Did I Not Already Read This? (Deuteronomy 11:8-32)

One of my favorite church cartoons is of a man talking to the pastor at the door of the church on Easter Sunday, telling him that he is stuck in a rut – preaching on the same subject every time the man comes! And then there is the story of the new pastor in a church who preached his first sermon, but the next week preached the exact same message all over. The people thought he just made a mistake and decided to give him a third week … and sure enough, same sermon. So the people confronted him and he responded, “Well, when you apply this first sermon, I’ll move on to something else!”

In our readings in Deuteronomy, we cannot help but hear the same ideas over and over … “obey these commands … so that your days may be long … carefully observe … into the land the Lord your God is leading you … love him with all your heart … teach this to your children …”  The reason it feels like it is being repeated so much is because … well … it IS being repeated over and over! There was no reason for the people to not clearly understand!

It is not like the Lord was sending the Israelites into a horrible place where they would have to gut it out and struggle desperately to survive in a brutal environment. The place was truly fabulous, as it is largely to this day. Yes, there are arid regions, but the land is rich and prosperous … especially compared to where they had been living – in Egypt.

As it says in the reading today, Egypt was a land where crops would grow if you worked hard, foot by foot, to bring water from the Nile to irrigate the ground. Otherwise, the place was pretty much a desert. In the Promised Land, Moses describes it beautifully as a place with mountains and valleys that drink rain from heaven. God gives his promise as well to faithfully send the rains to make it prosper in accord with the people’s obedience.

What a sweet deal!  The Israelites were truly at a fork in the road. The choices could not be more different, more right and left, more black and white, more life and death … it was all about blessing and cursings. (The final portion of the reading about the two mountains will be repeated and explained in a reading next week.)

We face the same fork in the road – the same choice of obedience/rebellion, trust/independence, sufficiency/greed, contentment/discontent. The natural man within tells us to take charge of our own fate by seeing expedient opportunities and easy paths of creature comforts and pleasures. It is totally stupid! But we do it … and is the reason we need to step back and REVIVE.

Deuteronomy 11:8-32

8 Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 9 and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

22 If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him— 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. 24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. 25 No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.

26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. 29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. 30 As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, westward, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. 31 You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, 32 be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.

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The Importance of Telling Stories (Deuteronomy 11:1-7)

“Tell me a story,” says our children and grandchildren – often at bedtime or another teachable moment of life. I believe that in some way this in a divinely-infused innate desire to connect with the wisdom of the past. Children need to hear the stories of the past – of their family, of the human family, of the story of stories of what God has been doing from the beginning of time. These stories need to be honest and truthful – about the good AND the bad. There are, of course, lessons in each. Unless children are told, they will not know, because they cannot remember.

That is the summary of today’s reading. Moses reminds the people for the umpteenth time to love and obey God, AND, to be sure to tell the children what this generation of adults saw with their own eyes about God’s dealings.

There are essentially two parts of stories Moses commands to be told: first, the collection of major events concerning God’s miracles at the Exodus – which was a very positive story. And secondly, a lesser-known account of what happened to some people who actively rebelled against God.

Concerning the Exodus – Among the events of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt as particularly outstanding were the signs and wonders done to Pharaoh, the miraculous deliverance of the nation from a great and powerful country, and the defeat of the Egyptian army when swallowed alive by the waters of the Red Sea.

Concerning a Rebellion against the Ministry of Aaron – This account comprises the 16th chapter of the book of Numbers. These Reubenite families, along with a host of Levites, disputed the selection of Aaron as the high priest to represent the nation before God. In the confrontation that followed, the result was that these rebels were swallowed up by the ground opening around them, others were burned alive by fire from the Lord, and a plague claimed another 14,700 lives before Aaron was able to quell it by his intercessory atonement.

We all have stories in our lives – accounts of when we found God to be our great provider and sustainer, yet accounts also of where we failed to trust in full obedience. The generations behind us need to hear these stories, as it gives them a framework upon which to build the values and decisions of their lives.

Deuteronomy 11:1-7

Love and Obey the Lord

11:1  Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.