reciprocal and imitative love .:5:.

Img_2704_3*Here is my 5th academic sounding commentary… bear with me! : )

    These five responses (see prior post) are in effect a summary of Deuteronomy… and for that matter, the entire Old Testament.[1]   They are not meant to be linear steps of discipleship, where one begins with “fear” and graduates with “observance” of law.  No, each of these phrases, while distinct, are intertwined with one another. Wright suggests the five phrases “are essentially a twisting kaleidoscope of all the colors and patterns that flow from the central commandment – to love God.” [2]  And so, placed at the fulcrum of the requirements, is love.  It is the hinge point by which all the others are founded and bounded.  Namely, a response of love to the LORD will be displayed in a proper posture of awe and respect.[3]   Furthermore, a response of love to the LORD will be evidenced in righteous living intent on following God’s patterns.  It is an imitation of what God does.[4]   A response of love to the LORD will also be binding within every aspect of a person’s (or community’s) passions and actions.[5]   And finally, a response of love to the LORD will simply be noted in the way a person guards and treasures God’s equipping boundaries for their lives.[6]
    Love is the centrifugal core from which all the others flow.  It is a reciprocation of the active passion of the LORD himself.  This is the point that many Christians today fail to recognize about the Old Testament.  Many Bible readers consider the “laws” and “commands” to be the central purpose of the Old Testament.  Many have mistakenly highlighted obedience as the one thing that the LORD required from his people.  But what we are to “hear” in this passage is that God requires love; just as a husband desires that his wife love and respect him or just as a father craves to be loved and honored by his children.  In other words, Israel is to embrace God’s commands because they are to love the LORD.  As Tigay suggests, Moses “does not focus on obeying the rules of the renewed covenant… but on underlying attitudes, as he does throughout this part of Deuteronomy.”[7]   It is for the very good of his people, for the restoration of relationship with him and his world, for the benefit of knowing the LORD and living in the land he has given them, that God lovingly gives Israel these good requirements.[8]  
    Considering Israel’s historical context alongside this passage, Desmund T. Alexander and David W. Baker remind us of why these things are for the good of God’s people: 

In giving his people the law… God demonstrates more grace, for these provide practical, ethical and spiritual guidance for reclaiming their lives in the Promised Land.  The Hebrews had lived with the dehumanizing bondage of slavery for generations.  In order to experience shalom that God intends, the people must learn to see themselves, others, and the world from a new, holy perspective.  These are given not for God’s benefit, but for the well-being of the Hebrews (Deut 10:12-13). [9]

    These commands are to help Israel love God and live well by loving others.  Later in Israel’s history, with obvious recollection of Moses’ query and in the context of God’s disappointment with Israel’s unfaithfulness, Micah 6:8 offers a similar question and offer a similar answer.  “He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?” the prophet asks.  “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Mercy stems from God’s loving grace given to Israel; the very act that Israel in Micah’s day was failing to embrace.  God requires Israel to reciprocate his love and evidence it by their whole-hearted action.  “The motivation,” Wright contends, “is total and exclusive commitment” to the LORD.  Micah’s threefold answer summarized prophetic preaching in the same way that Moses’ fivefold answer summarized the Torah.[10]   And McConville notes: “this requirement of a heartfelt love of what is right, based in loyalty to Yahweh, is the stuff of Deuteronomy too.”[11]    Alexander and Baker concur: “Love is never a mere statement or feeling in Deuteronomy; rather love expresses itself in obedience.”[12]

~prior posts~
reciprocal and imitative love .:1:.
reciprocal and imitative love .:2:.
reciprocal and imitative love .:3:.
reciprocal and imitative love .:4:.

~footnotes~

  1.   “Here God’s requirements are summarized.  These are the main principles expressed throughout Deuteronomy, and all have been expressed earlier.”  See also 4:10,40;6:5,13,24;8:6.” Tigay, 107
  2.   Wright, 145.  Regarding the whole section, Wright also reminds the reader similarly “to read each verse (14-15) in the light of the other for they mutually qualify and ‘flavor’ each other.” Wright, 146
  3.   “Fear,” according to Wright means to “to have a basic respect and reverence for the covenant Lord that permeates all other attitudes (cf.5:29;6:13;10:20).” Ibid., 145
  4.   cf. 6:5; 11:1,13,22.  See Ibid., 145 
  5.   Wright suggests that “to serve” is a “metaphor of bonded service to the one who has bought and therefore owns the people (cf. 6:13; 10:20; 11:13).” Ibid., 145
  6.   Finally, Wright suggests that “to observe” means “to give careful, conscientious, and constant attention to the terms and stipulations of the covenantal relationship (cf. 7:11; 11:1,8,13,22).” Ibid., 145
  7.   Tigay, 107
  8.   Wright offers: “Through obedience, Israel could enter into secure possession of the land, long life, enjoyment of all God’s gifts, etc (cf. 5:29,33; 6:24; 30:15-20).  It also condenses the important ethical point that the law itself was a gift of God’s grace for the benefit of human beings, not an imposition for arbitrary divine satisfaction.” Wright 145
  9.   Alexander, T. Desmond and David W. Baker.  Dictionary of the Old Testament Penteteuch: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003., 374.
  10.   Wright, 144-145
  11.   McConville, 199
  12.   (cf. Deut 5:10;7:9’10:12-13;11:1,13,22;19:9;30:16). Alexander, 154

2 Comments

  1. Working on it James! I plan to make it available as a file soon. It’s split up into four more posts as of now… to be put up in the next two weeks. Then I’ll put the compiled file together for ya! Glad you’re getting something from this study!

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