Deuteronomy: A Journey in Generosity

Tony Sammut   -  

Over the next month on Sundays, we’re embarking on a community journey into GENEROSITY.  We’ll be exploring various layers around what it means to be people who have been showered with the lavish generosity of God and in light of that, what it means to be people who live lives of generosity — especially in a world that is desperate for living demonstrations of it.  If you missed yesterday’s message, boy, do you need to listen to it!  Pastor Vijay called us into God’s heart for his generous justice in our world which is broken by racism, marginalization, and exploitation.

And over the next month, we’re going to explore the themes of generosity as they come to us in the book of Deuteronomy.  This book, which rounds out the Torah (“The book of the Law”, the first five books of the bible) is a record of Moses’ final speech to the people of Israel.  He was reminding them of their story so far, in which they had experienced the incredibly generous provision of God over and over again.  He was charging them to be a people that lived out their covenant relationship with God – as those who represented his good and generous heart to the world.  And he was preparing them to step into the incredibly generous gift of a new home in the Promised Land.

Check out this summary of the whole book…

Day 1: Deuteronomy 1:1-8

Right off the bat in an ancient book like Deuteronomy, it’s easy to get lost in all the locations being named – this territory and that country; this mountain and that river…  What are all these places, and how do they fit into the story??

Let’s get our bearings a bit by focusing on two of them – Horeb and Kadesh BarneaHoreb was important because that’s where Mt. Sinai was – the place where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and outlined His Covenant with Israel.  And Kadesh Barnea was at the edge of the Promised Land – the place of the infamous story where Moses sent twelve Israelite spies into the land, only to have them (well, most of them) return fearing for their lives and convincing the people to bail on their invasion plan…  So, the writer is making a not-so-subtle point here – “It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea…”  That’s how long it should have taken Israel to set foot in the Promised Land.  But instead, it took them 40 years!! 

They have been wandering the wilderness for that long, and now that Moses is leading an entirely new generation, they are ready once again to step into the land God promised them.  But this is why Horeb is important.  Because Moses wants to remind the people who they are, and who they belong to.  He reminds them – right at the beginning of his epic speech – that they are being given this lavish and generous gift of the Promised Land because they belong to the lavish-and-generous-gift-giving God.  And they are called to be His people and to follow His ways – not like the generation before them, who failed to do so.  But even though they failed, God in His gracious generosity would not give up on His people.  And now they were ready…

Reflect on what “Kadesh Barnea” and “Horeb” have looked like in your own life…  In what ways has God poured out his lavish generosity on you (Kadesh Barnea)?  In what ways has He called you to live as His faithful representative and steward (Horeb)?

Day 2: Deuteronomy 1:9-18

Moses reminds the people about some of the ways they established to live out their calling as God’s representatives – by living as people of justice.  Wise and good leaders were appointed over them.  Fair and just judges were set in place to judge over disputes among the people.  And even in this ancient culture, they were commanded to judge impartially.  To not let race, socio-economic status, or favoritism skew their sense of justice.  Why?  Because that is how God judges, and ultimately judgement belongs to God.  So His people are meant to live in a way that brings about this way of justice in how they live with each other.  A justice that dignifies both great and small, friend and stranger, kinsman and foreigner.

Justice is something that inherently requires action.  How can you live as a person who brings God’s dignifying justice into the world in some way today?  If you haven’t already, check out some ideas on our 30 Days of Generosity Challenge.

Day 3: Deuteronomy 1:19-46

Moses summarizes the “story so far” of the people of Israel (for the more detailed version, read the book of Numbers) – and it’s not pretty.  Over and over again God offered his generous provision and over and over again the people of Israel responded with fear, mistrust, and disobedience.  Moses calls out several specific instances of this, reminding the people of this new generation that the previous generation failed to take responsibility for the calling God had given them.  Instead of trusting in His generous care and following His lead, they grumbled against God, blamed Moses, and fled in fear.  As a result, they missed out on the incredible new reality that had been offered to them.

What generous new realities has God put before you and called you to follow Him in loving trust?

Day 4: Deuteronomy 2:1-3:20

OK, cards on the table…  This is a hard section to read.  It brings up some very big questions about violence and war and God’s apparent condoning – even commanding – the destruction of certain peoples.  Though I’ve had some of my questions about this answered, many remain. 

But here is something worth noting:  while God directs Israel into certain battles, he specifically directs them not to engage other people groups – the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites — in battle.  If nothing else, this tells us that God was not simply arbitrarily handing out destruction orders for whoever was in Israel’s path.  And what’s more, is that the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites continued to remain a thorn in Israel’s side for centuries after this point.  Wouldn’t it have just been easier for them if they had taken them out at the beginning?  Perhaps.  But these were not battles God intended Israel to fight.  And perhaps his instruction to pursue peace with these people at the beginning was meant to be instructive for them well beyond this point as well.

What battles are you perhaps fighting that God might actually be asking you not to fight?  What battles are you not fighting that God may be calling you into?

Day 5: Deuteronomy 3:21-29

Some people say that God always answers our prayers with a “yes”, “no”, or “wait”.  Maybe sometimes that’s the case.  But if that’s all that prayer is, then we might as well be praying to a magic 8-ball.  God is far more complex than that.  And so are we.  And so are our prayers!  Moses knew that.  That’s why he – and so many other biblical characters – treated prayer like a negotiation – sometimes even an argument – with God.

Some time previous to this, God had condemned an act of disobedience by Moses by telling him he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Now that he’s on the cusp of it, Moses pleads with God to see if He’ll change his mind on that judgement made many years before.  God’s judgement remains firm.  But grace is given still.  So God tells Moses to climb the Pisgah mountain so he can see the Land of Promise sprawled out before him. 

Generosity, even in the midst of judgement. 

That’s actually a recurring theme even at this early point in the Bible’s story.  Think about God’s making clothes for Adam and Eve, even as they were cast out of the garden.  Or God promising Cain he would be protected from revenge even though he had killed his brother…

And what’s more, all this came through Moses’ prayer.  If Moses hadn’t asked for the one thing, this other thing wouldn’t have been given.  God heard Moses.  And he offered Moses a way through that he wouldn’t have otherwise seen on his own.  And because of that, what he did see was a greater glimpse into all of God’s generous goodness.

What are you praying for these days?  Are you looking for a simple, “yes”, “no” or “wait”?  What would it look like for you to turn your request into a negotiation with God?  Perhaps he might offer you an alternative path that you might otherwise not see.