Archive for December, 2014

Deuteronomy 30

Deuteronomy 30 has Moses driving home the importance of obedience to His people.  He points out the reality that we have a choice – we choose whether we will obey or not – and that choice results in blessing or curse.  If we “return to the Lord your God….then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you”.  It is a simple if/then proposition.  Obedience brings blessing.  Disobedience brings a curse.

God wants to help us on this journey.  If we will only obey, “the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live”.  It is God’s desire to walk in harmony with us.  He wants us to receive His blessing, and that plan He has for us is not merely to get by.  His promise is clear.  “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous….when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”.

So what’s the secret?  It is God’s Word.  “The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it”.  God has given us the roadmap to obedience. It is in His Book – the Bible.  We can do this.  It isn’t natural or easy, but it certainly isn’t impossible if we truly desire to walk in obedience.  We can choose to walk with Him.  It is a moment by moment and day by day decision.  Salvation comes with our choice to make Jesus our Savior based on His death, burial and resurrection on the Cross.  Lordship is something we choose continually from that point forward.

Moses wraps up the chapter by showing the two very black and white options:

  1. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you”
  2. “if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish”.

It really is that simple.  We choose to obey, or to turn away.  The first yields an awesome and blessed relationship with God the Father.  The second yields a curse that leads us to perish.  Moses summarizes the right choice this way: “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days”.

Deuteronomy 29

Deuteronomy 29 has Moses standing before the people saying “These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb”.  God made an initial covenant with the people many years ago at Mt Horeb, but now as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, He is making another as part of their entry.  Moses “summoned all Israel” to come and hear God’s words, not just the leaders and elders, but every man, woman and child in the land.  It is a big deal!

Moses explains where they are – somewhat lost about what God is promising.  “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear”.  God has not revealed His covenant since the days 40 years ago or more when He made the first one with His people.  Moses reminds them “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God”.

That is a pretty amazing testimony of faithfulness from God.  They live in the wilderness for over 40 years without wearing out their clothes or shoes, and without going hungry or thirsty.  God has been faithful.  Moses now exhorts the people to “keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do”.  It all comes down to obedience.  God is offering an eternal covenant to His chosen people.  He wants to set them apart but they have to do their part and keep the covenant with Him.

If they do, He will “establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”.  God is just carrying out what He promised long ago.  There is a catch.  The blessing of the covenant is tied to sticking with it and walking in obedience.  God says that if things fall apart and His anger comes out “It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord”.  A covenant is a promise between God and His people where both sides need to execute and fulfill the requirements.  God always does.  The question is – will we?

Deuteronomy 28

Deuteronomy 28 contains some strong promises about obedience.  God demands that we obey.  “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth”.  What a wonderful promise.  If we obey, God will bless us.  And it won’t just be a little, “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you”.  Moses goes on to paint a picture of what the blessed life will look like.

Here is the list:

  • Blessed shall you be in the city
  • blessed shall you be in the field
  • Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb
  • Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl
  • Blessed shall you be when you come in
  • blessed shall you be when you go out
  • The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns
  • in all that you undertake
  • he will bless you in the land
  • The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself
  • the Lord will make you abound in prosperity
  • The Lord will open to you his good treasury
  • give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands
  • the Lord will make you the head and not the tail
  • you shall only go up and not down

What a list of promises God gives.

There is a catch.  They happen “if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them”.  God’s blessings are tied to how we live.  There is a flip side to what God promises.  “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me”.  How we live matters in God’s eyes.

So here’s the reality of God’s plan.  “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting….as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you”.  Being blessed is not a lock.  It means we know and live what God has told us to do.  It is about obedience to His will!

Deuteronomy 27

Deuteronomy 27 has Moses instructing the people about how to enter the Promised Land.  In a word – he commands them to be obedient.  “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today”.  Moses doesn’t tell them to keep some of the law.  To pick and choose what they like and want to obey.  He is very intentional and clear that obedience means keeping all the law – every last word that God has spoken and written to them.  They are to do it without fail, to “obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes”.  He expects no less of us today.

In order to help that happen, Moses tells them “on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster….you shall write on them all the words of this law”.  We have to be immersed in God’s Word to have any hope of being obedient to it.  He gives them a series of things to do to help keep them focused:

  • you shall build an altar to the Lord
  • you shall offer burnt offerings
  • you shall sacrifice peace offerings
  • you shall rejoice before the Lord your God
  • you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly

Very clear and practical steps to be sure they don’t forget God and what He has commanded them.

But Moses goes further and warns them of things that will cause them to lose God’s favor and be cursed.  Disobedience moves us from blessing to curse.  It causes us to lose favor in God’s eyes.  He never leaves us, but He will turn His back and not bless us if we choose to put another above Him.  That was really the focus of their warning – putting anything in the place that only God truly deserves.  Here is the list of specifics that Moses calls out which will lead to being cursed:

  • Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord
  • 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, the fatherless, and the widow
  • 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

Moses has the people respond after each of these areas is called out.  He asks for a response “and all the people shall say, Amen”.  There was no mystery here, no surprises, as Moses reminds them of God’s commandments and expectations.  Now all that is left is to live in obedience!

Deuteronomy 26

Deuteronomy 26 has Moses instructing the people what to do when they enter the Promised Land.  They are to take the first of all they have and bring it to the priests – to give their tithe to the Lord.  Why?  It is a gift based on remembering what God has done.  God has been faithful, and we need to remember that.  “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders”.  God didn’t just set them free, He did it with style.  He blessed them indeed.  Was it easy?  No.  But it was good!

We often forget God’s goodness to us.  But we’re told “you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you”.  We need to stop and remember and rejoice in all that God has done.  And one way we celebrate His blessing is by returning a portion of what He gives us through our tithes and offerings.  We bring back a portion of what He has freely given us to care for those who are in need.  We must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that our success is because of ourselves.  What we have comes from God.

So what were those tithes to be used for?  Scripture mentions these areas.  “Giving it to:

  • the Levite
  • the sojourner
  • the fatherless
  • the widow

God cares about taking care of the less fortunate, along with His priests who minister in His name.  He wants us to be good stewards and support those in need.

How should we give?  With a joyful attitude of obedience.  “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me”.  That is what God wants from us – total obedience.  He wants us to be focused on walking with Him well.  He wants us to make that the priority so we hear these words.  “You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice”.    Walk, keep, obey – the three things we are to do in our relationship with the Creator of the universe.  He has written the Book.  We need to read and follow it!

Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25 has Moses giving more direction on how people are to live.  He begins by addressing disputes and the punishment that a judge may hand out.  The guilty is to “be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense”.  The worse the crime, the worse the punishment.  But it also set the maximum number of stripes at 40.  That number sound familiar?  Jesus was given 40 lashes as his punishment – the maximum.  It was the edge of being enough to kill a man.  Jesus paid it all for us.

We sometimes don’t recall the pain and suffering our Lord went through on His way to the cross.  We may remember the pain of His crucifixion, which was immense, but there was much more suffering on that journey to the Cross from the beating He took to the carrying of the Cross to Calvary.  It was a gruesome death our Lord suffered.  Judges in Moses day had the right to inflict significant punishment as well.

There are some rules about what happens if a man dies and leaves a wife behind.  “Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife”.  It was the responsibility of the next brother in line to take her as his wife.  He could refuse, but there was a public humiliation that occurred and the legacy left would not be good at all.  There are family responsibilities we have today – not the same as they were then – but we do have responsibilities to our families today as well.

The last segment of the chapter deals with fairness.  God expects us to be honest and treat each other fairly.  We are not to cheat.  In that day there were those who had two kinds of weights, two kinds of measures, and would use those to cheat others.  God says “all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God”.  God expects us to be obedient and to live well with each other.  There is a price to pay for the sin of dishonesty.  He is paying attention to how we live.

Deuteronomy 24

Deuteronomy 24 continues with direction on how the people are to live.  He begins with some direction on marriage.  One of the rules they were to follow was to not disrupt a newlywed.  “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”.  In today’s world, there is often a tendency not to really make marriage that big a priority for the first year.  It just gets taken in stride.  And as people live together the ceremony is more of a formality than the beginning of a new life together.

But the reality is that many things are established during that first year that impacts a marriage for its duration.  God knows how important it is to create good habits and positive communication.  He didn’t want a new marriage to be put under the stress of a husband being away.  He wanted them to take time with each other to create the patterns that they would live with the rest of their lives.  It is so difficult to change those patterns that are developed early in a marriage.  God knows that since He created marriage in the first place, just how important that is.

He also teaches that people need to be paid for the work they do.  “You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets”.  One of the things that creates issues between people is around money.  Failing to pay, or settle up money commitments is very divisive.  People tend to almost always get emotional if they feel that they are being taken advantage of regarding money.  This is an area we need to guard carefully and take care to be upright and quick in resolution.

Moses also reminds us that “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin”.  The reality is that every person is responsible for their own actions.  I often talk with parents who believe they are responsible for bad things that their kids may chose to do.  Scripture tells us that sin may impact people for generations, but at the end of the day sin is always an individual choice.  Every person will stand before God and have to account for their own actions.  Parents are not responsible for the sin of their kids, nor vice versa.  We all have to answer for our own choices.

Deuteronomy 23

Deuteronomy 23 talks about the day to day living.  God tells the people of Israel who should not be allowed into their congregation.  He gives them direction on how to deal with those around them, which to avoid and which to embrace.  He talks about keeping things clean and orderly.  And then this verse comes along: “your camp must be holy, so that He may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you”.  How are you doing with that in regard to your home or office?  Is there anything that shouldn’t be there – that causes you to be tempted or leads you to the potential of sin?  We are to put away from us things that cause us any indecency in our walk with God.

Would God be impressed with the things you have in your home?  Everywhere?  In drawers and closets and secret places?  How about on your computer?  Anything there you shouldn’t have or be looking at?  Are the words that flow in your home pleasing to Him?  How about attitudes and actions?  Are they filled every moment with love and respect, or are there things you need to deal with in how you speak to and treat your family?  Too often we think we get a pass at home.  We can do things “in private” that don’t really matter to God and the rest of the world.  Wrong answer.  What happens at home matters most… is what we do behind closed doors in private that reveals our true character.  What we do when no one else is watching.  But the reality is, Someone is always watching.  There are no hidden moments.  God knows and sees all.  So we need to clean it up and do it today!

The chapter also talks about the importance of a vow.  “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”.  I remember some strong teaching about vows and God’s expectations around them some years ago at a Promise Keepers event.  God does take what we say very seriously.  Far more so than we seem to today.  God expects us to do what we say, and what we are supposed to do.  There is a reason they call the words we speak at a wedding our wedding vows.

Vows are not something we can just ignore.  They are not something we can change on a whim or try and make fit our circumstances.  God takes them as they are intended – to be words that we will live up to and keep forever.  We need to be people of our word.  We need to do what we say.  We need to live what we speak.  And we need to do that today.  Bottom line is that God expects action from us.  When we say we are going to do something – we need to do it.  And not just with Him, but with all those we speak with and give our word to each day.  Words do matter.  They are not simply things we can ignore.  Are you a person of your word?  Do you keep your vows?  God is watching……

Deuteronomy 22

Deuteronomy 22 has Moses addressing a few more areas of how people are to live.  The first has to do with finding the property of another.  Scripture tells them “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them….it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it”.  How often do we see things that we have to make a decision around – do we get involved or just ignore the situation.  God makes it clear here that we are to take action on behalf of others.  We can’t just close our eyes and move on.

Are we to be our brother’s keeper?  I think scripture certainly points toward that.  God doesn’t want us living in our own little bubble where we are oblivious to what is happening around us.  When we see something that requires action, we should act.  It may be messy, it may take time, it may cost us money, but God wants us looking out for one another. It is what being part of a community is all about.  And as Christians, we are part of God’s family – the community of those who are walking with Him and we need to act like it.

Moses goes on to address a number of sexual sins in the rest of the chapter.  For some – the penalty is to be stoning people to death. Does God take sexual sin seriously?  Yes He does.  I’m not suggesting we kill people who are guilty of these sins today, but we certainly should not ignore them and absolutely not condone them.  The church has become pretty willing to turn their heads and ignore things that happen even within the church.  People have to realize that God is serious about sin.

For most sexual sins, God holds both parties responsible.  In the event of rape, the man is responsible for his actions and God holds him as such.  Part of the punishment is that “he may not divorce her all his days”.  Men were held accountable for their actions.  The world today doesn’t hold people accountable for their actions in the way scripture teaches.  We allow people to act out irresponsibly and not always pay for those actions.  We need to get back to the way God designed things.  People need to be held accountable for their decisions.  We will be when we stand before Him.

Deuteronomy 21

In Deuteronomy 21, Moses addresses some rather off the wall topics, at least from our perspective today.  He begins with what to do if someone is found slain out in open country and no one knows how it happened.  There are a set of steps that the elders were to follow to atone for this death and be free from any guilt.  “So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst”.  There is little question in scripture that God values life, and when there is death it is important in His eyes.

Moses gives direction on what can happen when there is victory on the battlefield and one of the spoils of war is a beautiful woman who is brought home to be a wife.  He speaks against men being able to treat these women as slaves or property, and also exhorts God’s people to give them the opportunity to mourn their losses of loved ones.  God’s plan is to treat all people with dignity and not take advantage of their situation or circumstances.

He goes on to talk about the inheritance that will be passed to the children.  Having multiple wives was part of the course of life during this time, and when that happens, there are certainly situations where one may be the most loved.  But scripture here forbids treating the children with favoritism when it comes to their heritage.  “The right of the firstborn is his”.  Because a man loved one wife more than the rest, it did not mean he could transfer the rights of a firstborn to her son rather than the one who actually deserved those blessings.

Moses ends the chapter addressing children who are disobedient.  Parents are responsible to train up their children.  But in the event they are unable to manage their kids, and they won’t listen to their parents, Moses instructs parents to bring those children before the elders.  “Our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice”.  Can you imagine bringing your child before the leaders of the community and church with that verdict.  But obedience was not optional, and the result was the instruction from God that “you shall purge the evil”. An undisciplined child was to be stoned to death.  Strong response to disobedience.  How we live matters.  We need to walk carefully and walk with God!

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