Friday, October 15, 2010

Show and Tell

Deuteronomy so far has largely been a review of previous events, during which we discovered the age of culpability and what God considered to be the condition of not lacking anything. As Moses was about to begin to reviewing the laws from God, he spoke of how important it was to obey them without adding or subtracting from them.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses tells the story of receiving the popular version of the Ten Commandments, though (accurately) not calling them the Ten Commandments. This preamble to the review of the Law is only about halfway complete, so it is time to stress the importance of knowing God's laws...

Show and Tell
God had a Plan. Given the fallibility of man, it was perhaps one of the best plans possible, at least in theory. The Israelites would have to obey God in the Promised Land in order to be blessed by Him without making a mockery of God. To obey God, they needed to know His Law, and know it well.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses tries emphatically to impress upon the Israelites the importance of knowing God's commands, decrees, and laws. He tells them that they will live long lives and will prosper in the Promised Land if they obey (Deuteronomy 6:1-3). He pleads that they should love only God, and love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). In Deuteronomy 6:6, God says through Moses:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” NIVLink
You may remember in a previous study where God said not to follow your heart, so this should not be taken to mean “put God's commandments in your heart along with what you believe to be good versus bad.” Instead, you could think of it in one of two ways: that God's laws effectively become your heart, giving you the guidance as to what is good versus bad, or that you should set your heart, your inner and deepest desire, to obeying God's laws (Psalm 40:8).

This is particularly interesting, because there are prophesies, such as Jeremiah 31:33, where God said that He would write His Law in the Israelites' hearts. Christianity likes to distort these prophesies, suggesting instead that these prophesies mean that believers will know to do good once they love Jesus in their hearts, or such similar semantics. However, consulting how this phrase was first used in the original text here in Deuteronomy 6:6, as well as reading the prophesies in the full context (such as including Ezekiel 37:24 which effectively claims that God's laws will persist), it becomes clear that the prophesies are for a literal return to God's Law.

Moving on, God through Moses then said this of God's laws in Deuteronomy 6:7-9:
“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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” NIV
The idea was complete immersion in the Law. Talk about the Law constantly. Put the Law where you will see it. Wear the Law on you.

Also, you had the responsibility to teach your children how to treat slave women, how God spreads disease and mildew as punishment, why you should avoid wearing blended fabrics, how blasphemers should be killed, and all of the other perfect commandments of God (Psalm 19:7). This responsibility was to be carried out every day.

Such a system was the best way to ensure that everyone knows the Law of God. However, laws without timely enforcement, particularly on the part of God, are bound to be cast aside and ignored. This fact is even recorded in the Bible in verses such as Proverbs 13:24 and Ecclesiastes 8:11-12, and clearly from Ecclesiastes 8:11-12 God was slack in His discipline. By God's delay of justice, He chose to let the system of the Law fail, to let sin thrive through His inaction.

In the remainder of this chapter, Deuteronomy 6:10-25, Moses continues to plea with the Israelites to remember, respect, and fear God, and to obey His laws. They should be careful not to rebel, specifically like when they “rebelled” for being thirsty and wanting water at Massah (Deuteronomy 6:16), or else God would kick them out of the Promised Land.

At the end of this chapter, we find a particularly revealing verse. Deuteronomy 6:25 states:
“And if we are careful to obey all this Law before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” NIV
Yes, spitting in the face of Christianity, Moses claims that you could indeed be righteous by following God's Law. From what the Bible teaches, earning this righteousness did not necessarily mean following the Law perfectly. While it seems that possibly there were perfect followers (Psalm 119:1, Psalm 119:34, Psalm 119:51), a shining example of being imperfect yet righteous was King David, who God considered to be as someone who had followed all of His laws well enough (2 Chronicles 7:17-18). This is despite the fact that David had committed adultery Bathsheba and then had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11-12). If David could find such favor with God through a desire to follow His Law yet despite his heinous sins, then clearly the Old Testament taught that you could be imperfect and yet righteous in God's eyes.

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