In my last post I focused on some of the uninvented takeaways from this chapter, or why I think it couldn’t be made up. Briefly, if it was, the author was a liar, and the Bible is a worthless piece of trash. Not that I feel strongly about it or anything. You’ll remember the writer (Moses, we believe, and the topic of a future post) kept repeating the eyewitness nature of the Exodus. As God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, they saw his amazing works among them and heard his voice. Either it happened, and they did see and hear these things, or they did not. There is no in between. If it did not happen pretty much the way portrayed in this chapter and in the Pentateuch, I’m just not interested. I have better things to do than believe lies are true, and then base my life, and death, upon them. Don’t you? But I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the Bible records true history, which is why I wrote Uninvented, hoping I might help other Christians grow in their confidence that the Bible is indeed what it proclaims itself to be, God’s revelation of the redemption of his people.
There is also, however, the theology to consider, the truths of this redemption for we who believe the Bible is in fact God’s word. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 quoting himself from Deuteronomy 8:3 that, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This substance we take from his word is theology. You may know theology is the study of God. Any word ending in ology is the study of something, and in this case of theos, or in Greek, God. So, in reading and meditating on Deuteronomy 4 theologically, we’re trying to discover something about the being and nature of God, and there is a lot here to discover. Here is a brief overview of the book of Deuteronomy from Chuck Swindoll:
Deuteronomy means “second law,” a term mistakenly derived from the Hebrew word mishneh in Deuteronomy 17:18. In that context, Moses simply commands the king to make a “copy of the law.”1 But Deuteronomy does something more than give a simple copy of the Law. The book offers a restatement of the Law for a new generation, rather than a mere copy of what had gone before. Deuteronomy records this “second law”—namely Moses’s series of sermons in which he restated God’s commands originally given to the Israelites some forty years earlier in Exodus and Leviticus.
The older Israelites are beginning to die off and will not be allowed to enter the promised land because of their rebellion, so Moses is re-telling the law to the new generation following Joshua across the Jordan. Moses himself will only catch a glimpse of the promised land because he too didn’t trust God, but one day he will enter the eternal promised land with us.
Which brings us to the profound theological truths in this chapter. Our tendency as self-centered sinful human beings is to, no surprise, to be self-centered. As I’ve said a multitude of times in blog posts, sin is well defined as Incurvatus in se, Latin for being turned or curved in on oneself. This is more profound than being selfish or self-centered, an obvious human malady, and for most of us overcome to one degree or another as we grow older and mature. We learn that self-obsession doesn’t really pay, so we are able to see things beyond our own self-interest. Spiritually, however, the self is a more pernicious foe, and deceptively subtle.
As a young Christian, my faith was primarily about my choices and decisions. God laid out the conditions, and I decided whether I would obey or not. If I jumped through the hoops, God and me, we were good, if not, well, I had to work harder. It was more about what I did for God, than what God had done for me in Christ. When I was introduced to Reformed theology by a “chance” encounter in February of 1985, I experienced a proverbial Copernican revolution. Instead of my Christian faith revolving around me. my experiences, choices, will, decisions, I now saw how it revolved around God’s work for me in Christ. The gentlemen who introduced me to this radical theology, known as Calvinism, suggested I read a systematic theology (I’d never even heard the phrase before) by the great 19th century theologian Charles Hodge.
Hodge said something that perfectly captured my newfound understanding: Christianity is the work of God in the soul of man. Our self-centered tendency, however, is to see our faith as God responding to our work, and not us to his. In other words, law not gospel. In Deuteronomy 4 we see it is God who initiates the relationship with his people, and it is he alone who saves them:
20 But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.
34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38 to drive out before you, nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.
And throughout Deuteronomy, he reminds them that they were “slaves in Egypt,” and would still be slaves if not for his mighty saving power. This is true for us too! It is God’s work alone, his power, that raises us spiritually from the dead, changes our sinful heart of stone, to flesh. In theological terms, this is called regeneration, or the transformation of our beings from his enemies to his children. Only then, our hearts transformed, can we put our faith, our trust in Christ. Our rescue from the slavery of sin was “by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord our God did for” us in Christ!