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Jesus brings spiritual exiles home to God

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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.

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.

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.