How Can We Obey God?
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, that portion of the Word of God which we are studying together. Notice the portion of the Word at which we looked last week, which we did not have time to complete as far as our discussion was concerned.

You will recall that that is the portion that is presented to us in the paragraph which begins with chapter 10, verse 12, and then goes all the way through chapter 11. You will recall that in this portion, we are coming to the end of the first section of the second speech that Moses gave. Keep in mind that for a period of forty days, Moses and the children of Israel camped on this side Jordan and Moses spoke to them in three different speeches. The first speech is chapters 1-4. The second speech is a rather long one, beginning with chapter 5 and going through chapter 26. We said to you that the first portion of this second speech, dealing with the moral law or the Ten Commandments as we know them is found in chapters 5-11. We said to you that Moses repeated the Ten Commandments with some amplifications and some exhortations. Then he warned the children of Israel of all of the perils and the problems related to observing the law of God after they got into the land because though prosperity does have its blessings, prosperity has its problems. Oftentimes individuals who do well under stress and strain do not do well in prosperity. The children of Israel may have found it reasonably easy—and I say that with a question mark—to obey God's Word while they were in the wilderness, but they would find it difficult after they got into the land. Moses reminded them of all of that.

Notice verse 12, where Moses says, “And now, Israel…” He is going to tie all of the loose ends together of what he has said. He is going to sum up everything. As we pointed out to you, this phrase, “and now,” is very much like the word finally which the Apostlel Paul uses in his epistle to the Ephesians and the Philippians. It doesn't mean that he is coming to an end of what he is going to say, but he is summing it all up and ready to make his application. Last week he did just that, and now what does the Lord require of Israel? That is the question which he posed to them, the question which they had to face in the light of everything he had said up to that moment: What doth the Lord require of thee?

We said that it was a very pertinent question for each one of us, though we are not under the law in the sense that Moses and the children of Israel were. We are under the Word because the Ten Commandments is the Word; and as the nation of Israel had a responsibility because they were given the law, we have a responsibility because we are given the Word. What doth the Lord require?

You will remember that we mentioned to you that it could be summed up in one simple phrase, “The Lord required of Israel wholehearted obedience.” That was brought to our attention by what we found in phrases such as in verse 12: “All his ways.” The word all is repeated throughout the entire paragraph. God demanded wholehearted obedience, keeping all the ways of the Lord with all the heart and with all the soul. What God demanded of Israel, He demands of us. Someone has said perhaps even more because they were on the other side of the Cross. They were not the recipients of God's grace as we are the recipients of God's grace, and if God expected wholehearted obedience of them under the law, how could He expect anything less of us who are under grace?

There had to be a reason God would demand such wholehearted obedience. For example, I might demand and expect obedience of my own children, but I can't very well demand that of anyone else's child. There has to be a reason when wholehearted obedience is demanded. We pointed out to you that there was. We considered it from God's standpoint first, and said, according to chapter 10,verse 14, that God's sovereignty was reason enough for Him to demand this obedience, for you will notice there in verse 14:

Deuteronomy 10:

14Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.

Everything belongs to God, and if it belongs to Him, then He has a right to say what should be done in relation to it. If you belong to Him, then He has the right to say what should be done in relation to you.

But there was another reason from God's standpoint and we said that was brought to our attention in verse 15—God's special blessing on the nation of Israel in verse 15:

Deuteronomy 10:

15Only 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.

We said that this was not a happy translation because it really doesn't convey the meaning. The word only is in the wrong place. What the verse says is, “The Lord chose only Israel above all people.” Of all the nations in the world, God chose them and God blessed them. Of course, we have already learned, and there is no need to dwell upon it, that God did not bless Israel nor choose Israel because she was any better than anybody else; but because He chose her as His sovereign right and will, because of His blessing upon her, He had the right to demand wholehearted obedience from her.

We said that there was another reason. There was His sovereignty, His special blessing and His manifested strength in their behalf. Glance down at verse 17, where He said:

Deuteronomy 10:

17For 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:
18He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
19Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

God manifested His strength again and again in their behalf and gratitude should have demanded wholehearted obedience. But from man's standpoint, there is a reason God could and did demand wholehearted obedience. We said that from man's standpoint, He demanded it first because of the knowledge which they had as individuals. Knowledge—light—always brings responsibility. You will notice in chapter 11, verse 2, Moses said:

Deuteronomy 11:

2And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm,

Then down in verse 7:

Deuteronomy 11:

7But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord which he did.

This is the reason. “You are not ignorant. You know and therefore I have a right to be fully and completely obeyed.”

For some very practical reasons, He mentioned that they should obey Him out of the knowledge that they had, out of the blessings that they had received; but if you will glance at verse 8, obedience has always been and will always be a source of strength. In verse 8, we read:

Deuteronomy 11:

8Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;
9And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

Notice that first statement: “Therefore you shall keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong…” Obedience to the Word is the source of strength, and we might say for an additional reason in that God requests wholehearted obedience that obedience to the Word is the source of supply. It is the source of blessing. Look down at verse 10:

Deuteronomy 11:

10For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs:
11But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:
12A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.
13And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
14That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
15And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
16Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
17And then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.

The emphasis in this paragraph is by way of contrast—the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan. The land of Egypt was the land of self-effort, and the land of Canaan was a land of grace. God illustrated by means of water and harvest. Look at verse 10, where He said:“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt from whence ye came out…” How was the land of Egypt? Well, “You sowed the seed and you watered it with your foot.” This doesn't have very much meaning to us today, but if you were living in that day, you would know what they meant, for when they were in the land of Egypt, the only source of water supply was the Nile River. It overflowed five times a year, and they had waterwheels at certain areas all along the river where they had dug canals. They would turn waterwheels with their foot like some of you ladies who are old enough to remember the old-fashioned sewing machine that you had to work with your foot. That was the only means of power there was. That is exactly what the picture is here. In Egypt, they pumped the water with their feet. That was the only way to get it up. But He said, “When you go into the land of Canaan, you won't have to do that because I, I, I, will do. I will open up the heavens and pour down the rain, and I will cause the crops to grow.”

My, there is a wonderful lesson there, if you will just let the Holy Spirit minister to your hearts the difference between works and grace. In Egypt, it is all self-effort. In Canaan, it is all grace. Let's make that more practical and say that in the place that is outside of the realm of God's will, oh, how much effort you have to put forth; but when you are in the center of God's will, how copiously God pours out His blessings and you are able to receive them. We wonder sometimes why we spend so much time with the feet, when all we would need to do is open our hearts to the Lord. Give Him wholehearted obedience and be ready for blessing.

That is what we learned last week: What does the Lord require? Wholehearted obedience. Why? Because He has a right to require it.

How Can We Render Wholehearted Obedience?

The big question and the question we want to deal with now is how is God going to get that? How is God going to get that wholehearted obedience? How are we going to be able to render it? Because most of us want to. Most of us want to do what God wants us to do. We don't all do it, but we want to. How is God going to get this wholehearted obedience? We know as the Bible tells us: “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps,” and in our own strength and our own effort, we can't begin to do what God wants. How can we have this wholehearted obedience?

Complete Surrender

There are two ways that are emphasized in our lesson. There are many things that we might say and many approaches that we might make, but we are limiting our remarks to what is here in this portion of the Word, so we would say to you that one way we can get wholehearted obedience to God is to completely surrender to Him. When God wants wholehearted obedience, He wants complete surrender. You know most of us don't know a whole lot about that. We talk a lot about it; we don't practice it too much.

Complete surrender is expressed in a rather strange way in chapter 10, verse 16:

Deuteronomy 10:

16Circumcise therefore remember when you see the word therefore you should ask the question whyfore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

Get the verse:

Deuteronomy 10:

16Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

Physical Circumcision

Physical circumcision was a very realistic rite in relation to the Jews. It was not limited to them alone. The heathen who lived in the day of Israel (and you need to know this) practiced the circumcision of the foreskin of the male organ in relation to heathen rites, and it meant absolutely nothing. But when God called Abraham unto Himself, as is recorded in Genesis, chapter 17, He said, “I want you to practice this, and I want you to practice it upon all your male children because it is going to have a completely different significance. It is going to represent that you and your descendents are peculiarly mine—that you and your descendents belong to Me. The whole world will know it when this is observed as a religious rite. Notice what I am saying—when this is observed as an act of worship.”

You notice in verse 16 what the Holy Spirit brings together—the rite of circumcision and stiffnecks. The stiffneck prevents complete surrender. The stiffneck keeps people from surrendering fully and completely to God.

There is a good, practical illustration of that in the fourth chapter of the book of Exodus. You will remember that Moses had married a heathen woman and he had failed to circumcise his child according to commandment. As he was going back into Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, God was going to kill him for this. God had sentenced him to death for this disobedience. His wife took a sharp stone and circumcised their son and said, “You have been a bloody husband to me. You forced me to do this.” But she had sense enough to know that if it wasn't done, her husband was going to die. The reason I am calling your attention to that story is that it is an illlustration of the fact that circumcision in the flesh does not come easy. There is something about our human nature which rebels against this.

Spiritual Circumcision

The Bible places much greater significance on spiritual circumcision than it does on physical circumcision. As a matter of fact, physical circumcision has no religious significance today, but spiritual circumcision does. Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 2, as I remind you that if physical circumcision on the part of the Israelites was a difficult thing because of stiffnecks, if it was a difficult thing because it went against the grain to so surrender, spiritual circumcision is just as difficult. Yet that is what God recognizes. In Romans, chapter 2, notice verse 28:

Romans 2:

28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

What is Paul saying to the Romans? The circumcision of the flesh is not important at all, but oh, how important is the circumcision of the heart. He said to these Jews, “You are so proud that you are Jews from the physical standpoint, but there is something far more important than being Jews physically. It is being God's chosen people spiritually.” That is the reason circumcision of the heart was emphasized.

If you will turn to Paul's letter to the Colossians, you will see that he emphasizes the same thing because this is not just something that he mentioned every now and then. It was something that was a part of his teaching, the foundation of his ministry. Notice Colossians, chapter 2, verse 10:

Colossians 2:

10And ye are complete in him,that is Christ which is the head of all principality and power:
11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Notice again: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands…” Wonder why when Moses' wife circumcised her son it was the circumcision made with hands? Abraham circumcised his children. It was a circumcision made with hands. Paul said, “There is a circumcision more important than that. That is the circumcision that is made without hands.” That is that circumcision that is represented in the light of baptism by the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. That is, Christ is the One Who does the circumcising.

Let me reemphasize that the circumcision of the spirit is difficult, but we need to think about it. For complete surrender, it is absolutely essential to wholehearted obedience.

Illustrations of Circumcision

Let's go back to the Old Testament to notice some illustrations that are presented in the Word of the kind of circumcision which God wants from every believer. Back in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 10, keep in mind the initial verse that we began this discussion with. Notice verse 16:

Deuteronomy 10:

16Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

This phrase related to being stiffnecked is related to pride. It is something that is a continual thing. In Acts, chapter 7, verse 51, when Stephen used this same illustration that we are thinking about tonight to emphasize the need of surrender, He was addressing the children of Israel. He said:

Acts 7:

51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Notice the application that he makes. Oh, they were circumcised in the flesh, all right, but they were not circumcised in the heart, and he said, “That indicates the real attitude of your heart. You are resisting the Holy Ghost. You are resisting the will and the purpose of God.”

How are you going to circumcise your heart? I suggest to you that it is something that God does and something that you do—not in cooperation. If I were to say that it was in cooperation, then I would be teaching false doctrine because I would be telling you that you and God together can take care of your salvation. That isn't true. Sometimes you are told that you have to trust as hard as you can trust and work as hard as you can work. Well, that isn't what the Bible says. “It is all of grace. Not of works lest any man should boast.” But if you will look here at Deuteronomy, chapter 30, and notice verse 6:

Deuteronomy 30:

6And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed…

You see, it is God that does it. What was it that Moses said? “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart.” Knowing our deceptive hearts as we know them, we have to say to God, “I can't do that. I don't have the strength or the power to do that,” and God says, “That's right. You don't. So let's begin at the beginning and the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart.” Notice the result of that:

Deuteronomy 30:

6…to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Isn't that what we read over there in Deuteronomy, chapter 10? “What doth the Lord require of thee? To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul.” You can't do it with an uncircumcised heart. You can't do it with a heart that is closed. Your heart has to be opened and God will open it, and He will place in it that love for Him. Once you have realized that God is able to do the work, you quit struggling; then the work is done.

Turn to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 4. When we get there, you may think I am going to say something that contradicts what I just said, but I'm not. I am presenting the other side of the picture. Jeremiah, chapter 4, verse 4:

Jeremiah 4:

4Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

That sounds like a contradiction, doesn't it? There in Deuteronomy, chapter 30, God said that He would do it. Here in Jeremiah, chapter 4, you are told to do it. But you notice which comes first, don't you? The Lord does it first, then you have the responsibility of doing it. What is this? No more a contradiction than what you find in Paul's letter to the Philippians. Let's go to Philippians for just a moment and notice in chapter 2 what the apostle has to say to us who are of this age. Notice verse 12:

Philippians 2:

12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, [there is that word obeyed again. It is in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament] not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

If we stopped right there and didn't read any further, we would be under the impression that it is all dependent upon us and we could say, “Well, I tell you, I fear and tremble. That is for sure—working out my own salvation with fear and trembling,” but we read the next verse:

Philippians 2:

13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

The construction of the verse is: “God has already worked it in. It is your responsibility to work it out.” When you talk about working out your salvation, you are not talking about working out a crossword puzzle, the answer to which you might miss. You are talking about working out, making available to the outside, what God has put on the inside. So when God, in His Word, is suggesting to you that you circumcise the foreskin of your heart, He is saying, “You do what I made it possible for you to do. I have made possible this surrender. Now, you surrender.”

The Secret of Surrender

Why don't we? Why is it that so many of us never get it done? There could be any number of reasons, but one of them, still thinking along the same lines, is described in Jeremiah, chapter 6, if you will go back there. Notice verse 9:

Jeremiah 6:

9Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.
10To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.

There is the secret. There is the reason we find it so hard to yield wholehearted surrender to the Lord. By God's grace, our hearts may have been circumcised, but not our ears. Sometimes our hearts are circumcised in our youth by God's grace, but our ears don't get circumcised until we get a great deal older. It doesn't have to be that way, but that is the way it is a lot of times. You keep in mind that a circumcised ear is an open ear. Do you see what God was saying here in this passage of Scripture: “Who can I talk to? Their ears are uncircumcised. They are closed. They don't listen to anything I have to say. They don't even delight in what they hear.”

Do you see people come to church like that sometimes? Well, it happens. You find folk who are coming to church for any number of reasons. They are here in body, but they are not here in spirit. Their ears are not open, and if their ears are not open, then this wholehearted surrender of which we speak cannot be obtained.

That is why, in the book or Revelation, chapters 2-3 are devoted to a discussion of the phrase, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” How ridiculous to say that to people with two ears, but a lot of people with two ears never hear. They are uncircumcised. So we remind you that wholehearted obedience demands circumcised hearts. It demands circumcised ears and it demands circumcised lips.

Go back to the book of Exodus, chapter 6. You will remember that God is dealing with Moses about his being spokesman for Him in the land of Egypt. Moses wasn't quite ready to take on this job. He wasn't quite ready to yield. He wasn't quite ready to go to the place of obedience. So if we may use the word, he argued with God a little bit about it. Notice in verse 9:

Exodus 6:

9And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
10And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
11Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.
12And Moses spake before the Lord, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?

Moses was circumcised in the flesh, you see. He wasn't talking about that, but he said, “Lord, the children of Israel haven't listened to me. How do You expect Pharaoh, the ruler of the great land of Egypt, to listen to me, who am a man of uncircumcised lips?” Look down at verse 30 and notice:

Exodus 6:

30And Moses said before the Lord, Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?

God circumcised his lips by and by and he was able to speak with such authority to Pharaoh that Pharaoh could not resist the eloquence with which he spoke, and he was able to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. But at the particular time of which we speak, his lips were uncircumcised. They weren't open. Oh, they were open about a great many things, and ours are too sometimes, aren't they? Moses' were open to argue with the Lord about things, but not open to speak for Him. How often our lips are that way. They are open to do any number of things, but not open to be used for the Lord. If we want wholehearted surrender to be a characteristic of our lives, this wholehearted surrender which God wants, then we are going to have to ask God to circumcise our lips. He is able to do it.

Complete Saturation with the Word

I told you there were two things that would provide wholehearted surrender to the Lord. One was complete surrender of the individual's being in the manner in which we have been speaking about, and the other is, for want of a better expression, if we will go back here to Deuteronomy, chapters 10-11, what I am going to refer to as complete saturation with the Word of God. This paragraph pretty well speaks for itself:

Deuteronomy 11:

18Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
19And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
21That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.

I refer to this paragraph in one simple phrase and that is, complete saturation with the Word of God. You know, some folk just have a little inkling of the Word in their lives, but these individuals, if they were going to be wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord, if they were going to be wholeheartedly obedient to the Lord, were going to have to be completely saturated with the Word. Notice in verse 18, His instructions: First, lay up the Word of God in your heart, in your soul. Let it saturate your very personality. Of course, one of the ways you can do that, as you know, is hiding the Word of God away in your heart. That is the reason that I often emphasize Bible memorization. You hide the Word of God away in your heart and when you are completely saturated heart and soul, then what do you do? “Well, bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.” Bind them upon your hands.

This is a very literal practice which the Jews followed. They had little bracelets with Scripture verses on them. We would say today that they wore them around their wrists. Literally, they did that. I would say to you that the emphasis that God would place is that you make the Word of God a part of your everyday activity. Be completely saturated in your everyday activity.

Permeate Your Mind with the Word

Then, you will notice: “Wear the Word of God as frontlets between your eyes.” They had a little practice of making a little box and putting a portion of the Word of God in it and putting it with a band around their forehead. I wouldn't suggest that you do that, but I would suggest that you let your mind be permeated with the Word of God.

Notice in verse 19:

Deuteronomy 11:

19And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:

All of these phrases are what we might call the outgrowth of this first statement in verse 19: “Ye shall teach them your children…” How do you teach your children the Word of God? You say, “I can't get them still long enough to teach them the Word of God.” Something could be said about having a Bible lesson with your children, but do you notice what God suggested here? The way to teach your children is to speak of the Word of God when you sit in your house. The Word of God should be such a part of the conversation around the table that it is just as natural as breathing and you talk about the Word of God when you walk by the way—that is, when you are just going about everyday, ordinary things like washing dishes and what have you. The Word of God is a natural thing. Then you will notice the last part of this verse: “…when thou liest down.” That is when you go to bed at night and when you rise up. It is the Word. You see, it isn't so much that you back the children in a corner and say, “You get this. I want you to have it.” It is that it just permeates your whole house, where they live in the consciousness of God's Word.

Write Them upon the Doorposts

Then, the last thing and then we will stop:

Deuteronomy 11:

20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:

Do you have any Scripture verses on the walls of your house anywhere? Think about that. They did. I have told you the story in times past and I repeat it very briefly. A lady had four boys and they all went off to be sailors. She wanted them to be preachers, and she was talking to the preacher about it one day. She said, “I can't understand it. I prayed that all my boys would be preachers, and all of them are sailors.” The preacher said to her, “Have you ever noticed what is on the walls of your house?” “No.” “Come, and I will show you.” Every wall of every room in this house has a picture of the sea and ships. There is the reason your boys are sailors.”


That may be overdrawn a little bit, but it is an illustration. Make the Word of God the natural thing in your house. Completely saturate your home with it and then this wholehearted obedience will not be impossible for you or for your children.

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