Monday, April 5, 2010

April 6

II read the passage first thing this morning, but didn't get a chance to type until after the NCAA championship (it was important:)). I underestimated how fatigued I would be; I cannot even think straight. I'm sorry to sell the "choose life" speech so short, but I could barely type:). This was the best I could do...

Deut. 29:1-30:20

Ah, the "choose life" speech. I love the "choose life" speech. When I first read through the Bible, we had a teenage boy living with us when I got to this section. He had made a series of bad decisions and currently was standing at a fork in the road, and this speech put into words everything that I wanted to tell him. I came perilously close to taping it to his bathroom mirror, but I'm pretty sure, given his personality, that wouldn't have been an effective strategy.

Moses' appeal in verses 11-20 is such a classic appeal to logic and practicality. With crystalline clarity, he has outlined that, if the Israelites follow God, good things will happen. If they don't, bad things will happen. So...choose.

And please--choose life. Choose the good path. Choose what's best for you. Please. You know what to do (11-14). Now, just do it.

I have given a variation of this speech ("If you do x, good things will happen. If you do y, bad things will happen. So please, please choose x") so many times to teens. I have begged, I have pleaded, I have cried real tears. In short, I can sooo relate to Moses in this situation.

And from experience, I can soooo tell you what the chances are of success. Surprisingly, they are not good. I have no idea why not. I guess a lot of people have the reaction that Moses anticipates in 29:19: "When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, 'I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.' This will bring disaster..." There is apparently a huge temptation to ignore the laws of cause and effect. I find it hard to relate to that b/c I find the laws of cause and effect to be extremely compelling (which is why I often have a hard time taking Jesus' Sermon on the Mount literally, for example).

As I have read all the laws leading up to this moment, though, I have started to take issue with Moses' seeming assertion that this is a simple choice. Following the law perfectly seems so impossible to me. And yet, Moses says, "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach" (30:11). In some ways, though, I see the debate between Moses and me as tied to the debate about original sin. In short, is sin a destiny or a choice? I really do think that it is a choice. And thus, I would ultimately have to agree with Moses here. He is not saying that it is not difficult. He is just saying that it is not too difficult. It is not impossible. You can choose to do the right thing.

Oh, but the law seems so impossible to me. Argh. I just keep fluctuating back and forth on this one. I think I have a tendency to freak when I see all the rules in one place (even college syllabi were kind of overwhelming to me). And so maybe just reading all these rules without really learning them and seeing how they were followed each day has convinced me that they are impossible. I don't know...and it is too late at night for me to think about it anymore.

NT: Luke 11:37-12:7

I really love to see little glimpses of Jesus' humor. Today, he employs some wittiness that borders on sarcasm: "So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs" (48).

I also see that my idea of the law being like a door to God comes partially from Jesus. We have read the imagery He uses in verse 52 before. He says, "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering." It is so sad and ironic to me that the experts in the law, the "gatekeepers" to this door to God, would use their position to block people from walking through.

Jesus' speech here, combined with our OT reading, combined with my overwhelming fatigue, is causing me to muse on the "big picture" aspects of the Law and God's plan. I don't want to overspiritualize the Law. God was not being metaphorical when He told the people to offer burnt sacrifices, to be kind to the poor, and to abide by the cleanliness regulations. He really wanted the people to do those things. But knowing the NT and Jesus' interpretation of the Law, it just seems like all those things were to point to something so much deeper than the actions that they entailed. And when I read all of Deuteronomy in the light of the NT, it doesn't seem so much a call to external righteousness through following regulations. It seems instead like a call from God to choose Him, to pursue Him, to know Him. Moses' call continues loud and clear in the NT. I think of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians: "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as if God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." Be reconciled to God. That is exactly what Moses was imploring the people.

Psalm 78:1-31

I love all the stuff about teaching children and about purposefully passing on the knowledge of God's amazing works.

Proverbs 12:19-20

My favorite phrase here is, "[there is] joy for those who promote peace" (20b).

I can actually hit "publish" and not schedule my post. It is after midnight. That is so not good. I will HAVE to do better tomorrow!


  1. Of of my very good friends said to me one time that, when she is trying to decide whether or not to do something, she asks herself whether it will lead to life or to death. I thought that was very profound at the time. At least, I had never thought about it before. Well, I had thought about whether or not things were beneficial, but life and death are different. I'm sorry to say that I find myself choosing death over and over and over again. Of course, when I witness other people choosing death, I get very frustrated and I wish I could just make their decisions for them. But, I guess I'm the same way, it's just that the things I do that lead to death are not so overt. I can usually justify them. But, then, sometimes I can't justify them at all, yet I choose to do them anyway. I very much related to the verse about people saying to themselves that the rules don't apply to them. I always think it will be fine. Actually, a lot of the time it is; I probably keep doing the things I do because there is little outward consequence. I guess that's part of my problem. I tend to gague the "rightness" of my actions by their consequences. But, maybe I'm just sneaky. That doesn't mean that what I'm doing is right. I think a big part of Jesus' message was that it isn't just about the "outward" stuff, it's about what are hearts are like inside. Even if there are no outward consequences, we should do what it right because it is right. Because God loves us, we should want to do what is loving toward other people, not just carry out the actions because to do otherwise would get us in trouble. That makes sense in my head, but then I think, HOW are we supposed to have our hearts right if we can't even follow through with the blind actions??? We are wretched, wretched people! Thank you, Jesus, SO MUCH for making it so that we are not lost when we screw up the actions. Now we are freed up to try to get the heart part right.

  2. Oh, and, speaking of relating to others the things that God has done for us, I wanted to tell you what happened to me this morning. I think I told you we have a bee problem. There are bees flying all around our house. It is hard to go outside or look out the window without seeing at least one, usually a handful more. Fortunately, for the most part, they are not the stinging kind, but still. Anyway, this morning I went to the store, and when I came back there were bees flying all around the entry to the house. Also, there was a wasp just outside of my car. I thought that maybe if I drove away and then came back, then at least I would be able to get out of the car without fear of being stung. So, I drove around the block, and before I came back I prayed to God to keep me safe from the bees and wasps. In my head I was thinking that I at least didn't want to get stung, and I really didn't want anything to get inside the house. I figured I would just have to be brave and ignore whatever was out there. Well, when I got back, I drove up, got out of the car, and came into the house, and I DIDN'T SEE A SINGLE FLYING INSECT! I was like, "Wow, God, I didn't expect you to be so literal." :) Later, I saw bees out the window, but then when I went from the house back to the car, I didn't see ANYTHING then either. There were some more in and out trips after that, and each time I saw NO bees, except when I could see them through the window when I was safe inside. When I prayed initially, I thought, "If God has the power to completely take away my sins, surely He has the power to help me with some measely bees." Well, I was right! I just didn't expect Him to show off so much. :)