This section begins with an appeal to listen to God’s statutes (4:1) and closes with the selection of three cities of refuge east of the Jordan (4:41-43).
No adding or subtracting allowed – What the Lord instructed Israel through Moses, well, He expected them to submit to it without altering the message: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (4:2). It has never been right for humans to try and remove what God says or to attempt to add to His truth. God’s wisdom gives us the message that we need, so let us be satisfied with it!
Israel’s wisdom and understanding – How could the Israelites demonstrate true, spiritual wisdom? “Therefore be careful to observe them [God’s statutes, rdc]; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes . . .” (4:6). Who is wise in the Lord’s sight? Those who submit to His will (Matthew 7:24-27).
Teach your offspring – When it came to God’s word and what the Israelites had seen Him accomplish on their behalf, what were they to do? “And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (4:9). We cannot make their decisions for them, but we do have a great opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of our offspring. Effective teaching comes in the form of verbal instruction plus a godly example.
The sun, moon, and stars – When they saw others bow down and worship these important material objects, the Israelites could be tempted to do the same. God warned them not to do so (4:19). Let us be reminded of the proper place of such things: they are amazing, showing the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-3). Yet, they are not the eternal Creator; rather, they were created by Him (4:19). Thus, like all material matters, are not worthy of our devotion and worship.
A welcome home from God – What if? What if Israel should get itself into a mess by turning to idols and face the wrath of God as a result? God’s promise was, “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul . . . when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice . . . He will not forsake you nor destroy you . . .” (4:29-31). We rejoice to know that God leaves the door open, so to speak, by letting us know that He will accept us if we return to Him in humble submission (cf. Acts 8:22).
Descriptions of God – “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (4:24), “a merciful God” (4:31), a loving God: “He loved” (4:37). His nature has not changed one bit.
— Roger D. Campbell