Saturday, 8 March 2014

(68) March 9: Deuteronomy 5-7 & Mark 12:1-27

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the different things God promises Israel.

To ponder:
4v44-49 introduces chapters 5-26 in which God’s laws are proclaimed to the current generation on the edge of the land. We then hear how Moses “summoned” Israel to listen. The laws are the terms of God’s covenant made at Horeb (around Sinai). Moses speaks of the covenant being made with this generation, even though only some would have been there – and as children. This is because the covenant was for future generations too, so each new generation needs to embrace it. Indeed, the “you” and “your” in 6v5 is singular. God sees Israel as one.
Moses lists the Ten Commandments, affirming their centrality as the spring from which the following laws flow. He recounts how Israel heard God speak from the mountain, and in fear of death asked Moses to stand between them and God, relating his word. God commended them, but spoke of his longing that “their hearts would be inclined to fear” him. He desires the same in our response to his word mediated through Christ.
The themes that follow are similar to yesterday’s reading: First, Israel are to carefully obey, learning the laws, being sure to follow them, not forget them, but acting to be constantly reminded of them, impressing them on their children, and telling those children the story of redemption when asked about them. There are lessons here for how Christian parents should pass on the teaching and acts of Christ to their children, recognizing that their children’s life depends on that too.
Second, Israel are to do this out of a whole-person whole-life love for God. As with the new covenant, obedience is to be no legalistic attempt to merit his favour. The covenant obliges them to obey, but as a response to God’s grace in choosing to make Israel his treasured possession and set his love on them. This means that when the parent says careful obedience “will be our righteousness,” they must simply mean God regards this loving response (although inevitably imperfect) as the right response to all he has done. Reflecting this, here their redemption is given as the reason to keep the Sabbath, instead of the creation as in Exodus 20v11.
Third, they must obey so that they would go in and take the land, and their children would live and prosper in it. Here, the blessings this would entail are outlined. Israel will enjoy the cities and vineyards already there, increasing in number, with bountiful harvests, thriving livestock and good health (6v10-11, 7v13-15). These things echo Eden, fulfil God’s promise to Abraham, and look towards the new creation.
Fourth, Israel must therefore keep away from idolatry. So they must utterly destroy the nations and their means of false worship, and not intermarry with them so that they are not led astray. Moreover, they are not to covet the wealth that adorns the nations’ idols, but “abhor” and “detest” it as set apart for destruction. No doubt this was because it was defiled by its use, but also so that they would not tempted to use it in worship. These commands are extreme, but the fulfilment of God’s promise depended on them. Indeed, Moses warns that whilst God is faithful to his covenant, he will destroy those who hate him.
Finally, he again exhorts Israel not to fear, because she saw God prove he is “a great and awesome God” by bringing her out of Egypt. The people can therefore be sure God will drive the nations out before them, but in his time so the “wild animals” don’t multiply and cause them problems.

Praying it home:
Thank God for setting his love on you and making you his treasured possession. Pray that you would be diligent in teaching his acts and will to children, and in remembering and obeying them yourself.

Thinking further:
Christ quotes 6v16 when tempted by Satan. The sense is that in those forty days in the desert he perfectly obeys the law in the way Israel failed to during her forty years. This perfect righteousness can then be credited to his people so that they can be declared righteous (justified) and so treated as truly righteous by God.

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