Teachers

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ

Read: James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2)

Reflect:

I’m on a break from teaching with the school holidays, so now is a good time to meditate on this verse, before I head back into my two teaching roles: teaching men to read and women to read the Bible.

James has a warning for me (3:1): that, as a teacher, I “will be judged more strictly.” It is absolutely imperative that I teach rightly and righteously.

In my reading, writing and spelling classes, this means teaching consistently the patterns of the English language: phonemes, graphemes, blending and segmenting and word classes, syntax and punctuation. It also means teaching my students as my ‘neighbour’ with respect, humility and compassion.

In my Bible study small group, I must prepare diligently so I know the text (2 Corinthians, next term) thoroughly and have allowed God to speak to me through the text before I attempt to help my group members hear God’s voice through his word. It again means treating my small group members as my ‘neighbour’ with gentleness, kindness and understanding.

In all this, there is a reminder that although the standard is very high, God knows “we will all stumble in many ways” (3:2). I am not perfect, not faultless in what I say. There is only one who was perfect, the greatest Teacher, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God, for Jesus died to grant his perfection to me and to all who believe in him. [This is the doctrine of imputation of righteousness.] Trusting and relying upon Christ’s perfection, therefore, I set out to teach.

crux:

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I know I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not a perfect teacher. I slack off, or have down days – sometimes even weeks or months where I struggle to feel the passion for teaching words and teaching your Word that I’ve felt before.

Thank you that Jesus was a perfect example of teacher for me to model my own teaching upon. Thank you that he was not just a model; thank you that he justified me and made me righteous.

May your Spirit empower my teaching. Make me bold, enthusiastic and godly.

Amen.

Awesome

Jesus Christ arose in Israel, mighty and awesome

Read: Deuteronomy 34

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. (Deuteronomy 34:10)

For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:12)

Reflect:

Moses was indeed a singular character. He was brought up in a palace, yet intervened for the life of a slave. He fled Egypt in fear of Pharaoh, yet returned to Egypt to confront him. Moses was a man of faltering lips yet God chose him to speak God’s laws to his people. Moses was a man of prayer and poetry, anger and frustration. He was a leader, continually facing opposition; a husband and father, whose wife was left behind. God spoke to him and his face was radiant; but he overstepped God’s instructions and God judged him.

The author of Deuteronomy’s epilogue says Moses was unique, but Moses was later surpassed by another. Jesus showed more mighty power and performed greater awesome deeds throughout his years of ministry. Jesus not only knew God face-to-face, he was the fullness of God’s deity in bodily form (Colossians 2:9), the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus’ face, too, was transfigured by God’s glory, but Jesus never overstepped God’s commands. And Jesus was also judged: not for his own transgressions but for Israel’s, for Judah’s, for the Church’s, for mine.

And since Jesus rose again in Israel, the mighty power and awesome deeds of the LORD Almighty are preached to the ends of the earth, that all might see and know that the LORD is great.

crux:

Jesus Christ arose in Israel, mighty and awesome.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for speaking to me through the words of your prophet Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy. Thank you for the mighty power you exerted in Moses’ life. Thank you for the awesome deeds you did through Moses’ obedience. Thank you for the Law you gave through Moses, the law that exposes my sin and my great need for your Son’s sacrifice.

Thank you for not stopping with Moses but granting your Spirit of Wisdom to Joshua. Thank you for continuing your work with your people throughout the years until you gave us Jesus, your Son. Thank you for his ministry and service. Thank you for making it plain that he was a prophet far more mighty or awesome than Moses.

Thank you for your ongoing work in my life. Please grant me the wisdom of Moses and Joshua, that I may serve and love Jesus.

Amen.

Cursed

Jesus died under God’s curse to lift God’s curse from me

Read: Deuteronomy 21

If someone guilty of a capital offence is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)

Reflect:

For some of the Old Testament, it can be hard to find the ‘Jesus Connection’. Not so here. These verses clearly refer to an execution in a similar manner to Roman crucifixion, by which Jesus was put to death.

This is odd, because according to the previous verse (21:21), and the rest of Moses’ sermons in Deuteronomy, Israelite executions were to be carried out by stoning. At the time Moses spoke these words, the Roman Empire did not yet exist as a political entity, let alone perform crucifixion. Yet Moses gave a clear description of the death of one cursed by God, a description that in effect prophesied the crucifixion of Jesus.

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians quoted verse 23, to explain the purpose of Christ’s death under God’s curse:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is anyone hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14)

crux:

Jesus died under God’s curse to lift God’s curse from me.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your grace and generosity in the gospel are clearly displayed here in Deuteronomy. Thank you for Paul, who explained to the Galatians (and to me) that if I rely on the works of the law to save me I am accursed, but that Jesus’ death under your curse lifts that curse from me.

Thank you for redeeming me from your curse, and offering me a life of blessing and honour for your glory. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, who lives in me by faith in Jesus Christ, just as you promised.

LORD, may I not be shy about reading my Bible in this busy airport. May I be confident to be seen studying your word, spending time with my Saviour Jesus. Do not let me fear judgement or rebuke, but help me to be fearlessly honest in this necessarily public worship today.

Thank you for your peace and joy in your gospel in the midst of a busy, noisy, crowded place.

Amen.

Prophet

God raised up Jesus Christ as his supreme Prophet

Read: Deuteronomy 18

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. (Deuteronomy 18:14-15)

“I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.” (Deuteronomy 18:19)

Reflect:

Moses had earlier spoken of God’s choice of Joshua, the son of Nun, to succeed him (Deuteronomy 1:38), leading the people into the land to inherit it. God had told Moses to commission Joshua, to encourage and strengthen him (Deuteronomy 3:28).

Now, Moses tells the people that God will provide them with a leader like himself, a prophet, who will relay to them the messages of God. Moses may well have been thinking of Joshua, or of the long line of prophets that would following after him. But God placed these words into Moses’ mouth and God meant them to be also a hint of his final, supreme Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would one day dwell with God’s people in the flesh.

Jesus himself said, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (John 7:16), indicating in his following words that the one who sent Jesus was the LORD God. Jesus Christ is God’s Prophet because he spoke all God’s words and he spoke only God’s words.

Here, in Deuteronomy, I am warned to listen to Jesus, because God will judge people for failing to listen to his prophet. The same words were proclaimed by the voice of God the Father from heaven at Jesus’ transfiguration, when he was revealed in the fullness of his kingdom glory: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5; my italics).

crux:

God raised up Jesus Christ as his supreme Prophet.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Light and Word and Truth.
You spoke and your creation began.
You are the source and sustenance, the joy and delight, the plumb-line and straight-edge by which all else is measured.

LORD, you are Light and your Word is Truth.
You speak through prophets and you spoke through one supreme and ultimate Prophet, the LORD Jesus Christ.

He is your image, the full revelation of your divine essence, making visible the invisible.
He spoke only what you wanted him to say and spoke all you wanted him to say, including the words, “It is finished!” when he had completed the task you set before him at the cross.

Thank you for Moses, for Joshua and most especially for Jesus. Help me to listen to their words, to your words to me, spoken by them.

Amen.

Deliverance

The Passover celebration was a foretaste of God’s final act of deliverance

Read: Deuteronomy 16

Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name. (Deuteronomy 16:1-2)

Reflect:

The Passover was the key festival of the Israelite calendar. On it, the people were to remember that the LORD had delivered them from slavery, and to sacrifice a lamb or calf in memory of their deliverance. This was an annual festival, which lasted a week and required the people to gather together in Jerusalem.

Over 1000 years after Moses gave the people these instructions, during another Passover celebration, the final sacrifice was made in honour of God’s deliverance of his people. Jesus Christ, the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), was put to death.

By Christ’s death I am delivered from sin and death and slavery to the evil one. By his death I am delivered into forgiveness, eternal life and adoption as an heir of the LORD Almighty.

crux:

The Passover celebration was a foretaste of God’s final act of deliverance from sin.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

At the heart of the history of your relationship with your people are two great rescues. With the Exodus, you rescued your people from slavery in Egypt so that they would be physically and politically free to worship you as you desire. With Easter, you rescue your people from slavery to the evil one so we are spiritually and completely free to worship you as you deserve.

Thank you for the freedom Jesus’ sacrifice won for me. Please help me to worship you in Spirit and in Truth.

Please help me to delight in your Son, to admire his holiness and imitate his compassion. May I be willing to sacrifice for your glory, even when it is very hard, knowing that Christ’s sacrifice for my sake will always be more than I could ever give. May I understand that your way of salvation is the only way, there is no other.

Amen.

Spirits

The LORD alone is God and I will worship him

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.

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.

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.

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.

Worship

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped

Read: Matthew 28

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. (Matthew 28:8-9)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

Reflect:

“The worshipped him.” Worship. This is the first fundamental change in Jesus’ followers after his resurrection from the dead. As well as following him, listening to his teaching and trying to imitate his way of life, as any disciple did with their rabbi, now Jesus’ followers began to worship him.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, worship (as a verb) means “to show reverence and adoration of a deity.” As I followed the rabbit trail of words associated with worship in the Oxford Dictionary, I came across words like reverence and respect, adoration and admiration, veneration. These are deep, strong responses that are only appropriate in response to a divine being, a deity.

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus’ followers began to show reverence for him that was only appropriate for a divine being, for God. They hadn’t worshipped Jesus before his death. So, what changed?

Jesus had told his followers he would be put to death and three days later, rise. But now God had done it. Jesus had been dead and now he was alive again. Clearly this could only be the work of God. So the disciples realised, deep in their souls, that Jesus Christ truly was (as he still is!) God himself. So, naturally, they worshipped him.

Some doubted. That’s also natural… it’s not like this had ever happened before. The most similar incidents (such as the raising of Lazarus) were all deeds of Jesus as well. But through their doubt and confusion, the disciples realised that Jesus was different. Jesus was not merely a man, Jesus was also God.

crux:

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped – reverenced and adored as God himself.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I confess it is easy for me to slip into thinking of Jesus as only a man; a superior, marvellous man. I somehow forget that he is God. Or I say it, but somehow it doesn’t sink in deeply. So I think intellectually, academically, “Jesus is God” but I do not worship Jesus, I do not really respond to Jesus as divine.

Please help me to worship Jesus. May I adore Jesus, admiring all his lovely attributes and achievements. May I reverence Jesus, respecting him for his qualities and abilities. May I love him and enjoy him, tremble before him and fear him.

Amen.