Day 47--Unity vs Purity--""Spiritual Reading"--Deuteronomy 17:1 - 20:20
February 16, 2021, 7:18 AM

Day 47--Unity vs purity—“Spiritual Reading” Deuteronomy 17:1  - 20:20

What is it like to stand on the very verge of a promise, to see in front of you the goal you have traveled to get to for 40 years, to see the beauty, the expanse and to know in your heart that God has promised this for you, for your children and for all your future generations?

Impatient. Resolved. Excited. Ready. But not quite. Right there—God stops them. The formation of a God-fearing community is not easy. Any time we move or travel or have a substantial change, we prepare. We make lists. We check what we are bringing with us to make sure we have what we need. During one family move, for example, my son’s beloved bunny, Louisa, was inadvertently packed in a box and taken away. A great mourning and wailing was heard in the land—and all along the car ride from West Virginia to New York! Thou shalt not forget the bunny! Thou shalt not forget the bunny! The reunion, I have to tell you, was pretty priceless.

That’s a ridiculous, silly example, but God, who is the ruler of his people, is doing the best possible work to create checklists, reminders, and boundaries to assure the people that they are to be unified, and that they should never let go of the central principles of the new nation—that they serve the one God: “Hear O Israel, the LORD your God is One God” (a portion of the Shema).   Clearly there is now an awareness that absolute purity in God’s people is not possible, but chosen unity is possible, unity around God’s principles that the new nation will work for, depend on, understand and offer to each other. The readings today acknowledge that there will continue to be difficult legal decisions, that there will be murders and that there will be imperfect kings who will rule the people, but the guidelines we read seem designed to create a just and equitable community, not an impossible, perfect community. That’s a really important concept to remember. God’s people, the Israelites, are not perfect. God’s people have never been perfect, and we aren’t perfect today.

The verses concerning kings, for example (chap 17: 14 -  20), provide cautionary rules that establish God as supreme king over all, and human kings as those who obey God first, as those who should not acquire too many possessions or wives, or too much wealth. It is still true today that these are distractors from God for many of us, whether or not we are kings!! The earthly king is told to read the written law of God (first reference to the physical recording of the law in book form) every day “that he may learn to fear the LORD” (chap 17: 19). God first, everything else after that.

In addition, there is acknowledgment that the priests, the Levites, will need to be continually cared for materially, that child sacrifice will still be an issue, that murders will occur, and even a very familiar verse about not moving your neighbor’s property boundaries!! (chap 19: 14) Oh, this is still a contemporary worry, isn’t it? That single little verse really made me laugh. We have not changed much, have we? But that verse emphasizes intentional community, intentional unity, and it upholds fairness, honesty and integrity as being foundational to healthy community. Still true today, minus the stoning!!

But the overarching purpose of this repetition to the people, of the warnings and rules spoken by Moses to the people as they strain to get closer to the goal of a homeland, is that the people must remember that they are governed by God, that their purpose is to serve God, and that all the priests who will conduct worship, the judges who make legal decisions, the kings that will rule—they are all subject to God’s sovereignty, and that the people who are served by these leaders have an equality of purpose to do the same. God’s people can never be truly and absolutely pure, but they can be unified if they choose to serve God, and to obey his laws. The law functions as a skeleton to give strength and shape to the new nation which is to be set as a light, a beacon for all other nations, if only God’s people will listen and remember.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,


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