“Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47 ESV)
We need these words as much today as Israel did so many years before. They were on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. They were still experiencing the daily miracle of manna and had witnessed God’s victory over the kings Sihon and Og. The story of their parents’ great exodus from Egypt was a recent event. And yet, they needed to be reminded that these words – the commandments of God – were no empty words. They would be the key to their blessing or the cursing in the land God would give them. For us too, God’s commands are no empty words. The moral law teaches us what life in God’s Kingdom will be like. In the new heavens and the new earth people will love God and love others. There will be no vain pursuits or oppressive abuse. It is a place with no more tears because sadness and loss will be no more. Death will be no more. Sounds good, right?
Good as it sounds, it means living differently than we do today. Our children would rather play video games than read Moses’ words. They would rather experiment with explosions in the backyard than listen to Dad’s teaching. I don’t blame them. I have my own druthers often. And yet, we must remember that they are not “empty words!”
Moses helps them by putting their importance to music, to stir the soul with metaphor and melody. Some of those lyrics are below:
“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God! (Deuteronomy 32:1-3 ESV)
“He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions,
the Lord alone guided him,
no foreign god was with him. (Deuteronomy 32:10-12 ESV)
Here the imagery communicates more than the “facts” of the event. We see God as a life-giving rain, faithful in his powerful presence and yet gentle enough to protect the most delicate soul. We see God as a nurturing eagle teaching its young how to stretch its wings and fly that it might soar over the heights and take in the majesty and beauty of God’s work and provision. This is the nature of God as he gives his commands. They are not empty words.
Lord, help me to know your word as this life-giving rain and this caring eagle that I might satisfy my thirst and learn to soar through life as your child.