Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Deuteronomy 8:1-10:22


None of us is sui generis. We do not give birth to ourselves.

Neither are we self-sustaining. We may work for our food, but it still comes to us from outside of ourselves. If I eat an apple, I owe it to the greengrocer who sold it to me, to the farmer who grew it, to the tree that produced it, to the earth that sustained the tree, and ultimately, because I believe, I owe it to God in whom all things exist.

You don't have to believe in God, though, to recognize your dependance upon something beyond yourself. That recognition leads me to a sense of humility, and gratitude, and a desire to share my abundance with my neighbors in need.

It only takes a little thought realize that we are neither self-made nor self-sustaining. But how often do any of us give even that little thought? The truth is, with a plate of food before me and a warm, dry place to eat it I get complacent. I feel self-satisfied. My mind doesn't turn naturally to thoughts of God or my neighbor.

That is why I pause before I eat to say grace. It is less that God needs thanks than I need reminded.

Remembering is a great theme of Deuteronomy. In chapter 8 the Israelites are told to remember their exodus. For 40 years in the wilderness God humbled and tested them. God provided for them and sustained them. Verse 4 gives us  new details: their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. Though we haven't heard this before, it will come up again later in Deuteronomy and in Nehemiah.

YHWH is said to discipline Israel like a parent disciplining a child. This puts a positive spin on some of the trials that YHWH inflicted upon Israel, though to our modern sensibilities it may  make YWHW seem to be a child abuser. I'm pretty sure that child-rearing practices were different in biblical times. (Proverbs 13:24 anyone?)

But mostly chapter 8 is a reminder that, when the Israelites move into Canaan, when they have food on their plate and a warm, dry place to eat they shouldn't get complacent. They shouldn't feel self-satisfied. They should remember God's providence.

That theme continues in Chapter 9. YWHW is not driving the Canaanites out of their land because the Israelites are righteous. They're not. They are a stubborn, "stiff-necked" people. The Canaanites are being driven out because of their own unrighteousness. This should give the Israelites pause. Being that Deuteronomy was written at a much later time, the warning against unrighteousness was no doubt timely.

Deuteronomy 9:7 ff. continues the theme of remembering. Remember the incident with the golden calf and other times of disobedience. Don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

Verse 21 tells how Moses ground the golden calf to dust and sprinkled it in the water. It omits the detail that he made the people drink the water. I miss that somehow.

Chapter 10 recounts the story of the second set of tablets for the 10 Commandments and ends with an injunction to love, serve, and obey the Lord. "Circumcise your hearts" (v. 16) is, I think, a poetic way of saying "internalize the covenant."

Next: Deuteronomy 11-13

No comments:

Post a Comment