November 13, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday after the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 50, Jeremiah 36:1-8, Colossians 2:6-19
Evening - Ps. 47, 48, Dt. 7:1-13, Mt. 26:31-46

Commentary, Deuteronomy 7:1-13

The command of God in 7:1-3 seems barbarous and wicked when first read.   Therefore, it is important to know why God commanded Israel to commit such actions.  The reason is found in 7:4; "For they will turn away thy sons from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly."  Israel lived in a Covenant with God, which placed certain obligations on her.  The self-indulgence and idolatry of Canaanite religions would tempt Israel to forsake God and break the Covenant.  At that point God's Covenant obligations would end, and, rather than treating Israel as His Covenant People, she would be treated like any other worldly nation.

There is something else about Canaanite religion that made it reprehensible to God, and to most people.  That something was the worship of gods that required making children pass through the fire.  This was accomplished by putting children inside a metal statue of a bull, building a fire under the statue, and slowly roasting the baby to death during a drunken orgy.  No wonder God was angry at such people.  No wonder He was willing to give their lands and homes to others through military conquest.  In God's eyes, children are His inheritance and possession.  Their parents are to love and care for them, and to teach them to love Him and love people.  Burning them to death was a crime against God Himself (Dt. 18:10), and He fully intended to hold such people accountable for it.

In contrast to the other nations, Israel was to be a holy people (7:6).  Israel belonged to God.  She was not formed by human initiative or purpose.  She was called to come out from among the others into a nation founded by God.  She was His own particular people among all the others.  This made her different, and being different required actions and values that differed from the world's.  She was not to join their cultures any more than she was to join their religions.  She was to be separate and peculiar and belong only to the Lord.

Verses 7 and 8 remind Israel that her unique relationship to God was due to God's grace, not to any intrinsic value or virtue within her.  She had no wealth or greatness to offer God.  She could only receive the gifts of His grace.  God loved her because God is love, and because He loved her He made an oath or Covenant with her through her fathers back to Abraham and Sarah.  Freeing Israel from Egypt was part of His Covenant requirements (7:8).  But it was also done that Israel would know that He is God, that He keeps His word, has mercy on them that love Him, and punishes those who hate and disobey Him (7:9-10).  Israel, if she refuses God and returns to the sins and identity of the other nations, can expect to be treated as they are, in judgment rather than grace.

Verses 11-13 state the natural conclusion of the passage: keep the commandments of God.  Keep the Covenant, and enjoy His blessings.

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