I’ve finished Deuteronomy, and I continue to enjoy reading these books that I previously found to be quite boring. Deuteronomy is like a speech written to the people of God as they prepare to enter the promised land. In some ways I find it inspirational, as it discusses how God’s blessing will be poured out on his people if they obey all that God has commanded them through Moses to do. But in some ways it can be depressing, because Moses, the Lord, and I all know that Israel will choose wickedness over obedience.
So I wonder, why does God lay out all these blessings that will come with obedience if he knows that Israel cannot (or will not?) meet these expectations? It can feel like trickery to me, or like a fake promise that a parent gives a kid. “I will buy you whatever you want at the circus if you don’t fight with your sister at all this week.” Well, if you know that your kids will fight, then it isn’t much of a promise. But I don’t think the God I know and love is trying to trick his people. I think he just wants to give them a fair chance, and He wants them to know that they do have a choice to make. He also wants to point us readers to the need for grace and mercy, to the need for forgiveness through Jesus. We can’t do it alone.
One final note on Deuteronomy–the Shema. “Hear, O Israel” or “Listen, O Israel.” As far as I understand it, this isn’t just about hearing words, but responding as well. Deuteronomy 6:4 calls us all, as God’s people, to Listen as God speaks to us and to obey. This isn’t simply a text for past generations, it is a text for all of us. It isn’t just part of the list of God’s hundreds of laws in the Torah, it is a central message for people of faith to heed.