This is Mel Gibson urging the Scots to have brave hearts. This is Kenneth Branagh giving it ‘what ho’ as Henry V. This is Colin Firth leading the British through World War 2. Well almost. Deuteronomy is Moses telling Israel that they need to be true to God, if they are God will be true to them.
Moses calls the people together just before it is time for them to enter the Promised Land. For the next thirty or so chapters he recaps, or reminds the people what they should do. Most of what has been said in Exodus and Leviticus is mentioned again. This is a summary of the law but also a call to arms.
Live long and prosper
The law is also a covenant, or, to be blunt and very non-academic, a deal. If the people follow the law then God will look after them and they will prosper. But if they don’t then God won’t. Perhaps the key verses come in chapter six.
6:4-6 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
The covenant can sound a little mercenary, but covenant agreements like this were common during these times. The one difference is they were normally between a stronger nation and a weaker nation. If the Sopranos is true then similar ‘agreements’ still go on today.
A God of love?
One of the most common things I hear is, ‘if God loves us then why is there so much pain in the world’ (or variations on this theme). And I end up thinking along similar lines with this book. Moses, who has led the Israelites out of Egypt and spoken directly with God, is told that he won’t be allowed into the Promised Land. After all he has done he is told that because he didn’t really stand up for God at one point in the wilderness, he won’t go into what will become Israel. Unfair? The actions of a God of love? What is Moses response though? He doesn’t complain, he gets on with things, accepts what God says and rallies the troops for the journey ahead.
I liked Deuteronomy, especially after Numbers. As a read it held together and had a clear place in the narrative. As a religious book, to read and challenge the way I live, then it is a little bit harder to enjoy.
Who’d have thought loving God and loving others could be so difficult!