Keep: Love or Obey?

“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)

What does God care about more, obedience or love? Don’t answer just yet. It’s kind of a trick question. We’re going to spend this next week talking about the answer by listening in on Deuteronomy 6.

tree2_350Do you remember learning about this moment? The Israelites were a homeless country. Well, they had a home. They just hadn’t seen it, yet. The time had finally come to stop wandering in the wilderness and go into the promised land, kick out the folks living there, and call it home.

The key to making that happen? One word: obedience. God said it, and Moses wrote it. If the people would obey—and if their kids and grandkids would keep obeying—they would enjoy long and successful lives in their new home.

Remember how that turned out?

Think: Why do you think that human beings have such a hard time obeying God? What do you think is the connection between what our hearts feel and what we actually do?

Pray: Ask God to help you to obey him. Thank him for loving you, especially by sending Jesus to die in your place on the cross.

Do: Make a quick list of the top 5 people you love and the top 5 people you are told to obey. Circle the ones that make both lists.

Keep: The Problem with Us

“Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.” (Deuteronomy 6:3)

God was promising his homeless children a dream come true: to take possession of their own fertile, beautiful, perfect country. But the gift came with an “if.” “It’s yours for as long as you keep following me.” That didn’t turn out to be for very long.

tree2_350Israel’s history is a road map of human nature. God proved a point in giving Israel chance after chance after chance to be faithful to him. He would graciously allow her enemies to conquer her, then wait for her to repent, then bring her home and bless her and let her try again.

But humans are stubborn. Even with a perfect God offering huge prosperity and peace and every good gift, we eventually turn against him. Our restless hearts are full of sin and self. To ever truly have a successful relationship with God, we would need a savior to come and change us from the inside out.

And that’s exactly what the God who loves Israel—and all of us—made possible when he sent his Son to earth.

Think: Do you think we needed evidence that we would not follow God even in the best of circumstances? Are you convinced that human beings are born naturally broken and sinful and selfish, or do you think we’re all basically good?

Pray: Thank God for his good promises to Israel and to all of us. Thank him for sending Jesus to pay for our sin and make it possible for our hearts to be changed from the inside out.

Do: Listen this week for statements from people suggesting that humans are basically good or basically not good.

Keep: Hear

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

The religion of the ancient Israelites was remarkably different from the religions of most of the other nations in the Middle East at this time in history. Most people in the world served a variety of gods, hoping to keep the right ones happy and keep the wrong ones from being angry.

tree2_350But what could you do? You needed the favor of the gods to get good crops, to have healthy babies, and to avoid disaster. That’s what everyone believed. You had to try to keep them all satisfied.

Today’s verse became known to Israelites by a single word: “hear.” God wanted them to always remember they had just one God to serve, and he would not change his mind about right and wrong, good and evil. He was reliable, consistent, and faithful. And he still is. And he always will be.

Think: What’s the advantage of serving a single God who does not change his mind or his standards?

Pray: Thank the Lord your God that he is one.

Do: Write a quick list of some of the modern “gods” or idols that people serve today. Put a check mark next to the ones that demand the most time and attention.