hebrew law. In this understanding of Hebrew Law, Köstenberger and Patterson, remind us that law in Hebrew is tôrâ which carries with it the understanding of instructing. Yet within this type of instruction, we find that Deuteronomy follows another Near-Eastern genre to close as to be unintentional.

Walter C. Kaiser points out that Deuteronomy looks very similar to a vassal treaty in line with the second millennium, which also helps us in dating the writing as was we referred to above in our section on historical setting. Adding to this, House and Mitchell write, “…it is legitimate to discuss Deuteronomy as a treaty between Yahweh and Israel.” With Richard S. Hess going as far as to say, “…the single most important connection of Deuteronomy to the ancient Near-Eastern context is its close relationships to the structure of the Hittite vassal treaties, a stature that changed after the twelfth century BC and is not attested elsewhere except in the covenant of Deuteronomy.”

A paper written by Russ Meek and entitled “The Suzerain Vassal Treaty (Covenant) in the Old Testament” helps us comprehend what a vassal treaty is. Meek relays that a vassal treaty is a covenant between a greater and lesser party. The greater party protects militarily and grants land allocation to the lesser party. The lesser party, in turn, gives tribute, mainly financial, back to the greater party. 

By understanding Deuteronomy, not simply as the last book in the Mosaic writings, but in the genre of ancient Near-Eastern vassal treaties of the second millennium, a whole host of understanding comes forth. In Peter Craigie's book, Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy, he breaks down the vassal treaty structure of Deuteronomy in the following: Preamble, Historical Prologue, General Stipulations, Specific Stipulations, Blessings and Curses, and Witness. In his work, Kaiser references a Hittite Treaty and therefore breaks Deuteronomy down into a similar six part structure: Preamble, Historic Prologue, Stipulations, Blessings and Curses, Witnesses, and Successions/Preservation. Whether with Craigie’s or Kaiser’s six-point breakdown of Deuteronomy, chapter 6 would fall into some form of the category of stipulations, which are the requirements of the covenant between God and the Israelite people.

In the category of stipulations as a whole, one can find the “Ten Commandments in the Law of Deuteronomy,” as Hess puts it. Unlike the clear-cut presentation of these ten commandments in Exodus 20, these are spread out across the book, bringing a fuller understanding of the requirements of the roles of the greater and lesser parties in the vassal treaty dynamic. Deuteronomy starts off these ten commandments with the singular focus on God as Israel's only Lord. In Meek's paper, he writes, “Consequently, vassals could have only one suzerain, for to take another ‘lord’ or ‘father’ would be tantamount to treason.” Taking this into account, the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.", give the understanding of who this one and only Lord the Israelites are to follow. This God, wo the Israelites are considering entering into covenant with, is unique from every other deity out there. To follow anyone would be treason according to the terms of the treaty.

It is within the genre of a vassal treaty that we turn our attention to how Deuteronomy is structured. Many scholars have taken great lengths to dissect Deuteronomy in many ways as to help understand the genre of the book. From breaking the book down into two parts of “Rehearsal of the Journey” and “Spiritual Applications” as Jensen does. To Elmer L. Towns' five-fold structure of Introduction, Retrospect, Rehearsal, Renewal, Conclusion. Though the book is based on a vassal treaty genre, the writing structure, as Paul N. Benware points out,  is a series of reviews. Richard S. Hess refers to Moses as being “God's mouthpiece” and calls his discourse “address or sermons.” Viewing Deuteronomy as a series of sermons to communicate the vassal treaty helps us break down the book into easier-to-digest segments.

Benware separates these sermons or reviews into four parts: Israel's from Sinai to Moab, The Law to the Next Generation, Covenant Relationship, and the Final Work of Moses. The first four chapters would then see Moses’ summation of Israel's journey from the mountain of God, where the covenant was first established, to Moab’s plains, where the covenant was re-established with a new generation. In a sense, Moab is the Sinai of this new generation. Whereas the previous generation turned to other gods, this new generation will not. From this, we see the bulk of the reviews, or sermons, focusing on the Law that God handed down to the people. This may be seen as a parallel between Moses’ first declaration of God's Law from Sinai. In light of all that God has done and all that God requires of the people, chapters 27-30 would call the people to enter into this covenant relationship. This call to accept the conditions is not to be taken lightly. Moses explains both the blessings and curses that come from entering into the covenant and then either following or rejecting it once established. Israel enters into the covenant in chapter 29, and in the closing chapters, we see Moses give his final words to the nation. These final words come through a song, a blessing, and a brief epilogue of Moses’ life.

It is within the second review, or sermon, that the chapter we are looking at resides. Hess breaks the chapter down into two parts: Verses 1-9 and 10-25. Hess focuses heavily in his writing on the first nine verses, as do most commentaries. This is most likely due to the Shema’s centrality in Jewish worship and the fact that when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by quoting this section of Scripture. Hess states the implications of the Shema “…are that God's word does appeal to reason and understanding, that obeying it fulfills the most basic human desires/needs, and that accomplishing this does not lie beyond a person's ability.”

What follows the Shema is a call, not simply to know and understand, but to teach the next generation. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. points out that through the rest of the chapter, God answers the question posed in verse 20, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” within the context of the chapter itself. Kaiser states, “The answer is always to tell the story all over again of God’s mighty acts in the exodus. Because of God’s grace, obedience is as natural as for any grateful person who has been snatched from death's door.” 

With the literary understanding of the placement of Deuteronomy in the canon of Scripture, it’s genre as an ancient Near-Eastern vassal treaty, and the structure of both the book and passage in our minds, we turn our attention to the final section of this paper, the theological implications of the passage.

Theology Implications

From what I have discussed throughout this paper, I would like to draw attention to three theological implications from the book and the passage. These three implications are as follows: our choice matters, our listening matter, and teaching matters. What follows will contain theology and the practical application of that theology, which should be the goal of every excursion into the Scriptures. 

In our first theological implication, we will look at how our choice matters. In relaying the theological themes of Deuteronomy, as found in the Zondervan’s Archaeological Study Bible, the commentary writers note this, “The covenant exhorted God’s people to teach, remember and obey (Dt.6:6-25). God promised that obedience would bring blessings (28:1-14) but warned that disobedience would result in harm (28:15-68).” The commentary's point is that choice is given to the people whether to agree and carry out the covenant presented to them on the plains of Moab or not. 

The choice Moses sets before the nation of Israel is a choice that people are called to make throughout the Scriptures and into today. In his final address in the twenty-fourth chapter of his book, Joshua also calls the people to make a choice, “14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

This choice echoes down to the ultimate decision of choosing to accept the Lord Jesus as one’s Savior or not. In Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, after he laid out the history of the nation of Israel before the Jewish people, this is what the book of Acts records, “36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 38 And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

The choice of entering into a covenant relationship with God has always been the norm for the people of God. Whether it was the Israelites who stood at Mt. Sinai, their children on the plains of Moab, a Jewish pilgrim at the day of Pentecost, or someone in a church service today, each is called to a covenantal relationship with God Almighty. The only difference between the covenant that Moses called the people to then, and the one that is accomplished through Jesus, is that the second is an eternal one not based on the lesser vassal but solely based on the greater suzerain’s work.

Our choice is first to accept the work of Jesus on our behalf. To recognize our sinfulness, agreeing with the Scriptures that we have fallen short of God’s glory, and our eternal destination is that of separation from God. Then to accept, confessing, “…with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” When we make that choice, we are adopted into God’s family, and we are now standing in the new covenant of God. It is a covenant, not based on what we can do but based on what he has done for us.

The second theological implication that we can walk away with comes from the Shema in the passage we are looking at in Deuteronomy 6. Verse 4 begins “šə·ma’”, “shema/shama”, or “hear”. The word is used roughly fifty-six times throughout the Old Testament. The New American Standard Bible translates it as listen or obey twenty-eight times, implying that the word hear doesn’t mean to take in information but to incorporate and execute what is being heard in our lives. 

In Jesus’ earthy ministry, he uses the phrase “He who has ears to hear, let him hear…” in various forms. In Mark 8, Jesus enters into a conversation with the disciples who are worrying about having food. Jesus speaks to them saying, “17b Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand…(ESV)” In every instance Jesus’ call is to not have his words wash over us in a passive way but rather to engage, understand and put those words into practice. Hence Jesus’ words, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

God’s covenantal people cannot be satisfied that they have that word of God before them; they must hear, listen, and obey that word. It must be in us and come out of us. We must apply it to our daily living and have it penetrate every aspect of our being. As Moses tells the people, “6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” We must also bind the word of God to our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to “…teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

This can be accomplished through study, as we have done through this paper. We can implement God’s word through biblical meditation on what he has said. Our actions can be directed if we seek the Holy Spirit in our prayer lives as we go about our days. We must seek the reading and application of God’s word if we are to follow him rightly.    

This brings us to our last theological implication from chapter 6 of Deuteronomy, that of teaching. Moses states, “7 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…When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 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. 24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’”

Parents are the primary communicators of God’s truth. Paul N. Benware writes, “The priests and Levites functioned as teachers of this law. But even more significant than the instructions by these men were the teachings of the parents. Parents were to be the key in the communication of God’s truth from generation to generation.”  It is too easy to allow pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, evangelists, small group and Bible study leaders to take the teacher's role in our children's lives. Yet, it is the parent who is called to be the primary teacher of the glories of God. I have had parents pose the question to me after their teenager has found themselves in some sort of trouble, “What are you teaching those kids at your church?” The implications are obvious, it’s the pastor’s job to teach kids to behave. However, the Bible puts the weight on making sure that a child knows God thoroughly upon the parents. If the parent does not seek to communicate God’s word to the child, one sizable strand of the work is cut, and the instruction is severely impeded. 

Benware also points out that parents would eventually violate this task. This resulted in generations not “knowing the Lord,” as recorded in Judges 2:10. This eventual degradation of the transmission from one generation to the next of God’s word, led to a cycle of rebellion, destruction, repentance, and forgiveness in the nation of Israel. Ultimately, the cycle would end in a complete break of the covenant and Israel was led into exile. How often today do we see this same cycle in our own lives? How many seemingly godly families have fallen apart just a generation after their godly grandparents leave this mortal realm? We must take hold of the call on our lives to teach our children what God has done. We must impress upon them the word of God, hoping that they would understand it clearly, rather than not at all. For if we do not take our responsibility seriously, why should they take our God seriously in their own lives?


It is here that I will bring this paper to a close. We have spent the last several pages examining three aspects of Deuteronomy. We have looked at the historical and cultural background of the book and passage. Within the historical/cultural aground we explored the author and the title of the book, when it was written, and how the book's environment all speak to the writer’s intent. We then turned our attention to looking at Deuteronomy from a literary standpoint. This was accomplished by recognizing its place with the canon of Scripture, its genre of a Near-Eastern vassal treaty, and its structure as a final series of reviews. This all helped us understand Deuteronomy’s place within the overall scope of Scripture. Finally, we looked at three theological implications from the book of Deuteronomy and specially from chapter 6. These implications were that our choice to follow God matters, our need to put God’s word into practice matters, and our responsibility to teach our children matters.

Through this time, I pray that God has brought to mind a deeper understanding of the book of Deuteronomy. I know I have significantly benefited from this study, and I am glad to be challenged with such a task.

Sources Cited 

Biblehub. “Interlinear Bible.” Accessed March 9 & 24, 2021.

Brent A. Strawn, “Moses at Moab, Lincoln at Gettysburg? On the Genre of Deuteronomy, Again*,” Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte, no. 24 (2018): 153-210.

Crossway Bibles. ESV: The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2010.

Elmer L. Towns, “Deuteronomy,” in Liberty Bible Commentary: The Old-Time Gospel Hour Edition. Volume 1, edited by Jerry Falwell, Edward E. Hindson, and Woodrow Michael Kroll. Lynchburg, VA: Old Time Gospel Hour, 1982.

Irving L. Jenson, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament. Chicago, Il: The Moody Bible Institute, 1978.

Köstenberger, Andreas J. and Richard D. Patterson. Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011.

My Jewish Learning. “The Shema” August 17, 2015. Accessed March 10, 2021,

Paul N. Benware, Survey of the Old Testament Revised: Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1993.

Paul R. House and Eric Mitchell, Old Testament Survey 2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007.

 Peter Craigie, Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy, New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rabid, Mi: Eerdmans, 1976.

Richard S. Hess, The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.

Russ Meek, “The Suzerain Vassal Treaty (Covenant) in the Old Testament” October 14, 2020. Accessed March 17, 2021,

Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Deuteronomy,” in The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, edited by Gary M Burge and Andrew E. Hill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.

Zondervan Corporation, Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.