As Israel completed 40 years of living in the wilderness isolated from the world around them, Moses gave three lectures to prepare them for living in a culture that would be hostile to their faith. We call those lectures Deuteronomy. Part of their preparation included this passage:
5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
Moses’ speech seems to presuppose three issues. We take them up in turn.
1—We live in a broken world.
The contrast between the wisdom and understanding of Israel, and the world where they were about to live points to the broken nature of the world in which they and we live. Evidence of our broken world shows up everywhere.
- School Shootings – In 2014, the US has averaged one violent incident per month. The term “Active-Shooter” is now just one more thing we have to fear for our families and communities.
- Political Corruption – Not a new issue, but far more rampant and blatant than in recent times. A broken society rarely produces virtuous leaders.
- Destruction of the Family – Divorce and children born outside of marriage at staggering numbers. The lack of sexual boundaries, the materialism, substance abuse and isolation. We are, at the same time, more connected and more alone than ever.
Moses and Israel would have had their own list. You can likely add more to ours. But the brokenness leads to a second question.
2–What do we do to make it better?
God inspired Moses and a host who followed him, including us, with the dream of being God’s servants to the broken world. But in our current “post-Christian” world, we have to intentionally “enter the land”.
Moses told his people about three assets that a broken world will value. Those three things are:
- Wisdom – Virtues
- Understanding – Values
- Righteousness – Character
Their world and ours often lacks these foundational qualities. In the New Testament, the young church, outnumbered and persecuted, did exactly what Moses prescribed in Deuteronomy 4. They were ethical. They were helpful. They offered community and relationship. They served. They were hospitable. They loved. And because of their actions, with the power of God’s spirit, over time, their world was transformed.
Moses assembled the people on the Plains of Shittim for class in order to teach them these principles. That leads to a third issue raised by Deuteronomy 4.
3—Where do we learn how to make it better?
Christian education promotes these same qualities about which Moses spoke. Christian education offers a transformative experience that prepares people to be fixers of the broken. Christian education starts with young people, many who grew up in families that taught them God’s wisdom, understanding and righteousness. We prepare, coach, and train them to go out into the world, not just with competence to do a job, but with the virtues, values and character to lead and mend those around them.
For forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert. During that period they had no influence on a land that needed their leadership. Moses prepared them to enter the land. As we contemplate the last forty years in our national history, we might wish we had exerted more influence on our land.
It is time for this generation to enter the land.
At OVU, we are committed to the mission of entering and restoring our world. We are preparing, coaching, and training them to go out into this broken world–not just with the competence to do a job, but with the virtues, values and character to lead those around them.