Deuteronomy 4:1-49; Luke 6:39-7:10; Psalm 68:1-18; Proverbs 11:28
A way out. Even before there's a way in, God provides a way out. We saw this in the beginning chapters of Genesis, we'll see it in the future with Solomon and the temple, and we see it again in today's reading.
It's almost P-Day, Promised Land Day. The older generation has died out; the new nation of Israel has had some spectacular successes in recent military battles; they're camped on the edge of the land. Moses delivers his final sermon. The initial three chapters, along with the first half of chapter 4, are a history lesson, reminding the nation of the past forty years. Then, starting in verse 23, Moses looks forward: "Be careful not to forget the covenant..." Moses knows - Moses has seen, time and again - that the fledgling nation will be susceptible to idol-making. They will be tempted to wander away from the one true God. And Moses wants the people to understand what the consequences of such idolatry will be: "You will not live there long....The Lord will scatter you...only a few of you will survive..." (Dt. 4:26-27). If the nation forgets their portion of the covenant, the logical consequences of death and exile will come into play. Clearly, the best possible course would be to keep the covenant, avoiding the suffering entirely. But God knows the human potential for self-destruction. And so he provides a plan for redemption.
"If from there [that is, exile] you seek the Lord your God, you will find him....for the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers..." (Dt. 4:29, 31). The way back to God is already in place, already set. How good God is to provide an "opt-back-in" clause! There is no sin so great that God cannot call his people back from it, no damage so severe that God cannot breach it, no self-implosion that God cannot restore. Hallelujah!
As we move toward Easter, I'm glad for this reminder. Even in the darkest hours of sin and despair (our own or our loved ones'), God has a path of healing open for us all. For the nation of Israel, it was offered through repentance in exile. For us, it is offered again and again through the work that Jesus did for us on the cross, saving us from our sin and selfishness. And it is always available, always open, always ready.
Praise be to God!
- Sarah Marsh
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