Awesome

Jesus Christ arose in Israel, mighty and awesome

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Read: Deuteronomy 34

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

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

Reflect:

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

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

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

crux:

Jesus Christ arose in Israel, mighty and awesome.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

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

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

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

Amen.

Held

The LORD holds his holy ones in his hand

Read: Deuteronomy 33

“Surely it is you who love the people;
all the holy ones are in your hand.
At your feet they all bow down,
and from you receive instruction.” (Deuteronomy 33:3)

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides across the heavens to help you
and on the clouds in his majesty.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27a)

Reflect:

As I fly home across the vast expanse and emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, it is a marvellous comfort to me to read these words: “All the holy ones are in your hand. … Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Truly the LORD has blessed us, his holy people, greatly with his written word. He reveals himself and speaks to us with promises and encouragement. The LORD Almighty, the God of the universe, does this! He constantly shows himself to be caring and compassionate. The LORD is a good, good Father; a good and gracious God.

It is – I can only say wonderful, marvellous, awesome – that he, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, should deign to hold one such as me cupped within his hand, cradled within his arms.

Through Moses, God has made known his plans for his people. These are good plans, which were brought to fruition through the obedient ministry and willing death of God’s Son. Through Jesus, the people of Israel, “Jeshurun” the upright one, have become “a people saved by the LORD” (33:29). Truly, there are none so blessed as those the LORD saves.

crux:

The LORD holds his holy ones in his hand.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Who am I that one such as you should care for me, have compassion on me and comfort me? Who am I that you, who are Lord of All, should seek me, save me and succour me?

I bow down in worship and love before you, LORD God Almighty; you who ride across the heavens to help me, you who stride upon the clouds in all your majesty.

From you I receive instruction and I am blessed.

Keep me safe LORD, and bring me home to those I love. Bring Ari and Alistair and Anastasia home to your kingdom as well. Save them and make them your holy people.

Amen.

Alive

The LORD’s people are alive forever

Read: Deuteronomy 32

On that same day the LORD told Moses, … “There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:48, 50)

Reflect:

What did the LORD mean when he said, “You will die and be gathered to your people”? How was Moses to be “gathered”? Surely in death he would be separated from his people, the Israelites who would enter the Promised Land without him. So how can I understand this prophetic speech by the LORD to Moses?

It is necessary first to understand that Moses’ people were not only the Israelites who travelled with him. They were also the Israelites who had gone before. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel, together with Jacob’s concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah. The twelve sons of Jacob and Dinah, their sister. The 70-odd descendants who went down to Egypt and the tens or hundreds of thousands who left Egypt when the LORD opened the sea before them. These were Moses’ people.

And when the LORD gathered Moses to them, he did so to a living people; people who had died yet were (and are) still alive. As Jesus said (Matthew 22:31b-32), “Have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” God’s people are alive forever, because Jesus paid the price for our eternal life with his blood.

crux:

The LORD’s people are alive forever.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are immortal, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, who was and is and is to come. LORD, you live forever.

Thank you for the gift of eternal life in perfect relationship with you, which you have given to me through your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for your promise that I shall spend my eternity with you, in the radiant splendour of your Son, with all my Christian brothers and sisters, through faith in Christ.

Thank you for Peggy and Daryl, who share this flight with me and will also be alive forever in your presence.

Amen.

Said

The LORD brings his people into his kingdom, as he has said

Read: Deuteronomy 31

“I am now one hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.” (Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

Reflect:

There is so much in these verses. Moses is 120 years old and other than his first 40 years, raised in an Egyptian palace, he has had a hard life: 40 years a wandering shepherd in Midian and another 40 years a wandering Shepherd of Israel in the Sinai desert. Yet Moses is still disappointed, even if also resigned, because the LORD has barred him from entering the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants. Moses, at 120, would still like another 40 years, adventuring in the Promised Land.

Later, much later, Moses would visit the Promised Land as he met with Jesus, his long-awaited Messiah, at the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-4), as Jen Wilkin pointed out at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. Meanwhile, God had a good plan for the immediate future: the LORD, together with Joshua, Moses’ apprentice, would cross over into the land ahead of the people. They would conquer the people of the land and wipe out all their despicable abominations of religious practices. The LORD himself would be with Joshua (31:23) as he took Israel into the Promised Land.

Today, I know that whether I see it or not, God is bringing and will bring all his chosen people into his kingdom, under Jesus our King. According to 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise … he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” As I leave this land today, I trust God that he will finish any conversations I have begun, that he will grow any gospel seeds I have sown, for his kingdom and his glory.

crux:

The LORD brings his people into his kingdom, as he has said.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you once again for the reassurance of your sovereignty. Thank you for the reminder that you order my life and you are capable of bringing your chosen into the kingdom of Christ Jesus your Son.

I pray for Ari, the Jew whom I met at McDonalds, to whom I explained the need to trust Jesus to reconcile him to you. I pray for the homeless woman I hugged, who just wanted shelter I had no means to give her. I pray for Liz and Sharon, the ladies who asked me what “gospel” meant as we visited Niagara Falls. I pray for Alistair, the gay man I met last night while we watched the sunset over the Toronto skyline from the Toronto islands, who feels excluded within the conservative culture of country Ontario. May you bring each of them into your kingdom, the kingdom of your Son.

I entrust them into your hands.

Amen.

Home

Jesus brings spiritual exiles home to God

Read: Deuteronomy 30

Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. (Deuteronomy 30:4)

Reflect:

I know it is not good hermeneutics, good biblical interpretation, to read a verse like this and jump straight to its apparent applicability to my present situation, a foreigner half a world away from my home, for which I shall depart tomorrow.

The context  is Moses’ sermon series before Israel enters the promised land. It is clear that this verse was spoken and recorded as a promise to Israel that although their faithless descendants would be exiled, yet a remnant who returned to faith would also return to the land. Biblical theology enables me to see the Jesus connection, whereby it is Jesus’ death that brings spiritual exiles home to a reconciled relationship with God their Father. It is Jesus’ Spirit who enables faithful righteousness among an otherwise unfaithful, unrighteous people.

Now, I had a small upset today. I got mild hypothermia swimming 500m in Lake Ontario and very nearly fainted as I got on the bus to return to my hotel. (Yes, the world really does go black when you are on the verge of fainting.) So, despite my knowledge of proper biblical hermeneutics, I am comforted by the immediacy of the promise in this verse.

God will bring me home. Whether to my temporary home in my hotel, with my head between my knees as I pray silently, “LORD, help me,” over and over; or to my earthly home half the world away via a mis-booked airport shuttle, 25 hours of flights plus ten hours more of layovers and a five-hour drive; or to my heavenly home, through the veil of death or through my Lord’s glorious return. The LORD my God will bring me home.

crux:

Jesus brings spiritual exiles home to God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Once again I am overwhelmed by your loving-kindness, your grace and mercy, your compassion. You comfort me and reassure me.

You know what I need before I cry out to you. You brought an ambulance-trained bus driver to collect me from the lake just as I was starting to realise the full effects of my frigid swim. Never was I alone, though it may have appeared so to those who saw me walking and swimming and shaking. You were with me as you always will be.

Oh, how eagerly I look forward to coming home to my family! Make me just as eager to see you face-to-face when the time comes for me to come home to you. I love you. May I love you always.

Amen.

Revealed

Righteousness requires worship of the rightly revealed Redeemer

Read: Deuteronomy 29

When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. (Deuteronomy 29:19)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Reflect:

The LORD my God is holy. This is an inescapable fact. So I must go his way, no matter how hard that is. There are serious consequences, for myself and for others, if I go my own way.

But what does this mean when it comes to, say, choosing a restaurant in which to eat my evening meal? Tonight I am eating at The Elm Street Restaurant, and I think it is will be the one pricey, high-class meal of my holiday in Toronto. I even ordered “sweetbreads,” something I have only heard about before on the Masterchef grand final. It was delicious, but was my choice to eat here and eat that evidence of going my own way, or was I legitimately going God’s way?

And earlier today, when I spent hours admiring Inuit art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, appreciating the magnificent skills which God has granted to people to re-create his creation … was I going my own way of God’s way?

Sometimes I think this sort of question is one of the “secret things” 29:29 talks about. But verse 29 also says the LORD has revealed what is required in the Law. The New Testament tells me this is ultimately through the revelation of Jesus Christ his Son. Jesus belongs to me and I belong to him, so I may be righteous in all these everyday ordinary choices, because Jesus followed the Law on my behalf.

crux:

Righteousness is not merely a matter of right choices but of worshiping the rightly revealed Redeemer.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your many blessings to me, temporal and material as well as spiritual.

May I never be so caught up in the enjoyment of what my eyes see and my mouth tastes that I forget the overwhelming glory of you, the One who created all things and gave skill to the artist and chef. May I be ever thankful for your creative beauty that is reflected only dimly in the beauty of human artistry. Many I be a witness to your heavenly glory and not solely a consumer of human art.

Amen.

Grants

The LORD grants his people perfect rest through Jesus Christ

Read: Deuteronomy 28

The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. (Deuteronomy 28:7)

Reflect:

The thing about Bible reading is that the more you do it, the more you get out of it. Even a simple, short passage like this single verse has more to it than a surface reading would suggest.

The basic interpretation is that the LORD would ensure that Israel’s enemies will be defeated, as the first sentence states clearly. From the second sentence, the enemies would approach from one direction, but after they are defeated they would scatter:

from one direction = unity, cohesion
flee … in seven = disunity, disarray

There’s a bit more depth here; though it takes careful reading and biblical thinking to see it. It has to do with significant numbers in the Bible story. The word seven becomes, through the course of the Bible, shorthand for the seventh day of creation. On the seventh day God rested from the work of creating. Upon this seventh day pattern, God ordained sabbath rest for all his people.

seven (7) = sabbath; perfect completion, peace, rest, no work

So, while the enemies approach together and leave scattered, the more important concept here is that God will grant his people sabbath rest from their enemies. This is rest from work, rest from the struggle to achieve, rest from the battle to overcome. Far more than the temporary amelioration of hostilities, this is true, eternal rest.

So what’s the Jesus connection? It is Jesus Christ who grants this true and complete rest from our enemies: from Satan and his demons, from our past sins, from our character flaws, from our sinful nature. It is Jesus who grants rest from the battle with our enemies, within and without. It is Jesus who grants rest from the struggle to win our own salvation, because he provides it for us.

crux:

The LORD grants his people perfect rest through Jesus Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a good, good God. You are a good, good Father. This is who you are.

You take great delight in granting good things to your people who are called by the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, the Christians. We are your new covenant people, the people redeemed and rescued by your only Son Jesus, whom you sent to die in our place.

LORD, you saved me from out of the clutches of the enemy Satan, that liar and deceiver. He fled before me because you drove him away. You have kept me safe, LORD, and you have granted me the sweet restoration and refreshment of fellowship with your people in Wichita, in Indianapolis and now here in Toronto.

LORD, may I long abide in the peace you have granted to me. Keep me safe from my enemies. Keep me safe because Jesus has defeated sin and death so I have nothing to fear. Make me a hope dealer.

Amen.