Lists are helpful ways of keeping ourselves on task. We make to-do lists to manage our workload, grocery lists to help us feed our families, and chore lists to keep our home in order. As it pertains to serving God, the five precepts of Deuteronomy 10:12-13 serve as a kind of list reminding us of His requirements.
First, “fear the Lord your God.” Fearing God has to do with reverential awe displayed before an awesome power and presence. It involves the terror of God’s wrath (cf. 2 Cor. 5:11; Heb. 10:31) but also a reverent respect and appreciation (cf. Heb. 12:28). God commanded Israel to fear Him (Deu. 6:2, 13, 24) and desired them to have the heart to do so (Deu. 5:29). He commands us to do the same. Fear is both foundational and motivational. Recognizing and respecting His person is a springboard from which our service to Him flows (cf. Ecc. 12:13). Likewise, such an attitude provokes right doing. Solomon said, “…by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil” (Pro. 16:6; cf. 2 Cor. 7:1).
Second, “walk in His ways.” Both the Old and New Testament’s use the word “walk” to denote habit or manner of life. Ancient Jews viewed life as a walk down a certain pathway, be it good or evil (cf. Pro. 2:10-22). But the only life truly worth living is the one which follows the pathway set forth by the Father. Thus to “walk in His ways” was commanded (Deu. 5:33; 8:6; 11:22) “that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess” (Deu. 5:33). This implies direction and imitation. We must follow the direction of God’s Word while also seeking to imitate our God in every area of life (Ps. 119:1-5; Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 2:21).
Third, “love Him.” Love for God is a consistent theme throughout Deuteronomy. Jehovah shows mercy to those who love Him (Deut. 5:10), and He commands that we love Him with all our being (Deut. 6:5). Yet unlike the modern understanding of the concept by so many, in the Bible love is not entirely associated with emotion, but rather loyalty and obedience. Nowhere in Deuteronomy were the children of Israel commanded to tell God how much they loved Him, but to show Him. Love is seen in faithful, dedicated obedience. “For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave unto him” (Deut. 11:22).
Jesus described love in the same fashion when He commanded “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Many people claim to love God but their lives prove otherwise. Our love is not seen in telling others how much we love Him or in singing “I love you Lord” with great gusto. Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). John exhorted, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). As in the days of Moses, Jehovah requires our love–our sincere, whole-hearted, obedient devotion. Those who for the Lord and love Him will have no trouble serving Him, keeping His commandments, and walking in His ways.
Fourth, “serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Like love, service to God involves action. The word brings to mind the image of bonded service. Jehovah has redeemed Israel from Egypt. He gave them a law and an identity and made them a people. They were to serve Him obediently and whole-heartedly because they were His. Yet this service was not to be rendered grudgingly. They were to serve God “with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” The language suggests willing and joyful service. Serve God gladly with all you have because He provided you gladly with all you have.
Paul carried this image forward into the New Testament. He commanded, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Like Israel of old, we have been redeemed
(Eph. 1:7) and therefore we belong to God. “…And ye are not your own for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 19-20). We must give Him our all willingly and joyfully.
Finally, “keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good.” Deuteronomy is replete with the call to keep and observe the will of God (cf. 4:6; 6:1; 8:6; 11; 11:8; 22; 26:16; 28:45). The langue implies consistent, conscious conformity to the commands of God. God demands obedience, not because He is a ruthless dictator or cosmic killjoy, but because He loves us. Our obedience to His will is for “our good.” Deuteronomy 6:24-25 declares
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.
Why was Israel commanded to fear, imitate, love, serve, and obey the Lord? As Moses expounded in 9:1-10:13 so he reminds in 10:14-15. The basis for the commands of vss. 12-13 are found in these two verses. The sovereign God created heaven and earth. They belong to Him (v. 14). Because of His great power and wisdom, He could have created and chosen whomever He desired in whatever way He desired. But He chose Israel (v. 15). He “delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples.” Israel needed to remember that of all people on earth the sovereign God chose them!
Considering His goodness, what does the Lord require? How should they respond? How should we respond? In 5 points Moses answers the question by explaining that the only proper response is to give Him our all. We must revere Him, imitate Him, love Him, serve Him, and obey Him in everything.