Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The God Who Gives and Demands

I love the Old Testament because it paints such a clear picture of who God is. The Law (the first five books) is fundamental both in how it establishes God's character and in how so much of the rest of the OT (and, ultimately, the NT) are built upon what it teaches. Familiarity with the Law makes the rest of the OT much clearer.

So let's spend some time in Deuteronomy. As with Leviticus, I'm not going to do anything deeply systematic. I'll alight upon whatever catches my attention.

The first three chapters of Deuteronomy are history. The story begins while Israel is at Horeb. God told them it was time to go take the Promised Land. And Israel said, "Are you crazy? Have you seen those guys? They're huge!"

To make a short story shorter, it didn't go well for them. So they were sent to wander in the desert for 40 years. But even then, when God was angry at them, he provided for them, protected them, and gave them victory over enemies. The text retells of kings who were defeated and lands that were taken — the first lands to be given the new nation of Israel, beginning the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham's children would possess Canaan and become a great nation. Then it says ...

"Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you" (Deut 4:1).

This God's pattern. He gives, then he demands. He requires obedience only after blessing.

He gave Adam and Eve all of the garden. Oh, but there's this one rule ... (Gen 2:16-17).

He brought Noah and his kin through the flood. He promised to never bring another like it. Then he established some rules (Gen 9:1-6).

The Ten Commandments begin with "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (Ex. 20:2).

This is God's pattern. It is a pattern that continues in the New Testament. Paul spends 11 chapters of Romans expounding on God's mercy and salvation before finally getting to "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God ..." (Rom 12:1).

God requires. Oh my does he have requirements. But he only lays them on us after blessing us more than we ever could have imagined. In Christ we have been given every "every spiritual blessing" so "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Eph 1:3, 4:1).

God lays a burden on his people. No one denies that. Even if his "burden is light," it's still a burden. But it is only laid on those whom God has lavished with love. Sometimes we're going to chafe against the rules. We operate under restrictions that the rest of the world aren't bound by. It can seem unfair.

But God is no miser. He is not Scrooge, demanding a long day's work for a pittance and a single lump of coal. He is the God who gives and gives and asks only that we respond to his generosity with loving obedience.

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