INTERSPERSED WITH THE HISTORICAL RECITAL that makes up much of the early chapters of Deuteronomy are bursts of exhortation. One of the most moving is found in Deuteronomy 10:12-22. Its magnificent themes include:
(1) A sheer God-centerdness that embraces both fearing God and loving God (Deut. 10:12-13). In our confused and blinded world, fearing God without loving him will dissolve into terror, and thence into taboos, magic, incantations, rites; loving God without obeying him will dissolve into sentimentalism without strong affection, pretensions of godliness without moral vigor, unbridled lust for power without any sense of impropriety, nostalgic yearnings for relationships without any passion for holiness. Neither pattern squares with what the Bible says: “And now, 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 . . .?” (Deut. 10:12).
(2) A sheer God-centeredness that pictures election as a gracious act. God owns the whole show — “the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deut. 10:14). He can do with it as he wishes. What he has in fact done is “set his affection” on the patriarchs, loving them, and in turn choosing their descendants (Deut. 10:15; cf. Deut. 4:37).
(3) A sheer God-centeredness that is never satisfied with the mere rites and show of religion: it demands the heart (Deut. 10:16). That is why physical circumcision could never be seen as an end in itself, not even in the Old Testament. It symbolized something deeper: circumcision of the heart. What God wants is not merely an outward sign that certain people belong to him, but an inward disposition of heart and mind that orient us to God continually.
(4) A sheer God-centeredness that recognizes his impartiality, and therefore his justice — and acts accordingly (Deut. 10:17-20). He is “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deut. 10:17). Small wonder then that he accepts no bribes and shows no partiality. (Never confuse election with partiality. Partiality is favoritism that is corrupted by a willingness to pervert justice for the sake of the favored few; election chooses certain people out of God’s free decision and nothing else, and even then justice is not perverted: hence the cross.) And he expects his people to conduct themselves accordingly.
(5) A sheer God-centeredness that is displayed in his people’s praise (Deut. 10:20-22). “He is your praise; he is your God” (Deut. 10:21). Those who focus much on God have much for which to praise. Those whose vision is merely terrestrial or self-centered dry up inside like desiccated prunes. God is your praise!