Monday, August 21, 2017

Encouragement when things Change.

Read Deuteronomy 31.

At age 120, Moses announced that he would not be going with Israel when they cross the Jordan River.  For forty years he lived as an adopted son of Pharaoh in Egypt.  The next forty years of his life was spent tending sheep in Midian as a fugitive.  These last forty years he led the nation in the wilderness.  The time had come for his successor to be introduced.

So the nation would not worry in the absence of Moses, he told them "Be strong and courageous."  It was not Moses' leadership they needed in the new land but the LORD’s.  "He will not leave you or forsake you."

For most of Joshua’s life, he had served as Moses' assistant.  He was one of the original 12 spies.  He served as the field general for Israel's army.  But now he was introduced as the nation's new leader.  Moses repeated the exact same words of encouragement and personally applied them to Joshua.  And then in 31:23, the LORD Himself repeats same words to Joshua.

Moses put in writing all that God had given to him to say in this book of Deuteronomy.  Indeed, evangelical scholars attribute the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy to Moses as the human author.  The purpose of having the word of God in writing is so that:
1. The people of would read, hear, and learn to fear the LORD and be careful to do all that God has said.
2. The children of the people of God may hear and learn to fear the LORD.

Leadership changes but God does not.  Generations change but the word of God remains steadfast forever.

The LORD's very presence is with us today encouraging us.  He has allowed us to actually own a Bible so that we may know what God has said and do it.  He has placed us in families to in order to pass it on.  "Be strong and courageous" in your faith.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Life's greatest Choice

Read Deuteronomy 30:11-20.

As Moses began to conclude his review of the law, he encouraged the people.  Jack S. Deere restated verses 11-13.  "The Law was not incomprehensible (too difficult) or inaccessible (beyond your reach).  Though the Law had a heavenly origin God clearly revealed it to Israel so there was no need for anyone to ascend into heaven to get it nor did anyone need to travel across an ocean to get it.  Nor did Israel need a special interpreter of the Law before they could obey it." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, p.315)

The nation had it writing, in their own language, and heard it directly from Moses.  Levites, priests and leaders were already in position to help them put it into practice.

And, then it was time for a decision.  The either/or choice was clear: life and good or death and evil.  That's it.  There was not a third alternative.  Not all roads lead to heaven.  It is not true that we all worship the same god.  The decision is urgent!  Their entire future and that of their children was on the line.  The preacher, Moses, cried out, "Therefore, choose life!" (v.19)

The Apostle Paul quoted this very passage in Romans 10:6-10 to explain how comprehensible and accessible eternal life in Christ is for us.  More than earthly blessings are at stake.  Eternal life or eternal separation from God and from those who know Him are in this choice.  How is the choice transacted?

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The secret is Revealed

Read Deuteronomy 29-30:10.

Twice Moses referred to this section as a "sworn covenant" (29:14, 19).  Theologians have labeled it the Palestinian Covenant.  The LORD gave this land to Abraham and his descendants unconditionally.  The enjoyment of the land by those descendants depended upon their right behavior toward God.  Yet, even with their anticipated disobedience and God's punishment of them, the land will remain theirs and this covenant includes complete restoration. 

The problem, Moses said in 29:4, was "to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear."  The solution for their future disobedience is found in chapter 30.
"...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...and 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." (30:2a-3,6)

The key to living for God and enjoying all that He has planned was stated in 29:29-"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."  In other words, God has revealed to us all we need for life and godliness.  There is no substitute for knowing God's word and putting it into practice.

New Testament believers not only have the scriptures but we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us.  In discussing spiritual maturity and understanding the things of God, the Apostle Peter wrote:
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises..." (2 Peter 1:3-4a)

Our prayer today should be that we would have a heart to understand, eyes to see, and ears to hear what God has said to us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Word of God in Surround-Sound

Read Deuteronomy 27-28.

Though there are other detailed ways in which to outline Deuteronomy's content, this entire book may be divided into three major parts or sermons by Moses.
Chapters 1-4 is a focus on the nation's past.
Chapters 5-26 instruct the nation in the present.
Chapters 27-34 speak clearly regarding the nation's future.

Geographically, Israel was positioned on the east side of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea.  The very first items on the to-do list in the new land were to write out the commandments and build an altar.  This underscores the absolute primacy of the word of God and the worship of God.

Next, Moses set up a dramatic way for the nation to renew their understanding and commitment to the promise God made to Abraham.  In Genesis 12, the LORD unconditionally promised this land to Abraham and his descendants, that Abraham though childless would have innumerable descendants, and that the LORD would bless and protect his descendants.  When they entered the land, Israel was to divide into two groups.  Half of the people would station themselves on Mount Gerizim and together in a loud voice recite the blessings God had promised them for obedience.  The other half would stand on Mount Ebal and together in a loud voice recite the curses that God promised if they did not obey Him. 

These two mountains are located some 35 miles north of Jerusalem in the valley of Shechem.  Millions of people reciting God's word together must have been a beautiful sound to the LORD.

Two key verses:
Blessing: "And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity...The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands." (28:11-12)
Reason for Curse: "Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things." (28:47)

Dr. J. Vernon McGee summed it up by stating that "God is the land owner, and that rent is obedience to God."  In other words, the LORD is not going to change His promise to Abraham, but  for them to enjoy what has given to them they must do what God has said.  It is the same for us today.  God is the Owner of all things and in His grace wants to bless us.  Our stewardship mandate is to be faithful and thankful for all the LORD has done for us.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 indicators of Biblical Giving

Read Deuteronomy 26

Moses became very definitive about giving to God.  Receiving God's blessing meant that they were to honor Him in response.  Here, then, are the Biblical statements concerning giving.

1. It was to be from the first of their increase. (v.2)
They were not allowed to give from the left-overs, after everything else had been taken care of. 

2. It was a tithe. (v.12)
The word tithe means ten percent.  There is no such thing as a 3 percent tithe.  Either it is a tithe or it is not.  Percentage giving meant that everyone gave equally in proportion to their increase, not in the amount.

3. It was called the sacred portion. (v.13)
Sacred means that it was set apart for a specific purpose, in this case for the LORD.  It was not theirs to decide because it did not belong to them.  The decision was made in advance.  It was God's even before they saw the increase.

4. It was a testimony. (vv.5-10a)
The offering was presented with a back story of how God had brought them through generations to this point.  They were to come with full acknowledgment of how the LORD had blessed them and provided for them to be able to give.

5. It was an act of worship. (v.10b)
Giving was not to be done frivolously or mechanically.  Giving was a time to bow before the LORD in recognition that He owns it all, that He is the source of every blessing, that He alone is worthy of my offerings.  We would not be able to give at all were it not for His supply of strength, skill, opportunity, and favor on our labors.

6. It was in recognition of the direct impact on others. (v.12b)
Their giving supported those who served God and them.  Also, it made care available for the poor and those in need.

7. It was an act of obedience. (vv.13b-14)
Though giving was an outward act, it was to be a reflection of inward obedience.  Their hearts were to be pure, their conscience clean, and their behavior right before the LORD.

8. It was given with a prayer for future blessing (v.15)
Giving the first meant they were trusting God for His blessing on the rest.  They could rightfully pray for such a blessing because God had promised and they were submissive to Hm.

9. It was done wholeheartedly (v.16)
Half-hearted obedience is unsatisfactory to all parties involved.  Giving begrudgingly is not acceptable as worship.  Our giving is to be done with great thanksgiving to God for His immeasurable giving to us.

10. It was one of the indicators of people who belong to God (16-19)
Israel was to behave differently than the nations around them.  As a people who are God's "treasured possession", His goal is to "set you up in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made."

As New Testament believers we should learn from these admonitions.    Certainly no true follower of Jesus Christ would want to do less under grace.

Monday, August 14, 2017

All in the Family

Read Deuteronomy 25.

One of the more interesting laws given to Israel is often referred to as the "husband's brother" or the "kinsman-redeemer" law.  God was concerned that each of the 12 tribal families was maintained and that each family within the tribe would have descendants.

Regardless of age or other circumstance, it was the "duty" (v.7) of a man to take and care for his brother's widow, especially for the purpose of having children on his brother's behalf.  The qualifications included that the brothers lived together.  The assumption is that they shared their father's inheritance.  Second, the brother who died had no sons to carry on his name.  The regulations for refusal were clear.  Public humiliation would be the result.

Why was the sandal removed?  It was symbolic of removing the right to walk on that brother's land.  It was a legal forfeiture.

In the book of Ruth, we get to see this law put into practice.  Both Ruth's husband and brother-in-law died.  When Boaz, a kinsman to Ruth's late husband, fell in love with her there was one problem.  A kinsman to Ruth's husband was closer in relation than Boaz.  So, in chapter 4 we learn that the closer kinsman did not wish to exercise his duty toward Ruth.  He refused, wanting to protect his own inheritance.  They performed the legal exercise of removing the man's sandal and, thus, Boaz was free to marry Ruth.

In order for the LORD to redeem us and make us part of His family, He first had to become a near kinsman.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."  "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."  (John 1:14,12)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Law and the Cross

Read Deuteronomy 21-24.

These details concerning Israel's laws are often skim read or not read at all.  As believers in Jesus, we do not live under the laws of regarding the priesthood and sacrifices for sin in order to have and maintain a relationship with God.  Yet, these laws contain wisdom and direction for this nation on how to make judgments, who should make them, and what to do about wrongs done against each other.

People who want to live by doing what is right in their own eyes, who believe in victimless crimes, and want to behave without anyone telling them what to do are truly law-less.  This is nothing new.  The Bible teaches that individual behavior can have influence on the entire nation and how God responds.

One such law had to do with capital punishment.  As any student of the Bible knows, Israel's method of execution was stoning.  So it does seem strange to have a law regarding hanging the criminal on a tree.  Evidently, this was for the most heinous of crimes.  It appears that the person was probably stoned to death and then hung on display as a severe public warning.  But they were not allowed to leave the body hanging; it was to be buried the same day.  Why?  "You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance." (21:23) 

Notice how the Apostle Paul wrote about this very verse:
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'." (Galatians 3:13)

Jesus hung on a Roman cross and this verse makes it clear as to who is to blame.  It was for us He died.  He took our "curse", the eternal punishment for our sin.  "So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:14).