18 Oct 2006

Deuteronomy, Gospel of Love #3: People of the Great Story? Deut 6.20-25

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Deuteronomy, Exegesis, Grace, Hebrew Bible, Ministry, Preaching
Moses must have had children! What parent has not been quizzed by a child seeking to understand her world? A trip to Wal-Mart can produce more questions than we ever imagine. But sometimes questions come that provide a golden opportunity to cultivate and illuminate faith in our precious children. The Bible is a big book. And Moses had a lot to say about the commandments of God. It is easy to for us humans to miss the significance of God’s torah when all we can see is the individual “trees” so to speak.

Moses had a vision of a family conversation in which a child, a teenager perhaps (?), would say to her Dad “What is this all about?” “Why do we go to church?” “Why do we do this or don’t do that?” “When your child asks, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” (6.20)    The answer Moses instructs us to give speaks volumes about the nature of the torah and the nature of our relationship with Yahweh. The meaning of the commands are none other than the Story of salvation.  Moses says tell your daughter or son:

We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders – great and terrible – upon Egypt and pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as it is the case today …” (Deuteronomy 6.21-24)

The parent/teacher becomes a theologian of sorts and passes on a few essential theological points to the listener. First, the meaning of the commandments is that God so loved Israel he became her Redeemer.  That is Yahweh took on the gods of Egypt and Pharaoh himself and defeated them for the sake of delivering Israel from slavery. Beloved child if you fail to see the grace of salvation in the torah, then we have failed to grasp the torah. There is not a command in the Law of Moses that exists for the sake of the command.  Paul would put it like this “the goal of the command is love” (1 Tim 1.5).   Second, God’s commands testify to the faithfulness of Yahweh in keeping his oath to the Patriarchs. The stipulations are evidence that God has entered into his covenant with the children of Abraham as he promised.  Sinai is nothing short of God fulfilling the promise made to the Patriarchs. The commands again remind us of the promise keeping faithful to the covenant God.  Third, the commands remind us that God has made us his own at Horeb. Beloved daughter/son, we are people of the Story: People of redemption, people of election, people of adoption and this is what the torah means.

Deuteronomy reminds us in a powerful way that commands are not simply about commands. The torah of God points us to the Story, the Great Story of salvation by God’s grace. Moses teaches us that the story provides meaning and motive for following God.

As NT Christians this Mosiac truth is still valid. What is the meaning of our bizarre rituals and antique lifestyle? Is it not that God rescued us by his own hand? Baptism is not about baptism. Nor is baptism even about remission of sins. Is not the act of baptism about the Story? Baptism tells the story of God’s salvation. The Lord’s Supper is not about bread and wine is it. Rather the bread and wine are vehicles to tell the story of God’s Great Story of redemption. In both baptism and Lord’s Supper we, like Israel of old, are invited to “remember” … not the command but what God has done. Remembering in Hebrew is not simply a total recall of factoids. Remembering in Hebrew is more like what we call virtual reality … as I follow God’s commands my life is absorbed in the Great Story of grace.

When asked why do we keep God’s commands, Moses’ answer was not “because God said so.” Nor did he reply in a number of ways we are tempted to answer. Why do we keep the torah? What does the Bible mean? Moses’ reply is that we do this because we are People of the Great Story of Grace. If we have the story ingrained in our soul how can we but love his torah?

Bobby Valentine

16 Responses to “Deuteronomy, Gospel of Love #3: People of the Great Story? Deut 6.20-25”

  1. cwinwc Says:

    I have never heard Deuteronomy summed up as a picture of grace but it certainly makes sense. Thanks for the post.

  2. Stoogelover Says:

    Very good, Bobby. But then I’ve come to expect “very good” from you.

  3. Gary W. Kirkendall Says:

    Great post — Keep those OT realities comming!! Who knows, maybe even someday we will study them in adult classes too!

  4. Velcro Says:

    Great Post.

    I’m reminded of something one of my professors said concerning the ministry, “Without the WHY, the Who, What, When and Where won’t get you very far”.

  5. Bill Says:

    This is beyond excellent, my brother!

    What a revelation! The Bible is full of Good News, even the Old Testament.

    Thanks for not only sharing your knowledge, but also your heart. We are blessed because you do!


  6. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    You hit the nail on the head about the heart of the Mosaic law. David obviously saw something in the law to love, and to love with a passion. I think many people find that puzzling. How could you love a bunch of rules? That is missing the heart. It is so sad that we sometimes miss the heart of God even in the current covenant. It should be so obvious but we are sometimes blind.

    BTW, I’ll do an article on my blog about Kingdom Come once it arrives from Amazon and I have a chance to read it.


  7. Matt Says:

    Your post reminded me of one of the best gifts I ever got. It was from a friend who gave me a box with 12 rocks in it. In it was a note with a reference to Joshua 4:5-7. In that passage Joshua alludes to future teachable moments when their children would ask what this pile of rocks means – the answer pointed toward the power and providence of God who brought them into the land.

  8. Falantedios Says:

    While I haven’t read Kingdom Come yet, I’m going to venture out onto a limb and tell you, Bobby, that this is the best piece of your writing I’ve ever read. I wish someone had told me this 10 years ago.

    in HIS love,

  9. John Says:

    Awesome- everything in the Word points to His grace. I’m definitely see the OT in a different light. Thanks.

  10. preacherman Says:


    Excellent post.
    The applications you make between Old Testament and New is wonderful and insightful. You really know how to connect them. Thanks for bring some fresh insight into the text of Deut.
    God bless you brother!

  11. MommyHAM Says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Bobby. This idea is summed up, for me, in Deuteronomy 10:15-18: 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. In other words, we ought to LOVE Him, because He FIRST LOVED US!

    Also – b/c I’m a NERD-girl…The word heart/hearts is dropped 33 times in the NIV translation of Deuteronomy….hmmmm, think the HEART of the matter with our Father involves our hearts/love?

    As a side note, A trip to Wal-Mart can produce more questions than we ever imagine – SO true, evidenced here.

  12. David U Says:

    Super post, Bobby. You are DEAD on brother! Keep em coming.


  13. Mike Exum Says:


    Thanks for the invitation to your site. Well put.

    My goal is to become a great story-teller. My blog Messianic Gentile deals largely in story and stories in various ways. From time to time I tell some. I hope to get better at it.

    I really like your observation about Hebrew memory being like virtual reality. That is a nice analogy. It captures the thought nicely. I think I will use that.

    Many blessings…

  14. Danny Says:

    As always Bobby you bring us to another level in your study of Scripture.

    I join the others in expressing my appreciation for sharing with us your wisdom on Deuteronomy.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. Things are well in the Panhandle. It is our big homecoming weekend and God has smiled on us with cool, beautiful autumn days.

    Hope all is well in the land of beer and cheeseheads!

  15. Ben Overby Says:

    Bobby, I’m still catching my breath from the move and finally finding some time to give attention to old blog favorites like yours. Couple of things. Aside from the truth regarding the theological issues, this is just good writing. Perhaps better than anything else you’ve tapped out on the keyboard. I thank God for the grace He’s giving you as a scholar and a poet.

    But with respect to the theology, keep reminding the world that we are part of a story! As a teacher, I’m constantly impressed with how differently people can come to see the gospel, indeed all reality, if we can give them enough perspective so that they see that Torah, or the psalms and prophets, or Mark and Romans, isn’t like a narrow line marked out on a flat surface like a football field. They’re more like the various levels visible along a wall within the Grand Canyon, lines that add beauty to the whole picture, provide foundation, act as previous chapters in a marvelous tale about our astonishing reality. When we get Moses off the flannel board and see him as a multi-dimensional human like the rest of us, then maybe we’ll read torah like Lord of the Rings; we’ll realize that our world is just as magical, just as dangerous, just as spectacular, just as horrible, just as dramatic as all those other stories (which get their energy from the original anyway).

    BTW, I’m going to spend a few days next week at Harvard, enjoying among other things, lectures by N.T. Wright. For those who don’t know his work, he presents all the depth of God’s theology, but within the framework of story, and does it as well as anyone you’ll ever read.

    Do I smell another book, Bobby? What’s next from you? Any projects in the works?


  16. Mike Exum Says:

    N.T. Wright ROCKS!!!

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