Door Posts of the Pentateuch
D. J. Williams, Penygraig
3 The Door Post of Submission, Deut 6. 4-12; 11. 16-21.
As we have considered the subject of door posts it has been clear that they suggest for the believer a very definite moral order. The Christian's spiritual life begins with Salvation through faith in Christ - the Lamb of God. His precious blood was shed for our redemption, see Exod. 12; 1 Pet. 1.
Then we learn some suggested principles of Service for the Master we have come to love, Exod. 21.
Now we shall think of the only way in which our present and future pathway down here can be one of continual blessing and happiness, namely by Submission to the authority of the word of God.
First, consider The Setting of our theme. The book of Deuteronomy is didactic rather than historical. The emphasis of its message is the supreme importance of the word of God. This is made clear in the English title of the book, 'Deuteronomy', meaning 'second (Deuteros) Law (Nomos)'. This has led many to believe that we have here a 'repetition of the Law'. The Hebrew title of the book, based on the opening words, 'These are the words', is however, a more apt and accurate description of the book, 1. 1. It is not a total repetition of the Law, but consists of a col lection of the final discourses of Moses on the Law. An analysis of the book will readily show this. This strong emphasis on the importance of the word of God is because Deuteronomy is a book of transition. This is seen in four ways:
1. The Transition to a New Generation. Except for Joshua and Caleb most, if not all, of the generation of their peers, which came up out of Egypt, died in the wilderness. A new generation was to go into the land.
2. The Transition to a New Possession. The wilderness pilgrimage was over and gave place to national occupancy of the land of Canaan.
3. The Transition to a New Order. The people of God were brought into a new experience in daily living. They had houses instead of tents, that is, a settled habitation instead of uncertain aimless sojourning. The wilderness diet gave place to the rich seven-fold food of a settled people, wheat, barley, fruit of the vine and fig trees, pomegranates, oil olive and honey.
4. The Transition to a New Revelation of God. Never once do we read of the love of God for man from Genesis through to Numbers. It was a truth completely hidden. But here in Deuteronomy it appears again and again with such sweet revelation, cf. 4. 37; 7. 7-8; 10. 15; 23. 5.
Canaan is not a type of heaven, far from it, but there is a lesson here for us. It was not until God had His people settled in the land that the fullness of His love was fully appreciated. When we stand with Christ in the glory of heaven, then, and only then, fellow believer, will we fully know the wonder and the greatness of His love that brought us there.
'Then, Lord, shall I fully know
Not till then, how much I owe.'
One further matter of vital importance. Constantly through the 'wilderness journey' God showed His great concern for the children of a rising generation, those who were young at the time of the Exodus and the many who were born in subsequent years. They had grown up in the wilderness and could have been but children when the 'Law' was first given. It was essential that they too, should know the laws of God that they might obey intelligently. It was the duty of all in Israel to do this work, and not leave it to the leaders only. It was not an exceptional work; it was basic to all in every area of life.
That is the theme now before us. Note the characteristics that were to mark the people:
1. Their lives were to be motivated by love for God
An oft forgotten truth is that God desires the love of His People, Deut. 6. 5. The words 'thou shalt love the Lord thy God' seem to teach that God is commanding the people to love Him. It is better to regard the first part of the verse as expressing the deep heart longing of God for the love of His people. Then comes the command 'with ALL thy heart - with ALL thy soul - with ALL thy might'. Their love was to be real and not the sham of mere lip service. A person of great power may be able to command subjection and service from those he rules, but love cannot be commanded; it must be won. God never desires anything from His own, but what He first gives proof, that He is worthy of it. He desires and longs for our love; surely his desires are our commands. He has demonstrated His love in the greatest way possible - the death of His son on Calvary's cross. He longs for the reciprocation of the love of human hearts.
The Lord appreciates the love of His people. Very often love given is not appreciated. There is no response from the object of love and it hurts. God greatly appreciates the affection of our hearts, and laments the absence or loss of it. God, speaking of His people, said, 'I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals (first love)1Jer. 2. 2. He recalled the early years of the devotion and love of His redeemed people, and it must have hurt Him that it was no longer there. Is there not here an echo of the words of the Lord Jesus, 'thou hast left thy first love'? Rev. 2. 4. This book, Deuteronomy, also clearly shows that 'love to God' is the only acceptable motive in all our service, and any other is unworthy, cf. 10. 12.
2. Their lives were to be regulated by the word of God, vv. 6-9
Very clearly a dual truth is taught here: 1. True service is the expression of love. 2. Obedience is the proof of true love. Jesus taught, 'If a man love me he will keep my words', John 14. 21. 23.
1. God's words were to be in their hearts, v. 6. God begins with the inner being of the individual. He states that His word is to be first in the seat of control of the personality - the heart. Why? Because all that a man is, and will ever be, begins here. All the behaviour and the beliefs of life flow from the heart - 'out of it are the issues of life', Prov. 4. 23. The Psalmist recognized how vitally important this was in his day, 'Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee', 119. 11. 'Yea, thy law is within my heart', 40. 8; see also Matt. 15. 19.
2. God's words were to be in their mouths, v. 7, for a two-fold purpose: 'thou shalt teach them - and talk of them'. If the word of God is first in the heart then soon it will manifest itself through the mouth as our lips begin to speak of it. The Lord Jesus taught that this was the correct order, 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh', Matt. 12. 34. Consider the reasons why the word is to be in the mouth. It was:
(a) To fulfil their parental duty, for 'thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children'. This statement is one of the most searching and meaningful in the whole of this book of Deuteronomy. It is a challenge and rebuke to all of us today, mainly because of our failure to do what God instructed here. God's thought of the children, and care for them, is evidenced throughout all the history of His people and, in particular, in the recitation of the Law, and indeed in all ceremonies of their worship.
When their children would ask 'what mean ye by this service?', Exod. 12. 26, or 'when thy son asketh thee in time to come saying, what meaneth the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgements?,' Deut. 6. 20, and 'when your children ask their fathers... what mean ye by these stones?', Josh 4. 6, God instructed that it was the business of the parents to answer such questions, and so to instruct each successive generation in the matter of their national history and their God-given religion. The children were to be taught and taught repeatedly, not merely told, the meaning of these things. If God was so insistent of the duty of parents to teach 'the commandments, the statutes and the judgements' to their children in that day, surely He is equally concerned that His people do so today.
Moreover, it is well to recall that 'the fathers' were principally responsible for the giving of this religious instruction. We live in a day when something of this high ideal has been lost by Christian people and specially Christian fathers. Because of the demands of work, or business, and other pursuits of whatever nature they be, there is the tendency to relegate this work to mothers or trust the spiritual teaching of our children to others. We are content to let the preachers, or the Sunday-school teacher do the work, claiming, falsely, that they specialize in this field in one form or another. Thank God for all such people, but the diligent teaching of the children and their spiritual upbringing belongs to the parents to whom children have been entrusted as the most sacred of all the gifts of God. No one can teach like a father and mother. Its virtue and value will result in eternal blessedness. What a responsibility!
(b) To fulfil their Personal Delight. The word of God was not only for teaching, it was intended to be appreciated and a source of enjoyment to the people of God. This verse makes clear that there is not a place or a time when it cannot be talked about for personal enrichment and enjoyment. It is not for 'set times' only, it can be the subject of conversation at all times and in all places.
Said God, 'then shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house'. In the quiet seclusion of the home, at the family hearth, the word of God can be talked of as the most natural topic of conversation. We talk of every subject except the one that ought to be of supreme importance to us - His truth.
We read, 'My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter: I speak the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer', Psa. 45. 1, RV. If we can talk of His word in the privacy of the home, which often is the most difficult place to do so, then we will most certainly do so in the other places; 'when thou walkest by the way and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Oh, the unspeakable joy and pleasure bestowed upon us, from dawn to dusk, in our downsitting and our uprising. His word is available to us! There is not an area or department of life when the word of God cannot be the talked about and be a thrill to the child of God. Sadly, so many believers today endure rather that enjoy the word of God.
3. God's words were to be on their hand, v. 8a. That is precisely what the verse says, 'And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand'. From early times the Jews have understood this command literally, and from the days when the Lord was here until now, great importance is attached to the practice of certain 'memorials', or visible reminders of this obligation to keep the Law of God. One of the memorials is called the 'tephillin' -which is a small box about a cubic inch in size, containing a piece of parchment, on which is written in a special form of handwriting the four passages, Exod. 13. 1-10, 11-16; Deut. 6. 4-9; 11. 13-21. This is fastened inside the forearm, so that they literally bind some of the words of the Law upon their hand. However, the command here is probably emphasizing symbolically the need to allow the word of God to control all our activities - what we do with our hands. So much of what we practise today is contrary to the high standards of God's word. 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, doit with all thy mighf, Eccl. 9. 10, We are not to do anything in a slipshod manner, whether it be secular or spiritual. We need always to remember that we represent the Lord Christ in every area of life, whether it be 'in church' or out of church. Indeed more so when we are out, and before the gaze of men, for that is where our testimony is seen.
Let us recall the words, 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly', and 'whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus', Col. 3. 16-17. We should never put our hands to anything that we would be ashamed to associate with the Lord's name.
4. God's words were to be between their eyes, v. 8b. This second half of the verse is part of the 'tephillin' ritual. Another small box containing the same Scriptures is placed on the forehead, between the eyes, to be a sign (memorial), the visible reminder to keep the Law. These would be worn at prayer on weekdays, and were sometimes enlarged, as did the Pharisees of our Lord's time, to display special devotion to the Law, Matt. 23. 5. These 'frontlets' ('phylacteries') were supposed to protect them and ward off evil spirits.
The believer requires no such physical 'memorials' of selected portions of the Scriptures affixed between the eyes to protect from evil. We have all the word of God to protect the 'eye gate' of our life. If we look at 'things' as they relate to the standard of divine truth we will be kept from the perils that bring disaster to so many. The confession of Achan is true of so many of the Lord's people who have made shipwreck of their lives, 'I saw (eyes) I coveted (heart) and took (hands)'. If only he had remembered the word of God and its prohibition. The same was true of David, king in Israel, cf. 2 Sam. 11. David saw, v. 2, then took, v. 4, and so sinned against God, and brought dishonour to God, himself, his family and, tragically, the nation. One look resulted in David breaking four of God's commandments. If only the word of God had been to him as 'frontlets before his eyes'.
5. God's words were to be on the door posts and gates of their houses, v.
9. The Jews have a similar 'memorial' for their homes called 'mezuza', which is a small oblong box containing the passage Deuteronomy 6. 4-9. This is affixed to the right-hand door post of the house and each inhabited room, in accordance with the Scriptures, Deut. 6. 9. Sadly, sometimes this practice has degraded into a mere 'lucky charm' to keep off evil spirits during the night. There is a very apt and timely truth here for believers today and it is significant as a reminder that the word of God should act as a sentinel at the entrances to the home. The 'gates' should be guarded, so that whoever, and whatever, passes and enters into the house, will never dishonour the Lord. The home life, and all that goes on behind the doors must be governed by the word of God, cf. 2 John 10.
This book of Deuteronomy, with its emphasis on obedience to the word of God, strongly forbids bringing any 'abomination' into the home, 7. 26. Abominations defile the people and dethrone God. Yet, when a believer gets away from the Lord who can tell what will be allowed to come in, see Judges 17. 4-5. The Lord's command to His people, 'there shall no leaven be found in your houses', should ensure that no evil ever crosses the threshold of the home. It should always be a place fit for the heavenly Guest. Recently a piece of poetry came into the writer's possession. It began: 'If Jesus came to your home to spend a day or two . . .', and it went on to describe vividly the changes we might have to make to accommodate Him. It was the last line that was so searching; it asked, 'Or, would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?', cf. Matt. 21. 17.