Monday 14 November 2016

Bible Book:

“So now, Israel, give head to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord the God of your ancestors is giving you.” (v. 1)

Deuteronomy 4:1-14 Monday 14 November 2016

Psalm: Psalm 48


The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Law, thelast of the five books of Moses or Pentateuch. It is written as ifMoses is speaking to the Israelites as they prepare to enter thePromised Land, with Moses giving them detailed instructions andlaws which they must obey as citizens of this new land to which Godhad led them. It's likely, however, that this book is the same"book of the law" found by the high priest in the temple during thereign of King Josiah around 621BC (2Kings 22:8).

Josiah led a religious transformation that included centring onone legitimate way of worship that focused on the temple and purgedthe wider indigenous religious rituals and beliefs. Having a bookthat was said to be written by Moses and containing his speecheshelped to legitimise these reforms and changes. Therefore, thedestruction of "all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah" and theremoval of the "idolatrous priests" (2Kings 23:4-5) are carried out because of the words of Moses inthe newly "found" book of the law highlighting how "the Lord yourGod destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal ofPeor" (v. 3). There was now, only space for one God and onereligious practice.

The system of law in itself was seen to be a mark of a civilisedpeople. This sophistication was said to impress those alreadyliving in the land to which the Israelites were soon to go and ledthem to consider their new neighbours "wise and discerning people"(v. 6).

It was also important to ensure that what was learnt by thosefirst hearing the law would be passed on to "your children and yourchildren's children" (v. 9). If laws are to be kept, they need tobe repeated regularly and taught to each successive generation,with the use of salvation stories to underline their authority andimportance.

To Ponder

  • Observing the law diligently shows your "wisdom anddiscernment" (v. 6). Is that always the case?
  • The Deuteronomic code had no place for alternative religiouspractices. How does that sit with our inter-faith dialoguetoday?
  • How important is it for us to teach our religious traditions toour children and our grandchildren? And how best might we doso? 
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