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23rd February

Deuteronomy 4-6, Psalm 54

Bible in a Year
5 minutes
In this article
23rd February

Deuteronomy 4-6, Psalm 54

Bible in a Year
5 minutes


So far in Deuteronomy we’ve read through the beginning of Moses’ sermons to the new generation of Israelites. We noted how the perspective shifts, so now it seems like the narrator is looking back at this time in Israel’s history from their future and from the other side of the river.

We read as Moses recapped how the Israelites got here from Egypt. In particular we zoomed in on how this retelling showed us that the collective term of descendants of nephilim was Rephaim. Moses pointed out that everywhere their neighbouring nations had settled they had first driven out and killed all the Rephaim there.

In the same way, the Israelites will need to drive out and kill all the Rephaim in the land they enter. They are a sign of spiritual rebellion and must be removed.

Deuteronomy 4-6

Having recapped how they got to this point, Moses goes on to encourage the people to be faithful to their commitment to God. This begins with a call to listen (shema). This word and theme is going to come up again and again. Shema is more than just hearing. It’s hearing and taking in.

And so Moses encourages them to follow all the rules of God, not allowing themselves to be influenced by other religions to remove or add any. He then says if they stay committed to these laws then eventually the other nations will see how these rules have lead the Israelites to prosper, and will realise how wise these rules are and will want to follow them too.

We apply a similar way of thinking to our lives as Christians. If we are faithful to how God calls us to live it should develop a real peace and joy in our lives. When others see that peace and joy they are then more persuaded to live the way God says because they want what we have.

Moving on Moses challenges the Israelites not to get caught up in idolatry and reminding them that there is no God like their God, so they shouldn't worship anyone else. There’s two warnings here. The first is not to worship images they make with their own hands, be it an image they try to make of God, an image they make of their ancestors, or an image they make of animals.

These are all just some items made out of wood, metal, or clay. Why should they pay them any attention when they themselves are images of God, and they have access to God himself. They cannot hear (shema) the people like God does.

The other warning is to not look at the sun, moon, or stars and worship them. The host of heaven. These were seen as spiritual beings, and while real and powerful, unlike the images the humans make themselves, they are not to be worship. They too are just images of God and do not compare with him.

It even says of these spiritual beings “that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” (Deuteronomy 4:19).

Not only does this highlight God’s authority over these spiritual beings, but also hinted at what we mentioned back in Genesis 10-11, that God allotted different spiritual beings over the different nations. They are meant to be national spiritual guardians, not God’s to be worshipped.

Moses then reminds them of the 10 Commandments, the basis for all the other laws. Multiple times the Israelites are to hear (shema) the word of God, and even that God hears their word (Deuteronomy 5:28).

He then summarises this into the most important law, ""Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) This is known as the Shema because of that strong call to hear, and to this day Orthodox Jews will pray this daily.

Not only are they to hear, but they’re also to remember. They are to remember what God has done, and remember his commandments. They are to tell their children and their children these things so that they hear and remember.

Going forward, Moses is going to continue to encourage the Israelites to remain faithful to God's law for a few more chapters, before moving onto going through the laws one more time to remind them of what they all are.

Psalm 54

This psalm is associated with David, specifically referencing the Ziphites who were a group from the tribe of Judah, the same tribe as David, and betrayed him twice (1 Samuel 23:19; 26:1). The psalm falls into the category of lament psalm.

Psalm 54:1-2 - A request

Psalm 54:3 - The problem

Psalm 54:4-5 - A declaration of trust

Psalm 54:6-7 - The psalmist’s response

The psalm opens with two of the most common requests of God; save me, and hear me. There’s nothing worse than that feeling that God is blind to your struggle or hiding from you. The psalmist wants to know that God hears them and will rescue them.

The psalmist then brings his struggle. Wicked men have risen up against them. They seek the psalmist’s life and do not care about what God wants.

Having shared his problem with God and asked for help, the psalmist now declares their trust in God. The Lord helps and sustains the psalmist. He also repays the wicked with their own wickedness, because he is faithful to his people.

Confident now that God will answer, the psalmist turns to how they will respond to God’s goodness. They will make offerings and sacrifices, and give thanks to God for his goodness. These would have been public demonstrations, so that others can see the goodness God has done to the psalmist.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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