Said

The LORD brings his people into his kingdom, as he has said

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Read: Deuteronomy 31

“I am now one hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.” (Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

Reflect:

There is so much in these verses. Moses is 120 years old and other than his first 40 years, raised in an Egyptian palace, he has had a hard life: 40 years a wandering shepherd in Midian and another 40 years a wandering Shepherd of Israel in the Sinai desert. Yet Moses is still disappointed, even if also resigned, because the LORD has barred him from entering the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants. Moses, at 120, would still like another 40 years, adventuring in the Promised Land.

Later, much later, Moses would visit the Promised Land as he met with Jesus, his long-awaited Messiah, at the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-4), as Jen Wilkin pointed out at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. Meanwhile, God had a good plan for the immediate future: the LORD, together with Joshua, Moses’ apprentice, would cross over into the land ahead of the people. They would conquer the people of the land and wipe out all their despicable abominations of religious practices. The LORD himself would be with Joshua (31:23) as he took Israel into the Promised Land.

Today, I know that whether I see it or not, God is bringing and will bring all his chosen people into his kingdom, under Jesus our King. According to 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise … he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” As I leave this land today, I trust God that he will finish any conversations I have begun, that he will grow any gospel seeds I have sown, for his kingdom and his glory.

crux:

The LORD brings his people into his kingdom, as he has said.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you once again for the reassurance of your sovereignty. Thank you for the reminder that you order my life and you are capable of bringing your chosen into the kingdom of Christ Jesus your Son.

I pray for Ari, the Jew whom I met at McDonalds, to whom I explained the need to trust Jesus to reconcile him to you. I pray for the homeless woman I hugged, who just wanted shelter I had no means to give her. I pray for Liz and Sharon, the ladies who asked me what “gospel” meant as we visited Niagara Falls. I pray for Alistair, the gay man I met last night while we watched the sunset over the Toronto skyline from the Toronto islands, who feels excluded within the conservative culture of country Ontario. May you bring each of them into your kingdom, the kingdom of your Son.

I entrust them into your hands.

Amen.

Revealed

Righteousness requires worship of the rightly revealed Redeemer

Read: Deuteronomy 29

When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. (Deuteronomy 29:19)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Reflect:

The LORD my God is holy. This is an inescapable fact. So I must go his way, no matter how hard that is. There are serious consequences, for myself and for others, if I go my own way.

But what does this mean when it comes to, say, choosing a restaurant in which to eat my evening meal? Tonight I am eating at The Elm Street Restaurant, and I think it is will be the one pricey, high-class meal of my holiday in Toronto. I even ordered “sweetbreads,” something I have only heard about before on the Masterchef grand final. It was delicious, but was my choice to eat here and eat that evidence of going my own way, or was I legitimately going God’s way?

And earlier today, when I spent hours admiring Inuit art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, appreciating the magnificent skills which God has granted to people to re-create his creation … was I going my own way of God’s way?

Sometimes I think this sort of question is one of the “secret things” 29:29 talks about. But verse 29 also says the LORD has revealed what is required in the Law. The New Testament tells me this is ultimately through the revelation of Jesus Christ his Son. Jesus belongs to me and I belong to him, so I may be righteous in all these everyday ordinary choices, because Jesus followed the Law on my behalf.

crux:

Righteousness is not merely a matter of right choices but of worshiping the rightly revealed Redeemer.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your many blessings to me, temporal and material as well as spiritual.

May I never be so caught up in the enjoyment of what my eyes see and my mouth tastes that I forget the overwhelming glory of you, the One who created all things and gave skill to the artist and chef. May I be ever thankful for your creative beauty that is reflected only dimly in the beauty of human artistry. Many I be a witness to your heavenly glory and not solely a consumer of human art.

Amen.

Grants

The LORD grants his people perfect rest through Jesus Christ

Read: Deuteronomy 28

The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. (Deuteronomy 28:7)

Reflect:

The thing about Bible reading is that the more you do it, the more you get out of it. Even a simple, short passage like this single verse has more to it than a surface reading would suggest.

The basic interpretation is that the LORD would ensure that Israel’s enemies will be defeated, as the first sentence states clearly. From the second sentence, the enemies would approach from one direction, but after they are defeated they would scatter:

from one direction = unity, cohesion
flee … in seven = disunity, disarray

There’s a bit more depth here; though it takes careful reading and biblical thinking to see it. It has to do with significant numbers in the Bible story. The word seven becomes, through the course of the Bible, shorthand for the seventh day of creation. On the seventh day God rested from the work of creating. Upon this seventh day pattern, God ordained sabbath rest for all his people.

seven (7) = sabbath; perfect completion, peace, rest, no work

So, while the enemies approach together and leave scattered, the more important concept here is that God will grant his people sabbath rest from their enemies. This is rest from work, rest from the struggle to achieve, rest from the battle to overcome. Far more than the temporary amelioration of hostilities, this is true, eternal rest.

So what’s the Jesus connection? It is Jesus Christ who grants this true and complete rest from our enemies: from Satan and his demons, from our past sins, from our character flaws, from our sinful nature. It is Jesus who grants rest from the battle with our enemies, within and without. It is Jesus who grants rest from the struggle to win our own salvation, because he provides it for us.

crux:

The LORD grants his people perfect rest through Jesus Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a good, good God. You are a good, good Father. This is who you are.

You take great delight in granting good things to your people who are called by the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, the Christians. We are your new covenant people, the people redeemed and rescued by your only Son Jesus, whom you sent to die in our place.

LORD, you saved me from out of the clutches of the enemy Satan, that liar and deceiver. He fled before me because you drove him away. You have kept me safe, LORD, and you have granted me the sweet restoration and refreshment of fellowship with your people in Wichita, in Indianapolis and now here in Toronto.

LORD, may I long abide in the peace you have granted to me. Keep me safe from my enemies. Keep me safe because Jesus has defeated sin and death so I have nothing to fear. Make me a hope dealer.

Amen.

Became

By faith in Christ, we became the people of the LORD our God

Read: Deuteronomy 27

Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel: “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God. Obey the LORD your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.” (Deuteronomy 27:9-10)

Reflect:

“You have now become the people of the LORD your God.” What a powerful identity statement. Proclaimed by both Moses, the political leader and the Levitical priests, the spiritual mediators, to the entire motley crowd of Jacob’s descendants. They needed to shut their mouths and still their inner monologues, because this was a crucial declaration.

“You have now become…” Past tense: the people have been freed, by God, from Egypt; have received, from God, the Law; and have made the tabernacle, according to God’s design. The people have been brought, by God, through the desert; have been led by the pillar of God’s presence, marked by smoke and fire.

Now they are changed, transfigured. They are no longer slaves. Now they are different: “the people of the LORD.” Now they are truly one people and they belong not to the slave-holding Egyptians, nor yet to themselves, but to the LORD, Yahweh, the I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. This LORD is their God, in the closest relationship of kinship and belonging with his people.

What an amazing identity!

So now, because Israel “have now become the people of the LORD” they were to obey the LORD. The same logical flow is seen in the lives of the people of Christ. By faith in Jesus Christ, who died as a sacrifice to redeem me from slavery to sin, I have now become one of the people of the LORD my God, now to obey him.

crux:

By faith in Christ, we became the people of the LORD our God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the LORD, Yahweh, the I AM who spoke to Moses so long ago from the burning bush. You are my God, the divine object of my love, worship, awe and reverential fear.

I belong to you. I am one of your people, because this is what you have made me through the gift of faith in your Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for redeeming and delivering your people Israel from slavery in Egypt and bringing them to your land, there to obey you. Thank you for redeeming and delivering me from slavery to sin and the curse of the law and bringing me to my present circumstances, here to obey you.

Please help me to obey you and follow you, because I belong to you. Please help me to be keen to bring honour to your name through my choices and actions, especially as Amy and I travel today to Indianapolis for the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference tomorrow. Please bless us!

Amen.

Listen

I will listen to the LORD

Read: Deuteronomy 26

Say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” (Deuteronomy 26:3)

You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his commands, decrees and laws – that you will listen to him, (Deuteronomy 26:17)

Reflect:

I’ve been trying to develop a new habit lately. Before I read my Bible, I pray as Samuel did (1 Samuel 3:10), “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” 24 hours ago, I told my husband Jeff we’d just have to keep reading our Bibles according to our regular Bible-reading schedules and keep asking God to show us clearly from his word the decision we should make regarding a particular major opportunity.

So today, as as soon as I asked the LORD to speak, he did. Not in an audible voice, as Samuel heard. Not in some kind of mystical impression, some vague pastiche of popular self-help culture ‘baptised’ with Bible-isms, like the “Jesus Calling” book by Sarah Young. But clearly, concisely, obviously, overtly, undeniably, because it was black and white in the pages of his Word, the Bible.

“I declare … I have come into the land.” (26:3). I am already here, doing what God wants me to do in the place God wants me to be. Jeff is already obeying and serving God in “the land” God has desired Jeff to be in. We don’t need to take a new opportunity, to seek a new horizon. We’re already in the place God put us, walking in obedience to him.

In case I wasn’t sure God was speaking specifically to me, to our situation, God spoke my words back to me with the words of Deuteronomy 26:17, “You have declared this day that the LORD is your God … that you will listen to him.” Message received, loud and clear!

crux:

I will listen to the LORD.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your words, your message, your direction and counsel. Thank you for the vivid way you get my attention by speaking my words back to me through the ancient words of Moses.

You are all-seeing, all-knowing. You are Sovereign and you are wise. Thank you for your timing, which is perfect.

I don’t know why I’m surprised at your prompt response to Jeff’s and my prayer, to my pre-reading prayer. James tells me you are generous in granting your wisdom to those who ask for it (James 1:5). Thank you.

Please help me, help us, to walk in obedience to your word, to be contented with your command and to be satisfied with your speech.

Amen.

Judgement

People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement

Read: Deuteronomy 25

When two people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. (Deuteronomy 25:1)

Reflect:

Justice is a weighty matter. There’s a lot of people around the world who don’t trust their justice system or judges, and many of them do so for good reason. But Moses knew that justice was vitally important to God. As I quoted yesterday, Micah 6:8 tells us that the LORD requires his people to act justly.

Interpersonal justice can be complex, but Moses’ use of the plural indicates he expected multiple judges to make a decision together, just as the testimony of a single person was insufficient evidence to convict of guilt (Deuteronomy 19:15). “Two are better than one… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,” as the saying goes (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12). Being pragmatic, it’s also more difficult and expensive to bribe more than one judge (at least, so I assume). Proverbs has several warnings, aimed at judges and leaders, against taking bribes. So multiple judges should make adjudicating between disputing people fairer.

In the end, Moses and the Israelites had to trust that their Sovereign God would direct court judgements. For this reason Moses could confidently assert that the judges would acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty.

Ultimately, all people will face one judge, Jesus Christ. At that time there will be no quibbling. God will judge fairly and with justice. And if that thought doesn’t make a person fear the LORD, then they need to spend just a little time in self-reflection, because not one of us is entirely innocent. We will render an account of our actions and no one will be acquitted except all those who have been justified freely by God’s grace through  Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

crux:

People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement (Hebrews 9:27).

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your word is living and active, a two-edged sword like one that cuts between bone and marrow. So, too, your judgement is finely balanced as a master archer’s arrow in flight.

One day I will face your justice. I cling to your mercy and grace. I will stand firm on the justification and redemption you have promised. I walk in the righteousness and holiness of your Son, Jesus Christ.

May you confirm my hope and faith on the day we meet face to face at your judgement seat.

Amen.

Helper

Be a helper to the poor – this could, so easily, be me

Read: Deuteronomy 24

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry out to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

Reflect:

I’ve been thinking a lot today about poverty, the reasons people might be poor and the inherent disadvantages of being poor. There are many things that can happen that are outside of our control, yet which can cause a cascading slide into poverty. James described the unpredictable withering of wealth in his letter to Christians (James 1:10-11), “the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

Once you are poor, you are extremely vulnerable. If you can’t afford to buy a decent car, you are at the mercy of dishonest salespeople and risk buying a ‘lemon’ because that’s all you can afford; then you spend more on repairs than those who can afford a good car in the first place. If you don’t have money to fill your car’s tank, you might not be able to make it to a job interview on time, or you might have to pay extra for groceries because you can’t travel to the reasonably-priced stores. Your health will suffer because you can’t afford nutritious, fresh food; you have to work long hours in low-paying jobs so there’s no time nor energy left for exercise and fresh air. Poverty is often an intergenerational problem. It’s no baby’s choice to be born to poor parents, yet those whose parents live in poverty are, themselves, at elevated risk of living in poverty as adults.

For all these reasons, it is vital for Christians to do what they can to alleviate poverty and the potential causes of poverty. This is part of loving our neighbours. We need to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God, as Micah 6:8 says.

crux:

Be a helper to the poor – this could, so easily, be me.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the material wealth you have given to me. Please help me to never take it for granted but to be wise and generous, just, merciful and humble in its use.

Please open my eyes with compassion for the people around me who struggle with poverty and all its pitfalls today. May I be helpful to them and not a hindrance; may I act for their advantage rather than my own, and for their benefit rather than their detriment.

Amen.