Painting a Picture of God

Tony Sammut   -  

As Moses continues to lay down laws for the people of Israel, he’s painting a picture.  These aren’t simply rules for them to obey.  They’re brushstrokes that their lives are meant to learn in order to paint a picture of God.  The way they live offers a living demonstration of the God they worship.  Of what He’s like.  Of the things He cares about.  And the same is true for us.  Our lives are meant to be lived as a “masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10), demonstrating the goodness of God through our dealings at work, at home, and everywhere we go.

Day 1: Deut. 19:1-21 

Painting a Picture of Peace

The transport truck that cut you off on the road.  A grocery store encounter with “that guy” who wasn’t wearing a mask and coughed everywhere as he walked by you.  A friend who took advantage of your generosity.  A family member who lied to your face.  Whenever something like these happens, there is something in us that cries for justice.  We feel the sense of violation that comes from being wronged.  We want revenge.

This passage in Deuteronomy recognizes this very human impulse – for better or for worse – and makes provision to curb its dark side.  If our impulses for revenge were left to run wild, we all know this would only cause more injustice, not less.  So God provides physical centres that act as concrete means to break a potential cycle of violence before it even begins.  The provision creates time and space to sort out what really happened, and to ensure true justice wins the day.  It’s a way for peace to prevail in situations where violence feels justified.

Is there a situation or relationship in your life where you have been responding as “an avenger of blood” (ex. giving the cold shoulder or silent treatment, speaking out of anger or rage, refusing to reconcile, etc.) rather than a “city of refuge”?  Ask God what it might look like to end this destructive cycle and move you toward peace. 

Day 2: Deut. 20:1-20 

Painting a Picture of Restraint

Once again, we’re faced with a reference to war that seems to be endorsed by God.  A passage like this is confusing at best, and abhorrent at worst, if we read this with our own time and culture as our primary reference point.  We could gain a lot of insight however, if we read it in light of how the nations of the day understood the inter-play between war and worship.

In the cultural-mindset of the ancient near-East, war was an inevitable reality.  That at least (and unfortunately) is one thing that remains the same today.  But unlike today, war was seen not merely as a stand-off between two people-groups, but between their gods.  If your tribe won, it meant that your god was stronger.  War wasn’t merely an earthly battle taking place, but it was representative of a cosmic battle going on as well.

This passage indicates that God is not only aware of this, but willingly enmeshes himself within the broken structures of the day.  But he does so by providing certain guidelines, provisions, and even restrictions that would dictate how Israel should do war.  It was unlike any other nation.  And even though it remains confusing (even disturbing) to us thousands of years later, it offered a picture of how different the God of Israel was compared to the god of any other nation around them.

What “battles” are you fighting today?  Are you engaging in those battles using the same “tactics” that are commonly employed in our culture?  Ask Jesus how He would “fight” this battle.  Ask Him to show you how to fight this battle in a way that would show His goodness and greatness.

Day 3: Deut. 21:1-21 

Painting a Picture of Responsibility

As the list of laws and regulations goes on in this chapter, it’s hard to find any connection between them.  But in all of them, the God of Israel is calling out His people to be accountable for their actions.  Their actions matter.  Not only because they follow God and are called to obey Him.  But because they are also called to represent Him to the nations around them.  The way they live tells others what their God is like.  So Moses continues to instruct the people to live in a way that shows justice, mercy, and compassion on every level of society – domestic law, dealings with foreigners, and even family.  Everyone has a responsibility to live according to the ways God is setting out for them, because everyone plays an important role in demonstrating His ways to the world around them.

Ultimately, Jesus took this demonstration to a whole new level, showing us the fullest representation of God’s ways lived out in a human life.  And He’s given Himself for you.  Ask him: Jesus, what does it look like for me to demonstrate your ways in my family?  In my marriage?  In my friendships?  In my work?  In my school?

Day 4: Deut. 21:22-22:12 

Painting a Picture of Kindness

The kind of calling God gives to His people is higher than simply “live and let live”.  Rather, His goodness is most fully demonstrated by a people who are actively looking out for the well-being of those around them – not just people, but even the animals around them.

If your neighbour needs help, take initiative to help them.  Don’t ignore a need or an opportunity to help.  Don’t just consider how your things might be used for your own benefit, but how they could benefit your neighbour.  If you’re using animals to benefit yourself in some way, don’t treat them as a resource to exploit, but rather one to steward and care for.

Pretty practical stuff.  It all shows God’s heart in pretty practical ways.

Ask God: Is there a need that I’ve been ignoring?  Help me to see the opportunities to help, care, and serve around me.  How can I use what I have to help someone else right now?

Day 5: Deut. 22:13-30 

Painting a Picture of Faithful Love

There’s at least two important principles wrapped up in this section of law.  First, God is making sure that men (the more powerful socially and physically) don’t abuse their power over women, but steward it well.  The consequences for not doing so would be serious.

And second, God is communicating to His people that marriage matters.  It’s not meant to be taken lightly, weasled out of, exploited, or abused.  Writers of both Old and New Testament tell us that the marriage relationship is one of the clearest human pictures of what our relationship with God is meant to look like.  One of faithful, passionate, and mutual love and service.

If you’re married, taken an inventory of your marriage right now.  Ask God where you may be missing opportunities to live out Jesus’ kind of love in your marriage.  Ask him to fill you with His Spirit so that you can love and serve your spouse well, and demonstrate Jesus love to him/her.

If you’re not married, take an inventory of your closest relationships right now.  Ask God where you may be missing opportunities to live out Jesus’ kind of love in those relationships.  Ask him to fill you with His Spirit so that you can love and serve others , and demonstrate Jesus love to them.