These Words Shall be on Your Heart

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.\

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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.\

When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
(Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25 ESV)

Today’s passage is a bit longer than most, but it helps me to see the bigger picture of what God has to say about teaching, particularly our children, youth, and people who are newer to the Christian faith. Here, the people of Israel are preparing to enter into the land God had promised to them. It was not going to be an easy experience. There was a lot of work, and many challenges ahead of them. Of all the things God might have spent time teaching them, it is interesting that God chose to give this clear and strong focus on their teaching of their children. In these passages, we see God’s goodness and care for His people in the instructions He gives. Though our own situations are different from what the Israelites faced, there is still much wisdom in this passage to guide those of us who teach the Scriptures and lead others in their study.

First, we see God’s desire for a close, loving relationship with His people. His steadfast love is clear in all that He patiently endured as He delivered the nation out of Egypt and as the people rebelled and ended up wandering in the wilderness for forty years. He desires that they would respond in love to Him. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This teaching is so important that when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, this passage was a key part of His response. We continue to teach today so people will know God’s great love for them and they will be encouraged to respond with whole-hearted love for God.

Second, we see God’s heart and desire to care for His people and to see them flourish. They are to follow God’s instruction so “that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly” (v. 4). They are to fear the Lord “for our good always, that he might preserve us alive.” God’s instruction is for our good, not to stifle us or make life hard. It is given us out of His great love for us, and His desire to see us have an abundant life. Jesus echoed this when, reflecting on His own ministry, He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). All of God’s actions and instructions are meant for us to have the best life possible. This is an act of love on His part and we need to recognize His love in His instruction. This is something we, as teachers, can repeatedly come back to and emphasize as we teach and lead our study groups.

Third, the people were called to do what God instructed them as they came into their new land, to have these words on their heart, and to teach them to the next generation. I think the progression here is deliberate: we need to be doing them ourselves; we need to prioritize them in our own hearts and be committed to them; and we need to teach our children so they will grow into these same practices, values, and commitments. We are to discuss them throughout the day as opportunities arise. This means that one of our high priorities in our teaching ministries is to equip parents and grandparents to do this kind of informal instruction at home. We need to see our teaching as multiplying the ministry of the Word in the lives of those we teach as they then share what they learn with the next generation.

Finally, God emphasizes how this kind of teaching encourages questions and conversation about the “whys” behind what we do as we follow God. Questions will naturally come up as children join us in following God’s instruction. ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ When these questions come, we don’t just reply with a reason for that particular rule or practice, but instead we are to share the story of how God, in His love for us, delivered us from bondage. The exodus from Egypt was the key story of God’s deliverance at that time, and we can share that story as well today. But, more importantly, we can share the story of Christ’s coming to deliver us from bondage to sin, and the new covenant relationship we enjoy with God because of His great love for us. This gospel of God’s grace is foundational to any instruction about God’s laws and our obedience to them. Rejoice in this gospel of grace yourself, and share it as you teach!

Father God, our Deliverer, thank you for your love for me that causes you to teach me the way I should follow. I know this is for my good, and I ask you to help me remember the love behind all you teach me. Help me to pursue obedience out of love for you, and to teach my children and grandchildren of your goodness in all you teach me, and your grace in and through Jesus Christ, who came so that I might have abundant life. Amen.

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