Monday, March 13, 2006

Deuteronomy Chapter Six: Mutual Flourishing

In the first four verses of Deuteronomy chapter six Moses says, "Hear Oh Israel" twice (v.3, v.4). We understand why in verse three, "so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey." What we come to understand early on in this chapter is that we are to listen to God for our own benefit. By this we get a clear picture of Moses' desire that Israel go on following God in the promised land, when they are without him.

The rest of verse four is what is called the "shema" "The Lord is our God, the Lord alone" the "shema" is a declaration of God's oneness. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament Israel will, in it's best times, cling to this declaration as the truth of God while they are living among people who worship false pagan fertility gods and agricultural deities. Moving along, Moses then calls on Israel to do more than just acknowledge the truth of God being the only sovereign over them, he charges Israel to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (v.5). So from verse four to verse five we see a natural progression from acknowledgement to adoration. More simply put, when Israel follows the command to know God as their creator--their Sovereign, all-powerful God--they naturally are moved to worship Him. This is one of the proofs of good theology, that after growing in the knowledge of God one will always be brought to adoration of God.

Moses' sermon continues, not only are the Israelites, and us by extension, to love him internally but love for God must possess a social dynamic. God's commands are to saturate times of meditation and times of action (as alluded to by the hand and head in v.8). Also they are to be written at every gateway and doorpost in the home, all of this to mean that love for God is not a personal thing only. It is both personal and social thing, it should saturate all aspects of existence (for a clearer picture of this read Deuteronomy 6:6-9 aloud).

But all this love for God does not vaporize once expressed. Acknowledging God as sovereign and giving Him glory lead to what I'll call mutual flourishing. Moses illustrates this rather well in verse 24 where he says, "Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good." So, as mentioned at the beginning of this post: commands, obedience to them, the acknowledgment of God as sovereign, and adoration of God all exist, partially for our benefit. I say partially because as of now the picture is not complete--in fact the most important part is missing; for me to really write about mutual flourishing it must be mutual--not just for us. So going back to Deuteronomy ch. Four verses five through seven we hear another reason to follow the law:

See, I have taught you decrees and laws
as the LORD my God commanded me, so
that you may follow
them in the land you
are entering to take possession of it.
Observe them carefully, for this will show

your wisdom and understanding to the
nations, who will hear about all these
decrees and say, "Surely
this great nation
is a wise and understanding people."

This is mutual flourishing; that God would receive all honor, glory, and praise and that He would sustain us, His people. J.I. Packer does a fine job articulating this in his book Knowing God (which I am currently reading for the first time) he writes, "God has voluntarily bound up his own happiness with theirs" (pg. 125).

Jesus tells us that "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them" (Luke 22:25) meaning that rulers of this world exalt themselves over their subjects so that they can gain profit at the expense of their underlings. To the rulers of this world their subjects are means to accomplishing their end (usually money and power). The perfect illustration of this style of leader is Pharaoh, the leader that God delivered Israel from. The biblical teaching of mutual flourishing declares that God is not Pharaoh, or Caesar, or (Donald Trump for that matter). God's desire that His name go forth into the world (Deuteronomy 4 v.5, Matthew 28:19) so that he receives praise, honor, glory and with that he will sustain and liberate all who are His.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Great photo, did you take it?