God distinguishes Israel from all the peoples around them by making a covenant with them and by giving them regulations to guide their behavior,
“See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
Rules and regulations given by God are meant to build community, to bring freedom, and to cause celebration.
- The dietary regulations protect the community from disease by advocating cleanliness and personal health.
- The social regulations promote brotherhood and protect the community from predators.
- The ceremonial regulations develop gratitude and God-awareness by promoting God-centered communal celebration.
- The sacrificial regulations recognize the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin by constantly reminding the community of God’s promise of redemption.
When God no longer is the epicenter of community men arise who govern by their wisdom. Therefore, governments oppress, predators proliferate, addictive behaviors escalate. And hope of redemption dies. How the world needs to see Godly government!
Older Post"What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near to us whenever we pray to him?" (Deuteronomy 4:7)
I lived in Africa where many people lived in fear, fear of spirits, powers, and ancestors. Even the name of God in the language of the AmaNdebele people demonstrates distance from God: uNkulunkulu, which means the great Great One. He cannot be known or approached. Only the dead have access through their distant ancestors. No one can ever know God. He is too far away to be known.
I have traveled in Asia where the majority of the people visit their shrines, offer incense and other gifts to statues. For them, God is unknowable. Even in Islam God is far away, unknowable. In fact, no world religion promises intimacy with God.
Only the God of the Bible promises nearness to His people:
- Eph 2:13 - But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
- Heb 7:19 - for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
- Heb 10:22 - let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
God's nearness means that He befriends mankind. He calls Abraham "the friend of God."
God's nearness means intimacy with the Almighty is possible.
Long ago Augustine said that man has a God-shaped vacuum in his heart. This vacuum, created by God, was designed to bring man into intimacy with God. Sin has so marred our lives that we seek to fill this vacuum with everything else--pleasure, power, approval, money, etc., but in reality the vacuum was always meant to be filled with God Himself. In Deuteronomy God was so near that He manifested Himself in the cloud by day and fire by night. But the simplest sinner who believes on Jesus is granted the wonderful privilege of God not only near, but within. Here is the privilege of intimacy with the God of heaven.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
- What distinguishes Israel's God from the gods of Gilead, Bashan, and Og?
- What characterizes Moses' last instructions to the children of Israel (what is repeated)?
- How do the people respond as they receive/hear the ten commandments?
- What does God promise future generations who become corrupt and worship idols? What does he promise future generations who incline their hearts to fear God?
Thank the Lord that He is near to you right at this moment. Acknowledge His presence. And worship Him.