“It is written…”
A story about Jesus may seem a strange place to start a series on Deuteronomy, but this passage has transformed how I understand and feel about Deuteronomy. For most of my Christian life, I have seen Deuteronomy as outdated, boring, and irrelevant to me. I read it out of duty, mixed with a desire to say I’d done it, but without any real expectation of encountering God in its pages. This passage changed all that.
That transformation took time though, as it took me years to spot the role of Deuteronomy here. I’d always previously read the story solely in its New Testament context and there is lots in this dramatic encounter to inspire and excite us.
Ironically, one of the things that I’ve always loved most about this story is that Jesus used the Bible to confound the Devil’s schemes. I love that that is something that I can also do. The irony is that I then never really bothered to follow up and explore the passages Jesus quotes from! As it turns out, all three of them are from Deuteronomy. You’ve probably already guessed that, but you might have struggled a bit more if this series wasn’t about Deuteronomy!
We don’t know exactly why Jesus chose these particular verses. Whatever the reason though, it is clear that Jesus loved Deuteronomy and saw it as a living and powerful revelation of God. These aren’t dusty old texts that Jesus had memorised because he had to. They are quotations from passages that had come alive to him, and through which he had learnt new things about God, about himself, and about what it means to be a disciple.
That conclusion is reinforced elsewhere. Deuteronomy actually seems to have been a favourite for Jesus. In the gospels he quotes from it more than any other book. There’s more here than I had realised!
Once you start digging into Deuteronomy, that becomes less surprising. It’s a series of sermons preached by Moses to the people of Israel shortly before his death and is his final advice and encouragement to them. A refrain that comes again and again in the book is “that it may go well with you” (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:40). Moses is sharing God’s best ways for how to live life. You could say this is “wellness”, but God’s way.
That is an exciting but challenging prospect. We get to discover God’s best for our lives, but we will also be challenged to obey and follow him even when we’d rather take a different path. Are you ready to explore and be challenged by a book you may not know so well?
This series is a taste of this wonderful book. We will explore some of the passages in Deuteronomy that Jesus quoted and learn from his wisdom and insights.
Take some time to reflect on your preconceptions of Deuteronomy. Ask God to change them (if needed) and inspire, challenge and meet with you as you read it.