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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, September 9, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Deuteronomy 30:15–20

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (NRSV)

It seems so simple. Obey God and become prosperous; disobey and be ruined. “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” Obey, good stuff happens. Disobey, bad stuff follows.

Yeah. Fairy tale justice. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people. When things like this actually happen in the real world, they make the news because they are rare and noteworthy.

Bad people succeed all the time. Good people get stomped on. There are bad people with gilded mansions and good people living on the street. If we take passages like this at face value, we wind up with the idea that when something bad happens, it’s because they’re bad people. Not a big jump to “that hurricane hit you because you were sinful.” If we buy into that interpretation, we wind up thinking that millionaire preachers are exceptionally godly people. Not a big jump to “I should send that rich guy my money because God loves him and will love me, too.”

And that’s one way faith gets led astray, by being reduced to a mere transaction. The love of God gets reduced to a simple payment for services received.

In this passage, God is asking people to cooperate in a dangerous time. The late Bronze Age was a brutal time, and the only way for a people to survive was cooperation. The more close the cooperation, the more the people served each other, the better the odds. Tribes that split up, went their own way, didn’t cooperate . . . they ceased to exist. Destruction, assimilation, one way or the other they were just gone.

Here, God is saying, “Work with me. Cooperate with each other and you’ll be OK. If you don’t, the world will eat you.” Community-mindedness is the way forward. Good thing to remember.

Lord, remind us that in serving each other, we serve you, and that through this service we help bring about your kingdom. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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