First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40

Personal Faith

32 For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and from the one end of the sky to the other, whether there has been anything as this great thing is, or has been heard like it? 33 Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? 34 Or has God tried to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that YHWH your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

World English Bible

[4:32-34] In his address to the Israelites, Moses exhorted the people to obey God's Law. Why should the people obey? One reason lay in the nature of Israel's God. Unlike their neighbors' gods (that existed in the powers of nature and seasonal cycles), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob exercised his power through events. He intervened in the history of a people and formed them into a nation. Unlike their neighbors, the Hebrews could point to a time and a place, and declare, "God spoke and proved his power here." This boast was unique in the ancient world. It meant the God of Israel revealed himself in history, not just in creation.

39 Know therefore this day, and lay it to your heart, that YHWH he is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is none else. 40 You shall keep his statutes, and his commandments, which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land, which YHWH your God gives you, forever.

[4:39-40] While the fulfillment of divinely mandated religious and civic duties was common to all ancient peoples, obeying a God who revealed himself in history implied a special covenant relationship. A God who saved a people and formed a nation in history must be obeyed in a historical context. For example, the people were to treat others with the same compassion in their day-to-day history as God treated them when he freed them from slavery in Egypt.

Soon Israelites believed when a believer fulfilled a religious duty as a historical event, he or she could glimpse into the mind of God. Fulfilling religious duties became a personal event. Fulfillment became the person's way to say "yes" to God, just as the people said a corporate "yes" to God on Mt. Sinai when the received the Law. In this way, the individual could personally hear and see God, just as the people did on Mt. Sinai.

Ultimately, Israelites viewed Moses' exhortation not just to the people as a whole. They saw his speech directed to the individuals in the group. God not only spoke to the nation, he spoke to the every man, woman, and child in Israel. Religious duty was more than a social responsibility. It was personal. To Israel and the Israelite, God said, "I am your God, and you are my beloved." This logic found its end when St. Paul called every Christian "a child of God."

How has God intervened in your history? How personally have you taken your religious duty?