Saturday, September 13, 2014

System Requirements: Deuteronomy 10

In Summary: Moses continues recapping the events at Mount Sinai that occurred with the previous generation. In this chapter, he covers the fallout from the Golden Calf incident, including explaining the rise of the Levites to service as priests and teachers.

It is is worth noting that the Levites rose to this position because of their zeal in standing for God’s requirements. When the Israelites were falling to sin at the Mountain, it was the Levites who separated from the people to stand with Moses. First they demonstrated self-control, and then a willingness to execute judgment even on their own kinsmen.

Also noted is the dispersal of the Levites among the people. It is often noted that this was so they could teach others, but I would point out the other value. Levites were not only the instructors of God’s law but had a hand in the enforcement of it. The tribe was ordained to this work because they valued obedience to God over personal loyalty. The system of Israelite governance relied on that commitment.

In Focus: Tightening our focus a little more, though, we see Deuteronomy 10:12. Moses highlights that the expectations of YHWH are not immense. It is remarkably easy to see the system of laws as overcomplicated. Any legal system that is overcomplicated becomes too burdensome and repressive—and impossible to fulfill.

When we look at Deuteronomy 10:12-13, we see the Law in its simplest form. Moses asks the question: “What does YHWH require of you?” He then presents these answers:

1. Fear God: this is the first thing God requires. Fear is more than our simple idea of “to be afraid.” It involves a respect and recognition of the immensity and the power of God, of our unworthiness to come before Him in our sin. Fear is a good thing.

2. Walk in all His ways: the Israelites were not to pick and choose what portions of God’s law to obey. All of them, including the care for the needy and oppressed that God commanded. After all, Micah 6:8 brings it back before the Israelites, and us: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

3. Love Him: heartfelt, deep-seated devotion. The human emotional system is not always steadfast, but the Israelites were told to train it, hold God close to their desires.

4. Serve Him: this refers to the practical act of obedience, but the Israelites are commanded to do so with the fullness of their being. The goal was not that they would empty-headedly go through the motions, but their hearts would be in it.

5. Keep His commandments and statutes, which are given for the good of the Israelites: that last summation is to remind the people that the laws were not about burdens nor were they arbitrary.

I would note one additional factor that ties these verses together. Note the presence of the personal, covenant name of God, as well as the interplay between the name of God and pronouns, referring back to God. While we can, and need to, break down this down to a list, these concepts are not separable.

In Practice: What do we do with this? First, we fear God. It is that simple to start with. Fear God. We must recognize our need for salvation, and only God can provide for that need.

Second, we practice the same things that the Israelites were to practice: justice, mercy, and walking in God’s ways. For every decision that you need to make, ask yourself if it fits those three categories. If it does not, then you should not do it.

Third, we keep our hearts fixed on God. With all of the life that clamors for our attention, keep your heart fixed in the right place. That will take effort.

In Nerdiness: Deuteronomy 10:19 is a fun one for nerds. In the NASB, we see that God’s people are to show love for…aliens.

That’s just fun.

Then you back up a few verses to 10:16 and see where, even here, God is more concerned with the condition of the heart than the ceremonial behaviors of the body. How many more times does that show up in Scripture? It echoes from the Law to the Prophets to Galatians and other of the Epistles.

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