It has taken me a while to finish up Deuteronomy, but alas it has drawn to a close. Deuteronomy is the final leg of Israels journey to the promise land, and the final instructions of the covenant between God and Israel, and the death of Moses.
The overwhelming message of Deuteronomy is OBEY. God outlines how to worship Him and treat others, the festivals to observe and why, harvesting, tithing, debts, and slaves. God clearly explains the blessings that will come for obedience as well as the curses for disobedience.
As I reflect on what I read there is a whole lot to chew on, and at first it seems disjointed...
All the festivals (well not all, but 3 of the 7) that God wanted His children to observe... Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread was to be observed yearly so they would remember the saving of their first born sons and their flight out of Egypt. The Festival of Harvest was to be celebrated 7 weeks after the first harvest as a way to remember and thank God for the bounty of the crops. The Festival of Shelters was to be celebrated at the end of the harvest "after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed", it was to be a happy time of celebration, for "it is He who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work." These festivals were a call to remember and thank God, as well as remember where you had come from.
Deuteronomy 28... I had only known this chapter for the proclamation of blessings, but the whole second half (or more) of this chapter spells out the curses of disobedience. Just before I read this chapter, I happened to be reading Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Rob Bell gives a brief synopsis of the rise of King Solomon and how Solomon begins dishonoring the covenant with God, and then what happens to the nation of Israel because of this disobedience. Now turn back to the second half of Deut. 28, de ja vu...everything that I just read was foretold "you will attack enemies in one directions, but you will scatter from them in seven." The Lord will exile you and your king to a nation unknown to you and your ancestors. There in exile you will worship gods of wood and stone."
Now I am not surprised that God could foretell this, it's just amazing to me that I happened to read about this event taking place before I read its foretelling... it made so much more sense to me... And it brings all of Deuteronomy together. Here God is telling His people again and again to remember and obey. He has them observe festivals yearly as a way to continually remember what He has done for them, where they came from. Having read the Solomon part first, it brought a whole new tone to this reoccurring theme of obey; instead of hearing the dictatorship tone of "you must obey!" I could hear the heartbreaking tone of a God that so loves His people and is pleading with them to just obey, take heed, listen, to not loose sight of their God, even though He knows they will.
In the end, before he is shown the beauty of the land promised to his ancestors - a land he will never enter, Moses is told that Israel will take the path of disobedience, he still gives his final blessing to the people...
"There is no one like the God of Israel.
He rides across the heavens to help you,
across the skies in majestic splendor.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and his everlasting arms are under you...
How blessed you are, O Israel!
Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord?"