Do you see the grace in Deuteronomy?

(Photo: Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

We recently did a series in Deuteronomy. I love our Old Testament series because it’s so exciting to see what I thought was a bit of a dry book of the Bible come alive with God’s purpose and love, and to see how it points us to Jesus!

You might have also thought Deuteronomy was dry or even worse, that it was just a book full of dreadful rules but if you zoom out you see a glorious picture of God’s grace and care and how it all fits into the big picture of Jesus coming to set all things right and that is why I find Deuteronomy not dry or dreadful but delightful!

Is Deuteronomy dry?

Deuteronomy starts with the people of Israel on the edge of the promised land with Moses giving them a 33 chapter sermon in which he recounts Israel’s history, warns them not to make the same mistake as the generation before them and then gives them rules for how to live in the land they were given.

It may sound dry, something akin to a very long health and safety briefing, but it was actually full of encouragement and opportunity. Not only were they given the chance to reflect on all the mighty things God had done for them and how he had chosen them – through no merit of their own – to be his special people, Moses also paints a picture of the wonderful life they’re about to receive in the land.

In Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 10-12 he says, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

Deuteronomy is about God’s people being in God’s place, under God’s rule, experiencing God’s blessing and that is not dry at all!

Is Deuteronomy dreadful?

So maybe Deuteronomy isn’t dry but what about dreadful? It has chapters and chapters of blessings and curses related to behaviour and the further into it we get the more the curses seem to outweigh the blessings. Also, when you read verses or chapters in isolation you may get the picture that God is some kind of tyrant forcing a harsh and overbearing rule on his people but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the law was there to hold up a mirror to our sinful selves and make God’s people realise they needed a better solution, it was also there to show people the way to live rightly and to restrain evil. God is not naive about human nature, he understands more than any of us how sin and evil spoils his good creation. The law is there to protect people, as well as teach them dependence and trust on God. God is the one who made us so he knows how we should live in order to be a flourishing and healthy community.

Some laws may not seem bad or good but just weird – such as some of the ones in Deuteronomy chapter 22 where the Israelites are commanded to only take the young from a bird’s nest, not the mother, build a little fence around the roof of their houses, not to plant two types of seeds in their vineyards, and put tassels on each of the corners of their cloaks.

However, these laws do all make sense – the bird is God instructing them on ecological preservation, and building a fence around the roof was to provide safety for neighbours in case they wandered onto their roof because it was common practice to walk about on the flat rooftops in that time – it’s akin to fencing in a swimming pool today.

The command to not plant two types of seeds and to put tassels on their cloaks were reminders to Israel that they were to be God’s set apart and holy people and that they needed to remember him and what he’d done for them.

God’s people have failed to trust and obey him again and again. He knows they will continue do so but God is faithful. He doesn’t give up on us when we rebel against him and constantly do wrong. In chapter 32 of Deuteronomy it’s in the format of ancient near east covenant dispute – this was the agreement, you breached it, here’s the consequences but unlike the traditional form, there’s a shock twist with God promising to save his people – he never gives up on us!

Why Deuteronomy is delightful!

After studying Deuteronomy, I found it delightful because it tells about the mighty acts God has done for his people. It shows his compassion and grace towards his people who haven’t done anything to deserve to be his special people and who constantly rebel and disobey him – just as we do. It teaches us to look forward to the one who can change our hearts so we can have a solution to the problem of sin (although we won’t be perfected until Jesus returns) and it shows God’s unrelenting, never-giving up, unstoppable love for his people – even though they are unable to keep his good law.

We see in Deuteronomy God’s care for the poor, the vulnerable, for animals, and the environment. We see how he isn’t ignorant to the fact that evil exists but that he makes laws to help restrain it and also so that we see the need for something (or someone!) greater than the law to truly fix our hearts.

In Deuteronomy Chapter 31, verse 6, Moses says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them [Canaanites] for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The Israelites had God with them and then generations later in the book of Matthew we met someone whose name means “God with us” – Immanuel – Jesus Christ. God was with the Israelites and God is with us today!

Jesus is the fulfilment of every Old Testament promise and the continuation and fulfilment of God’s great love and grace that he’s been giving his people since before the world began! Do you see God’s grace in Deuteronomy, I hope so!

Republished from Christian Today UK.

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