Thursday, August 31, 2017

It is the present, not the past, that determines your future.

Read Joshua 2.

Joshua knew the value of reconnaissance.  He had been a spy for Israel in the book of Numbers.  Back then, Moses sent 12 spies, one from each tribe.  Only two, Joshua and Caleb, came back with a faith-filled report.  So, this time Joshua sent only two.  Their assignment was to gather intelligence on the city of Jericho.  When the nation crossed the Jordan River headed west, Jericho would be the first major city in its path.

The spies came to the house of Rahab.  She was able to tell them all they needed to know about the city and how God had already struck fear in the people.  The people of Jericho knew about the Red Sea miracle and the power of Israel's God.  While everyone else lived in dread, Rahab placed her faith in the LORD.  That made all the difference.  Her faith changed her life, her legacy, and her destiny.

1. Rahab in the Past tense.
She was a Canaanite.  These were the current inhabitants of the Promised Land.  God's order was to root them out so Israel could possess what was rightfully theirs.  The Canaanites were pagans.  They worshipped various sorts of made up deities, often fashioning them with wood or metal.  She was a prostitute.  Her reputation for immorality and loss of character would seem to have her on an opposite path from God.

2. Rahab in the Future tense.
In Matthew 1, we read the family tree of Jesus, the Messiah.  Several women are particularly noted in that passage.  In verse 6 is the name of Rahab.  After the fall of Jericho, she and her family lived with the nation of Israel.    She married a Jewish man who was in the very lineage of the Messiah.  In Hebrews 11:31, when examples of great faith in the LORD were listed, Rahab is given as a prime example.  In James 2:24-26, Rahab is again shown to be a person who did not just express belief in God, but proved it by her actions.

3. Rahab in the Present tense.
There are four spiritual responses by Rahab in Joshua 2 that are true of everyone who put their faith in God and experience an eternal change of life.
     A. She heard about God.
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
     B. She believed what she heard about God.
"'...what must I do to be saved?'  And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.'"  (Acts 16:30)
"Because 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." (Romans 10:9)
     C. She obeyed God as proof of her sincerity.

Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples." (John 8:31)

Monday, August 28, 2017

The 3 R's of getting God's work Done

Read Joshua 1.

His name means "Jehovah is salvation".  The New Testament equivalent of that name is Jesus.  After 400 years in slavery, and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, it was now his duty to return the descendants of Abraham back to the land God promised them in Genesis 12. 

What a fill the shoes of Moses as the leader of Israel!  Joshua was not inexperienced.  He had been Moses' aide most of his life.  He was the general of Israel's army and with the battles ahead in taking the new land, the nation would need such a leader.  He served as a faithful spy and had already seen the land.  It is a sobering reminder that none of us are irreplaceable.  God's work is not limited to one person.

Geographically, the nation had camped on the east side of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea.  They must cross the river and begin a military campaign in order to establish themselves on the inhabited land of Canaan.

Note that the vision came from God.  It was not a selfish goal on Israel's part, or an ego-driven effort from any person.  With clarity of what God wants done comes His power and resources to accomplish His work.  The leader must be dependent on God and disciplined in behavior to accomplish the task.  But the leader cannot do it alone.  The leaders and those who follow must be aligned with God as well and willing to carry out God's vision.

Notice these three indispensable requirements for moving forward to accomplish their God-given tasks.
1. The LORD's Reassurances to the leader.
The LORD encouraged Joshua with power-filled promises to empower his leadership.
   A. Territorial leadership.  Concerning the land, God said He had given it to him. (vv.3-4)
   B. Military leadership.  No enemy would be able to stand against him. (v.5a)
   C. Spiritual leadership.  "I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you." (v.5b)
The result was predetermined victory.

2. The LORD's list of Responsibilities to the leader.
God's word and presence would be there, but Joshua must discipline his emotions, his thinking, his speech, and his behavior.
   A. "Be strong and very courageous". (v6)
   B. "Being careful to do according to all the law." (v.7a)
   C. "Do not turn from it." (v.7b) 
   D. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth." (v.8a)
   E. "You shall meditate on it day and night." (v.8b)
   F. "Do not be frightened." (v.9a)
   G. "Do not be dismayed." (v.9b)
The result is prosperity and success.

3. The other leaders' Responses to the leader.
Unity among leaders of any organization is imperative.  A divided leadership leads to a divided people 100% of the time and destroys their potential as a group.
   A. Obedience.  "All that you have commanded we will do." (v.16)
   B. Allegiance.  "Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you." (v.17a)
   C. Urgency.  "Only may God be with you." (v.17b)  "Only be strong and courageous." (b.18b) 

Friday, August 25, 2017

3 encouraging facts of faith in God

Read Deuteronomy 33-34.

In chapter 34, the LORD performs a funeral service for Israel's greatest prophet-leader.  "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face." (34:10).

But before he died, two things happened.  First, Moses blesses the tribes of Israel individually and encourages them corporately.  Second, God allowed Moses to see the Promise Land from Mount Nebo.

You may notice that the tribe of Simeon is missing from the list of blessings in chapter 33.  The reason seems to be that when the new land was divided among the tribes, the tribe of Simeon lived among the people of Judah. (Joshua 19:1)

Moses' encouraging words in 33:26-29 are classic regarding God's care and defense of His people.

1. "There is none like God." (v.26)
The God of heaven is not distant, but watching over His people from above.  Pictured as a rider in the sky, He will quickly come to their aid in times of need.

2. "The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms." (v.27)
Though God was giving Israel this Promise Land, it was only temporal.  The people of God have an eternal abiding place.  It is in their relationship with the LORD Himself.  He is the refuge for His people and their everlasting support.

3.  "Happy are you." (v.29)
The result is happiness!  Why?  Because the people of God are special; there is no one like them.  Not only are those who belong to the LORD saved, but also they are shielded from those who would harm them.  Victory is assured in advance.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A little Rock Music

Read Deuteronomy 32.

The LORD foretells of Israel's falling away from following Him to chase other gods and what will happen.  To help the nation through those hard days ahead God had Moses write down and then teach the nation a song to memorize.  How important is this song of Moses?  "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life..." (v.47)

This is heavenly music.  Unfortunately, the scriptures do not come with audio for us to hear Moses' singing voice.  Follow the great themes of the stanzas in the song:
1. The greatness of God.
-Five times in this chapter He is called the Rock with a capital R.  This refers to the LORD being a sure foundation of our faith.  He is strong and will not change.  Reliable.  He is worthy of our trust.
-His work is perfect.
-His ways are just.
-His character is faithful and upright.

2. The unfaithfulness of people.
Instead of being thankful and totally committed to the LORD for all He had done for them, they repay Him with "foolish and senseless" behavior.

3. The discipline of God.
He will not allow His people to live in continual disobedience.  The LORD will intervene and use others to chasten them to a point, "when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free" (v.36)  In other words, there is no fight left in them to continue their rebellion.

4. The compassion of God.
"Then he will say, where are their gods, the rock (small r) in which they took refuge..?" (v.37)  When they come to the end of themselves they will realize that all they had trusted did not help them.  Indeed, the very things they had put their faith in had only brought them misery and heartache.  The problem is found in v.31-"For their rock is not as our Rock..."

"On Christ the solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand." (Edward Mote)   

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).

Friday, August 11, 2017

Distractions vs. Discipleship

Deuteronomy 19-20.

Moses repeated laws concerning the cities of refuge, property boundaries, witnesses in court cases, and warfare.

The war situation described here is one where the army sees they are outnumbered.  What should they do?  The first item on the check list was the spiritual assessment.  This does not make any sense to the godless.  The unspoken question underlying this assessment is, "Is this what God wants us to be doing?"  If the answer is yes, then the people of God are not alone.  It is God's fight and He will use His people in the process of accomplishing His will.  Therefore, it was the priest, not the general, who was to say "Do not fear or panic or dread them, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you the victory." (20:3-4)

Next the officers of the army were to speak up with qualifications of service.  Fighting men must be free from distractions.  There were four exemptions issued to men in the following circumstances:
1. They had just built a new house and had not moved in yet.  His family would need him to settle into their new home.
2. They had just planted a vineyard and had not enjoyed a harvest.  The plants would need tending if the family would eat and have future crops.
3. They had just become engaged and had not married.  The man's heart would constantly be thinking of her and establishing a family.
4. They had such fear that there was no ability to fight.  Such a person would only prove to be a danger to themselves in battle and they would put those around them in peril.
In each case it was better that those men just go home.

Not so for those who are followers of Jesus.  A soldier of the Cross is in a constant spiritual battle.  There are no deferments, no exemptions.  In one of the passages often referred to as "the hard sayings of Jesus", Luke 9:57-62 provides specific examples:
1. "Someone said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.'"
Jesus' answer: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
Being willing to go without what others deem as essential challenges the earthly mindset of self-preservation.  The songwriter was correct: "This world is not my home.  I'm just passing through."
Question: Are my attachments to the things of this world distracting me from following Jesus wholeheartedly?

2. Another said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
Jesus' answer: "Leave the dead to to bury their own dead.  But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
This hard response is indicative of the radical commitment of a follower of Jesus and the urgency of the message to be delivered.  If need be, the spiritually dead could bury the physically dead.  Though others may not have understood, though it could possibly have cost this man his inheritance, eternity is at stake for those who have not heard the good news.
Question: How urgent is it for me to tell others about the wonderful relationship they can have with Jesus?

3. "Yet another said, 'I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.'"
Jesus' answer: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.  There was no time for waiting.  This decision was more important than even the man's own family.

Question: Is following Jesus my most important priority today?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How to test a Preacher

Read Deuteronomy 18.

Here again the people of God were clearly told not to turn to any other source of guidance and help in their lives but the LORD alone.  All forms of man-made worship, sorcery, omens, witchcraft, astrology, fortunetelling, and the like were condemned as false and satanic in origin.  Jesus said of Satan, "...he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

Instead, the people were to listen and heed the words of the LORD's prophet.  Moses had served as such during this entire Exodus, bringing the nation right up to entering the new land.  Here, he reassured the nation that God will not leave them without spiritual leadership.  The LORD will raise up His spokesperson after Moses.

But how could the people be sure that this person was truly the LORD's prophet?
1. He would be from among God's people. (v.15)
In other words, he would not come from another people group who follow a false religion to deliver God's message to them.
2.  He would speak God's word. (v.18)
His message will line up with what God has already said.  And, because it is God's word, the people were not only to listen but obey.  False prophets will often refer to a part of Scripture and then speak their own misleading message.  

Without a copy of the written word of God, how were the people to know if the message was truly from the LORD?  The test was simple.  If a prophet made a declaration regarding something that was to take place and it did not, then the people would know not to put their trust in this person.  They need not fear his predictions.  He, in fact, would prove to be a false prophet.

At the end of this book, it is written: "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face." (34:10)  Though God always had his spokespersons in every generation, 18:1 points to a unique future prophet that would be sent to them (Messiah).  In John 1:21, the priests and Levites quizzed John, the Baptist, "Are you the Prophet?  And he answered, 'No.'"  At the Transfiguration of Jesus, the Father spoke from heaven, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." (Mark 9:7)

Then, the Apostle Peter, preaching in Acts 3:17-26 interprets Deuteronomy 18:1 for us by applying it directly to Jesus.

Every generation has had its false teachers and false prophets who proclaimed some new teaching or prediction.  Each one has fallen into disgrace.  Meanwhile, our eternal trust in the Lord Jesus and the word of God remains "a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul." (Hebrews 6:19)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The man who would be King

Read Deuteronomy 17.

In this second giving of the law, practically every situation of national and personal life is covered.  Many how to's and what to do's are specifically listed.  Among them were statutes concerning the possibility that one day the nation might want a king. 

That did take place until a few hundred years 1 Samuel 8.  The LORD was their king.  But human nature is prone to want what others have and so here in chapter 17 God gave His permission (v.15).  The allowance for a future king came with some very specific qualifications.

1. "...whom the LORD your God will choose."
The number one concern in selecting their national leader would be the person God wants.  This would require the nation to go to prayer and do their diligence to be confident that this is the person of God's will for them.  Having such assurance would result in a national trust of that person's leadership.  Decisions and directions then could be viewed through a God-directed leader.

You can read the selection process of Israel's first king in 1 Samuel 9.

2. "One among your brothers..." 
A foreigner could not be a candidate for king.  The person would need to be born into one of the twelve tribal families.

Saul was chosen from the tribe of Benjamin.  But after some time God rejected him because of his repeated disobedience.  God chose David as the second king from the tribe of Judah.  Then the LORD made a covenant with David and his descendants forever.  This is one of the important features of the family lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1.  Jesus' human birth was in the tribe of Judah and He has the birthright to the throne as King.

3. "Only he must not acquire many horses..."
David's son, Solomon, became the third king of Israel.  He did exactly what this verse warns against.
1 Kings 4:26 tells us that he had 40,000 stalls of horses.

4. "And he shall not acquire many wives for himself..."
Marriage among royals has long been used to seal alliances.  These were often political pacts between nations.  Here the warning was spelled out clearly: "lest his heart turn away."  With the marriage of foreign women would come their false gods and belief systems.

Solomon had a thousand wives and concubines.  He built places of worship for false gods for some of these wives and they indeed, at times, turned his heart away from the LORD.

5. "...nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold."
Solomon became the wealthiest man in the world.  This was achieved, not only through God's promised blessing upon him (1 Kings 3:11), but as he made alliances with surrounding nations they paid tribute (taxes) to him.

6. "...he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law..."
This meant the king would take the time to not just read the word of God but produce a personal, handwritten copy for himself.

7. "And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law..."
It was not a one and done.  He was to have his copy handy so he could review it and know how to live, how to lead, and how to govern the people.  It was a lifelong commitment to God and His word.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Taking Time to Celebrate

Read Deuteronomy 16.

Three times every year the nation was to stop and celebrate together.
1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (The Passover).  This week long celebration was to remind them of where they came from and how they got to where they are.  When the nation was enslaved in Egypt, the final plague that resulted in their freedom was the death of all the firstborn.  God told Israel to apply blood on the doorposts of their homes so death would pass over them and go the next house (Exodus 12).  At the same time they were to be packed, dressed, even eating the meal standing up, and ready to leave Egypt.  This was done in faith of God's deliverance.  They were not to take time for the yeast to rise in the dough.  So they ate unleavened bread.  They were never to forget what God did for them and the price of their freedom.

2. The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).  This was a time of rejoicing at the seventh week when the harvest began.  The word pentecost means fifty.  Seven weeks would be forty-nine days, and the next day would be the Sabbath, the fiftieth day.  It is also known as the Feast of Harvest or the Day of First-Fruits.  The first fruits of the harvest were dedicated to the LORD.  They were to bring an offering of thanks to God for His blessing of soil, seed, and rain for the produce.   By faith, they looked to God for the rest of the harvest.  Never were they to forget that God was in control of the very elements of their livelihood.

3. The Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).  Also known as the Feast of Ingathering, at the end of the harvest, they were to rejoice together again for an entire week.  The feast was to remind them that all their gain came from the hand of God in order to bless them.  The LORD wanted them to take time to rest from their hard work and enjoy what they had been given.  

For believers today, it is good for us to stop, remember, and celebrate what God has done for us.
Jesus' death on the cross was at the Feast of the Passover.
"For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came to fill and indwell believers on the exact day of the Pentecost feast. 
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:14)

Hebrews 4 speaks of a time for people to rest from their work and to enjoy the blessings of God.  This is true both now and in eternity.  "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." (Hebrews 4:9-10)  "And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'  'Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'" (Revelation 14:13) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why Give?

Read Deuteronomy 14-15.

The dietary laws were for the physical protection of God's people.  Without modern understanding of germs, disease, hygiene, and medicines this was one way to avoid sickness and plagues.

Why tithe?  Why should a person give the first ten percent of all their earnings to the LORD?  So "that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always." (v.23b)  It was a way God established for them to acknowledge outwardly that the LORD created and gave them what they had, including the strength and opportunity to earn.  By honoring God with the first, the LORD would bless the remaining 90% even more.

Note also that they were not allowed to give their tithe to anyone, anywhere they chose.  It was not their tithe, but the LORD's.  "And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there..." (v.23a).  The tithe supported the Levites in their work on behalf of the nation.  Clear instructions were given to bring the tithe to them, whether the Tabernacle, or later the Temple in Jerusalem.  Over a thousand years later, Malachi referred to it as the "storehouse" and "my house".

God always has had a concern and instructions for the care of the poor.  "You shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be." (v.8)  "You shall give to him freely..." (v.10)  In addition to supporting the Levites, every third year there was to be an extra tithe to take care of the orphans and widows.  There was to be no long term debt, financially enslaving people to creditors.  All debt was to be forgiven at the end of seven years.

God's people were blessed in order to be a blessing.  Doing well financially was not for selfish gain.  Giving generously to those who serve and to those in need is a hallmark of those who know and follow the LORD.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

How to respond to false Teachers

Read Deuteronomy 13.

Just how serious was the LORD about this nation obeying Him?  How committed was this nation to exclusively following the Living God?  Moses presented three real, spiritual challenges they would face in the new land.  These would be tests from God.  In addition, the nation was instructed what to do in each case.

Test #1.
A so-called prophet makes a prediction and it comes true.  Then, they coax you to follow other gods.  What should you do?
Answer: Do not listen to them. (v.5)

Test #2.
A family member or someone close to you invites you to serve other gods.  What should you do?
Answer: You are not to listen to them. (v.8)

Test #3.
An entire city has been duped by false teachers who led the population into worshipping other gods.  What should you do?
Answer: Total riddance.

God called these false tempters "evil", "wickedness", and worthy of death.  The reason was two-fold:
a. That "all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you." (v.11)
b. "That the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you..." (v.17)

It is impossible to translate this into our current national thinking.  Indeed, this type of intolerance today is characteristic of political madmen, the leading false religion in the world, and other violators of human rights.  While believers in Jesus would certainly not be supportive of slaughtering those who follow other religions, there are some reminders here for us.
1. God is deadly serious about people uniquely worshipping Him.
2. There are eternal consequences at stake for those who are not followers of Jesus Christ.
3. Our tolerance of false gods must not be misinterpreted as acceptance.
4. Our very entre into the hearts and lives of those who do not believe is a loving relationship with them.

It is how the LORD treated us when we were disobedient and not following Him.  "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Friday, August 4, 2017

3 questions for personal Worship

Read Deuteronomy 12.

One of the most important instructions of all for Israel as they entered the new land was to establish their worship.  Six times Moses stated that it was to be a place the LORD would choose.  There would a single geographical spot where they were to bring their sacrifices and offerings for worship. 

The Hebrew word translated worship means to humbly bow in reverence.  The presentation of their tithes, offerings and sacrifices represented a heart that acknowledged God's ownership of everything and submission to Him.  In Isaiah chapter one, God chastised Judah for bringing what He called "vain offerings".  They were disobedient in their behaviors yet continued to go through the motions of ceremonial worship.

The Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, moved with them on their wilderness wanderings and was eventually set up in the new land.  About 500 years later, Jerusalem became the place of God's choosing for the permanent Temple.  Today, believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  While it is true that we can now worship in any place, and since the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross there are no more blood sacrifices, there are some questions for us today.

1. Do I have a public place of God's choosing for worship?
"Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)

2. Do I prepare and bring with me what I have set aside for worship?
Moses referred to this as "the holy things that are due from you" (12:26).
"Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.  On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper..." (1Corinthians 16:1-2)

3. Do I live a life of worship?
"Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Hebrews 13:15-16

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Enjoying the blessings of God

Read Deuteronomy 11.

In verse 26, Moses briefly mentioned the themes of a blessing and a curse.  He will come back to that in great detail beginning in Chapter 27 from Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.  For now, he simply laid the foundation for the later message.

Moses casted vision to the nation of what living in the new land would be like.  It could not be compared to Egypt with the Nile River valley supplying water for their crops and livestock.  This new land depended upon rain for its produce.  And, because God ultimately controls the weather, Moses directly tied their spiritual lives to their future well-being.

The blessing: "And if you will indeed obey my commandments...he will give the rain for your land in its shall eat and be full." (vv.13-15)  Obeying the Lord first requires a person to know what God has said.  "For 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..." (v.22)

But, the curse: "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, so that there will be no rain..." (vv.16-17)

Those are great promises to Israel of God's watch care over them.  In the Psalms, we read that it often bothered David when the wicked prospered and the righteous did not do as well.  He would always conclude with two points:
1. Material prosperity is temporal at best and is not necessarily an indication of spiritual health.  Judgment Day is coming when the LORD will bring ultimate justice and right all wrongs.

2. In the meantime, God is committed to taking care of His own.
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!  The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." (Psalm 34:8-10)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What does God require of Us?

Deuteronomy 10.

Moses continued his history lesson for the nation.  He pointed out the mistakes and sins of the previous generation.  Life proved futile and disastrous when they thought they could live on their own terms or by placing their trust in made-up gods.  In a shift from the past to this present generation, he asked, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD require of you?"

The answer in verses 12-13 contains five statements of God's requirements for His people.
1. Fear Him.  
Have regard, respect for His omnipresence, and accountability to Him.

2. Walk in all His ways.  
Put into practice His expectations.

3. Love Him.  
More than emotion, this is a commitment of exclusive devotion to the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.  

4. Serve Him.  
"Not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man." (Ephesians 6:6-7)

5. Keep His word.  
This means we must know what God has said and understand it so we may live rightly before the Lord.

Why would God put forward such a list of stipulations?  "...I am commanding you today for your good". (v.13)