Week of 7/14/19 - Pages 313-327

This is it. After the years of waiting and wandering, the Israelites are poised to enter the promised land, the land God has provided. 

Our reading this week starts in the middle of all the curses—all the consequences God vows will befall the Jews if they break their covenant with him. This was a surprise to me. I didn’t recall that there were specific curses outlined as part of the covenant relationship. I’m so much more comfortable with the word “consequence” than the word “curse.” I recalled that God vowed the Israelites would be conquered and taken into exile if they forsook him and worshipped other gods. But I wasn’t aware of the variety and specificity of the curses detailed for them. To be honest, I found it rather disturbing, and was a little rocked by “Just as the Lord has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the Lord will find pleasure in destroying you” (315). 

Wait, what? 

The Bible bears testimony to the justice of God, to his longsuffering, and to his allowing and even using difficult circumstances to test, shape, shepherd, discipline, and fight for his people. He’s clearly a God of tough love and letting his children experience the consequence of their choices. But finding pleasure in destroying them? That does not sit easy with me. That’s a scary God that harkens back to fire and brimstone sermons that I frankly see as alienating people from knowing God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. But there it is in the Bible in black and white. What are we to do with it? 

Reading through the curses, it made me wonder if anyone had second thoughts about entering into this agreement. But human nature being what it is, we tend to only look at the upside, don’t we? Picture it: a couple of million people, amassed on the border of the land their forefathers were promised. A land large enough and lush enough to provide for all of them. A land they’ve endured a forty-year detour to enter. How closely did they listen to the fine print? And how could they turn back now or decide to strike out on their own because the contract was too onerous? I have to keep in mind that they have seen God’s presence and provision day in and day out. They are in a sweet period of relationship with him—how easy it would be to downplay the punishment clause that would certainly never need to be invoked.

How smart was God to have the warning put to music and taught to them all in a song, “so that it may serve as a witness for me against them” (319). God knew that the people would break their covenant, and he planned ahead for that day: “and when great disasters come down on them, this song will stand as evidence against them” (319).

God certainly knows human nature. And not only does he have blessings in store for his people when they keep his covenant, and curses for when they don’t, he even has a contingency for when they come back to him: “If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you” (317). There’s his mercy and grace. 

I have to note that in the middle of all of this—the covenant details and prophecy about their exile and return—God slips a little detail of his mysterious plan into the song: “I will rouse their jealously through people who are not even a people; I will provoke their anger through the foolish Gentiles” (321). If I’m not mistaken, I think that’s a little foreshadowing of how God’s plan will go on to provide for the Gentiles when the Jews largely reject Jesus as their messiah, without his forsaking his original covenant with the Jews.

He’s definitely the God of the long game. 

Week of 7/7/19 - Pages 298-312

The fifth commandment (honoring one’s parents) is expanded with discussions of other authority structures, including judges and courts, a future king, priests and Levites, prohibited occultist professions, and prophets.

The sixth commandment (prohibiting murder) is also leveraged by addressing cities of refuge, importance of honest testimony, rules of warfare, and how to deal with unsolved murders.

Several miscellaneous laws are discussed relating to primarily two issues: 1) everyone has the responsibility for caring for the welfare of others, and 2) the concept of keeping clean and unclean things separate.  Sexual offenses are also discussed.  All of these, and a variety of other laws, are for the well-being of everyone.

Ancient treaty agreements usually had a section containing blessings and curses, blessings for keeping the treaty and curses for breaking it, Deuteronomy follows this ancient form.  Once Israel (God’s people) was to enter the Promised Land, Moses warns of the two contrasting consequences of the covenant.  On the one hand, if the people truly obey God, they will be blessed.  On the other hand, if they do not obey God, terrible curses will come upon them.

A common warning used throughout this section, “purge evil from among you.”  We too should heed this warning.  God is merciful, loving, patient and slow to anger but He is also holy and just.  His principles are for our protection, He desires that we choose to obey so we can be blessed and experience His goodness.

Week of 6/30/19 - Pages 283-297

The definition of the word must is; expressing necessity. I wanted to look this word up simply because the word “must” was used 54 times during this weeks reading. During this week’s reading  we find Moses reexplaining the importance of the message the Lord God ask him to share. Did it catch your attention? What did it mean to you? Did the words make you feel uncomfortable? Were you reassured by any passages? Why?

Moses continues to address the Israelites before they enter the promise land of Canaan. He tells them “You MUST be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail.” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33)  He continues on in detail as to the commands the Lord has given. These issues are some that stand out to me: 

·      “You MUST love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all you strength”. (Deuteronomy 6:5) How many times do I use these words and undermine them by having my job be my biggest love, or my family, or?, or?, or?…  and put my Lord on the back burner?  

 ·       The Lord wants us to tell the children about all that we know of Him. Teach the children by example and by words. (Deuteronomy 6:20)  I ask myself, “how do I feed into my grown children or the children in my sphere of influence about the Grace of God?”

 ·      “People do not live by bread alone; rather we live by every word that comes from mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3z)  How regimented am I in being in the word daily?

 ·      “You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure” (Deuteronomy 14:2)   Do we consider ourselves a special treasure and holy? 

. We are commanded to “Celebrate” and “ be joyful” in Deuteronomy 16. We know that fellowship is important for us but God finds it important for us too!

 In this weeks reading I find an understanding of how the Old Testament does have credence to my life. The commandments from God on what food to eat, how to treat servants, and canceling debts are foreign to me yet, true nuggets of divine inspiration and direction on how God wants me to live my life and what I MUST do to achieve His will are found throughout this week’s reading.

May you be blessed by this week’s reading!

Week of 6/23/19 - Pages 270-282

I admit to reading this with a bit of confusion.   Moses relates how he was forbidden by the Lord from entering the promised land because of the Israelites’ unwillingness to trust God’s protection and take over the land they had been promised.   In Numbers 14:29-34, God tells Moses that everyone over 20 years old, including Moses, will perish before the Israelites can enter the promised land.  Moses reminds them of this in Deuteronomy 1:36-37.

But remembering Moses’ history with the rock, I looked up Numbers 20:10-12, where Moses is told by the Lord to command the rock to produce water for the thirsty people, but instead he strikes the rock with his staff, and the Lord tells him he will not lead the community into the land the Lord is giving them.

So, it looks like Moses is doubly excluded.  Regardless, it no doubt was a crushing disappointment for Moses to not be able to set foot on and enjoy the promised land, after all he had been through over the years.  But, when the judgement had been passed down from God, it wasn’t like Moses could appeal it to a higher court.

Moses accepts God’s ruling and went on to do his duty and honor God, as he had done for the majority of his life.  He reminds the people of their history together and everything that had transpired to get them to where they were at the present, all the high points when they received God’s blessings and the low points when they suffered God’s punishments.

This was especially important, as the older generation that had experienced most of those highs and lows and had received God’s guidance had all died off and Moses was soon to join them.  Moses accepted God’s judgement and remained a faithful servant of God.  Quite an example for us, can we play the hand dealt us and continue to trust in God’s goodness, or are we only on board when dealt the “good” hand?  Hmm……