I think I know why liberal theologians don’t like Deuteronomy: it’s way too black and white for anyone who’d like a heaping portion of gray for their religion. Without a doubt, the book of Deuteronomy draws a clear line in the sand about expectations and consequences. There’s nothing vague about it.
Our reading today begins (in chapter 28) with the blessings of Mt. Gerizim and an “expanded version” of the curses of Mt. Ebal. The essence of it boils down to this simple equation: obedience = blessings. Now, He wasn’t trying to set up a works theology here, but God was trying to impress upon Israel (and us) the linkage between sin and death, deed and consequence, obedience and blessing. It’s a simple linkage, but we often find ourselves motivated to ignore the connections — and that’s a serious mistake, because the consequences don’t go away just because we’ve stuck our heads in the sand. God’s way has always borne blessings; it comes out of His very generous love towards us that seeks our best interests. Far from God being the “Cosmic Killjoy”, the truth is that Satan and sin are! They result in death, they result in pain and suffering, they end in curses. As just one example: “Family” done God’s way leads to the wonderful blessings that “family” done any other way will never know.
Sadly, Israel still was a little hard-hearted or blind about to these things. Deut. 29:4 declares Israel to still be blind, deaf, and thick-between-the-ears. To paraphrase,
“Do you really think that the clothes of other people don’t wear out? Yours haven’t. Did you think that shoes last forever? Yours have. What did you think was happening? Did you think that the whole world goes out every morning to pick up manna? Well, they don’t. Do you think that everyone who wanders through the desert finds plenty of water to drink? Think again.”
And, by the way, if you’ve been a Christian for a while (maybe all your life), be sure not to miss the similar blessings that you enjoy. Do we think that husbands and wives just naturally behave themselves? They don’t. Are you horrified sometimes at the things that you see on the news or on TV shows and think, “I’m glad that things like that only happen rarely or only on TV”? In many cases, they happen a lot, to a lot of people, who don’t know the Lord. The truth is that we are often living in a bit of a sheltered world, sheltered by the things that the Lord has commanded, that we and our family have obeyed — and we don’t even recognize it.
We’re not that good, folks.
Lastly, in Deut. 30:11-14 we find a passage that Paul quotes in Romans as he uses the concept of how accessible God’s law is, in order to talk about faith in Christ. But to see this passage in its original context is especially excuse-altering. God is saying here that this law that He is giving isn’t rocket-science, you don’t have to be a genius to understand it — anybody can. It isn’t knowledge that must be retrieved from a far land (like, for example, the Gentiles would have to). No one had to journey to the Heaven of God to obtain the golden oracles (like the Gentile mythologies sometimes did). He’s laid it out very clearly in black and white, life and death, prosperity and adversity terms. All that’s left is to do it. So…
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.