Deuteronomy Chapter Ten
One of the questions that pastors are often asked is something like ‘why would I want to be good, if the sins of my life were all forgiven? Wouldn’t the natural thing be to sin some more? Aren’t you promoting a dangerous religion with your offer of forgiveness?’
I don’t know how you would answer this but I sometimes say to such a person ‘do you ever punch your kindest friends?’. And what I mean by this is that the kindness of God should promote a response of appreciation and devotion – not carelessness and evil. We normally don’t want to hurt the people who show great kindness to us. Paul said “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Sadly, we are capable of the most sinful and selfish response, but the fact remains that God’s mercy is attractive and should promote a response of love.
In Deuteronomy 10 the sixth ‘facet’ of God’s covenant love is introduced and it’s the mercy of God. Having described the sin of the golden calf, what does the Lord decide to do? In fresh mercy He asked Moses to get two new stone tablets and a box to keep them in (10:1-5) and the Lord (!) wrote the commandments on the new tablets. He would start again.
There couldn’t have been a clearer sign of God’s mercy undergirding the covenant. He had listened to Moses’ plea for mercy (9:25-29) and answered in spades. If grace began the salvation process, mercy would keep it going. [It’s often said that mercy is not getting what you do deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve]. And Someone would bear the cost of that sin and that Someone was the Saviour to come, Jesus Christ. All grace and mercy must rest on payment and atonement.
Then Moses asks the people standing in front of him – in the light of God’s mercy in preserving His people – “what does the Lord your God ask of you?” (10:12). And the answer is not to win the love of God but to love the One who so obviously loves them! What does such love to God look like? It looks like ‘fear…obedience…love...service….and…keeping His commands’ (10:12-13). Love for God is not some sentimental mist or selfish feeling but a concrete heeding of His will. Jesus Himself said it’s our keeping His commands that shows our love for Him and brings His joy to us (John 15:9ff).
And the Lord we belong to is massive (“to the Lord your God belong the heavens” 10:14) as well as merciful (“He defends the cause of the fatherless and widow, and loves the foreigner” (10:18). Do you want big and strong? It’s the Lord. Do you want gentle and personal? It’s the Lord. Everything points to a wonderful God and a fine response.
In a remarkable phrase (10:21) Moses says the Lord (literally) “is your praise”. Not just the object of your praise but the praise who dwells within you. If you want to know what bursts out of a grateful heart it’s the Lord Himself. His mercy is ultimately proved by Jesus and poured by His Spirit.
Heavenly Father, Your mercies endure forever and come freshly each day. Thank you for the great cost of such mercies – and help us to respond with the small cost of faithfulness.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.