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Deuteronomy - Chapter 4, Lesson 1
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Pastor Ovid Need
NOTE: Time requires I leave in the minor errors, e.g., abbreviations in text, wrong abbreviations, mixed tenses in a sentence (though I have tried to catch all of them), caps, etc. As time progresses, we will correct the lessons. There are also some comments at the end of this chapter.
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Moses has spent the proceeding time reminding them of their recent history. Now he is going to move ahead with his exhortations to obey the Word of God. With this passage he introduces the law of God.
The Pulpit Commentary says that,
The law, nevertheless, was kept substantially entire. Even under the new dispensation, the law has not been abolished. Christ, as he himself declared, came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). The sin of the Pharisees for which they were censured by our Lord, lay in this, that they taught for doctrine the commandments of men (Matt. 15:9), and had "made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions" (Matt. 15:6). (3, p 57.)
Therefore, we see that ANY teacher who removes these commands of God (His law) from His people, regardless of the reason, is involved in the sin of the Pharisees. Moreover, that sin has the same curse of God against it today as it did then. If ANY TEACHER tries to tell us that God's law (the OT) is no longer for us today, that it is for another dispensation (period of time), whether past or future, then we had best flee from him for our lives. To hear and believe his teaching will bring the curse of God and shortness of life upon us.
V. 1 "...Now therefore..." With this, Moses passes from reviewing history to examining the law of God. He passes from what the Lord has done to what the Lord will do in fulfillment of His covenant. Moses calls two things to their attention, which will include all of the law of God, statutes and judgments. The statutes are the things prescribed or enacted by law, whether moral, ritual, or civil; judgments are rights, whether public or private, all that each individual could claim as his due, and all he was bound to render to God or to his fellow-men as their due, justice (P.C. 3, p 57).
1. What would be the results of doing or obeying the statutes and judgments, Ezek. 20:11?
a. Not only this, but what else, Ps. 5?
b. What did our Lord say concerning these statutes and judgments, Matt. 4:4?
c. Our Lord has uncountable blessings and promises for His people in Christ. How will these be possessed?
d. Therefore, what Moses is about to teach them again, statutes and judgments, is NOT just for their information, but for what, Deut. 6:24?
e. The word of God is not given for information about God or about the future or about the past. For what reason is it given to mankind?
2. Here is a problem with "prophecy conferences." Many times in these "conferences," they are trying to use the word of God to foretell the future. The farther away we get from the spirit of prophecy of Rev. 19:10, the more danger there is of the misuse of God's word. What is the godly spirit of prophecy in Rev. 19:10?
3. Deut. 4:2, is the first guard our Lord set to protect His word. We will find at least two more guards like this one. The next one is in about the middle, Prov. 30:6, and the last one is in Rev. 22:18-19. What do these three guards or soldiers guard against?
a. These three show us that God's word is one word, not two or three or four different words from God. Notice what our Lord said in Matt. 15:7-9. What did He say about those who try to divide up God's Word into two or more parts?
One God means one word. To divide God's word is to deny God." The church confronted this heresy quite early, around AD 200-220. The complete confrontation between Tertullian (AD 145-220) and the heretic Marcion, who first divided the word of God into OT and NT to promote his two god theory, is found in Vol. III of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, pg. 269-474. A far shorter, easy to read, treatment is found in Chalcedon Position Paper #57 "MARCIONISM" (Box 158, Vallecito, CA 95251). See Deut. 4, Supplement, Marcion. We will cover ONE GOD much more in chp. 6.
God's warning issued in Deut. 4:2 goes farther than what appears on the surface. It includes reading more into God's word than what it actually says, as did the Pharisees. It includes people who claim a "spirit of prophecy" from God, and claim to speak for Him. (Some even go so far as to put their words "from God" in print. However, they do not say "here is an addition to the KJV," but they will claim it is further revelation from God. These three soldiers protect against such foolishness.) All words MUST be in terms of God's revealed word, and that part of His word freely understood, Deut. 29:29. It also includes reading less into His word so one can avoid doing all it requires of God's people. (Ecc. 12:13, 14.)
V. 3, this record is found in Num. 25:1-13. Those to whom Moses spoke saw what happened, and it was, no doubt, burned into their minds. Moses uses Baalpeor to reinforce the benefits of being faithful to the Lord and His word and of the results of ignoring His word. And we must not take Moses' warning lightly. We should take note that there were two involved in the death in Num. 25. The Lord is careful to point out that one was a heathen woman, but the other was a "child of God." The "child of God" suffered the exact same judgment for his sin of ignoring God's law as did the pagan. Being a member of the congregation of the Lord DID NOT exempt him from the result of ignoring God's word. In fact, Phinehas is rewarded for carrying out God's law concerning this sin.
"Baalpeor" ("Lord of the gap," or "Lord of the opening," a diety worshipped with very obscene, licentioius rites by the Moabites at Mt. Peor) was a cult at Peor. Baal means lord, and was a common name of the supreme deity among the Canaanites, Assyrians and others of that descent. We can read of many Baals as we go through scripture; one can be found in Judges 8:33, "The lord of the covenant."
4. Moses makes a distinction in vv. 3-4. What are the two classes of people?
a. What do you think it means to "cleave unto the Lord?"
b. There is a reference to what happened with Baalpeor in Rev. 2:14. Moab tried to curse Israel (Balaam was hired to do this by Balak, Num. 22, 23 and 24). Balaam could not curse Israel, so what did Balaam do?
c. This clearly shows us that the danger to God's people is not from the outside. God's people cannot be destroyed from the outside, but from where is their primary danger and destruction?
5. Num. 25 records a man in open sin and rebellion against God's laws, therefore against God. What did Phinehas, the priest, do?
a. At this time, civil government was centered in the tabernacle. Can we do today as Phinehas did then?
b. Whose responsibility is it to enforce the moral code of God's law today in society, the church or civil
We must be cautious of any group which tries to use the power of the sword today. Our means of protest is peaceful protest applied to man and to God. We cannot do what God alone is to do, nor what He has given civil government the power to do. At one time in America, the laws of God were rigidly enforced. Some are still on the books, but are ignored. I saw an article about a girl who was having a lot of children out of wedlock. The judge enforced an anti-adultery law against her that had been in the "books" for years.
c. What are God's people to do today concerning those who are in open sin and rebellion against God and His laws, Matt. 18:15-17; I Cor. 5?
d) As this is done, who enforces these laws, Heb. 10:26-31? (We will cover this in depth in lesson 17-2.)
(There is a serious movement today in the far Northwest  that claims to be "heirs" to a supposed "Phinehas Priesthood." The Aug. 97 issue of "The Biblical Examiner" deals with it. The article can also be found at http://www.tctc.com/~tbe/ )
Baalpeor also represents the very subtle infiltration of the gods of this world into the congregation of the Lord that, ever so slowly, wins away the hearts of His people. This quiet infiltration is a reason God gives us His complete law and why we should teach and study it, IN ITS ENTIRETY. We must know it well enough to apply it, or we will be serving one of the many Baals served by the heathens around us, without our even realizing what we are doing.
6. The devil is no fool. Balaam has instructed Balak very well on how to cast the stumbling blocks before God's people. By doing so in his very subtle manner, God's people (as they ignored His wore) do not even notice they have departed from God's word. However, when God's people, even UNKNOWINGLY, join with the gods of this world, what will be the result, Num. 25:3-4; Rom. 2:6-11?
God has promises for those who will use the two edged sword to cut out the sin of joining with the gods of the surrounding heathens, Heb. 3:7; 4:12. We can expect the promise of Num. 25:12-13 for anyone who will be zealous in using God's word to remove the infiltration or to remove the stumbling blocks laid down by Balak before God's people today. Hosea: 4:6 confirms this. As we are zealous in remembering God's word, we can fully expect Him to be zealous in remembering the things which are important to us, our children. (Hosea 4:6.) As we do what we can for Him, He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
7. Rev. 2:14 identifies the infiltration as a prevalent problem. Many may think they have avoided the results of serving the surrounding gods (which are no gods at all), but have they?
a. What is the result of serving the surrounding false gods, Rev. 2:14-16?
b. How could this be, Heb. 10:30-31; Gal. 6:7?
God's laws must be applied to every area, or the stumbling blocks will be there. Only His law can expose the stumbling blocks, remove them and thus avoid the destruction they bring, I Cor. 2:11this is Moses' promise in Deut. 4:3-4; this is the offer for God's people today. God's people can follow Baalpeor, or they can cleave unto the Lord God. The results of both decisions are clearly laid out, Rom. 6:16; See II Tim. 2:19.
Charles Hodge makes some very telling remarks.
Prophecy is very different from history. It is not intended to give us a knowledge of the future, analogous to that which history gives us of the past. This truth is often overlooked. We see interpreters undertaking to give detailed expositions of the prophecies of Isaiah, of Ezekiel, of Daniel, and of the Apocalypse, relating to the future, with the same confidence with which they would record the history of the recent past. Such interpretations have always been falsified by the event. But this does not discourage a certain class of minds, for whom the future has a fascination and who delight in the solution of enigmas, from renewing the attempt. ---The occurrence of important events is so predicted as to produce in the minds of the people of God faith that they will certainly come to pass. ---It follows, from what has been said, that prophecy makes a general impression with regard to future events, which is reliable and salutary, while the details remain in obscurity. The Jews were not disappointed in the general impression made on their minds by the predictions relating to the Messiah. It was only in the explanation of details that they failed. The Messiah was a king; He did sit upon the throne of David, but not in the way in which they expected; He is to subdue all nations, not by the sword, as they supposed, but by truth and love; He was to make his people priests and kings, but not worldly princes and satraps. The utter failure of the Old Testament Church in interpreting the prophecies relating to the first advent of Christ, should teach us to be modest and diffident in explaining those which relate to his second coming. We should be satisfied with the great truths which those prophecies unfold, and leave the details to be explained by the events. This the church as a church has generally done. (Hodge, Systematic Theology, III. pgs. 790-792.)
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