It’s been my experience to observe that many people view the Old Testament as a collection of quaint stories of historical figures that bear little, if any, significance in our lives. Likewise, these same people see the “God of the Old Testament” as harsh, mean, or vengeful and quite different from the meek, mild, pacifist Jesus of the New Testament, an image shaped more by society than the Bible. Each of these views is unbiblical and incorrect. The Old Testament actually tells us in great detail who God is through His dealings with men and women of times past and He is the same loving, kind, merciful, and graceful God that sent His Son Jesus to die for the sins of all those who believe.
In Deuteronomy 10:12-13 Moses is delivering the commands that God has established for His people, in context the Israelites, when he offers the following summary, “12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” The group of people that we described earlier may read this passage and fail to see the significance for us today, let alone the parallels to what the New Testament teaches for modern day believers, but let’s look at what the Lord has instructed Moses to say and be encouraged to view the O.T. through the lens of the N.T. In this passage we see 5 “requirements” of the Israelites: 1) Fear the Lord 2) Walk in His ways 3) Love Him 4) Serve Him 5) Keep His commandments. Upon first reading, we may be challenged to see the application to our own lives, but we need look no further than the New Testament to see replication of these same “requirements”.
Moses first mentions God’s “requirement” of His people to fear Him. In Romans 3:18, Paul is concluding his quotation of O.T. scriptures detailing the sinfulness and depravity of man in which he states, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (see also Psalm 36:1) We must ask what is the fear of God? For those who call God, Father, it is less cowering in a corner waiting to be struck down at any moment, but more so reverent obedience. Our Lord Jesus speaking in Luke 12:5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” Here Jesus commands the fear of the Lord and emphasizes it not once, but twice. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 we read, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Commentator Matthew Henry adds that the “fear of God” mentioned in this passage is “the root and principle of all religion, and there is no holiness without it.” Fear of God is essential to lives of every believer.
Next we read to “walk in His ways”. In Colossians 2:6-7 Paul charges us “6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” We are instructed here in Paul’s epistle to walk in Christ Jesus, which we can view as literally following in His footsteps, imitating His life as a pattern for our own. Thirdly we read Moses telling the people to “love the Lord”. This is a familiar command to us as we read in the N.T., specifically the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-38, “37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Interestingly, it’s in this passage that Jesus quotes directly from Deuteronomy 6:5. Again we have evidence that those great truths taught in the Old Testament are not only true, but applicable to us today.
Our fourth instruction that we read of in Deuteronomy is to “serve Him.” Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” This verse concludes a section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount specifically dealing with wrongly prioritizing or “treasuring” material possessions. There is however, an additional truth in this passage that highlights the importance of serving God and the impossibility of serving anything other than Him. The word “serve” in this passage is the Greek word douleuo, which literally means to be a slave to or to be in bondage to, thus marking the important, though oft misunderstood, relationship of Master – slave for Christ and those who serve Him.
Our fifth and final “requirement” found in our O.T. passage from Deuteronomy is to keep the commandments of the Lord. Now here is where a second line is drawn among modern day readings of the Old Testament. Others may in fact see the O.T. as a legalistic collection of do’s and don’ts that are no longer necessary since we now live under grace. But this thought is flawed because it leads to either licentiousness or lethargy in the Christian life. In contrast, following a set of rules with the hope of justification, or sanctification for that matter, results in legalism and is also a dangerously fatal strategy. So how then do we respond to this charge to obey the commandments, and likewise to follow the 4 we previously highlighted. Central to each of these is love. Love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Love is our motivation for reverent obedience, i.e. fear of the Lord, for imitating His life, obviously for loving Him, for serving Him, and here love is the motivation for keeping His commandments. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” while in 1 John 5:2-3 we read, “ 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
In concluding our study from the passage in Deuteronomy, perhaps it’s important to note that by marking the word “requirement” in quotes as we have is to show that they aren’t just requirements for living, but rather are essential elements for proper worship of the Lord and they are provided for our own benefit. We see this at the end of our passage in Deut. 10:13 as Moses states these things are commanded for us to obey for our “own good.” The guidelines that the Lord has established for us to live by in His Word are to protect us from first ourselves, i.e. the remainder of our sinful flesh that was crucified with Christ and then secondly from the sinful influences of the world. This is done such that we can live our lives in accordance with 1 Peter 1:16 (and Leviticus 11:44), “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”