Spirits

The LORD alone is God and I will worship him

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Read: Deuteronomy 13

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3a)

Reflect:

This morning in class, one of my students confidently declared, “I believe my spirits are stronger than your god.” His cultural and religious beliefs are very different to mine. He began to expound upon his various claims about ghosts and spirits of the country.

I was not swayed from my belief that my God, the one and only True God, is stronger than his “spirits”. I was not distracted by his claims of signs and wonders. 17 years of Christian faith have given me time and experience to know that what I believe about God is true.

I trust what the Bible says above what people say. I trust my experience of God at work in my life above other people’s claims about their own experiences. I trust the Holy Spirit’s voice within me above the voices of ghosts or spirits speaking to others.

crux:

The LORD alone is God and I will worship him.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the only true God. Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD, the One who says, “I AM WHO I AM.”

You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You are the God or Noah, Moses and David.
You are the God of Samuel, Elijah and Jeremiah.

You are the God who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save me from the evil of this world: the evil spirits who still hold sway over the hearts of some of my students and from the evil desires within my own heart.

You are the God who rescues and redeems.
Thank you for rescuing me from my own evil.
Thank you for redeeming me from the evil one.

You are the God of Peter, James and John.
You are the God of Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Timothy.
You are the God who reveals himself through his incarnate Word, Jesus Christ and through his written word, the Holy Bible.

Thank you for my faith in you. Please grow my faith. Please grant faith in you to my students, and have mercy on their souls.

Amen.

Detestable

The LORD despises human sacrifice, yet he gave himself as a sacrifice for my sin

Read: Deuteronomy 12

Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles int he fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. (Deuteronomy 12:3)

You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)

Reflect:

To many people, the story of Israel coming into the Promised Land, as told in the Book of Joshua, is one of invasion and genocide. At one level, they are right.

But the other side of the argument is that the people who occupied that land at that time acted in “detestable” ways and did horrible and horrifying things. If anyone deserved to be invaded and obliterated, it was these people… they even burnt their sons and daughters to death in fiery sacrifices to their false gods.

Mind you, they weren’t the only people group ever to practice this: in India this decade thousands still want to immolate widows in the barbaric process of sati; in Syria this year the government has used chemical warfare on children. And how different is it in Australia? The people of my nation sacrifice tens of thousands of children every year to the altars of career and prosperity and future options. The full truth is, we deserve judgement and destruction as well.

It is only by God’s mercy that any of us escape his wrath. God has defined the way he is to be worshipped and it does not include child sacrifice. And he has made perfect worship possible through the sacrifice of himself, instead.

crux:

The LORD despises human sacrifice, yet he gave himself as a sacrifice for my sin.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are my Heavenly Father. You orchestrated my birth and then coordinated my new birth. You are glorious and honourable, mighty and fearsome.

Your ways are perfect and you have given complete instructions for perfect worship. You despise the wicked and evil depravities that other religions and governments and individuals approve.

I desire to worship you as you desire to be worshipped; to please you as you have said you may be pleased. So wash my sins away, keep me pure, make me righteous, LORD.

Thank you for Jesus’ death, which rendered all other sacrifice unnecessary. Instead, may my life be a living sacrifice, holy and glorious unto you.

Amen.

Rain

The LORD sends rain because he cares for his people and their land

Read: Deuteronomy 11

But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to the end. (Deuteronomy 11:11-12)

Reflect:

This morning as I went in to work there was a rainbow arcing over the razor wire, a beautiful promise from God. The rainbow reminds us (and God – Genesis 9:14-15) of God’s covenant to never again destroy all life with a flood. It is a promise of forgiveness, rather than punishment.

In Egypt, where the land was watered through irrigation from the Nile, rain seldom fell. So the people of Israel would have missed the constant reminder of the rainbow while they were in Egypt. Now, they were entering a new land where rain fell seasonally and the land drank “rain from heaven” – not solely from the clouds or from the sky, but from the hand of God. The LORD, the author and sustainer of the water cycle, cared for the land and it is he who would water it, ensuring rain fell in the necessary seasons.

Today, as farmers enjoy the heavy rains of the past few days here in the Great Southern, I am thankful for God’s caring provision. I thank God that his eyes are on his land and his people, throughout the world. And I thank God for the promise of forgiveness and restoration that I read in his rainbows.

crux:

The LORD sends rain because he cares for his people and their land.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the rain that has fallen from heaven in the last few days. Thank you for the rain that is drunk thirstily by our dry land.

Thank you that the rain seems to have put out a multitude of fires that were spreading fast in the high autumn winds. Thank you for keeping me safe on the highway on Friday as I travelled through fire, wind-storms and rain-storms.

LORD, please send more rain. You know our farmers depend on the rain you send to grow the crops that feed others and themselves. Please help the farmers here in the Great Southern to receive the rain their land and crops need because they rely on your merciful provision.

Amen.

Levi

As Levi carried the ark to Israel, Christians carry the gospel to the world

Read: Deuteronomy 10

At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name, as they still do today. That is why the Levites have no share or inheritance among their fellow Israelites; the LORD is their inheritance, as the LORD their God told them. (Deuteronomy 10:8-9)

Respond:

Once the replacement copies of the covenant law were safely in the ark, the tribe of Levi was chosen to carry the ark. They were selected to be responsible for duties related to the covenant, which the ark now symbolised. This was a solemn duty: to carry the precious, holy (and presumably heavy) wooden box which contained two stone plaques engraved with the words of God by the hand of God.

Also, Levi were to stand before the LORD (possibly before the ark, which symbolised his presence, or maybe before the pillar of cloud and fire which led them in the wilderness). Levi were to minister (serve) and verbally bless Israel as the LORD guided them.

How am I, a Christian, to relate to these tasks given to Levi? I am not of the Tribe of Levi, not is there any longer any ark, for it and the stone covenant within it are long since lost. The key is to understand how Jesus Christ fulfilled these Levitical tasks, though he was of the tribe of Judah, not Levi.

My Lord Jesus carried the full weight of the covenant when “he bore our sins in his body” (1 Peter 2:24), when he hung on the cross. My Lord Jesus stood before the LORD to minister when he prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34) as he hung on the cross. My Lord Jesus pronounced blessings in the Father’s name when he declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) and died on the cross.

The crucifixion of Jesus changes the ministry of all God’s people. Now we are all a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Now we all have the responsibility to fulfil the Levite tasks by carrying the gospel (rather than an ark), which is the good news of the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus’ crucifixion, to the world. We pronounce the blessings granted in the Name of Jesus: justification, forgiveness, salvation, sanctification, glorification.

crux:

Just as the Tribe of Levi carried the ark to the Promised Land, Christians carry the gospel to the whole world.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus, for his crucifixion which fulfilled the covenant of the Law. Thank you for his blood, shed to inaugurate the new covenant.

Please help me to carry your gospel to the world today.

Amen.

Broken

I have broken covenant, but Christ died to mediate a new covenant

Read: Deuteronomy 9

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. (Deuteronomy 9:6)

When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the LORD your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. … So I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes. (Deuteronomy 9:16a, 17)

Reflect:

God’s love does not depend upon the righteousness of his people. It never has. This is just as well, because God’s people have never been completely righteous from their own efforts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sculpture of Hathor as a cow, with all of her symbols, the sun disk, the cobra, as well as her necklace and crown. Original photo by Gérard Ducher, Wikipedia Commons

Moses had only just received the written copy of the law of the covenant from God when the people of Israel broke that covenant. They worshipped an idol, a golden statue of a calf that Aaron had made, reminiscent of the false Egyptian goddess Hathor (see right).

Israel had literally broken the covenant, so Moses broke the stone tablets upon which the words of the covenant were written. Talk about an object lesson!

Thankfully, Moses did what the Israelites most needed: he interceded on their behalf in prayer to God, asking God to avert his wrath from his people, and not destroy them for their sin.

The truth is, I’m a stiff-necked person as well. I’d be in the same position as those Israelite idol-worshippers if it wasn’t for Jesus. Jesus is my mediator before the throne of God.

Romans 5:6 reassures me, “Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:8 adds, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

crux:

I have broken covenant, but Christ died to mediate a new covenant.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You make covenant and you keep covenant,
and when your people break covenant
you reconcile us with your righteousness.

Thank you for your loyal love for your people.
Thank you that, though I was an ungodly sinner, Christ died for me.
Thank you that Christ has mediated a new covenant whereby I am justified by his righteousness, in spite of my stiff-necked nature.
Thank you.

Please keep me from idols.
Keep me from worshipping your creation when I should be worshipping my Creator.

Help me to recognise idols for what they are when I see them:
When I see “healing crystals” for sale in some craft market, may I remember you are my Healer.
When I’m tempted to look for “validation” in feedback from others (my boss, my PD trainer, my husband, my Bible study small group, the likes on this blog), may I remember that you are my Judge.
When I seek satisfaction in my To Do List and my “accomplishments”, may I remember that you are my Joy.

May I worship only you and your Son who died for me when I was nothing but an ungodly sinner.

Amen.

 

Giver

The LORD is good and he gives good gifts to his children

Read: Deuteronomy 8

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out of the valleys and hills. (Deuteronomy 8:5-7)

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)

But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant. (Deuteronomy 8:18a)

Reflect:

This morning when my alarm went at 5:20am, I faced a choice. Often, the choice is between getting up to read my Bible (as I plan to do every morning – plan being the operative word) or rolling over to sleep an extra 40 minutes until I must get up to wake the kids. But I felt quite alert this morning. Today, the choice was between getting up to read my Bible and lying in bed to finish a memoir I’ve been reading. The choice was a particularly conscious one because just yesterday I had prayed, “Help me to know what I must cut out of my life and cast away.” I’m sorry to say, I chose badly, despite my prayer, wilfully putting human words ahead of God’s Word. (Thanks be to God for Christ’s forgiveness, especially for so-called ‘small’ sins!)

Yet God is gracious, answering my prayer despite my sin. In the 15 minutes left after I finished the novel, I was able to read Deuteronomy 8 and feel the sting of God’s rebuke – the discipline God exerted upon me as his daughter (8:5) as I read of God’s life-giving word (8:3).

I had chosen to finish reading a memoir about frugality and wealth, privilege and provision. Then in his Word, God spoke to me to remind me it is he who has given me my ability to produce wealth (8:18). The novel included the story of the author’s move to homesteading. In his Word, God reassured me that it was he who brought me into the good land I presently dwell in (8:7), and it is he who promises me a place in the new heavens and the new earth. It is God who must be praised when I have experienced his bountiful provision and am satisfied (8:10).

crux:

The LORD is good and he gives good gifts to his children.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are good and you give good gifts. I delight in your providential care for me and in the privileges I enjoy as your chosen child.

LORD, you gave me birth into a family and nation where I could experience your blessing, most especially the blessing of attending church services regularly as a child, even though you did not unveil my eyes to your gospel until much later. You blessed me with an ability to read fluently and with abundant access to Scripture in my first language, English.

You gave me a church family who prayed for me for a decade while I wandered far from you in my early adult years. You gave me godly pastors and Bible study leaders who brought me to the refreshing living water of your word and taught me to drink and be satisfied, who brought me to the life-giving manna of Scripture and taught me to eat my fill.

You have made me truly wealthy through the gift of your Son, no matter the dollar value in my bank account.

Thank you for blessing me so richly. I have indeed eaten and am satisfied, LORD. Praise be to you, the giver of good gifts!

Amen.

Purity

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

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.