“Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of YHWH your God that I give you.” Deuteronomy 4:1-2
As the nation of Israel came to the borders of the Promised Land, ready to enter under their newly appointed leader, Joshua, Moses had some parting words to share with them. His lengthy plea to the rebellious people makes up the book of Deuteronomy, and the quote above is a sampling of what he told them.
Gratefully, we who have been welcomed into the New Covenant with God through Jesus are not under the law that Moses received for the people so long ago. It was a good law, but it could not do what the gospel of Jesus does. We are not bound to that law, but we are a people bound to the law of Christ. After all, didn’t He commission His Church to teach disciples to obey all that He commanded (see Matthew 28:20)?
So then, I invite you to rephrase in your own mind the words of Moses above so that they apply to the commands of our Master Jesus. Let us devote ourselves, as disciples of Jesus, to hearing and following His commands day after day. Why? Our obedience to His commands won’t obligate Him to give us His kingdom, but our obedience is how we live in the kingdom He is happy to give us. It is how we “take possession” of the promised blessing of eternal kingdom life. Only by obeying our Master’s commands can we live in the culture of God’s country, for it is entirely different from any of the cultures we’ve known in the kingdoms of earth.
And may we never add to His commands, Disciple. It is an easy thing to do, but we must be vigilant in resisting the temptation to do it. As we live with others – especially our fellow disciples in the Church – we must be very careful to only call them to account for the things they do to violate our Master’s commands. We must never hold our brothers and sisters to our own standards. For instance, our Master has commanded us not to love the world or anything in the world. Shall we, then, demand that our fellow disciple give up all non-Christian music or entertainment? You see, there’s the rub. The commands of our Master are so often general, yet we live in the specifics. So let us be gracious and wise as we live with one another. May we not add to the commands of Jesus and, as a result, set up our own standards as being equal to His. If a brother or sister clearly violates what our Master has commanded, let us bring that concern to them in love. Otherwise, let us entrust them to the care of their Master. As Paul wrote, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (Romans 14:4).
On the other hand, may we be very careful not to subtract from our Master’s commands either. How foolish it is for a servant to selectively obey their Master! He has commanded many things that are difficult and uncomfortable, but may our humble submission to and love for Him move us to boldly say, “As you wish, Master,” no matter the cost. He deserves that from us, for He has generously given Himself to redeem us and make us a people who are His very own.
Abiding in His words of life with you,