Today is the first day of a week long intensive class called, "Torah." One of our pre-class assignments was to read Deuteronomy in its entirety.
One of the two times we were to read the book straight through.
I did my second reading last night, and I read it straight through and aloud in my new apartment while consuming copious amounts of water in attempts to stave off a cold, lubricate my dry throat, and counteract all the screaming I'd done as I watched the Seahawks trounce the Redskins in the first playoff game. (GO SEAHAWKS!)
Shortly after I finished my reading, which took about three hours, I went to bed, exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I fell asleep relatively quickly, but my sleep was restless and marred by a disturbing dream which came straight out of Deuteronomy 28.
Here's the deal about Deuteronomy, it is beautiful. It is Moses's final farewell to Israel, and in it he and God do all they can to make sure Israel has everything she needs to follow after the Lord, to keep His commands and to walk in His ways. Throughout the book variations of the phrases, "so that it may go well with you," and, "so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you," are repeated, underscoring for Israel the purpose of the Law the Lord has given them.
Then, toward the end of the book, Moses spells out exactly what blessings Israel will experience through her faithfulness to the law, and conversely, exactly what curses Israel will experience when (Yes, it says when and not if. Oh how the Lord knows our wicked hearts) they broke the covenant they had made with the Lord.
The blessings are beautiful and make it so very clear that God loves Israel with a big, rich, deep, and everlasting love.
The curses are as terrible as the blessings are beautiful, and are made all the more terrible because Moses is explicit in his description of the curses.* The curse that always hits me, that twists my gut is Deuteronomy 28:56-57, it describes the behavior of Israel when they are under siege from other nations, "The most tender and refined woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will begrudge to the husband she embraces, to her son and to her daughter, her afterbirth that comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears, because lacking everything she will eat them secretly, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in your towns." And it was this passage that I dreamed about last night.
Holed up in an abandoned building, so close I could hear the screaming, trapped with a few companions who had not resorted to eating the flesh of those we loved, we hid. One of us wanted to return to her family, to save a relative, her sister I think, to try to save her from the horror. I think we decided it wasn't possible, that if she went back she would certainly be consumed.
I awoke, terrified. But I did not fully awaken, and so I laid there, eyes closed, half awake, trying to figure out how we could retake the city, strategizing ways to keep safe and prevent such behavior from spreading. I laid and wondered how long it would take for everyone, myself included, to give in to that awful, terrible behavior.
Somehow I managed to fall back asleep, to fall fully into a dreamless sleep. As I made my way into work I thought about that dream, and I thought about Israel. I thought about all the times Israel lived out those covenant curses, yes, even the ones where mothers ate their own children. I thought about the purpose of the law, and how sometimes it seems a list would be easier than grace.
The law was never meant as a means for salvation, and I am still working out my understanding of the purpose of the law. But what I saw last night in my dream, what I read yesterday in my Bible, and what I know today more than I knew yesterday, is that I need Jesus. I need him because without him my heart is wicked.
*And yes, I think God's love lives just as loud in the midst of these curses.