III. WHAT THE LORD DESIRES:
A call for imitative love (DEUT 10:17-19)
Continuing in his rhythmic description of God’s requirements, as in verse 14, Moses again begins with a reminder of God’s grandeur. Rather than recalling God’s ownership of the infiniteness of creation, Moses reminds Israel that there is no other God but the LORD. Perhaps no other concept produces a stronger foundation of love than for Israel to recognize that the One God of everything who has complete mastery over any other perceived or actual power in the universe is actually the very LORD who sets his affection on them. The phrase “God of gods and Lord of lords” resonates with “heaven of heavens” to emphasize again the remarkable reality that the Almighty desires relationship with his people.
But more than just a reminder of Israel’s responsibility to love God in the face of his greatness, is Moses’ reminder of their responsibility to love others. Moses connects God’s dominion over every power in the universe to his love for all people as well. Israel, though the object of the Lord’s affection, is not the only people group loved by God. In fact, in a humbling reminder to Israel, Moses says that God lovingly acts towards non-Israelites and does not favor Israel over them.
Those who miss the emphasis of love in the Old Testament, must recognize with Wright that in these verses “we have the Deuteronomic equivalent of the ‘second greatest commandment.” God, as Jesus in the New Testament, requires both that his people love him with all of their heart, soul and mind and that they love others like themselves. Primarily, Israel is to respond to God in love precisely because God loves Israel. Now secondarily, because God loves others, Israel is also to respond in love to God by responding in love towards others just like him. Because of God’s character, and because he governs everything, he shows no partiality, he is fair and honest in judgment, he defends the cause of the fatherless and widow, and loves the stranger (alien) by giving him food and clothing. Wright asks, “What does it mean to ‘walk in all God’s ways’ (v.12)?” This passage, he says, “is the answer.” In effect, Moses says to Israel, “So, therefore, do like God. Remember that God loved you when you were alien, poor and downtrodden in Egypt. So you are to love others who are in that condition.”
The basis of Israel’s law regarding foreigners and strangers in their land is laid in the foundational character of their God. Wright wisely observes in these verses the remarkable implications Moses makes regarding Israel’s relationship with God:
Nothing could be more characteristic of Israel’s ‘counter-cultural’ faith. The majestic monotheistic superlatives of verses 14 and 17 are harnessed, not to the glory and power of the wealthy and strong, but to the needs of the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable (cf. the same pattern in Isa 40:28-31). The rest of the law will demonstrate that the social concern was no fascade. Rather, the fundamental character of Yahweh expressed so succinctly here, and enjoined on Israel in verse 19, pervades the legal sections of Deuteronomy and explicitly shapes much of the practical social legislation.
Alexander and Baker agree that because God loves his people and because God loves others, Israel is to respond to God in love precisely by expressing love towards those very same others whom God loves:
Fundamental to the ethical call to the nation to defend and provide for the orphan is the very character of Yahweh himself, who, though he is the incomparable and omnipotent God, has demonstrated unmerited grace in his election and redemption of Israel (Deut 10:14-22).