You know, I could spend hours just on this one chapter, pulling things out of it. There’s so much here, so much intensity, so much depth, so much feeling.
As is the case with a lot of music and songs.
What I found myself thinking, though, as I read it, was about the songs that we sing in church, and how powerful some of these can be for us as well.
You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
You forgot the God who gave you birth.
~ Deuteronomy 32:18
As I read this verse, it was one of two verses that absolutely leapt off the page to me. These two lines just feel, to me, filled with heartbreak. Here is a voice crying out saying to the Israelites, that they forgot God: their father.
This is our world today. They have forgotten the Rock who fathered them. They have forgotten he who gave birth.
And I feel that forgotten is a really apt choice of word. If I go back a few weeks, to walking home from a night out, it was around midnight – maybe a little past, and my heart broke because I just saw these people, I saw the pain, the confusion, the emptiness in so many people’s hearts – they were crying out, but they didn’t know what they were crying out for. They were looking for something, but did they know what they were searching for?
You forgot the God who gave you birth.
Our civilisation has forgotten where we came from.
The other verse that really leapt out at me, and this is going on a totally different topic, was verse 47.
They are not just idle words for you – they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess. ~ Deuteronomy 32:47
This struck me back on the musical train of thought, and the songs that we sing in church services. One thing that I’m consistently challenged by when I’m singing these songs, is how much I mean the words that I’m singing. Do we get caught up in the hype? In the show? In the performance of the song? Do the lyrics become just ‘idle words’ rather than being our life? It’s very easy to sing lyrics, but it’s not so easy to mean them.
A challenge, therefore: Next time you’re singing a song, really think about the words, and ask yourself and God, “Do I really mean this?” Are the words that you’re professing to God, not just idle words, but your life?
Everything on this world comes to an end.
And this was the final moments, the final steps of Moses’ leadership over the nation of Israel.
And the beginning of Joshua’s leadership.
And God gives it to Moses – and I presume also to Joshua – straight.
And the LORD said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:16
You know what strikes me here? The amount of failsafes God had in place. He offered the Israelites a promise of blessing and abundance if they would just follow him. He warned them of curses, destruction and all kinds of nasties that would befall them if they turned away and started worshiping other gods. He promises also to bring them back, reassuring them that even if they do turn away, he’ll still love them and welcome them back with open arms if they just turn back to him. Now, he continues to do whatever he can to make sure the Israelites know where they stand.
“Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:19
“Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD y our God. There it will remain as a witness against you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:26
On top of the list of things above, now there’s a song – a song that the Israelites are to learn and sing as a reminder of God and of the promises he made. More on that tomorrow, since we have the lyrics in the next chapter.
There’s also, though, a book – and it’s to be placed right next to the ark of the covenant: the most holy relic in all of Israel, there as a reminder to the High Priest whenever he goes into the presence of the Lord, that there’s a covenant in place between them and God.
God doesn’t just leave us to our own devices, he provides roadsigns – and sometimes great big flashing neon signs – to point us in the right direction, however one thing that is shown throughout this book in particular, is that ultimately it does still come down to us. It’s still relational. God’s not controlling us with a PS3 controller, or moving us like puppets on a string, we have our own choices and our own responsibilities. God loves us so much – will we love him in return?
I can’t help thinking, as I read the first part of this chapter, of a pretty well known saying.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
I see and hear a lot of people talking about trust, these days. About how if someone betrays their trust, then they should never be trusted again. How if someone hurts them, they will never let that person in again.
This isn’t God’s way, though.
Here is perhaps one of the great statements of God’s love, in Deuteronomy. For pages and pages, this book’s gone on about the law, and there’s been talk of blessing, but there’s been an overwhelming amount of curses and condemnation for if they go wrong with following the law, too.
When you and your children return tot he LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.~ Deuteronomy 30:2-3
God’s love has never ceased – he promised, right here at the beginning that he wouldn’t cease loving them. The curses, the destruction, the scattering and captivity that would happen was consequential from the actions performed by the Israelites, but all they had to do was turn around, and God would be there once more to welcome them into his arms and bring them back into the blessing and abundance that he had promised them to begin with.
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. ~ Deuteronomy 30:4
I’m overwhelmed as I’m reading and writing this tonight. It’s all stuff I’ve heard before, but my prayer is that anyone who’s reading this will have the same fresh revelation that I’m receiving right now, of just how much God loves us. We know these things, we hear them all the time, we sing them in songs at church – but do we really understand them? Do we really let the reality of what it actually means, sink in to our very heart and existence?
Just pause, please, right now, and meditate on this verse. Think about it metaphorically, no matter how far we stray from God, no matter how far from home we are, he will gather us and bring us back. He will always bring us back, if we would just turn to him.
And to finish. It’s so easy – God didn’t make it complicated, we’re the ones who do that. Read this chapter, turn to him, obey him, love him.
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach… No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. ~ Deuteronomy 3-:11, 14
Here’s a moment of realisation.
“With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the LORD has not given youa mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:3-4
There are a great number of ‘Christian Cliches’ out there that people like to throw around – and I say throw around because quite often, I feel, they are statements that get said without really thinking of the meaning behind them. We sing in church lines like, ‘take all of me’ or ‘I give you my life’ and other things like that – but do we sing them with a conviction in our heart as to what they actually mean as a commitment?
The other side, though, of cliches, is that they become cliche for a reason. They just work. They are short statements that actually convey what a person is trying to say.
One other one that I’ve heard many a time is about the ‘scales falling from their eyes’ - going back to Saul/Paul’s conversion and how ‘something like scales’ fell from his eyes.
This is basically used to describe that moment of realisation, of actually recognising God and his awesomeness.
It’s kind of like what’s going on here for the Israelites, too. Things that they may not have thought of, or had gotten to a point of taking it for granted, were pointed out to them as something to go, “wow” at. In forty years, their clothes didn’t wear out. They ate no bread and drank no wine. They won battles – and considering the fact that really, they probably had no military training, this too was something to be able to look at and realise that God had been taking care of them the whole time.
I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God. ~ Deuteronomy 29:6
I remember nice and clearly my own moment like this. My moment of ‘scales falling’ so to speak – when I came back to God last year and opened my heart and life to him again. I’d been going through a process of being drawn back in, I guess, and finally stood there and realised: I could not, and cannot deny God’s existence; and I could not, and cannot deny Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. At that point I realised, nothing else actually matters in the long run – if I cannot deny those things, then I have no choice but to accept the gift of love, grace and salvation that God gave to me.
What moments of clarity have there been in your life?
This is cool, I can blog from my tablet.
So, I’m currently in Sydney.
I was explaining to someone today that this really isn’t my favorite location in Australia. In fact it’s probably my least favorite.
Over the years, I have gotten past the trauma that came from my early trips here, and I don’t hate the place like I used to, but even so, I’d still rather be elsewhere.
And I think it’s more than just association with negative experiences, I was walking through the city today for a meeting, and realized that I just don’t like the size and atmosphere of this place.
I grew up a country both, kind of. Not on a farm or anything, but in a more rural location, and the fact is that it’s as though Sydney goes beyond my Metropolitan Tolerance Level.
Basically, it’s too big. I’ve lived in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, and while I have a distaste toward Brisbane for much the same reason as my negativity towards Sydney – experiences – I’m comfortable in those places. Much moreso than I am here.
It makes me wonder how I’ll handle places like New York and the like.
Clearly, even if you take the boy out of the country, you can’t always take the country out of the boy.
So I’m still not back into the flow of writing these on a regular basis again, but I’m getting there. God’s been doing some uplifting – particularly over the past few days – in my life and heart.
We’ve reached a point here, where Moses is starting to sum up – although I remember as a kid, when the pastor preaching used to say that he was finishing up, or that he would close with this point, or something similar – that generally meant we were about half way through. Well, it seemed that way anyway.
The Israelites are told to build an altar on Mt Ebal – and on this, write the law that has been given to them. Then they are to offer fellowship or peace offerings.
Then it goes on, and after a brief statement that I’ll come back to, there are a series of curses that are issued basically over the land. The Levites issue curses over people – essentially those who break certain laws – casting or making idols, dishonouring one’s parents, immorality, things like this. It’s like they’re making a declaration over the land.
This is all basically meant to occur as soon as they enter the land, and I almost feel like there’s a bit missing, because we see that the tribes were meant to split up, and half on Mt Ebal were supposed to speak out curses, and the other half on Mt Gerizim were to bless the people.
So out come the curses. Like I said, it’s like they’re speaking this out over the land, they’re to enter the land, stand on the highest peak on the west bank, and look out over all they’re walking into and speak into it.
Now, I wouldn’t necessarily go with the curses option when it came to the words I spoke, but there is a lesson to be held here, about speaking into our own lives. We have a destiny in God, we have a promised land that he has been guiding us into – I know that in my life, I’m still not 100% clear what that promised land looks like, but I do know that it’s out there, waiting for me to walk into it and fulfil the plans that God has for my life.
See this is the thing – entering the promised land isn’t where the journey ends, it’s where a chapter of the journey ends, but there was still a whole lot more for the Hebrews to do when they got to this stage, and so God’s calling them to speak out over the land.
This is something we should be doing over our own destiny, too. Imagine yourself standing on a mountain, and looking out over a landscape that drifts off into the horizon. That landscape is the destiny, the promised land that God has for you – but this is only the beginning, because now that you’re in that promised land, the next job is to conquer it and be victorious over it for God’s glory.
So speak into that destiny, and that promised land. Speak victory, the glory of God, all these things – but again, while I wouldn’t necessarily go with curses, also speak behaviour and attitudes.