Exploring Deuteronomy Week 2: You All Remember
Pastor Dan’s second sermon, “Remember” in the “Not By Bread Alone” series on Deuteronomy is available online if you missed it or want to hear it again!
So, we got to hear more about Deuteronomy yesterday, and I am just loving us being able to dig into God’s word and recognize that all of it — Old and New Testament — is useful to us.
When I was at seminary, I took four semesters of Hebrew. Four. Ugh. Hebrew was a real challenge for me. It’s a whole new alphabet, new sounds, new vocabulary, etc. It takes a lot of time to learn to read the Bible in its original language. However, I am so glad that I did it! As I learned Hebrew, I was amazed by how much it taught me about God and His people.
One thing that I noticed as I learned Hebrew is that so often when we see the English word “you” in our Bibles, in Hebrew it is a plural “you all.” The plural “you all” was all over our text in Deuteronomy yesterday as Moses addressed the Israelites as an entire community.
In general, people in North America and Europe are influenced by Greek thought, which means we tend to think fairly individualistically. However, the Bible was written in an Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture where people tended to think as a community. The book, Teaching the Bible in the Church says, “In the ancient cultures reflected in the Bible there is much more a corporate sense of who a person is. As we mentioned earlier in this chapter, when in our culture we hear someone say ‘you,’ we hear that as an address to a single individual; we hear ‘me.’ However, in the ancient cultures reflected in the Bible, the dominant way in which ‘you’ was understood was plural, an address not to an individual but to a community.”
That communal mindset was very common in ANE culture and is actually still quite relevant in the Middle East today. And we see this a lot in our Deuteronomy text. Yesterday we were reading in Deuteronomy 1–4, and Moses spends time recounting how the Israelites sinned against God, which is the reason it took them 40 years (instead of 11 days) to arrive at the Promised Land.
I mean, they were supposed to go from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. Look at how quickly they could have arrived if they had just obeyed!
As Moses talks in Deuteronomy, he says things like, “But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God” (Deut. 1:26). Moses speaks to these people like they were the ones who were too afraid to go into the Promised Land all those years before. But the generation of people who had disobeyed God had died out by the time Moses gave his sermon. The people listening were their descendents. If I were there listening to Moses with my modern mindset, I would want to raise my hand and say, “Hey, Moses. I wasn’t the one who disobeyed God. That was my dad. I’m not responsible for what he did.”
But this communal mindset is very common in the Bible. Entire communities are addressed — the sins of one person often affect others. For example, in Joshua 7, Israel loses a battle at Ai because a man named Achan stole some of the things that belonged to God. Achan is found out and he — along with all of his family — are put to death. This is so difficult to my mind because it seems really unfair that Achan’s family died too. But the Eastern mind thought much less individually and much more communally. That’s why a good king could bring blessings to Israel, and a father’s sins would be felt by his descendents. That’s why, as Pastor Dan mentioned yesterday, the sins of Israel affected Moses, which he writes about in Psalm 90.
So in Deuteronomy as Moses calls Israel to remember, he speaks to the whole community. He talks as though this generation was the one who sinned against God 40 years before. He does this to cement in their memory their identity — God freed them from slavery and invites them to obey and follow His way because it is the best way to live. Moses asks them to remember God’s identity — He is a warrior who fights for them, a father who loves them and a guide who protects them.
So, some things I thought we could maybe discuss together:
* As we think about community and what Pastor Dan said about remembering yesterday, what are some ways we can focus on remembering together?
* Are there any Bible passages that have confused you that might make more sense when understood through the lens of community?
* How has God shown up in your life — how has He reminded you of who He is? Share in the comments so we can remember His great deeds together as a community of believers!