Wholly Holy

Holy Island, in Scotland Last Friday I finished Deuteronomy 26 through 34 (that's the end of the book) followed by the first 7 chapters of Joshua. So Genesis -50, Exodus - 40, Leviticus-27, Numbers-36, Deuteronomy-34 = wow I'm tired...

"But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it." - Joshua 6:18

Devoted things...this is another example of the breakdown of language. "Devoted things" seems such an archaic phrase that it is virtually meaningless to modern readers. Usually, "devoted" is paired with more sunny things, such as devoted to a man or devoted to a cause. But devoted to destruction? That took me a second to properly digest.

In the context, things "devoted to destruction" appear to denote subjects who/that are almost lethally contagious, as if under the surface of Jericho's gold and fine cloth seethes colonies of infectious agents. And maybe, to some extent, they are. Spiritually speaking, the very presence of Jericho's treasures in the homes of the Israelites seems to pollute, pulling God's people further and further away from obedience to him. And maybe that was because Jericho idolized her wealth rather than the creator and sustainer of her opulence. ( "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." - Romans 8:20)

Could part of creation's futility be the continual pursuit of the meaningless in the delusional belief that they will engender meaning?

So I guess in some ways Deuteronomy serves as God's line in the sand: either you're with me, thus gaining eternal purpose and joy, or against me, pursuing fleeting pleasures without meaning and ultimately leading to death.

God is clear, even to the point of redundancy, about his absolute intolerance for disobedience, especially with respect to idolotry. The first commandment—I am the Lord and you will have no other gods before me—sets the tone for God's head-over-shoulders rank over native "deities." God maintains this level of complete, flawless holiness by keeping his people pure, barring them from idolatry on pain of separation from his presence. Accordingly, Jericho was "devoted to destruction" because of her whole-hearted pursuit of perishable treasures rather than imperishable ones. ("but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." - Matthew 6:20)

This reminds me strikingly of Romans 9 when Paul discusses vessels devoted for glory and vessels devoted for destruction.

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? - Romans 9:14-24

Now the obvious question: how does that make me feel? Awful. Really awful. I guess I'm so used to being a back-seat driver--or clay jar potter, in this case--that the idea of having no say in God's mercy or his justice is frustrating. Then I remember that I am, in fact, a deluded, rather silly, young thing. I wouldn't trust myself with the role of Governor or President. WHY, then, do I believe I have a right to give God my council.

Yes, God has many secret motivations and plans that are unclear and in my partial sight (deut. 29:29). But what he has revealed of himself over an over is a resounding proclamation of his goodness and unbearable love. It's so cliche but being a patent truly gives me a better appreciation for my LACK of appreciation for God's works.

This is my thesis at the end of each reading: God, you are good, powerful, merciful, and just. God, I am feeble in heart and mind, prone to wander, seduced by my own desires for creation over creator.

Jenny Smith

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