Following on from yesterdays post we see the True Life that God in his grace gives us in four progressive themes.
First God’s continued grace to his people.
The opening chapters is a brief history, a reminder of why Israel took an extra forty years to enter the promised land. ‘…you were unwilling to go up because you rebelled against the command of the Lord’ 1v26. They assumed they could go up without the Lord: ‘everyone put on his weapons thinking it easy to go up into the hill country. But the Lord said tell them do not go up and fight because I will not be with you. You will be defeated…...in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country….but …they chased you down like a swarm of bees and beat you down…1v43-44. So they wandered the desert because of their sin. However God’s response is nothing but sheer grace: ‘He has watched over your journey through the vast desert . These forty years the Lord has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. 2v7. In fact God now commands them to go into the land: ‘Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you’ 3v22. God by his grace brings them into the promised land despite their rebellion. In fact when God predicts that they will fail again he reminds them of who he is: ‘The Lord God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath’ 4v31. God is gracious and he continues to be gracious in our continues rebellion and sin.
Second God’s loving choice of his people.
As we read on through we are reminded that we are where we are today simply because of God’s loving grace. There is no room for pride or feelings of superiority. If we are to continue on with God it must be with a humble dependence on God: ‘The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers…and redeemed you from the land of slavery..’ 7v7-8. Our life starts with grace and continues with grace. There is nothing in us that attracts us to him, it is simply his choice to set his love on us. In fact the only thing we contribute is our sin: ‘After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness…understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.’ 9v4,6
Like Israel we need to be constantly reminded that if it were not for God’s loving choice we would be lost forever.
God’s saving purpose for his people
Deuteronomy may seem quite obscure to us especially the laws we read about from chapter 12-26. However they help us see that God had a purpose in choosing and loving his people. This was not to be a private faith but a relationship lived out among the nations. We are reminded of why they have all these laws in the first place: ‘Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear all these decrees and say ‘Surly this great nation is a wise and understanding nation.’ 4v7.
The laws were to keep them separate from other god’s and loyal to their one true God. This way people would see how great and wise God is. In fact they were to reflect God’s character to the nations: ‘Yet the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them,and he chose you, their descendants, above all nations, as it is today’ 10v15. But why did he choose them? ‘ And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.’ 10v19. God’s people are to love the peoples around them as God loved and treated them, thereby reflecting his character to them.
But more than this God’s people are to also reflect God’s demand for our absolute loyalty. In chapter 28 God sets out the standard: ‘If you fully obey the Lord your God and follow all his commands…all these blessings will come upon you’. ‘However if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands…all these curses will come upon you’ 28v1,15. God’s warning is crystal clear if they turn away from him: ‘The Lord will scatter you among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other….There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.’ 28v64, 68. When this happens: ‘All the nations will ask, why has the Lord done this to the land? Why his fierce, burning anger?’ And the answer will be, it is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord…In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from the land and thrust them into another land as it is now’ 29v24-25, 28. The point is God takes sin seriously and when we give our devotion to another he is rightfully angered. God’s people are to reflect to the nations that God demands our love and loyalty. You see the reason we are saved and chosen is to show the community around us that true life and blessing is only found in loving God.
God’s persistent call on his people.
God has shown consistent grace to his people. God has lovingly chosen his people. God also has a saving purpose for his people, so it’s not surprising that he will not let them go easily: ‘For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God’ 4v24. We tend to view ‘Jealousy’ negatively. If someone is jealous they are envious and never satisfied with what they have. It can be controlling. However for God to be jealous is positive. His love is so strong for us that he is not willing to share that love with another. Not unlike that of husband and wife. It expresses faithfulness, commitment, loyalty and devotion. God has given himself to his people and so God persistently calls people to himself.
Throughout Deuteronomy God calls his people back to himself everyday. Every time Moses preaches he calls for a response Today: ‘Acknowledge and take heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commandments, which I am giving you today…’ 4v39-40. Similarly ‘You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways…And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised….26v17-18. God is loyal to us each day and calls us to express our loyalty to him each day. It is a daily choice we are all called to make: ‘See I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God…This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death’ 30v15-16,19.
This is not a legalistic choice it is a calling to apply the gospel everyday. To repent of where we have not loved God with all our heart and to renew our faith in God that he is all sufficient and all satisfying. The way to chose life today is exercise repentance and faith. This is God’s persistent call on his people.
So Deuteronomy may be a repeat of what has been said before in Exodus-Numbers but I think we need to be told again and again of God’s continued grace and gracious choice of us. Deuteronomy may not be full of action but it does remind us of an active God who has a saving purpose for our lives and persistently calls us back to himself.
As we read this great book we need to hear God’s grace to us afresh. No wonder it is the book that Jesus quotes from the most!