In today’s Deuteronomy passage, Moses has started to give Israel a review of the Law before he heads off to eternity and the people head off to the Promised Land. Moses reiterates in Deuteronomy 4:39 that the God of Israel IS God, the one and only creator God, God of heaven and earth.
Israel is surrounded by nations that worship “gods” in the form of animals and other idols. They practice some pretty barbaric forms of worship and sacrifice… like their own kids. And they go to war alot. It’s in this pack that Israel stands out because of the nation’s relationship with the one true God.
At different points in the passage, Moses talks about how God treats Israel, how His relationship with them bestows unique blessings. It occurred to me that the same benefits God gave physical Israel accrue to us today, her spiritual descendants.
So here they are:
- The Lord came near to Israel. Moses said “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deut. 4: 7) The “gods” of other nations do not come near them. Jesus is the only God who came to get a people (via the Cross) rather than expecting a people to earn His favor, to work their way to Him.
- God gave Israel the Law. Moses said “what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (4: 8) I imagine that if you set the Bible against all other religious writings, its commands would stand head and shoulders above the rest.
- The Law gave Israel wisdom. If Israel would obey the Law, Moses said, “this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'” If we Christians REALLY obeyed the Law (the moral law – and that includes being kind to our enemies, humble, satisfied, joyous, etc., etc.), the same would be said of us.
- God revealed Himself personally to Israel. As Moses said, “Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?” (4:32) And now God sends us the Holy Spirit of fire that speaks His Words to our spirit. What other religion has the transforming Spirit of life?
- God chose and redeemed Israel to be His special people, to live with Him in the Promised Land. The Lord chose Israel (4:37), took them out of Egypt, and was about to deliver them to the Promised Land where He would dwell with them. Moses asked Israel, “Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” (4:34)
God used the power currency of the day – “signs and wonders, war, great and awesome deeds” – to rescue Israel from bondage and prove to them that “there is no other God besides him” (4:35). Moses warned Israel not to “forget the things your eyes have seen,” to remember all the ways He had revealed Himself in Word and Power in order to make them His people. Passover was one way they remembered. Jesus did not use power – but just the opposite – to redeem us and make us His own. At Jesus’ last Passover, he told us to eat the wine and the bread in remembrance of what He was about to do.
As I’ve said before, it’s easy to struggle with how God dealt with Israel and the nations in the Old Testament. But it helps sometimes to see the shadow of Christ there… and to see how God was preparing His people for the time when Jesus would come, one step of revelation at a time.
In currency they could comprehend.
Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 3:1-4:49, Psalm 36:5-12, Proverbs 12:7, Luke 1: 1-25. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts.