12 Oct 2006

Deuteronomy: Gospel of Love #2

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Deuteronomy, Exegesis, Grace, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Ministry, Preaching
In our book with John Mark Hicks, Kingdom Come, there is a chapter on “Listening to God” through Scripture. Scripture is a gift from God and we encourage more communal reading of the text. Putting these words into practice I read long sections of Scripture especially on Sunday nights. Not long ago Deuteronomy was the focus of our communal reading. I chose to read all the passages in the book that has the word “love” (ahab). Such an exercise can be paradigm shifting. Today I am going to share a sampling of Scripture and highlight the terms love and heart so crucial to understanding the Torah.
As mentioned in our previous post there are three centers of gravity in Deuteronomy … we may wan to call them X, Y, & Z axises around which all coordinated. Or another figure they are the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system and this may be a better analogy because the axises are not equal they are just the controlling factors in the thought of the book. They are the Great Story (i.e. Sun) which is the story of God’s incredible love and grace in redeeming Israel from slavery, this is the center of gravity around which everything orbits.Β  The Great Commandment (i.e. Jupiter) is the response to the Great Story, love God with our entire being for what he has done. The Great Society (i.e. Saturn) is also a response to the Great Story and is love in action for those around us.

Deut 4.32-40 … Intertwines the Great Story and our Response or the Great Command

Ask now about the former days, long before your time … Has anything so great as this [i.e. the Exodus] ever happened, or anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God … Has any other god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another … by a mighty hand and outstretched arm … You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God … Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants … Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God

The Shema, Deut 6.4f, 10, 12, 20ff: The Great Commandment is rooted in the Great Story. The meaning of the command of God is simply grace and redemption. We love him because he rescued us …

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one. Love the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength … When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore … be careful not to forget that the LORD brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery … In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but Yahweh brought us out with a mighty hand …”

Deut 7.7-9: The Gospel of God’s Love … the Ground of Israel’s standing with Yahweh

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD love you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you … know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keep his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments …”

For the moment I pass over the rich passage in 9.4-6 to 10.12-22. This is another passage that functions like 6.4ff. It goes to the root issue: What does God require? The passage ties the Great Commandment into the Great Story for building the Great Society. Watch how it unfolds:

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul …

To the LORD belong the heavens, even the highest heavens … Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you … Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of Gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt … He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you all those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.”

Israel is to love God who redeemed them from the indignity of slavery. God demands that his people be a blessing to other aliens because of his love toward them … that is the Great Society. Israel transforms the life of aliens.

Because 10.16 uses the startling imperative that Israel is to “circumcise your hearts” I bring into the picture the even more amazing promise of Yahweh in 30.6

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live …”

Moses in Deuteronomy calls Israel to be a people who are defined by the Great Story. Because Yahweh has performed mighty acts in history that have never before been done, nor have been done since, Israel is to respond with wholehearted love and devotion to the Redeemer (the Great Command). But love towards God in the book of Deuteronomy always finds expression in loving neighbor, loving the alien, the helpless, the slave and even God’s creation … I call this the Great Society (which is another way of saying the second great commandment).

The Torah is full of God’s compassion and grace. How could it be otherwise if it is a revelation of the glory of God? We need to be reading and meditating so we can understand what God desires. Deuteronomy is a good place to begin.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life …” (30.19-20a)

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

18 Responses to “Deuteronomy: Gospel of Love #2”

  1. Tim Archer Says:

    Why do you suppose that public reading of Scripture has not been practiced more in recent years (at least in my experience)? My best guess is that it didn’t make the “five acts” list that somebody made up once.

    Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is about law and the New Testament about grace hasn’t read Deuteronomy!

  2. Danny Says:

    Maybe public reading has not been in favor because we are more interested in telling what we think it says rather than just listening to what it says.

    Thanks for bringing Deuteronomy to life for us Bobby.

  3. Falantedios Says:

    Amen, Danny. That is the high, intellectual reason why public reading has been pushed aside.

    The low, ‘rubber-meets-the-road’ reason?

    It takes too long. You know how restless the congregation gets when Bro. So-and-So does opening or closing prayer, because he prays for 5 minutes? Sometimes the songleader will go to ‘first-and-last’ status in order to make up for this delay. One of our leaders has the saying that ‘the brain cannot retain more than the backside can endure.’

    Public reading of Scripture has been shunted aside because all too often, we are in too much of a hurry to listen to God.

    in HIS love,
    Nick

  4. Gary W. Kirkendall Says:

    Great post. I think you may have hit on something. Can’t wait to give it a try. Only the ignorant man sees a different God in the OT!

  5. Gary W. Kirkendall Says:

    By the way, most preachers are taught to avoid long scripture readings (I know I was) because it is easy to lose connection with the audience. However, with PowerPoint and the like, it should be very, very do-able in the modern church.

  6. Jim Martin Says:

    Bobby, a great post and a great series. Good work!

  7. Niki Says:

    It is refreshing to hear a preacher telling me I should be meditating on something from the Old Testament. Sadly, I remember being told many times that the OT isn’t what is important because we are a NT church. (insert eye rolling and a big sigh here.) I fell in love with the OT while studying the Live of Moses (in the form of the Pentateuch) in Bible Study Fellowship a few years ago. Last year’s study was Genesis. This year is Romans…challenging, convicting, wonderfully moving…like all scripture could be if we let it.

    Great chosen verses Bobby…I’m always glad I stopped by here!

  8. K. Rex Butts Says:

    Bobby,

    I had John Mark Hicks for a couple of courses at HUGSR. I have enjoyed reading “Kingdom Come” (though in between reading books assigned by my professors). I hope the book will be given much consideration in the Churches of Christ.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  9. Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Bobby, thank you for these posts on Deuteronomy. Your first paragraph here has revived an idea I had of hosting lunch-time Bible readings here at, of all places, the Bible Chair.

    I think what I’d like to do is get some of the best oral interpreters to volunteer to read whole books– or at least large, coherent sections of books–during the noon hour, maybe serve a light lunch to begin.

    Does anyone else have stories to tell about this kind of thing? I’m still looking for and sorting through ideas.

  10. Kathy Says:

    Public reading of Scripture holds a mighty blessing in The Revelation of Jesus, the first of the seven beatitudes sprinkled throughout Revelation.
    =======

    Revelation 1:3 (English Standard Version)

    3Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

  11. Carl Says:

    It is good to hear some discussion of this. I plan several services a year that consist of Scripture readings, Songs, Prayers, and the Lord’s Supper. (Of course, we have to have the “ministry of announcements” also). These services have been very well received in our small congregation. It is not unusual for someone to ask me when the next one will be.

    Reading the Scripture aloud, both alone and in groups, has been a blessing to me for years.

  12. Brian Nicklaus Says:

    What commentary/resources would you recommend for studying Deut.
    I have the NICOT by Craigie on my list for Christmas.

    Do you know that one, or would you recommend something else?

    thanks

  13. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Brian, Peter Craigie’s commentary in the NICOT series is a fine commentary and he is sensitive to the theological issues of the book.

    I think one of the best works on Dt is Patrick Miller’s work in the Interpretation series. Walter Brueggemann also has good commentary but I think Miller’s is better.

    Dennis T. Olson has a very insightful book called “Deuteronomy and the Death of Moses: A Theological Reading” (Fortress Press, 1994).

    I would also recommend two essays that are a notch above:

    Patrick Miller’s “Moses, My Servant: A Deuteronomic Portrait of Moses” in Interpretation 41 (1987): 245-255

    and

    Georg Braulik, “Law as Gospel: Justification and Pardon According to the Deuteronomic Torah” in Interpretation 38 (1984): 5-14.

    There are of course other good books.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  14. Matt Says:

    You wrote:
    “Moses in Deuteronomy calls Israel to be a people who are defined by the Great Story. Because Yahweh has performed mighty acts in history that have never before been done, nor have been done since, Israel is to respond with wholehearted love and devotion to the Redeemer (the Great Command).”

    I just thought I would point out Deut 5:6-7 – just prior to the 10 commandments, God couches them in who He is, what He has done, and who they used to be – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me…”

    The covenant language of that passage is so striking. Sorry, doesn’t have “ahav” in that passage but I thought I would point it out anyway. πŸ™‚

  15. CL Says:

    Yeah! This is good stuff Bobby, good stuff!

  16. Ancient Wanderer Says:

    I would have to say that we or is it us? preachers have more to do with a loss of “public reading” than anything else.

    We likes to hear ourselves more than God…after all we have to justify ourselves on the Lord’s Day…not Him. After all if we “just” read God’s Word we haven’t earned our pay πŸ™‚

    AW

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Bobby,

    I love your blog on Deuteronomy!
    Cheryl

  18. MommyHAM Says:

    What if, because we are told that God IS Love, we read the old testament and insert “Love, Himself,” (as in a being, itself, not a command! lol) where God/Yahweh/the LORD, etc is used?

    I’ve done that before with some interesting insights come about…particularly re: some of the Law.

    I love “circumsize your hearts,” b/c it tells me it has ALWAYS been about our hearts, not do’s/don’ts in the OT and Grace in the NT. It’s always been about our hearts leading our faith and then our actions.

    God is an amazing marvel to behold isn’t He?

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