We said yesterday that our love for God does not come naturally, and that the exact opposite occurs because of our sin.
Therefore, if we are going to come to love God, the only way that is ever going to happen is by receiving a new nature from God Himself. In other words, we must be born again by the Holy Spirit making us spiritually alive.
This is exactly what the people of Israel discovered. Here in Deuteronomy 6 they are being told to love God, but they didn’t love God. Later, the prophets are going to come to tell them that they don’t love God because they are in rebellion against Him. And when Jeremiah comes, he will say that what is necessary is a new covenant written not on stone tablets, but written by the Lord on their hearts (see Jer. 31:31-33).
The second thing the people are encouraged to do is to impress these laws—above all, the duty to love God wholly—upon their children. After Moses tells the Israelites to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength, he then says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).
When those of us who are Gentiles read these commands, we think it’s strange that the Israelites took it so literally. The Jews wrote these verses down on little bits of paper, put them in little boxes, and bound them to their foreheads and arms, just as the verses told them to do. But if we think it’s strange to take those verses literally, it is much stranger for us who through Jesus Christ have come to know something of the love of God—how wide and long and high and deep it is, according to Ephesians 3:18—not to speak to our children more often about the love of God or tell our neighbors about how God showed His love in sending Jesus Christ to be the Savior. It’s far stranger that we should remain so silent. These verses are a great challenge to us, and too often we fail to do what we ought.
In Deuteronomy 7, we learn about God’s electing love. Why did God love Israel? Was it because they were more numerous than other people? The answer is no. Nor was it because they were better, nicer, kinder, or wiser. According to the text, God set His love upon them because He set His love upon them. As Moses said, it was “because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (v. 8).
This is true for you, too. Why did God save you? It’s not because you were brighter than anybody else, or better looking, or more energetic, or more moral. He saved you because He loved you. That is all. God set His love upon you—that is what electing love means. It is utterly unconditional, not drawn forth by anything good in you. We see this teaching here in Deuteronomy, and all the way through the Bible. If it were not for God’s unconditional love, none of us would be saved. If God wanted to find something in you that would make it possible for Him to love you, what possibly could that be? We cannot produce anything at all that would cause the holy God of the universe to love you. He set His love upon you in an electing way.
Deuteronomy 8-10 foresees two dangers that will come when the people prosper in the land. The first is the danger that they will begin to forget God. In difficult times we cry out to God for His help. But then when God hears us and things get better, we forget Him. Moses tells the people to watch out for that.
The second problem is that when the people prosper in the land, they might begin to think that the reason they prospered is because of their own righteousness. But this is not the case because they don’t have any. At this point, Deuteronomy begins to sound very much like the book of Romans. As soon as we do well we think that it’s because we are living a moral life and serving God that He is blessing us. But as soon as you begin to think that way you get into trouble. It is not for any righteousness that we have done, but because of the very love of God itself.