So, wrote the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero in 63 BC. The debate over a break down in authority and younger generations becoming ever more-ready to defy social codes and understanding seems to have been raging ever since. Jesus was not immune from this and answers the criticism of the Pharisees and the Scribes about his disciples not observing ritual washing, by pointing out that what truly matters is knowing and observing the word of God, not the word of man.
Deuteronomy means ‘repetition of the law’ – Moses was stating God’s will to give his people another opportunity to make a fresh start. This edict follows a familiar pattern: instruction followed by promise. Observe God’s law and will for your life and you will enter the land He has prepared for you. We might not have a new physical land to move into, but we all have territory that we need to take control of in our lives. Worries, habits, lifestyle choices that God speaks over us with love and says; ‘I have something better for you than this .. let me help you enter it.’ God desires that we experience victory in our lives, but that victory is dependent upon us responding to his guidance and his will. He warns us of the dangers of adding to his word or subtracting from it. There is no ‘God Light’ or ‘God Plus’ version of His word. There is His word. But to experience the life that God has promised us, we need to know his word and for that, there is no shortcut. We need to know it and then to choose to follow it. When we try to miss bits out we don’t like, or avoid things that we think irrelevant, we get into a mess and fail to experience what we need to at that time. I’m reminded of the mess I get into when I take a shortcut at Ikea and get hopelessly lost!
There is a promise of wisdom in following God’s directions. When we follow God’s laws we are blessed, and this blessing will always reveal itself in our lives. God’s promise is that His word makes a difference to us – the way we view life, understand life, live life will be noticed by others. When we live our lives with God and for God, our lives automatically become attractive. What a wonderful consequence of a decision made. James reminds us of the power there is in being ‘doers’ of the word. If we want victory in our lives, then we need to listen and act. We need to hear and follow.
I was speaking to a gentleman in his mid 70’s last week who came to faith about 10 years ago. He was full of the life and light and joy that knowing Jesus brings, but acutely aware of just how much fun and opportunity he had missed out on in the decades that had gone before. God does not want us to be ‘if only’ people.
Moses reminds the people that they must be careful not to forget what God’s will is for them and to ensure that the younger generations learn of His goodness. Teach them to know what you know. Pass on the truth of what you know. Do not forget God. Do not allow the truth to fall from your lives. It’s all far too important to be left to chance. But first … we need to know it ourselves. Read it, listen to it, talk about it. There is only one Gospel and we must not allow it to become altered or diluted in any way. God’s desire is that we live our lives in the freedom and victory of following His word – his whole word - for our lives.
With the Lord’s blessing
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale