Listen

I will listen to the LORD

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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.

Union

Marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman

[This may appear as a bonus post, because I crossed the international date line today so this is my second run through Friday 8 June 2018.]

Read: Deuteronomy 22

If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must be put to death. You must purge this evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22)

Reflect:

God takes marriage very seriously. His instructions for the people of Israel reflect that. In this chapter, Moses warns against a number of evils:

A husband who decides he doesn’t like his wife must not lie about her to others and he is not to divorce her (22:13-19). A bride who is found to not be a virgin (obviously this does not apply to widows marrying a second time) shall be stoned to death (22:20-21). Adultery is punishable by death also (22:22). Consensual sex outside of marriage is punishable by death (22:23-24). If a woman engaged to be married is raped, her attacker shall be put to death (22:25-27). If an unmarried, unengaged woman is raped, the attacker must pay a massive fine, but they are to be married and he may never divorce her (22:28-29). A man may not marry his father’s wife (22:30).

Without contraception and protection from STDs, these laws provided for the protection of the vulnerable, including women and any children born from a forced sexual union. However, the biggest messages from these laws are the sanctity and sacredness of marriage, the immense importance of the one flesh union, and the seriousness of sexual sin which would harm this one flesh union.

Though the laws of my county differ sharply, as a Christian and as a wife I must recognise my marriage is precious in God’s eyes – and live accordingly.

crux:

Marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the huge blessing and privilege of my marriage relationship with Jeff. Thank you for enabling us to keep our marriage bed pure and undefiled for nearly 18 years of wedded joy.

Thank you for Jeff’s faith, for his sacrificial love for me, for his compassionate care for our children and for his desire to serve you by serving your people as a pastor.

LORD, please help Jeff while I am away (and when I return) to remain faithful to you, to me, to our children and to our church. May he have the strength and patience, insight and kindness to love and lead in our marriage, our family and our church in a way that brings glory to 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.

With

The LORD goes with his people to conquer

Read: Deuteronomy 20

He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be faint hearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4)

Reflect:

The LORD went with his people into battle because it was he who sent them into battle. The LORD had judged the nations and decided they were to be “completely destroyed” (20:7) because they were guilty of “detestable things” done as part of their worship of false gods.

The Israelites must have been very determined to never let themselves be likewise found guilty, yet the LORD still needed to warn them not to do as their enemies did.

I find it comforting to think that the LORD goes with me, as I head off on my first plane flight this evening. I am sure it was a comfort to Israel as well, to know that the LORD who sent them went with them to conquer.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words before he returned to heaven, “surely I am with you, even to the end of the age.” In place of his physical presence, Jesus imparted his Holy Spirit, so he would always be with his followers, conquering his enemies still.

crux:

The LORD goes with his people to conquer.

Respond: with

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the security and comfort of your presence with me. Thank you for always being with me, for promising never to leave me nor forsake me.

Please comfort me, Holy Spirit. You know I am unsteady and unsure because I have left Jeff and he kids behind at home and now am leaving Perth and Western Australia behind as well when I get on this plane.

Please bless me with your peace, the peace that comes from knowing your will shall be done and your kingdom come. Please help me to trust you with things I don’t understand (like how aeroplanes stay up in the air) and to rest in you, to hope in you, to love you.

Keep me safe LORD, whatever I face.

Amen.

Refuge

Jesus Christ offers refuge to all who flee to him

Read: Deuteronomy 19

Then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess. Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities.
This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety – anyone who kills a neighbour unintentionally, without malice aforethought. (Deuteronomy 19:2-4)

Reflect:

Israel had a fresh start in the new land they were about to enter, a second change. But with fresh starts and second chances came bad mistakes and slip-ups, because the people of Israel, like me, lived in a fallen world. Sometimes terrible things happen – and occasionally unfairly, other people get blamed when bad things happen.

God knew human nature, our propensity to blame others when things go wrong. It started back in the Garden of Eden, which Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). God knew also our tendency to want revenge. That also started right back at the beginning, with Cain fearing a revenge attack after he committed the first murder (Genesis 4:14).

So God made a way for those innocent people who were blamed for bad things, who had undeserved bad reputations, to stay safe while they were granted their fresh start. God wanted his people to be free to love and serve him without the hindrance of a bad reputation, and he ensured they would have this freedom. He gave them good land, as well: land in cities where they could blend in with the crowds and leave their sad pasts behind. God didn’t want these people to have difficult lives in barren places. He offered mercy and grace.

Even today, God offers grace and mercy to all who run to his Son Jesus, seeking refuge with the One who also was once a refugee (in Egypt, Matthew 2:13-15). He is the One who came to seek and save the lost, and his name is Jesus Christ.

crux:

Like Israel’s cities of refuge, Jesus Christ offers refuge to all who flee to him.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus and the refuge he has provided for my soul as I fled from my bad choices and mistakes and also from my deliberate, wilful sins. Thank you for the fresh start I have through the blood of Jesus. Thank you for the new, eternal life I live because Jesus died in my place.

Please grant me today the opportunity to tell someone else about this second chance at life that is offered by Jesus – and please help me to be bold to take up that opportunity with graciousness and kindness.

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.