One day, I decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover. I decided that I wouldn't let it intimidate me anymore. I figured that during law school, I had read some of the most complicated, arcane cases ever authored; the Old Testament simply couldn't be anymore complicated than the old English cases I'd read.
When I started to read it in earnest, I was amazed at the wealth of information it contained. More importantly, I was impressed with the continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The Christian Bible is a seamless story of a loving God who continually tries to set a rebellious people on the right course.
Many people read Genesis, which is the basic story of the fall of mankind and its consequences.s But when they get to Exodus, or heaven forbid, Deuteronomy, the words are so foreign and strange, they give up and skip to the New Testament.
But here's the thing about the Bible. When you read it with a prayerful attitude, something miraculous happens. God, in the form of the Holy Spirit tutors you through it. He helps you to interpret the Bible. He reveals his will and plan for you. He acts as a tutor, to help you understand this incredibly timeless document that has enlightened billions of people before you.
Every time I read the Bible for any length of time, something "pops" for me. I see something I've not seen before. God reaches out across the universe and provides me with insight and wisdom, through His Words.
I read through Deuteronomy one summer evening last year. Deuteronomy begins with a description of the nation of Israel, which had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They are now in Moab. They're near Suph, between Pran and the towns of Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
See what I mean? Who in the world would name towns like this? It's nutty.
Or, I suppose it's nutty to our modern-day sensibilities. In any event, these were real places at one time. When the Deuteronomy was first written, these places were specific and signficant. The writer included them because they meant something to the reader. More importantly, they provided this detail as a form of authentication for the events described.
In any event, as I read Deuteronomy 10 and 11, I was struck by the lesson they contain. After 40 years of dealing with his rebellious children, God, through Moses, lays it on the line so simply that anyone can understand it.
He says (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I'm going to give you a choice. You can choose to have a good life, or a miserably one. All you have to do is to love and obey me. Take your pick. But if you choose to go your own way, without me, it is going to be rough. I'm not telling you what to do. I just want to love you. But I can't express that love if you are living in rebellion to me."
What about you? Does this message resonate for you?
When you follow Him, is your life better? And when you drift away from Him, does your life deteriorate? Certainly, loving God and obeying Him is not a guarantee of freedom from short-term pain. There will be times when things simply happen, even when it seems unfair.
But the thing to remember is that when we stay in that place of faith and obedience, the long-term effect is incredible blessings. There may be short-term disappointments, but even those take us to blessings when we remain faithful.
In Deuteronomy 11:26, He says: "See today, I am setting before you today, a blessing or a curse." When you boil it all down, you have a simple choice to make, each and every day of your life (if no each and every minute). Will I choose His path, or my own path?
The thing is that I can look back on my life today and see, with perfect hindsight, the consequences of those choices. When I chose to go my own way, it led to heartache. One bad choice led to another bad choice (in a vain effort to correct the first bad choice). Bad choices compound and ultimately lead to bad things.
But when I choose His path, it always leads to blessings. So the simple, incredibly lesson of Deuteronomy is the same lesson that many of us have to re-learn time and time again, throughout our lives. When we finally submit, once and for all, and fully to His will, we put ourselves on that path to blessings.
It may seem harsh to our liberal sensibilities. After all, aren't we supposed to have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" Of course. God agrees with that. All He is saying is that when we choose Him, all of those things and much, much more will fall into place.
So, what are you going to choose? Blessings? Or, a curse?
I know it sounds crazy, but many people, like me, are of the hard-headed variety. We choose the curse because we don't want anyone telling us what to do, or how to live our lives. Eventually, we realize that God, like an eternally patient and loving Parent, only wants what's best for us. Even better, He's put all of it into writing. It may take some work, but if you read through it, you'll understand exactly what it is that He wants you to do.
I suppose some people enjoy a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Personally, I'd prefer a banana split. And for that reason, the choice seems pretty simple.
And that's exactly how he laid it out for us. Read Deuteronomy 10 and 11 right now. You won't be disappointed.
Scripture is from the New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.