Bethany Lutheran Brethren Church
Staten Island, NY

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Summer Reading - July 25

Deuteronomy 25 & Romans 9

How has God convicted me of sin in these readings?

My honest response to these passages is: “well if this is how God works I don’t want to read the Bible anymore.”  I read the law about how a brother must marry his sister-in-law if his brother dies with no children.  I read the law about how a woman must have her hand cut off if she grabs an inappropriate part in coming to her husband’s aid in a fight.  I read how God hardens whom He chooses to harden.  These words are hard for me to understand.  They don’t seem right to me.  I don’t want to accept this as truth.  But God is working here.

I am reminded of something we read a couple weeks ago in Mark.  Jesus was questioned about divorce and he asked His questioners, “what did Moses command you?  They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”  And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.” (Mark 10:3-5)

These civil laws were given to the Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts.  So, as I read these laws thousands of years later, they are helping to reveal the hardness of my heart and show me my deeply ingrained sin. 

So here it is:

I confess as I read both of these chapters that God’s word reveals that I have doubts of God’s goodness and judgments of God’s fairness.  I read this and ask, “is God really good?”  I read this and find these words rising up in my heart: “This is not fair!”  God has commanded that I think like Him (Philippians 2:5), and clearly I am failing at this.  I have sinned against God in my thoughts.  God is revealing to me that I am breaking the first commandment.  I have made myself God and demand that He work according to my understanding.  I am a rebellious hard-hearted sinner before Him!

How has God comforted me with grace in these readings?

I am comforted by the words, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16).  The Scripture teaches over and over again that God is merciful.  So my experience of questioning God’s goodness and fairness in these passages is misplaced.  In fact quite the opposite is true.  “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”  (Romans 9:8)  I am a child of God not because of my biological heritage or by my ability to follow the rules on my own, but because of the mercy God has shown me through a promise that was spoken to me.  A promise that created faith in me.  And that faith has brought me to God.  “That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith.”  (Romans 9:30)  I am not righteous because I am able to follow all the laws of Deuteronomy 25 or even understand them.  I am righteous because God had given me faith that he is merciful.  He has therefore accepted me as His son.  In this I rejoice.

Where do I see Jesus in these readings?

It is in the light of God’s grace to me through Jesus Christ that I am able to see these hard words differently.  As I read the law, the gospel reminds me that Christ fulfilled it in Himself.  I deserve 40 stripes for my sin.  But this is what the Scripture says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his [stripes] you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)  Although I don’t know how my stripes He endured, I know they were rightly mine!  I see Christ who fulfilled the law set up to give offspring to the dead brother.  He came to bring dead children of God back to life.  “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved –“ (Ephesians 2:4-5)  I see Jesus who fulfilled the law that holds the honor of human life in such a high position that it will avenge any violation of it by taking our punishment.  “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)  Jesus is my Savior, who fulfilled all the law for me!

How is God calling me to respond to His word today?

God is calling me to share the news of the mercy of God with my neighbor.  He is calling me to join Paul in having “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Romans 9:2) for those who do not know this good news.  He is calling me to rejoice in the patience He has shown to vessels of wrath, that He might make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy…like me! (Romans 9:22-23) May my neighbors hear of God’s mercy from my mouth and believe the good news.