Deuteronomy 4:1 “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”
Some people are worth listening to. Your doctor is generally someone worth listening to. Take ALL the medicine in the bottle until its gone, even though you feel better, and you won’t end up with a relapse twice as bad as the original illness. Take it easy for a few weeks after surgery, even though you feel no more pain, and you won’t land yourself back in the hospital with complications. Your parents–your parents are people worth listening to. How many of us had parents who told us not to jump on the bed? But how many of us banged our heads on the headboard, or on the floor, or on another brother or sister because we were jumping on the bed?
The Lord God is one person who is always worth listening to. Others may occasionally steer us wrong, even the doctor, even our parents. But when we listen to the Lord, we always come out smelling like a rose.
One reason to take God’s word seriously is that he takes it so seriously himself. It’s not so obvious in our English translation, but the word for “decrees” literally refers to something carved or etched into something solid. That makes us think of the ten commandments which were carved into stone. What was God telling us about how he felt about his commandments when he chiseled them into two sheets of rock? They could have been written on scrolls like the rest of the five books of Moses. But even after Moses broke the first set of stone tablets in the golden calf incident, the Lord insisted the commandments be carved into stone again. In stone they would not fade, they could not be erased, and they could not be changed. We still use the phrase “set in stone” today to refer to something which cannot be changed. God is serious about his word!
If there was any doubt about that among his people, look at the conditions he placed upon following his commands. First, he says follow them so that you might live. By “live” he is not talking about having an enjoyable lifestyle, a desirable standard of living. By “live” he means the difference between life and death. In essence he was giving his people a choice. “Follow my commands, and I will permit you to stay alive. Break them, and I will wipe you out and destroy you.” God means serious business!
Then the Lord conditioned their earthly happiness upon keeping his commands. He told Israel to follow them “so that you may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” The last time Israel had a chance to take possession of the promised land had been forty years earlier. When they disobeyed him and refused to trust him, they ended up wandering in the desert for forty years instead. Again, when God says, “Listen,” he wants to be taken seriously.
The Lord is no less serious about his commandments today. They are not suggestions or “voluntary initiatives” as one humanist has called his set of ten replacements. Choosing to break what God has commanded still invites the Lord’s anger. Those who insist on living in some sin are only adding to their own misery and making life more miserable for those around them. The Lord designed each of his commandments to take care of us in some way. Breaking them may result in short term pleasure, but it leads to long term pain.
Though we take God’s word seriously, none of us keep his commandments perfectly. All must confess their failure. For Jesus’ sake the Lord does not condemn us. For Jesus’ sake he forgives those who repent. As Paul preached to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch: “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). God’s word also teaches that he is loving and forgiving. That makes us desire to take his word all the more seriously and keep his commands. People to whom God has revealed himself as their Savior and Redeemer find in him the power to do so.
Listen, and Live!