Do any of you watch satisfying videos?
They’re a thing. Every now and then, someone in my house enjoys watching them. Just go on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean. There is a whole genre of satisfying videos. Here’s an example of one that caused a delay in writing this post…because I couldn’t stop watching it!
These satisfying videos and photos are especially heartwarming for perfectionists. They capture moments in time that are precise. But here’s thing. These videos and photos satisfy for a moment. Then they are done. Sure, we can watch more videos and view more photos. But if we are longing for deeper, sustained satisfaction, it becomes clear real quick that these videos don’t go that deep. Not to mention the fact that we can’t sit on our phones or TVs and watch videos all the time.
Furthermore, while satisfying videos are humorous and kinda cool, the problem of dissatisfaction is not funny. We can feel dissatisfied in so many areas. Relationships, finances, health, stress. Many of us are aware of deep inner longing, of a dissatisfied life. It’s why we sit on our phones so much, binge-watch so much TV, and try to ease the pain of life with addictions and escapes of many kinds. So is there anything that can satisfy the soul?
As we continue our series in Deuteronomy, we have arrived at chapters 12 and 13, and we’re also going to jump briefly into a few verses at the end of 16 and beginning of 17. What can satisfy the soul? Let’s see if Moses can help us answer the cry of our inner longings.
First of all let’s look at the intro to chapter 12, verses 1-3.
Here Moses is introducing the next and longest section of the book of Deuteronomy, and what the book of Deuteronomy is named for, the Second Law, or the second telling of the Law. Chapters 1-11 have been part historical account, and partly a re-establishment of the Ten Commandments and how they are summed up in the idea of Loving God. This is the foundation of the covenant. Now in chapters 12-26, Moses gets into the specific laws.
Before we get into the laws and commands of God in chapters 12 and 13, I think it will be helpful to briefly talk about why God has these commands in the first place. It could seem like he is micro-managing the people. Scan through Deuteronomy 12-26, and you will see there are a lot of laws. Why does he have to be so specific and detailed? Isn’t it a bit controlling, all these commands? Is God a dictator?
It reminded me of when our son Tyler came home from Army basic training and AIT. He had been gone for about 5 months, living a totally regimented life. There was almost no freedom. Especially at Basic Training, just about every moment of every day is spelled out for you by your drill sergeants. But then it was all over, and he returned home. On one of those first days back, Michelle found Tyler in his room sitting on his bed, just staring. She said, “What’s wrong?” And he replied, “I’ve been sitting here for 20 minutes, and I don’t know what to do.”
You see what happened? In just under 5 months, his life had been transformed to the point where he lost his sense of personal freedom, and was used to having someone tell him what to do.
Now imagine if it wasn’t 5 months. Imagine if it was over 400 years, and your entire culture and nation was raised up under that kind of control? Where you and your parents and your grandparents, and many generations before them, were always slaves, and nearly everything in your lives was dictated by the ruling powers! For those of us not from an ethnicity that ever experienced that, it is very hard for us to put ourselves into that mentality. But that slave mentality is exactly what was deeply entrenched in the people of Israel. They had been brainwashed for centuries, and that mentality doesn’t just leave them the moment they cross the Red Sea. In fact, if you read the books before Deuteronomy, the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, you will see the people of Israel reverting to their slave mentality often. God knows this. And he desperately wants them to be free of that slave mentality. He knows that mentality goes down deep in their lives, and thus they could easily be lured into worshiping the gods of the nations around them, nations that were far more powerful than Israel. And you know what more powerful nations do to weaker nations? The more powerful nations enslave the weaker nations. God knows that unless Israel takes drastic action, following his ways for them, they will almost certainly be defeated by those other nations and enslaved all over again.
With that, we set the stage for the recounting of God’s laws to Israel in Deuteronomy 12 and 13. What will he say first? And how will he address the longing of their hearts? And if we are struggling with dissatisfaction, what might we be able to learn from ancient laws to help us? Check back in tomorrow, as all week long we’ll be seeking to answer that very question: what can satisfy the soul?