The book of Deuteronomy is one of my favorites; it speaks so much of God’s love to me. His desire for a people devoted to him is evident on every page. He longs for me – and you – to be wholly set apart for him. I completely understand if that is not your perspective when you read it. I owe a debt of gratitude to my Old Testament professor, Dr. Eugene Carpenter, who brought it to life in such a powerful way.
If you happen to be reading through the Bible in a year, you likely find yourself in this amazing book. Last night, as Dave and I listened to the daily reading, I was captured again by the desire of Yahweh’s heart for me to be singly devoted to him. Perhaps a bit of reframing will assist you in hearing God’s heart of love and desire for you.
1“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, he will clear away many nations ahead of you: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These seven nations are greater and more numerous than you. 2When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. 3You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, 4for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you. 5This is what you must do. You must break down their pagan altars and shatter their sacred pillars. Cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols. 6For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.Deuteronomy 7:1-6
Any passage that instructs the nation of Israel to completely destroy other humans is difficult to understand. Why would God want to annihilate a complete people group? That doesn’t sound loving. When I read the Old Testament, I keep two things in mind. First, we have no record of God’s interactions with these other people groups. I have no trouble believing that God was working with them in ways that are not recorded; but not all people groups were chosen to reveal Him to the world.
Secondly, God revealed himself to Israel so that all people would come to know him. It is through the nation of Israel that he reveals himself, but the blessing of relationship is meant for ALL people. (Genesis 12:1-3) The intensity with which God loves Israel is the same intensity with which he loves you and I.
Consider the passage above. The people are about to cross the Jordan River into the land God promised them. He is telling them in advance what difficulties they will encounter in the process. It is interesting he begins by warning the people to get rid of anything that will hinder their relationship with him. His concern is for the people he has chosen to remain holy and set apart — not in the way they look or how they dress, but in what they worship “. . . for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods.”
God’s concern remains the same for me today. Sure, I’m not conquering a nation and driving out its inhabitants. But every day, I take or preserve spiritual land. I conquer the enemy of my soul. I stand aware of his movements and attempts to encroach on the soil of my soul.
In the 70’s and 80’s, revival meetings, youth camps and spiritual renewal events offered an invitation to burn the things that turned the heart away from God. Bonfires were ignited and all kinds of paraphernalia was consumed in the fire – records, cassette tapes, 8-tracks, books, media, magazines, DVD’s, CD’s — anything that threatened a vital connection to the Lord.
God’s command to us is no less dramatic than it was to the Israelites. He knows how easily I am distracted, following the idols of my culture. He wants me to radically cut out anything that would encroach on my worship of him.
I pause to ask myself, “what is pulling me away from true worship of Yahweh?” What do I need to throw into the fire or cut out of my life so that my worship will be holy and pure?
Consider this: God’s love for you is pure and patient. Is anything hindering your pure love back to him?