Archives for posts with tag: deuteronomy

““But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven,” (Deuteronomy 11:11 NAS95)

I love the beautiful poetry of the words in the NASB here: the land…drinks water from the rain of heaven.  The CSB has a rather pedestrian translation: watered by rain from the sky. I mean, they are both saying the same thing, but the NASB captures the words so much more poignantly.

The point that Moses was making here, was that the land into which the Hebrews were moving was a very fertile and blessed land, indeed, in the very next breath, Moses tells them that it is a land over which God watches carefully: “a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:12 NAS95)

Surely, Gerard Manley Hopkins had something like this verse in mind when he wrote the poem God’s Grandeur:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I love the end lines from Mr. Hopkins’ poem. The world is bent—it lies in a fallen state just as affected by Adam’s disobedience as we are—but God the Holy Spirit broods over it like a mother hen watching carefully over her chicks, renewing it day by day.

Surely, this is the same picture that we see in Deuteronomy 11, God watching carefully over the land because it is the land of his people and he created it and blessed it and is responsible for it.

 

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““Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.” (Deuteronomy 10:12,20 NAS95)

I love the verbs of devotion here as Moses tells the Israelites what God requires of them.  They are verbs of commitment and dedication and focus and all-consuming concern for the Lord.  If I had to pick one of these verbs to sort of stand as representative for all of them, I think I’d pick the admonition to cling to Him.  This represents to me a fierce devotion, a refusal to turn to or rely upon anything or anyone, but to that one thing to which we cling, as if we understood that no one and nothing else could help us.

I wonder what we would look like as followers of Christ if we lived out this single-minded focus, this clinging to Him; so that nothing else consumed our devotion, or got in the way of our pursuit of Jesus and our reliance upon Him.

 

Deuteronomy 4:7 – For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?

Moses to the people of Israel as they stand at the entrance to the Promised Land.

What makes God different from any of the other “gods” of the nations around Israel was that Yahweh was a God who hears whenever we call. The people didn’t need to do anything other than call upon Yahweh and he would hear; no incantations necessary, no special ceremony, no rites that needed to be performed. Call; Yahweh hears and when he hears he responds. Isn’t that titanic struggle between Yahweh and Baal on Mt.Carmel with Elijah and the prophets of Baal a perfect illustration of this truth?

This means for us that when we call upon God, he hears us. Ed Welch writes in his excellent book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest: “Whenever Scripture says anything about God hearing, watch out because you know something is about to happen. When God hears; he acts.”

This is the truth that we must absorb completely so it seeps down to the last fiber of our being: When we call upon God, he hears us, and when he hears, he is going to act.

The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’“But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God,” (Deuteronomy 1:30–32 NAS95)

Moses addresses all Israel in Deuteronomy 1, and it is a sad letter.  We discover the reason that it is sad in our passage.  Moses recounts how the Lord your God fought for them as they left Egypt, destroying the Egyptian army without the people fighting at all, and how he carried them for 40 years in the wilderness just as a man carries his son, until the people had come to the very doors of the Promised Land, then Moses drops this bombshell on them: But for all this, you did not trust the Lord.

The word translated trust means: “to be firm, to build up, to support, to nurture, or to establish. The primary meaning is that of providing stability and confidence, like a baby would find in the arms of a parent…Metaphorically, the word conveys the notion of faithfulness and trustworthiness, such that one could fully depend on.” [CWSB]

Yahweh wanted his people to trust in him, to rely upon him, to be faithful to him alone, hadn’t he proven that he was trustworthy again and again during the Exodus?  Despite everything that the Lord had done for his people, Moses makes the stark proclamation, you did not trust the Lord.

It seems pretty clear that what God desires from we who follow him, is trust in him and in him alone.  We tend to be people who trust in God + our own strength; our reason; our bank account; our position and reputation, etc.  It’s not that we do not trust in God, it’s just that we want to help God out and we devise plenty of ways to do it.  In this we are like the generation of the Exodus.

One might say that our whole journey in the faith is reminding our recalcitrant selves that trust in God means God + nothing else.

 

 

I’m through Deuteronomy and halfway into Joshua (with some side stops in 1 Chronicles and Psalms) as I make my way through the NLT Chronological Bible in 90 days.  What struck me today was the sadness of Moses’ death. It reads like this:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. (Deuteronomy 34:4–5, NLT)

Hearing this section read (I’m using the audible version) there is a deep and profound sadness in this passage.  Moses was the one chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery.  He had witnessed the great deliverance at the Red Sea; he had been instrumental in delivering water to the thirsty people; he had experienced manna for 40 years, but…

He did not obey God’s command at Kadesh to speak to the rock in order to bring water for the people.  God does not play favorites.  He did not go easy on Moses because of his disobedience.  He allowed him to get all the way to the border of the Promised Land, and then Moses died, short of his great goal.

The Scriptures honor Moses, and we should also.  He was a flawed leader with an all too human tendency to sin and failure, just like us.  Moses points forward to a leader in Israel who obeys ALL of God’s commands, who is perfectly obedient.  He points us forward to Jesus.

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.

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.