November 9, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Saturday after the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 31, 2 Kings, 23:24-30, 3 John
Evening - Ps. 27, Deut. 5:22, Mt. 25:31

Commentary, Deuteronomy 5:22-33

Fear is the message of the first part of tonight's reading as Moses recounts the soul chilling presence of God at Mount Sinai.  The people had grown comfortable with God and their relationship with Him. He seemed like a nice God; surely He would give them everything they wanted. When presented with the word of God, they confidently replied, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do," they said (Ex. 19:8).

Without doubt they were sincere.  Also without doubt, they had a very imperfect understanding of who God is and what He requires of His people.  They needed a revelation of His glory that would crush their shallow, casual faith and fill them with a holy fear.  Thus He called them to observe a time of prayer and preparation prior to meeting Him. The people probably observed the preparations with a similar casualness.  Then God revealed Himself, and He was nothing like the gentle, harmless Being they imagined.  He was powerful, and He was dangerous.  Even to touch the mountain on which He spoke was death to man or beast.  The cloud of darkness was so thick, the thunders so terrible, and the trumpet so loud the people trembled (Ex. 19:16).  They weren't just afraid; they were terrified.  "Why should we die?" they said to Moses in Dt. 5:24.  They were so afraid of God they dared not even risk hearing Him speak.  Let Moses go to Him, and let God speak to Moses.  He can bring His message back to the people.
                
But the fear soon languished into complacency.  The people must have grown accustomed to the darkness and thundering, for they talked Aaron into making the golden calf.  Aaron even said to the people, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 32:4).  The disastrous effect of this sin is well known.  Thus we learn that a holy fear before God is a good thing.  Let us beware of becoming casual about the presence and will of God.

The words of God in verses 28 and 29 reveal the shallowness of Israel's faith.  They spoke well, He said, but their heart didn't match their words.  "O that there were such an heart in them."  I sympathise with the people of Israel. I read these words and see my own shortcomings, my own shallow faith, my own casual attitude toward God's commandments, God's worship, and God Himself. "O that there were such a heart in me, that I would fear God and keep His commandments always, that it might be well with me and with my children forever."  I hope verse 29 moves you the same way.

Verses 30-33 continue to teach what Israel is to do in the land God gives them.  The narrowness of their way of life is indicated as God says they are not to turn to the right or to the left, but walk in all the ways God has commanded.  Being God's covenant people is like walking toward a destination; it can only be reached by following the right road.  Turning off the road will take one into the deepest wilderness, and the further one wanders from the road, the less likely it becomes that he will be able to find his way back.