A prescription accompanied by a description – Wednesday, 3rd Week of Lent – Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9/ Matthew 5:17-19
If you read the Bible and cover the story of the people of Israel right up to the time of Jesus you will readily condemn the fickle and disobedient people of Israel and even feel a sense of ‘sorrow’ for their loving God. But why stop at the time of Jesus, humankind has changed little and has ‘forgotten the wonders of God that they have seen. They have let it slip from their minds and have failed to pass on this message to their children and their children’s children.’ (Verse 9)
The narrative of today takes us to point where Israel as a nation is poised to exit the desert, depart from the land of a king who seeks their death, and enter a land flowing with milk and honey, where rain falls from the sky. God wants Israel to attack a strong nation and to push them out of the Promised Land.
It is at this pivotal moment that Moses communicates to the people the statutes and ordinances of God that they are to observe in the land they will soon occupy. Clearly, God does not get into a negotiation with the people of Israel. They don’t have a ‘healthy debate’ over which statutes and ordinances they are to follow nor are these up for subjective interpretation.
Today, there is too much discussion about the subjective interpretations of God’s commandments. There is a growing clamour for the Church to keep up ‘with the times.’ It must be said and said clearly, the commandments of God are timeless; they are for all generations and peoples. G.K Chesterton once said, “I don’t want a church that moves with the world, I want a Church that moves the world.”
In the text of today, God clearly tells his people that the law he gives them must be observed diligently. This word ‘diligently’ is opposed to casually or even worse, indifferently. Central to the word diligent, is one’s effort that has to be put in. Commandments are not easy to keep, it requires effort on our part and God makes no bones about this to his people. But keeping his commandments diligently is not some choice given to the people of Israel for God says, “you MUST observe them diligently.” (4:6). There is a prescription accompanied by a description.
Diligent observance of God’s laws makes other sit up and take notice. Remember, keeping God’s commandments is hard work and this struggle to keep God’s commandments is a universal fact. It is easier to give up and give in but when someone goes against the grain, goes against the tide, it draws the world to ask, ‘how does he or she do it?’
Christians must be the exception not the norm. By its very nature, Christianity is counter cultural; the values of Christ stand in direct opposition to the values of the world but sadly when Christians do not live these commandments the world does not and will not sit up and say, “this is a great people that are wise and discerning” (4:6). It is ironic that we want to appear good to the world rather than be a good before God.
Finally, God reminds his people to “take care and watch themselves closely.” They were asked not to “forget the things their eyes saw or let them slip from their minds.” God commands the people to make known his commandments ‘to their children and their children’s children.’ (4:9). Satan’s great strategies is to make us remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember.