I want to share something a great friend of mine put on their Facebook today:
Okay, I know very few read this but here you go. Marriage is preceded by monogamy. Marriage has many different definitions depending on where you were born, what culture you were brought up in and those around you. So in that respect Marriage is the ceremony that celebrates a monogamist couple. Monogamy is your own choice. Why is it now that we have to pass laws about a ceremony and recognition of someone’s choice of monogamy and who they choose to be with? Depending on your culture your answers will vary. All this is now is legislating love and we will continue to try and set rules and boundaries for ourselves just so that we can break out of the box, take the box down and put a new one in its place. That is how we all grow. Some boxes take longer to take down than others; some boxes still aren’t being taken down while others have already been demolished several times. When this has all passed, there will be a new crusade, and people fear for what it might include. Love is love. In the end, it is the love that matters and the laws that are for the people should be by the people. Not just by their representatives. ~ Dani Reimers
This is essentially the perspective that I’ve tried to get people to understand when I’ve been discussing the topic of marriage over the past year or two that it’s been at the forefront of the agenda. The problem isn’t with marriage itself; it’s with the definition of what marriage actually is. I wrote an article last year where I said that the biggest problem in this whole debate was that people were arguing over two sides of completely different coins.
And until we’ve got a clear definition of what we’re actually talking about, there’s no point continuing the debate. I’m serious, we might as well all pick up our bat and ball and go home, because there is absolutely no progress to be made without that first step.
Just like the two sides of different coins, we’re busy arguing about the dimensions and appearance of two different boxes, and neither side actually seems to be able to get that point.
The entire thing is only exacerbated by people with very little idea – and even less reason to be concerned – getting involved.
So just forget the boxes altogether. Instead of arguing over who should be allowed into which box, why don’t we just create a new one?
To do this, we first have to ask what is it that proponents of same-sex marriage actually want? A ceremony? A marriage certificate? A family?
None of this requires any change to legislation. Any couple can create a ceremony; they could even acknowledge the ceremony with a pretty sheet of paper that they sign. That couple can go out and have a family – whether by natural means, IVF, adoption or fostering. All of these actions are completely able to be done without any change to legislation. The only thing that requires a change in legislation is the legal recognition of a couple.
So why do we have a bunch of people screaming out about how all love is equal? As my friend said, love cannot be legislated – and certainly never should be legislated! Love has nothing to do with the law – and that’s whether you’re straight, gay, bi, polygamous or anything else. The fact that you love your partner isn’t going to be magically changed by the fact that you have a marriage certificate and some record in the local office of Births, Deaths and Marriages. That little record in that government office isn’t going to make any difference whatsoever to your love or your relationship. The only difference it makes is to the legal recognition of your relationship.
So this is my theory – create a new box. If you want, don’t even call it marriage. Call it the institution of… (scanning my desk for inspiration on a random word) The Institution of Chicken for all I care. All currently married heterosexual couples will have their marriages transferred to the Institution of Chicken, anyone who wishes to register their relationship with the Institute of Chicken gets the same legal rights as current heterosexual spouses get – and the same complications when you split up. If you choose to have a ceremony that demonstrates your commitment to one another, that’s fine, but it has nothing to do with the Institution of Chicken – the entire ceremony process is simply a private endeavour that you do or don’t choose to have.
This is, ultimately, what this entire debate comes down to – having a record in some government office that says yes, you’re in a relationship with this person – and having the state recognise your rights to one another as partners , spouses, husband and wife or whatever other term you choose to use.
Everything besides that government record is gravy, and is irrelevant to the change of legislation. You want to get married, but don’t care about that record? Go and do it!
Victoria Soto is a hero.
Most of us who’ve been anywhere near social media over the past week would know the story, that in the face of another school shooting in the United States, this teacher herded her students into a closet, sheltering them with her own body and lost her life in the process.
Dawn Hochsprung, the Sandy Hook primary school principal and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist both approached and attempted to turn the shooter around – and were both killed for their efforts.
It’s a heartbreaking tragedy to wake up one morning and discover the news, that 28 people have been killed. When 20 of those people are children, then it tugs at the heart strings even more than hearing about other tragedies like this.
What’s the real tragedy, though, is that we actually have a basis for comparison. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Columbine. The list can go on…
The fact is that these kinds of events happen far too often. I in no way am suggesting that they don’t happen outside the United States. I live in Tasmania, far too close to one of the world’s worst mass shootings at Port Arthur in 1996. I was 14 when it suddenly became really clear that the world’s not a safe place. Even in quiet, isolated Tasmania we were suddenly faced with the realisation that these kinds of things could happen to us.
Just after the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, a friend of mine posed the question on Facebook of why we always bring up gun control when something like this happens. The fact that there’s an ‘always’ to speak of is a pretty good sign that there’s questions worth asking. However the arguments against are pretty compelling as well.
There’s never a single fix to any problem, especially something like these tragedies that keep occurring. My personal feeling is that we’re witnessing symptoms of deeper societal problems.
We need God in our society. Today, we need him more than ever. Our world is descending deeper and deeper into darkness, and we’re just falling along with it.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, his response was simple enough.
Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:37-40
Our world today says that you should love yourself. We’re surrounded by statements that encourage this. We should look after number one. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself. Do what feels right to you. Again, the list goes on.
What’s missing is Love. God’s love. The love that we should have – first for God, and then loving our neighbours as ourselves.
Let me ask one thing. Would any of these tragedies have happened if the perpetrators had felt like the people around them loved them completely and unconditionally?
It’s the first working day of December.
However, there’s a slight bright spot. A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues (the same one who thought I should decorate my desk because I’m a Christian) bought us all Advent Calendars. Freddo Frog Advent Calendars at that. So every day between now and Christmas I get to open another little door on the Advent Calendar and out pops a Freddo Frog to greet me with its chocolatey goodness!
However, this got me thinking about the reason behind Advent Calendars. I remember having them growing up – in fact, I think I even recall making them in school in some instances. It was always a bit of entertainment, seeing what was going to be behind each door when we got to school. Then came the recycled ones that you’d already seen last year, and it was just a case of opening the door again this year to see the same pictures.
But why were they invented? Who came up with the idea of a countdown of the days to Christmas?
Well, I looked it up, and sure enough there’s an Advent article on Wikipedia!
I discovered that Advent, or adventus in Latin is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Essentially the whole thing means ‘coming’ and talks of the coming of Jesus. Traditionally, Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, making it yesterday. Apparently Freddo decided to get in a bit early, he wanted to start on the 1st.
Here’s the sentence that I liked best though:
“The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.”
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ; God incarnate who came to Earth as the true messiah. It’s sometimes, probably, easy to forget exactly what this means to the world. It’s sometimes easy for us to take for granted the concept of Salvation and Grace in our lives today, so far detached from the days when Jesus actually walked the Earth, but this is actually a big deal.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23
When Jesus came to Earth, it wasn’t just because he’d gotten bored in heaven watching, and decided he wanted to come down and actually play with us instead; it was a necessity. When God created this world, when he created mankind, he created us for relationship with Him. We broke that covenant, that relationship, and when Jesus came, that was God reaching out to us. This was God actually showing just how much he loved us.
This was a pretty major thing. As we begin the countdown to Christmas, why don’t we think about this a little more? With each Freddo that I chomp into from this advent calendar, I’ll be taking that moment to reflect on just how much we all needed Jesus, and how we look forward to the day he comes again.
Christmas or Christmyth?
I saw a post on Facebook this morning, it read:
To all my friends, please remember that Christmyth is a time for family, friends, love and presents
Oh and of course, honouring our Lord and Saviour… Money, that is.
Whilst I accept that it’s a sad reflection of our society that money is considered to be the “Lord and Saviour” in today’s world, it’s understandable that people would have this consideration. The fact is that in a world and society where currency is the currency of the realm, if you remove Jesus from the equation, what else is there?
We live in a world today that’s devoid of hope, and is it any wonder when we consider statements like this? That our “Lord and Saviour” is money?
But I digress; what about this ‘Christmyth’ concept? This is a question far deeper than the shallow surface that it portrays.
I grew up in a Christian home, and Christmas, therefore, was just a part of life. I grew up hearing of tales of the three wise men, the shepherds being spoken to by angels, King Herod trying to kill baby Jesus and of course, the virgin birth. It was all just stories and history that I took for granted, no less real than Napoleon, Julius Caesar or Joan of Arc.
The thing with just taking it for granted, though, was that when I hit a bit of a crisis in my life as a young adult, everything came crashing down around me. I didn’t know why I believed in Jesus, I didn’t know why I believed in God. It was what I had always done in my life but lacked any depth. My salvation was shallow, something on the surface because that was a part of who I’d always been.
I was therefore away from God for a very long time, but during that time I kept searching for truth. I kept searching for meaning to my existence, for a reason behind everything that happened.
I’m not going to go into the historical evidence for Jesus’ existence, but needless to say, you’re in the very small minority of historians if you want to argue that he is a myth. Jesus existed, there is no Christmyth, and it was only a matter of time, in my search, before I came to this understanding.
When I came to this understanding, I didn’t have much choice. I clearly remember standing in a church service saying to God that I know he exists, that I know Jesus exists, and I know that Jesus died and rose again to save me from the consequences of my own sin. I clearly remember saying to God that regardless of anything else, if I can’t deny those three fundamental things, then I have no other choice than to follow Him.
So what about the Christmyth? If Jesus existed, then he was born, that’s about as simple as it can be put. Yes, it’s unlikely that the date he was born is the date that we celebrate – but then, the date we celebrate the Queen’s Birthday (here in Australia) isn’t her birthday either. August 1 is considered to be every horse’s birthday, that doesn’t mean that every horse is born on August 1 each year!
There is no Christmyth. It’s a real celebration of a real person’s birth; a person who – even if you don’t want to accept that He’s the messiah and son of God – was arguably the most influential man in human history.
This morning I saw a photo come up on my news feed – in the picture was a punk-looking guy holding a sign that said, You don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person.
The first thought that came to mind was simple: Christianity isn’t about being good, and I said that.
Then I started thinking about it even more.
Two verses came to mind.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23
There is none righteous, no, not one. ~ Romans 3:10
There’s a really incorrect perception around the world – both in and out of the Church – that Christianity is defined by the actions of Christians. It’s thanks to this perception that we see God and the Church being blamed for the sinful, wrong and mistaken actions and beliefs that are perpetuated by a handful of people labelling themselves as Christians.
I’d like to step away from Christianity a moment for a timely example: This weekend the world has been shocked by a number of violent protests from Muslims after the launch of an anti-Islamic video. The fact is that these extremists who got violent are not a wide representation of the Islamic community any more than Osama bin Laden spoke for the whole of Islam when he engaged in terrorist activities.
It’s hypocritical, judgmental and (dare I use this word) discriminatory to tar all Muslims with the same brush, and it’s the same story for Christians.
You can’t define a religion by the actions of a few extreme-minded individuals.
Christianity is not defined by the actions of Christians. Even if a line could be drawn through the actions of every single Christian to have ever lived, the definition of Christianity is not what we do, but what Christ has done.
See, around 2000 years ago, God sent his son Jesus Christ to earth. The reason he did this is because we, as humans, are impure and sinful. We are not good, and therefore we cannot enter into the presence of God who is good; who is love; who is pure. Sin is like a shadow – a shadow can never be found in light, simply because, by its definition it is an absence of light. In the same way, we cannot enter God’s presence of holiness because we are not holy. We are impure. Sinful. Not good.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23
With sin comes death. If God is life, then death is the absence of God – or what is defined in scripture and mythology as Hell. What Hell ‘is’ is not a question that I ever want to know the answer to – nor do I want anyone to ever find out, because even if Hell is the party that so many people think that it’s going to be, I guarantee you something: the party’s still going to be better in heaven.
Jesus was the Son of God, he was God’s spirit in a human body. He experienced life as we experience it: Temptation, pain, suffering, joy, laughter, loss, friendship and so on. He lived a human life, but in that life he did not sin, his spirit – the spirit of God was stronger than the human temptations that we go through day after day after day. He remained pure, even in the physical existence that we deal with and because of his purity, he did not earn the wages of sin – death. In spite of this, Jesus went willingly into death.
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” ~ Luke 23:42
Jesus’ choice to lay his life down was not an easy one, in fact he pleaded with God not to send him through the experience that was death. Yet ultimately his love was greater than his fear.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. ~ 1 John 4:18
This is the definition of Christianity, that Jesus, the Son of God gave his own life as a repayment for the death that we as impure and sinful humans earned. I am no better than any person who does not believe, and nor is anyone else.
You say that you don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person? I say that you can’t be a good person. We can redefine what good is all we want, but ultimately, as I said above, there’s no one good, no one righteous, no one pure – none except God.
Christianity has nothing to do with being good, it has nothing to do with being right and it has nothing to do with being superior to anyone else. Christianity has everything to do with love – that God loved us, and that he wants to keep loving us.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ~ John 3:16-17
So in the tradition of weird little memes that float around the interwebs and Facebook these days, I’ve noticed a new one come along on a few friends’ walls the past week or so.
It’s a picture of Jesus talking to people, and the conversation is listed as going as follows:
Jesus: “Ok, here’s an idea. You love them, like I loved you. Make sure you take care of them and don’t judge them.
Others: “But what if they’re gay or worship other Gods(sic)?”
Jesus: “Did I f***ing stutter?”
Now let me make one thing clear: I’m not interested, right now, in getting into a discussion about the rights, wrongs and otherwises about homosexuality and paganism. What I am interested, is talking about this attitude and more importantly, about emulating the love that Jesus had for people when he was alive.
When Jesus was on Earth, he spent time not with the ‘good’ people, but with the ‘scum of society.’
Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” ~ Mark 2:15-17
I have a question for the people who are posting this image up as an attack on Christians who disagree with their views on same-sex marriage.
How about we replace the middle line there?
Others: “But what if they’re murderers, rapists or abuse children?”
Right: Time for a disclaimer.
I am not making a statement that equates homosexuality and murder, or anything like that. I do not believe that, and this question is not asked with the intention of suggesting that perspective. My intention with that statement, is to point out that Jesus loved everyone – and declared that everyone should be loved.
There are three key commandments that Jesus gave us throughout his life.
Jesus Answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:29-31
Finally, Jesus left Earth with the Great Commission.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. ~ Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus told us to go and make disciples, teaching them to follow all the commandments that he had given. He also told us to love God, and love our neighbor like ourselves – which brings me back to the image I was discussing initially.
Paraphrasing Jesus, the creator of the image has said that we are to love Jesus how he loved us; and that we shouldn’t judge them.
It’s interesting that the first story that comes to mind when I think about all of this, is the Pharisees bringing a woman caught in adultery before Jesus. To tell the story briefly, they bring this woman before him, reminding Jesus that the law says she should be stoned to death for being caught in adultery (the law also said the bloke should be stoned, but apparently he escaped.)
Anyway, Jesus looks at them, and tells them that whoever’s without sin, go ahead, stone her and he bends down and starts writing on the ground. A few minutes later he gets up and they’re all gone. It’s just Jesus and the woman, and he asks her if anyone’s condemned her.
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” ~ John 8:11
Jesus didn’t judge the woman, but he did urge her not to sin. Jesus didn’t judge her, but neither did he tell her to go jump back into bed with whoever she was caught sleeping with. Jesus didn’t judge her, but he did guide her along the right path.
Let’s, then, bring the topic back to the murderers. What did Jesus tell us to do with them?
Even as I write this, it burns inside me. It’s so hard to be publicly saying that we should love these people, because I’m so passionately against their actions, and I am incapable of conceiving how anyone could possibly do those things.
As are – I would assume – most people.
Why? Because we know that it’s wrong. I would think there are very few people (if any, but you never know) reading this article who would disagree with me that any of those actions – along with many others – are wrong.
So here’s my point: A large percentage of the people reading this article, I would suggest, also believe that homosexuality and paganism are wrong.
And to take it even further: Many of those same people would also believe that telling a lie, speeding or dishonoring one’s parents is also wrong.
So if we’re going to love people like Jesus loved us, then what should we do?
To the liar: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
To the drug addict: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
To the homosexual: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
To the pagan: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
To the murderer: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
True love does not just let someone wander off and do their own thing uninhibited.
When my friend goes through a tough time, and tells me that they’ve done something wrong, do I just shrug at them and tell them to do whatever they want? No.
When a parent catches their toddler about to run out into the street, do they just watch, smiling, going, “Oh little Johnny’s become so independent so fast.” No.
Real love, the love that Jesus shared and told us to share doesn’t just let people walk in front of a bus, jump off a cliff without a parachute or do things that are harmful to ourselves and others. Real love is the love that does not judge, but guides to better actions, thoughts and morals.
And as good as sin may feel; or as harmless as it may seem, God guided us against it for a reason. We may not know that reason, and we may not agree with his rules all the time, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t obey them. God’s guidance comes out of an ultimate love for us that we can never understand from our human perspective.
We do, though, need to love one another with that same love – or as best as we can do.
Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your dsescendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” ~ Deuteronomy 34:4
You know, throughout this journey of the Israelites, from Egypt to Canaan, I’ve consistently used the Promised Land as a metaphorical reference to our own individual destinies in God. The fulfilment of the plan that he has for our lives.
First of all, going to the very end of the chapter.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. ~ Deuteronomy 34:10
As far as prophets go, Moses is the top of the crop, he’s the one who knew God face to face.
But even then, he wasn’t perfect. The reason he was standing on Mt Nebo and not entering the promised land was because he didn’t trust God completely. He ended up disobeying God and doing his own thing – and it was something that would seem to us, so minor, but it was a big enough thing to God that Moses was not allowed to cross over into the promised land.
And that’s the thing that most stands out to me as I read this chapter. Mt Nebo, the mountain that Moses climbed at the end of his life, and gazed out over the promised land, over the gift that God had promised his fathers, and his nation.
It doesn’t say how Moses reacted, but I think he would have been heartbroken. Standing there, looking out over the promised land at the destiny God had, knowing that he could have gotten there if he had only trusted God that little bit more when it mattered.
When it comes to the end of my life, I don’t want to stand on Mount Nebo, looking out over the destiny that God actually had in mind for me. I want to cross the Jordan and walk into it, and look back across the river, at the journey that I’ve taken to get there.
And so comes to a close the book of Deuteronomy, and the Pentateuch.
It’s taken me just shy of twelve months to get this far. I started on 27 July, 2010 – and what a journey it’s been.
When I started, my intention was to provide a – what some might call ‘New Age Interpretation’ of the bible, reading it through as a book that had a lot of good moral teachings, but was wrong in some places, right in others, needed improving in others. That was basically the intention I had, as someone who wasn’t following or in a relationship with God.
It really is a love letter from him, though. Between studying God’s very word, and the influence of some absolutely wonderful people whom I love dearly, things changed.
So thanks: Steve, Donna, Cody, Sara, Anna and Pastor Dave – in particular, you were people who God used, each in a special way, to help bring me back into this relationship with him.
I’m so grateful, now, to know the love of my Father in a way that I never knew before.
Now, I’m just eager to keep going. That said, I’m going to take a couple of days break again now – I know I’ve had more days off than writing this blog of late, but I’ll start with Joshua on Sunday evening.
Well, I have to say – by the time the family got to Moses, the blessings over each of the tribes sounded a lot nicer than some of the things that Jacob offered as blessings to his sons.
At least, unless you’re Simeon – who at least got mentioned back in Genesis when Jacob blessed his sons. Here, he’s absent.
This is perhaps the most fond and affectionate passage that I can recall reading throughout these first five books of the bible – the Pentateuch. There have been passionate passages – such as aspects of the song in chapter 32, but here is this full flowing list of blessings.
There were promises of blessings in other areas, but they all came with conditional follow-ups. Sure, these are all the good things that can happen to you – but if you’re bad, then all this will happen. It’s all counter balanced.
This is the second last chapter of Deuteronomy, and the books of the law – basically this initial segment of the bible.
So essentially, Moses finishes on a warm note. He’s been there, telling the Israelites all that’s going on, all that can happen if they continue to do what is right – and all that can happen if they go their own way. Finally, he comes to this point of farewell, and he finishes with these warm exhortations to each of them.
Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction.” ~ Deuteronomy 33:3
I love this chapter, and I’m struggling to really explain why. I really love this picture of God, though, in verse 3.
I got into a little bit of a debate over the past 24 hours on Facebook – not really a surprise or new position for me to be in, but anyway. Part of the argument that has come up against God is all the things that people have done in his name. How can God be loving when so much has been done in his name?
Well, because the second part of this verse is missing. God loves all the people – and those who follow him should be receiving instruction from him. Those who are holy and in his hand are the ones bowing at his feet, and receiving his instruction. God’s instruction to us has been clear since Jesus had his final conversation with the disciples. The Great Commission, to go into all of the world, making disciples and teaching them to obey every command that he gave.
Love was the greatest commandment according to Jesus: Love God, and love those around us.
God is love. End of story. The heart of the gospel, at the heart of everything that he does, everything that is good, is love. Therefore, anything that is not of love can also not be of God.
People can say and claim all sorts of things in the name of God – but if it is not of love, then it is not of God. God doesn’t come from us; he is not made by our actions, he simply is. We are the ones who are flawed and sinful, not God. So then why hold it against God?
If we, as the holy ones of God, are not bowing at his feet and receiving his instruction, then it is on our shoulders, not God’s, as to what the consequences are of our actions. The instructions are there, it is up to us to receive them and enact them in our hearts and lives.
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