Friday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Deuteronomy 4:1-20 (NKJV)
1 “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. 3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal Peor; for the LORD your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. 4 But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you. 5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? 8 And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?
9 “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, 10 especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ 11 Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. 12 And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. 13 So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess.
15 “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. 19 And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.”
When one listens to Moses in today’s reading you might ask, “Where’s the good news?” While it is true that the demands of the Law are great, we do best when we don’t lose sight of the First Commandment. Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism is quite clear: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
Sounds pretty demanding, doesn’t it? We naturally hear Law whenever God’s Word is spoken because the Law is written on our hearts. The Gospel is another language, a foreign language to our ears. The Holy Spirit must give new ears to hear and to understand the Gospel. One of the great points of understanding the Gospel is knowing that what God demands in the Law He gives to us in Christ Who fulfills the Law for us.
When Luther tells us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, he is telling us that most assuredly we can fear, love, and trust in God even above our sins. The righteous Israelite was righteous for the same reason God’s righteous people are righteous, today. “The righteous shall live by faith.” The righteous believe that we can and, indeed, must go to God with our sins for with God, and only with God, is there forgiveness.
What God demands of us in the First Commandment, and in all the Commandments, He has given us faith to believe that it is ours in Christ. There, in Christ, we see what all of Israel was supposed to be, a perfect Son. And there, in Christ, God sees us as perfect, holy, and righteous because He has placed us into His Son through the faith He has given us.