Our Great & Terrible God

May 08, 2017
Dave Hatcher

Our Great and Terrible God – Deuteronomy 10:12-22

12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? 14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.

19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. 22 Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude.

Introduction – Filled with pathos, Moses begins to finish this extended commentary on the first commandment. He preaches a revival sermon and he directs it particularly to the next generation, the up and coming generation in the covenant. This sermon simply follows in the same context.

And Now…(vv12-13) – God graciously established and renewed his covenant with your fathers, in spite of their covenant breaking (9:1 – 10:11). Turning to the next generation, Moses exhorts, “So therefore”, Israel, “what does the LORD your God require of you…” Five things are mentioned and they culminate in the center: fear, walk, love, serve, and keep. The first commandment, stated negatively, is “you shall have no other gods before me,” and this may be seen as a expressing the same in positive and broader terms. Knowledge and outward obedience, even miraculous powers, are empty, if there is not love (1 Cor 13:1-3).

God Over All Creation (vv14-16) – A superlative praise (v14), a surprising revelation (v15), and a charge to respond (v16). The heavens of the heavens belong to Yahweh and the earth and every molecule in it. And yet, Yahweh delighted only and specially in your fathers, including their seed. Only grace can make sense of this, and only faith can embrace it as true and a delight. God is immeasurably and eternally transcendent over all creation AND God is personally delighting in life in and with you. The charge: circumcise your hearts and no longer be stiff-necked! God has never been and never will be interested in simple outward conformity; true Jews are Jews who have been inwardly circumcised and seek the praise of God, not men (Rom 2:29). The charge is to repent, to be born again, and to soften your stiff necks.

Our Great and Terrible God (vv17-19) – A superlative praise (v17), a surprising revelation (v18), and a charge to respond (v19). Yahweh, your God, is sovereign over everything in His creation. His works are mighty (like His salvation of Israel out of Egypt) and terrible (not simply “awesome,” as when the ground opened up and swallowed thousands of grumbling Israelites). God didn’t need your friendship, your money, your skills or good looks. He has no deficiency in Himself. He metes out judgment for sin (Rom 6:23) and when calamity befalls a city, Yahweh has done it (Amos 3:6). He gives life and He takes it, measuring out the days for each of us (Psalm 139:16, 90:7-12).

And yet, He stoops to care for the weakest and most vulnerable, even those who have become so because of His hard providence. “He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.”(v18). In the midst of hard providences, many Christians sound like the foolish women in Job’s day (Job 2:9-10). The fact of destructions, catastrophes, genocide, rape, pillage, and torture are realities in a world where God’s decretive will is exhaustive in its sovereignty. And in His sovereignty, He is making good from all the sin, all the injustice, all the treachery that man can muster (Acts 2:27-28, Rom 8:28). This can only be understood in the context of worship. Look around you. We are a cursed race but God has stooped to save us.

The charge: be like God, stoop and choose to give mercy and grace to the outcast, the weakest, the most desperate, even the unworthy (James 1:26-2:4).

You Shall…(v20) – This time four things are listed and the reasons follow: fear Yahweh, serve Him, cleave to Him (not simply “hold fast”), and swear by His name. The image of “cleaving” harkens back to Gen 2:24) which is a picture of Christ and the church (Eph 5:31). Are you tempted to stand away (like Israel when Moses was on the mountain)? Are you tempted to only be found “in the vicinity?” The call of repentance and faith is to love God with all your heart, (with) zealous devotion to Him, for you are joined to Him by His Spirit.

He Is Your Praise (vv21-22) – He is your praise and He is your God. You are not ignorant, you know the stories. You know the Story. You know the great things He has done. You know the terrible (again, not simply “awesome”) things He has done. He is not playing games. And when it seems that you are small or that you are part of the outcast group when you follow Yahweh – when there are only “seventy” who went down to Egypt, remember what has come forth. You know where this story is going. You know you would be worse than an idiot to walk away from this.

Additional Reading