We’ve been here before.
Actually, we’ve been through most of this before. Deuteronomy’s a bit like revision before the final exam. Go back, recap the important pieces of what has been learned so far, so that it’s fresh in the mind when you go into the most important part of the semester. The Israelites are just about ready to enter the promised land, so just before they do, here’s a last revision just to keep them fresh and revitalised before that.
The ten commandments.
It’s pretty straight forward, when you think about it. These commandments, above all the rules and regulations, are the primary things that God laid out for an ethical and moral life.
The sermon at church last weekend was about happiness, and reporting two main definitions of happiness.
These weren’t the verbatim examples used at church; but if I go to my old favourite of Merriam Webster, we find the following two definitions:
1. A state of well being or contentment
2. A pleasurable or satisfying experience
There was a little more detail on the weekend. We had the hormone and endorphin rush that comes with pleasure; and we had the philosophical definition of leading an ethical and moral life.
Certainly, I don’t necessarily think that the ten commandments are the be all and end all of a moral and ethical life. Actually; what I do think sums that up is the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbour as yourself. This, though, is a great place to start.
I personally believe that true happiness is that moral and ethical life. It’s the first definition that comes from the two options above: a state of well being or contentment.
See, in our society today, we’ve gotten caught up in too much science and physical. Even in the days when I refused to acknowledge God, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that there was more out there. The trouble is, though, today so many people are caught up in the science of it. Happiness is just a chemical reaction in our brains that comes from a release of pleasure hormones; or of endorphins.
What a load of rubbish.
Anyone who has experienced the fullness of joy that comes from actually meeting the God of heaven can tell you that there’s such a difference between pleasure and happiness.
And therein lies the difference. Pleasure.
We’ve come to a point where the two are now synonymous. The chemical reaction that is pleasure is also what we equate to happiness. This isn’t the case. Pleasure is physical, but happiness is a state of mind; it’s spiritual and much deeper than just the physical sensation that comes about through hormones and endorphins.
Contentment and happiness are where we can relax. It’s a place of peace, of comfort, of satisfaction.
If more people could get hold of the fact that true happiness isn’t through the release of chemicals, endorphins and hormones; then our society would be a very different place.
So, now comes the final part of the journey.
Well, actually, the journey’s pretty much over. Deuteronomy is Moses stepping up in front of everyone and retelling the story of what happened – at least, a lot of the interesting bits. I wonder – remind me at the end of this book to return to the thought as to whether you could just read Deuteronomy, and then skip Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, because this one has all the important bits anyway.
Chapter one is long, at least in comparison to most of the chapters I’ve read so far, and actually has a lot in it. There are a couple of verses, that I want to draw back into. They don’t really link or relate directly to one another, but they’re just the ones that stood out to me.
1. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” ~ Deuteronomy 1:30-31
Like a father carries his son.
You know, the picture I get here is one that continues from that moment. I have this mental image of God, as a father, carrying his child through the journey that Israel was going through. He wants to help them get from the beginning to end, and he wants to make it as easy for them as possible; so he carries them. The problem is, that the child doesn’t want to be helped, doesn’t want to be carried, and so keeps kicking and swinging and trying to get out until the father eventually has no real choice but to put the child down.
One of my all time favourite poems is the Footprints poem; again, a reference is in there to Jesus carrying us through the difficult times in our lives.
I’d like to ask, though, how often do we kick and scream and wriggle and writhe? When God’s trying to help us, trying to carry us through something, how much do we just refuse that help? Is it pride that keeps us from accepting his assistance?
I think we tend to have a bit of the wrong attitude to God and his assistance these days. We have a tendency to want to do everything on our own, and it’s not until it all collapses around us that we then turn back and face him – usually asking why he didn’t help. To which he can only respond that we didn’t really allow him to do so.
God is, though, a father – he does want to help us and does want to assist us. That’s not to say that he’s going to do it all for us; but he’s right there giving us guidance and directions – all we have to do is listen to him.
I’m going to drift off on that one instead of going to the other points I had in mind. Didn’t expect to go on for so long.