Archive for December, 2011

Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32 is the song Moses wrote to remind the people of what they are to do and how they are to live.  This is his last swan song.  God remains the center.  “I will proclaim the name of the Lord”.  Is that what you say?  Are you proclaiming the name of the Lord?  Is He the center of the way you live life?  Do people know you serve and follow Him?  Moses then launches into a history lesson about God and His faithfulness, and just how pathetic the people have been.

Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people?”  How can we forget that God alone is the reason for the good things that happen in our life?  How can we lose sight of that so easily?  Because we focus on self and what we convince ourselves that we can do.  How foolish and wrong.  We can’t do squat on our own.  But we take our eyes off Him and focus on self and then like the children of Israel who “forsook God”, we do the same.  We mess with “strange gods….. sacrificed to demons”  and all other stupid things and we “forgot the God who gave you birth”.  Hello folks.  None of what we have would be our if God had not given it to us.  We would not be where we are today but by His grace and blessing.

So Moses makes this very concise statement that describes where we are in America today.  “For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them.  If they were wise, they would understand this…. their rock is not as our Rock”.  Some days I wonder if we even know who our Rock is?  We have allowed self to become the center rather than the God of the universe.  We will one day finally wake up “when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining”.  We have no power on our own.  We have nothing apart from God.  Yet we continually leave Him out, we continually do it our way without regard to the only Source of power there is.

The answer to this?  Moses tells the people to “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you….command them to your children….be careful to do all the words of this law”.  We are to teach and obey.  The amazing thing about God is that He never gives up on us.  He wants us to finally figure it out.  So He continues to give us opportunity to do the right things.  He continues to allow us to find and follow Him.  But there comes a time, when the chances end and we have to deal with the result of our choices.  Moses is there at the end of this chapter.  He made one big mistake, not the only one he made, but one that God saw as critical.  Now God tells him to “go up this mountain…..and die… gathered to your people… shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there”.  Harsh treatment for a guy who gave up 40 years of his life to lead the people.  God is clear why it has to end this way for Moses: “you broke faith with Me….you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel”.  Is there a standard for leadership?  I certainly think so!

Deuteronomy 31

Deuteronomy 31 has Moses winding down his leadership.  He begins with “I am 120 years old….no longer able to go out and come in….the Lord your God himself will go over….and Joshua will go over at your head”.  The torch is being passed from Moses to Joshua.  We are at the crossing and Moses is not making the trip.  His time has come.  He will pass from death to life.  It has to be a bittersweet moment as this former boy left in a basket in the river now gives up the leadership of his people.  He has grown much, from a man who tried to talk God out of the assignment, to a man who has led well.  And he leaves the people with yet more words from a very faithful and loving God.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear….for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you”.  Need a promise for all eternity?  There it is.  Want to know God in a sentence?  That is it.  God loves us.  He will never leave us.  He will never forsake us.  No matter what.  No matter the situation or circumstances or how stupid we get.  God is going nowhere.  He is always with us.  We just need to trust Him.  We need to live strong and courageous lives.  But it doesn’t feel that way you may say.  Living based on feeling is a bad way to go.  Our feelings deceive us all the time.  That is what is wrong with marriages and families all over this planet.  We live on feeling, not fact.  We live on feeling, not choice.  Love is a choice.  It is not a feeling.  Feelings result from the choice to love, but love itself is an act of the will.  God has made the choice.  He loves us. He is not going anywhere.

Moses makes it clear that people will fall away.  After all they have been through, once they cross the river and enter the Promised Land, they will go brain dead and forget.  He puts in place instructions to try and address that reality.  “At the end of every seven years….you shall read this law….assemble the people….that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do…. That their children….may hear and learn”.  We need to be in His Word and know it.  We need to teach it well to our children and children’s children.  We will fall away if we don’t keep His Word right in the middle of what we do.  For too many, the Bible never gets cracked.  It might, in rare occasions, get carried to church.  But we don’t study it.  We don’t even read it or listen to it.  Bad plan.  Failure to keep it in the center will cause us to fall.

God instructs Moses to “commission him” referring to the new leader who has been selected – Joshua – who will take over and lead the people across the river.  So Moses brings Joshua out in front of all and passes the torch.  “Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words”.  Moses was given a song to teach them – to keep them thinking about God and His faithfulness.  Why?  “When many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness….I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give”.  God knows us pretty well.  He knows we will fall away.  After all He created us and gave us a free will.  He knows we will make bad choices.  He gives Moses yet another tool, in addition to His Word carried in the ark of the covenant, to keep folks on track.  We need to work hard at knowing God and His Word.  When is the last time you read the Bible cover to cover?  Maybe that needs to be your goal in 2012!

Deuteronomy 30

Deuteronomy 30 has Moses painting a very clear picture again about the power of obedience and walking in God’s ways.  He begins by telling the people that they will experience blessing and curse, but they need to “call them to mind” and consider what is happening.  Often in scripture we are told to remember.  We tend to lose focus – to chase the latest shiny object and fall away from what we knew to be true yesterday.  If we will just stop and think about what God has taught us we will “return to the Lord….obey his voice….with all your heart and with all your soul”.  That is what God desires and expects.   He wants our love and devotion and obedience.

Is it worth it?  Isn’t there a big trade off to obedience?  After all, that means that God calls the shots.  We don’t just get to do whatever we want whenever we want to.  That restricts our freedom.  Well look again at what scripture says will result from obedience:

–       “restore your fortunes

–       have compassion on you

–       gather you again

–       bring you into the land

–       make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers

–       circumcise your heart

–       put all these curses on your foes

–       make you abundantly prosperous

–       take delight in prospering you

It certainly seems like a good decision to me.  Obedience yields God’s blessing.  It is how we are sanctified and become like Jesus.

So what does that mean?  Moses says it clearly: “keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book”.  We have the instructions on how to obey.  God wrote them to us in the Bible.  So we need to open it up and learn it.  But Moses knew we would struggle.  So he tells us that obedience “is not too hard for you, neither is it far off”.  We can do it.  What God asks is not impossible or out of our reach.  It can be done and it is right in front of us.  It happens in the moment by moment living we do.  It isn’t some concept of far out idea.  It is doing things God’s way moment by moment.

How can it happen?  By getting into God’s Word which “is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it”.  This is not some pie in the sky dream.  He spells it out clearly:

–       “obey the commandments

–       loving the Lord

–       walking in his ways

–       keeping his commandments

–       his statutes

–       his rules

God gave us the blueprint.  We simply need to read it and heed it.  The stakes are high.  “If your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away….you shall surely perish”.  Pretty black and white.  If we get it right we are blessed.  If we live for self and ignore God and His plan, we are toast.  It comes down to a choice.  I love how Moses wrote it: “Therefore choose life…. loving the Lord….obeying his voice….holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days”.  We can choose God’s way.  He has not only given us the instruction manual, He has also put His Holy Spirit inside us as Christ Followers to enable us to succeed in a life of obedience.  Are you choosing life?

Deuteronomy 29

Deuteronomy 29 has Moses with the people in the land of Moab doing a new thing – creating a second covenant with the people.  Moses summoned all of them together and reminded them that they had “seen all that the Lord did….great trials….signs….great wonders”.  God has been faithful.  He has been with them the entire 40 years they have followed Moses in the wilderness.  Their “clothes have not worn out….sandals have not worn off your feet….not eaten bread….not drunk wine….that you may know that I am the Lord your God”.  God has done miracle after miracle – they have seen Him at work.

So now it is getting close to the time to enter the Promised Land and they are entering a new covenant with God.  Covenants are serious business.  “Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do”.  We cannot take them lightly.  Today we don’t really use the covenant or a commitment to God all that frequently.  We do enter in covenant when we are united in marriage.  We enter into a covenant when we are baptized and saved from our sin.  Moses is leading the people into a new covenant with God – not to replace what was in existence – but to emphasize how important that relationship is.  “You are standing today….so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God….that he may establish you today as his people….that he may be your God”.  This new covenant is emphasizing the relationship God wants with His people, and He desires with you and me.  It not only was for those who were standing there at that time but “with whoever is not here with us today”.  It applied to those who were yet to come.

With the covenant comes responsibility.  A responsibility to love God and serve only Him.  A responsibility to make Him the center of life and put Him on the throne of our heart.  This word jumps off the page as we read about the other side of covenant – what happens when we fail to keep it.  “Beware….whose heart is turning away….a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit….stubbornness of my heart”.  A covenant is really a heart issue.  It is making and keeping God the center.  It is worshipping Him and Him alone.  There is no room for anything else.

Is God serious about that?  This chapter talks about the curses that will come if the people fail to keep the covenant and worship other gods.  It isn’t pretty.  “They abandoned the covenant of the Lord….the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land”.  We want to think of God as a God of love.  And He is, but He also is a God who expects to be kept in His rightful place in our lives.  And He is not willing to have it any other way.  Do you have your life in order when it comes to how you relate to God?  He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  He is not willing to allow us to worship any others.  His covenant with us depends on relationship.  Is yours in line?

Deuteronomy 28

Deuteronomy 28 is a rather long chapter as Moses paints the picture of what happens depending on the choice the people make about obedience to God’s commandments.  It is pretty black and white.  “If you faithfully obey…..being careful to do all his commandments” good things are going to happen.  Not just sort of good stuff.  We are talking a list that is quite long and an outcome that is amazing.  But it all begins with that word “if”.  Moses makes it plain over and over.  “If you keep the commandments…..walk in his ways….. if you obey the commandments….being careful to do them….do not turn aside”.  It is all about the reality that how we live matters.  There is a trade off.  So what if we do make that choice?

Moses makes a long list of blessings that result from obedience.  That is important to connect – obedience and blessing.  Of course a significant part of the chapter is focused on the other side of that equation.  Disobedience and cursed.  But what makes the list of outcomes when we make the right choice and obey God’s Word?

–       “the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations

–       all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you

–       Blessed shall you be in the city

–       blessed shall you be in the field

–       Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb

–       shall be your basket

–       Blessed shall you be when you come in

–       blessed shall you be when you go out

–       your enemies who rise against you to be defeated

–       on you in your barns and in all that you undertake

–       bless you in the land

–       establish you as a people holy to himself

–       the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity

–       open to you his good treasury

–       give the rain to your land

–       bless all the work of your hands

–       make you the head

The other shoe will drop if we fail to line up.  Remember that obedience is not the foundation of our salvation.  Our justification is based on the grace of God through the death of Christ on the Cross.  But our sanctification – becoming holy and righteous in how we live – is totally dependent on our learning to obey and become what God intends for us as Christ Followers.  Moses says it this way: “if you will not obey the voice of the Lord….all these curses shall come upon you….curses, confusion, and frustration”.  The reality is that we have a choice in how we will live.  We can ignore God’s instruction for our lives and go it alone and miss the blessing of being sanctified by His Word.  Or we can choose to line up with God and His desires for our lives and let Him have His way with us.  Then we will experience His touch in our lives.

Where are you in your walk with God?  Have you just done enough to get in – taken Him up on His free gift of grace through the shed blood of Christ?  Or maybe you haven’t even gone that far – and sin still has control and will determine your eternity.  It has to be dealt with.  Blessing is tied to our willingness to put God where He belongs in our lives.  He is the One who must sit on the throne of our very being.  It isn’t about you or me.  It is totally about God and how we relate to Him through His Son.  Are you connected?  If not, now is the time!

Deuteronomy 27

Deuteronomy 27 has Moses continuing to instruct the people in preparation for their entry into the Promised Land.  He begins this chapter with these important words: “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today”.  Note the word ‘whole’ here.  The commandments are not a pick and choose kind of option.  We are to keep all of them.  We are to obey God completely.  It was important enough that Moses first task when they cross the Jordan was to build a wall of stones and “write on them all the words of this law”.  He knew they would quickly lose sight of what they were to do.  He knew they would be distracted by the land flowing with milk and honey, so he wanted them to “build an altar” and have a place where God’s commandments were written in big letters where they couldn’t miss them.

He gives a list of things they ‘shall do’ here:

–       “shall offer burnt offerings

–       shall sacrifice peace offerings

–       shall eat there

–       shall rejoice before the Lord your God

–       shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly

–       shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord

–       keeping his commandments and his statutes

Obedience to God’s law is important.  It isn’t the basis of justification, but it is part of the sanctification process.  It doesn’t save us, but it does make us what God desires us to become.  Some folks want to ignore God’s commandments and just cling to grace.  Grace is what matters for our salvation, but it doesn’t deal with the reality of sin and that is when obedience to God’s laws becomes important.

If you want to know the kinds of things that are important to the heart of God, check out the list of things Moses tells us are cursed.

–       “Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image

–       Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother

–       Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark

–       Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road

–       Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner

–       Cursed be anyone who lies with his father’s wife

–       Cursed be anyone who lies with any kind of animal

–       Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister

–       Cursed be anyone who lies with his mother-in-law

–       Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret

–       Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood

–       Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them

Does anything jump out at you in this list?  The obvious is that man has a heart problem.  But a significant portion of this list deals with sexuality.  And all of it has to do with relationships and how we treat other people.  God is in the people business.  He is interested in how we live.  There is no room for violating His commandments.  We won’t be blessed if we are being cursed.  There is no room for us to live this way.  God is to be kept first and forefront.  He is the one who sets the rules and enforces them.  He desires us to live a life of blessing, not a life filled with His curse.  That happens when we align with His Word and live life according to His instruction.  Do you even know what God expects?  The way we find out is to get into His Book and understand His heart.  We need to know the whole commandment if we are going to keep it!

Deuteronomy 26

Deuteronomy 26 has guidance for how the people were to enter, and what the priority was to be.  Moses tells them to begin their stay in their new home with giving.  They were to give “the first of all the fruit of the ground”.  Consider this – forty years wandering and now they are going to enter their new homeland and the first thing they are to do is give the first of what they have to God.  We need to keep our priorities in order.  God comes first – always.  In this case – remembering Him and His goodness and blessing is far more important than anything else they might do.  He alone is worthy of their praise.

Moses sets this up by remembering what has happened.  They were captured in Egypt as slaves.  Then he goes through the list of what God has done:

–       “we cried to the Lord

–       the Lord heard our voice

–       saw our affliction

–       our toil

–       our oppression

–       brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm

–       with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders

–       brought us into this place and gave us this land

Moses wants them to remember what God has done for them.  He has listened to their cries for help.  He has answered and brought them to this land.  Now they need to put their focus on giving God what is His.


But beyond that, Moses tells them they shall:

–       “rejoice in all the good

–       paying all the tithe

–       say before the Lord your God

–       not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten

–       obeyed the voice of the Lord

–       done according to all that you have commanded

The bottom line is that there needs to be a relationship with God.  He is the center of life.  He sets the agenda.  He gives the direction.

Moses simplifies how we are to live this way.  “You will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice”.  Pretty simple if we just look at the action steps.  We are to walk, keep and obey.  That means we are in motion living God’s way.  We are focused on what He has told us to do.  We are obeying and living according to those Words.  We need to know the Bible and what it says and then just do it.  Sometimes we just make being a Christ Follower too difficult.  We need to see Jesus and just follow Him.  Like the disciples did when He called them.  They just dropped what they were doing and followed.  We need to live life that way too.  The old hymn goes ‘where he leads me I will follow’.  That is what Moses tells the people then, and what we need to do now.  It hasn’t changed.  Being a Christ Follower means we follow.  Are you living that way?

Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25 has more instruction for how the people were to live as they enter the Promised Land.  Moses sets ground rules for how people were to live together.  If there is a dispute, and one needs punishment, they were to only give 40 lashes and not one more.  Punishment had its boundaries.  But so did mistreatment of others.  There has to be a balance if a society is going to survive.

Moses also gives instruction on what was to happen when a husband died.  Of course, the lineage would come to an end, but that was not how things were to go, as the brother was to step in and fill those shoes to keep the line going.  It wasn’t really optional.  With a lot of work and effort, a brother could opt not to take his brother’s wife upon his death, but it took an act of the elders to allow that to happen.  And it was not only a challenge to deny that requirement, there were lots of negative connotations with it as well.  “So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house”.  Not the way to win friends and influence people.

There were lots of customs and rules for living in Moses time.  While things continue to change, there is something to be said for some consistency and dependability in how things will happen.  Our world is all over the board and you can’t ever tell exactly what to expect.  It was a bit more controlled in Moses day.  “For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God”.

The rule was pretty simple.  Do it God’s way, or else.  And to be honest that is still how it goes today.  We try and ignore God’s way here on earth, and pretend He doesn’t really care.  But we will find out the hard way that in fact, He cares greatly and someday soon we will stand before him and have to explain why we did what we did.  The conversation won’t go well for us.  We’ll stutter and hem haw around as we make up excuses as fast as we can.  Our only ace in the pocket would be our relationship with Jesus and His saving grace.  Without that, it is going to be a very short conversation because we will be guilty as charged.  Are you ready to face God?  Are you able to answer God’s demand to be holy and righteous?

Deuteronomy 24

Deuteronomy 24 continues Moses instruction on how to live in the new land.  He begins with some guidance around marriage.  I think there is much wisdom in how they approached newlyweds: “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken”.  Marriage trumped everything else.  When you walked down the aisle and said I do – you knew that your focus for a year would be to get your new relationship off the ground and started on the right set of tracks.  It was to be the priority.  So many folks get married today and don’t even take a real honeymoon any more.  They may take a day or two, or many just postpone the celebration until it fits into their busy schedule.

Is it any wonder that marriages suffer with a divorce rate around 50%.  People live together before marriage and remove the wonder of sex.  They move in and develop a pattern of living two separate lives under the same roof – because they aren’t one yet.  They allow schedules to be filled up and habits built based on their individual desires.  Then one day they decide to set aside a few hours and go put a bow on things, only to find that the bliss of marriage really didn’t do much for their situation.  This is not how God intended the marriage relationship to be started or built up.  Can you imagine what would happen if we did marriage God’s way?  Two people who have remained sexually pure, coming together in a marriage celebration based on a vow before God and all those in their patch, meeting after the wedding in the marriage bed to enjoy God’s creation of sex, and then focusing for the first year on how to create life together – not live their own self centered and established lives independently sharing four walls and a checking account.

God has a word for what we are doing today.  Not only in this area of sex and marriage, but around how father’s treat their kids and husbands their wives.  How people loan money and take advantage of one another.  How people live in greed and are unwilling to share from their abundance with those less fortunate.  Moses calls all these things out in this chapter.  And what does he call it?  SIN.  We don’t like that word.  It is too harsh. It is too personal.  It is not kind and tolerant.  God’s laws aren’t about tolerance my friend.  They are about obedience.  They are about living up to a standard that God has set and meeting that bar.  Missing that mark is one thing – SIN.  Trying doesn’t count.  Obeying does.  We can’t blame others.  “Each one shall be put to death for his own sin”.  Harsh words?  Yep – but sin is what will separate the sheep from the goats.  Sin is the determination of who will spend eternity with God, and who won’t.

Moses throws out some key words over and over in this chapter: “remember that you were a slave”.  God set them free from captivity in Egypt and led them to this place.  Fortunately for us, He has also addressed our sin problem.  Jesus went to the cross to give us a way to deal with the sin that has taken over our lives.  His gift of grace – an opportunity to have a personal relationship with the Savior – is a gift that will set us free from the penalty of sin.  We won’t be able to blame our parents, or our spouse, or our boss, or even the devil himself when we stand before God at judgment day.  The question will be – did you obey my laws and keep my commandments?  If you are unsure of what your answer will be – I can tell you clearly and remove that cloud of question.  Your answer, like mine, will be no.  Then we will be asked what we did with the gift of grace – with Jesus shed blood on the cross – which will cover our failure to live up to God’s standards.  Do you have a better answer for that question?  I sincerely hope so.  If not, I can’t encourage you enough to get to know the Christ of Christmas as a person.  Find the Savior who was born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.  Don’t let Christmas be about presents and parties – let it be about discovering the One who died to take away your sin and give you eternal life with God.  That is what Christmas is truly all about.  Don’t miss that with the lights and trees.  Find the real reason for this season – Jesus Christ the Lord!

Deuteronomy 23

Deuteronomy 23 continues direction on how the people are to live in the new Promised Land.  Moses gives some hard truth about the long term impact of sin.  He tells people that for some things, “Even to the tenth generation” the sin of ancestors still prevents them from entry into the assembly of the Lord.  We read in scripture about the sins of the father impacting the third and fourth generations – but here we see the impact of some things lasting even longer.  Don’t ever forget that sin has a very long tail.

There is a huge difference between forgiveness of sin, and the lasting effects of sin.  Jesus went to the cross so we could receive forgiveness.  That is offered to us free by grace and we can receive it in an instant.  His blood covers our sin and sets us free from the long term result of sin – separation from God.  But sin can have consequences that are not removed because we receive forgiveness.  Those are two very different things.  We can be completely forgiven and still leave a trail of consequences that impact us, and those who will come behind us, and in some cases that tail lasts for generations.  That is why it is important to “keep yourself from every evil thing”.  Life matters – for you and me – and for those who follow.

Why does it matter?  Because God is in our midst.  He isn’t up there somewhere in the sky totally disconnected from us.  He inhabits our lives and is right there with us.  The Holy Spirit lives within us as Christ Followers – for we are a temple of the Holy Spirit – and we are not living in a vacuum where we don’t have a moment by moment experience with Him.  “Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you”.  God wants our lives to be spotless – living holy and blameless in His sight.  He is paying attention.  He knows how we live.

Moses ends the chapter reminding us of the sanctity of vows.  “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin”.  Vows are not just words.  They are promises that must be fulfilled.  We need to be careful to consider any vow we make.  God has a very high expectation when we take that step.  Remember your marriage vows?  They too are important in God’s eyes.  We need to think carefully about the power and requirement of a vow.  It should never be entered into lightly, as the result of breaking a vow is not a good thing.  God expects us to keep them.  That is not optional!

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