Became

By faith in Christ, we became the people of the LORD our God

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Read: Deuteronomy 27

Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel: “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God. Obey the LORD your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.” (Deuteronomy 27:9-10)

Reflect:

“You have now become the people of the LORD your God.” What a powerful identity statement. Proclaimed by both Moses, the political leader and the Levitical priests, the spiritual mediators, to the entire motley crowd of Jacob’s descendants. They needed to shut their mouths and still their inner monologues, because this was a crucial declaration.

“You have now become…” Past tense: the people have been freed, by God, from Egypt; have received, from God, the Law; and have made the tabernacle, according to God’s design. The people have been brought, by God, through the desert; have been led by the pillar of God’s presence, marked by smoke and fire.

Now they are changed, transfigured. They are no longer slaves. Now they are different: “the people of the LORD.” Now they are truly one people and they belong not to the slave-holding Egyptians, nor yet to themselves, but to the LORD, Yahweh, the I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. This LORD is their God, in the closest relationship of kinship and belonging with his people.

What an amazing identity!

So now, because Israel “have now become the people of the LORD” they were to obey the LORD. The same logical flow is seen in the lives of the people of Christ. By faith in Jesus Christ, who died as a sacrifice to redeem me from slavery to sin, I have now become one of the people of the LORD my God, now to obey him.

crux:

By faith in Christ, we became the people of the LORD our God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the LORD, Yahweh, the I AM who spoke to Moses so long ago from the burning bush. You are my God, the divine object of my love, worship, awe and reverential fear.

I belong to you. I am one of your people, because this is what you have made me through the gift of faith in your Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for redeeming and delivering your people Israel from slavery in Egypt and bringing them to your land, there to obey you. Thank you for redeeming and delivering me from slavery to sin and the curse of the law and bringing me to my present circumstances, here to obey you.

Please help me to obey you and follow you, because I belong to you. Please help me to be keen to bring honour to your name through my choices and actions, especially as Amy and I travel today to Indianapolis for the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference tomorrow. Please bless us!

Amen.

Listen

I will listen to the LORD

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.

Helper

Be a helper to the poor – this could, so easily, be me

Read: Deuteronomy 24

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry out to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

Reflect:

I’ve been thinking a lot today about poverty, the reasons people might be poor and the inherent disadvantages of being poor. There are many things that can happen that are outside of our control, yet which can cause a cascading slide into poverty. James described the unpredictable withering of wealth in his letter to Christians (James 1:10-11), “the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

Once you are poor, you are extremely vulnerable. If you can’t afford to buy a decent car, you are at the mercy of dishonest salespeople and risk buying a ‘lemon’ because that’s all you can afford; then you spend more on repairs than those who can afford a good car in the first place. If you don’t have money to fill your car’s tank, you might not be able to make it to a job interview on time, or you might have to pay extra for groceries because you can’t travel to the reasonably-priced stores. Your health will suffer because you can’t afford nutritious, fresh food; you have to work long hours in low-paying jobs so there’s no time nor energy left for exercise and fresh air. Poverty is often an intergenerational problem. It’s no baby’s choice to be born to poor parents, yet those whose parents live in poverty are, themselves, at elevated risk of living in poverty as adults.

For all these reasons, it is vital for Christians to do what they can to alleviate poverty and the potential causes of poverty. This is part of loving our neighbours. We need to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God, as Micah 6:8 says.

crux:

Be a helper to the poor – this could, so easily, be me.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the material wealth you have given to me. Please help me to never take it for granted but to be wise and generous, just, merciful and humble in its use.

Please open my eyes with compassion for the people around me who struggle with poverty and all its pitfalls today. May I be helpful to them and not a hindrance; may I act for their advantage rather than my own, and for their benefit rather than their detriment.

Amen.

Empathy

It takes wisdom, compassion and empathy to love my neighbour well

Read: Deuteronomy 23

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)

Reflect:

In Deuteronomy 23, Moses provides a list of circumstances and the right and righteous way for Israelites to deal with these circumstances. Many of Moses’ instructions, like the one above, seem obvious within the West’s cultural mores. Essentially, these are ways to “love your neighbour as yourself”, a command that was first explicitly stated in Leviticus 19:18 and emphasised by Jesus (eg Matthew 22:36-40). But these ideas haven’t always been universally accepted as wise.

Many acts of love for others that are taken for granted in Christian or post-Christian societies were birthed from the Mosaic Law or from Jesus’ teachings. The West’s present-day customs are heavily influenced by historical Christianity.

There are some things that the Mosaic Law requires which are no longer valid in the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection. For example, Moses said (23:1), “No one who has been emasculated … may enter the assembly of the LORD.” But Philip explained the good news about Jesus from the Old Testament Scriptures to an Ethiopian eunuch who was soon baptised as a sign of his entry into God’s kingdom. Jesus’ life and ministry opened the kingdom wider than it had ever been.

No matter the historical or geographical context, loving your neighbour never goes out of fashion.

crux:

It takes wisdom, compassion and empathy to love my neighbour well.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for a marvellous day. Thank you for helping me to talk to people and show my loving kindness with my words, something that did not come easily for me until you made me new with your Spirit.

Thank you for moving me to be next to Elizabeth on the plane so we could talk and she could be less nervous about the flight. Thank you for keeping me awake and alert so I could chat with people at the party and be friendly with people I had only just met. Thank you for the opportunity to stay with my friend Amy and her family and fit in with their everyday ordinary life. Thank you for all these new ‘neighbours’ you have brought into my life as I travel.

Please help me to be wise and compassionate in my interactions with Amy’s family and any other people you will have me meet.

Thank you for all the ways your Law was fulfilled in Jesus.

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.