2. God's Israel

In Deuteronomy 12, the people of Israel were poised for their much-awaited entry into the “promised land”. Moses was preparing them for how they should view this occasion. In the preceeding chapters, he had recalled God's interaction with the people, in how God had empowered them, and what God had required of them. Then he laid down the principles that God required of them:

Deut 12:1: These are the statutes and the ordinances which you shall observe to do in the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth. 2. You shall surely destroy all the places in which the nations that you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains, and on the hills, and under every green tree: 3. and you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and burn their Asherim with fire; and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods; and you shall destroy their name out of that place. WEB

We may ask, “why this requirement of destruction?” and “what does it show about God?” Is God here the vandal wanting to destroy these places for fun because no-one cares about them? Quite clearly that's not the case. Instead, it's a very specific requirement from God about how the people were to live, and what environment they were to place themselves in.

Odd Commandments

If we stand back and look at the context, we might wonder at this passage. We've just been taken through the mighty wonders of the exodus and the wanderings in the wilderness: God delivering his people and bringing them up with a show of force against the surrounding nations. Then we reach a climax where God states how important it is for them to observe the statutes and ordinances. Then Chapter 12 reveals that the first of those statutes and ordinances relate to moving some pieces of stone around. At first glance, it doesn't seem to be touching the big issues in life and politics. However, what it does reveal is that God cares about the details in life. To God, it mattered what they did day to day, and what they did with their stones and wood.

When God brought the people into Israel, he could have given them a freedom, so that what they chose to do in the privacy of their own high places was up to them. He could have said to them to go and find themselves, and do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt other people. It could have been “You can do your thing, and I'll do mine.” But no, instead God had quite specific instructions for the people to follow, and was very much interested in what was going to happen in their everyday lives.

In other words, God cared about what the people were doing. This passage shows that what you do makes a difference to God.

God's Care

To the owner of a building, it matters what happens to it, and it matters when a vandal breaks the windows. To God, it matters what happens to his people, and it matters when vandals destroy them. We know when someone cares about a building, because the owner takes an active interest in it, and maintains it. In turn, we take greater respect of that building, because we know that it matters to someone. We know when God cares about his people when he takes an active interest in their lives. In this case, God was clearly showing that active interest.

Deut 11:10: For the land, where you go in to possess it, isn't as the land of Egypt, from whence you came out, where you sowed your seed, and watered it with your foot, as a garden of herbs; 11. but the land, where you go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of the sky, 12. a land which Yahweh your God cares for: the eyes of Yahweh your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year. WEB

They were to be a people that God cared about, in a land that he cared over.

However, to God's people, the people of Israel, this care of God was something of a double-edged sword. Caring wasn't simply giving them the presents they wanted, it also involved giving them some medicine that didn't taste so good,

Deut 10:12: Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13. to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good? 14. Behold, to Yahweh your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is therein. 15. Only Yahweh had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples, as at this day. WEB

Like a parent caring for a child, God's care extended into the realm of depriving the people of some of the things that they wanted to do at the time.

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