Guarding Over God’s Instructions

Leah DiPascal

Day: 4 | Plan: Deuteronomy

Today's Reading: Deuteronomy 4

Deuteronomy 4:1-2 (NIV)Now, Israel, hear 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 the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses continues speaking to the people of Israel in what is considered by scholars to be the first of three final speeches he delivers before passing on to be with the Lord.

As this young generation stands poised to enter the Promised Land without him, Moses implores them to get it right and not repeat the destructive sins of their forefathers.

Within the first two verses, Moses gives five instructions that were imperative in following God’s law and commands so Israel could continue experiencing the blessings of the covenant.

Listen – “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you.”

Follow – “Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.

No Adding – “Do not add to what I command you …”

No Subtracting – “… do not subtract from it,”

Keep – “but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”

The word hear in the original Hebrew text is shama, which means to hear with intelligence, careful attention and obedience. The Israelites were instructed to hear God’s words with intentionality and purpose. These were not words that should be ignored, soon forgotten or simplified in any way.

The word follow in the original Hebrew text is asah, which means to accomplish, advance, bring forth and execute. Following God’s laws and commands would require the Israelites to take action and be proactive in their obedience, instead of assuming God’s blessings would be handed to them without any effort on their part.

God strictly forbade the Israelites to add or subtract a single word to His law and commands. His instructions were all sufficient and perfect in every way.

God doesn’t need mankind adding extra rules and regulations to His living and active Word or taking away whichever commands one doesn’t feel like applying to their lives. (Hebrews 4:12) To think otherwise or make attempts to dilute and diminish it would be grounds for great rebuke. (Proverbs 30:6; Deuteronomy 12:32)

Jesus acknowledged the consequences of adding and subtracting to God’s Word in the Sermon on the Mount when He said,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

Finally, the word keep in the original Hebrew text is shamar, which means to guard over, keep watch, protect, treasure up and observe.

So let me ask, are we truly hearing God’s instructions today with careful attention, intelligence and obedience?

Are we genuinely following God’s truths, allowing it to advance, bring forth and accomplish His blessings in our lives?

Are we attempting to add our own guidelines and rules to God’s commands to justify our halfhearted actions or compromising decisions?

Are we subtracting the parts of Scripture that make us feel uncomfortable with our messed-up thoughts and lukewarm lifestyles?

Let’s make the decision—not just today but every single day—to keep watch, protect, treasure up, observe and guard over God’s Word as if it was our very life … because it is.

For without God’s perfect instructions, guiding truth and saving grace, we are nothing more than hopeless people chasing after the wind.

The enemy would love to set us up for failure by twisting the truth, tricking us into believing God is somehow holding out on us or that we can achieve greater things without following His instructions.

Let’s not forfeit our blessings from God by thinking His instructions can be improved upon by us. Instead, let’s be intentional in obeying God’s instructions and walk in the fullness of His assurance for our lives.

Prayer: Lord, I have made all sorts of compromises and treated Your Word as if it’s common language that can be added and subtracted to by my liking. I don’t always pay careful attention to it or treasure it up in my heart and mind like You’ve instructed me to do. Let me be an open vessel for Your words to flow through, instead of an obstacle that barricades Your instructions in my life. Help me to honor You by keeping Your commands. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Further on in Deuteronomy 4, Moses tells the Israelites:

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