Archive for November, 2011

Deuteronomy 5

Deuteronomy 5 has Moses reminding the people of their walk in learning God’s expectations for them.  He reminds them that they are to “learn them and be careful to do them” – speaking of God’s laws and commandments.  The foundation of all this is that “God made a covenant with us”.  That is a very important fact.  The covenant is such an important truth in the relationship between God and His people.

Moses reminds them that as God was giving His direction, “I stood between the Lord and you”.  Moses interceded for the people.  He was the shield and buffer between God and the people.  God gave them the 10 commandments that day – ten laws that were to be the foundation for how the people were to live.  God “wrote them on two tablets of stone” – don’t ever think they were temporary assignments.  These commandments were to define how the people were to live.

But of course it didn’t take long for people to forget what Moses had told them from God.  But during that time – because God showed Himself to them as a great fire on the mountain – they were paying attention and really tuned in.  God says “Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever”.  Want to know what God would like to see from your life and mine each moment – that we will fear Him and be obedient.  This fear is not cowering in the corner because we are scared of God.  It is respect and reverence of the Almighty and Powerful God.  It is understanding that He is in control of all things.  It is acknowledging that He alone is worthy of our praise.

Obedience is the second thing He requires.  And this chapter tells us the benefits of us living that way.  “You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you….you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left….you shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you”.  Never think that God doesn’t care about our obedience.  It is a sign of maturity in our walk as a Christ Follower.  It is a signal that we have God in the right place in our life.  And we are told there are some very strong positive results when we get it right:

–       “that you may live

–       that it may go well with you

–       that you may live long in the land that you shall possess

Obedience is a critical part of our walk with the Lord.  That is what Lordship is all about – that we put Him in control – behind the wheel of our life and we live walking in His ways each and every day!

Deuteronomy 4

Deuteronomy 4 has Moses preparing the people for their future.  He is leaving them soon, so he takes this opportunity to remind them how they need to live to be successful with God.

–       “Listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you

–       do them, that you may live

–       go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you

–       You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it

–       Your eyes have seen what the Lord did

–       I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me

–       do them in the land that you are entering

–       Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding

Nothing really new here – just a summary of the expectations for how to live God’s way.  It all comes down to obedience.  God has set the rules, it is up to the people to live by them.

Moses goes on to remind them of their responsibility to lead their kids well.  “Keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen….lest they depart from your heart….make them known to your children and your children’s children….that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so”.  This is some important instruction.  We hear that key word ‘remember’ once again.  Oh how short our memories truly are.  But Moses reminded them that he was able to “teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them….watch yourselves very carefully….lest you act corruptly….lest you raise your eyes to heaven” and fail to worship the One True God.  We have a huge responsibility to teach our kids.  That begins with us first remembering God and His goodness ourselves.  But then being intentional to teach and train our kids in His ways.

Moses reminds them that “the Lord has taken you and brought you….out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance….take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God”.  God has saved them and set them free.  They need to remember the covenant God has with them.  It is important because “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”.  He is not willing to be second fiddle to our own passions and desires.  He alone is the Lord.   We will have times we stray, but Moses calls out the reality that “you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul”.  That is a powerful promise.  If we truly look for God, we will find Him.  If we seek we will find.  Scripture is clear about that over and over.

Moses is also clear it won’t always be easy street as we walk with God.  “When you are in tribulation….you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice”.  We will stray into the weeds and then we will remember to come back to God.  He will be there “for the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers”.  God never fails.  He is always there.  He is always available.  He is always waiting to have us come back to His love.  We just need to remember that “to you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him”.  If there is one thing we need to keep in mind, it is that God is God alone.  There is no other.  And because of that truth, “you shall keep his statutes and his commandments….that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days”.  Trust and obey – there is no other way!

Deuteronomy 3

Deuteronomy 3 continues Moses remembering the story of the journey to the Promised Land.  They first came up the east side of the Jordan and captured the land of Sihon, Bashan and Og.  They destroyed all the people and took their livestock and cities as plunder.  It was here that Moses “gave to the Reubenites and the Gadites and…..to the half-tribe of Manasseh”.  Remember that they had asked to take up residence before actually entering the Promised Land as this place was well fit for their livestock and they wanted to remain there. This map shows where the three tribes settled.

So Moses sought God and was told to give them the land.  But there was a catch.  “The Lord your God has given you this land to possess. All your men of valor shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel….Then each of you may return to his possession”.  So God was willing to allow them to settle here, but they had to accompany the people across the Jordan and help capture the land where the remaining tribes would settle.  They agree and are willing to go so their “wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the cities that I have given you”.  All the fighting men had to go along with the rest of the tribes.

Moses sets them up with these expectations: “So will the Lord do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you”.  This is a done deal.  God has already given over the land.  All that was left was for the people to go take it.  With God on their side they can’t lose.  Moses still wants to go in as well.  “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand….Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan”.  He pleads with God to let him go along.

God has a different plan.  “The Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again…. you shall not go over this Jordan”.  God has already spoken and is a bit miffed that Moses keeps bringing it up.  Instead God tells Moses what to do.  Moses role is not to lead the people into the Promised Land, but to prepare and equip the chosen leader to do so.  God says “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see”.  Moses role is changing here.  He is passing the baton to Joshua who will lead the people to their new home.  You can’t blame Moses for trying, but God has a different plan.

Deuteronomy 2

Deuteronomy 2 continues the story of the journey of the people of Israel to the Promised Land.  Moses recalls what happened along the way.  “We turned and journeyed into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as the Lord told me”.  They had left Egypt and were following God.  They did as God said.  So they traveled around Mount Seir for a while and then God said “turn northward”.  Remember that Moses didn’t have GPS with him for this trip.  He was leading hundreds of thousands of people on the ground along with their flocks and other possessions.  And they head onward following his lead.

It was a long journey.  But these words jumped out.  “The Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing”.  Here is the reality for life my friends.  God is with us.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  If we don’t feel Him, it isn’t because He has moved on.  He isn’t going anywhere.  He is always with us.  But more than that – we never lack what we truly need.  The people on this journey spent a lot of time complaining.  They complained about Moses and his leadership.  They complained about the food they had to eat.  They murmured against each other.  They kept looking at the few things they didn’t have rather than be grateful for the many things that they did have.  They lost sight of the vision and the future and allowed the present and their desires to cloud their perspective.

There was reason for the forty years of wandering.  “The time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them”.  God has some cleanup work to do.  An entire generation needed to die.  Because of their lack of faith and trust in God, and their unwillingness to follow His instruction, none of those alive at the time of the spies were going to be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  So it took a while.  38 years to be exact, for all those who failed to obey back then to die.  But now God is ready to take His people where He tried to take them before.

The Promised Land didn’t change.  God didn’t have to do anything with that land or the people who were living there.  The problem was not the destination, it was the people on the journey.  But now that God has cleaned up the people it is time.  “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you….Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land….there was not a city too high for us. The Lord our God gave all into our hands”.  There is the attitude God wanted 40 years earlier.  Nothing is too difficult when we do it God’s way.  And now, with a new set of warriors, they are ready to take the land.  God puts things in motion and nothing will stop them.  Obedience to God’s instruction is unstoppable.  With God, we cannot fail.  Now that they are on His page, the journey is coming to completion.

Deuteronomy 1

Deuteronomy begins with Moses giving a history lesson on what has happened during the journey to the Promised Land.  If you want a short play by play reminder – this chapter is a great place to begin as he outlines the main parts of the journey.  He begins by reminding them of God’s promise to “Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers”.  God had provided a place.  They merely had to go take it His way. Of course that is where things broke down.  They did not obey.  God continued by growing their numbers.  “The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven”.

As the numbers grew, Moses recalls the way he led.  Wise leadership meant he had to enlist others to help.  Here was his approach:

–       “Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads

–       charged your judges….hear the cases

–       commanded you at that time all the things that you should do

Moses put leaders in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  He put judges in place to hear the disputes.  He moved to the role of giving the big picture leadership and put others in the day to day tasks.  That made the growing numbers manageable.

As the people approached the Promised Land, spies were sent in.  Remember that story.  They came back and talked of how great the land was they were to inherit.  But they also said they should not go in – they could not take it.  And what happened? “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God….and you murmured”.  Bad plan – to murmur against God.  Moses reminded the people that it wasn’t about their power.  “The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you”.  He reminded them of God’s faithfulness along the journey – fire by night, cloud by day, a place to pitch tents, provision all along the path” – but they did not believe and God was angry.  God was even angry with Moses for the failure of the people to obey.

Then, a lot late, they decided maybe they were wrong and they should go in and try to take this land.  Moses warned them of God’s words: “Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst”.  As usual, “you would not listen….rebelled against the command….presumptuously went”.  We can’t take things into our own hands and succeed.  It is only when we obey God’s direction that we can be assured of the outcome.  So it didn’t go well.  “The Amorites….chased you as bees….beat you down….you returned and wept….the Lord did not listen to your voice or give ear”.  Things don’t go well when we try and do it our way.  We need to learn to listen, and do things God’s way.  Trust and obey – there is no other way!

Numbers 36

Numbers 36 gets into some sticky family stuff.  You may recall that earlier there was a concern with the family of Zelophehad – he had only daughters.  They had asked to receive inheritance to carry on the family and were granted such.  Now others in their tribe (Joseph’s clan) came to Moses with a concern.  What if these daughters (Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah) marry someone from another tribe?  The land would evaporate from the tribe it had been given to.  It really opens up a much bigger can of worms because it isn’t just true for this isolated case – it was a reality between all the tribes of Israel.

Here is a reminder of what God had said earlier: “The Lord commanded my lord to give the land for inheritance by lot to the people of Israel, and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters”.  That seemed pretty straightforward at the time.  Give the land to the girls.  Then the details begin to come into play.  This is what concern that is shared with Moses: “But if they are married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the people of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our fathers and added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry”.

So isn’t this just a family squabble over land?  Not really – it is much bigger than that.  This is potentially an ongoing source of conflict between tribes.  One could carry out the possibilities to include intentionally marrying into another tribe to gain the inheritance and bring the land into your tribe.  Moses sees the situation clearly.  He doesn’t bristle and get upset.  “The tribe of the people of Joseph is right”.  He assessed the situation and sees the potential issue and goes to the Lord.

Then he comes back with more clearly defined guidance.  “Let them marry whom they think best, only they shall marry within the clan of the tribe of their father”.  So the simple fact is that they need to marry someone from their own tribe.  They can pick who they want, but it needs to be a fellow tribesman.  That takes the possibility of land being moved from tribe to tribe out of the realm of possibilities and solves it at a more global level.  He goes on to say: “the inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers”.  Moses makes it clear that the land is given to each tribe and is to remain within that tribe.  He not only dealt with the immediate concern, he created the framework to solve it for all future situations as well.  Great leadership once again from this man who didn’t want to lead.

Numbers 35

Numbers 35 deals with the place for the Levites.  This tribe consisted of those who cared for the Temple and God’s work.  They didn’t receive their own inheritance – but were given a place by the other tribes.  Moses instructs the tribes as God gives him the direction.  They were to give 6 cities that would serve as safe havens across the Promised Land.  These cities were a place for people to go and remain safe until they could be tried for murder before the congregation.  There was also to be 42 other cities contributed to the Levites across the land for them to live.  And God not only required the cities, but also the land outside for pasture to care for the livestock the Levites were to manage.

So these folks have journeyed 40 years to get to this place of almost entering the Promised Land and now are asked to give away some of it before they even enter.  Probably a bit of frustration there, but they all know the place of the Levites in their lives.  It was an important job.  God doesn’t tell them any more than they are to provide these “in proportion to the inheritance that it inherits” – so the larger tribes were to give more and the smaller less.

The rest of the chapter talks about the way they were to deal with murder.  It is obvious from reading that there are two classes of that crime – murder committed with intent, and murder that is accidental.  The punishment for an intentional killing was to be death.  It doesn’t appear to be a long drawn out process. If you kill someone intentionally you were to die.  If you accidentally killed someone “without lying in wait” – that is where the safe haven cities came into play.  You could flee there and remain safe so “the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood”.  Wouldn’t that liven up a church business meeting?

One key to the process was the number of witnesses involved.  “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness”.  One person’s word was not higher than another’s.  It required multiple witnesses to put someone to death.  And the other key fact was that money couldn’t buy you freedom.  “Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death”.  It was a level playing field – guilt knew no price.  This was important stuff to God.  Moses sets the expectations and gives the rules.

Numbers 34

Numbers 34 contains the definition of the Promised Land physically.  God spoke to Moses and gave him the boundaries.  This map is a representation of the directions here in Numbers. (Source: Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Land_of_Israel.jpg)  There is a parallel listing in Ezekiel that varies a bit.  But suffice it to say that God has a plan with specific instructions for His people.  And he passes that clearly on to Moses.

The system was simple.  “This is the land that you shall inherit by lot, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe”  Remember that the trives of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had asked for their inheritance actually “beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, toward the sunrise”.  They had asked for land along the journey so had theirs already.

Moses was to select “one chief from every tribe to divide the land for inheritance”.  He does, and these are the men he selected:

Tribe Chief
Judah Caleb
Simeon Shemuel
Benjamin Elidad
Dan Bukki
Joseph Hanniel
Ephraim Kemuel
Zebulun Elizaphan
Issachar Paltiel
Asher Ahihud
Naphtali Pedahel

These men were the ones who cast lots and received the inheritance of their tribe from God through Moses.  Big responsibility but what a great opportunity to serve and lead.

Numbers 33

Numbers 33 gives the chronology of the journey from Egypt to the gate to the Promised Land.  God had instructed Moses to write “down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the Lord”.  This chapter has the play by play of the journey.  Rather than try to describe it, here is a map that shows the route.  Not the most direct, not the quickest, not where GPS would have led them – but it was God’s map.  It was designed to get them there on time 40 years after they “went out triumphantly” from Egypt under His direction.  Lot’s of important things happened along this route.  Read the path in this chapter and follow along on the map.

Now they are ready to enter the land and God has these instructions for Moses to pass on to the people: “When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan….you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places….you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it”.  The promise is coming true.  God has them at the door to their future.  He has a plan for how the are to be given their place in that land.  “You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit”. Travel for 40 years and then it comes down to casting lots?  That seems to be pretty random doesn’t it?  Only if you forget who is in control here.  God has a perfect plan and He will execute it.

There is a warning that comes with Moses words to the people.  “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them”.  Words that should have been listened to more closely as we will see in future chapters.  But God is clear, Moses speaks the truth, and now it comes down to the people walking in obedience.  That is how it is for our lives too.  God has given us His Word as a guide.  Now it is a matter of us reading, listening, learning and obeying.  How are you doing in you walk with His Truth?

Numbers 32

Numbers 32 has a great lesson on appealing to leadership.  The people of Reuben and Gad were along with Moses on the journey to the Promised Land.  They were a people with a lot of livestock – that was their heritage.  As they were approaching the Jordan to cross over, they liked the land they were passing through.  It was a good fit for their lifestyle and needs.  So they came to Moses and said “Do not take us across the Jordan”.  Can you imagine that request?  They have been on a journey for 40 years to arrive in the Promised Land.  The men who began the journey with Moses long before have died, as a result of what happened when the spies went and initially found the land God was giving His people.

Moses had a different plan – his orders were to take all the people into the Promised Land and that was the mission he was leading.  He himself wasn’t going to get to enter – that striking of the rock was his downfall – but he was leading them all there.  His response: “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them? 8 Your fathers did this….they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord had given them”.  That had been a bad plan for them.  And now Moses has it happening again.  Bad memories are coming back.

But the appeal continues.  The folks from Reuben and Gad understand the concern Moses has.  If people start dropping off along the way to take up their own places to reside, who will be there to help assure every tribe has victory and gets their piece of the Promised Land.  So they say “we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place….we will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance”.  They understood the concerns, they offered to make sure those were not realized, and they committed to do what needed to be done.  That is how to appeal to leadership.  Understand the situation and concern, come with a creative alternative, and then be willing to accept the outcome rather than continue to fight for your own path.

It worked.  Moses was clear that they had to stay the course.  “For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people”.  He certainly knew what the stakes were and made it abundantly clear.  But like a good leader, he listened to their appeal and answered “If you will do this….this land shall be your possession; if you will not….sure your sin will find you out”.  Moses makes it clear that they have to “do what you have promised”.   The Reubenites and Gaddites get it right: “Your servants will do as my lord commands”.  They know the rules and the stakes.  Good lesson in how to approach leadership when you aren’t completely on their page.  Appeal appropriately and leave the result to God.

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