Like many people, I travel quite a few hours every week in the car. Wanting to make best use of these hours I put a version of the whole Bible on my i-pod, read by ‘Poirot’ actor John Suchet. So I listen to God’s Word for a bit, then some music for a bit, then I turn it off and use the relative quiet to think.
Yesterday I finished listening to the first five books of the Bible, Genesis-Deuteronomy, known as the Pentateuch or Books of Moses. Serious material! In these days of liberal thinking, Old Testament books like these are notoriously unpopular and often dismissed as ‘Victorian’ or even ‘draconian’ for some of their rules and penalties.
I listened carefully, then had some classical music and thought it all over.
So is God really strict?
Yes He is, but only so that we and our families can live in safety and health in a well-ordered society. After all, the orchestra must be tightly disciplined for the harmonies to ring, for the melody to soar and thrill our hearts!
But does God sometimes want people to actually be really ruthless?
Again yes, but only with evil, so that we don’t harm ourselves or each other needlessly or bring our community into judgement. Better to deny certain desires than plant a spreading cancer of wickedness!
Well, does God want people to be happy?
Yes, absolutely! Moses was told to institute regular feasts to celebrate their freedom in the ‘Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey’. Obedience to God’s Law was to be a loving, grateful response to the One Who had rescued them from slavery and generously prospered them with one blessing after another. A Tabernacle or ‘Tent of Meeting’ was pitched in the middle of the camp symbolising God’s protective presence among His people. A system of offerings and sacrifices was set up to deal with guilt and express this amazing possibility - fellowship between flawed human beings and the almighty, holy God!
Deuteronomy contains Moses’ closing words to the Israelites and he repeatedly warns and instructs them that God’s people have to make a choice.
We can adopt the confused, ever-changing values and dark practices of the world around us and so curse ourselves to failure and ultimately His punishment.
Or we can cherish the grace we have been shown already. We can listen to and believe the Scripture that assures sins forgiven through the atoning work of Christ. Accepting this as music to our souls, we can commit to obedient service, joyfully following the commands of the One Who loves us and gave Himself for us.
Or as Moses summed it up:
We can choose life. (Deuteronomy 30 v 19-20)