The Gospel and second readings are beautiful this Sunday, but the passage from Deuteronomy, which I personally haven’t spent a lot of time reading, has been speaking to my heart.
In this passage, Moses is recalling how good God has been to the Hebrews since He rescued them from Egyptian slavery. The 10 plagues God sends to Egypt after the Pharaoh refuses to release the Hebrews from slavery – they are actually directly connected to the different gods the Egyptians were worshipping. For example, worship of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, is countered during the ninth plague, when darkness falls over Egypt for three days. God shows his control over nature to demonstrate his power compared to that of the Egyptian idols, and then allows light back into the land.
So when the Hebrews are able to escape, they’re not just escaping physical slavery, captivity, and persecution – they’re also being freed from a culture of idolatry. The idolatry of ancient Egypt isn’t as prevalent in our culture today, however, we are constantly fighting against things in our lives that can easily become idols, take the place of God, and become the center of our lives. Busy schedules with no room for prayer, social media that distracts our attention from being made in the image and likeness of God, weekend activities that become more important than going to church, the pressure and desire to always have the most expensive car, house, phone, etc.
And yet when the Hebrews are in trouble and trapped in slavery or wandering in the desert, God actively saves them, and provides everything they need – although not always in the way they expected. Moses reminds his people of these “signs and wonders,” and compares Israel to “a land flowing with milk and honey,” symbols of prosperity.
In return, Moses brings the “first fruits” of their labors – the best of their crops, “which you, Lord, have given me,” – as an offering to God. Not the second best harvest, and not the leftovers, but the best that they have. And Moses trusts God to continue to save and provide for His people – so much so that he gives God back the best of what he has, instead of keeping it for himself.
Do we offer God the best of our time, talents, and treasures, or our leftovers? Do we trust him to provide everything we need, even when we give something of value away (time, money, or items?) Do we thank God in advance for what He will do in our lives, and pray with a trusting heart? If not, why, and what can we do to improve that?
Remember that the same God who “saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression,” and “brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm,” (Deut. 26:7-8) is the God that we worship today. He is all-powerful, loving, and personally interested in YOUR life, too. How can we better let God love us and work in our lives? What kinds of things do we need to be freed from? There is no sin, no weakness, no situation, that God cannot help you with. This week, let’s try to fast from the things we need God to save us from, pray in thanksgiving for His workings in our lives, and give with a trusting heart to those in need – just like God does for us.