Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Heart of the Lawgiver: Deuteronomy

February 15-18 in the Chronological Bible covers the Sermon of Moses, mostly from Deuteronomy. It is the Lawgiver's Sermon on the Mount, his summa of holy history and prophetic warning, suffused with a heart of uncompromising love for both the LORD and His stiff-necked chosen people, Israel.

EARLY REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY? - Overworked Moses tells Israel: "How can I bear your problems and burdens and your disputes all by myself? Choose some wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you." (Deut. 1:9)

TURN LEFT AT THE OLD OG OF BASHAN PLACE - Any newcomer to a rural Vermont town quickly learns the local history and unofficial pecking order through place names. Diane and I moved into "Henry and Ruth Pollin's old place." The Pollins were related to Jack Corse, a well-known local businessman. Deut. 2-3 tells who used to live certain parcels in and around the Promised Land and why they don't anymore - they were Anakites, the descendants of giants, judged unrighteous by God (Deut. 9) and dispossessed by Israel, and let that be a lesson to you.

WHEN INTERCESSION DIDN'T WORK - we often read of the effective intercession of Abraham and Moses, but even though Moses lays it on pretty thick in his plea for permission to enter the Promised Land - "what God is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?...Let me go over and see" - God answers, "That is enough. Do not speak to me any more about this matter."

WHY NATIONALITY AND DENOMINATIONAL LABELS DON'T DETERMINE GODLINESS - "if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut. 4).

MILK & HONEY - Moses repeats these two foods as symbols of godly prosperity and security. I wonder if this term is "shorthand" for successful stewardship of the Promised Land, in both livestock and agriculture. Where there is milk, there is also meat and the promise of future baby animals. Where there is honey, there is also pollination of fruit trees.

SHEMA - What would overburdened, hot-tempered Moses think if he knew that for three millenia and counting, the chant of "Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deut 6) would be heard individually and in groups every day and around the world? It has been joined, but not replaced, by "Our Father, Who Art In Heaven". For a biblical source text for another oft-repeated prayer, see Deut. 7, "bless the fruit of your womb."

SAY GRACE AFTER THE MEAL? - "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you." (Deut. 8)

WHY I NEVER WORRIED TOO MUCH ABOUT YOUTH GROUP - I figured that if I followed this commandment, the kids would learn, and if I didn't, no youth program would help much: "These commands that I give you today ar to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deut 6:6-9). Bedtime stories, long drives in the car, my reaction to the mundane challenges of daily life - that was their Bible School.

WHY UNEMPLOYMENT CAN BE A GOOD THING - "He led you through the vast and dreadful humble and test may say to yourself, 'my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth." (Deut. 8)

LOVE THE ALIENS? - God "loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt." I don't think this means open American borders to illegals. I do think it means that if foreigners of any kind are among us Christians, and they are in need, we need to help them and not ignore or exploit them. They are on the divine agenda, and so they must be on ours, too.

DEATH TO THE IDOLATOR AMONG YOU - whoa, pretty harsh, Moses. Except, except.....Israel is a theocracy and entreaty to idolatry is the equivalent of conspiracy to commit terrorism and treason. If Imani tried to bomb the Lamoille County Court House, I'd turn her over to Uncle Joel, and would expect him to prosecute. Just law protects individuals, the family and all society, and must be upheld fairly. So - "no pity." (Duet 13)

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