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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tithe

The LORD is always good, even when the harvest is small

Read: Deuteronomy 14

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling place for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. (Deuteronomy 14:22-23)

Reflect:

After banning pagan mourning practices and forbidding the eating of a long list of foods, God, through Moses, tells the Israelites what they should do in the land: celebrate!

If I were playing that psychologist’s game of word association, and the word “tithe” was presented, my automatic associations would certainly not be to celebration and feasting. But that is the connection Moses wanted the people to keep coming back to, year after year, harvest after harvest.

When God had provided bountifully, they were to take a tenth of their bounty to Jerusalem and feast there with the priests, for the LORD had given abundance. If God had provided scantily, they were to take a tenth of their scarcity to Jerusalem and celebrate there with the priests, for the LORD had kept them from starvation.

In times of gain and times of less, God’s people are to celebrate his provision and revere him.

crux:

The LORD is always good, even when the harvest is not good in our eyes.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are gracious and generous, the giver of gifts.

You provide for my daily bread, and I thank you.
You grant me daily rest, and I thank you.

You have given us the funds to be able to buy our new-to-us car, and I thank you.
You taught us to be wise with our resources so we could save those funds, and I thank you.

LORD, your generosity to our family this year has been huge, and I thank you.
The blessing you have given has not just been for our physical needs.
You have brought new people to our church, new ladies to my Bible study, and I thank you.
You have grown the western congregation, which seemed so small, and are restoring it to flourishing, and I thank you.

You have given me good friends and an encouraging, challenging job, and I thank you.
You have given our kids great teachers, marvellous opportunities, and the help and support to make the most of them, and I thank you.

Thank you for your manifold blessings. May I always revere your name.

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.

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.