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July 17, 2020

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” Deuteronomy 10:17

Today is Day 124, and I confess that the OT passage from the Daily Texts caught me off guard. God takes no bribe? I mean, I wasn’t thinking that God does accept bribes. Then again, who hasn’t offered to change their ways if only God will grant this or that petition?

What is a bribe? A payment made to get out of doing something else. This is why Moses includes this little prohibition against bribing God. In the section of Deuteronomy, as the people prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses is recalling the giving of the second set of stone tablets. In this affirmation of God’s Law, Moses asks (v.12), “What does the LORD your God require of you?” The answer: Fear God, walk in God’s ways, love God with heart and soul, and keep God’s commandments. There is no getting out of God’s will for our lives, no bribe or sacrifice that alters God’s expectations of us.

To drive home the point, the comment about not bribing God is followed with more ethical instruction: Execute justice for the orphan and the widow, love strangers, and give food and clothing to those in need. Again, this is a baseline expectation for the people of God. There is no getting out of it or around it.

Of course, we fail to keep covenant with God. So Jesus comes to make payment for us, not as the Second Person of the Trinity paying off the First, but as God’s perfect offering of love. God gives all that God has to offer to redeem us from our sinful failings. Unlike a bribe, this does not get us off the hook. Rather, we are freed to finally fulfill the Law’s loving demands.

God in Christ has done everything for you. God asks nothing in return. Well, nothing except everything. You’re free! Love the LORD your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Why would we even want to get out of this?

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Mighty God, your Law directs us in the ways you would have us walk. Your awesome grace forgives us when we fail to do so. Your Spirit inspires us to new lives focused on finding your presence in the needs of our neighbors. Thanks be to God! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt, 1659 (public domain). This, of course, is why they needed that second set.

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