Thursday, April 16, 2020

Grain, Oil, and Wine

It's quiet at my house today. My husband is asleep.  My older son is walking the dog on one of the hour long walks to which she has become accustomed. My younger son is doing what can only be described as a prison yard workout in his bedroom for his PE class.

I'm working on laundry. I've already washed a load of delicates, which, upon finishing, I discovered could be hung out to dry because it is such a beautiful day. I have an eastern facing door that is perfect for drying laundry in the early part of the day. I felt the sun and gentle breeze come through that door, and soon all the other doors and windows were opened too. I heard it is supposed to rain later this week, but today is the essence of spring, at least the spring I have in my mind.  In reality, spring is transition from winter to summer and is often filled with rain.  The rain makes what I think of as "spring" possible.

Just after the Israelites received the ten commandments, there is a passage I often miss because it lives in the shadow of the law. The Israelites are told:
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul —  then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.  I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied" (Deuteronomy 11:13-15, NIV).
In a nutshell: If they obey God, He will send rain. He will take care of them. The command listed here is the essence of the ten commandments, "to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."  This is THE law, and all other law provides guidance for people to fulfill this one. Is it any wonder why Jesus called this the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-40?  Love God, and He'll take care of me? That sounds like a great deal. However, things were about to get hard.

The difficulty is not in the exposition of the law, which would continue for several chapters of Deuteronomy and include everything from dietary restrictions to debt laws. Nor is the difficult part that these people were living in the desert. In fact, it is just the opposite.  The challenge would be moving back into the city.

In the desert, they had nothing but God to focus on. Yet, when their leader left to receive instruction from God, it took less than forty days to be led astray into worshiping a self-made golden calf (Exodus 32, Deuteronomy 9:7-12). Here in California, it has been 28 days since Governor Newsom issued our Stay At Home order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There is uncertainty, and every day brings new questions. We are in desert land, and many feel helpless.  Some, I fear, have made themselves golden calves. If we are anything like the Israelites, the hard part is yet to come.

God repeatedly warns these people that they are about to go into a new land. They will move out of the desert, and to the life they dream of, the life they want. It will be even better than their time in Egypt because they will no longer be slaves.  They will be free.  They will be free to determine how their days are spent. They will be free to raise their children how they see fit.  They will be free to structure the details of their lives. When Deuteronomy 11:31-32 says, "You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today" it is both a promise and a warning.

We, too, will eventually leave this desert and return to a place that feels much more familiar. We will be presented with pleasures that feel long forgotten.  We are the ones who saw God's hand at work, and we must decide if we will receive the grain, oil, and wine that God is supplying.

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