Deuteronomy 4:6

“Therefore be careful to observe [these ordinances and judgments]; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the Gentiles, who will hear all these ordinances and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (OSB)

In Deuteronomy 1-3, Moses recounts Israel’s 40-year journey from Egypt to the east of the Jordan River (“Transjordan”), across from Jericho. This culminates in Moses’ final petition to be granted access to the Promised Land (Deut 3:21-29), a request God denies with a view to Joshua’s—whose name in Greek is “Jesus”—role of leading Israel into its divine rest in the Land. In this we find a kind of summary of salvation history: “Moses,” symbolizing the Law, must give way to “Joshua,” Jesus, for the Law was intended as a “Pedagogue”—guide, tutor (Gal 3:24)—to bring us to Christ, who is the Seed of Abraham, the true Israel, as well as the Heavenly Kingdom, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and “eternal life” itself (1 Jn 2:25).

This does not mean that there are “two people” of God, nor does it mean that the Law is outside of the providential purpose and promises of God (“God forbid!,” Gal 3:21). Rather, with the Incarnation as the goal of all salvation history, God has arranged things such that the righteous saints of old would “not be made perfect apart from us,” God’s new covenant people (Heb 11:40)—and by implication, nor us apart from them!

Once we have entered into the “Promised Land” that is Christ Himself, and thus His Body, the Church, the Law’s function is fulfilled and transformed, it is not abolished. Since the Law is “summed up” in the twin commandment of “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:36-40; Rom 13:8-10), the Law is at once both an “old” and a “new” commandment (1 Jn 2:7-8) which is fulfilled in Christ’s self-giving for us and then our self-giving to God, to one another, and to the world.

“Have this mind in you,” says St. Paul, reflecting on Christ’s loving condescension and self-giving to the point of death on a Cross (Phil 2:5-11). It is by our love for one another, Christ says, that “all men will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:35). It is in our imitation of Christ’s laying down of His life for His friends that we fulfill “the Law of Christ” (Gal 6:2) such that the life of the Church becomes a continual proclamation of the Gospel, the scandalous Wisdom of the Cross (1 Cor 1-2), for the Church’s life is but a continuation, an extension, of the Incarnation and the redemptive suffering of Christ in and for the world.

God is Love (1 Jn 4:8), and so to enter into Christ is to enter into Love, in which Love we must continually “abide” (Jn 15:9-10), as our “Promised Land.” To not love is to “abide in death” (1 Jn 3:14).

We need exert little effort to recall instances in our own lives/hearts, in the history of the Church, or in our experiences of church life, where the lack of love has caused “God’s name” to be “blasphemed among the Gentiles” (Rom 2:24/Isa 52:5). May we, through our love, be a living proclamation to the world of the manifold Wisdom of God (Eph 3:10)!

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