Deuteronomy and Living the Promise

Deuteronomy is like a slap in the face and like a hug you crawl up inside. It’s like rain falling on dry, cracked Texas dirt, and it’s like the drought that let the dirt get dry. It’s the kind of book that makes you get up, even before you’ve finished reading it, because you’ve just got to DO something. And it’s the kind of book that you just can’t stop reading because you don’t want that smile—the smile on your face that doesn’t start on your face but way down in your heart—you don’t want that smile to ever go away.

When Deuteronomy ends, when Moses dies, you feel like something good is over. And you wonder if that something good will ever live again.

Listening to Moses’ song, more depressing than any country song, something in me feels really, really sorry for the Israelites who didn’t pull it off. And really, really happy for me because Jesus did. And now I can.

Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the story of God’s people and in the 34 Old Testament books that follow, we never again see the full glory of God’s promise, not for any extended time anyway. The first half of chapter 28, the promise of blessing that will “overtake” God’s people, gets lived out only in dreams.

I’m reading through the Bible a little wonky this year. I did the New Testament first. And I dawdled, so that I’m only now walking out of the Pentateuch. I’m standing on the same cliff Moses stood on, looking into a promised land that, I know, will disappoint me. I feel kind of heavy, knowing that I won’t get to end my year with Jesus. Knowing instead I’ll end it with Israel.

Moses, as he’s about to die, sings that song for the people of Israel. He has it written down and commands that it be taught even to the children. It is a terrible song, a tragic song. A song he says will “confront them as a witness.”

Last night I read it, thinking about Moses not getting to walk into the promised land, how completely ticked off he must have been. He knew these people would squander what God had given them. They’d abandon the God who’d saved them. And yet they would be the ones to see at least the tip of the promise. Not Moses.

I’m realizing in this moment that this story is easier to read because I read the gospels first this year; it’s easier to see clearly when I’m wearing my Jesus-colored glasses.

I’m not Moses—thank God—no matter how strongly I relate to his plight. I’m a girl who, like the Israelites, doesn’t deserve the promised land but who got to live in it anyway. I just want to do a better job than they did now that I’m here. I want to see those promises in chapter 28 bloom. I want to “choose life” that I might live…

"…loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."