Concerning the Word of God
Dr. Joe Temple


As you open your Bibles to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4, we would like to remind you that the book of Deuteronomy is made up of three discourses: one prophecy by way of blessing, one song and one obituary, all written by Moses. The addresses numbering three were presented over a forty day period. This was somewhat of a protracted meeting, so to speak, that was held on this side Jordan just before the children of Israel went into the Promised Land. You will keep in mind that all the old generation with the exception of Moses, Caleb and Joshua had died in the wilderness, but the new generation, ready to go into the land, needed to be reminded of some vital truths related to what the old generation had learned.

We have been looking at the first discourse which begins with chapter 1 and concludes with chapter 4, verse 40. You might glance there as we make a point because beginning with verse 41 and continuing through verse 43, you have not a speech, but a record of Moses' establishing the three cities of refuge on this side Jordan. Then if you will glance at chapter 4, verse 44, you should make a mental note, if not a note in your Bibles, that this verse actually belongs to chapter 5. In this lesson, we are considering chapter 4 of the book of Deuteronomy, verses 1-40, as the last part of the first discourse.

It might be wise for us to think a little about what we have learned in the discourse thus far. In chapter 1 of this book and the first portion of the discourse, Moses reviewed the failures which the children of Israel made in relation to their approach to the Promised Land. We won't review those failures in detail, but it might be wise for us to mention them and refresh our minds in relation to them.

They made the failure of procrastination. It took them forty years to do a job that could have ordinarily been done in eleven days. They procrastinated in relation to the truth of God's Word.

Then they made another failure and that was a failure to depend upon divine provision. God provided everything that they needed, but they failed to take advantage of it. Just like we today have given to us exceeding great and precious promises whereby we have become partakers of the divine nature, and yet most of us do not depend upon those promises. God has given promise that His grace is sufficient for everything, but we do not take advantage of that grace. As the Apostle said, “We receive the grace of God in vain.” We don't actually take advantage of it.

Another failure of which they were guilty was the failure to possess their possessions. God gave them the land of promise. All they needed to do was accept His invitation to go up and possess the land, but they failed to possess the possession which God gave them.

Another failure at which we looked was their failure of provocation. They failed in provoking the Lord, in tempting Him and testing Him in relation to His mercy and to His grace. He was ready to bestow upon them everything and they asked the question, “Can God?”

Then we notice they failed God in relation to presumptuous sin. After God pointed out to them that He could not bless them and He would not bless them, that they could not go into the land of promise as He originally said they could, they said, “We will go anyway. We have changed our minds. We decided we are able to do it.” They went up presumptuously and failed on the way.

All these failures were reviewed for this younger generation so that they might not make the same mistakes. You will keep in mind, according to I Corinthians, chapter 10, all these things are written as types and examples for us so we won't make the same mistakes that they made. Think over these failures that we have mentioned to you, and recognize that we are capable of failing in the same fashion. Let us ask God that we will not.

In chapters 2-3, still part of this first discourse, we have Moses reviewing the faithfulness of God, and he recounts all the acts of God's faithfulness in the midst of their failures. That always makes the faithfulness of God stand out more definitely. It always makes the faithfulness of God more real. If God were faithful when we are faithful, then it wouldn't mean so much; but when He is faithful in the midst of our faithlessness, it means a great deal.

We suggested to you that these two chapters, chapters 2-3, are a good illustration of the truth recorded by the Holy Spirit in II Timothy, chapter 2, verse 13, where he reminded Timothy that if we are unbelieving, God abideth faithful because He cannot deny Himself. So as we looked at chapters 2-3, we found that God was faithful to His promises. For example, the children of Israel were to go through the land of Moab. They were to go through the land of Edom. They were to go through the land of Ammon, and God said to them, “Even though I am going to give into your hand all the peoples of the lands through which you go, you dare not lay even a little finger upon the Ammonites, the Moabites, or the Edomites because years ago I made a promise to Easu, and I gave this land to Esau. Years ago I made a promise to Moab, and I made a promise to Ammon and I gave them this land. You go through the land. You can pay them for what you use, but don't you dare lay a finger on them.”

We might wonder why God would be so faithful to these people when we review their history because, remember, they were of somewhat undesirable character and nature, but God said, “I made a promise, and I just cannot go back on My promises.”

Then we noticed that He was faithful in relation to His principles. He acts upon certain principles which He never changes. Men may change, situations may change, but God's principles remain the same. Of course, that encourages our hearts to know that no matter how much we might fail and how much we might change, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Then we pointed out to you that God was faithful in His providences. We coined that word in use here for the sake of alliteration and to describe the fact that when God makes a decision, then He brings about circumstances to coincide with that decision. He will even soften hearts or harden hearts if need be in order to fulfill His plan and His purposes.

So often when we look upon something in our own lives as an unfortunate instance, we are wrong. It could be one of the providences of God preparing us for a specific thing that He has in mind. If we look upon something that has come into our lives and we look at it as a stroke of good fortune or good luck or however it might be described in the terms of the world, we should remind ourselves it could be but another of the providences of God as we rest upon the promise of the Word in Romans, chapter 8: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.

How God Gave His Word

With this brief review, let's look at chapter 4 of the book of Deuteronomy in which we find Moses still speaking. This time he is speaking about the Word of God. He refers to it as the law . He also refers to it as the commandments , but that was the extent of the Word of God which had been given up to this particular point. We are going to notice in this chapter what he has to say about the revelation of the Word of God, keeping in mind that the Word of God represents the will of God.

How did God give His Word? We have it written down right here on paper today, but is that the way He gave it originally? How did the Word of God come?

It is important for us to remember that in light of a truth that will be revealed as we look at this chapter together. In order to notice the revelation of the Word, we are going to have to look to what we might call the middle of the chapter, verse 10. Remember now, Moses is reminding, he is reviewing, and he said, “There is one thing I want you to remember.” Notice verse 10:

Deuteronomy 4:

10Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
11And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
12And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
13And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

Notice the sequence. First, He gave His commandments orally and then He commanded Moses to write them upon tables of stone. Why did God speak orally first? Why didn't God write on tablets of gold as Joseph Smith of the Mormon Church suggests He did? Why didn't He write on tablets of gold and bury them in the ground somewhere and let somebody dig them up and find them? Why? We are going to find our answer right here in this passage of Scripture and as we look at it, I want you to think about how close we come to falling into something that God warns us against. Notice verse 14:

Deuteronomy 4:

14And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
15Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; [notice carefully now] for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:

Did you notice the word similitude ? It is the second time that it is mentioned. You could use the word likeness for the word similitude . You could use the word image for the word similitude . You could use the phrase literal representation for the word similitude because that is what it means. Why didn't they see an image of God when He spoke? Why didn't they see a likeness of God when He spoke? Here is the answer in verse 16:

Deuteronomy 4:

16Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

Man is so prone to believe only what he sees that God said, “The reason I voiced the Word instead of writing it or instead of letting you see Me is, I did not want you to fall into the error of idolatry.” You say as you look at verse 16, “Well, we could understand, perhaps, why they might make an image of God, but why all of these other images that are mentioned here?” Notice again, beginning in the last part of verse 16:

Deuteronomy 4:

16Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
17The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
18The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
19And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

Keep a marker here in Deuteronomy, chapter 4, and turn with me in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 1, as I remind you that here in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4, God was declaring a danger that actually took place because man is so prone to want to worship only what he can see. God says, “If I had permitted you to see Me, the first thing you would have wanted to have done would have been to make an image of Me. That wouldn't have been sufficient. Then you would have wanted to make an image of all of the various parts of creation, and before you knew it, you would be worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.” What God feared actually took place. The record of it is given here in Romans, chapter 1, verse 18:

Romans 1:

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness [literally, this is, hold down the truth, suppress the truth];
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

What anybody needs to know, God has manifested to man. Notice verse 20:

Romans 1:

20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Why? Because they had the glory of God. It was manifest in the burning bush. It was manifest in the fire on Mt. Sinai. It was manifest in the clouds, in the shakings, in the voice. All of the glory of God was revealed to them, but notice in verse 23:

Romans 1:

23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man [not satisfied with that], and to birds [not satisfied with that], and four footed beasts [not satisfied with that], and creeping things.
24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness… :

Then he goes on to describe the uncleanness of the hearts of men who did not hold the glory of God in respect. Turn back to Deuteronomy, chapter 4.

God said, “The reason I declared the message, the voice, instead of giving the figure, the image, is that I did not want you to fall into the error of idolatry.” I asked you to pay close attention to that as we began the immediate discussion. I asked you to think about it. The reason that I did is that it is so easy for Christians today to fall into the same error of believing that you cannot be in touch with God unless certain atmospheres are exactly right. We thank God for every encouragement to worship, but Beloved, if you need a worshipful atmosphere before you can be in touch with God, then you are in danger of depending upon the visible instead of the invisible. If you need a worship center to center your thinking upon God, then you are in danger of making this error. Keep that in mind.

The Word of God, which Moses was going to remind the people, was revealed orally first because God wanted men to have a personal relationship with Him that did not depend upon the sight of their eyes, but depended upon the hearing of their ears. That is the reason it is so important for us to listen, as the Spirit of God reminds us in the book of Revelation to do, with a spiritual ear: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit sayeth unto the churches.” Such an admonition seems almost ridiculous because you've got two ears, and yet He said, “If you've got an ear, listen.” If you don't have an ear, you won't be able to hear. Many folk who have two physical ears have no spiritual ears or else have had their hearing deafened.

Reception of the Word Places Definite Responsibility Upon Hearer

The Word of God, revealed orally, placed a very definite responsibility upon the men who received it. Just as your reception of the Word of God, regardless of how you receive it, places a very definite responsibility upon you. No man has the liberty of hearing the Word of God and not assuming the responsibility. Better, as strange as it may seem, not to have heard than to have heard and not done. Does that sound strange to you? Keep a marker here in Deuteronomy, chapter 4, and turn with me to Peter's epistle in the New Testament.

Although you might be willing to accept what I have just said, if you conveyed this to other people, which is your direct responsibility, they might ask you why you make a statement like that. They might even ask you if you have any right to make such a statement as that. So we would give you the scriptural foundation for it. In II Peter, speaking of teachers who convey a false message because they were not willing to convey the true message which they had heard, Peter said, in chapter 2, verse 17:

II Peter 2:

17These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20[Notice carefully now] For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

We would like to emphasize, though we will not have time to go into it, that the people who are being discussed in this second chapter were not born-again people. Remember that. They were individuals who had come under the sound of the Word, had straightened up a little bit, but had decided that they were not willing to obey the Word. As you turn back to Deuteronomy, chapter 4, I would like to emphasize that the simple proclamation of the Word of God will have a definite effect. It will either cause men to straighten up their lives and do what they should, or it will cause them to get out from under the sound of it and go to greater depths in order to still the voice which has been awakened in their lives through the ministry of God's Word.

I am not saying that as a matter of guesswork. I am saying that as a matter of experience, for I have seen people come and sit under the sound of the Word, and it would look as though their lives were going to be changed. Then I could tell almost to the date when they decided they were not going to obey the Word. They wouldn't stop coming right away. It would be a matter of weeks or months or maybe even longer, but by and by, they would come no more. Then I would watch their lives as they went farther and farther and farther into sin, so actually, their last state is worse than their first.

Don't misunderstand me. People have moved away and have found other places of ministry. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the folk whom I know personally who would not receive the Word. I say to you that the reception of the Word of God, or the hearing of the Word, places a real responsibility upon the individual concerned, and Moses wanted these people to know that, so you will notice with me the responsibility that was placed upon them and is placed upon every individual who comes under the sound of the Word. Look at verse 1:

Deuteronomy 4:

1Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.
2Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Then notice down in verse 5:

Deuteronomy 4:

5Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

Hearing With Discernment

Notice three things which we are obligated to do if we come under the sound of the Word of God. The first obligation is suggested by the word harken in verse 1. This does mean simply to hear. It comes from a word which involves the idea of hearing with discernment. Nobody has the right to sit under the sound of the Word of God, shrug his shoulders and say, “He doesn't know what he is talking about.” It may be that you don't know what the preacher is talking about because he may be talking way above your head, or he himself may not be led of the Spirit of God in the things that he says, so the Word cannot be ministered by the Holy Spirit; but you don't have any right to shrug your shoulders and say, “I don't know what it is all about.” If you don't know what it is all about, you can find out what it is all about if you are sitting under the ministry of a man who is led by the Spirit of God. If not, then you need to change your place of ministry. You need to be sitting under a man who ministers the Word of God in the Spirit because once the Word of God is open to you, you have a responsibility to hear with discernment—the idea being to apply it to your own hearts and to your own lives.

Commandments Must Be Guarded

You will notice not only are you to hear, but you are to do, for in the middle of verse 1, you will find the word do emphasized, and down in verse 2, you find the word keep . In verse 6, you find the two words put together—keep and do the Word of God. The word keep here is a word that describes guarding something which is very precious. The word do involves the idea of obedience.

When we talk about the idea of keeping the commandments, most of the time we have in mind the matter of observing them. We would remind you that it is not a matter of observing them in the sense of obedience; it is a matter of guarding them as something very sacred. This is the Word of God, and we must guard it in order that we might obey it in its simplicity. This is the positive responsibility that rests upon you.

Obeying or Disobeying the Word

From the negative point, notice verse 2:

Deuteronomy 4:

2Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

You will notice: “Don't add to. Don't take away from.” You are familiar with the injunction in the last chapter of the book of the Revelation, where you are told in connection with that book that you should not add anything to the book of the Revelation nor should you take anything away from the book of the Revelation. We would like to remind you that is not simply just a matter of having a revelation, and you say, “Well, there are sixty- six books in the Bible, but God revealed to me last night book sixty- seven.” It is not that kind of addition we are talking about, and it is not a matter of your saying, “There are sixty-six books in the Bible, and last night I had a vision in which God revealed to me that the book of Deuteronomy is not inspired, so it needs to be taken out of the Book.” It is not that kind of diminishing from the Word of God, although some people do that.

One of the greatest tromping grounds in the Bible, as far as inspiration is concerned, is this book of Deuteronomy. There is more discussion about whether it is inspired than any other one book in the Bible. This is the Devil's tromping ground, but we are not talking about that, nor are we talking about such things as Mary Baker Eddy's Key to the Scripture or the Book of Mormon , which are very definitely additions to the Word. We are not talking about that. We are talking about the meaning of the words adding to and diminishing with the idea of obeying or disobeying the Word of God because that is what Moses had in mind. If you will notice verse 2:

Deuteronomy 4:

2Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Some folk add to the Word of God and take away from the Word of God to make it convenient for them in observing the Word of God. They don't want to deny it. They don't want to relinquish any connection with it, so they do what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that he would refuse to do. Remember, the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthian believers that he refused to be a huckster of the Word of God. He refused to take the Word of God and twist it around to suit his own purposes and cause his own person to be magnified, and folk follow what he had to say instead of what the Word of God actually said. Men are able to do exactly what the Apostle Paul said that he refused to do.

I wonder, as we listen to the message, if some of us could be among the number who add to the Word of God or diminish the Word of God to make our obedience to it an easy thing. You have the answer.

Results of Accepting Responsibility

There are some results that Moses wanted to keep before these people, and we would like to emphasize for our thinking results that come from accepting the responsibility related to the Word of God—results that come in a positive fashion, results that come in a negative fashion. Notice in verse 1 again:

Deuteronomy 4:

1Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.

Three things in that one verse represent the blessed result of obeying the Word: live, go in, possess. We recognize that when Moses was talking about living in relation to the Word, he had in mind the emphasis that is placed upon the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament: “This do and thou shalt live.” We recognize that in this age of grace we are no longer under bondage to the Ten Commandments; but the fact remains that the Word of God is the source of our life and if we obey the Word, then we will have eternal life because the only hope of eternal life we have is what is given to us through the promise of the Word of God.

We will go in in the sense of advancing if we are obedient to God's Word, and I make bold to declare to you that the growth of any individual's spiritual life is related to his understanding of the Word. Did you notice what I said—his understanding, not his knowledge of it. You may be a very good Bible student in the head and a very poor Bible student in the heart. But the growth of a person's spiritual life may be proportionate to his understanding of the Word.

The third thing is possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers gave you. If you obey the Word, you will receive the promise. That is what Moses said to these Israelites, and it is true for us today. If we are obedient to the Word of God, then we can rest upon the promise of God's Word, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly,” but if we are disobedient to the Word of God, we are out of fellowship and not even our prayers will be heard when we pray. We are voicing empty words.

I love what is recorded in verse 6. What did he say?

Deuteronomy 4:

6Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

What is this? The Word of God, properly responded to, will make us wiser than any people around. The word nation here is used in connection with this paragraph because we are dealing with the nation, but we are talking about individuals. You read when you have time Psalm 119, the paragraph which begins with verse 67, and you will have to agree that the Word of God will make you wiser than the most educated people in the world if those things are equal.

A Warning

One other thing that I would like to suggest to you, and that is a warning, which I believe is needed more in Bible-taught churches than any other place. Look at verse 9:

Deuteronomy 4:

9Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;

Isn't it interesting that you are told here to be careful you don't forget what you have heard? Don't be careful to learn it, but be careful that you don't forget it. We are reminded of what is recorded in Hebrews, chapter 2, where the New Testament voices the same expression in a slightly different way, and that is that we should take heed to ourselves, lest the things which we have heard should slip away from us. If we look at that verse as it is written, it is not so much the best things that slip away from us as it is we slip away from them. If you don't believe that, just look back on your life and see if perchance there isn't something that you held onto very dearly as a principle, but you don't think it is so important any more. The pressures become too great and you decided it really doesn't matter.

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