Monday, 26 September 2011

late and guilty thoughts on deuteronomy

I was deeply humbled and convicted yesterday when an older lady in one of my congregations came to tell me how much she was enjoying reading the Bible from cover to cover. I had no idea she had joined in the exercise as she isn't coming to our groups but is reading alone at home and being enriched by the reading. This lady is in her 80's, and currently full-time carer for her husband having little sleep etc as most of her time is taken up caring. Yet she has remained disciplined enough to stay up to date with our reading schedule. Me, O great leader that i am, am currently three weeks behind so have very guiltily read virtually the whole of Deuteronomy this morning with Joshua to go this afternoon.

So just a few spattering of thoughts on Deuteronomy...

There's a lovely feel to Deuteronomy - much of it is told in a story, as though Moses is sat round the fire late at night recalling the exploits of God and His people. It merges into laws and commands have-way through for a period, before returning to narrative about Moses. This is a pleasant alteration from endless regulations found in Numbers.

Deut 1:31 - lovely image of God carrying ~Israel like a dad carries his young son- something i'm able to relate to easily at the moment. Think this is the first point where there is such a sensitively described image between God and Israel. They are not just a group he orders about for their benefit, but a people He deeply feels for and cares about.

Deut 3:21 - any scholars around who have bothered to read this are surely gonna have to explain to me why the size of Og's bed is important??!!

Deut 3:24 - Moses utters a beautiful creed of praise before he pleads his case for the people. 'For what god is there in heaven or earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?

Deut 8:3-5 - God's loving discipline - taken out of context this passage and my comments could seem harsh, but we are introduced to the sense that God allows hardship and that sometimes that can be for our good. Not always is this the case, but too often we dismiss God's action or non-action in pain and distress because we (quite fairly) want it easier. There is much to learn of God's mercy and grace in the hard times. Although we wish it not for ourselves or others, so often as we experience difficulty we learn lessons we could never learn any other way, and see different facets of God's character we would never discover. Hardship can sometimes be a blessing.

Deut 9:6 - God isn't giving the promised land to Israel because of their great track record and their reward. He gives it out of grace. This is a great protestant, NT message which is great to proclaim - The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin from which we're saved to badly quote Archbishop Temple, but this verse seems somewhat at odds from later in Deut where God's blessing and giving of the land is totally dependant on righteous obedience. hmmm?

Deut 9:17 - the replacement tablets of stone is explained - they appear in Ex 20 but with no explanation

Deut 10:20 - lovely verses acclaiming the goodness of God and calling people in light of his mercy and compassion to obey and revere him. Good model, focus on God's goodness and request obedience based on his character, rather than frightened submission through fear and terror.

Deut 14:28 - tithing once again commanded, - good to learn how often it crops up in the law, so it isn't just an obscure verse in Malachi 3 after all. However, i've always been taught that all the tithe goes to the storehouse i.e. the church for the church to do good with it - but here Moses suggests giving directly out of tithe to poor, fatherless etc - challenges current practice for me.

Deut 13-15 - again any scholars who haven't given up in despair of my appalling exegesis - if you can tell me what the sudden fascination with deer and gazelle's are all about i'd be interested to know.

Deut 22:5 - cross dressing forbidden in strong terms. Strange how it seems to crop up in church pantomimes so often?

Deut 30:11ff - trainspotting verse - great evangelistic text - 'choose life'

Deut 33:27 - wonderful promise of God's everlasting arms underneath us as He is our refuge. Actually a promise given to an Israeli tribe but as its nice and reassuring has been adopted by Christians for ages.

Lastly Moses dies. Found it surprisingly sad. I watched Spooks yesterday and Tariq died and was sad as i like Tariq and have seen him over a few series develop as a fictional character. Something similar with Moses. Having spent most days of the last couple of months with him it was sad to see His passing and really poignant his death before entering the promised land. Loads of great lessons from Moses to learn about leadership and pastoring people - much to chew on and take hold of. Hope he's cheering me on as i seek to lead what very occasionally feels like a 'stiff-necked people!'

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