“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” – Deuteronomy 4:2
We are all familiar with the fact that the Bible closes with the warning not to add to or to take away from the words of the Book. But perhaps we are not so familiar with the fact that this same direct command was given very early in the Bible story, in the verse we have just read.
It was once very generally believed that God created man for His own glory, and for the purpose of ruling over men and of receiving praise from them. Such a concept still persists, although the Lord tells us that He came not to be ministered unto but to minister. Yet there is a sense in which we should praise the Lord, for true praise is gratitude to Him for His many mercies and benefits to us, and this is necessary as a check to our natural tendency to attribute wisdom and goodness to ourselves.
The Lord did not come into the world, contend against the principalities of darkness, and endure the cross for His own glory. It was all done for us. The Lord declared this plainly: said He, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” No praise of men can add to the glory of God. We read of Him when he created the heavens and the earth, “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him?” and “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.”
Yet we are commanded to praise the Lord. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” We praise the Lord when we love and obey His truth. So John says further, “That they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
That we may have something of His joy in ourselves we must turn from the love of self and follow Him in a life of disinterested service. And He tells us how this may be done, and says, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.”
As we do our daily work, the most good comes to us in doing it from the thought of service to the Lord. But that our service to Him may be intelligent and pure, it needs to be seen that this service to those about us whom we can help must be done in the Lord’s name, that is, in accordance with His laws. We cannot instruct the Lord. We can no more add power or glory to Him than we can increase the light of the sun. But we can increase and intensify it on the plane of its reception. To this end the Word was given, and through it the Lord accomplishes His will. So we are commanded, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.”
There is a literal lesson in this text. Many modern translations are being made which add to and take away from the Word. Scholars exalt their own intelligence, and change the Word to make it mean not what it says but what they think it ought to say. We should be aware of this fact.
Yet all of us, whether scholars or not, should realize that in reading the Word and applying it to life there is always and everywhere the danger of adding to or taking away from it. We read, “The law of the Lord is perfect,” and that the Lord is a just God. In applying these precepts to life, do we ever take away from them? Do we sometimes feel that the laws of the Lord are not perfect, that He is not just, that some people are favored and some not, that sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous come into want, that there are many, from old men to little children, who are in need, while others have more than they can use? Is it ever thought that God’s laws fall short and fail to embrace all?
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” Is there anyone who ever doubts the reality of the spiritual world, that there are mansions there, that the Lord will prepare a mansion for him? But, one says, “I am not worthy.” No one is worthy in himself, but the more unworthy one feels the more conscious he is of his need of and dependence upon the Lord, and the more glorious will be his eternal home.
“If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” Do we ever think, or hear others argue that the Lord’s mercy is so great that He will in some miraculous way change the evil after death into angels of light? By so thinking the zeal for inward cleansing is diminished, the purpose of life here defeated, and heavenly blessings lost. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you.”
The Word tells us that the righteous shall inherit the earth. Sometimes we hear it said that all the world is evil, that selfishness, greed, and injustice reign everywhere, that an honest man cannot succeed, and that the world is continually getting worse and worse. The Word tells us that evil will be overcome because of the Redemption, and that of the increase of the Lord’s government and peace there will be no end. We should believe in the promises of the Word and live in the strength, comfort, and joy of them. We should not diminish ought from the Word which the Lord has given unto us.
Many believe in the parts of the Word which they like. The rest, for various reasons, they reject. It is written: “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.” And Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” No one can reject a part of the Word without forfeiting the life in it. Here is the inevitable law:
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
We read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Not to believe this is to take it out of the book. And if this is done, the life that is in that promise goes with it. If one does not believe that, provided he does his best to learn and obey the Lord’s law’s, the Lord can save him from all his evils and distresses, the power and the sustaining life in that belief must be lost. If one rejects the truth that the Lord will go through the valley of shadows with him, then the life of that sustaining promise perishes. If from the Word is taken away the assertion that the Lord will go with us and give us peace, then the life of that peace is taken away.
If one does not believe in the everlasting life, he cannot have the comfort of knowing that at some time there will be a reunion with the loved ones who have gone on before him.
If he does not believe that the Lord is continually watching over him for his eternal good, he must live in fear of the future, or in indifference to it.
What one takes out of the book, every whit, is taken out of his life. Whatever promise, assurance, or quality is taken from the Word, the life of it goes out.
And if one adds to the book the belief that evil, if not shunned and put away here, may be overcome in the next world, all zeal in the spiritual quest is taken away, and religion becomes meaningless to him.
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”