Meditation on Deuteronomy 26:4-10

 Dt 26:4-10

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God,
‘My father was a wandering Aramean
who went down to Egypt with a small household
and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation
great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,
imposing hard labor upon us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers,
and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence.”
This passage from Deuteronomy has always been a favorite of mine for at least three reasons. First, these verses are about the providential nature of God.  God cares for us. God sees our suffering, abd ultimately God will provide for and save us in times of trouble. Time and again I have seen this in my own life and in the lives of others.  God does not promise us an easy life with no problems or trials, but God does promise to be with us through anything we face.
The providential nature of God is even referred to in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Naval Treaty.  Here Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes comment on flowers.  He writes:
“What a lovely thing a rose is.
He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Naval Treaty
Doyle makes the point that roses, while not necessary for our living, our extras provided by God to show he cares for us. Hand in hand with this observation is another by a preacher who states that everything we have is given to us by the providential hand of God.  Timothy Keller writes:
“If you have money, power, and status today, it is due to the century and place in which you were born, to your talents and capacities and health, none of which you earned. In short, all your resources are in the end the gift of God.” 
― Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just
A second reason for my loving this passage is it’s encouragement for us to give thanks for what God has given us.  If we examine our lives honestly, we will see that everything we have is from the hand of God, as Keller states above.  Therefore, we should from time to time, at the very least, show our gratitude by returning a portion of what God has given back to God.  Saying “Thank You” to God and cultivating an attitude of gratitude is necessary for God’s people so that we don’t develop an attitude that we are responsible for our own successes and well-being.  God is, and that is why thankfulness is a hallmark of all people who recognize that they children of the Eternal One.
The danger of not being thankful is found in the following quote:
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” ― John Henry Jowett
Finally. the third reason I love this passage is it’s acknowledgement that we are “wandering Arameans.”  We are not home yet.  Our home is ultimately with God, and we are, to quote an old folk song, “wayfaring strangers” until we find our home in the divine.  Another old gospel song, written by Jim Reeves, puts it this way:
This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
So there you have it.  Three reasons why this short passage is so meaningful to me.  I hope this reflection will help deepen your own appreciation of these verses as well.

A Christmas Song for You

Mary and JesusOne of my favorite Christmas songs of the “modern era” is by Dave Matthews.  I first encountered it on the album Live at Luther College with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds.  Thanks to Mike at Waving or Drowning for reminding me of this wonderful song.  The lyrics below are from his blog, which you can access at the end of this post.

If you want to listen to a version of it, go and see a YouTube version here.

Christmas Song
(Dave Matthews Band)

She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She’d be his wife and make him her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came, three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love was all around

Not very much of his childhood was known
Kept his mother Mary worried
Always out on his own
He met another Mary who for a reasonable fee,
less than reputable was known to be.

His heart full of love love love
Love love love
Love love was all around

When Jesus Christ was nailed to his tree
Said “oh, Daddy-o, I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene
Instead I fear I’ve spilled the blood of my children all around”

The blood of my children all around
The blood of my children’s all around

So I’m told, so the story goes
The people he knew were
Less than golden hearted
Gamblers and Robbers
Drinkers and Jokers, all soul searchers
Like you and me
Like you and me

Rumors insisted he soon would be
For his deviations
Taken into custody
By the authorities less informed than he.
Drinkers and Jokers all soul searchers
Searching for love love love
Love love love
Love love was all around

Preparations were made
For his celebration day
He said “eat this bread and think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children’s all around
The blood of our children all around

Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill
Me up with love, love, love
Love love love
Love love was all around
Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill
Me up with love, fill me love love love
Love love love
all you need is love
you can’t buy me love
Love love love
Love love
And the blood of our children’s all around

Source: Christmas Song
Originally published on Wed, 20 Dec 2006 22:01:52 GMT by Mike