Do you have one of those relatives who tells the SAME stories over and over again? Maybe they are beginning to struggle with dementia and they tell you the same story three times in five minutes. My wife has one of those relatives, only he doesn’t have dementia as an excuse. My wife is very gracious though. Usually she will just listen until he says, “Have I told you this story before?” to which she replies, “Many times.” I really feel bad for her because she can’t even get away from it. She’s married to that person!
Sometimes when I tell a story, I want to emphasize something, but I seldom have a specific reason for repeating myself. However, God is not that way. He doesn’t forget that He already said something and absentmindedly repeat it.
So when you come to Deuteronomy 4-5, and you see the ten commandments rehashed in many cases verbatim from the wording in Exodus 20, it should give us pause to consider why He would need to say these things again.
Zig Ziglar said that “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” I think we can see all of these as reasons for God’s repetition in these chapters.
The children of Israel had very specific instructions on how they were to remember, repeat, and remind one another of the commandments of God. They agreed to obey these commands about 40 years prior at Mount Horeb with the unified cry of “Whatever the Lord says, we will do.” Yet they had yet to fully learn to follow His commands.
If they had fully learned what they were supposed to, it would have resulted in action. Their lives would have reflected that the Words of God had taken effect in their lives.
And that last part, “the architect of accomplishment.” Imagine how much smoother everything would have been for them if they had just obeyed God when he told them to do something (like go in and take the promised land). They could have avoided a 40-year detour! But on a far grander scale, we see what God accomplished for them in spite of their repeated unfaithfulness, routine disobedience, and rebellious attitudes. Imagine how much MORE he could have blessed them if they had learned, and obeyed fully from the beginning.
So what does that mean for us today? It’s easy to look at the children of Israel and cast aspersions but let’s look into the “perfect law of liberty” and see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word. If He repeats something its because he wants us to learn it. It may seem simplistic and redundant, but like the children of Israel, we struggle to remember and act on what we have been taught. If Exodus 20 is “Commandments 101” then Deuteronomy is “Commandments 102” and Matthew 5 would be “Commandments 201.” Jesus repeated commandments again, but added to our understanding of them so that we could not take the minimum required action and feel like we had accomplished the law.
Any time you feel like you’ve heard this before while reading the Bible, that’s a pretty good hint that God is repeating it for a reason and you should pay close attention to find out why!