Bible reading for June 25.
"But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil." (Deuteronomy 30:14-15)
RETURN, BE RESTORED. Judgment will eventually follow apostasy, but the Lord is quick to receive and to bless those who turn back to him (vv 1-10). He delights in prospering his people. The Mosaic covenant, though it revealed the weakness and sinfulness of people, nonetheless was not a performance-based relationship, though some teachers down through history sought to turn it into such. At the heart was God's desire for his people to trust him, love him, and be faithful to him. It was relational not meritorious. So, later, when Paul quotes this passage (vv 11-14) in his letter to the Romans (Rom 10:5-10) he compares the giving of the Law to the giving of God's Son, who came from heaven, died, and rose from the dead on our behalf. What remains is for us to believe. In both covenants the choice is set before us: life and goodness, or death and evil (vv 14-15).
"In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens."
COMMANDS THAT BRING LIFE. We do not usually think of commandments as giving life (v 93). We look especially to God's promises as our hope. Though one role of the law was to make us aware of our sin and guilt (Rom 7:9-10), yet there's a delight (especially here in Psalm 119) in God's commandments as life-giving. This is not a contradiction. In one sense the commandment condemns us because we are either unwilling or unable to fulfill it, and so we realize our guilt before God. But on the other hand we see throughout Scripture that God "commands" life (Ps 133:3). He said, "Let there be light," and it was so, and the same happened for all creation and living things (Gen 1). We hear Jesus' commands to "rise and walk", "be clean", and "Lazarus, come out!" (John 11:43). All these commands conveyed the ability to rise up, to be cleansed of leprosy, and to rise from the dead (cf John 5:25). When we obey the command from Jesus to "come to me" or "follow me" or "believe my word" we are obeying unto life (Rom 1:5). Our coming by faith to Christ is an act of obedience, as a child to his father. That is not to say we are saved by works, but faith responds in obedience to the Lord's authority.
WHAT AUGUSTINE SAID. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) summarized this in a prayer: "Lord, grant what you command, and command what you will." (Lat., Da quod iubes, et iube quod vis.) In other words, if God's grace will empower us to obey (fulfill) his word, then we can be satisfied with whatever he commands. The eyes of unbelief view God's commands as hard, impossible, unpleasant. But the eyes of faith see that Christ died to remove the curse, and now we see that his commandments are good and desirable for life. Together with the Holy Spirit, and the promises of God's word, we can now be joyfully obedient without fear of condemnation (Rom 8:1-4).
Image credit: Deuteronomy 30:14-15, written with a sage green Sheaffer Cadet from the 1950s.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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