For Your Own Good

A very smart four-year-old I know recently told me that there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the beach. (Okay, full disclosure … it was my grandson.) Skeptics are welcome to go here. Naturally I believed him since he has known the word “paleontologist” since he was three and can identify about twenty different dinosaurs, including his favorite, the Mosasaurus. Have you ever heard of a Mosasaurus? Me neither.

So, when you read things in the Old Testament that talk about the number of stars in the sky, you know you are talking about a really big number. A really, really big number.

This passage ends with a reference to stars, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The writer begins with the startling question, “What does the Lord your God ask of you?” Have you ever thought about that? Do you even want to know? Maybe it’s too much …

Deuteronomy 10 (Common English Bible)

12 Now in light of all that, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God by walking in all his ways, by loving him, by serving the Lord your God with all your heart and being, 13 and by keeping the Lord’s commandments and his regulations that I’m commanding you right now. It’s for your own good!

Well, so far, so good. Revere God: check. Walk in all his ways: check. Love and serve him: check. Keep his commandments and regulation: daily effort, but we do the best we can. Check.

14 Clearly, the Lord owns the sky, the highest heavens, the earth, and everything in it. 15 But the Lord adored your ancestors, loving them and choosing the descendants that followed them—you!—from all other people. That’s how things still stand now. 16 So circumcise your hearts and stop being so stubborn, 17 because the Lord your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. 

“Circumcise your heart” is a hard teaching. The writer is suggesting we “cut away” anything extraneous thing that might prevent us from revering, loving, serving, and keeping the commandments. What would that mean in your life? Less screen time? Less arguing? Less bashing your ex on social media? Less spending money on frivolous things while people go hungry? Less self-indulgence?

And now for the challenging part.

18 He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. 19 That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt. 

I realize that immigration is a scalding hot political issue. It is complex and there are no easy solutions. But what exactly do you think verses 18 and 19 are saying to us? How can we care for the widows, orphans, and immigrants in our community?

20 Revere the Lord your God, serve him, cling to him, swear by his name alone! 21 He is your praise, and he is your God—the one who performed these great and awesome acts that you witnessed with your very own eyes. 22 Your ancestors went down to Egypt with a total of seventy people, but now look! The Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the nighttime sky!

God requires a lot from his people, but he gives even more. What does that mean to you today?

Tonight, look up at the stars and ask God to show you places where you might revere him more, love him deeper, serve him better, and follow his commandments with greater integrity. Remember what it says in verse 13; it’s for your own good! We have been made more numerous as the stars in the sky. We are his people! May we witness to the world what that means.

Grains of Sand by Michelle Robertson