Deuteronomy 18

We’re laying the ground rules for Israelite society. Last chapter law and government, now religion.

The priests are to be supported and honoured as full time ministers. They have no land, God is their inheritance. And prophets will continue Moses’ role of speaking the words of God.

This is compared to the occult practises already rampant in the land, and there is reference to why they are so detestable, child sacrifices etc. 

They have the voice of God, they don’t need to consult the dead or search for truth by elaborate divination rituals. 

Deuteronomy 6

Moses gives and elaborates on the commandment that Jesus would say is the greatest and contains all the law, love the lord your God with all your heart. 

He elaborates on it in a way that does not read like a sermon, but rather a heartfelt plea. His fear is the same as previous chapters, that they will forget because they will be so prosperous and comfortable. 

The irony that God’s grace and provision will be the cause of them forgetting is not lost on him, as they occupy large flourishing cities they did not build.

He pleads with them to remember the slavery that God rescued them from, and going forward to only love that God. 

Picking though all the rules, some of which are ridiculously culturally specific, this one has a giant arrow pointing to a huge red flag as a keeper.

Daily, please father let my heart overflow with love for you, remember your goodness, from every cup of coffee to every sunset and keep you as the only lord of my life.

Deuteronomy 1

The Torah… These multiple books about the law and the journey to Egypt… are a bit like watching CNN cover a big story. Not enough happens for 24 hour news coverage, but they can’t talk about anything else, so they get repetitious.

This book is named for the “words of Moses”. And sure enough in this chapter, he is speaking, telling the same events from his perspective. We are still in the desert, wandering, as we were in exodus, Leviticus and numbers. 

But I need to be Zen about it, if that is not heretical. 

Moses talked conversationally with God. He is a leader of great humility and clarity. His words will reveal God’s mind, as he tells his perspective of the events. 

I must not be impatient, a 21st century man surfing all the world’s knowledge on multiple screens, restlessly bored with a nano second attention span, disappointed that none of the “child celebrities – where are they now” went anywhere interesting.

God is unchanging, he is the creator, he is love, this is his mind. His mind.

So Moses fairly dispassionately talks though the flight from Egypt, the way God led them and how the people lost trust in God and wanted to be back in slavery. 

I hadn’t had the sense so much in the previous telling that they tried to regain the mission after God said only their children would see the promised land. They tried to take the land by military force without God’s help and were defeated. Stuck with the thing they wished for.

Jonah’s futility, you can’t escape God. 

So bless me father as I read this. It’s not a duty, it’s a joy to have your word. Give me the right mind to hear it, like Moses. 

Exodus 33

The people must have been traumatised after the false gods experience, then the killing and now with Moses back he negotiates with God about whether the whole enterprise will continue. God says they can have the promised land, but he will not be present with them. It only seems reasonable as they are a landless people right now.

It’s an exodus scene I wasn’t aware of before. Pre- tabernacle Moses has a tent of meeting, he goes and talks to God like a “friend”. The pillar of cloud rests the as he does so and all the people stand at the mouth of their tents and watch him, worshipping.

Moses pleads with God to stay with them, and in relenting, God decides to show Moses his glory. He can’t look directly at god’s face, only his back.

Contemplating how extraordinary was Moses’ relationship with God, I start to realise ours is better. We have Jesus’ face to contemplate, and his indwelling spirit to meet and chat anywhere we happen to be.

If I plead with God, it will be over my son’s mental issues. Can’t he gave a happy life?

Exodus 28

The priestly garments. Emphasise quality: gold, linen, rich colours. Evokes the holiness of God. 

Also representative. The names of the 12 tribes are engraved in precious stones attached on a breast plate. The chosenness of the people.

And wisdom. The garments and paraphernalia have symbolic help with decision making built in. The sense of guidance and of truth.

 

Exodus 20

The ten commandments. They are said by God directly to all the people. They freak them out and they tell Moses to go further up into the mountain and hear more. 

I was stuck by the first… It’s more a final summary of what God has been telling them since the burning bush. There are no other god’s but him. It’s the first four really, they flow as a logical consequence of what has just happened.

And i was stuck by covetousness. I mean murder, adultery, dishonour of parents. They happen.

But coveting. It’s casual and constant in a way that the others aren’t. We treat it less like sin. whole economies and societies, even theologies and careers, are built on coveting.

The easy enemy of coveting is contentment. It’s a powerful, releasing word to just say to yourself sometimes in my opinion.

Exodus 14

The stunning victories of God over the Egyptians. God hardens their hearts and they pursue the Israelites despite all the clear messages of the power of God above their gods.

God makes it dark, he jams the wheels of their chariots. He leads the chase a though a sea which is a wall of water for the Israelites’ and downs the Egyptians.

They are told to stop running, virtually baiting the Egyptians to come and try to get them back. But the plagues haven’t convinced the Israelites of god’s power. Keith green seized on this as a metaphor. They wanna go back to slavery, to Egypt. They are terrified when the Egyptians pursue them.

It’s worth remembering when i lose yet another argument with an atheist. You would think the Israelites would be the strongest believers ever, but they constantly question Gods power.

Exodus 10

Never underestimate how wrong people can be. Locusts, darkness for 3 days you can feel. Pharaoh is giving ground but both know it’s not about just going away to worship God for three days, it’s leaving with everything. 

So Pharaoh allows the men to go. No, women and children too. So then he allows everyone to go, but not take livestock. Nup.

Everything is 3 days, notice that? 

It’s god hardening Pharaoh’s heart this chapter, that his mightiness may be known. I don’t really understand: do we need god’s help to be greedy?

Ends ominously, Pharaoh is sick of Moses, sends him away and doesn’t want to ever see him again. “You won’t”, says Moses.

Sometimes God doesn’t just speak, he yells.  

Exodus 8

Plagues are in full swing now. 

Frogs. To demonstrate the lord’s power Moses accurately commands them to die first in the houses, then in the river. But the magicians can copy and pharaoh isn’t impressed.

Gnats. The magicians can’t copy that one and say it is the “finger of God”. Pharaoh doesn’t listen.

Flies. They cover everywhere except where the Israelites are. Pharaoh finally relents… A little… Offers a compromise deal: they’ve been asking for 3 days worship time in the desert. He offers it locally. Moses sticks to the request. They do a deal. He calls off the flies. Pharaoh renigs.

It’s not just Pharaoh who is learning about God here, his power his persistence, its Moses. He must be getting much better at taking to Pharaoh. He’s learning that God never gives up.

Exodus 4

Don’t want to be chosen.

I remember C S Lewis’ autobiography talking about being dragged “kicking and screaming” into the kingdom.

It’s hard to demand your people’s freedom from the ruler who came up with the male infanticide policy, and threaten to kill his first born. Moses has run away from a life of unique privilege because he fears he may be killed for his rash murder of an abusive Egyptian he came upon.

He’s given magical signs to show he is speaking with power. But he still doesnt want to speak to the Pharaoh.

God says memorably “who gave human beings Thier mouths” and burns with anger at his chosen.

And puts in place a plan B, to use his brother Aaron as mouthpiece.

On the journey back to Egypt, God seems to test the family is loyal to him, even though zipporah, Moses’ wife, is not an Israelite. She gets the gist the way women seem to and circumscises her first baby son.

The people, when he arrives, worship God for sending a solution, albeit a flawed one, to their slavery and persecution.