11 Moses: So love the Eternal your God and always obey His requirements, regulations, judgments, and commands. 2 Now keep this in mind: it was you, not your children, who saw and experienced firsthand all the lessons the Eternal your God taught you. You saw how He demonstrated His majesty and His overwhelming power. 3 You saw the signs He performed in Egypt[a] and everything He sent against Pharaoh the king and everyone in the country. 4 You saw what He did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and its chariots, right when they were chasing you: He drowned them in the Red Sea![b] The Eternal destroyed them all,[c] and the Egyptian army still hasn’t recovered. 5 You saw how He took care of you in the wilderness and brought you safely to this place. 6 But remember what happened when people rebelled against Him: you saw what He did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab from the tribe of Reuben—how the earth opened up, right in our midst, and swallowed them, their families, their tents, and their livestock![d]
7 Therefore, as eyewitnesses of all the great things the Eternal did, 8 carefully obey all the commands I’m giving you today. Then you’ll be strong enough to go and take possession of the land you’re about to enter, 9 and you’ll live long, healthy lives there. This is what the Eternal promised your ancestors: He’d give this land flowing with milk and honey to them and to their descendants. 10 The land where you’re going to live when you cross the Jordan isn’t like the land of Egypt where you came from. When you sowed seeds there, you could water all of your land as if it were nothing more than a small vegetable garden, transporting the water yourselves. 11 But in the land where you’re going to live, the hills and valleys drink water right out of the sky! 12 He takes care of this land; He’s always looking after it, all throughout the year.
Eternal One: 13 If you carefully obey My commands which I’m giving you today, and if you love Me and serve Me with your whole heart and soul, 14 then I’ll send rain on your land when it’s needed, in the autumn and the spring. You’ll have an abundant harvest of grain and wine and olive oil. 15 I’ll make grass grow in the fields for your cattle. You’ll eat all you need and be totally satisfied.
Moses: 16 But watch out! Don’t be seduced, so that you turn away from the Lord. Don’t abandon Him to worship other gods or bow down to them! 17 If you do, the Eternal’s fiery anger will result in a deadly drought. He won’t let any rain fall from the sky, and the ground won’t produce any crops. Then you won’t last very long in the good land the Eternal One is giving you.
18-20 So let what I’m saying sink deeply into your hearts and souls. Do whatever it takes to remember what I’m telling you: tie a reminder on your hand or put a reminder on your forehead where you’ll see it all the time, and on the doorpost where you cross the threshold or on the city gate.
Teach these things to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning. 21 That way you and your children will be blessed with long life and abundant crops upon the ground the Eternal promised to your ancestors, for as long as there’s a sky above the earth.
Eventually people begin to take these instructions literally. They put abbreviated reminders of the law called mezuzot—scrolls of parchment inscribed with a prayer rolled into a decorative case—on their doorposts. They even wear tefillin—small leather boxes containing the same prayer—on their arms and foreheads with straps. Any discipline that reminds us effectively to live as God intends is helpful. But Moses’ goal here is not to create new rituals. It is to encourage God’s people to be intentional about learning and remembering God’s ways.
Moses: 22 If you carefully obey all these things I’m commanding you—if you really do love the Eternal your God and live as He wants you to and devote yourselves to Him— 23 then He will drive out all of these nations ahead of you. You’ll conquer nations that are bigger and stronger than you are. 24 Every place you walk will become yours: your territory will extend from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 25 No one will be able to resist you. The Eternal your God will make everyone throughout the whole land you’re going into terrified of you, just as He said He would.
26 Look, you’ve got two choices: you can be blessed, or you can be cursed. 27 If you obey His commands, which I’m giving you today, you’ll be blessed. 28 If you don’t obey His commands—if you leave the path I’m showing you today so you can worship other gods who are foreign to you, then you’ll be cursed.
The ancient treaty form, which is similar to what is found in Deuteronomy, always includes blessings for keeping the agreement (covenant) and curses for breaking it. Calling these out is a crucial part of the process of adopting the covenant (chapters 27–28). Moses makes a preliminary mention of the blessings-and-curses ceremony.
It’s not an absolute rule that those who obey God will directly receive blessings in this life, and that those who disobey will suffer immediate consequences as a result. However, this is still generally true. His people should obey simply because the Lord is entitled to their unswerving loyalty and devotion (not because of any promised rewards). God delights to reward obedience, and His people should embrace His generosity gratefully whenever they receive it.
Moses: 29 When the Eternal your God brings you into the land where you’re going to live when you cross the Jordan, half of you are going to stand on Mount Gerizim and shout out the blessings that will come to those who obey the Lord. The other half of you will stand on Mount Ebal on the other side of the valley and shout out the curses that will fall on those who disobey Him. 30 You’ll find these two mountains on the other side of the Jordan River, as you head west of your current path, in the territory of the Canaanites who live in the arid Jordan Valley[e] around Gilgal, near the great trees at Moreh. 31 I tell you this now because you’re just about to cross the Jordan into the land where you’re going to live. The Eternal your God will give it to you; you’ll take possession of it and settle there. 32 And when you do, you must be very careful to obey all the regulations and judgments I’m giving you today.
12 Moses: These are the regulations and judgments you must carefully obey in the land the Eternal, the God of your ancestors, is giving you to live in, for as long as you are alive. 2 Completely destroy all the places where the nations you’re going to conquer worshiped their gods—on the mountain heights and hilltops, and under every leafy tree.
Commanding heights are recognized as positions of power and advantage. They are also closer to the sky on mountains and hills, which are thought to be the home of the gods. Nations chose heights and hilltops as places of worship. Leafy trees are also a favored location because of the shelter and shade they provided in a hot climate, and because they reach all realms of creation—the underworld, the physical world, and the heavens. In the absence of trees, carved poles serve as portable tree shrines honoring the goddess Asherah.
Moses: 3 Tear down their altars, smash their monoliths, burn their sacred poles,[f] and shatter their idols! Wipe out every trace of the names of their gods in those places. 4 The Eternal your God doesn’t want you to worship Him in the way these nations worshiped their gods, setting up shrines and altars all over the land. 5 He will choose a place within the territory of one of your tribes to be His home; He will put His Name there. Go there to worship Him. 6 Whenever you have something to offer, take it there: burnt offerings and sacrifices, tithes, uplifted offerings, freewill gifts, payments to fulfill vows, and firstborn animals from your herds and flocks. 7 Eat your sacred meals there in His presence, and celebrate with your whole household how the Eternal your God has blessed everything you’ve done. 8 Right now we’re letting everyone do as he or she sees fit here with unregulated sacrifices, 9 because you aren’t yet living in peace on the land He is going to give you. 10 When you’ve crossed the Jordan River and have settled in the land He is giving you to live in and pass on to your descendants, and you’re living in safety because He’s defeated the enemies all around you and they’re no longer a threat, 11 then bring everything I command you to the place the Eternal, your True God, will choose as a sanctuary, as a place for His name. Bring your burnt offerings and other sacrifices there; bring your tithes, uplifted offerings, and the special gifts you choose to dedicate along with your vow to the Eternal. 12 Celebrate in His presence with your sons and daughters and with your male and female slaves. And be sure to invite any Levites who live in your town, because their tribe won’t have any property as yours does. 13 Be careful! Don’t offer burnt sacrifices just anywhere that you find suitable. 14 Offer your burnt sacrifices only in the place He will choose in the territory of one of your tribes. And that’s the only place you should make any of the burnt offerings and execute everything else I’m telling you.
15 However, if you just want to have meat for a meal, if the Eternal your God has blessed you and you can afford it, you can do that in your own towns. Slaughter the animals and eat them there. It’s not a sacred meal, so people don’t need to be ritually pure to eat it, and it can be a gazelle or a deer. 16 But don’t consume any of the blood; pour it out on the ground like water as you would for any slaughter or sacrifice. 17 And remember you still can’t eat any of the special offerings in your own towns: tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil; firstborn animals from your herds and flocks, any payments to fulfill vows, or freewill gifts and uplifted offerings. 18 Eat these special offerings in His presence in the place He chooses. Bring your sons, your daughters, and your male and female slaves, and remember to invite the Levites who live in your town. Celebrate together, in His presence, everything you’ve been able to accomplish. 19 (Don’t ever neglect the Levites! Make sharing with them a part of your lifestyle the whole time you’re living in that land.)
20-21 You see, the Eternal your God is going to give you an extensive territory as He’s promised. You may be living at some distance from the place where He chooses to put His name. And there will be times when you say to yourself, “I’m going to have some meat—that’s what I’m craving!” Go right ahead—as often as you wish. If you take from one of the domesticated animals the Eternal has given you from your herd or your flock and eat it in your own town, I’m telling you it’s all right to do that. 22 It’s just like eating a gazelle or a deer. People don’t need to be ritually pure to eat this meat. 23 But discipline yourselves not to eat the blood because the blood is the soul, and you mustn’t eat the soul along with the meat. 24 Don’t eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 25 If you don’t eat it, you’ll be doing what the Eternal considers right, and everything will go well for you and your descendants.
26 But bring anything that will be a sacred meal and any sacrifice that will be offered to pay a vow to the place He will choose. 27 There you will offer both the meat and the blood of your burnt sacrifices on His altar. You must pour out the blood of your sacrifices on the altar, but you will eat the meat. 28 Be very careful to obey all these words I’m telling you. Then you’ll be doing what the Eternal your God considers good and right, and everything will go well for you and your descendants forever.
The people are required to make certain offerings and are invited to make others. All of these offerings are to be handled with special care and not treated as ordinary food. Here Moses is warning specifically against pagan magical practice. It is believed by them that the life force, qualities, and powers of an animal can be taken over by consuming its blood, particularly as it flows from its body. The pagan nations look for power within the created order, and they try to tap into that power through fertility rites and other magical acts. All the blessings of life, fertility, and abundance are to be found in obedient relationship to the Lord. They can’t be obtained by trying to manipulate the forces of the natural world.
Moses: 29 When the Eternal your God has destroyed the nations whose land you’re going to occupy, when you’ve displaced them and settled there, 30 then be very careful! Don’t fall into a deadly trap by doing what those nations did, since they were destroyed when you came into their land! Don’t try to find out about their gods. Don’t ask, “How did these nations worship their gods? I’m going to do the same thing!” 31 Don’t worship the Eternal your God the way those nations worshiped their gods! They did every horrible thing He hates. They even burned up their sons and daughters as sacrifices to those gods. 32 Be very careful to do everything I’m commanding you. Don’t add anything to your worship, and don’t take anything away from it.
22 Picture this:
One day Jesus and His disciples get into a boat.
Jesus: Let’s cross the lake.
So they push off from shore and begin sailing to the far side. 23 As they progress across the lake, Jesus falls sound asleep. Soon a raging storm blows in. The waves wash over the sides of the boat, and the boat starts filling up with water. Every second the situation becomes more dangerous.
24 The disciples shake Jesus and wake Him.
Disciples (shouting): Master! Master! We’re all going to die!
Jesus wakes up and tells the wind to stop whipping them around, and He tells the furious waves to calm down. They do just that. 25 Then Jesus turns to the disciples.
Jesus: What happened to your faith?
The disciples had been terrified during the storm, but now they’re afraid in another way. They turn to each other and start whispering, chattering, and wondering.
Disciples: Who is this man? How can He command wind and water so they do what He says?
26 When they get to the other side of the lake, in the Gerasene country opposite Galilee, 27 a man from the city is waiting for Jesus when He steps out of the boat. The man is full of demonic spirits. He’s been running around for a long time stark naked, and he’s homeless, sleeping among the dead in a cemetery. 28-29 This man has on many occasions been tied up and chained and kept under guard, but each time he has broken free and the demonic power has driven him back into remote places away from human contact. Jesus commands the demonic force to leave him. The man looks at Jesus and starts screaming. He falls down in front of Jesus.
Possessed Man (shouting): Don’t torment me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! Why are You here?
Jesus (calmly and simply): 30 What’s your name?
Possessed Man: Battalion.
He says this because an army of demons is inside of him. 31 The demons start begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit. 32 They plead instead to enter into a herd of pigs feeding on a steep hillside near the shore. Jesus gives them permission to do so. 33 Suddenly the man is liberated from the demons, but the pigs—they stampede, squealing down the hill and into the lake where they drown themselves.
34 The pig owners see all this. They run back to their town and tell everyone in the region about it. 35 Soon a crowd rushes from the town to see what’s going on out by the lake. There they find Jesus seated to teach with the newly liberated man sitting at His feet learning in the posture of a disciple. This former madman is now properly dressed and completely sane. This frightens the people. 36 The pig owners tell them the whole story—the healing, the pigs’ mass suicide, everything.
37 The people are scared to death, and they don’t want this scary abnormality happening in their territory. They ask Jesus to leave immediately. Jesus doesn’t argue. He prepares to leave, 38 but before they embark, the newly liberated man begs to come along and join the band of disciples.
Jesus: 39 No. Go home. Tell your people this amazing story about how much God has done for you.
The man does so. In fact, he tells everyone in the whole city how much Jesus did for him that day on the shore.
1 O God, hurry to save me;
Eternal One, hurry to my side.
2 For those who seek to kill me,
God, may they burn in disgrace and humiliation!
Repulse the attacks; ridicule the efforts
of those taking pleasure in my pain.
3 I hear their taunts: “Nah, nah, nah . . . .”
Let those hecklers fall back upon their brays—ashamed and confused—
4 But let those who pursue You
celebrate and have joy because of You.
And let the song of those who love Your saving grace
never cease: “God is great!”
5 But I am poor and in serious need,
so hurry to my side, God,
Because You are my helper, my liberator.
Eternal One, please don’t wait.
4 A dignified wife brings honor to her husband,
but a shameful wife is like decay eating away at his bones.