Day 081: “Upright One” or “Beloved One”? (Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91)

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
    who rides across the heavens to help you
    and on the clouds in his majesty. (Dt. 33:26)

As Tara-Leigh pointed out, the name Jeshurun is used three times in the Song of Moses (Dt. 32-33) and only one other place in Scripture. Jeshurun means “Upright one,” and it feels out of place when describing Israel, because Israel has been anything but upright.

But here’s the thing. Jeshurun, according to gotquestions.org, can also be translated “Beloved One.” In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is rendered ἠγαπημένος (Agapemenos). Agape is the unconditional love of Christ poured out on us.

The only other place Jeshurun is used outside of Deut. 32-33 is Isaiah 44:1-2:

“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
This is what the Lord says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.”

So if Jeshurun is “Upright One,” then it does feel ironic when applied to Israel. Because upright describes human behavior, and, well, Israel has behaved very badly at this point.

But if Jeshurun is “Beloved One” then it is more about God’s attitude toward us, and not our behavior toward God. We are beloved by God in spite of our behavior, not because of it. Israel is the agapemenos—the Beloved One, because God formed her. He chose her.

I am Jeshurun! Left to myself, I am so far from upright. But God has pronounced me upright. I am so much less than lovely, God’s heart toward me is only love. Oh my God, I praise you for singing over me!

Day 080: These are Not Hard Things (Deuteronomy 30-31)

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Dt. 30:11-14)

As harsh and horrifying as yesterday’s reading was, today’s reading was just as tender and reassuring. In 30:11, God tells His people through Moses, “Look— these are not hard things. This commandment is not some secret knowledge or some impossible quest. You don’t have to be Nicolas Cage deciphering a secret treasure map, and you don’t have to be Indiana Jones traveling the world to discover what has been lost. No:

The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

Michael Card, a gifted theologian/songwriter, captured the simple beauty of Deuteronomy 30:14 with this song:

So far, the law has seemed incredibly complex. Random. Harsh. Incomprehensible in places. But actually, has it? Even before there was a law to tell him so, Cain knew killing his brother was wrong (Genesis 4:9-10). Shellfish and mixed fibers aside, much of the law has just been common sense. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might, and things will go well for you (Deut. 6:3-8).

Through Moses, God reassures Israel that “the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and on your heart, so that you can do it.

Leave it to man to muddy it up. Leave it to the Pharisees to take the word out of the mouths of men and make it all about external observances. Leave it to the rabbis to get consumed with gematria, seeing numbers and codes and “deeper meanings” in every character of the plain text.

Leave it to the premillenialists to pile charts and timelines and bestselling books on top of Revelation; obscuring its encouragement and hope, so that the glory of every tribe and tongue and nation gathered before the throne and singing “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-11) gets Left Behind.

God tells His people on the edge of the Promised Land that the word is near them. It is in their heart and on their lips, that they may obey it.

Centuries later, the apostle John would tell us that the word has been with us from the beginning. It was with God. It was God. The word was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him (John 1:1-2).

And then, as if the word couldn’t be made any nearer, suddenly, it was: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

And even so, yet nearer still:  Christ—the Word—in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) Oh, praise Jesus that we didn’t have to ascend to heaven to get the Word. The Word descended from Heaven and came to us. And lives in us still.

Day 076: Making God’s Law Personal (Deuteronomy 17-20)

18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

I love this idea that the first thing a king of Israel would do when he took the throne was to sit down and write “for himself on a scroll a copy of this law.” This guaranteed at least two things: first, that the king be able to read and write (a valuable skill in the ancient world, and not necessarily a given); and two, that the king be familiar with God’s word.

Side note: I personally think every elected official in this country should be required to write a copy of the US Constitution for themselves the day they take office. For all the times they seem to ignore it, I can’t help but think many of them don’t know what it says!

Tragically, this tradition didn’t seem to be followed all that often. Throughout Israel’s sad history of the monarchy, there seem to have been more kings that didn’t know God’s word than did. Many of Solomon’s actions, for example, were everything Deuteronomy 17 said not to do. Compare 17:16-17 to the life of Solomon recorded in 1 Kings:

Verse 16: The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, 

26 Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen.  (1 Kings 4:26)
__________
28 And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. (1 Kings 10:28)
Verse 17: He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh… from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. (1 Kings 11:1-3)
Verse 17: He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None were of silver; silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 10:21)

It doesn’t seem like Solomon copied the words of the law for himself. Or if he did, there was an incredible disconnect between what he read and wrote down for himself, and what he did.

Before I judge Solomon too harshly, I have to examine my own life. Is there a disconnect between what I read, what I preach, what I’ve memorized, and how I live? Do I live my life in such a way that it is obvious I’ve internalized God’s Word and made it my own? All too often, I fear the opposite is true. What I do says more about what I believe than what I say.

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