Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. (Deuteronomy 29:18,19)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled, ” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
Jesus quoted from an earlier passage in Deuteronomy when he said, “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
God has entered into covenant with us and we stand before him. We are established as his people and he is our God. He is the king, and the king is the one who gets to make the law. We cannot be counted as the people of God, see the things he has done, hear the words he has spoken to us and then turn and carry on our lives as if just seeing and hearing were enough. The one who hears and ignores or sets aside what God has commanded is a root that bears poisonous and bitter fruit. God has his will and his fiery wrath always bent against sin and disobedience. Man cannot hold onto his life and turn away from the very source of it. The commandments, the words that God has revealed to us, he has revealed in order that we may do them.
This is the significance of Jesus’ quote from Deuteronomy, “man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” God has spoken to us for a reason. He hasn’t given us these commands just to see if we can follow a set of rules or so we can try to win the prize of salvation. His law is not arbitrary or self-serving. He is not a tyrannical despot. The royal law is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This isn’t and cannot be a feeling hidden away in our hearts. It must be lived out in our daily actions and interactions with each other. These things he has given us so that by doing them we will be transformed into new creatures, made in the likeness of the Son. These words are life to us; more than the bread we eat.