Archives for posts with tag: deuteronomy

For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, ESV)

In this verse God, the Rock of Israel, is compared to the false gods, the so-called “rock” of the enemies of Israel.  The second half of the verse is a difficult to translate because the Hebrew is uncertain.  Here are some options:

  • But their “rock” is not like our Rock; even our enemies concede.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, HCSB)
  • For their rock is not as our Rock, Even our enemies themselves being judges.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, KJV 1900)
  • For our God is not like their gods, but our enemies are unintelligent.” (Deuteronomy 32:31, LES [English translation of the Greek Septuagint])

If the meaning of the second half of the verse is uncertain, the meaning of the first half is not.  Israel’s Rock is a true rock that can be counted on.  He will do what he says he will do; he will keep his promises; he will watch over his people; he will punish sin.  The “rock” of the pagan nations around them?  This god is a literal rock, he cannot make promises nor keep them; he certainly cannot watch over his people; and he will only lead them further into sin, not punish it.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll stick with the Rock of Israel.

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And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments,” (Deuteronomy 26:18, ESV)

The word that the ESV translates “treasured possession” here means “something that is owned and of very high value or something for which the owner has special affection.”  This is both flabbergasting and extraordinary because, let’s face it, neither Israel nor we who follow Christ by faith today are “worthy” of the special affection of the Lord.  Indeed, the Bible goes out of its way to say again and again that the Lord didn’t choose Israel [or us] because of some remarkable trait in them/us that made us “choosable.”  God chose to make us a treasured possession out of the good pleasure of his own will.  Like I said, flabbergasting.

Lest we think this is true of only the nation of Israel, Peter goes out of his way to make clear that we who follow Christ by faith are members of God’s covenant using much the same terminology that Deuteronomy does here:

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.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)

If you follow Christ by faith, dear reader, you are God’s treasured possession, not because of what you have done, or how smart you are, or beautiful, or powerful.  You are God’s treasured possession because he set his love on you because he could…and he did.

 

“At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” (Deuteronomy 14:28–29, ESV)

This is referring to a second tithe that God commanded for the Israelites which was to be used to support the Levites–they had no land because their purpose was to serve the Lord–and the stranger/sojourner, orphans and widows.  Obedience to this command was met with the promise that God himself would bless their labors and make them prosper.

We see here God’s heart of compassion for the weakest and most vulnerable in society.  We know that supporting widows and orphans and strangers/foreigners did not stop in the New Testament, it was just as important to followers of Christ as it was to Jews under the Old Covenant.  There are many things in the Bible that are difficult to understand and not particularly clear; this, however, is not one of them.  We know with absolute certainty that if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ, then we have the duty and privilege to minister to the most vulnerable members of our society.  We start with those in the church around us who need help, but then look outward to those in society who need help. This honors God.

“Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be befooled,—and ye turn aside、 and serve other gods, and bow down to them. So would the anger of Yahweh kindle upon you、 and he would shut up the heavens、 that there should be no rain, and ||the ground|| would not yield her increase,—so should ye perish speedily、 from off the good land, which Yahweh′ is giving unto you. ”
https://ref.ly/Dt11.16-17;emphbbl

Moses [speaking on behalf of God] lays out one requirement here for judgment to come down hard on God’s people: idolatry.

The people are encouraged to be careful because their heart might be deceived [befooled] and they be led astray.  The word that we translate “deceived” can mean “to entice, deceive, be gullible, be naive.”  Someone who is led away from the true God to worship a false god certainly qualifies as gullible and naive.  Yet God understands the human heart and the hearts ability to wander away from Him to the worship of any and everything else, be that the form of a god that people have made up, be that animals, or nature, or even Man himself.  John Calvin wrote somewhere that our hearts are idol factories cranking out one thing after another to pursue rather than God himself.

God understands full well that idolatry is an existential sin.  He warns them that they would “perish speedily,” if they fell into the trap of the pursuit of false gods.  This sheds light on how strong his punishment will come down if [when] the Israelites turned to idolatry.  The very harsh measures were designed to shock people out of their idolatry and back to the worship of God himself.  In those sense they were good and loving measures.  It is hardly loving to allow a child or friend to rush headlong down the pathway that ends in death without trying to intervene in the strongest way that we possible can.  Why should we expect God to do anything less?

We’d like to think that these days since we worship God, that we are not as prone to idolatry as the Israelites, but of course we are.  When we worship a god of our own imagination [“my god would never do X”], when we saturate ourselves with materialism, when we entertain ourselves endlessly with mindless popular media; these are all idolatrous, just as bad as what the Israelites pursued.

May we pursue the Creator himself over and above anything and everything that he has created.

 

“Not for thine own righteousness、 nor for the uprightness of thine own heart> art thou′ going in to possess their land,—but <for the lawlessness of these nations> is ||Yahweh thy God|| driving them out from before thee, and that he may establish the word which Yahweh sware′ unto thy fathers, unto Abraham、 unto Isaac、 and unto Jacob. So then, thou must consider that <not for thine own righteousness> is ||Yahweh thy God|| giving unto thee this good land、 to possess it,—for <a stiff-necked people> thou art′.”
https://ref.ly/Dt9.5-6;emphbbl

Here we have Moses speaking to the gathered tribes of Israel as they prepare to enter and take the Promised Land.  Lest they think too highly of themselves, Moses tells them in plain, straightforward (one might say blunt) language that God was not giving them the land “for thine own righteousness.”  He was giving them the land because he was bringing judgment upon the nations in the land, which were very wicked nations indeed.

The nations in the Promised Land were brutal, dark, and filled with immorality. They practiced child sacrifice and they were consumed with sexuality in any and every form [Hmm…this sounds strangely familiar].  God had patiently waited for judgment on these nations, but now their sins were “complete,” just as he had predicted:

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” – Gen 15.13-16

God was patient with these nations, but his patience had come to an end and nothing more awaited them except judgment.

It’s interesting that implicit in this judgment is the fact that it is God, the God of the Israelites who can and will judge and punish every nation.  He is sovereign over all of them.

He is, of course, the same God today as he was then, and he will, of course, bring the same judgment upon nations whose sin is complete.  This ought to frighten us.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” (Deuteronomy 7:9, ESV)

Moses to his fellow Israelites.

God is faithful. This means that the covenant into which God had entered with his people would be upheld by God.  The people did not need to worry about God capriciously deciding that he no longer wanted to keep the covenant, on his part, he was faithful.

The requirement for God’s people was that they in return love God and keep his commandments.

Then this beautiful phrase: to a thousand generations.   This God, the God who had entered into a covenant with his people would stand by his covenant for a thousand generations.  This is like saying that he would be faithful to the covenant that he had made to eternity and beyond.  Years would come and go, nations would arise and fall, people would live and die, time would march ever onward in an unrelenting stream, and God would stand faithful to his covenant with no change and no hesitation.

When we come to faith in Christ, we enter into a relationship with God in which he promises the same faithfulness to us that he had to the Israelites.  He will not waver; he will not change; he will not falter in his love and care for us to a thousand generations.

Or, as the writer to Hebrews puts it:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23, ESV)

Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our God,—Yahweh alone. Thou shalt therefore love Yahweh thy God,—with all thy heart、 and with all thy soul、 and with all thy might;” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5, EMPH)

The word that we translate “Hear” in this passage is the Hebrew word shema.  The Bible Project has an excellent explanation of what the word means:

This verse is the fundamental verse of Judaism and an observant Jew would repeat it more than once a day.  It is also a fundamental verse in Christianity because we see it as foundational to our understanding and to our faith.  It’s as if God is saying: “Hear (and obey) this fundamental commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

The problem of course, is that if we are honest we do not love the Lord our God this way.  We fall short of this commandment, thus we are exposed as the sinners that we are.  This commandment then is also foundational to our understanding of grace.  We could not and cannot keep this commandment perfectly and so we need help.  We have this help in Jesus:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13, ESV)