Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
1So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.
2You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.
6You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!"
7For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? 8And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
9But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children.
At the 15th Sunday – and still counting! – after the Festival of the Day of Pentecost, we've journeyed three quarters of the way through the Church's Year of Grace. We're continuing in Revised Common Lectionary Year B with its focus on the gospel according to Mark that's the earliest, shortest account of Jesus' life and ministry. I often call Mark the gospel for the texting and tweeting crowd.
Today we have another passage from Deuteronomy. You may remember we heard a lot of Deuteronomy during Luke's lectionary year C. We recently discussed some of the desert wanderings of God's people Israel from the book of Exodus.
Deuteronomy 4:7 asks, what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? But in Exodus 3 we've discovered a God who hears the cries, sees the pain, heeds the complaints, and is there before anyone thinks to summon God. This is not a new or different God than before; this is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One we meet as the God and Father of Jesus Christ.
Exodus 3:7-8 "I have seen the pain of my people; I have heard their cry; I know their sufferings. I have come down to deliver them and bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey." Similar reminders of God remembering, not forgetting, maintaining the covenant of grace with Abraham continue through the first half of Exodus.
Deuteronomy 4:8 asks what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just, as righteous, as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
What other nation, what country, gathered people, community, assembly, has such a wonderful way of being, way of living, lifestyle, Torah, set of guidelines for living together, for loving the neighbor, for maintaining the common-wealth, for neighborology? We talked about neighborology a lot during Luke's year when we also discussed Jeremiah and Deuteronomy.
Exodus and Deuteronomy refer to the ten commandments of the Sinai Covenant not as statues, ordinances, or commandants, but as words.
At least twice in Exodus, the account of the formation of Israel as a people, God's people / Moses' people who are one and the same, announce "we will do all the words the Lord has spoken." Exodus 19:8; 24:3, 7
Reformer John Calvin insisted "there is no pre-obedience knowledge of God." Reformer Martin Luther began his Small Catechism – traditional preparation for first Holy Communion – with the Commandments. Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann reminds us, "It is the God of the Commandments with Whom we commune."
Continuing Sunday's discussion: backtracking to our recent five weeks of John 6 along with hearing about manna and quail from heaven, water from the rock in Exodus, we constantly receive signs or evidence of God's presence. These signs or symbols include bread and wine of holy communion; waters of baptism. Signs or symbols of God's nearness include the commandments that share God's attributes of holiness, righteousness, justice for the neighbor. Signs of God's presence include us, the contemporary people of God, wherever we go...