Godly

A godly society has pure worship, fair judgement and faithful leadership

Read: Deuteronomy 17

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully this law and all these decrees. (Deuteronomy 17:18-19)

Reflect:

In this chapter, Moses tells the people that their worship must be pure, their judgements must be fair and their future king must be faithful.

Their worship will only remain pure if those who would corrupt it are eradicated or expelled from the community. Their judgements will only be fair if they incorporate multiple witness testimonies and disinterested judges. Their future king can only be faithful if he keeps himself away from those things that easily could become idols (military power, sex and money) and if he keeps himself close to the word of God, allowing it to humble him.

I think there is a huge value in writing the words of God in my own handwriting. That is one reason why every time I read my Bible to meditate upon it I also copy a few verses into my journal. Writing helps to focus my attention and solidify the vague observations I have made during my reading into more concrete, deliberate thoughts.

crux:

A godly society has pure worship, fair judgement and faithful leadership.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are pure, you are fair and you are faithful.

May my worship of you be pure, untainted by idolatry. May my decisions be fair, may I take no part in injustice. May I lead faithfully where you call me to lead and not attempt to lead anywhere else.

Please continue to keep me strong in your word, especially as I leave on Thursday for my overseas trip. Please help me to read and write your word, even as I reflect upon it and respond to it.

Please help me to be even handed with each of our four children, especially in the next few days as I am busy preparing to go away from them for a few weeks. Please help me to listen carefully when they speak, without making snap judgements or decisions based on input from only one. Please help me to be unbiased at work, consistent in the way I train and assess each one of my students.

Please keep me from idols. Please enable me to recognise those temptations that are particularly strong for me and to reject them quickly.

Please keep me pure, fair and faithful in my everyday ordinary life.

Amen.

Openhanded

The LORD richly blesses me, so I may be openhanded toward others

Read: Deuteronomy 15

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart. (Deuteronomy 15:10a)

Reflect:

Ungrudging generosity is a very difficult habit to cultivate. I generally have little difficulty in being generous in a single instance, or making a single commitment to future generosity (eg monthly payments for a particular person, family or need). However, I frequently struggle with a “grudging heart” when someone asks for bread one day, and I see them buying 2L of coke the next… and then a week later they are back, asking for baked beans.

There is utter selfishness in my heart in this matter.

Who am I, who delights in eating freshly cooked, healthy meals each night courtesy of a husband who enjoys cooking, to deny a can of beans to someone who is hungry? Who am I, who has been blessed this week with a long-saved-for purchase of an almost-new secondhand 8-seater van, to begrudge a lift to the next town to someone without a license or a car of their own? Yet I am selfish.

The LORD has been generous with me, both materially and in the gift of “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). I repent of my selfishness. I must give generously to those in need. The LORD has given me my prosperity to be used as a tool to love and serve others with gladness; to extend mercy, just as he has had mercy on me.

crux:

The LORD richly blesses me, so I may be openhanded and generous to others.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your blessings, both material and spiritual.

Thank you for choosing me to be holy and blameless in Christ.
Thank you for predestining me for sonship through Jesus Christ.
Please help me to be constantly aware of your blessings and graciousness toward me.

Thank you for your gift of redemption and forgiveness through Christ’s blood.
Thank you for making known your will to bring unity to all under Christ.
Please forgive me my selfishness and help me to be more openhanded to others.

Thank you for the reassurance and hope and joy brought by your many blessings.
Thank you for the opportunity to praise your name, for your glory.
Please help me to offer your blessings to others freely, generously and with open hands.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sorting

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for others

Read: Matthew 25

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.'” (Matthew 25:10-12)

Reflect:

This chapter has three parables that Jesus told to warn people that they would be judged by God at a certain time for their deeds on earth. Judgement is not a popular idea today, or, I imagine, in Jesus’ day. No one likes to be told that their present way of life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standard. But Jesus told at least three parables warning of coming judgement, so I need to take notice.

In the first parable, the virgin brides are judged on whether they are ready to receive their groom.

In the second, the servants are judged on the way they managed their master’s money in his absence; on whether they were faithful or not with the tasks that he gave them.

In the third parable, the people are judged on how they responded to Jesus in his “distressing disguise” (as Mother Teresa described it); how they responded to the sick, poor, hungry, thirsty, needy, imprisoned.

crux:

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for their neighbours.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Good Judge, the Just and Fair Judge, the Righteous Judge.

You have the right to judge because you are our Creator and King.
You have the right to judge because you are Righteous and True.
You have the right to judge because you are Steadfast and Sure.
You have the right to judge because you are Love and Light.
You have the right to judge because you are God, the only God.

Please grant me mercy LORD, for I am a sinner, guilty before you, in need of the forgiveness won by your Son for me.

Please enable me to keep watch; to stand firm in faith and be ready to receive Jesus Christ when he returns to claim his kingdom. Please help me to be faithful with the gifts you have given me through your Spirit; please help me to use them wisely and generously to equip your saints for the good works you prepared. Please help me to care for my neighbours, especially my family and my church.

Amen.

Firm

To stand firm to the end, I must stand on the words of Christ

Read: Matthew 24

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

Reflect:

One day, Jesus will return. I’m not sure I’ve fully understood all the details, but I am sure about that fact. And on that day I will be saved: fully, completely, eternally… if, in the meantime, I stand firm.

How do I ensure I will stand firm? The first thing I need to do is choose my ground. Jesus said (Matthew 7:24-27) that the person who builds their life on his teaching will be like a person who builds their house on a rock – he said this before concrete. I need a firm foundation if I want to stand firm. I need Jesus’ words.

Psalm 1 advises that the person who meditates on God’s word day and night will be like a tree planted by a stream whose leaf does not wither – this was written before hydroponics. I need deep roots that reach down to Living Water if I want to stand firm. I need the whole Bible – morning and evening, waking and walking.

I need Jesus’ words, which will stand to the end.

crux:

In order to stand firm to the end, I must stand on the words of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are immortal, eternal, everlasting. You have no beginning and no end. Your words endure forever.

But, like the grass which withers and the flowers that fade, I will pass away. LORD, please enable me to stand firm in my faith until the end. Whether I meet my end in death or in the return of my King, I pray that you will keep me standing firm, holding tight to Jesus, until that end.

Keep me reading your word and responding to it. Keep me loving and enjoying Jesus. May I be satisfied with the blessings that I receive every time I meditate upon your word. Please help me to read it in the mornings as well as the evenings because as you know I’m struggling to get out of bed in the colder, darker mornings of Autumn.

Please help me to stand firm, on the eternal words of your Son.

Amen.

Teacher

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others

Read: Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)

Reflect:

As a teachers, I can imagine few greater professional criticisms than this one.

It’s like saying to a literacy educator, “You make it harder and more confusing for your students. You don’t read yourself, and you take books away from people trying to learn to read.” This criticism sounds extreme when translated to a modern parallel in this way. But that is the sort of complaint Jesus made against those who were meant to be teaching God’s Law.

Jesus told the Pharisees they were blocking the way to God’s kingdom when they should have been showing the way and leading the way. They weren’t just bad teachers, they were anti-teachers.

Alas! Jesus said their end will be desperate: “Look. Your house is left to you deflate.” (23:38) All their hypocrisy would leave the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem, empty and deserted; a wasteland rather than a place of worship.

In contrast, I see Jesus, the perfect Rabbi, who led his disciples faithfully and humbly. How his heart must have ached to see such anti-teachers as these influencing God’s people.

crux:

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your Son Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived. Your Scriptures are the greatest revelation that has ever been given. Your Spirit is the greatest guide who ever led the way.

May I follow in Christ’s steps. May I be a teacher who opens doors, not shuts them. Please use my teaching at work to reduce recidivism. Please use my training to help people to gain the skills to work to support their own needs and those of their families. Please use my teaching to help men keep in contact in a positive way with the families from whom they are separated.

But LORD, I want so much more than that for my students. May they learn how to read and then choose to read your Word. May your Scriptures be plain before them so they know the glory of your grace for them in Jesus Christ. May they read their way to meeting you and entering your kingdom by the blood of your Son.

Thank you for your love to the “least of these”, LORD. Please bless them with an open door to become citizens of your kingdom by your mercy. Please grant them a future with you.

Amen.