A lesson from Deuteronomy
My church’s youth group embarked on a 40 day devotional experience called the “Seek Him Challenge.” The challenge was created to encourage youth to develop a habit of pursuing intimacy with God. The challenge had a few stipulations, one of which was to have your first and last interaction for the day be time spent with God.
So, I decided I would spend my early mornings getting into the word, and as I got up the first day, I believe God led me to read through the book of Deuteronomy for the challenge. This sounds like a reasonable request, until you weigh it against the intense struggle I’ve had to read through the Old Testament throughout my Christian journey.
However, I was bowled over by how intensely exciting getting up each morning to dive into Deuteronomy was. There are many gems and personal points of applications that I’ve taken from it, but what has been resonating with me is the exhortation to fear the Lord and keep His commandments. This is foundational to the Christian journey but I believe God has been showing me the root of my difficulties with obedience, as well as correcting my incongruent view of fearing Him.
I realized that my biggest issue with fearing God was that it seemed to be irreconcilable with loving Him. I now appreciate that fearing God involves proper perspective of His holiness, righteousness and omnipotence. This in turn merits a response of humility and meekness from me.
This isn’t a common topic spoken about today and I believe it’s the root for our watered down Christianity. There is an incomplete picture of our relationship with God, because He has been painted as only a gentle God who caters to our every whim and fancy. We fall into great difficulty when this is the imbalanced view that we have of Him. We often don’t picture a God that is great and terrible, nor one that will demand difficult things from us. This is manifested in the scant regard we have for His commands and expectations.
We have created a God in our minds that shows up when we need Him, in the exact way we want Him to. Obedience is also seen in a very slight way but we see repeatedly through both the Old and New Testament that obedience is a necessity for Christian living. Because we have created our own image of God, many persons can’t reconcile discomfort and pain with the character of God. Therefore, when God permits something outside of the scope of our appreciation of Him, we begin to hate and dishonour Him.
Throughout Deuteronomy, the children of Israel were commanded to fear the Lord and keep His ways. I believe the beauty of fearing God and keeping His commandments comes when we begin to love Him and understand His love for us. This was also an instruction given to the Israelites, that they should love the Lord! Joshua instructed them to take heed that they love the Lord, this phrasing highlighted so much for me. If I am careful to love God and know Him, His commands are then viewed from an understanding of His love and personhood.
Blessing and obedience
Another theme that stood out in the book of Deuteronomy was the relationship between obedience and blessing. The book is riddled with instances where Moses would say that the Lord will command a blessing upon the Israelites “if” they obeyed or observed to do what was commanded. This two letter word, “if” became crucial in the Israelites understanding of God, and by extension mine. God blesses obedience and honours a person who observes His precepts.
“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.” (Deuteronomy chapter 11, verses 26-28). Therefore I am encouraged that He is not an unfair and wicked God, but He is merciful, kind and a God who blesses a life that is submitted to Him.
Jhonelle is a Jesus enthusiast and Christian youth leader. She’s a lover of all things related to discipleship and a freelance writer.