Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Psalm 90 – Our Dwelling Place

LINK: Psalm 90


The Psalms will be interspersed in chronological order over Year One and Year Two of the Bible Book Club. HERE is a link to the Psalms in numerical order if you prefer to do it that way.  


BACKGROUND



This is the oldest psalm and was written by Moses, the man of God (Joshua 14:6; Ezra 3:2). While the occasion of its writing is unknown, it would fit with the 40 year wilderness wanderings of the Israelites.


In this psalm, Moses contrasts God’s eternal nature with man’s frailty.


This poem is a “chiastic” or “stair-step” poem – “one in which the psalmist builds to a climax, then reverses directions in the middle and repeats himself using synonyms” (The Daily Walk: June 2008, p. 24).


Here is an example of this from Psalm 90:1-2:


A Lord
..B You have been our dwelling place
….C Throughout all generations
…...D Before the mountains
….....E Were born
….....E Or You brought forth
…...D The earth and the world
….C From everlasting to everlasting
..B You are
A God

Isn't that cool? 


REFLECTION



This Psalm has significant meaning to me. If you come to my house, you will see it quoted in a metal sculpture next to our front door (thanks Kevin and Nancy Higgins!). If you step into our master bedroom, you will see it cross-stitched and framed on our wall (Thanks Kim Mahone! Kim came to visit 20 years later and asked to see it. It is our favorite wedding present!). You will see it quoted in our wedding invitation. It continues to be our prayer that we would be mindful that we are preparing for an eternal home with Him. Life is short, and we want our marriage and family to be characterized by living wisely so that we might “sing for joy and be glad all our days” (90:15).


APPLICATION


Is God your dwelling place? Are you living in light of eternity in your marriage and family?


PRAYER


Lord, thank You that You are our home, safe and secure. Help us to live in light of eternity today. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Put Deuteronomy Back on the Shelf - You are done with the Pentateuch!

You have completed the first five books of the Bible called the "Pentateuch"! 


Congratulations!


BibleBookcase

Deuteronomy Chapter TItles

Chapter Titles

1: What God Has Already Done

2: God's Faithfulness in the "Trudging"

3: Review of Conquests East of the Jordan/Reminder that Moses Would Not Enter the Land

4: So That You May Live

5: Review of the Ten Commandments

6: Wholehearted Love for the LORD

7-8: Destroy the Canaanites and Remember From Whence You Came

9: "You Have Been Rebellious Since the Day I Knew You"

11-12: Circumcise Your Deceitful Hearts and Walk in the Ways of Your Mighty God

13-14: Just Say No to Idols and Unclean Animals

15: Generosity

16: The Three Big Feasts and Impartiality of Judges

17: Qualifications of a King

18: The Portion for the Levites and Prohibition of Occult Practices

19: Cities of Refuge and Purging the Evil from Among You

20: On Fear and Faith and Holy War

21: Holiness in the Home

22: God's Plan for Protection

23: Exclusion for the Assembly, Uncleanness in the Camp, and Miscellaneous Laws

24: More Miscellaneous Laws (One about Divorce and Remarriage)

25: More Miscellaneous Laws

26: First Fruits and Tithe Ceremony

27: Consequences of Obedience and Disobedience

28: Blessings and Cursings

29: Summary of the Covenant Demands: Choose Life!

30: Circumcision of the Heart

31: Moses' Final Words: Be Strong and Courageous and Read the Word

32: "Not an Idle Word for You"

33: Moses Blesses

34: Moses Dies

Deuteronomy 34 - Taking a Last View from Mount Nebo

The View from Mount Nebo (http://www.bamjam.net/Jordan/Nebo.html)


LINK: Deuteronomy 34


BACKGROUND


In the final chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses praises the Lord and climbs to the top of Pisgah on Mount Nebo to view the Promised Land since he would not be able to touch it. He died there full of faith. It was not a perfect life, but we can still learn so much from his life!

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption 


He died full of faith, but One would come more than a thousand years later who would live a perfect life and be greater: JESUS!!!!
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. (Hebrews 3:1-6)


REFLECTION


Moses died full of faith. What a growth plan. What I love about his life is that he did not quit. God disciplined Moses severely after he disobeyed (Numbers 20:12), but God still called him His friend! Moses did not give up and say "Well, I am not good enough to be used by God now." He kept on going. He learned from his mistakes, he leaned in ever closer to God so much so that at the end of his life he could proclaim, "The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms" (33:37).


When you feel like giving up because you have blown it, do not give up! Keep in the battle. Turn to the LORD's everlasting arms, and let Him lead You!


APPLICATION

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have finished the course of the Torah or Pentateuch. You have persevered! I feel like we should have a party! Read about perseverance in Many Aspire, Few Attain:
14. Perseverance, keeping the heart for the battle
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

If you get used to seeing God do miracles, you quickly stop being thrilled and thankful. The things of God can become old hat, and you can fall into complacency. Remember the story of the hare and the tortoise? The hare started out great, but he was sidetracked along the way because it was so easy - success was assured, he thought. The tortoise, on the other hand, just kept plugging along, recognizing that in order to win the race, he needed to put all his efforts into it. And he won. He kept his eye on the objective and did not allow himself to be distracted.

Like the race between the tortoise and the hare, the battle which Christians face today needs to be won. It is for keeps. And also, like that fabled race, the racetrack today needs to be won. It is for keeps. And also like that fabled race, the racetrack contains many potential distractions. Have no doubt that Satan will try everything he can to disqualify you and get you out of the fight.

This list is just a few suggestions to help you from becoming a casualty of the fight, the war that is the Christian life. Too often, Satan is successful in taking believers out of the battle. While many begin well, few end well. Many aspire, but few attain. My prayer is that you may be one of those that attains.
Try to review what you have learned from your study of Deuteronomy. Summarize it in a story, song, poem, letter to God, or simply spend time in worship and prayer today!

PRAYER


Lord, we praise You as our dwelling place. Help us to dwell in Your presence and everlasting arms the whole day through. Thank You that You do not abandon us in our disobedience but desire for us to "confess and press" on and grow and become strong and courageous in this life. Help us to move forward and do not allow the enemy to allow us to become discouraged. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Deuteronomy 33 - Moses Blesses

LINK: Deuteronomy 33

BACKGROUND


It was customary that a father would bless his children before he died. We have already seen this with Jacob's blessings in Genesis 49. Essentially, Moses was Israel's "father." So, he was imparting a blessing to them. If you turn back to Genesis 49:5-7, Jacob predicted that Simeon and Levi would be dispersed in Jacob and scattered in Israel. Now, we see that Simeon is omitted. We will learn from Joshua 19:1-9, that Simeon was absorbed by Judah. Even though Levi was included in the blessing, we already know that Levi was a tribe without an inheritance because they were to take care of the tabernacle and, eventually, the temple.

APPLICATION

Looking at the specific tribes, take some time to look "before and after" in cross-references:

Reuben (33:6) -- Genesis 49:4; Judges 5:15-16

Judah (33:7) -- Genesis 49:8-12; Ezekiel 19:1-7; Micah 5:8; and Revelation 5:5 (Look for the Scarlet Thread of Redemption and Jesus!!!!)

Levi (33:8-11) -- Genesis 49:5-7; Exodus 32:25-29; Joshua 14:4; 21:41

Benjamin (33:12) -- Genesis 44:20 Genesis 49:27; Judges 3:12-30 (Ehud); Judges 19 - 21, 1 Samuel 11-15 (Saul and Jonathan).

Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh (33:13-17) -- Genesis 48:17-20; 49:22-26; Joshua 16:9; 17:14-18; Judges 8:1; 12:1; Hosea 12:8; 13:1

Zebulun & Issachar (33:18-19) -- Genesis 49:13-15; Judges 5:14,15

Gad (33:20-21) -- Genesis 49:19; Joshua 13:24-27; Joshua 22:1-6; 2 Kings 3:4

Dan (33:22) -- Genesis 49:17; Judges 14-17 (Samson); Judges 18:27

Naphtali (33:23) --Genesis 49:21; Joshua 19:32-38

Asher (33:24-25) -- Genesis 49:20; Joshua 19:24-30

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for blessings us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). Amen. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Deuteronomy 32 - Not an Idle Word for You

LINK: Deuteronomy 32

BACKGROUND


This is indeed Moses' final song to the people of Israel. Israel's future is not painted in a very positive light: wealth would lead to apostasy. Yet, after severe judgment, God would have compassion and deliver His people:

For the LORD will vindicate His people,  And will have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone,
And there is none remaining, bond or free. (32:36)

The last part of this chapter includes his "final charge" to the people of Israel: "take to heart" all the words. Why? Because they are not just idle words. They are life!


REFLECTION

When something is an "idle" thing, what does it mean to you? When something is your "life," what does it mean to you? 


You have heard the expression, "_____________ is my life!" 

Think about this. Is God's Word a trifle or your life?


Usually parting words are ones we want people to remember after we die. My father's last words were, "I love you." Essentially, the last words of Moses, this spiritual father of Israel, were:


 "I love you enough to tell you about what will
 give you peace and prosperity for the rest of your life.
 Take this to your heart! Embrace it!" 

He is referring to this final song (and extending it to the Old Testament Law that they were to teach to their children) that summarizes all that God has been and will be to them in the future. We can extend it to the whole Word of God that teaches how we are to live.


My friend, Jack, asked me once, "Carol, if you were going to die, what would be the most important spiritual discipline that you would want to pass on before you left this world?" Without hesitation, I said, "Prayerful meditation through the Scriptures. Meditating and letting God speak to you through them and praying responsively back to Him." The main reason I said this was because I had seen the change this had made in my own life.


I am in my fourth decade of discipling women. I have had so many women come back to me and say that this was the one thing that they most appreciated about our time together. Here are a couple of letters:
Beyond Malibu seems like so long ago, when you introduced me to a deeper way of seeking and knowing God. Thank you." (I taught her how to pray through Scripture in a boat! We were at Young Life's Beyond Malibu in British Columbia in 1986.) 
Just about a month ago my husband preached on "praying through Scripture" and I can't tell you how many times he and I talked about the way you taught me to pray through a Psalm. He said in his sermon, "There should be less and less of a separation between your Bible reading and your prayer life. They should become increasingly melded together." God used you to start me on this, and it has been so valuable to me over the years. It's a discipline to be taught -- thank you for teaching me." (We met together back in 1988.)
In Hebrew, the word "idle" ("trifle" or "vain" in other translations) means "worthless." Webster's defines this as "something of little value, substance, or importance." Is the Word of God a worthless thing to you or is it your life?


In the Hebrew, "life" is defined as "sustenance, nourishment." In the Old Testament, "life" is decided by a right relationship to the righteous standards of the Word of God. 

If you were in a country that did not allow you to have the Word, would you risk death in order to have it? Is it that important to you?


APPLICATION

On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your conviction about the importance of the Word of God in your life?


On the same scale, what is your actual practice?


Is there a difference?


Write out the scales in your journal. What measurable steps can you take to move yourself along the scales of conviction and practice? Who are you going to tell to keep you accountable?


PRAYER


Lord, I pray that You would cause each and every person in the Bible Book Club to grow in their love for You through Your Word. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You that You are our life! Amen.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Deuteronomy 31 - Be Strong and Courageous

LINK: Deuteronomy 31

We have a Bible Study Tool Time today: Character Study


BACKGROUND


Moses was 120 years old, and he reminded the people that he would not enter the Promised Land. They were reminded to "be strong and courageous" (31:6) because the Lord was with them and with the newly commissioned leader, Joshua.


The priests were reminded to read the whole law every seven years at the Feast of Booths to the whole congregation of Israel so that they and the generations to come might hear, learn, fear the Lord, and be careful to observe all the words of the Law.


Again, God reminded Moses that the people will rebel with bitter consequences for them.


REFLECTION

I have been reflecting quite a bit on what I have learned from Moses' life as I read his last words. We have been walking with Moses since Exodus.  What have you learned from his life?


It is funny because coinciding with this, my prayer book had a verse of prayer to be "like Moses in how he did all the Lord commanded," and even a book from the Renaissance period that I read this week (The Prince by Machiavelli) referred to Moses as an example of leadership to emulate! I call that Providential!


In addition to the chapter studies we do daily on the Bible Book Club, I like to do a "character study" sometimes in order to summarize principles from a person's life that I might apply to my own.


Here is a short primer on how to do character studies adapted from How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur.


Character Studies - Learning from the Lives of Others


1. Gather All Information on the Character


You can do this from a concordance, topical Bible, or cross-reference system in your Bible. In the life of Moses, we do not need to do this because we already know his life is spotlighted from Exodus 1 to the end of Deuteronomy!


2. Read and Make Notes of Main Truths


As you do, look for things like the following:


* Meaning of name -- In Scripture, the meaning of a person's name is sometimes (but not always) significant.  
For example, Moses means "to draw out of water." 
* Ancestry -- Who were the character's father, mother, tribe, and nation? 
For example, Moses was born an Israelite, but raised an Egyptian. This gave him a unique perspective and also created considerable difficulties for him.
* Training and conversion -- What caused the character to turn toward God, or to turn away from Him? What was this person's upbringing like, where did it occur? Ask the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) and an H (how) about his/her life.
* Times lived in, number of years lived, periods of life --  
For example, Moses had three significant 40 year periods. 
* Shortcomings and accomplishments 
Shortcomings: Moses did not think he could speak to Pharaoh. He hit the rock instead of speaking to it. 
Accomplishments: He stood up to Pharaoh. He led the Israelites out of Egypt. He gave them the God's Law. 
* Spiritual life -- What about the character's prayer life, obedience, suffering, and personal lessons learned from God, attitudes, responses, reactions? 
* Scripture that can be used as cross-references to illustrate spiritual principles -- Discovering these references will become easier as we study the Bible! 

* Effect of his/her life on others.

* The way he/she died and the impact of his/her death.

3. Check Extra-Biblical References

After you have read all you can on your own from the Bible, check out a good Bible dictionary or other reference books to see what they have to say about the person you are studying.


4. Compile Your Material


Organize the truths you have discovered depending on the emphasis you choose to make. You could organize it:
* Chronologically from birth to death. 
* According to major events in the person's life. 
* According to principles of life and ministry. Example: Moses the intercessor, Moses the leader.


5. Apply Truth to Your Own Life (make an "I WILL" statement) 


Using the first person (I, me, my) list or write out in some detail the major truths God has taught you. 

For example:

* I know that to be used of God I must be taught of God as Moses was. Therefore, "I WILL" saturate myself in God's Word every morning, praying for God to teach me, listening to His voice, and obeying what He says. I will keep a journal of what God speaks to me through His Word. This will be my daily "Listen and Obey" time like Mary Gheegh in God Guides.
* I might be in a hurry to do God's work, as was Moses (Acts 7:23-25), but God is not in a hurry. First, He must equip and prepare me until I see that only God can do God's work.
APPLICATION

What have you learned from Moses' life that you would like to apply? What is your "I WILL" for today?



2014 Update: I wrote this post 6 years ago during the first cycle of the Bible Book Club. As I am editing these old posts, I am also in a storytelling group, and we just told the story of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Perfect timing. My "I WILL" is to pray that God directs me to the people who need to hear this story.


PRAYER


Lord, teach us what You want us to learn from the life of Moses. Help us to be strong and courageous in all that You have set out for us today. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Deuteronomy 30 - Restoration Promise and Choose Life

LINK: Deuteronomy 30


BACKGROUND


God wanted to bless Israel. Israel could choose life or death. Moses knew that they would choose death by not following the Lord, and they would eventually go into captivity. But God would restore them at a future time. 

Key repeated words in this chapter are "heart" (30:2, 6, 10), "command/commandment" (30:2, 8, 10, 11, 16), "turn/return" (30:2, 3, 8, 10), and "life" (30:15, 19, 20). If Israel turned to the Lord with all their heart by keeping His commandments, then they would enjoy a blessed life from Him. 


There would be a time in the future when Israel would repent and return to the land after the Babylonian Captivity. The temple would be rebuilt, but the true fulfillment of what is said in this chapter will come at the end of time with the righteous return of Jesus. Their hearts will be circumcised, and they will turn to the Lord. There are many disagreements regarding the future of Israel. Some say that the church is "spiritual Israel," but I do not see a covenant relationship with the church in this chapter. God is speaking to Israel alone here. I do not know how it will all play out in the end times, but the passage has a lesson for all of us. 


REFLECTION 


Jesus said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). He gives us eternal life when we believe in Him, but He also gives us life on a day-by-day and moment-by-moment basis. I pray you choose life by choosing to abide in Him throughout the day. 


PRAYER


Lord, draw us to You. Help us to choose life. We pray this in Jesus' name in which we abide. Amen. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Deuteronomy 28 & 29 - Choices Have Their Consequences

LINK: Deuteronomy 28 & 29 
(read over the next two days)



BACKGROUND 
(written after my angioplasty in 2008)


Deuteronomy 28


Whew! I'm exhausted after reading/listening to this chapter; fourteen verses of blessings if Israel obeyed, followed by fifty-four verse of curses if they did not obey - about four times longer than the blessings! I think this is because God knew that Israel would disobey and suffer the consequences of disobedience to the covenant. This is definitely a foreshadowing chapter. In fact, the horrible curse of 28:68 came true:
The LORD will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, "You will never see it again!" And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.
After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70, the slave markets of Egypt were glutted with Israelites that had been captured. There were so many that there were not enough buyers for them all!


Deuteronomy 29


This chapter is considered by some to be the conclusion of his third address and by others to be the start of his fourth address. Regardless, it is a summary of the covenant demands. He starts by giving a historical review of the Lord's faithfulness to Israel followed by more curses!


This review and renewal of the covenant is culminated in Moses' dramatic challenge at the end of the ratification:
I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. (30:19-20)


We can summarize these chapters with their blessings and curses in this way:


OBEDIENCE = LIFE
DISOBEDIENCE = DEATH


Sadly, as we continue reading through the pages of the Old Testament, we will read of bad decisions leading to tragic consequences for the nation of Israel.


REFLECTION


This week, I was confined to bed rest due to an angioplasty so I read two plays; Everyman and Dr. Faustus. Everyman is a medieval morality play written in the 1300's. Everyman is faced with the choice of worldly pleasures and pursuits like friendship and riches, but they all fail him, and he realizes that nothing he clings to in this life is worth anything compared to the nearness of God. In the end, Everyman chooses life and enters eternity with God. 


Dr. Faustus was written in 1588. He sells his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers, knowledge, reputation, etc.; and in the end, he is taken away to hell. They both faced similar choices, but the former chose life and the latter chose death.

Choices abound for us too, and it all comes down to the choices we make on a daily basis, and I pray we all choose life!


"We make our decisions,
and then our decisions
turn around and make us."


APPLICATION


Look at the decisions you are making today, some may seem insignificant, but many little decisions can amount to far-reaching consequences. We can make decisions that cause us to go farther and farther away from God or decisions that are marked by ever-deepening daily fellowship with Him.


Which will it be for you today?

I pray you choose life!




PRAYER
Lord, I praise You as the Giver of life. Help us to choose life today. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Deuteronomy 23-27 - Stipulations of the Covenant

LINK: Deuteronomy 23-27 
(read over the next three days)


BACKGROUND 
(written in 2008, prior to my angioplasty)


We are continuing with societal regulations through Deuteronomy 26 with the ending of Moses' second address. Deuteronomy 27 begins Moses' third address with a command for a renewal of the covenant.


Deuteronomy 23


This chapter deals with those who were excluded from the assembly of the Lord, uncleanness in the camp, escaped slaves, prohibition of temple prostitution, lending and charging interest, vows, and eating in a neighbor's field. Just one comment of note here is that in regards to the escaped slaves, the slaves were not Israelites. They were people from other countries who had sought refuge in Israel. The command to not hand them over to their master was not a normal practice in the ancient Near East. Treaties usually included a stipulation that escaped slaves be returned.


Deuteronomy 24

This chapter deals with divorce and marriage, pledges, kidnapping, skin diseases, collecting a pledge, paying workers, responsibility for guilt within the family, and treatment of the alien, fatherless, and widow.


This chapter contains a key passage on divorce and remarriage. Divorce was widespread in the ancient Near East, but God hated it (Malachi 2:16). These commands were given to regulate what was already a practice in the culture. A remarriage to a former husband was legal, but it was considered detestable to the LORD. This law discouraged divorce for frivolous reasons. Jesus also interpreted this passage and implied that divorce was not God's ideal solution (Matthew 19:3-9). But divorce does happen, and God is always on the side of the innocent. Please read the background study on Matthew 19 for more information on that subject.

This chapter also shows us that God is compassionate toward the oppressed. (This includes those who have been through difficult divorces. Please read the Matthew 19 post.) Israel was to remember that they were slaves in the land of Egypt, and this should invoke their compassion toward the helpless.


Deuteronomy 25

The chapter deals with the prosecution of criminals by judges in order to regulate capital punishment, kindness and fairness to animals, levirate (levir in Latin means "brother-in-law") marriage for the continuation of a family line, stopping a fight, being totally honest in business practices, and the destruction of the Amalakites.


A note on muzzling the oxen in 25:4, Paul quoted this verse in 1 Corinthians 9:9, and it is not meant to imply that God did not care about animals! Paul was saying that if God cares for a working ox, He certainly cares for a human being laboring for the kingdom of God!


In regard to the levirate marriage in 25:5-10, we have already read an example of this with the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38!


Regarding stopping a fight, this is the only example where physical mutilation served as a punishment for an offense. This is contrasted with the ancient Near Eastern practice provided for a wide range of physical mutilations for crimes. For example, in Assyrian law, a man who kissed a woman on the street who was not his wife had his lip cut off with a sword.


Deuteronomy 26

This chapter explains the liturgy for two ceremonies to be performed when they entered the Promised Land: the first fruits and the tithe. This first fruits ceremony is not to be confused with the first fruits ceremony that was to be celebrated on a yearly basis (Exodus 23:16-19, 34:26; Leviticus 23:10-11; Numbers 15:18-20). The ceremony here is so beautiful. I can envision the bringing of the first fruits of the new land, and the recounting of the story of Israel from the wandering Aramean, Jacob, who had wandered from southern Canaan to Haran and back (Genesis 25-35), migrated to Egypt (Genesis 46:3-7), married an Aramean woman (Genesis 28:5; 20:16,28), and went from a small nation to a great one (Exodus 1:5; 1:7). It is a recounting of God's faithfulness to His chosen people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. This recounting would lead them to worship before the LORD their God (26:10).


This chapter concludes with a calling forth of a total commitment to the Lord and His commands and a reaffirmation of God's commitment to Israel. It might be called a "ratification" of the covenant between the Lord and Israel covering Israel's responsibilities and the Lord's responsibilities.


Deuteronomy 27

This chapter is the beginning of Moses' third address to Israel that will go through 29:1 and discusses the consequences of obedience and disobedience. Moses commanded the Israelites to set up stones with the law on Mount Ebal along with an altar for burnt offerings. He also commanded them to OBEY! It did not do any good to just know the words of the Law. They needed to obey them. This is a great word for us when it comes to the study of the Bible. D.L. Moody said, "The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives." The only way to do that is through obedience to it!


The chapter concludes with a series of curses that were to be spoken by the priests and affirmed by the people and followed by an Amen that meant "So be it."


REFLECTION - "Remembering" (2008)


My mind focused on two different passages that have a common theme of remembering.


In Deuteronomy 24, my heart camped on God commanding Israel to be compassionate toward the alien, orphan, and widow by reminding them of their own slavery in the land of Egypt:
But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (24:18) 
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (24:22)
I was immediately reminded of a conversation once with a woman who was really struggling with something. She started getting frustrated and being paranoid and accusing me of some things in during the conversation that I did not even feel or think. I felt myself starting to get frustrated and wanting to defend myself from her false accusations. 


I was losing a grip on my compassion for her in the midst of the conversation until God spoke to me very clearly, "Carol, remember when you used to feel paranoid and get frustrated and angry just like this woman? Do you remember the times when you were all alone and defenseless? You had the same reaction this woman is having right now."


This gentle word from the LORD allowed me to put myself in this woman's shoes. I could say, "I can see how you could feel this way. I remember feeling the exact same way in the past. I can begin to understand your fear." 


Instead of becoming defensive and angry, all of this came because God simply asked me to "remember" back to a time, not too long ago. How easy it is to forget these things when we are doing well! I could speak words of compassion and love to her because I remembered that I had once been there too. Even though I was FREE from the slavery of it, I still needed to remember what it was like to be there so I could minister healing words of encouragement and hope to her instead of reacting to her. It set a very good direction in our relationship that continues to this day. Remembering is a key part of compassion.


Now, I am called upon to literally have compassion on a friend who is recently widowed, and I cannot even begin to comprehend what that would be like because I have not experienced it, but I can "remember" what it was like to go through a rough period of transition or what it was like to be alone. This helps me to have compassion on her.


Deuteronomy 26 also touched my heart, and I did a little meditation using the "Loyola Method" where I imagined myself in the scene of bringing the basket of first fruits and telling, in front of the LORD my God, the story of my spiritual journey from slavery to freedom. 


Doing this helped the Israelites to remember what God had done for them, and it can help us too. What is the history of your relationship with God? Can you find a friend in which you can share your spiritual journey? It may seem awkward to do it, but please try it! It is SO encouraging to do this! This helps to cement your story and to "remember" all that God has done for you.


APPLICATION 

Do you need to have compassion for someone? Maybe you can remember what it was like to be lost, lonely, afraid, or poor? Does this remembering help you to put yourself in the other person's shoes?


Share your story with God today. I plan on doing this today after I am done with this post. Although the risk is low, my blood clot and/or this procedure tomorrow are potentially life-threatening. I have great peace, but I think it will be really helpful for me to "remember" God and His dealings with me in my "spiritual history" so far.


Another thing about remembering your journey out loud: the devil is overcome by it: "They overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Revelation 12:11, NIV).


So, say it out loud and silence his accusations today! I guarantee that you will be encouraged by remembering out loud!


One last thing, there is a wonderful summary of the laws we have just covered in Deuteronomy called the "Major Social Concerns in the Covenant" in the Zondervan's NASB or NIV Study Bible, and I found it online. It is Table 3:


"Major Social Concerns in the Covenant"


It is a valuable conclusion to this section of Deuteronomy.


PRAYER


Lord, Your word is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as division of soul and spirit, of both joint and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Thank You that no part of Scripture is separated from Your character, and we can learn from all of it. I thank You for blessing my heart today in the pages of Deuteronomy, reminding me to "remember" in order to have compassion for others who have been in similar forms of bondage that I may have experienced in the past, to give worship and praise to You for what You have done in my life, to encourage my heart when I am down and facing an uncertain future, or simply to give the devil a good swift kick. You use it all to teach me to love You with more of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and I thank You for the gift of each and every new day to live for You. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Deuteronomy 22 - Laws for Wholehearted Devotion

LINK: Deuteronomy 22

BACKGROUND

God cared about every detail in society. This chapter covers various laws that promote domestic tranquility.

Loving Your Neighbor (22:1-4; 6-8)

Leviticus 19:18 states:


You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (NKJ)
This section gives more details about how to live that out. 

Distinctions between Men and Women (22:5) 

The Israelites were to be set apart from the pagan cultures around them. There is much debate about these verses. Some churches tell women and men how they can dress, but we can derive principles from the Old Testament in our New Testament realities. We are not under the Law. The heart of this passage is that there be distinction between the sexes. God created both male and female in His image (Genesis 1:27). They were made for each other and made differently. One sex is not dominant over the other, but we are different. 

Mixing Things (22:9-11)

Keeping various seeds separate is curious. Some commentators have speculated that mixing seed was part of pagan practices:
This also was directed against an idolatrous practice, namely, that of the ancient Zabians, or fire-worshippers, who sowed different seeds, accompanying the act with magical rites and invocations; and commentators have generally thought the design of this and the preceding law was to put an end to the unnatural lusts and foolish superstitions which were prevalent among the heathen. But the reason of the prohibition was probably deeper: for those who have studied the diseases of land and vegetables tell us, that the practice of mingling seeds is injurious both to flowers and to grains. “If the various genera of the natural order Gramineae, which includes the grains and the grasses, should be sown in the same field, and flower at the same time, so that the pollen of the two flowers mix, a spurious seed will be the consequence, called by the farmers chess. It is always inferior and unlike either of the two grains that produced it, in size, flavor, and nutritious principles. Independently of contributing to disease the soil, they never fail to produce the same in animals and men that feed on them” [WHITLAW].(Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Le 19:19))
The ox was a clean animal and the donkey was an unclean animal so they should not be yoked together. Apparently, they also had very different temperaments and body sizes which would have been problematic. One commentator speculates:
Besides, the ass, from feeding on coarse and poisonous weeds, has a fetid breath, which its yoke fellow seeks to avoid, not only as poisonous and offensive, but producing leanness, or, if long continued, death; and hence, it has been observed always to hold away its head from the ass and to pull only with one shoulder. (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Dt 22:10))
For some reason, that really made me laugh! I will say that my husband has a real life example of a donkey (ass) killing two goats in a farm yard. So, maybe they are not good yoked with any other animals!

Regarding the mixing of linen and wool: 
Observations and researches of modern science have proved that “wool, when combined with linen, increases its power of passing off the electricity from the body. In hot climates, it brings on malignant fevers and exhausts the strength; and when passing off from the body, it meets with the heated air, inflames and excoriates like a blister” [WHITLAW]. (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Le 19:19))
It also could relate to pagan practices. 

The tassels in 22:12 are not explained but are in Numbers 15:37-41. They served as a reminder for the Israelites to obey God's commands and not follow their deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).

Personal Purity (22:13-30)

These laws all relate to the seventh commandment: You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). They deal with sexual purity, adultery, rape, and incest. Sex is a good thing and created by God in the context of marriage. All other forms of sex are not God's design. The punishments here are very harsh. We live under the New Covenant so there will be no stoning, but God loves purity of heart and body. 

REFLECTION

I totally avoided this chapter over the last three cycles of the Bible Book Club. I am in the editing stage now, but I decided to write a background today. I think I avoided it because of the harsh punishment of the Old Testament Law when it comes to all the things connected with the marriage relationship. Sexual purity is important to God, but in our society today, it is so hard to maintain purity.

Pornography addiction seems to be on the rise even among followers of Jesus. These statistics, literally, shocked me and broke my heart today:

Christians Are Not Immune 
Sadly, 47% of all Christians say that they have major problems with pornography.  Even among the discipleship group of the Promise Keepers, 53% of these men viewed pornography in the last week!  An April 6th, 2007 CNN poll revealed that over 70% of Christian men and over 20% of Christian women are already addicted to some sort of Internet pornography.  In the year 2000, Christianity Today completed a shocking survey that revealed 33% of the clergy (pastors and priests) admitted that they had visited a sexually explicit Internet website in the past week.   Fifty-three percent of the clergy had visited pornographic websites several times in the past year.   In a survey of pastors by the National Coalition in Seattle, a full 98% had been exposed to porn while 43% intentionally accessed a sexually explicit website. Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-to-overcome-an-addiction-to-pornography-help-for-struggling-christians/#ixzz3VbhThwFJ

Yikes! I see many marriages ruined by it (and the wife always gets blamed when she files for divorce because of her husband's pornography addiction which I think is totally twisted). 

I am left this morning wondering how to change the culture of sexual impurity, and I am at a loss for how that might come about. The article link sited above can help, but I also think deeper listening and inner healing prayer are needed to get to the root of the addiction. 

I have done Theophostic prayer for years, and people have seen great freedom through this. 

I would like to recommend a book that is along the same principles of Theophostic. It is a very good and practical guide to helping you work through the underlying issues. I was a nanny for this man in Spain in 1983:

A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places by Rusty Rustenbach. 

Please get help for your sexual impurity issues. There is no condemnation here just compassion and desire to see you free to serve God with your whole heart! 

PRAYER


Lord, thank You that You care for every detail of our life. Please free us from anything that is competing with a wholehearted devotion to You. Amen.