This Sunday I will preach on Deuteronomy 34, the final chapter of the book. This sermon will also mark the final sermon on the first five books of the Bible (often called the Pentateuch or Torah). That milestone probably shouldn’t pass by without some comment of reflection and thankfulness.
We began our study of the Pentateuch in September of 2007, in the humble dwellings of John Q Hammons Convention Center. I am, by God’s grace, a new and different person from those days and here’s how the Pentateuch helped change me.
- GENESIS: Throughout those 46 sermons we discovered how Jesus Christ was the Perfect Founder of our religion, in dramatic contrast to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Remember the weekly beating that poor Jacob took? I still don’t like him!
- EXODUS: Those 35 sermons were a Copernican Revolution for me. It was there that God’s fierce desire to “dwell with his people” finally dawned on me. The implications of which have forever changed my message and ministry.
- LEVITICUS: No doubt the most intimidating book in the group, those 12 sermons convinced me that God’s seemingly austere commands about offerings and society are rooted in his wondrous grace. Israel had a God that would address their sin (however grotesque) and they would have grain, wine, and bulls to sacrifice — signs of wealth and the prosperity of God’s blessing.
- NUMBERS: Few books are more dear to my heart than Numbers and the 13 weeks we spent in it exceeded my expectations. I have spent years of my life feeling condemned by my few-and-far-between “spiritual highs.” In Numbers, God demands that we accept him as the “God of the wilderness.” He is there — dwelling with us — in life’s mind-numbing monotony as we walk our loneliest paths.
- DEUTERONOMY: The climax, God’s heartbeat and presence at the core of his Law. I hope these last 16 weeks have convinced you (as they have me) that our Father does not send us off alone. He goes with us, before and behind, making good on the Genesis promise to “be God to us” and the Exodus promise “to dwell with us.”
As I look back over these books I am, first of all, thankful that God has allowed our church family to exist and bear fruit for this long.
Secondly, remembering all this makes me proud of our church. It reinforces the argument that Joplin needs a church like ours. We don’t do everything well at CTK, but we stake our existence on the belief that ALL of God’s Word is living and active and that the whole counsel of God bears the good news we call the gospel. Countless times, new people or visitors have remarked that they had never heard anyone preach from these texts. We spent 122 weeks on them and heard the voice of God!
And lastly, I’m thankful that these first five books aren’t the whole story. The Samaritans and Sadducees of Jesus’ day actually believed that the Torah was all there was to Scripture. Can you imagine?
I rejoice that we have the Historical Books that firmly secure a Davidic King (spoiler alert: Jesus!) and the Psalms that are the daily organizing principle for life. Then there’s Isaiah, that giant of the Old Testament, and the promise that God would establish a kingdom without end. Not to mention all of the other great prophets: Ezekiel cooking bread over dung, Jeremiah in stocks for preaching, Daniel and the Son of Man, Hosea repurchasing is wife, Joel and the Spirit, Zechariah and the Temple, and Malachi and the parting hope of Elijah’s return and the coming Great Day of the Lord.
I’m so thankful for a New Testament that fulfills all of those unhatched promises. My intention was that, by continually returning to those “Books of Moses,” you might better see that Jesus is the Founder, Deliverer, Sacrifice, Pathfinder, and Presence of God for you.
Every story has a beginning and we have faithfully studied it. We have a God that patiently speaks over the course of millennia, through the course of peculiar lives, in the course of embarrassing failures, and with the slow unfolding of history. It is a humbling and life-giving joy to receive such a Living Word in the present day.