‘The past is behind; learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.’
David noticed these words on a mural he discovered recently. They sum up in many ways what Moses was saying in Deuteronomy as he prepared the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land.
Moses urges them to look back and learn from their past experiences, points forward towards their future, and implores them to walk in God’s ways in the present.
Last time we read that Moses instructed the people to set up stones, plaster them and write the words of the law on them as a reminder and then to set up more stones as a place of sacrifice. Secondly, Moses encouraged the people to keep silent and listen to God.
Deuteronomy 27:11-26 can be described as a piece of performance art, as it depicts how the people of Israel are instructed to ceremoniously pronounce blessings and curses from two mountains, recite 12 curses (words) and follow these with a corporate Amen!
Choices and consequences
Moses wants the people to be faithful to God in the future, so this ceremony presents them with two choices: blessings for obedience to God, or curses for doing their own thing. The ceremony may appear negative, but its purpose is positive and intended for their growth and future faithfulness.
Easter reminds us how Jesus became a curse for us at the Cross, and it’s through his amazing grace that we have been rescued. However, we still face choices and consequences daily, which ought to encourage us that we live to please God and not ourselves.
How should we respond to these 12 words today?
These words present us with fresh choices that don’t determine our salvation but may impact our discipleship and our daily walk with God. Can you give a resounding Amen?
- Secret idols – objects of worship that threaten our loyalty to God come in various guises. Do we need to recommit to the one true God? Amen!
- Family – respect for parents or other family matters need to be prioritised as part of our discipleship. Do we need God’s help to address issues and make good decisions? Amen!
- Neighbours – being envious of what they have or what we don’t have threatens relationships. Do we need to choose differently to be good and loving neighbours? Amen!
- Disability – how we treat disability is important to God. Do we choose to respond in a godly way towards people who have disabilities? Amen!
- Social justice – foreigners, refugees, people who have lost loved ones, and those who cry out for justice and fairness matter to God. Do we reach out to help those who don’t have a voice and need justice? Amen!
- (7,8,9) Sexual integrity – what we do with our bodies and how we behave sexually (e.g. pornography, lust) impact our relationship with God (see Ephesians 5:3). Do we need to make the right choices regarding sexual integrity? Amen!
- (11) Violence – whilst verses 24-25 specifically relate to taking a person’s
life, violent behaviour of any kind towards another person is wrong. Do we choose life, peace and reconciliation as a better way? Amen!
- Personal commitment – general commitment and obedience to God’s ways. We are required not simply to hear God’s Word but to obey it. Do we need to re-establish our personal commitment to God and his Word? Amen!
‘A challenging piece of liturgy that formed part of Israel’s (ongoing) public worship.’ (Chris Wright)
Hopefully this piece of performance art will serve as a reminder that the choices you make each day matter in all these areas of your life.
The past is behind, learn from it.
The future is ahead, prepare for it.
The present is here, live it.