Are you a list person? I am. Recently I have been gearing up for a vacation and the to-do lists always seem to grow. You would think without a week of work the lists would dwindle, but no. Preparing for a house-sitter means one of the things on my to-do list is to make the house-sitter a to-do list! How crazy am I? To me it feels completely natural. After all, who can remember all these details? And so if I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the details, I start writing them down, figuring someone else will definitely need them. Do you know what I mean?
Then I opened to our reading from Deuteronomy. Similar kind of thing! Reminders, lists, recounting.
If you have ever read the Bible cover to cover, when you get to Deuteronomy here is a perfectly normal reaction, “Didn’t I just read this? The tabernacle is so many cubits by so many cubits….yeah I know. Didn’t I just read this? The Ten Commandments….again? Am I accidentally re-reading? Did I accidentally flip backward? Have I read this?” Deuteronomy is somewhat redundant – a rehash of Exodus – but for a reason.
Deuteronomy starts out by going back and reflecting on the post-Horeb epoch of the Israelite people. This is the core of their story. They have the Law now. They know what they are to do. They have their marching orders, and Moses wants to retell the story and remind people – perhaps highlight – some important parts of the story.
He recounts the choosing of leaders, the rebellion and defeat. It is a time to start over, and to wash the slate clean. And how important is it to have this institutional memory? Very important! For it shapes the very identity of the people for the time to come. By story’s end, they are in the Promised Land. It is as if Moses is saying, “Lest we forget who we are, and how we got here, and how thankful to God we need to be, let me tell you the story again!”
I find Deuteronomy fascinating. It is more than a retelling, but a reshaping of the story. I see details I missed the first time.
And so I entrust to you our new summer trajectory – Deuteronomy. May you discover the covenant of God with the Israelite people once again – or for the very first time. May you look with new eyes and extraordinary grace the God has poured out on his people, and continues to pour out on us today – a transformation and salvation of a people who were once lost and wandering, but now have been found.