Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sum_thin' Bibluh-kal

18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20

I find this portion of Deuteronomy to be worth reflecting on because it is a strong reminder of the purpose of Bible study. While I am not in a position to speak about the devotional life of contemporary Christianity (nor do I want to), I will be bold to say that this pericope could prove to be a fitting corrective for many who take the devotional life seriously (even I could learn something from it).

Once brought into office, the king was to write out the law. Whether this means Deuteronomy or the whole Pentateuch, I don't know, but the point remains: the law of God defines your kingly office; The word of God is above you and has authority over you. And not only will the king note the law, but he will know the law as well (wow, this sounds like a sermon outline). Day after day, the king will burn this law into his retinas. And for what?? Simply put: revere God, be obedient, and be humble. What blows the mind is that these three effects can not be separated from one another. How can a person grow in reverance to God and not be obedient or show humility to others? James condemns that idea. Or can one accurately be humble toward others while actively slandering God by their actions? This type of Bible study was to result in obedience to the two greatest commandments: love for God and for others. The king of Israel was to act out the law perfectly by having God's transforming word continually in his view, so that he could echo the praises of God in Psalm 119--

12 Praise be to you, O LORD;teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

If I may, I would like to single out one aspect of my own experience that fits in well with this topic. I was engaged in an intense study of Numbers for a class on the Old Testament. Throughout the book of Numbers, Israel bats 1.000 when it comes to blowing it with God: rebellion, complaining, apostasy, idolatry, etc. And time after time God brings in the big stick of wrath and punishes the evildoers. Now, having grown up in the church, stories of God's wrath weren't unusual to me. Yet, reading over these stories for myself made me pause. These stories are depressing! After some time and time, I came to two conclusions about these stories: 1) God was having some major mood swings, so He frequently overreacted. So He may have judged a lot, but He apologized soon afterwards; or 2) Sin is terribly evil and offensive to God, and Israel were getting what they deserved. As much as I didn't like it, option #2 rang true. However, it wasn't until a few weeks later that the truth of God's hatred for sin came home to me. I saw myself deserving only fire from heaven and for the earth to open and swallow me. I finally saw that I was no better than the wicked, faithless people of Israel. And there I was, laying in bed, being given breath after breath, and not being utterly destroyed by God's righteous wrath. If God's boot would have come down on me at that moment, or any other moment in my Godless existence, God would have been right to do so. It is in those moments of surrender, of a damned felon who begs with a dead heart for life, that the cross creates a new being, a new goal, a new conception of the world. God is supreme, and everything of Him is worth giving one's life for. Loving one's neighbor is effortless because the greatest effort was given on my behalf. Obedience is a joy because perfect obedience was carried out with joy--even to death.

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