(…continued) The Jews did as they were told to do way back in the days right after their time of slavery in Egypt. At that time, they did not yet even have a land. There was no land, no temple, no king, not anything yet. All they had was the miracle of freedom won for them by God, and the promise of the land to which Moses was leading them.
At the end of his life, Moses taught the Hebrews how to live as God’s people, and then told them to remember his words. His instructions are recorded for us in the book of Deuteronomy. Here are some words from chapter eleven:
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Remember these words, said Moses, so that ‘your days in the land may be long.’ They were a couple interruptions, but the Jews are now still on the land Moses brought them to 33 centuries ago. During those interruptions, which they always interpreted as punishments for leaving God, they survived as a people by remembering the book.
Well, so what? We aren’t Jews, so what does any of this have to do with us?
We believe in Jesus, and Jesus was a Jew, and he said he was the fulfillment of everything the Jews hoped for and believed in. Not only that, but Jesus said he was here to be the fulfillment of all the hopes of all people of all nations and times, just as God had intended way back in the beginning of the Old Testament. We see our New Testament as simply the continuation of the story begun in the Old Testament. So that old book is our book too, and the stories in it are our stories too, and though we are not the physical descendants of those people, Paul himself says in the New Testament that by faith we are their spiritual descendants. The command of Moses to fix these words in your hearts and minds are, therefore, commands to us also. We also learn what it means to have faith by hearing the stories of the Old Testament people of faith.
We learn from the story of Solomon that even if you are given every blessing and have every opportunity handed to you on a silver platter, you can still mess everything up if you are not faithful. From the story of David we learn the even the best of God’s faithful people make mistakes, but can then be forgiven and life can go on. From the story of Job we learn that even a very good person can suffer terrible tragedy and get very angry at God, but faith can survive. From the story of Gideon we learn that even a ‘nobody’ can, with God’s help, do great things. From the Psalmist we learn that even in the deepest despair God is with us and will bring us through. From Samson we learn that even a guy who made all the wrong moves could still, by faith, come through at the end, be blessed by God, and finish well. From the liar and cheater Jacob, we learn that it really is true that ‘what goes around comes around,’ but then, one might still receive an unexpected and undeserved blessing. From Abraham we learn that faith can live and thrive even without understanding. Abraham was in the dark about most things, most of the time, but he trusted God, and acted on what he did know, and he was blessed. From Habakkuk who prayed over and over again, ‘How long, oh Lord,’, we learn that we might have to wait a very long time for God to answer our prayers, but we can trust that in the end He will come through for us with what is best.
Some of these are lessons that can be learned from every day life, but in the Bible, all lessons are lifted up into the higher level of our eternal destiny with God. One can live their whole life by the lessons in these old stories. So hold on to these words, said Moses, to the people way back then and to us. “These are not just idle words,” he said in another place, “They are your life.”
All of those Old Testament stories are, of course, just a prelude to that most important story of all, the story of Jesus. That story provides the firm foundation Jesus was speaking of when he said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”
Believe this story, Jesus tells us, and you shall know how to live, and you shall live, now and forever.
Deuteronomy 32:46-48 — (Moses said to the people), “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you— they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
Romans 4:16 — Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring— not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Matthew 7:24-25 — (Jesus said), “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Heavenly Father, we pray that you so nurture us in your Word that our lives may please you, and that other people may be attracted to you by our godliness. May your commands and promises be written into our hearts, and constantly kept in our minds. May your Word be for us far more precious than our own life and whatever else we cherish on earth. Help us to live and act accordingly. Amen.