March 16, 2015

Deuteronomy 32-34  - The Song
Listen, Heavens, I have something to tell you.  Attention, Earth, I’ve got a mouth full of words.  My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain, my words arrive like morning dew, Like a sprinkling rain on new grass, like spring showers on the garden. For it’s God’s Name I’m preaching—respond to the greatness of our God!  The Rock: His works are perfect, and the way he works is fair and just:  A God you can depend upon, no exceptions, a straight-arrow God.  His messed-up, mixed-up children, his non-children, throw mud at him but none of it sticks.

Don’t you realize it is God you are treating like this?  This is crazy; don’t you have any sense of reverence? Isn’t this your father who created you, who made you and gave you a place on Earth?  Read up on what happened before you were born;  dig into the past, understand your roots.  Ask your parents what it was like before you were born; ask the old-ones, they’ll tell you a thing or two.

When the High God gave the nations their stake, gave them their place on Earth,  He put each of the peoples within boundaries under the care of divine guardians.  But God himself took charge of his people, took Jacob on as his personal concern.

He found him out in the wilderness, in an empty, windswept wasteland.  He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him, guarding him as the apple of his eye.  He was like an eagle hovering over its nest, overshadowing its young,  Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air, teaching them to fly.  God alone led him;  there was not a foreign god in sight.  God lifted him onto the hilltops, so he could feast on the crops in the fields.  He fed him honey from the rock, oil from granite crags, Curds of cattle and the milk of sheep, the choice cuts of lambs and goats,  Fine Bashan rams, high-quality wheat, and the blood of grapes: you drank good wine!

Jeshurun put on weight and bucked; you got fat, became obese, a tub of lard.  He abandoned the God who made him, he mocked the Rock of his salvation.  They made him jealous with their foreign newfangled gods, and with obscenities they vexed him no end. They sacrificed to no-god demons, gods they knew nothing about,  The latest in gods, fresh from the market, gods your ancestors would never call “gods.”  You walked out on the Rock who gave you your life, forgot the birth-God who brought you into the world.

God saw it and turned on his heel, angered and hurt by his sons and daughters.  He said, “From now on I’m looking the other way.  Wait and see what happens to them.  Oh, they’re a turned-around, upside-down generation!  Who knows what they’ll do from one moment to the next?  They’ve goaded me with their no-gods, infuriated me with their hot-air gods; I’m going to goad them with a no-people, with a hollow nation incense them.  My anger started a fire, a wildfire burning deep down in Sheol, Then shooting up and devouring the Earth and its crops, setting all the mountains, from bottom to top, on fire. I’ll pile catastrophes on them. I’ll shoot my arrows at them:  Starvation, blistering heat, killing disease; I’ll send snarling wild animals to attack from the forest and venomous creatures to strike from the dust. Killing in the streets, terror in the houses, Young men and virgins alike struck down, and yes, breast-feeding babies and gray-haired old men.”

I could have said, “I’ll hack them to pieces, wipe out all trace of them from the Earth,” Except that I feared the enemy would grab the chance to take credit for all of it, Crowing, “Look what we did!  God had nothing to do with this.”
 
They are a nation of ninnies, they don’t know enough to come in out of the rain. If they had any sense at all, they’d know this; they would see what’s coming down the road.  How could one soldier chase a thousand enemies off, or two men run off two thousand, Unless their Rock had sold them, unless God had given them away?  For their rock is nothing compared to our Rock; even our enemies say that. They’re a vine that comes right out of Sodom, who they are is rooted in Gomorrah; Their grapes are poison grapes, their grape-clusters bitter. Their wine is rattlesnake venom, mixed with lethal cobra poison.

Don’t you realize that I have my shelves well stocked, locked behind iron doors?  I’m in charge of vengeance and payback, just waiting for them to slip up;  And the day of their doom is just around the corner, sudden and swift and sure.

Yes, God will judge his people, but oh how compassionately he’ll do it.  When he sees their weakened plight and there is no one left, slave or free, He’ll say, “So where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge, The gods who feasted on the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink-offerings?  Let them show their stuff and help you, let them give you a hand!

“Do you see it now? Do you see that I’m the one?  Do you see that there’s no other god beside me?  I bring death and I give life, I wound and I heal—there is no getting away from or around me! I raise my hand in solemn oath;  I say, ‘I’m always around. By that very life I promise:  When I sharpen my lightning sword and execute judgment, I take vengeance on my enemies and pay back those who hate me.  I’ll make my arrows drunk with blood, my sword will gorge itself on flesh, Feasting on slain and captive alike, the proud and vain enemy corpses.’”

Celebrate, nations, join the praise of his people. He avenges the deaths of his servants, Pays back his enemies with vengeance, and cleanses his land for his people.

Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua son of Nun. When Moses had finished saying all these words to all Israel, he said, “Take to heart all these words to which I give witness today and urgently command your children to put them into practice, every single word of this Revelation. Yes. This is no small matter for you; it’s your life. In keeping this word you’ll have a good and long life in this land that you’re crossing the Jordan to possess.”

That same day God spoke to Moses: “Climb the Abarim Mountains to Mount Nebo in the land of Moab, overlooking Jericho, and view the land of Canaan that I’m giving the People of Israel to have and hold. Die on the mountain that you climb and join your people in the ground, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and joined his people. “This is because you broke faith with me in the company of the People of Israel at the Waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin—you didn’t honor my Holy Presence in the company of the People of Israel. You’ll look at the land spread out before you but you won’t enter it, this land that I am giving to the People of Israel.”

Galatians 5 - Christ has set us free to live a free life.  so take your stand!  Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you....I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.  I would suspect you would never intend this but this is what happens.  When you  attempt to live your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace...For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything.  What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love...

It is obviously clear that God has called you to a free life.  Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom.  Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love, that’s how freedom grows.  For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence.  Love others as you love yourself.  That’s an act of freedom...

My counsel is this:  Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.  Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.  For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness...

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time:  repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat  competition; all-consuming-yet-never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided home and divided lives; small minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community, I could go on...

But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard--things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense  of compassion in the heart, and conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely...

Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is off for good---crucified

Each of us is an original