BiND: Day 13
Well, we are once again into that great biblical tradition of repetition. But first we get a couple of really good things in today’s reading: an itinerary for where the Israelites went between Egypt and standing on what is not the Jordan side of the Jordan river (here called “Transjordan” which was still part of the official name of the country until not-that-long-ago…nothing like western ethnoo-centrism!). Archaeologically and historically most scholars think that the vast majority of the 40 years was spent encamped, probably at Kadesh-Barnea (in the north of the Sinai/slightly south of modern Israel). But they still did quite a bit of walking around!
Once we get into Deuteronomy, we start to read things that sound strangely familiar—though at least they aren’t (so far anyway) ritual laws about what to slaughter and how and when! This time it’s Moses’ farewell speech. I have to wonder how he remembered all of this to deliver this speech, you know! Apparently the many days on the mountain listening to God giving all the laws and instruction paid off, because Moses puts it “in his own words” (by saying “the LORD said this….so do it!”) and makes a pretty readable textbook for Israelite covenant life. He reiterates the history of Israelite life from Egypt until now, the basic laws, and even some geography issues. It’s pretty impressive, really.
Today’s reading also includes the pivotal verse of the Old Testament (and maybe even the whole of Scripture): the Shema. In Deuteronomy 6.4 we read, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” the word Shema, often translated “hear,” also means listen and obey. The people are to listen well, hear what is said, and obey. Obedience isn’t a popular word for us anymore, but it’s at the center of the covenant community’s life. The people are to bind the words on their hands, foreheads, and doorways—in other words, to keep them front-and-center at all times: Lord the Lord with everything you have, every part of your being and every part of your life. Moses will go on to explain how exactly that is to be done…and that’s for tomorrow! For today, I wonder how we go about binding God’s word to every part of our lives, keeping it front and center?