Saturday, 14 March 2009

God's grace of the model of Israel to the world

Tomorrow Linda and I will be teaching Deuteronomy 28 to the 11-14 year olds belonging to our church family. It's been quite a challenge getting to grips with it.

As Moses closes his sermon to the people of Israel on the edge of the Promised Land, he presents Israel with a choice. They can choose to obey the LORD (verse 2) - in which case they will experience unique blessings (verses 3-14). But disobedience to the LORD will also have unique consequences: those of curse (verses 15-68). The climax of this curse is described in verse 68: 'The LORD will set you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.' The climax of the curse is slavery, humiliation and degradation.

These blessings and curses do not imply a kind of salvation by works. Salvation by believing God's promises and trusting him (supremely regarding the Messiah) is already an established pattern in Scripture by the time we get to Deuteronomy. Instead, God is using the people of Israel as a kind of model. Israel are to model to the nations what humble reliance on the LORD brings (blessing and life), and what life that removes the LORD from his rightful place is like (curse and death). That this is what is happening in Deuteronomy 28 is made explicit in verses 9-10, 36-37 and 47-48. Israel are a unique model - both in blessing and in curse. The LORD is teaching that human life must be LORD-centred if it is not to be a dangerous delusion.

The lesson being taught in Deuteronomy 28, however, is not new. Genesis 1-3 show that life that is lived in relationship with the LORD brings blessing and life (from the Author of life), whereas those who live out of relationship with God face death and judgement. Christians are not under the law - Galatians 3 makes it clear that in Christ we have no fear of curse and possess his unique blessing. Nor are the people of Israel aren't used in quite the same way today. But the message of Deuteronomy 28 still speaks clearly to us today: to have life centred on the LORD is to live life as it was created to be. How foolish we are to think that we can experience true blessing away from the LORD, the fount of blessing.

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