Then It Will Be Righteousness for Us
Our verses today speak of righteousness. So far in the books of Moses, the noun “righteousness” has only been seen three times in Genesis. The noun “righteous” has been used several times in Leviticus and once in Deuteronomy, but that speaks of something that is just, right, or fair. It doesn’t refer to the state of righteousness a person may possess.
And so, in our verses today, the first note of such possessed righteousness is seen since the giving of the law. And, it is given in relation to adherence to the law, or so it would seem. As we come to the end of the verses today, we will arrive at that particular verse and we will analyze it to see what Moses is telling the people.
Before we get there, we will come to a set of verses that describe why the Lord redeemed Israel from Egypt. In one of them, Moses says that “He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in.” Israel was freed from bondage.
What does freedom mean? In the captivity of Judah, Jeremiah was set free. He was perceived as no threat to the Babylonians, and he had spoken the word of the Lord to the people, telling the king to surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes. Understanding this, Jeremiah was not taken captive but was given his freedom.
Text Verse: “See, all the land is before you; wherever it seems good and convenient for you to go, go there.” Jeremiah 40:4
Unlike these words to Jeremiah, Israel was freed from bondage, but the intent was that it was to then bring them into the land of Canaan. For them, it meant living under law and all that went along with that.
However, for the Christian, we have also been brought out from bondage. Jesus and the apostles say that explicitly. When one is bound by sin, he is in bondage. Only in being freed from sin can one then be brought into what Canaan only typologically anticipates – meaning a restored relationship with God and access to His paradise once again.
This is what Jesus offers to the people of the world, and the law was only a step in that process. Until the time when the law was fulfilled, man had to wait for that true freedom to come. When He came, Christ brought us out, so that He could bring us in.
But it is not into more bondage through the law. It is into the freedom which is truly free. It is where we can again cry out to our heavenly Father, “Abba!” This is what awaits those who have come to God through Christ.
Before we get into our verses today, we can look over a chiasm which I found while doing this sermon. It will help us to unpack what is going on, and it will help us to have more confidence in the word. This is especially so after I give you a quote from the scholars at Cambridge. One must wonder why there are Bible scholars out there who do their very best to destroy the document they spent their life analyzing. But they are there.
Chiasms, righteousness, the wonder of Jesus Christ – O my! There is so much treasure be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. That It May Be Well With You (verses 16-19)
16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.
In the previous sermon, the Lord cautioned the people concerning disobedience. To understand the context concerning this verse, we will review the previous six verses –
“So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12 then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 13 You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15 (for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 6:10-15
In the last verse, verse 15, the nouns are all in the singular. Now, Moses returns to the plural (you all) here. Here, he refers to an incident that occurred mere moments after leaving Egypt, that of the events at Massah which is recorded in Exodus 17 –
Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.”
So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”
3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”
5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:1-7
The words of this verse in Deuteronomy, translated as “tempt” and “tempted,” come from the word nasah. It signifies, “to put to the test.” In 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, the Queen of Sheba is said to have come to prove Solomon with difficult questions. This is what Israel did.
They were brought out of bondage in a magnificent way by the Lord, but as soon as a little hardship arose, the people attempted to “prove” if He was truly capable of handling things for them. They almost spitefully said, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Thus, the place was named Massah, the word comes from nasah, and it means, “Testing.”
What Moses is conveying is that by going after other gods, they will arouse the anger of Yehovah. They are to trust in Him who is invisible rather than the false gods they could see. It is this verse, Deuteronomy 6:16, that Jesus refers to in Matthew 4 when He was tempted by the devil –
“‘Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Matthew 4:5-7
Jesus prevailed by holding fast to the law. This is unlike Israel, who will later be shown to fail in these admonitions from Moses. Where Jesus held to the Lord God alone, Israel went about seeking many “gods” in their recorded history.
As a note concerning this verse, especially concerning the changes here from singular to plural, Cambridge says the following –
“Another interruption by the Pl. Because of this; because the reference to Massah is hardly relevant to the context, and because the perfect, he hath commanded, [vs. 17] is not yet true of the separate laws; these sentences seem to be a later editorial insertion. The return to the Sg. at their close is explicable by the attraction of the Sg. in Deuteronomy 6:18.” Cambridge
Cambridge flippantly states that “the reference to Massah is hardly relevant to the context.” In fact, it is the point of the surrounding context. They then say these words are a “later editorial insertion.” This would mean they are not the words of Moses, and thus not true words of Scripture. And yet, it is of these words that Jesus says, “It is written.”
Further, verse 17 is a part of the chiasm that spans the rest of the verses of this passage. Thus, it clearly demonstrates that it is original, and not a later insertion.
What will it be like for the people who authored this commentary when they are brought before the Lord after having said that what is stated here is “irrelevant” and that they are not His words? If they understand the word “mercy,” they will need a great deal of it for their treatment of this precious and sacred word.
17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God,
Shamor tishmerun eth mitzvoth Yehovah elohekhem – “Keeping, you shall keep, the commandments Yehovah your God.” The word translated as “you shall keep” contains a pargogic nun at the end of it which is added to express additional emphasis. One might imagine Moses saying, “Keeping, you shaaaaaalllll keep.”
He is stressing to them the importance of not letting up, but of constant vigilance in holding strictly to the Lord’s commandments. Also, this clause begins the chiasm of the passage. It corresponds to the words of verse 25. Included in the stress of keeping His commandments are…
17 (con’t) His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.
Here, the words of Moses transition back to the singular in saying “commanded you.” That will carry on in the next verse. Rather than being later insertions, the instruction – varying between the plural and the singular – shows intent and purpose.If someone was to insert words later, they would certainly follow with the same person, not change it right in the middle of a verse.
Concerning the words here, the testimonies and the statutes must be considered as a part of the commandments based on the words “which He has commanded you.” Though individual ideas, they all fall under the category of commands. The Lord speaks forth the law in various forms, but all that is said is to be equally obeyed and adhered to. Further…
18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord,
v’asita ha’yashar v’ha’tov b’ene Yehovah – “And you shall do the straight and the good in eyes Yehovah.” Here, for the first of seven times in Deuteronomy, Moses uses the word yashar, or right. It means “straight,” and gives the idea of being unwavering on the path. As the Lord’s eyes watch the conduct of the person, this is what He will look for – both a walk on the good path, and a straight walk on that same good path. And Moses notes that there is a reason for this…
18 (con’t) that it may be well with you,
l’maan yitav lak – “to the end purpose it may be well with you.” One can see the play on words here. When one does the good, good returns to that person – it will be well with him. Moses then explains what that means…
18 (con’t) and that you may go in and possess the good land
u-bata v’yarashta eth ha’aretz ha’tovah – “and you will go, and you will inherit the land the good.” Again, the play on words continues – “when you do good, good will come to you, and you will inherit the good land.” It is this good land, which contains houses full of good things (verse 11) that will be inherited by you – the one who does good.
The entire verse is a promise that is to be understood with what will be said in the next verse. In other words, the Lord has promised these things to the people and they will come upon them if they are obedient in the land.
They will cross the Jordan. Moses knows this. But how much of the land will they possess? And how well will it go with them in the land they do possess? The answer to those things is up to them. If they do good, they will continue to possess more and more of the land. And if they do good, they will be blessed in the land they do possess. This fact is later seen in Judges 2 –
“Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, 22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” 23 Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.” Judges 2:20-23
The people failed to do the good Moses now speaks of, and possession of the good land is, in part, withheld. It is the land…
18 (con’t) of which the Lord swore to your fathers,
The Lord swore to the fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – that they would possess the land. But the possession of that land is conditional on obedience. The land is theirs, and it remains theirs, but owning something and possessing that thing are not the same.
The Lord has made this clear, and Moses continues to make it clear. Israel’s right to inhabit the land is not unconditional. When they do what is proper, the Lord will lead them…
19 to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has spoken.
Moses uses the word hadaph here and in verse 9:4. It signifies to push or thrust. Further, the verb is infinitive, “to the casting out of all your enemies.” In other words, the previous verse said, “that it may be well with you.” How will it be well? “It will be to the casting out of all your enemies.”
After they went into the land, and after Joshua’s death, they forsook the Lord and began to serve the Baals. The natural reaction to this is that it would no longer go well with them, and the casting out of the enemies would cease.
With this thought in mind, Moses then returns to the thought of verses 1 and 2. Moses set out to teach Israel the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments. As it is a written record, it is for – as verse 2 says – “you, you and your son and your grandson.”
This then, in turn, goes back to verses 4:9 & 10. Take what is written and teach it to your children and your grandchildren. It is no good to have a written record that is not conveyed to those it pertains to.
Our government is based on a constitution which contains important rights belonging to the people. If they don’t know what those rights are, those same rights can be trampled on by the very government which is limited by that constitution.
With Israel, there are certain commandments that are to be adhered to. In not adhering to them, it will not go well with the people. And more especially, if the people are not taught those commandments, they cannot be obedient to them. Therefore, it logically follows that it will not go well with them.
And so, Moses expects that this word would be passed on to the next generation, as we will see in a moment.
This is your righteousness before Me
When you accept the word that I speak
Nothing else will do, I tell you plainly
It is the same righteousness for the strong and the weak
No matter what great thing you do before Me
If faith doesn’t accompany it, such is just waste
The motives behind it I can see
And without faith, it is putridity to My taste
But the deeds done by a person of faith
Are deeds that are pleasing in My sight
Hear the word that to you I saith
Such a person’s soul before Me is upright
II. He Brought Us Out, That He Might Bring Us In (verses 20-25)
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying,
Moses presupposes that the children will feel the weight of the law. In this, they will ask the obvious question, “Dad, why do we have to do all this stuff? Those kids visiting from Lebanon don’t need to do it. The Jebusites don’t have to do it. Why do we have to do it?”
Understanding this, the child asks specific questions. This questioning forms the middle of the chiasm…
20 (con’t) ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’
The question here is not the child’s words. Rather, Moses is citing the substance of what the child will ask. This is certain, because the word “you” is plural. Otherwise, it would say, “us.” The Greek translation actually says “us” in order to make it the child’s question.
But what Moses is doing is saying to the people, “What is the meaning of these things the Lord our God has commanded you? Your son is going to ask you about it. He might ask about any particular aspect of this law, and you need to explain to him why we do these things.” When he does, Moses continues with…
21 then you shall say to your son:
To ask a question about something you are required to do implies that it is required. If it is required, then it is – by default – a burden. It may be the most enjoyable thing on the planet for a person to do. Reading for example. Some people love to read. Well, it says in the Law of Moses –
“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” Deuteronomy 17:18:20
The king may enjoy reading more than eating durian. He may do it constantly. But… this is a law. He must do it. Today, he is terribly pressed for time. He is irritable. His wife is nagging him. His children are not being good little princes and princesses. What is his favorite thing to do has, today, become a burden.
If eating durian every day were a part of the law, and everyone loves durian as we know, it would still be a burden when someone had a bad stomach. It would also be a burden when durian got so expensive that it caused difficulty on the family finances.
But the law is the law. What is good – no matter how good it is – when it is a law, will naturally be a burden at some point. We all know this when it comes to speed limits. Some more than others.
Again, as we have cited in many Deuteronomy sermons already, Paul speaks of just this –
“For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:22-25
His words are true even when we not only delight in the law, but they are true when we delight in some particular aspect of the law that we absolutely love (normally). “I literally LOVE to have Saturdays off. Thank God for the Sabbath! But today, the Sabbath has become really problematic for me. Here’s why…”
If this is true about the things we really enjoy, how much more so is it about the things that we are not all giddy about. Paul then takes this further. We may be good and fine with the law because it restrains people who are otherwise out of control. In 1 Timothy 1:8-11, he writes –
“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
We may say, “Boy do I agree with the law. Otherwise Tom next door would be driving 100mph down the road with all these kids playing on it. The 10mph speed limit makes us happy on account of someone else’s tendencies.
However, an infraction of the law is an infraction of the law. Anyone who has had to drive 10mph knows how hard it is to not go 11. But the cop on the corner does not care if you “tried” to do 10. The ticket says you did 11.
Because this is so, and because your child is going to ask about the burden of the law, Moses tells them why the law – which they don’t understand – is so good. And he does it by taking them back to their past, beginning with…
21 (con’t) ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt,
“Son, you cannot even imagine. We were under a yoke. We were crushed. We were bound in chains. It was hot, it was tiring, there was no relief. We were used up and cast aside.”
“And more, we were slaves of Pharaoh. He ruled our bodies, he had us cast our boys into the Nile, and he took our women for himself.”
“And more, this was in Egypt. We were in a land not our own. We had no property rights. What we grew was taken from us. There was always lack, heat, want, and anguish. This was our state. Son, Egypt means “double distress,” and you simply cannot imagine how true that was.”
21 (con’t) and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand;
“Son, you cannot see Him, but He is there. We couldn’t redeem ourselves. Pharaoh had an army, chariots, weapons, and food to sustain them. We had nothing. The impossibility of our situation extended in all directions and into the future.
We were without hope, except… in the promise to our fathers from the Lord we could not see. But even though we cannot see Him, we saw the things He did – things that eye never imagined nor mind could ever conceive. The Lord did these things for us, to redeem us as a people prepared for Himself.”
The substance of what Moses has said, and will say, was first conveyed to Moses by the Lord just prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 19, it says –
“And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Exodus 19:3-6
Concerning this, Charles Ellicott rightly states –
“The keeping of the Law of Jehovah by Israel as a nation in the land that He gave them was the final cause of their national existence. This fundamental fact must never be forgotten. This alone would justify what had been done to Egypt. Hence the neglect of the Law must inevitably bring down the Divine vengeance.” Charles Ellicott
Moses is conveying his words now as instruction for the fathers to relay to their children. It is why they must accept and obey the things the child now asks about. With this understanding, Moses continues with…
22 and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes,
Here, it is said the Lord showed ototh u-mophtim, or “signs and wonders.” A sign is something that stands for something else. For example, the blood applied to the doorposts and lintel of the houses was a sign of and for protection.
In the case of Pharaoh, the Lord afflicted him with the plagues, but he did not afflict Israel. That stood as a sign that the Lord was Israel’s God, that He is a God, and that Pharaoh’s gods were ineffective against Him. The sign is not the thing or occurrence, but the meaning conveyed by it.
A wonder is a thing, and it is that which is evident in itself. It is something that extends beyond what is normal and is thus considered miraculous. When it is done, it is to be attributed to the Lord because there was no other explanation for it to occur.
“Son, these things happened before our eyes. Our fathers beheld them, and the events were recorded for us to read and believe.” These things were…
22 (con’t) great and severe,
gedolim v’raim – “greats and evils.” It is the adjectives gadol, or great, and ra, or evil. But in making them plural, it enhances what is conveyed. These great and severe wonders and signs were…
22 (con’t) against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household.
People have been oppressed by other people since the very beginning. Israel’s fate in Egypt is no more severe than the fate of many other nations in history. And yet, the Lord has not intervened in their affairs. He has allowed the nations to continue on in their way. However, the Lord personally acted against:
Egypt – the nation in which His people were in bondage.
Pharaoh – the leader of Egypt and who determined the fate of those under his rule.
His household – Not only did the Lord punish Pharaoh, but he also took action against his household, limiting their ability to effect retribution against Israel into the future.
All of this was to secure Israel for Himself, protect Israel from those who had once controlled them, and to provide for Israel in the land He had promised to their fathers. He first performed these signs and wonders…
23 Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in,
The Lord didn’t simply bring Israel out of bondage because He felt sorry for them. If that was the case, He could have stopped right there and said, “You all are free! Go live your life as free men.” It would have been a pretty sweet deal, but it would have left many uncertainties for the people.
Where do you go with your freedom? Do you stay together, or do you separate? Will you argue over who will rule? Will the strong immediately subjugate the weak? Rather, there was a purpose for what the Lord did. It says, v’otanu hosi misham l’maan havi otanu – “and us brought out from there to the end purpose bring in us.”
There is an emphasis in the words, beginning with, and ending in, “us.” It is a particular group of people that was focused upon. The Lord determined that it is they whom He would favor, and thus He acted.
And, He brought the people out specifically so that they could then be brought in. This was the purpose of bringing them out. They were not brought out to simply be given freedom, but to serve the Lord’s purposes in redemptive history. The first aspect of that was to demonstrate that the Lord God keeps His word…
23 (con’t) to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers.
The Lord swore to the fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – that He would give the land to their descendants –
“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7
“Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.” Genesis 26:3 (To Isaac)
“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.’” Genesis 28:13 (To Jacob)
The Lord spoke, and the Lord fulfilled His promise. This is what is to be conveyed to the children when the question is asked: “Why do we do these things?” “Well son, here is why. The Lord swore that He would give this land to us. When we were in bondage, He fulfilled that promise by redeeming us from it and bringing us into this land…”
24 And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.
This is the second aspect of why He did this. It wasn’t just to prove that the Lord keeps His word to the fathers in giving them the land, but that He might also preserve them in the land – which is another aspect of the promise.
In Genesis 13:15, Exodus 32:13, and elsewhere, the land was not only said to be given to the descendants, but that it was to be forever. One can, and indeed many will, debate what “forever” means, but as long as these descendants of Israel are preserved –which means even until today – the promise must stand.
And so, the law, meaning the observance of all of these statutes, was given to direct the people, keep them united, and to preserve them as a people.
One way of keeping them united was by observing certain statutes which looked back – such as the Passover. In directing them to look back, it kept them in the mindset of being a united people with a common heritage and salvation. Other statutes were observances within the normal patterns of human existence – be it from moment to moment, day to day, weekly, or annually.
These were to keep them dependent on the Lord, cognizant of the Lord, anticipating the Lord’s hand in their lives, and so on. And, there are statutes found in the law and the prophets that were future looking. In Deuteronomy 18:18, 19, Moses said that the Lord would raise up for Israel a prophet like him –
“I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.”
This was a set statute and it was to keep them as a people as well. They knew the Lord had made the promise, and so it could serve as both a means of sifting out false claims and also strengthening the true claim. Thus, uniting the people in a unique way. In fact, we know this is certain because it says this in John 1 –
“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’
21 And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’
He said, “’I am not.’
‘Are you the Prophet?’
And he answered, ‘No.’” John 1:19-21
The people, in asking these questions, were being obedient to the words of law. In observing all such statutes, they would demonstrate a fear of the Lord their God – meaning a reverential fear of Him – and this would be for their good as long as they maintained that state. Understanding this, it is what the fathers were to tell their sons.
This was not because of who they are, but because of who He is. They did nothing to earn the land He had given them, the place they occupied, the family they were born into, or any other thing they possessed.
It was all due to what He had done for them, and therefore, they were under obligation to return their allegiance to Him. The father was then to finish this thought, saying ke-ha’yom ha’zeh – “as the day, the this.”
The implication is that they were still in the land because of the Lord. Thus, it means that their dwelling in the land – by default – must be conditional.
“Son, we are doing these things because this is what the Lord has done for us, and we continue to do them to this day. Should we neglect this service, the Lord has spoken other things to us as well – things we do not want to have to face. Therefore…”
*25 (fin) Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’
The word of Moses speaks of their righteousness in their faithful observance of all these commandments. It is the same word which was used for the first time in Scripture in Genesis 15 –
“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’
6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.’” Genesis 15:4-6
Paul uses that passage in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 to demonstrate that Abraham’s righteousness was not of works of the law, but of faith. This is because the law wasn’t introduced until long after Abraham had died. But more, he even received this righteousness before he was circumcised.
And so, the question here is, “What is the source of righteousness?” If Moses says that the fathers are to tell the sons that doing all these things were righteousness for them, then does that mean that righteousness can come from within?
The answer is, “No.” Moses has, and will continue to, make the “righteousness of the law” so dependent on the condition of the heart that it is summed up – completely and entirely – in the word “faith.” Could someone go up to John the Baptist and ask if he were the Prophet if he didn’t have faith in what the law said? No!
In fact, it is solely by faith in what the Lord said concerning the matter that anyone would even assume someone could be the Prophet. But that is true then with the entire law. One must have faith that it is from God in order to believe they are pleasing the Lord by doing the things He instructs.
If this is not so, then the observance of the law becomes a self-based righteousness – exactly what the Pharisees trusted in. Instead of “I am doing these things to please the Lord and to be pleasing to the Lord,” their attitude was, “I am doing these things because the Lord is pleased with me.”
They looked first to their own righteousness, and how they could exalt themselves in the eyes of men even more through the law. But the true Israelite looked to what the Lord had done for them, despite themselves. They were in bondage; He set them free. They were lowly; He exalted them. They had no home; He gave them the land.
Whether under law or not, what pleases the Lord is faith first, and only then working out that faith in whatever manner the Lord has prescribed. We know this is true because David delighted in the law of the Lord, and yet he is shown to have failed in works of the law.
It wasn’t the battles he won, it wasn’t the sacrifices at the temple that he offered, and it wasn’t the wealth he amassed that the Lord was pleased with. Rather, it was his complete dependence upon the Lord, despite all of those things.
From his time as a shepherd boy in Bethlehem, to his reigning as king over all of Israel, he was a man after God’s own heart because his heart followed after God. The same is true with all of the greats of the Bible. They are not remembered for the things they did, except as how those things were in relation to – meaning products of – their faith.
As I sat typing this sermon on August 17, 2020, it was the day after the first sermon in our short break from Deuteronomy. The week after that, we introduced David into the narrative. And how exciting it was to prepare for that!
But the reason wasn’t because he was going to slay a giant, showing how great he is. Rather, it is because he was going to trust in the Lord, despite how insignificant he is. It is the honor of the Lord, faith in His hand of providence, and a surety that the honor of the Lord is what is needed to win that battle, that set David apart from all the other men of Israel.
And in the typology of those sermons, we saw that he was only prefiguring a far greater figure in the redemptive narrative, our Lord Jesus. It is He who not only defeated the enemy of God, but He did so without ever sinning in the process. David was just a shadowy type of what was to come in Christ.
Now, with Christ’s having come, we have so much more than those under the law had. We have the fulfillment of this law, in every single detail, in the Person of Jesus Christ. And so, we do not have to bear our fruit of the righteousness we possess by doing deeds of the law.
Rather, the fruits of righteousness for Christians are displayed in our ongoing faith in what Christ did under the law, and in how we then live our lives in accord with that. And so, let us bear fruit to God in this manner – to His glory.
But in order to do so, we must first be true Christians. Have you met the standard? What sets you apart from the world as a Christian? Christ came to bring you out, so that He might bring you in. You are sold as a slave, and He has come to give you freedom as a son. Let’s make sure you have that right first…
Closing Verse: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11
Next Week: Deuteronomy 7:1-8 Why did the Lord these things do? (Because the Lord Loves You) (26th Deuteronomy Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Then It Will Be Righteousness for Us
“You shall not tempt the LORD your God
———-as you tempted Him in Massah
You shall diligently keep the commandments, so you shall do
Of the LORD your God
His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you
And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD
———-that it may be well with you
And that you may go in and possess the good land of which
———- the LORD swore to your fathers – His personal token
To cast out all your enemies from before you
As the LORD has spoken
“When your son asks you in time to come, saying
When these words to you he is relaying…
‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes
———-and the judgments to
Which the LORD our God has commanded you
Then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh
And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand
And the LORD showed signs and wonders before our eyes
Great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household
———-His deeds were gloriously grand
Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in
To give us the land of which He swore to our fathers
———-for all our days
And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes
To fear the LORD our God, for our good always
That He might preserve us alive, as it is this day
Then it will be righteousness for us; yes, it will be a plus
If we are careful to observe all these commandments
Before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us
Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true
And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…
16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the Lord swore to your fathers, 19 to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has spoken.
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; 22 and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. 23 Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. 24 And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. 25 Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’