My friend Michael has been reading Deuteronomy, and made a great observation over lunch this week:
How could anybody read this and think they could earn God’s favor for themselves by keeping the Law?
He’s thinking of passages like this:
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. (Deut 7:6-11, emphasis added)
Scripture always tells us to obey God because he loves us and has redeemed us, not so that we can earn his approval. When we read exactly what obedience to him requires, that becomes really good news, because we could never– would never– obey him sufficiently on our own.