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Deuteronomy

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©Jason Hall

Chapter 4:15-31 (ESV)

Posted on February 04, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 4:15-31 (ESV) - “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

“When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

Question to consider: Why was a carved image of God prohibited?

In calling Israel to renew their commitment to their covenant with God, Moses pointed out in yesterday’s passage that their experience with God was in hearing His voice from the fire and darkness of the holy mountain. Because they did not experience God in a physical form, Moses warned against attempting to give God a form by carving an idol of Him.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, the first chapter which describes the corruption of mankind is reminiscent of Moses’ words in today’s passage. The generation to which Moses spoke was not a part of those who created the golden calves while Moses was on the holy mountain. As they went into the nations of the promised land, they would encounter those who bowed down to the sun, moon, and stars or made carved images of men, women, and animals. It would be tempting to try to incorporate their idols into the worship of God or think that it would be easier to pray to God if they had some physical representation of Him. We can be tempted to do this today under the guise of multiculturalism. We see similarities between different religious practices or morals and try to turn God into an amalgam of our favorite ideas and experiences. 

In pointing out that they were brought out of the iron furnace of Egypt, Moses was reiterating that they were made in the image of God and therefore should not try to make an idol of Him. I believe that carved images were anathema to God because the only true physical representation of God would be the incarnation of His Son— the promised seed who would come from Israel.

It is interesting that the worship of idols is so closely related to sexual sin and invokes the jealousy of God. I think the key to this is that through their sexual immorality, the Israelites who were judged at Beth Peor had yoked themselves to the Baal there. God’s jealousy is not out of a sense of insecurity that Israel would worship another god. It was that all other gods were false and led Israel to death, and it was God’s desire for them to turn to Him and live.

Moses did not want Israel to do anything to forfeit the land, and he once again showed a bit of resentment by reiterating that he had lost the privilege of being able to go into the land because of them. In doing so, whether he knew it or not, Moses spoke prophetically, for Israel’s idolatry ended with them being uprooted from the land and scattered throughout the nations. In the latter days of the temple age which ended at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the scattered were once again gathered at Pentecost where the Spirit of God descended on the disciples, and the church was formed. Even in their dispersion after the stoning of Stephen, the church grew throughout the earth, and the gospel called them to return to the Lord their God. God did not forget His covenant for them, for He sent His Son to fulfill it and apply the covenantal promises to all who would call upon His name.

Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, may Your Law do its work in our hearts to show us our need for the righteousness that can only be obtained through faith in Christ. Help us to see how Christ is the fulfillment of all of Your covenantal promises throughout time. Amen.