Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Deuteronomy 4:32-36.39-40: True to Love
Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testing, by signs and wonders, by combat, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. (…) Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time. (Deuteronomy 4:32-36,39-40 TNIV)

Chapter 4 of the Book of Deuteronomy tells us that Moses gave the children of Israel “decrees and laws” to make them into a living people, corresponding to a God who “is near us whenever we pray to him” (v. 7). God entrusted this Law to them on Mount Horeb as a sign of his covenant, an unbreakable bond of communion. Israel is called to remain faithful, whatever happens, to “the merciful God who never forgets his covenant” (v. 31).

In order to remain faithful to God, we need to be able to marvel at him and at this undeserved love. With rhetorical questions (v. 32b-34), Moses attempts to awaken this sense of wonder. Is there anything greater than such a love shown to a nation? Has such love ever done more for any other nation on this earth? Has a people ever before been in such close relations with the wholly Other, the dazzling God who finds ways to be with his people without blinding them? Has there ever been such a God who loved his people as his one and only?

The people received everything they needed (v. 35-36) to accept God as their only love. God showed it to them through deeds; he protected and freed them; he “raised” them like a child (see Hosea 11:1-4). God acted “before their eyes” and they could hear his voice booming “out of the fire.” There is only one God for heaven and earth, and he must find his place in the “heart” of the people (v. 39).

Naturally the people could always fall away from this love of God. In those days, just as today, there were many things to distract them. The economy and politics, but also culture and even religion can become a kind of smokescreen so that it is no longer clear that human beings were created and formed by a love that it valid for all time and that makes them sacred. Powers constantly threaten to arise in order to attack human freedom, created for God’s love.

“God wants happiness for us” (Brother Roger). Moses is deeply attached to the people. For this reason he does not force them by using his own authority; he shows them God’s love, to which he himself feels committed. He wishes that things may “go well” (v. 40) for his people and their posterity, that they may have a long life. There is no other power “in heaven above and on the earth below” that can promise such happiness for all time.

Moses wants to spare the people the painful detours on which we seek, in vain, a life of happiness elsewhere than in the Source of life. He gave himself to the end to mediate between God and the nation. God’s love goes even further, it is true, beyond the means which are “decrees and laws.” Jesus Christ is the “way” on which God comes close to his people directly, without other means. He gave himself for love and in this way disarmed all other powers once and for all.

- Am I able to marvel at God?
- To whom do I feel committed?
- Through faith, what detours can I avoid and help others to avoid?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 April 2024