Over the summer, I’ve been continuing to meet with one of my college students to read the book of Deuteronomy. We’ve been reading in order to sharpen our Hebrew language skills, and it’s caused us to read really mundane passages in Deuteronomy very slowly. There’s something about slowing down in our reading that causes us to pay attention to details that we would have otherwise blown past had we read them in English. One such passage hit us both between the eyes this past week. I’ve always heard and believed that the Gospel of grace is evident throughout the WHOLE Bible, but it never ceases to amaze me when I see it in unexpected places.
At the end of Deut. 1, Moses recounts the Israelite’s disobedience in thinking that they could conquer their enemies without God’s help. He recalls how they were beat badly by the Amorites – “chased like bees do…” Moses recalls (don’t you love the imagery the Bible uses!) Ok, so the Israelites were defeated because of their presumptuous disobedience – not much new there. He then goes on to recount how God commanded them to move from place to place. Then in Deut 2:4, God commands something totally unexpected. He tells the Israelites (the sons of Jacob) that they would encounter their brothers the sons of Esau, but they were not to engage in combat with them even though the descendants of Esau would fear the Israelites! Maybe it’s because the Israelites would recognize that the sons of Esau feared them that they’re commanded to not fight and take their land? Regardless of the motive, notice why God tells them to avoid the sons of Esau, “I have given Mount Seir to Esau as an inheritance” (my translation). Remarkable. Why, you ask?
Because in Gen 25, Esau sold his birthright, his position of blessing, his inheritance for a bowl of soup. His immediate hunger cost him and his descendants the place of primacy in his family. He sold out in order to satisfy his appetite. Yet, here God is telling the sons of Jacob (whose ancestor received the blessing instead) to not attack and take the land of Esau, whose descendants feared them, because God had reserved it for them. God reserves, preserves, and allots an inheritance to those who denounced him and were faithless! It’s sheer grace. It’s good news that our faithLESSness doesn’t deny God’s faithFULL(sic.)ness. It’s the Gospel, and it’s glorious.
As you think about this coming ministry year, maybe you’re haunted by past faithlessness and failure. You look at last year, and you think that there’s no way that God would bless this year. After all, he who is faithful with a little will be given more, right? But that’s not what the Gospel says. The Gospel according to Deuteronomy (and the rest of Scripture for that matter) boldly declares that even when we fail, God still keeps his promises, and those promises are not just for you, my fellow kingdom worker, they are for the families, students, and churches you serve! God preserves and protects an inheritance even when we give it up for short-term appetites. This is not to say there aren’t disastrous consequences for unfaithfulness. Just ask the sons of Esau living on a small plot of land as the descendants of their uncle’s clan come walking by towards the vast promised land given to them. But it is to say that God stays faithful when strictly speaking, he has every right to bury us and forget about it. He stays faithful because that’s the kind of God he is. That’s the kind of God we’re leading our ministries to make known! What a glorious Gospel!