When Moses repeated the Word of the Lord to the children of Israel prior to his death and their crossing the Jordan River into Canaan with Joshua at the helm, he gave them severe warnings along with a reminder of who their God was.
The Israelites were to heed God’s Word for their own safety and protection. He first told them in Deuteronomy 4:2:
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”
One huge reason for this was how other nations and tribes would view Israel. By their diligently doing what Yahweh commanded, they would receive an important byproduct that He outlined in Deuteronomy 4:6-7:
“Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?”
This is exactly what God intended from the very beginning: Israel would be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3). By observing God’s favor upon His people, others would also seek Him and be likewise blessed.
In order to impress upon His people who He was – the Great I AM – Yahweh gave them a significant demonstration. Deuteronomy 4:12-13 expands upon the narrative from Exodus. Moses reminds the Israelites:
“Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.”
The Exodus text omitted these details. Here we learn that Yahweh didn’t just appear to Moses and speak to him. He also spoke verbally to the Israelites and gave them the Ten Commandments from His own mouth.
Moses goes on to extol Yahweh above every other god. He warns the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:15:
“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire.”
There are indeed other so-called gods who the peoples of the earth worship, but there is only One true God. And, what is it about Him? Deuteronomy 4:24 makes it clear:
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
Yahweh is the only God whose Word is true and righteous. He is jealous for His children, not jealous of them. God knew the disastrous consequences the Israelites would bring on themselves by letting their hearts be led astray by other gods. More that, if they followed these imposters against Yahweh’s command, He personally would punish them. Moses succinctly laid this out in Deuteronomy 4:26-27:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you.”
The Israelites were warned. Unfortunately, they would forget and ignore Moses’ admonition. The outcome would be bad news and good news. Deuteronomy 4:30 spells it out:
“When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice.
This wasn’t in doubt. Israel would and will go through the fire. And they did; all the way through the holocaust. But, it won’t stop there. Because of their disobedience, Israel must continue to suffer. The Tribulation is coming, and 2/3 of Israel will perish (Zechariah 13:8).
But, here’s the really Good News for God’s children Israel, which Deuteronomy 4:31 explains:
“For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”
The day is approaching when all Israel will be saved!