19 November 2019

Deuteronomy 4:32-40

“So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (v. 39)

Psalm: Psalm 107:17-32


As King Josiah pushes through his religious reforms (2 Kings 22-23), he uses the newly found "book of the law" to underline that the laws described by Moses are given by a God who has no comparison. His people may consider there to be many gods worthy of worship, but it was the God of the Israelites "who created human beings on earth" (v. 32), who spoke through the fire of the burning bush (Exodus 3) and the thunder and lightning of the smoking mountain when he gave them the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), and who liberated a nation enslaved by another, leading the Israelites from Egypt to the edge of Canaan. The retelling of the traditional stories of a God who performs great feats and delivers his people to a Promised Land provides legitimacy for the laws that will now need to be obeyed. These are the laws of the one God; there is no other god to turn to for an alternative code.

However, the law stems from the relationship between God and God's own people that is founded on the love God has for their ancestors (verse 37). It is this love which then leads God to stick by their descendants and help them to overcome times of great difficulty. For being God's people doesn't necessarily mean that they will be a great world power or have an easy time. They will be faced by greater and mightier nations (verse 38). And in these situations they cannot rely on their own strength to overcome the problems they will face. It's the power of God that will help them to prevail (verses 37-38).

The people now need to accept that the God who has helped them and travelled with them to this place, wants the people to thrive in the land they will now settle in. The way to do this is to establish a rule for living that all can and should abide by. It may be a paternalistic approach, but God wants to ensure the wellbeing of the people and it is through abiding by these statutes and commandments that they may "long remain in the land" (v. 40).

To Ponder:

  • Do the traditions of the Church and the retelling of ancient stories help give a foundation to your faith or do you find them unhelpful? Think of a few examples that help or hinder.
  • How has God been present for you during difficult times in your life? Pray for those who you know who are currently facing hardship, that they might know God's love.
  • The promise of a land given by God "for all time" (v. 40) is at the heart of the problems in Israel/Palestine. Pray for all peoples living in that land, and for a peaceful and just solution to the conflict.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member the BMA Council and is chair of the BMA's GP committee.

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