Monday, May 30, 2016

Deuteronomy: a book of looking back and moving forward

Deuteronomy is Moses given the people of Israel his last instructions before they enter the Promised Land. He goes over the law that were put forth in Leviticus and Numbers. There are many people who don’t read Deuteronomy because it is a boring old book that reiterates the Laws of Moses. It is true that many of the verses in Deuteronomy are reflected elsewhere in the law. There are three verses which stood out to me as significant given our societal climate. Verses about devotion to God, our relationships with others, and our roles in our lives and in our society.

First, in Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This verse is the same one that Jesus told the Sadducees and the Pharisees when they tried to test him in the law. They had asked him what was the greatest commandment in the Law. (Matthew 22:36). In Matthew 22:37-38, Jesus replied, “’Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” First, I noticed that in Deuteronomy, it is commanded to love God with all one’s heart, soul and strength and in Matthew, Jesus says with all one’s heart, soul and mind. The changing of the word could be a mistranslation but I feel the message is still there. We are to love God with everything we have. Every ounce of who we are should be used to love God. Many believers’ devotions are split between God, family, friends and their personal desires. It is hard to devote everything you are to God and it is a constant struggle for me. It is one of the main reasons I’m reading and blogging about the books of the Bible as I am. We live in a society in which we are being pulled in so many different directions that we often lose our way.

Second, Deuteronomy 13:6-8 caught my eye for a particular reason. Last month, Kirk Cameron came out and said that “Wives are to honor and respect and follow their husband's lead, not to tell their husband how he ought to be a better husband. When each person gets their part right, regardless of how their spouse is treating them, there is hope for real change in their marriage." Of course this statement caused an uproar. While I’m not going to argue his statement, Deuteronomy 13:6-8 stuck out as I read with Mr. Cameron’s statement in my mind. The verse says “If your very own brother, or your son or your daughter, or the wife [or husband] you love, or your closet friend secretly entices you, saying ‘Let us go and worship other gods,’ do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him.” Mr. Cameron’s statement makes it seems that wives are to follow their husbands blindly because “he said so” mentality. I don’t know if this statement as been taken out of context and I don’t agree with many of his statements. Deuteronomy 13:6-8 clearly states that anyone who tries to lure you away from your relationship with God, you are not to follow. Do not let the love of your family and friends tear you away from your devotion to God.

Third, Deuteronomy 22:5 stuck out at me during my reading as it reflects recent events in our society. The verse states “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” Does this mean that women can’t wear pants or men wear skirts? As some churches do interpret the verse this way, it may not be necessarily the case. It is not a statement on the actually clothing. It is a statement about women wanting to be men and vice versa. It has been interpreting as women should not be in battle or be in a position of authority which is ridiculous as anyone who has read Judges knows that Deborah, one of the greatest judges, lead the Israelites into battle. I will discuss Deborah at length later. I think this verse is more as a guide to make sure everyone has a role to fulfill or a job to do. I have seen this verse being used as a reason to hate transgender individuals. As I have my own opinions and thoughts about transgender individuals, I think using this verse as a reason to hate an individual is extremely wrong. I’m still reminding of Matthew 22:39 after Jesus has said what the greatest commandment was. He said the second greatest commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.” I am commanded to love everyone as I love myself. I am not commended to hate or condemn. I am commanded to treat others as I want to be treated, everything else is between the individual and God.

In conclusion, Deuteronomy is a book of looking back while the Israelites were moving forward to the Promise Land. It is Moses’ last message to the people as he neared the end of his life and someone was ready to become their new leader. It is a book of remembrance and reminders of God’s law. The three verses I discussed stood out to me as devotion to God should always be a main priority for any believer. And beware if anyone, regardless of who they are, tries to stir you away from your devotion. Lastly, using a single verse as a reason to hate is wrong. We seem to forget that Christ came to fulfill the law and when he did so, these verses are more a lesson rather a rule. Whenever someone tries to apply a verse as a reason for anything, think long and hard about the verse and what it is trying to tell us. Take in the cultural significance of the time. Always ask God for guidance.

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