I’m currently reading through Deuteronomy. I know many people think Numbers-Deuteronomy tedious (the laws and the lists usually turn people off), but I find them both sad and fascinating. Over and again, God tries to bless His people, and over and again, they rebel. Over and again, God pleads with His people to obey Him, and over and again, they compromise. One phrase I keep hearing in Deuteronomy (Moses’ farewell sermon) is “if you follow my commands [says the Lord] I will bless you, and your children in the good land I will give you.” Yet the other side of that blessing comes also a curse, that God will not allow sin to be among His people, for He will live among them, and cannot abide in sin. God wants to bless them, but over and again, from the time of Egypt even until today, those who say they are God’s people look nothing like His Word commands them to be.
Why is this so? I think it’s because small compromises to make life simpler are what we all seek. We know we’re taking short cuts, we know we’re making deals with people we shouldn’t, we know we’re compromising God’s word, but if I do it His way, it’s more complicated, and a lot harder. One doesn’t deconstruct the faith, become an apostate, or openly mock the church over night, it’s a gradual path of compromises that leads to the final straw (God’s grace and mercy will cover a rebel who repents and comes home, but that’s a different subject). The fact is, Jesus echoed (and summarized) His Father’s words in one statement: “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). We’re called to hear and obey, and whatever we think of the matter, we’re to submit that to His will, too. Small compromises lead to big trouble, and, unlike some, I’d rather stick to the center of Christ’s commands than toe the line. It’s easy for the sheep to get lost if they’re not near the shepherd, so I will stay as close to Christ as is possible.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.