23 November 2016Deuteronomy 31:23-28
“Take this book of the law … ; let it remain as a witness against you.” (v. 26)
Psalm: Psalm 55:16-22
The opening verse has God commissioning Joshua to bring the Israelites into the promised land and assuring Joshua of God's presence. It is an alternative tradition to the account in verses 7-8 of Moses commissioning Joshua.
Verses.24-26 are both like, and unlike, verse 9. Here Moses commands that "this book of the law" (the book of Deuteronomy) that he has written is placed beside the ark of the covenant. Some time later, Deuteronomy became firmly attached to the four books, Genesis to Numbers. The five books together formed what was known as the law, or the teaching. The Israelites assumed the whole law was placed beside the ark.
The ark of the covenant contained the two stone tablets, on which were written the Ten Commandments. They had been given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 10:1-5). The ark was an acacia box overlaid with gold inside and out. The ark was the location of God's holy and invisible presence. The ark led the people on their journeys through the wilderness and later led Israel's armies into battle. Eventually David brought the ark to the newly-conquered Jerusalem and Solomon placed it in the Holy of Holies in the temple.
Moses then commands an assembly so that he can read the book to all the elders and officials. (This is a variation on the story in verses 10-13.) What is distinctive here is that the book of the teaching is a witness against Israel, exposing and challenging their all-too-frequent acts of rebellion and stubbornness in resisting God's will and ways.
- When you look back over your experience of reading the Bible, what are the principal spiritual and emotional themes that have struck you? (You might consider, for example, encouragement, new insights, judgement on yourself, recovery and reconciliation, hope.)
- In your experience, what sort of person or event has brought your congregation to a place of self-criticism, or to the acknowledgement of weakness and failure? Has this experience been welcomed or resisted? Thinking back over one example, how did things change, if at all?
- Preachers are sometimes keen to denounce behaviour and values in the world outside the Church. How do they and Christian members generally avoid hypocrisy and arrogance?