Purity

God calls his people to purity so they won’t fall into paganism

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Read: Deuteronomy 7

Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serving other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)

Reflect:

At the end of his first sermon (chapter 4), Moses reintroduced the people of Israel to their God in a homily related to the first commandment. Now, after listing the core laws (chapter 5) and explaining the responsibility set upon parents to instruct their children in the law (chapter 6), Moses returns to the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” He explains the implications for living in such a way to fulfil this command.

Moses gives instructions for entering the promised land, where God will drive out the nations before them. The people are to show no mercy (5:2) nor look on the people with pity (5:16). Instead, they are to destroy the people of these pagan nations. Why? If Israel does not destroy the current occupants of the promised land, they will be led astray by them, led into idolatry by them. Then the LORD will punish Israel, just as he is punishing these seven nations now. The LORD says his people must stay separate from the people they dispossess.

Today, God is not calling his people to dispossess other nations. Rather, he calls us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). But we are still to remain separate in some ways so we do not become ensnared by the trickery of false gods and the lies of idol worshippers. For this reason, it is still only appropriate for Christians to marry fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14).

crux:

God calls his people to purity so they won’t fall into paganism.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are holy, holy, holy. You despise sin and detest wickedness. All such things shall come under your righteous judgement, including me and my sins. Please forgive me; do not destroy me. Thank you for your Son who paid for my sins.

Please help me to be holy as you are holy. Help me to know what I must cut out of my life and cast away. Please help me to see clearly what needs to change, whether it be the way I spend my days or my character, habits and choices.

Please mould me in the shape of Christ my Saviour and keep me from conforming to the patterns of this world. Please keep me pure and holy, washed by the blood of the Lamb.

Amen.

Parents

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience and explain salvation

Read: Deuteronomy 6

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)

Reflect:

Deuteronomy 6 has several mentions of parents teaching their children. Parental teaching is to be two-fold: first they are to teach by example, then by explanation. Living their own lives in accordance with the law God has given them, parents will teach their children mimetically. Then their children will witness their law-keeping and ask questions about it. After that, the parents are to take the second step of explaining the salvation of God that predates and underpins the keeping of the law. For Christians, this means explaining the salvation that has been won for us through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Demonstrate obedience to God and explain salvation by God – these are the two lessons parents are to teach throughout the everyday ordinary; at home and away, morning and evening.

Vitally, it is not enough to teach either of these lessons without the other. If we only demonstrate obedience to God, our children may grow up defeated and disheartened if they fail to be obedient, or self-righteous and proud if (they think) they are successful in their imitative obedience. Either way, the children will not be saved because they won’t know that it is God who saves them, not their obedience.

Likewise, if we only explain salvation to our children and do not model obedience, they will never learn to hate their sin, never learn to yearn for holiness, never appreciate righteousness, never be thankful for forgiveness. They need both lessons.

crux:

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience to God even as they explain salvation by God to their children.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are my heavenly Father. You adopted me through the work of your Son. You parented me perfectly and yet I still sinned, and needed (and still need) your forgiveness. Thank you for rescuing and redeeming me. Please help me to be obedient to all Jesus has commanded me to do.

Please help me and help Jeff as we parent our children in one flesh unity. Please help us to demonstrate obedience to you and to your will in ways our children will see, which will cause them to ask, “Why do you do that?” Please help us to (again and again) explain your salvation, your mighty hand, to our children so they may be drawn to you as their Saviour.

Please help our children to obey you and to love your Son as their Saviour, even as he is ours.

Amen.

Law

The LORD gave his people laws so they would live rightly

Read: Deuteronomy 5

Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today, Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. (Deuteronomy 5:1-2)

Reflect:

As Moses begins his second sermon, having described the events and the God which brought the people to the edge of the promised land, he turns to the topic of the Israelites’ lives and behaviour once they enter this promised land. The LORD had made a covenant with Israel at Horeb, and that covenant needed to be kept in the promised land as in the desert.

The law Moses now expounds (in very similar words to Exodus 20) can be divided into two categories: the peoples’ relationship with the LORD their God (5:6-15) and the peoples’ relationships with each other (5:16-21, with a small mention of relationships with servants in 5:14 with respect to the Sabbath observance).

Actually, this is an interesting difference, because here in 5:14 the law is explained. The Sabbath was given so that they and their servants might rest. This is why Jesus Christ maintained that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, even if that took effort (Matthew 12:12), because the Sabbath was made for man and not vice versa (Mark 2:27).

crux:

The LORD gave his people laws so they could live rightly with him and with each other in the promised land.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are God. By definition, by your very identify you are Creator and Controller, law maker and righteous law-keeper. You are just and merciful, holy and kind.

Thank you for giving your people rules to live by for a relationship with you. And than you for providing a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to you when, inevitably, we broke your rules.

Thank you that these ten commandments still instruct us today. They may no longer demand obedience because Jesus fulfilled the law completely on our behalf. But they do tell me that you care about the way I pursue a relationship with you; you care about the way I treat other people. Thank you for showing me a better way to live my life, a way to love you and love others, by caring about your glory and their good.

Please help me to love you totally and to love my neighbours well. Thank you that I was able to love my son well today.

Amen.

LORD

The LORD alone is God, there is no other

Read: Deuteronomy 4

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us when we pray to him? (Deuteronomy 4:7)

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol. (Deuteronomy 4:15-16a)

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)

For the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. (Deuteronomy 4:31)

You were shown these things so that you may know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. (Deuteronomy4:35)

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deuteronomy4:39)

Reflect:

I don’t normally copy such an extensive collection of texts from the Bible, but today it was all so obviously about God. It seems as if Moses ended his first Deuteronomic sermon with a doctrinal, theological exposition of the first commandment, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3).

This is God in his glory: near his people; spirit, formless; jealous for his people’s worship; merciful for his people’s relationship with him; the only true God, the God of heaven and earth, the LORD.

crux:

The LORD alone is God, there is no other.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You alone are God. All other would-be gods are false, idols, cheats and lies. You alone are God: near to me when I pray, listening, responding, protecting, cherishing me because I belong to you.

You were formless in the desert at Horeb when you spoke from the mountain like thunder, yet you took on flesh and chose to become Immanuel, God with us. You took the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, yet also are the image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ.

You are jealous, consuming as fire does, punishing all who reject you and choose to worship idols and false gods instead of turning to you, the Living God.

You are merciful: kind and gentle with your people who cannot save themselves.

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD!

Amen.

Blame

The only person to blame for my sin is me

Read: Deuteronomy 3

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: … “Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan – that fine hill country and Lebanon.”
But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough!” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me any more about this matter. … But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deuteronomy 3:23, 25-26, 28)

Reflect:

Moses has just reminded the Israelites of their crushing defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and all of his cities and towns. Moses has told how he has apportioned the land of these two conquered kings (Sihon and Og) to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Yet the thing Moses keeps coming back to is the limit God has set upon him.

Moses blames the people of Israel again (cf 1:37), but it is his own sin that is keeping him out of the promised land. Moses needed to repent of his sin, not blame others for it. Moses, though a leader of God’s people, was far from perfect. He frequently got angry; and when angry, he made rash decisions.

Thrown down and break the stone tablets on which God had inscribed the ten commandments because the people were worshipping a golden calf? Yep, that was Moses. Burn that idol and make the people drink the ashes? Yep, that was Moses again. Hit a rock twice with his staff because he was frustrated with the people’s grumbling? Indeed Moses did that, and no one made him do it.

How many times do I do things in anger, frustration or just plan grumpiness that I will later regret? Many, too many. Thanks be to God for his provision of forgiveness!

crux:

The only person to blame for my sin is me… and God is always just in his judgements.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a just judge, yet you are also merciful. You allowed Moses to see into the promised land even while you refused him entry. You did not leave your people leaderless but appointed a successor to Moses, the man Joshua.

Truly, I deserve life in prison – or rather, an eternity in hell – for all my sin of rebellion against you and your commands. Even when I try to keep you as first in my life, I find I am letting other concerns crowd you out. I am to blame. I am the one who is guilty.

Wash me whiter than snow, LORD. Forgive my sin and blot out my iniquities, cover over my transgressions and remember them no more.

Thanks be to you for your Son Jesus Christ and for all he has done for me.

Please help me to encourage and strengthen others around me for the good works you have set before them. Please do not let me be envious, especially when I see others doing tasks I would like to do myself, but make me glad that your people are being served and edified.

Amen.

Winner

The LORD wins every battle he fights

Read: Deuteronomy 2

“Today you are to pass by the region of Moab in Ar. … I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.” (That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; … They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The LORD destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place.) (Deuteronomy 2:18, 19b-20a, 21)

Reflect:

It must have been encouraging to the people to hear that the Ammonites had driven out the people “as tall as Anakites” from Ar before settling there. If the Ammonites could do it – or rather, if the LORD would do it for the Ammonites – surely the Israelites had nothing to fear as they entered their promised land.

Their parents may have feared Anakites 40 years ago, (Numbers 13:31-33) but Moses reassured them this day. If God could choose to establish Esau and Lot’s descendants in lands of their own, they could trust the LORD to establish them in their own land, Anakites or no!

Then Moses went on to remind them of their defeat of Sihon, erstwhile king of Heshbon. Again, if God would give them power to defeat Sihon’s army, surely he would do the same for any remaining opposition as they conquered the rest of the land he had promised to them.

crux:

The LORD wins every battle he fights.

Reflect:

LORD God Almighty,

You are strong and powerful, a mighty warrior who fights to provide your people with the blessings you have promised to them.

Thank you for fighting for me so I may enter your promised land of rest and provision, bounty and flourishing, the kingdom of your Son.

LORD, sometimes I am tempted to forget that you are strong, to forget that you are mighty. Please help me, in those times, to look back on the many ways you have fought for my benefit in the past. Please help me to recall that what you have begun in me, you will carry on to completion. Please help me to recognise the way you have blessed others and delight in your provision for them, as well as seeking your blessing for myself.

Thank you that in answer to our prayers, you brought A to KYB today. Please continue to comfort her by your Spirit, to uphold her in your love and to forgive her by the blood of your Son.

Amen.

Recount

The LORD’s plans prevail even when his people fail

Read: Deuteronomy 1

In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. (Deuteronomy 1:3)

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.” (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Reflect:

In Deuteronomy, Moses is recorded giving a series of sermons. I think I’ve read that there are five, but there isn’t total agreement about where each sermon begins or ends. My Bible translation (NIV 2011) does not include speech marks because the quotations are too extensive, basically being the whole book. Instead, the beginning of Moses’ first sermon is delineated with a line break.

Moses preaches these sermons before the people enter the promised land. It seems Moses’s first sermon is not chronological, but categorical in its order. He begins by recounting the major events that have brought the people to this place:

  1. God told them to leave Mt Horeb (aka Mt Sinai) and go to the promised land.
  2. Moses decided the people were “too heavy a burden for me to carry alone” (1:9) so leaders of the twelve tribes were appointed. He apparently gave no thought to the fact that God was actually carrying the burden for him. This may relate to Exodus 18:25-26, which is recorded before Moses received the law and the people left Mt Horeb.
  3. The people reached the edge of the promised land.
  4. The people asked to send spies into the land so (in similar style to point 2) twelve spies were appointed by Moses, including Caleb.
  5. The people refused to go into the promised land, grumbling in fear, despite Moses’ reassurance.
  6. The LORD refused to let Israel into the promised land.
  7. Moses blames the people because the LORD won’t let him enter the Promised Land either (even though his own disobedience was to blame, Numbers 20:6-12; again, this event is out of chronological order, but fits with a prior category topic).
  8. The people are told by the LORD to wander for 40 years.
  9. The people unsuccessfully attempt to enter the promised land and weep before the LORD.
  10. The people wander for 40 years.

This story makes me think of God’s steadfast faithfulness as he patiently waits for me to repent and fall in with his plan.

crux:

The LORD’s plans prevail even when his people fail.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your people failed you when they refused to enter the Promised Land because they were afraid; but your plans to teach them to trust you prevailed as they wandered in the desert and ultimately as the disciples learned to trust Jesus.

Moses failed you when he struck the rock twice, dishonouring you and your miraculous provision; but your plan to be the only sovereign authority of your people prevailed with Moses’ death and ultimately with Jesus’ birth.

I have failed you many times; yet your plan to rescue me from my sins and reign as Lord over my life has prevailed with the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of your Holy Spirit.

Your plans prevail because you are in charge of the universe. Sometimes, this means your people face your judgement. Thank you for Jesus, who has faced your wrath for my sake.

Amen.