18 November 2016Deuteronomy 26:16-19
“Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments.” (v. 18)
Psalm: Psalm 52
Today's passage spells out more clearly that the relationship between God and God's own people is a two-way one. It starts with God's initiative, God's grace, for God has agreed to be their God (verse 17). For the Israelites, who have gone through such hardships to get to the threshold of reaching the Promised Land, this is an important offer. They are about to encounter many other people already living in the same land, who worship local gods. They know there will be conflict ahead as they try to establish themselves in this new place, and to know that the powerful God, who freed them from slavery in Egypt, who parted the waters of the Red Sea and who led them through the wilderness, is on their side and will walk with them in the difficulties, challenges and even battles that lie ahead, is both important and reassuring. Without such support their quest will surely be doomed to failure.
However in return, their part of the deal is manifest in a command to observe the laws - "statutes and ordinances" (v. 16) - that God has given them in order to live a good and holy life. To do so requires total commitment; it will require the use of all their heart and soul (verse 16). They are commanded to obey. Just as the Ten Commandments command children to obey their father and their mother as a sign of their love (Exodus 20:12), so too are the people of God to show their love by obeying the law that has been given to them.
This relationship has the sense of a formal legal contract. An agreement has been "obtained" from the Lord (v. 17) and in return God has obtained the people's agreement. There are expectations placed on both parties to the agreement, but there are also potential gains for both as well if the deal works as intended. For the Israelites, they will become "high above all nations" (v. 19), just what they want to hear as they begin their encounters with other more established nations, whilst God receives reflected glory and praise from the "people holy to the Lord your God" (v. 19).
- Other than in sports competitions, the suggestion of one nation being "high above all nations" (v. 19) can cause uneasiness. How do we reconcile the promise of God with our desire for fairness and justice for all people?
- What does it mean for someone in the Church today to obey the "statutes and ordinances" (v. 16) and how should we manage diversity of views?
- Consider your own relationship with God and what commitments you are prepared to make in response to God's grace.