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Look deeper: Deuteronomy 7

In Summary: Deuteronomy 7 seems a far cry from today’s headlines. Turn on the news and you’ll see religious warfare in Iraq, with minority religions being systematically attacked by those who wish them dead. You’ll see racial strife, mixed with class warfare and a dozen other social problems, exploding on the streets of Missouri. Yes, the one in the United States. You’ll see warfare in Israel and Gaza (or maybe it’s a cease fire, giving Hamas time to restructure and attack again). You’ll see kids heading back to school, or not, dealing with increasing security and rules.

In it all, God’s instructions for the possession of the land of Canaan in the fifteenth century BC seem a little out of touch. The most simplistic view of this passage, in fact, would be horrendous to apply in our modern era. One might read this and see the conquest as a template for our time, that people should take up arms and establish a “righteous nation” again on the Earth, eliminating those who disagree. Reading Deuteronomy through an historic lens, through a New Testament lens, tells us that this would be an abhorrent application of the text. Ephesians 6 directly refutes such thinking: our warfare is spiritual and we do not, we do NOT fight physical battles to establish the Kingdom of Christ.

What, then, do we do here? Deuteronomy 7 is quite definitely about conquest. It also reflects the need for religious unity among the people of God, and the need to keep YHWH alone as God, not worshiping idols. This is initiated by God’s faithfulness to His promise of grace, and is built on the covenant with God’s people and their ongoing faithfulness to Him.

In summary, then, we see examples for behavior within the religious context of life, but more importantly we see that God does not choose “worthy” people. He pours His grace out on the lesser, the weaker, the slave and the outcast. If you are one of God’s people, then it is not because you were amazing and God wanted you. It is because He is amazing and He wanted you. Applying this starts simply: realize that you’re not better than anyone else. We’re all people in need of God. We need to recognize the importance of every life, and stand for them all.

In Focus: The summary side is a little extended today, so I’ll give you a short focus point. Taking a look at Deuteronomy 7:3. This verse, along with others in this chapter and like it elsewhere, has been used to justify racism. It’s used to say that “you should stick with your own folks.”

Which is nonsense. The concept here is that the people of Israel, the worshipers of the One True God, should only make lifelong commitments and involvements with those who worship the same God. That matters, truly, and should affect our dating, deep friendships, and sometimes even business partnerships.

It does not mean that you pick a shade of skin tone and only treat them like God’s people, and hang the rest. That is looking at the outside, not the heart—and the heart is what matters.

In Practice:
I don’t know how to tell you to practice this but to say get out and do something, and do it with people that don’t look like you but worship Jesus, like you worship Jesus. Not in style or even language, but in heart. Go do it.

In Nerdiness: The promise of deliverance from all sickness in Deuteronomy 7:15? It’s reserved for perfect obedience, so we see it in eternity.

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