Today we read Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Ruth. Wow! Reviewing the intrigues of the children of Israel from the time they crossed the Red Sea, in other words, reviewing our readings of yesterday, Moses gave three speeches (Dt 1-4; 5-28; 29-33) just before his death. Now that the children of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, it was important for Moses to interpret the events of their history to this generation aged sixty years and below (except for Joshua and Caleb). They needed to understand God’s Law and be warned about what would happen if they failed to obey it.
Moses, one of the greatest leaders in history, was certainly not perfect. In fact, in some instances he seems a bit cheeky. He said four or more times that it was the Israelites’ fault that he could not enter the Promised Land. Hmm? We know that was not really the reason — it was his own disobedience! Apparently Adam’s original sin of passing blame was still manifesting in Moses. And the fact that he would not enter Canaan really irritated Moses. He pled with God to change His mind on that score, until God finally told him “That is enough — do not ask again!” (Dt 3:26).
Major concerns for social justice are seen in the book of Deuteronomy. These include
- Personhood: dignity, women, value of human life
- Justice: punishment, intention, false accusation, exploitation, fair trial, the law, bribery
- Social systems: inheritance, property, marriage, distribution of wealth
- The environment: fruit of the ground, animals, trees
It becomes very crucial, in this reading, to understand how the Law relates to we who are in the New Covenant in Christ. Certain principles hold true. But Jesus Himself invalidated some of the Law’s commands. “Moses said to you, ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,’ but I say. . .'” (Mt 5:38-39). The ‘eye-for-eye’ passage is in Deuteronomy, along with many other harsh-sounding practices.
So, which instructions are still valid? How can we distill, and then obey, the eternal principles? Just one example is about what can or cannot eat. Uh-oh: rabbit (I like it), pig (you know, pork and bacon), creatures in the water that do not have fins and scales (= most seafood), and flying insects (Ibrahim’s favorite), are all unclean and forbidden! Do we opt to preach and apply the commands that sound logical, but ignore those that do not fit our paradigm? Obviously we cannot go back to the Law; we live in the era of grace. But sorting it all out can be quite a challenge.
About public reading: Moses told the Israelites, “You shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people — men, women and children and the aliens living in your towns — so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law” (Dt 31:12). After the very meaningful reading today, I am ‘tempted’ to do just that — read the entire book of Deuteronomy in a Sunday morning service.
Deuteronomy and Joshua reverberate with this one reality: we have choices to make. Every day, every moment, we must choose good or choose evil. Consequences will follow.
Throughout Judges, the people kept reverting to “what seemed right in their own eyes.” But for that, they always ended up in a big mess!
How can I learn to distinguish ‘what is right in my own eyes’ from the voice of the Lord? What choices will I make today?
Stay tuned! ~Diane