Yesterday, once again, we heard at Mass a proclamation from Deuteronomy (26:16-19). As is often the case in this fifth book of the Torah, Moses speaks to the people on behalf of the Lord. The covenant between Yahweh and the people is this:
[H]e is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice. (v. 17)
If the people follow this exhortation they will be exalted by God and be given a place above all nations on earth. Even those with the most basic knowledge of the Old Testament know that, unfortunately, the people did not remain faithful before this time and certainly would fall again and again after this meeting. God’s commands are meant to be taken seriously. When He promises, He fulfills, whether it be blessings or curses. His word is not to be taken lightly.
This idea of remaining faithful is reiterated in the headline of this post: “provided you keep all his commandments.” It is unbiblical and dangerous to believe in “once saved, always saved,” as if mouthing a few words (see Mt 7:21) or belonging to a certain group (see Mt 3:9 or Lk 3:8) obliges God to ignore our actions. I heard a preacher once say, “God is not a chump.” Yes! Just look at a crucifix. This is what sin does. It is never to be taken lightly. Will we fall? Yes. Must we repent? Most certainly. Can God forgive any sin? This Jubilee Year of Mercy brings this realization into bright relief. Does He want to forgive? Like the father of the Prodigal Son He desperately desires to meet us if only we take a few steps toward Him, imperfect or halting as they may be.
We are obliged to keep the Lord’s commandments. We will likely fall in attempting to do so. God always welcomes back the sincere penitent. But we must always take His words, His commands, with the utmost seriousness. Our eternal destiny depends on it.