Seventh Sunday after Epiphany

Deuteronomy 9:1–9:7, Psalm 36, Romans 5:20–6:11

You have been trouble from the beginning of this! Moses’ long good-bye speech (all of Deuteronomy) is a summary of God, God’s message, God’s calling, and Israel’s past, current, and future response. It’s not pretty.

We can often look at the Israelites and question their memory, wisdom, or sanity. How do they keep making the same basic mistakes? Of course, we really get the Cliff Notes or Spark Notes version. A quick summary of the highlights, 40 years of highlights. If you could only write the highlights of your life, you could make it short, too. Plus, you would write about you, and some close family, and maybe some large events. This summary of the Israelites journey from Egypt to the threshold of the Promised Land (for the 2nd time) is for a populace that many times larger than the City of Marysville. If we took only our highlights, or perhaps lowlights, our story may sound similar. Moses is driving home a point. Don’t take God’s blessing for granted, and don’t ruin the inheritance of God.

Much of the story of the Israelites’ travels from Egypt to the Promised Land is about hearts that were not continually grateful (and therefore humble). They had food they barely worked for (Mana). They were (generally) protected from enemies. Their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out. They had plenty of herds. They had plundered Egypt. They became comfortable with what they had and felt they should get more. They looked back at an idealized and false view of Egypt and threatened to return to Egypt if they didn’t get what they wanted. They certainly weren’t righteous. They were definitely stubborn. They were receiving the result of God’s promise to people long dead. God was faithful.

Even in Moses’ time, the truth of Paul’s words still rings loudly, “…where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more.” (Romans 5:21) Throughout the journey, God’s grace was abundant. While the Israelites didn’t think this way, apparently there were Gentiles that wanted to sin more (or thought they should) so that God’s grace would be even larger. Paul’s head may have not been in his hands in disbelief, but nevertheless, his disbelief comes through his writing. Of course, we should seek to sin more! That’s what we were saved from! Why would we go back to that life? Oh, wait, that sounds familiar. The Israelites wanted to go back to “that life.” Somehow, the slavery that they left (the law and sin) was somehow better than the Promised Land (grace and blessing).

That is, however, the problem with many of the sins we struggle with. It seems “better” to live that way. It seems “better” to the world. It seems “better” to those around us. It must be better than.

1) Why do we often return to the bad stuff (habits, behaviors, thoughts) that Jesus has been and is working out of us?

2) Why does our knowledge of the way we used to live still pull us back?

3) The Israelites left harsh conditions. Why would they choose slavery over freedom? When have you done the same?

FD) What is grace?