Have you thought about printing each week’s pages and putting together a binder/book? Past weeks are available on this site.
Have you thought about sending me an email occasionally to report spiritual happenings in your life?
DAY ONE – Deuteronomy 4-7
The name of this book means ‘Second Law.’ That means that Yahweh God had to repeat everything He had said to Israel at Sinai, for it was their children who now stood poised, forty years later, to cross the Jordan into Canaan and carry out the conquest of those nations to be dispossessed by Israel. God willed it, for the Canaanites practiced the grossest wickedness and had become perpetually self-destructive. Left to them the race would surely fail. God, not willing that any perish, chose Abraham, then Isaac and Jacob, and finally their entire posterity to be His people and carry out His gracious plan to save the world. Moses’ great task was to help them understand the blessing and the gravity of being God’s special people. He laid out not only the commandments and statutes, but also the purposes and ways of God for them, reminding them of the fire and other signs on Mt. Sinai. The people commonly believed that anyone who heard God’s voice would die and not live, so they asked that Moses do the listening and then repeat it in their hearing. In this manner they supposed they would serve Yahweh God.
God gave Israel not a single glimpse of Himself, lest they be tempted to create and worship an image of Him. His voice was heard, but that is all. The signs and wonders were intended to instill God’s reverential awe in them so that they would always remember to do as He commanded. Multiple warnings were given by the Lord through Moses not to create any image at all, whether of God or any god; and not to look into the heavens to worship the sun, moon or stars, all created by the Lord. No wonder He laid out for them a complete religious system with its furnishings, sacrifices, ordinances and festivals. Their careful attention to the external means of salvation given to them would allow the Lord to cover their sins and remain in their midst until the day He could reveal His greater plan to save the world through His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. By sharing, repeating and writing and speaking Yahweh’s words over and over to their children and grandchildren, Israel was perpetuating that precious religion given life through their festivals and sacrifices.
If we think that grace removes all human responsibility in our relationship with Yahweh God (Yahshua), we are being deceived. Our human response to the divine initiative is what relationship is all about. No, we cannot effect the means of our salvation, but we do respond to the One who saves us. We can do nothing to add to or take away from what the Lord has done, but we can respond with our devotion, love and good works, as any spouse does to his/her loved one. No devotion = no love! Much love = much devotion. That is the Divine/human relationship, as even Jesus affirmed in Simon’s house. Even with the Holy Spirit working within us and in our world, the battle for ‘pure love and undefiled’ rages on until the day Jesus comes. Our faith saves us, but it is a faith expressed in pure devotion and obedience as we wait for the salvation to be revealed at Jesus’ coming. Human weakness is overcome by the in-working power of Holy Spirit, to whom we are ever surrendering and by whom we are being led.
DAY TWO – Deuteronomy 8-11
A short memory may well be the bane of every generation, when it comes to history. Someone has said, “The thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history!” Oral tradition is the passing from one generation to another all the stories of our forebears. The problem is that we forget to tell the truth about what their experiences should have taught us all. And it is happening again right now in our own culture, even though we have had both oral and written history handed to us. It’s called revision–that is, rewriting history to obscure inconvenient truth, and to make it appear to support our current social theory. Moses wrote down both the commandments and the instructions of the Lord so that even we can read and learn from them. In his encouragements to the younger generation, Moses called them to remembrance again and again–remember Egypt, remember Mt. Sinai, remember the miracles, remember the manna, the water, the scandals and even your sandals! Yes, your very sandals, for they lasted for forty years on your feet. Remember Yahweh’s words, His affection, His patience, His longsuffering, and yes, even His discipline. Remember it all, because your very life depends on it.
If we learn one thing from scripture, all of it, it is that God has always had a plan, has been working that plan through the recorded ages, and fully intends to finish all that He has started. It includes a people–a holy people, who have loved Him back and ordered their life around His plans; who have not sought to impede His plans but to help carry them out. This cannot be done impassively or without intention. Every person must answer for himself, to the extent that he has regarded the Lord and brought his passions into the pursuit of God. It is time to lay aside all carnal wrangling and surrender each day to Holy Spirit, to dig into the heart of God through His words, to fear any future without God! If this sounds too serious, I remind you it is in the same vein as that of Moses pleading with the young generation which was about to embark on the divine mission of settling their new land. Life and death are not random; they respond to God’s initiative in our world and our place in His great plans.
DAY THREE – Deuteronomy 12-15
If there is a prevailing theme in these chapters, it is that Yahweh God is a kind, loving and generous God. He is filled with blessing and greatly desires to bless those He calls His own. And so these chapters call Israel to become like God. When people act like God, they too become kind, loving and generous. That’s the secret! That is the way God was going to demonstrate to unregenerate mankind His reality, truth and Presence. They would witness His attributes through Israel. Perhaps then they would forsake their demon gods who held them in bondage and fear of death. Unfortunately Israel was also like the other nations and had had generations to learn the ways of the pagan Egyptians. So Yahweh had the arduous task of bringing them into a special and holy relationship that portended a glorious future with God and mankind, His special creation, together. Tiny little Israel was to be a holy nation and become the center of Yahweh’s covenant with all of mankind.
God spoke through Moses of all that He was about to do, in this manner: “When the Lord your God has…” or “When the Lord your God does…” In so doing, Yahweh was preparing them with expectation. When they saw the fulfillment they would know the Lord had done it and they would then be pleased to continue to obey His commandments, ordinances and judgments. Over and over He warned them of the consequences of following the religions of the nations they were to dispossess from the land. It was the reason God called for annihilation of those nations–they had been reduced by religion to immorality and to offering their children in the fire to placate demon gods. Surely this would be the destruction of the human race unless divine intervention prevented it.
Our evil arch-enemy will stop at nothing to libel and reproach the True and Living God. His primary cover is religion that is permeated with evil deception so that Yahweh’s true attributes are obscured; and so that mankind will eventually blame God for all the evil in the world, not having understood the truth about the cosmic rebellion. To rebel against the commandments of our Lord for any reason is to join the cosmic rebellion unwittingly and to cast aspersions on the True and Only Source of lasting salvation. So Israel was instructed, warned and even threatened. Why? To make God feel powerful, so that He could dominate His creation? No, but so that God could demonstrate forever His love and generosity and desire to save mankind from his own ways, apart from God. Once we understand that to be apart, or separate, from God is eternal death, perhaps we have discovered wisdom. All the rules and observances given to Israel made an observable path to life in God, if only they would take it. Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.
DAY FOUR – Deuteronomy 16-19
Another mystery about the nature of God is revealed in these chapters. Justice is weighed against mercy. As merciful as our Lord is, He is also righteous and just. In His mercy He has provided for every possible means of salvation for mankind. As Creator He has reached out in compassion lest He destroy His unfaithful creation. Having chosen Abraham in a covenant relationship He has redeemed Abraham’s descendants from pagan Egypt and brought them to Sinai where the covenant of Law has been instituted through Moses. It is one of the most comprehensive documents in human history and aptly displays God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy. Yes, sin could be covered by following rigid rules and offering plenteous sacrifices. Atonement could be made and judgment averted by keeping festivals and observing times and places for all religious activities. And remember that THIS religion was mandated by Yahweh Himself. It maintained the highest standards and required most strenuous observations. No exceptions were to be made. And when sin was uncovered or discovered, only strict carrying out of the rules would provide cover and forgiveness. Sin could not be undone, but God’s mercy was lovingly unleashed in an attempt to preserve the race until a permanent solution was revealed from heaven.
Honesty, integrity, truth, rightness, are attributes of God, and thus of the creation. The perversion of these is attributable to mankind alone. “God cannot be tempted with sin, neither does He tempt anyone.” So creation itself is soiled and spoiled by the humans occupying this created world. While there may be cosmic forces involved in the rebellion against God, only human beings can frustrate God’s plans to save everyone who comes to Him. The religion He gave was replete with mercy and salvation. And now the grace of salvation has been added so that we may actually flourish in His love and redemption. Justice may at times appear cold–“an eye for an eye…”–but in fact reflects God’s necessary discipline in order to save the race and the planet. That religion given to Israel at Sinai could have no flaws and no exceptions, if it was to survive and accomplish its work! And so it did. Unbending, it brought every person in creation to the just conclusion that God alone is right; that He alone makes the rules; and that He alone can provide atonement, forgiveness and redemption for human beings. None of us has ever or can ever claim to be right as God is right. According to that heavenly religion given by God, we must all acknowledge our sin and therefore our need to be saved. Only then can true Justice and Mercy work their miracle for us and in us. And only then can the creation be restored to its intended order by a loving Creator God.
DAY FIVE – Deuteronomy 20-23
In our fallen world war may be averted for periods of time; but it is sure that someone, somewhere, is going to start one! We know now, according to James, that war is already going on inside some souls, and those wars break out against other persons or nations. In Israel Yahweh God determined that the seven nations living in Canaan were to be permanently removed from existence, due to their destructive and abominable lifestyle. They had been given an additional 400 years by God to reform (the time of Israel’s stay in Egypt); then their land was to be surrendered to Abraham’s descendants, that is, Israel. War was unavoidable in this case. So God informed Israel that He was going to fight against their enemies; they couldn’t lose. Nonetheless, there might be among the armies of Israel those who had just built a house and not lived in it; or those who had planted a vineyard and not yet eaten its fruit; or one who was betrothed and had not yet married his wife… they were released from battle, if they so chose, and could return home to their interests. What kind of God makes so many concessions to the common needs of mankind? Dare we accuse Him in any manner that slanders His great name and impeccable character?
Jesus confirmed that not even a sparrow falls without our Lord’s notice. How much more so, when a human being is slain and falls? Did anyone see? God did. Can the deed be kept hidden; can the perpetrator cover his tracks? For a time maybe; but divine justice will always be waiting. And so the Lord gave careful instructions to protect whole communities from innocent blood, slain but undetected. This was one of the kinds of evil that the Lord knew would eventually destroy a people. Other things included sexual immorality and idol worship, which were often intertwined. And not least was a belligerent child who could neither be controlled nor persuaded by his father and mother. All of these were to be resolved through capital punishment, so that the malignancy would not spread through a community or the nation. Yes, the Theocracy (God’s sovereign rule) in Israel had to be enforced at any cost if there was to be a Savior who would arise out of Abraham’s descendants and bring eternal salvation to humankind. Lord of Mercy; Lord of Justice–a God who loves without borders!