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.

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.

 

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.

Law

The LORD gave his people laws so they would live rightly

Read: Deuteronomy 5

Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today, Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. (Deuteronomy 5:1-2)

Reflect:

As Moses begins his second sermon, having described the events and the God which brought the people to the edge of the promised land, he turns to the topic of the Israelites’ lives and behaviour once they enter this promised land. The LORD had made a covenant with Israel at Horeb, and that covenant needed to be kept in the promised land as in the desert.

The law Moses now expounds (in very similar words to Exodus 20) can be divided into two categories: the peoples’ relationship with the LORD their God (5:6-15) and the peoples’ relationships with each other (5:16-21, with a small mention of relationships with servants in 5:14 with respect to the Sabbath observance).

Actually, this is an interesting difference, because here in 5:14 the law is explained. The Sabbath was given so that they and their servants might rest. This is why Jesus Christ maintained that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, even if that took effort (Matthew 12:12), because the Sabbath was made for man and not vice versa (Mark 2:27).

crux:

The LORD gave his people laws so they could live rightly with him and with each other in the promised land.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are God. By definition, by your very identify you are Creator and Controller, law maker and righteous law-keeper. You are just and merciful, holy and kind.

Thank you for giving your people rules to live by for a relationship with you. And than you for providing a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to you when, inevitably, we broke your rules.

Thank you that these ten commandments still instruct us today. They may no longer demand obedience because Jesus fulfilled the law completely on our behalf. But they do tell me that you care about the way I pursue a relationship with you; you care about the way I treat other people. Thank you for showing me a better way to live my life, a way to love you and love others, by caring about your glory and their good.

Please help me to love you totally and to love my neighbours well. Thank you that I was able to love my son well today.

Amen.

Blame

The only person to blame for my sin is me

Read: Deuteronomy 3

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: … “Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan – that fine hill country and Lebanon.”
But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough!” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me any more about this matter. … But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deuteronomy 3:23, 25-26, 28)

Reflect:

Moses has just reminded the Israelites of their crushing defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and all of his cities and towns. Moses has told how he has apportioned the land of these two conquered kings (Sihon and Og) to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Yet the thing Moses keeps coming back to is the limit God has set upon him.

Moses blames the people of Israel again (cf 1:37), but it is his own sin that is keeping him out of the promised land. Moses needed to repent of his sin, not blame others for it. Moses, though a leader of God’s people, was far from perfect. He frequently got angry; and when angry, he made rash decisions.

Thrown down and break the stone tablets on which God had inscribed the ten commandments because the people were worshipping a golden calf? Yep, that was Moses. Burn that idol and make the people drink the ashes? Yep, that was Moses again. Hit a rock twice with his staff because he was frustrated with the people’s grumbling? Indeed Moses did that, and no one made him do it.

How many times do I do things in anger, frustration or just plan grumpiness that I will later regret? Many, too many. Thanks be to God for his provision of forgiveness!

crux:

The only person to blame for my sin is me… and God is always just in his judgements.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a just judge, yet you are also merciful. You allowed Moses to see into the promised land even while you refused him entry. You did not leave your people leaderless but appointed a successor to Moses, the man Joshua.

Truly, I deserve life in prison – or rather, an eternity in hell – for all my sin of rebellion against you and your commands. Even when I try to keep you as first in my life, I find I am letting other concerns crowd you out. I am to blame. I am the one who is guilty.

Wash me whiter than snow, LORD. Forgive my sin and blot out my iniquities, cover over my transgressions and remember them no more.

Thanks be to you for your Son Jesus Christ and for all he has done for me.

Please help me to encourage and strengthen others around me for the good works you have set before them. Please do not let me be envious, especially when I see others doing tasks I would like to do myself, but make me glad that your people are being served and edified.

Amen.

Winner

The LORD wins every battle he fights

Read: Deuteronomy 2

“Today you are to pass by the region of Moab in Ar. … I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.” (That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; … They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The LORD destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place.) (Deuteronomy 2:18, 19b-20a, 21)

Reflect:

It must have been encouraging to the people to hear that the Ammonites had driven out the people “as tall as Anakites” from Ar before settling there. If the Ammonites could do it – or rather, if the LORD would do it for the Ammonites – surely the Israelites had nothing to fear as they entered their promised land.

Their parents may have feared Anakites 40 years ago, (Numbers 13:31-33) but Moses reassured them this day. If God could choose to establish Esau and Lot’s descendants in lands of their own, they could trust the LORD to establish them in their own land, Anakites or no!

Then Moses went on to remind them of their defeat of Sihon, erstwhile king of Heshbon. Again, if God would give them power to defeat Sihon’s army, surely he would do the same for any remaining opposition as they conquered the rest of the land he had promised to them.

crux:

The LORD wins every battle he fights.

Reflect:

LORD God Almighty,

You are strong and powerful, a mighty warrior who fights to provide your people with the blessings you have promised to them.

Thank you for fighting for me so I may enter your promised land of rest and provision, bounty and flourishing, the kingdom of your Son.

LORD, sometimes I am tempted to forget that you are strong, to forget that you are mighty. Please help me, in those times, to look back on the many ways you have fought for my benefit in the past. Please help me to recall that what you have begun in me, you will carry on to completion. Please help me to recognise the way you have blessed others and delight in your provision for them, as well as seeking your blessing for myself.

Thank you that in answer to our prayers, you brought A to KYB today. Please continue to comfort her by your Spirit, to uphold her in your love and to forgive her by the blood of your Son.

Amen.