Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thoughts on reading Deuteronomy

I have been reading Deuteronomy, and I keep coming back to chapters 4-11, where Moses describes the relationship that God is setting up with His people. He has instructed them to enter the land given to them, to cleanse it, to stay separate from the people and not intermarry, and to commit themselves to this covenant with the Lord.

So many things strike me. Some of these passages are just breathtaking and glorious.

I am struck by the explanation as to WHY God has done this, why all of this has happened. Like this passage that emphasizes their uniqueness, and how God has done a new thing with them:
Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation,... To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you.
Why has He does this? That they would know Him.  This just floors me... I am reading The Mission of God by Christopher Wright, and he goes through book after book after passage to emphasize that the purpose of God is to be be known by His people and glorified as God. This was their purpose... and I also think it's ours, so these passages are so stunning when read in the light of MY purpose as well.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers,
In the passage above I was struck by the phrase that always puzzles me - "a people holy to the Lord". The term holy really isn't used outside the church, so I always stop to think about what that really means. What does it mean that Israel (and the church) have been chosen out of the nations in order to be a people holy to the Lord? The equivalent definition is set apart for sacred use... sorta like the good silver is set apart from the everyday, only for special use. Except I think that's a flawed analogy, because it's not just that we are set aside for a sacred task, we are set aside for a sacred Master. We are made holy and set apart in order to be a people for God's use to accomplish His purpose on the earth. So... to be His holy people means having a holy, unique purpose.
But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.
we can see this applying to us in 1 Peter 2:
 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Again and again they are exhorted to REMEMBER what God has done for them, His great actions in bringing them out of Egypt and through the sea and the desert and into this land. Remembering is crucial, because if they forget their uniqueness, all will be lost. So they are instructed to remember, to retell their stories, to teach them to their children.
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—
The passage below sort of sums it up. What amazes me is that though I consider the Church and Israel separate, both of us are a people set apart for the Lord, and so all of this is such beautiful reading, as a charge and a prayer, almost.

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.  Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

3 comments:

Rae said...

"We are made holy and set apart in order to be a people for God's use to accomplish His purpose on the earth. So... to be His holy people means having a holy, unique purpose."
I know that you are right, but I always get nervous when people talk about things such as this. My underlying concern is that we will imagine that our "chosen-ness" somehow justifies the mistreatment of others as has often happened in history. But I don't think that will be a problem so long as we remember 1 Corinthians 12 with its discussion of honoring the members which are, in fact, less honorable. And so I can chill out and say "great post." :-)

Kacie said...

Indeed, I hate that as well. But I don't think God's choice of His people is without condition. He requires their obedience, and so I think injustice should never be done in the name of chosenness after reading a verse like this one (from the last paragraph)
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God.

Kacie said...

One more thing - I think what strikes me here is that we are not set apart as a special people - we are set aside as a people for the use of God. I think what has been so striking for me this year is to read about the grand mission of God in history and on the earth, and then feel immensely convicted that I am called to have that mission be my mission