I’ve been reading in Deuteronomy (yes, on purpose!) about Moses’ long speech to the Israelites before they’re to finally enter the Promised Land. He reminds them what God has done in the past and what kind of behaviour God expects in the future.
What strikes me is the intent behind the litany of dos and don’ts: it’s not about following the rules, it’s about the Israelites’ lifestyle being a sign to the people around them. They’re to show how God designed humans to function, and how well He looks after those who trust Him.
Although the Old Testament proclaims Israel as God’s chosen people, it gives clear instruction to welcome the stranger and the alien and to allow them to learn about God.
The Pharisees got it wrong with their legalism. From the beginning, God asked for wholehearted love and obedience rather than rigidity. Peter had a handle on this when he wrote that we’re to live prepared to give an answer for the hope within us – we’re to live so that people can see we’re different.
What does it mean for us today?
- legalism is not the way
- personal holiness: not “I don’t do that” in a judgmental way, but “I do this because I love God”
- taking seriously what He says
- personal times alone with Him, again out of love and perceived need rather than performance or “earning points”
- care for the person who doesn’t see his/her need, because God does see the need
We need to live mindfully according to His ways, secure in the knowledge that He is powerful, good, and able to care for us. Deuteronomy 23:20b is one of many illustrations of Moses’ theme: live God’s way so that we don’t block the blessings God wants to give – for our sakes and for the sakes of those who see us.
I’m really struck by how much God wants to give, and I wonder how much we miss by our own choices and actions.