For the week of October 1, 2005 / 27 Elul 5765
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9
Don't Take God for Granted
When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way." This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. The LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 29:19-21)
Moses, the greatest teacher of all time before the coming of the Messiah himself, had a great understanding of human nature. The many hardships he endured combined with his revelation of God, as well as his leading of the people of Israel for forty years, taught him so much. As he nears the end of his life he seeks to impress upon his people all that is necessary for them in the years ahead. He knew the dangers, he understood their struggles, and he knew God. His words were not just advice, they were God's own revelation. To ignore Moses' words would be to ignore God's own directions.
The passage I quoted shows how Moses knew the tendency of people to take God for granted by claiming allegiance to him, yet doing as they pleased. He therefore provides a dire warning to those who would dare commit themselves to God with their mouths, yet refuse to live according to his ways. Such a person would be forever cursed.
Sadly this approach to spirituality is very common. Many people think that verbal or formal allegiance to a particular religious group or creed is sufficient for success in this life and for a secure eternity.
As the revelation of Scripture unfolds, the potential of such wrong thinking increases - not because the Bible ever encourages such a thing, but because of its continual emphasis on God's role in our salvation. Throughout the entire Bible we see that God is the one who initiates our redemption or salvation, which are different terms to describe God's restoration of our relationship to him. From his promise to the human race in the early chapters of Genesis, to his call and commission of Abraham, to his deliverance of the people of Israel through Moses, to the sacrificial atoning work of the Messiah Yeshua, it is God who takes the initiative to restore us to himself; it is God who provides the means through which we can truly know him; it is God who preserves and protects us; it is God who ensures our eternal destiny.
However, God's role with regard to our spiritual well being was never intended as an excuse for taking him for granted. Far from it! All he has done for us is to be the basis of a response of faith and obedience on our part.
Yet, this way of thinking is found in both Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism there are such concepts as the Jewish people are made right with God on the basis of the merits of the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some think that there is eternal security provided to Jews solely on the basis of being a member of the community of Israel. Others think that fulfilling the rabbinic obligations surrounding Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins.
But our Torah reading clearly negates any such notions. Commitment to the covenant of God must be reflected in a godly life. Right relationship with God is expressed in right living. Anything less is a mockery of his covenant.
Moses' words are often rejected by Christians, claiming that they are part of an archaic Old Testament approach to spirituality. But Moses' warning is just as relevant to those who profess faith in the Messiah.
Moses' understanding of this is clearly reiterated in the New Covenant writings. Over and over again we see how right standing with God is always reflected in right living. That there is a tendency to fall into the trap of taking God for granted is acknowledged in James' writings for example. He writes, "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17). Paul, who is often used to justify irresponsible behavior, continually ties godly living with faith in God. For example, "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:18).
For some reason some think that because of God's great love and mercy he will put up with our taking him for granted. But those who teach such things are only creating a false sense of security. The truth is that God's love is not to be treated this way. As we read in Hebrews,
Moses' warning not to take God for granted is as relevant today as it was in his own day. Perhaps this doesn't apply to you. Maybe you already knew that a life committed to God means living a godly life, but maybe you know someone who does need to hear this warning. Maybe you are the one to delivery this message.
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