November 6, 2012
Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday after the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps. 28, 2 Kings 23:3-13, Titus 3
Evening - Ps. 34, Dt. 4:25-31, Mt. 24:42
Commentary, Deuteronomy 4:25-31
If I were preparing a sermon on this passage, I would title it, "Thou shalt Find Him." God has no illusions about the nature of man. Knowing the Hebrews will soon commit the very sin He is warning them against, God moves Moses to tell them exactly what will happen to them (4:25-28). The words of this passage were so literally fulfilled in Israel that it is possible to say the Old Testament is, in one respect, the history of the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 4:25-28. The book of Judges records many cycles of Israel falling into idolatry, and being overcome and scattered by her enemies as the direct consequence of their sin. Kings and Chronicles also detail the continuing failure of Israel, and the books of the prophets are generally about calling Israel to repent of idolatry and return to a singular and honest faith in God. The most notable occasion of their sin and its consequences is the conquest and captivity of Judah by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. By that time Israel had divided into two nations, and the northern one, called Israel, had already been conquered and scattered by the Samaritans and Assyrians. Israel consisted of ten of the twelve tribes, and became the Samaritans of the New Testament. Benjamin was absorbed into the tribe of Judah, and was all that was left of the original Israel. But her people also fell into idolatry, and God allowed them to be conquered and ruled by the Babylonian Empire, whose king was the well- known Nebuchadnezzar.
But God, who is the Father of all mercies and whose essence is love, also told the people of forgiveness and restoration (4:29-31). This beautiful passage speaks to people who know they have sinned and are suffering the just consequences of it. In a genuine desire to have and please God, they turn from their sin and seek God with their whole heart (4:29), meaning their entire being. This is no mindless repetition of pious words, or a mere decision to try to do better in the future. It is a complete re-orientation of your life, your priorities, your values, your understanding, your attitudes, and your actions. It is nothing less than an entire and complete return to God as God of you, now and forever. If anyone seeks God in this way, "thou shalt find Him" (4:29).
Why can Moses say this to the people of Israel? Because he knows that "the Lord thy God is a merciful God" who will neither destroy them nor forget His Covenant with them.