How many times have you moved to a different home? When I was a child, we often moved. My dad, a metal lather, had to find work in larger cities than Prescott, Arkansas. If a job was scheduled to last a long time, Dad moved his family. A short term job such as the Galveston stint had him working through the week, but home on the weekends.
Later, my husband, Dave, would mention a Texas city -- Longview, Beaumont, College Station, Bay City, and Houston – and I’d reply, “Oh, I lived there.” The list of physical addresses of my youth is long if all the Arkansas and Louisiana towns we lived in are mentioned.
By my fourth year in school, we settled permanently in Houston. Today’s parents worry about the effect multiple moves have on school aged kids. But my siblings and I turned out okay. I scream when I hear the rattle of a roadmap, but otherwise I’m pretty sane.
The Houston move enabled Dad and Mom to purchase our first home. The house wasn’t new, but it felt palatial compared to previous rentals. Dad came home to family every night. Mom painted her new kitchen a fashionable chartreuse green to match her new Fiesta dinnerware. We had our first pets and made longtime friends – friends with whom we still stay in touch.
No matter where we moved, one constant traveled with us -- God. Dad and Mom found time to share Bible stories with us, and find a church home where we could worship on Sundays and midweek. The unshakable God, Alpha and Omega (beginning and end), remained the cornerstone upon which my dad and mom built their mobile family. No permanent address required. Their main need was a constant God.
I believe that’s the overall message of Deuteronomy, the last of the five books of Old Testament law. From a Hebrew word, it means “second law.” Jewish sages refer to Deuteronomy as “Mishneh Torah,” The Repetition of the Torah.
Over a forty year span the Israelites were a mobile clan, wandering in deserts and around mountains, a purposeful journey which led them away from idolatry to the worship of one God. It was a time consuming process, and generation consuming. The mamas and papas died off during that period. That generation of grumblers and whiners did not inherit the promised homeland. Who did -- a younger generation, who found faith through God’s unrelenting love and provision.
The book of Deuteronomy contains three major addresses by Moses. He reminisces and recaps their history of travels. Moses warns against idolatry, and he repeats the “Thou shalt not” and the “Thou shalt” commands. In one address, because God allowed Moses to know his departure from this earth was at hand, Moses commissioned Joshua as the next leader (31:7-8).
Young Christian families consider many things before making physical moves: what schools will our children attend? Will our new salaries meet family needs? Will the new house be adequate? Is the area prone to harsh weather? How far will we be from extended family? The best information is that God’s residence is where they will move. He will be present as they pack and travel. God remains mobile.
In Deuteronomy, Moses emphasized the priority of the “Shema,” a declaration of belief in one God: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (6:4). One ministry leader (A Pocketful of Change) runs all her decisions through the merits of the Shema. Will her decision/s further her love for God, with all her heart, soul, and strength?
This week, test your decisions by the Shema. In the fifth book of law written so long ago, Moses reminded parents to teach their children about God’s love and care, about his laws, about the joy of obeying. Remember, God is on the move as you are on the move.
Index Card Scripture for week five: Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).