Deuteronomy 5:22-33 – What Exactly Is God Trying To Accomplish With These Commands?

Posted: January 2, 2017 in 05-Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 5:22-33

Fear of and Obedience to the Lord

In my second marriage, I was responsible for raising three stepsons. It was not a job that I necessarily wanted but it was part of the package deal. The boys came with their mother, my second wife. They ranged in age from 3 to almost 10 when I married their mother. These boys were a handful. They had lived in a loft apartment at their grandmother and grandfather’s house for much of their lives. So, discipline when your grandparents are around is not a primary feature. So, I inherited an unruly bunch of boys who were destructive and undisciplined. There had been no real consequences to any of their actions during these critical, formative years. The behaviors that we learn at these ages are the ones that we carry with us in some shape or form throughout our lives.


Their mother and I were married for 9 years and during much of that time I was extremely tough on the boys trying to accomplish two things. First, and most practically, was to get them to actually care about property and not tear so much stuff up (which cost me money). Second, and most long-term, was to teach them that there were consequences to their actions that would result in punishment. This second lesson is one they needed to learn as men. Sometimes, we have to live with the consequences of our actions, take our lumps, and move on. However, with boys, this lesson seems to have to be repeated often. Boys challenge authority more than girls. Boys would rather ram into a brick wall repeatedly until it falls rather than figure out that the wall is immovable and just deal with the wall being there and negotiate around it. Boys are hard to saddle. They are bucking broncos that have to be broken and made into useful horses. That was my task as a stepdad. With the boys, the confrontations were frequent and loud. I had to establish my authority early on. Not that I was looking to have to be the bad guy but that is just how life played out. I was always on them about some misbehavior or omission of behaviors. I think the boys probably hated me at times growing up during those years. With me, there were lines in the sand and there were consequences when those lines were crossed.


However, there was one problem with all that, their mom. Whenever I would drop the hammer on them for their misbehavior, they learned that they could go behind my back and negotiate with their mom. Because of the jealousies my second wife had about her children’s treatment vs. my children’s treatment, she would often lessen the punishment or do away the punishment altogether. It was difficult to get the boys to grow into men with this back channel diplomacy going on. It was difficult to enforce good behavior when there was no punishment for bad behavior. So, the cycle of me being hard and difficult on the boys continued throughout the marriage. Confrontations with boys became confrontations with pre-teens and teens. This whole discipline issue and jealousies toward my children and what I was supposed to do for them were the ultimate undoing of the second marriage (among several other factors). The boys’ mom and I split up in the summer of 2004.


It was not until about 7 or 8 years later that one of the boys, the middle son, Josh, wrote and told me that he wanted to thank me for being hard on him and his brothers. He had become a parent himself of a boy. He was realizing just how hard it is to raise a son and that you have to be tough on them at times. He thanked me for the lessons that I tried to teach him. The night he said that in an Facebook IM, it almost brought tears to my eyes. I thought that the whole marriage including the parenting part was a complete and utter failure. For the most part that was true and, man, do I NEVER ever want to relive that marriage and those experiences ever again. But, to know that for one brief moment in time, Josh realized what I was trying to accomplish. To mold them into men. It was not a job that I had applied for but it was a job that I had to take given the circumstances.


It was that idea of not being a taskmaster but rather thinking of the best interest of the boys long-term that came to mind when I read through the closeout passage to the Ten Commandments, Deuteronomy 5:22-33. Let’s read it together and then we will tie this all together:


22 These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.


23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me. 24 And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”


28 The Lord heard you when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!


30 “Go, tell them to return to their tents. 31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.”


32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.


What we see in this passage is a people who had a healthy reverence and awe toward the Lord (fear of the Lord). They had great respect for the Creator of the Universe. They knew that they were nothing before Him to the point that they asked Moses to represent them before the Lord. They said that whatever the Lord tells you, Moses, we will listen and obey. They wanted to obey the Lord. They desired His good favor. They were not obeying the Lord because they were expecting some reward for it. They were obeying the Lord because they respected Him as God and they wanted to be in His good graces. God wants us to WANT to obey Him. There is a difference between doing something because you feel like you have to and doing something because you want to.


God wants us to realize that He has our best interest at heart. He does not put restrictions on us because He does not want us to exhibit certain behaviors just on a whim. He puts restrictions on us from certain behaviors because He knows that the results for us in embracing these behaviors is disastrous to us, to an orderly society and to our relationship with Him. He wants us to trust Him to the point that we willingly follow His Word and His Commands. We obey Him because we want to and because we trust the Creator of the Universe, the Eternal God, to know better than us. Then, obedience becomes a joy not a job.


In the same way, I was not being hard on the boys because I was some capricious stepdad. I knew that if they did not have discipline as boys that they were headed for trouble in adulthood. The real world does not care what excuses you have, the results are the results. Sometimes, you make mistakes and you have to deal with the consequences. You then dust yourself off. Get up and move on learning a lesson not to do that again. We teach our children the ways of the world so that they can survive in when they leave home. If we don’t teach them that there are consequences to their actions, they will not survive very well in the world. That’s what dads and stepdads do. We are not trying to be just some hardass that’s impossible to please, we are keeping our eye on the future and what kind of man or woman that we want to have raised and sent out into the world. You want them to see that at some point as they are growing up and then want to obey your commands as they realize that you are simply looking out for them and the adult that you want them to be. You would like there to be some recognition of what you are trying to accomplish and that they will see your discipline, your wisdom, and your authority as something to be valued.


With God, He wants us to see this same idea. He is not out to keep us caged in by a whole bunch of regulations or do’s and don’t’s. He wants us to want to obey Him because we know that He has our best interest at heart. He wants us to want to obey Him because we know that He is the Mighty Father of the Universe. He wants us to want to obey Him because we know that He has all wisdom, all knowledge, and an all encompassing view of time and space. He knows the beginning and the end. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He knows what is bad for us and what is good. He knows what will destroy and what will keep us in good relationship with Him. He knows. He knows. He knows! He is our Father in Heaven. Let us obey Him because He knows.


Amen and Amen.

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