The Book of Deuteronomy

Wednesday, September 16th 2020

The foundational Books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch culminate in the Book of Deuteronomy. It is a fitting finish to the five. Even the title “Deuteronomy” indicates this. Deuteronomy literally means “second law”. And indeed in this Book Moses repeats the story of what has happened to the people thus far as they are at the doorstep of finally entering the Promised Land. He repeats the whole law, and then renews the understanding of what it means to belong to God as the congregation of Israel.

It is helpful to think of the Book as Moses’ sermon to the people on the cusp of entering the Promised Land to take possession of it. Moses’ leadership is coming to an end. God will not allow him to enter the land. But he has one last mission. He must present the renewal of the covenant made earlier with Israel at Sinai.

Highlights of this Book include the restating of the Ten Commandments which was first revealed in the Book of Exodus. Moses also provides the public confession of the faith for the Hebrew community known as the Shema. This will be repeated often, such as we today recite the Apostles’ Creed. “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is followed by the greatest commandment – to love God with all one’s being and faculties.

Of great significance is a section in chapters 27 and 28 known as Curses and Blessings. The list of curses is rather extensive indicating the penalties for breaking the covenant. Throughout the Book God’s blessings are numerous, but in this section there is ample warning that neglect of, and disobedience to, the covenant can cut one off from these blessings.

The rest of the Hebrew Scriptures will both narrate the constant breaking of the covenant, and the Prophets warnings to the people with the call for repentance. In spite of all the curses happening, God will continue his redemptive plan…

Since You Asked…

What is meant by the term “catholic” as when we confess, “I believe in the holy catholic Church?”

The term “catholic” means whole and refers to a church which receives the Christian faith intact without alteration or selection of matters of the faith. The opposite of catholic is heretic, one who picks and chooses which parts of the faith to accept. Thus “catholic” is more specific than “Christian” and is not a synonym for “ecumenical” or “worldwide”. (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)

- often when the “C” is capitalized “Catholic” is referring to the Roman Catholic Church, and when the “c” is lower case “catholic” is referring to the Church receiving the whole of the faith.

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