O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? … He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 21
For Your Own Good
“Don’t put your finger in there!” screams a frantic mother as her two-year old reaches for the electric outlet. “Stay off the grass,” speaks a stern father to his football-loving boys after their front lawn has been treated with chemicals. “Brush and floss your teeth every day,” says the concerned dentist to the girl whose oral hygiene leaves something to be desired. Well-informed and concerned adults give commands to children, either keeping them from doing something they’d like to do or adding another thing they might not like to do. Why? For the good of the child. “I don’t want you to electrocute yourself.” “I don’t want you to be harmed by toxic chemicals.” “I don’t want your teeth to rot.” “I care too much to see you suffer harm.”
The people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land. Moses, their leader for many years, was giving them his last words of encouragement. He urged them to observe the LORD’s commands, reminding them that God was giving them to his people for their own good. God didn’t want them to make a mess of their relationships, with him or each other, by choosing to go their own way. Could they keep God’s commands? If so, how? The truth is they couldn’t do such a thing by their own strength. In fact, by their own reasoning they would see the LORD’s commands as cumbersome and restrictive. They showed time and time again their lack of trust and lack of love and lack of willingness to see the LORD’s commands as good. And the truth is, we do the same thing. Good laws that God gives for our good are seen as old-fashioned and opposite of freedom. We like to do our own thing, often moving in the exact opposite direction from the path set before us by God’s commandments.
On our own it is impossible to obey God’s commandments. This is why the LORD pointed his people—and us too—to his goodness in performing wonders and miracles on our behalf. The people of Israel had seen him act on their behalf countless times, because he is good and full of grace. We see it too as we look to the great and awesome wonder of God who loves the fallen human race so much that he is willing to suffer and die for it. We experience the miracle of God with our own eyes when he touches hearts with the good news of his Son and brings them to believe that God is our good Father and perfect Savior. Then we look at his commands differently. They don’t come to us from a God who is trying to curb our fun or make life miserable. They come from a God who loves us immeasurably. As his children by faith in Jesus, he wants us to have a fulfilled and blessed life. And so he gives us commands for our good. And we seek to keep them because we know he is good.
Lord God, heavenly Father, forgive me for the times when I’ve seen your commands as a burden instead of a blessing. Focus me on the forgiveness that is mine through Jesus Christ. Increase in me a heart that seeks to obey your Word out of love and thanks for all that you have done and continue to do for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.