BY ELDER DR MASIMBA MAVAZA
For What Nation Is There So Great?
Memory Text: Deuteronomy 4:8
‘And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?’ ”
The first three chapters of Deuteronomy were basically a history lesson, reminding the people of what they had been through up to that point. By the time we get to chapter 4, the history lesson shifts more into a sermonic mode. The recounting of events wasn’t just for history buffs; instead, it served a purpose, showing the people the power and grace of God working among them, and that even though they messed up, the Lord was still going to honor His covenant with them.
Chapter 4 begins with the Hebrew word (a conjunction and an adverb) we‘attah, which can be translated as “And now” or “So now.” They just had reviewed their recent history, a reminder of what God had done in bringing them to this point—thus, or “so now,” they are to do what God tells them to do (see also Deut. 10:12) in response.
That’s why the first verb that appears after the “So now” is shama’, the same verb (and in the same form) as used in the beginning of the Shema prayer, and it means “hear” or “listen” or “obey”—a verb repeated all through Deuteronomy.
SABBATH: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, & His teaching in our past history.” These words from EGW sums up God’s message to Israel. God first reviewed to the Israelites their past (chap. 3) & then bid them to trust & obey Him (chap. 4). The same word “so now” in the Shema prayers (to mean “hear” or “listen”) begins chapter 4 to call Israel to duty.
SUNDAY: “What God writes, no one erases, & what He erases, no one writes.” God is heaven-bent on conveying His moral law, statutes, & judgement through His Word. No one is to add to or take away from what He writes (Deut. 4:1, 2). This was God’s command to Israel. Now, Satan makes great efforts to alter God’s precepts. Ancient Israel at times altered Gods law & got into trouble (2SM, p. 107, Matt. 15:1-9).
MONDAY: Israel sinned quietly to a point of national apostasy. Most of them were seduced into paganism by neighbor nations. In Moab, they joined in the worship of Baal Peor & were visited by God’s wrath. Israel was chosen to be a “light to the nations” but allowed pagan nations to dim her light (Deut. 4:3, 4, Num. 25:1-15). Physical idolatry led them into spiritual idolatry (Hos. 4:12-14). The mind & body is closely linked.
TUESDAY: The safest place to be is not a military camp or a fortified house. It’s under the throne of God. Abiding in Christ attract blessings. Israel had only one solemn duty, to “cleave” to God but she didn’t. The whole nation became soaked in sin. The remnants that abode with God were saved (Deut. 4:4, 10:20, 11:22, 13:4, 30:20, Gen. 2:24, Ruth 1:14). On God’s side, we are safe from sin & woes (Jude 24, 1 Cor. 10:13).
WEDNESDAY: Arguably, the core theme of Deuteronomy is in Chap. 4:5-9. God’s plan was to dress the small nation Israel to the marvel of the world. Israel was to only obey. God promised Abram to make Israel a chosen & special nation unto Him (Gen. 12:2, 3, 18:18). In turn, Israel was to bless all the earth by living in God’s grace (Deut. 4:32-35). The Messiah was to come from Israel (Isa. 49:6, Deut. 32:17, Ps. 106:37).
THURSDAY: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Israel’s wisdom & understanding lied in obeying God’s (Deut. 4:1-9). The whole nation was called to gospel mission. The best & highest form of law, rules, & regulations could be found only in the land of Israel. Yet Israel disobeyed in many times. The great laws were of no good if they were not keeping them. We’re to live out God’s truth (COL, p. 288).
FRIDAY: In every generation the archenemy of God, Satan, moves upon the hearts of men to kindle enmity against God & His holy law. Satan hopes to overthrow the law of God. This was what inspired his rebellion in heaven. Cast unto the earth, he pursues the same course to cause man to fall. If he’s able to cause man to reject God’s law or even stumble in one, his dream is fulfilled. He led Israel to paganism.
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 582 & Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 454.
EGW- Ellen Gould White
2SM- Selected Messages, Volume 2
COL- Christ’s Object Lessons
SUNDAY- Do Not Add Or Take Away
MONDAY- Baal Peor
TUESDAY- Cleave To The Lord Your God
WEDNESDAY- For What Nation Is There So Great?
THURSDAY- Your Wisdom And Your Understanding
📌 Think about the ways in which we Seventh-day Adventists are in the place where ancient Israel was. Think about all that we have been given in contrast to the world around us and, yes, even in contrast to other churches. The question for us, then, is this: How are we responding to what we have been given? How well are we projecting our “wisdom and understanding” before the world?
📌 “But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.” Again, the subject of the verb “did cleave” is the people. The Lord won’t cleave to us in the sense that He won’t force us to Himself. Instead, using the sacred gift of free will, we have to choose to cleave to Him. Once we make that choice, how do we follow through and cleave to Him?
📌 Dwell more on the question at the end of Sunday’s study. What does it mean to add to or to take away from God’s commands? Outside of the obvious, such as the attempted change of the Sabbath, how might something like that happen so subtly we don’t even realize what is happening?