Deuteronomy : God’s Vision for His People (part 1)

I feel like a lot of times when I blog, it’s to prove to myself that something happened. Kinda to tell the world that something happened… but also to convince myself. A lot of times something *has* genuinely happened… and sometimes I’m desperate to believe what I think has happened was for real. That’s part of why I left off the up-to-the-minute reviews of exactly what I’m feeling and think God is up to for the past uh… five days haha. I *have* learned a few things, though… and these are a few days old, so they’re actually good, unlike the “I’m actually feeling pretty good today” blogs… feelings come and go. Some days I feel awesome, some days I don’t feel so great… but I feel like the “not-so-great” days are decreasing ’cause of the friends God’s given me.So, with no further ado, I present “Deuteronomy: God’s vision for his people”

THE STORY
It was about 8 on Thursday night. I was tired and trying to read the Bible, and Charles Stanley said if you fall asleep reading the Bible, it’s ok; in fact, it’s probably God trying to get your full attention. I complied and went to bed.

About two hours later, I woke up in the dark, fully awake, fully confused. Then I saw the Bible laying open on the floor beside me. I don’t have a decent-height desk in my room, so if I’m reading it, it’s not on the desk.. it’s on the floor. No disrespect to the word of God is intended by this… *God* is holy, not the paper on which words He inspired are written. Setting it on the floor isn’t disrespectful to God (as I see it).

At any rate, I started reading in Matthew, and got to the passage where Jesus says that it is written, man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. I back-tracked that to Deuteronomy, trying to find out what Jesus is talking about. What’s that mean, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by the word of God?

Why start in Deuteronomy 8? I went straight back to chapter 1 and started there. God started showing me stuff… I’m pretty positive it was Him, ’cause I’m pretty sure I would’ve missed this stuff if I’d been reading Deuteronomy un-aided. I’m loathe now to say that “I feel like God told me…” or “God’s been teaching me…” I just worry about saying that stuff ’cause I feel like every time I say that I walk right into thinking that God actually didn’t mean it that way or that He said quite the opposite! So I try to be careful about that.

THE ACTUAL GLEANINGS…
I underlined tons of verses. Starting with 1:25:

“…It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.” I circled the word “good.” God wasn’t leaving them with some kind of dumpy land.. He was giving them a GOOD land. I think it’s cool. God wasn’t just taking them somewhere away from Egypt; he was taking them to a GOOD land.

Verses 30-32 (I’ll put bullet points by the highlights):

“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,who
•    goes before you on your way,
•    to seek out a place for you to encamp,
•    in fire by night and
•    cloud by day,
•    to show you the way in which you should go.

See this stuff? God’s not apathetic toward Israel – Moses is retelling all the stuff God’s done, setting up the preview here. (Also note the phrase “But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God.” It’s sad. And common. People forget – which is a huge theme in this book.)

Chapter 2 verse 7 really grabs me “…He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness…”

I’ve been there. I feel like I know what wandering through a great wilderness feels like. It’s good to know that “He has known [my] wanderings through this great wilderness.”

I like 4:6-7, too. Moses is talking about… well, here:

“So keep them and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?”

Obeying God’s laws make Israel look, not like a dejected and stupid people, but a WISE and UNDERSTANDING people. Then verse seven throws out the question of “what great nation… has a God so near to it as the Lord our God…?” God is NEAR.

In verses 25-31, Moses predicts that God’s children, being rebellious, will rebel, and bad things will happen. For me, the story had always ended there: in desperation, in the sky being bronze and the earth being iron… or something like that. It ended in them being dragged off into captivity. But here again, the principle arises: In God’s story, life doesn’t end in death. Death, instead, is punctuated by life. Here’s how 30-31 read…

“When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.”

Wait a sec… the Lord your God is a *compassionate* God? After rebellion, serving other Gods? When they’re off in judgment for their sins, they’re going to repent. God, of course, being a mean God, laughs in their faces and destroys them, right? WRONG! God, being compassionate, says He will not fail you, nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant. THESE GUYS BROKE THE COVENANT!

God’s covenant, it seems, provided for them being rebellious, and for them coming back. His covenant says that if they change their minds and come back, He’ll forgive and heal. That’s the final exit clause. God doesn’t leave himself with the option of “if you leave again, you’re gone. He just says if you do wrong, repent, and come back, He’ll accept you back every time.” Every time?

Every time. Read Judges! God’s people have a pattern. Sunday school teachers like to point out how stupid the Israelites are for keeping going with the pattern of sin > judgment >  repentance > forgiveness > relief > forget > sin > judgment etc…. They love seeing how every time God forgives them, they sin again! What foolish people!

Now read it this way. Every time they sin again, God forgives them. If you struggle with the idea that God could never forgive you for something you’ve done, then repented, then continued to do, then repented again, like I have, accept this, and learn from His kindness to the Israelites: There isn’t a limit on how many times God can forgive. The 70×7 rule came from somewhere! SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN! Whoa… that’s creepy. That’s God’s example. That’s a tiny little snapshot of how God forgives – “not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

I thought for a while I was getting close to the limit of how many times I can mess up and God forgive me again when I repented of the same thing… And I don’t WANT to sin against God! I’ve got a group of guys I’m accountable to, who love me and know the truth of where I’ve been… I thought I’d neared the top of God’s limit… I’m nowhere close. (Theologians, however, suggest that the 70×7 rule was just Jesus saying to lose count of how many times somebody does the same evil against you. ‘Cause God does, and his limit is high enough that you’d lose track. If you’re not carefully counting, you can lose track after only 15 innings of softball. Or was it 20? I don’t remember… I lost track. Nowhere near 490.

I’m living in freedom. I love freedom. I like it here, and I want to stay. I know, though, that my maintaining freedom is not a requirement for God to love me. Though, I’d rather not have to prove that by failing again. My prayer every day is “God, humble me; keep me humble, but also keep me from sinning.” I don’t want to get proud and think that my freedom is my doing – but I don’t want to have to stumble to find out.

Sorry, that was off-topic a little… more proof that I was right about God and His love: 4:37

“Because He… (say it with me here) LOVED your fathers, therefor He chose their descendants after them. And he… via Moses… no. PERSONALLY brought you from Egypt by His great power.” He loved. And He brought them out personally.

Then the ten commandments show up in chapter five. It’s awesome! Remember 4:6-7, where he says that the nations will say “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” Laws thereafter have been based on those laws. Our country is heading for disaster and misery because of trying to leave ’em.

Ok, skip ahead to 5:29 – God talking – “OH that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them in the land which I shall give them to possess.”

It’s not about “they need to so I’ll look good; it’s not because God simply requires them.. I was thinking about this in the car today – In some cases, obedience to God’s laws is not simply the WAY to the good life; it IS the good life itself! I’ll repeat that, on it’s own line.

In some cases, obedience to God’s laws is not simply the WAY to the good life; it IS the good life itself!

Ok, so that’s a LOT of cases.

THE LEGACY
Now, here’s the legacy. 6:4-7, the words every Jewish boy is taught at a young age:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.”

“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit down in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Here’s the first warning – verse 12 – When you’re in the land, living in houses you didn’t build, eating food you didn’t plant… “then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

That’s part of God’s vision: talk about God and his law all the time – not just in a designated Bible study time, but all the time:
•    When you sit down in your house
•    When you walk by the way
•    When you lie down
•    When you rise up.
That’s pretty much all the time. If you’re sitting in your house, walking, laying down, or getting up.. that’s pretty much all the time.. you talk about God. That’s the legacy. When you’re working on the car, talk about God and His law. When you’re fixing the porch, talk about God and His law – and now His gospel and the mighty things He’s done. Painting? Cleaning? Washing dishes? That’s your topic. Watching TV… well… uh… flip it off. That’s your topic haha… God’s point is that His law is supposed to become ingrained in his children; a PART of who they are – (6:24) “…for our good always and for our survival.”

This is the model. This is the vision.

Dangit I aughta be a preacher. I’ve got enough content here…. every other WEEK >.<

Chapter 7:3-4 is an interesting thing… don’t intermarry with the unbelievers. (Pretty much what it says.) Here’s the reason: They will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods.” No mention of the daughters… it seems that usually even if the husband is a creep, a jerk, and a non-believer, the husband usually doesn’t turn her away from God… but sometimes, the wife is so sweet, helpless-looking, and lovable.. that the husband turns away from HIS G(g)od. I know Kara did that for me… she turned me toward *her* God. I owe her for forever for that.

I LOVE verse 9 of chapter 7. I know I’ve said that about just about every other verse here, but check this out:

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the *faithful* [emphasis mine]  God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;”

MORE LEGACY
8:10: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” Verse 11 – there’s that warning again – “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you…”

9:4 – “Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, “Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,” but because of the wickedness of these nations.” This is Moses talking here.. and I’d kinda like to drop in “because God loves those people he brought in – and God only knows why.” Those were my words, not God’s. Not trying to add to or take away from.

Ok, I’m tired of writing. The writing bug has left me for the night, and the running bug has bitten. The sun’s almost gone, and I’ve got about three miles to run before it gets dark. Here’s what I’m seeing:

I’m seeing God’s vision here. He’s got a vision of a people who will love Him and keep His commandments, a people He will bless beyond belief. He loves these people and delivered them with a mighty hand. He… ugh, I haven’t gotten to chapter 12 yet… maybe tomorrow or sometime later… preview for next time – 12:12 – He wants them to worship Him and *rejoice* in their worship of their God, the one true God. He envisions life and happiness for them, and sets up such laws as will (or would, if they’d listen) enable them to live lives full of life. He loves these people and… I’m having a REALLY hard time showing the vision I got of God’s passionate desire for His people to live long and happy lives and for nobody to be poor, and… I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. I only wish I could show you what I see here. One thing is sure: Deuteronomy isn’t about misery and legalism. It’s about life and rejoicing. It’s the secret and the keys to living the good life. It’s not about compressing yourself into a tight religious box; it’s about life, and life to the max.

Take 24:15, for example.. God’s talking about a man who’s just been married. He says that when a guy just gets married, he can’t be drafted for a year, and here’s the reason (this is awesome): “…free at home one year, and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” Isn’t that awesome?! God makes a provision for newlyweds – God’s drafting policy: Newly married guy gets his first year of marriage free from military service so he can bring joy to his bride. What a foundation for marriage!  What an awesome, wonderful, happy plan! What a provision! What a God! I’ll quote that again…

“…free at home one year, and shall give happiness to the wife whom he has taken.” Who says God doesn’t want people to be happy?

You know what? I think we’ve fallen for a lie. We think that just because Joel Osteen is a little off-base with all his be-happy-because-you’re-healthy-and-wealthy nonsense, God doesn’t want us to be happy. So we’ve fallen for the idea that God just wants us to be miserable our whole lives. That’s wrong too, and it’s just as evil a lie. God wants us to be happy – but it may not have anything to do with health or wealth or wisdom. That stuff doesn’t make anyone truly happy anyway.

Serving God does, though. He gives hope. He gives life. The devil’s the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus comes why?

Life. And life abundant.

Amen.

8:40 PM
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