Friday after Oculi
Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:1-33 (NKJV)
1 And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said:
6 ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
7‘ ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.
8 ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 9 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
11 ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
16 ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
17 ‘‘You shall not murder.
18 ‘You shall not commit adultery.
19 ‘You shall not steal.
20 ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
21 ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’
22 “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.
23 “So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24 And you said: ‘Surely the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. 25 Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27 You go near and hear all that the Lord our God may say, and tell us all that the Lord our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.’
28 “Then the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! 30 Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31 But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’
32 “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”
Deuteronomy gets its name from the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, where it stood for a Hebrew phrase meaning not “second law,” but “copy of the law.” (Deut. 17:18). Thus, it is not a replacement of the Law as previously given, but a restating and application of that Law. For this reason, some of the wording of the Decalogue will be a little different, but still perfectly in keeping with what was already inscribed upon the tablets of stone already in the Ark of the Covenant. While Moses speaks by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, this also teaches us how to regard preaching today, as embodied in Luther’s explanation of the Third Commandment, that we are to hold sacred the preaching of the Word along with the Word itself. Preaching is to put God’s Word on display, to make its clarity apparent amid the sin and mixed messages in the world around us (and even in our own flesh). So also hymnody: hymns don’t have to be confined to adding tunes to the Psalms, nor even of Psalm paraphrases, but every hymn we use must, in all its parts, not only agree with the Word of God, but proclaim it, helping its clear message be seen and become attached to our hearts.
In this way, the exclamation of Yahweh—”Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!”—has life for us. Understanding that God’s voice is “too much” for us brings us to our knees in repentance, that has us beg to hear His forgiving Word once more. When we give heed to preaching and to Holy Absolution, God rejoices to have given us such hearing.
Give to us, O Triune God, a heart that ever hears, that we may penitently rejoice in the restoration granted us in Your Absolution. Amen.