Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I hate every ape I see...
"Hi – I'm Goble McClure. You may remember me from such Biblical blog-posts as When Gedaliah Went To Get A Lyre and Honey I Blew-Up Gomorrah! But today, I'm here to talk to you about the humble book of Deuteronomy, or to use its syndicated title, The Best Of The Torah. That's right – the book of Deuteronomy is a CLIPS-SHOW.

CLIPS-SHOW. Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?

Contrary to popular belief, the earliest clips shows were not made due to a lack of money. In fact, in the good old days of live TV, it represented quite an investment to rebuild old sets and hire back old guest-stars to reperform their lines with the exact same inflection and movements a second time.

And today we're so glad they did. Why, if they hadn't, we wouldn't have half of Winston Churchill's speeches.

You can usually tell a clips-show within the first two minutes of the episode. The regular cast will be sitting around on their regular set with nothing to do, when one of them casually utters the phrase "Hey – remember that time when...?"

And when they do, that's your cue and mine to sit back and laugh. Laugh once again at the crazy antics of God's chosen people as, for one night only, they once again trek through the desert, bite the almighty hand that feeds them, and even, ha ha, let all their fears become one great big self-fulfilling prophesy again!

But that's not all – we're also treated to some previously unseen sequences, a prophetic song, and even a special sneak preview of what's in store for the Israelites' future!

And guiding us through it all is our host for the evening Moses – in his own inimitable style of course!

So it's come to this – a Pentateuch clips show."

The book of Deuteronomy is a collection of speeches that Moses made, although having read it straight through, I thought it came across as more like one big long audience with him.

The Israelites are at the end of their 40-year odyssey through the wilderness, and are just on the brink of finally entering the promised land. It's important to recognise that an entire generation has died on the way. While many of those present still remember Egypt from their childhood, the number of surviving adults is in very low single figures. And that's even counting Moses, who knows he's about to die.

It's very much a book of revision. Partly because Moses recounts so much of the lessons learned on their journey, but also because he then repeats so much of it again. Like I said, there are several speeches here, but they come across in the NIV as just one big one.

The end of the book must have been recorded by someone else, presumably Joshua, (Moses' successor) because it drops back into the narrative and covers Moses' death. Unless Moses faked his biblical death by writing it in advance. Smart move that.

Joking aside, I always slow down to read that bit. Moses' death is genuinely sad. This is partly because after so many years he sees the promised land knowing that he won't enter it, but mainly I think because I tend to read Deuteronomy where it comes after Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, so it feels like he's been around forever.

There's lots of very solid teaching in this book, and without wanting to sound like a cult-leader, I have to say that some of God's harder-to-reconcile actions, such as killing people, are actually starting to make some understandable sense in this.

It's very very evident that God doesn't want anyone to die. But in Revelation it's also clear that everyone who dies will ultimately come back to life again, at least for a short while. So, for God, it's arguable that physical death is not that big a deal to him. What clearly is important to him though is removing from life people who are determined to influence others in a bad way. It's hardly an ideal solution, but certainly driven by the misguided determination of the Israelites to oppose his plan to save their lives in the long run.

Just to be clear, I can understand God exercising his authority in that way, but not us. "Playing God" is something that we frown upon for very good reasons.

There are so many passages I could quote, but I will close on just this one:

Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

- Deuteronomy 5:29 (NIV)

That's not a reward/punishment deal he's striking. He knows that mankind will never live in lasting peace with each other unless someone uncorrupted shows them how.


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