Day 46--Forgetting to Remember--"Desiring God" Deuteronomy 13:1 - 16:22
February 15, 2021, 8:00 AM

Day 46—Forgetting to Remember—“Desiring God” Deuteronomy 13-16

Treason is a familiar word to many of us. Treason means that a person puts their home country at grave risk by acts of betrayal, or participates specifically in wars or conflicts that oppose or attempt to overthrow the person’s home government. The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 required our first President, George Washington, to put on a uniform in order to fight against Pennsylvania farmers who were protesting a tax on whiskey. Those found guilty of treason were later pardoned by President Washington. Aaron Burr, now of “Hamilton” fame, was tried and acquitted for treason in 1807.

The punishment for treason in the US? Death. This law was changed in 1998 and the death penalty was abolished for those convicted of treason, but the seriousness of the crime cannot be underestimated. Treason breaches the basic sense of trust, honor, integrity, dedication and lawfulness expected from citizens of the US.

A theocracy is a government led by God. The people of Israel lived in a theocracy ruled by God. To oppose the leader, the ruler who is God, leads to death. Today we read about the literalness of opposition to God, to treasonous activities and it is hard reading for us because it involves the killing of people, of livestock, of literally every thing (purposeful separation of those words) that might be considered to oppose God. “Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” (13:10)

Remember also that to oppose God by worshipping false gods and by leading others astray (notice that this is the main emphasis in today’s readings) breaks the very first commandment God gave his people TWICE--“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’” Exodus 20:1–3

“Do not let anything devoted to destruction stick to your hand,” Moses tells the people in our reading for today (13:17), and this refers once again to holiness, to purity, to God’s Sovereignty.

What we are learning about God is hard. I’ve already said that in earlier blog posts. But God is trying to establish something that has never existed before—a people group, a nation of chosen people, who are beginning a new work of God that will thrive as long as they remain dedicated to God. God is trying to create a light that will lead others out of darkness, that will help other people groups turn from their false worship toward worship of the One God.  We know how the story ends, don’t we? It is just about impossible for us, oh wait, it IS impossible for us to have that kind of dedication, and so ---> Jesus.

In the book of Romans, a famous phrase from the apostle Paul: “For the wages of sin is death,” (6:23). Paul does not mean literal death, but spiritual death that results from our separation from God when we sin. But Paul knows that such a death that IS real, because sin causes separation that cuts us off from our life source, our light in the darkness which is Jesus Christ. We are not unfamiliar with the concept that turning away from God, that leading others away from God, leads to death in some way.

Lent is just before us and we probably understand the forty days of wilderness better than we ever have before. What does it mean to wander away from God? What does it mean to feel bereft of God’s presence? What sustains us in the ‘desert’ of our souls, our lives, this horrific pandemic that isolates us from those we love? It is at such times that we are most prone to turn away and to look for distractions that give us easy answers, easy comfort, easy consolations.

I am quite famous for saying that I have never had a “successful” Lenten fast. I know why. It’s because I am doing the fast for me, and not for God. I am doing the fast to prove that I can handle the challenge, and I am not truly turning my wrestling match over to God. I am trying to become stronger rather than to admit my abject weakness in the simplest of things.

This is what has to die in us. This is what, and forgive the harshness, has to be killed in us.

A friend texted me to ask about God’s grace in the Old Testament, and I want to write pages and pages and pages about it. I love the question, as I always do.

But the reality is that God’s grace is everywhere in the Old Testament: in the preservation of Adam and Eve from the very beginning. I mean, why didn’t God just hit the restart button and try a second version with more compliant people? God saved Noah and his family and all those crazy animals, and we know how quickly Noah acted out and went a little overboard in his celebrations. God used Joseph’s life story to remind us that what others intend for harm, God can recycle for good. God chose Moses, a flawed man at best, who led the Hebrew people out of Egypt—a complaining, messy, recalcitrant, misbehaving, calf-worshipping crowd if ever there was one! And God saved these people over and over and over again. All God asked in return was that the people did not engage in treason.

Remember this famous phrase, attributed to the twentieth century philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." So as we read these Old Testament scriptures that seem harsh and difficult to us, they also continue to show us God’s grace and they remind us what it means at the deepest level to serve, love and obey God, to put God first always and everywhere.

The Israelites, on the verge of entering the Promised Land, are being charged by Moses to remember, and so are we.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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