TRANSFORMATION. Fall 2017/Spring 2018 - Page 10

Beauty of Deuteronomy Mikaela Carrillo Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. (Deut. 30:4) not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:4-5) Regardless of the season of life, I still find it incredibly difficult to stay motivated and disciplined in reading scripture—espe- cially when it comes to the Old Testament. Leviticus? Num- bers? It’s a struggle. Don’t get me wrong—these books are crit- ical to the believer in that they help lay down the foundations upon which the story of our savior is built. They might be dry, but they are certainly not worthless. Nevertheless, if you’re searching for relevance in the Old Testament, for something more than ancient laws and procedures, look no further than Deuteronomy. In contrast to its older, drier brothers, Deuteron- omy finally begins to get to the heart of God's character towards the Israelites, and on a broader level, us. Deuteronomy—a se- ries of sermons given by Moses before the Israelites entered the promised land—reads in certain sections like Paul’s letters in the New Testament, emphasizing God's promise and provision for His people, richly depicting how deeply He loves and is jealous for us, all of which would be reflected in Jesus Christ. Yet, it also reminds us that when we rebel—when we throw God's blessings in His face—we, in turn, miss out on the glorious plans He has for His people. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. (Deut. 4:31) ...Deuteronomy for myself brought me face to face with the context for God's perpetual pursuit of our souls and enduring love for us. This depiction is beautifully crafted in Deuteronomy, and re- flected in the words of Paul in the New Testament. Here are a few verses for comparison: Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you...For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deut. 4:23-24) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace that you have been saved. (Ephes. 2:4-5) Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keep- ing his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deut. 7:9) But when the kindness and love of God our savior appeared, he saved us, 8 Spring 2018 These verses filled me with awe and fear for our Holy God, bringing an intense awareness of both the depth of His love and the "consuming fire" of His jealousy and anger. Despite this anger, despite knowing His people will rebel, He still holds to His covenant with the Israelites, still says He will welcome back His people when they turn from their wicked ways. That's not to say there isn't real, and painful, punishment for turning our backs to God. His anger is not an empty threat. The Israelites can speak to that. What Deuteronomy is getting at is that God is both righteously angry and supremely faithful even when His people are not. God’s love and to a lesser extent His anger are not foreign to the Church, but reading Deuteronomy for myself brought me face to face with the context for God's perpetual pursuit of our souls and enduring love for us. Not the passive, limp love that doesn't face the trials, failures, and faltering status we hold. No, God's love is agape—the Greek word for love that is sacrificial, unconditional, and selfless. It's committed, even when we are not. It's deep, even when we are shallow in our love to Him. It's raw and rough edged, even when we try to present our perfect selves, when we try to hide our realities under the rug. The Israelites messed up badly. And, unfortunately, so do we. God brings punishment upon them—discipline, death, and destruction. Yet even in the midst of sin and death, His love remains for these broken people—his “treasured possession”— and He endlessly pursues generation after generation, ultimate- ly sacrificing His one and only son for their redemption. Deuteronomy then speaks to how we, in turn, should approach the Lord and live our lives under this “covenant of love:” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deut. 6:5-9)