Archive for November, 2014

Deuteronomy 14

Deuteronomy 14 has Moses instructing the people about a couple areas – what they eat and what they do with their tithe.  But he begins by reminding them of this truth: “You are the sons of the Lord your God”.  It was true for God’s people then, and it is true for us as Christ Followers today.  We are sons and daughters of the King.  We have a place in His Kingdom like no one else.  And that is something we need to celebrate and remember each and every day.  God chose us to be His.  We are children of the Creator as Christ Followers.

Moses goes on to give instruction about the animals the people were to eat.  Paul sort of threw all that out with his teaching in the New Testament.  But we need to remember that “you are a people holy to the Lord your God” and our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and what we eat does matter.  We need to take care of ourselves and treat our bodies as the precious gift they are.  It isn’t just what we eat, but how we allow food to take control of our lives that also matters.

Then the conversation shifts to a topic many run from – money.  “You shall tithe….that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always”.  Tithing is not talked about as optional for God’s people.  It is the expectation.  It is the requirement.  And there is a big reason for it – so we learn to fear and trust God.  Far too often we become self-sufficient and believe we are making life happen on our own.  We hang on to our money like it is ours and that we have earned it and own it.  The reality is that all we have is God’s and we are merely stewards He has entrusted it to.  Tithing helps us remember that as we return a portion of what He has entrusted to us.

Moses goes on to remind us that “you shall not neglect the Levite” which would be like our pastors and priests today.  The Levites where those who took care of the ministry and they had no property or inheritance of their own in the Promised Land.  So the rest of the people were responsible to meet their needs.  We need to care for those that minister today too.  Moses wraps up this chapter reminding the people that there is a very good reason for tithing God’s way: “that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do”.  God desires and requires our obedience.  Money is one of those areas that many of us struggle with, but it is a critical part of walking well with Christ!

Deuteronomy 13

Deuteronomy 13 has Moses warning the people to watch out for the influences in their lives.  He talks of prophets or dreamers of dreams who may come and be able to do signs and miracles that amaze the people.  But there is one litmus test that must always be applied to see if they are of God or not – whether or not they attempt to lead you from the One True God to other gods.  If that is the case, we are told “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams”.  It doesn’t matter their power or ability to perform, what matters is who they serve.

What God expects of us is clear.  “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him”.  It’s pretty simple.  God alone is to be our way.  We are to walk with Him and follow in His ways.  He’s given us that roadmap in Scripture.  We need to be focused on knowing and living that way.  It is His requirement.  Sometimes we forget just how much God expects this.  We think we have free run of life to do what we want.  But God expects obedience.

And the direction regarding those who are trying to pull us away are pretty strong.  “You shall purge the evil from your midst”.  God doesn’t say to stay away from it or put it off to the side.  We are to get rid of things that cause us to walk anywhere but with God.  We have to pay attention as we’re told “you shall not yield” to people who lead us away from God.  In Moses time, the penalty for leading the people from God was to deal directly with them in a direct and life ending way.  God does not tolerate those who are evil.

In fact, scripture goes on here to let the people know that if a city falls into being filled with evil, “it shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again”.  God commanded total demolition and the removal of that city form the face of the earth.  Does God hate evil?  It’s pretty clear He does.  He loves people but has little tolerance for those who choose evil over following His ways.  We need to know His Word and understand His ways so we can walk with Him as He commands.

Deuteronomy 12

Deuteronomy 12 has Moses continuing to prepare the people to cross the Jordan.  He seems to be going over and over the instructions, obviously a bit concerned about their remembering and following.  I guess that is wise as history has shown him that the people don’t always stay the course.  But Moses makes it clear that walking with God is not part time but needs to be done and these rules followed “all the days that you live on the earth”.  The opportunity we have to walk with God is not short term, it is life long and needs to be front and center each and every day.

Moses reminds them what they are to do as they enter the Promised Land and begin to take over the land.  “You shall tear down their altars….dash in pieces their pillars….burn their Asherim….chop down the carved images….destroy their name”.  They aren’t just to enter and fit in but to destroy and move out all the old stuff.  And once they clean things out, Moses reminds them what to replace it with.  “You shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock”.  They were to put off the old and put on the new.

Moses knows the people have some changing to do.  He reminds them they can have “everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes….but when you go….when he gives you rest….you shall bring all that I command you….and you shall rejoice”.  I love how Moses describes what will happen.  When you go – not if you go.  Action is expected.  There is a requirement to do what is right and to go in obedience to God’s commands.  If we do that, God’s blessing flow.  When we do that God’s rest comes.  But it hinges on our going – on being obedient and doing what God expects and commands.

Moses drives home his point by saying this.  “Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God”.  It isn’t how hard we work, how many hours we spend, the people we know or any other human thing that determines our success.  What matters is our relationship with God.  It is about how we walk with Him and how we live a live of obedience.  “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it”.  We’ve been given the roadmap for success.  We simply need to follow it!

Deuteronomy 11

Deuteronomy 11 has Moses continuing to get the people focused on entering the Promised Land.  You’d think after over 40 years waiting for this moment, they might have been ready, but as a great leader Moses is not taking any chances that they have received the message of what they have to do.  After all, this is life and death stuff, blessed and cursed reality.  He wants to be positive that they hear it well.  “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always”.  Their future and success depends on this one statement – that God is God in their lives and the land they will live in.

How do we keep God where He belongs?  The world constantly wants us to push God off the throne and put ourselves on it.  Or the temptation is to make other idols and give our worship and attention to something other than God Himself.  Moses tells them the secret.  It is to remember.  He tells them to “consider the discipline of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt”.  There is a very long and rich history of God’s faithfulness.  That is how we keep Him as God, we consider constantly all that He has already done. “For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did”.  This isn’t a stretch.  God has been amazingly patient and faithful to His people.

But there is a requirement on His people – obedience.  “You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land….that you may live long”.  It carries a pretty stiff price if failed.  “And if you will indeed obey….He will give the rain”.  Obedience is optional.  But there is a price when we make a choice not to be obedient.  “Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens”.  The Promised Land was an unbelievably beautiful place that God has prepared for His people.  But God expects His people to walk with Him to keep it that way.  This was an if/then operation.

Moses gives three very clear directives on how to keep God first:

  1. You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes”
  2. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise
  3. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

There is a responsibility on us to do the things that help us keep God first.  In our lives personally by building spiritual disciplines that keep us focused, as we train up our kids and continually talk of God’s faithfulness, and in our witness to those around us.  We have to take action and make the daily and moment my moment choice to be obedient.

Does it matter?  Absolutely, and in fact Moses makes it clear that “if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you”.  At the end of the day it is a choice.  We must choose whom we will serve and who will be on the throne of our life.  Moses describes it as “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse”.  We have the option of blessing, but if we make the wrong choices and do the wrong things, we cannot be surprised if we receive a curse.  Obedience is what God requires.

Deuteronomy 10

Deuteronomy 10 has Moses continuing the history lesson for the people before they cross the Jordan into the Promised Land.  He reminds them of his coming down from spending 40 days and nights with God and receiving the 10 Commandments and how he broke the first tablets in anger as he returned to the people only to find them worshipping an idol.  And he also reminds them that he interceded for those same people who God was ready to destroy.  “I myself stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and the Lord listened to me that time also”.  Moses interceded many times for God’s people and often stood in the gap.

Because of that “The Lord was unwilling to destroy you”.  God not only heard Moses when he prayed, but He listened.  Now Moses tells the people what is expected of them.  “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good”.  Here is the simple list of what God wants our walk with Him to look like.  People often wonder how they are to live – it doesn’t get a lot clearer than this.  Fear Him. Obey Him.  Love Him.

Why?  Moses makes that clear too.  “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing”.  God is worthy of our praise and obedience.  He alone is worthy.  There is none other like Him.  And because of that, “You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear”.  It really isn’t an option.  It isn’t truly a choice.  He is God.  He demands our obedience.

God needs to be the center of our world.  “He is your praise. He is your God”.  There is nothing more important for us to grasp than the truth of this chapter.  God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is Creator and the Author of Life.  We must make Him central to who we are and what we do.  And in case we wonder if He is worthy, Moses reminds us here as he tells the people “Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven”.  God does what He says.  His Word is truth.  We can depend on Him today, tomorrow and forever.

Deuteronomy 9

Deuteronomy 9 is the big day.  “You are to cross over the Jordan today”.  Can you imagine after wandering and waiting over 40 years?  You’d have to pinch yourself just to see if it was real.  Moses tells them they are “to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall”.  Oops, that sounds a bit intimidating.  We’ve been waiting for this day all our lives and now we have to go in and face a nation that is superior to us?  How is this a good deal?

Then Moses tells them the rest of the story.  “Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you”.  Whew, it isn’t about our ability.  It is God who will make it possible.  Must be good to be us.  But God says wait a minute, this isn’t about you.  It is “that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”.  This is a bout God fulfilling His promise and covenant to His people.  It absolutely is not because they are worthy or deserve it.

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people”.  In fact, given the facts they wouldn’t be entering the Promised Land at all.  “Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness…..the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you”.  Truth is that God had enough and was ready to end it all.  “They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image”.  God wanted to blot them out and start anew.

But Moses did what he always did as their leader.  He interceded and saved their skin.  “I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights….the Lord listened to me that time also”.  Moses had to intercede many times for the people. They continually were stubborn and insisted on doing things their own way.  God was ready to destroy them on multiple occasions, but Moses led them to safety through his willingness to sacrifice his own life on the people’s behalf.  And now, as they stand ready to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, he once again reminds them that “You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you”.  Time to change ways and walk in obedience to Him.

Deuteronomy 8

Deuteronomy 8 has a strong reminder about the reality of God being in control.  Moses tells the people “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers”.  I love how he begins by focusing on obedience to the whole commandment.  Being obedient is not about picking and choosing what we want to do.  It isn’t a self service kind of thing – doing some of what God commands and ignoring the things we really don’t want to do.  That is not obedience.

Moses goes on to tell the people “you shall remember the whole way”.  There is that word again – whole.  We also can’t have selective memories and just think of the good times we experience.  We must recall the pain of our sin and remember the need for God “that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”.  We not only have to remember and obey the words that He’s already given to us in scripture, but also what He speaks to us through His Holy Spirit.  We need to be listening to His truth and walking in it.

God is faithful.  Remember the miracles of His people as they have wandered the last 40 plus years?  “Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years”.  That is a miracle by any standard. To walk for that long and not have issues is something only God could orchestrate.  It wasn’t without some challenges though, and Moses reminds us that “as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you”.  God does exect obedience. “So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him”.  Not an option, just the expectation.

The final lesson in this chapter has to do with our money and wealth.  We must be careful to remember this truth.  “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth”.  We aren’t the ones who make money and accumulate wealth.  God does that and then entrusts it to us.  It is all His.  We are merely stewards of what He allows.  We must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” because that is just not the case.  It is all God’s.  Some of it He allows us to use.  The penalty for forgetting is severe.  “If you forget the Lord your God….you shall surely perish”.  God is in control.  He alone is at the top of the org chart!

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