Reminder!


Deuteronomy 24-27

Deut 26 17 NIV

Continuing in our search for principles we can apply to modern believers found in the instructions that God gave to the Israelites, we’re going to pause in chapters 26 and 27.

At the end of Deuteronomy 26, we find an exchange that reminds me somewhat of marriage vows.  Here’s what it says,

“You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him.  And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.  He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame, and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”

How lovely.

I can picture the minister, looking down at the loving couple and announcing to all gathered, “You have declared here in the presence of these witnesses…..I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Perhaps we need a similar declaration at baptisms?  Or maybe just a reminder for the church body now and then…Hey church, remember what you promised God?  Remember the contract you made with him?

Reminders of expectations

Another reminder that we see in chapter 27 tickles me a bit.  Just before entering the Promised Land, Moses instructs the Levites to stand on a mountain and recite curses to all the people.  A reminder of the consequences of the things God told them not to do. Eleven “cursed is the man who” statements that they shouted at the people.

Now, to be fair, they also blessed the people.  But in this chapter, only the curses are recorded.

What tickles me is that, as a mom, I can remember sitting in the car before taking my kids somewhere and reminding them of the expectations.

“There will be no….”

“Don’t even think about…”

“I expect you to…”

Moms everywhere know that kids that are prepped immediately before an activity are far more likely to behave than those that are maybe just reminded of expectations at random times.  Being reminded of the consequences of not following directions keeps those expectations in our mind as we enter the situation.  God knows that we are the same.

Perhaps this would be helpful to us in our daily lives as well.  Reminding ourselves of the expectations God holds for us, especially before entering possibly tempting or difficult circumstances, could help to keep us on the narrow path.

We’re going to read more about blessings and curses tomorrow.  Stay tuned…

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+24-27&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 28-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Reasons to Obey

Deuteronomy 5-7

Deuteronomy 5 33 NIV

I had an oppsortunity to teach the importance of keeping the Name of God holy a few weeks ago. A five year old was loudly saying “God” clearly showing that she was surprised by something that was going on. I helped her understand that because we love and respect God that we would never use His name this way. Thankfully that is the last time that she has expressed surprise in that manner.

But this experience reminded me of Moses. He was not only the person that was bringing the people the Law-he wanted them to understand and practice it. We may hear that we should not misuse the name of God, but when we really enter into a genuine, loving relationship with God, we would only use His name with sincere words from our heart.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses summoned all Israel in order to recount the decrees and laws to them. He wanted the Israelites to learn them and follow them. He reminded the people that they were involved in a covenant with God.  The Law showed the Israelites which actions were right and wrong. God wanted them to know how to live as His holy people. He wanted them to know how to interact with Him and others. He wanted them to “walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”

God still wants us to “live and prosper” today. We are His people, His family.

When we experience God’s love our motivation for doing what is right is produced from a place of love. (Deuteronomy 6) Christ later explained the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+5-7&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

 

Set Apart

Exodus 19-21

Exodus 19 5 6a NIV

Today’s reading is probably one of the most familiar passages in the whole Bible for it includes the Ten Commandments.  It is important to understand the context of these commandments.  God entered into a covenantal relationship with Abraham and Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob and Jacob’s sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel.  God promised to bless and provide for his people and in exchange His people promised to be faithful and obedient to God and worship God alone.

After 400 years of slavery, Israel has grown from 12 sons and their immediate family to millions of people.  These people, God’s covenant people, will be settling in a land where they will need to live in community.  They are no longer slaves.  They are now responsible to live in that community in peace and productivity.   They need help to know how to live together.  God provides His people with the structure of how to live together as God’s people.  The Ten Commandments and subsequently nearly 600 additional laws were all designed to help them be healthy and blessed representatives of God to the rest of the world.

God loves all people.  We must never falsely believe that God only loves certain people.  God considers all human beings His children and loves them all.  God wants to be in a right relationship with all of his children; however, many are disobedient and have no willingness to be in a relationship with God and many deny that God even exists.

So God needed to start with one group of people and prepare them to be a special, chosen people who would bring the knowledge of God to others.  Exodus 19:5-6 says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  A priest is one who helps connect people and God.  God would go on to designate priests in Israel to help the people connect with God, but His expectation for Israel was that the whole nation serve as priests to help other nations connect with God.  Because the who nation was being set apart by God to be priests for the world, they needed to live holy or set apart lives.  There were behavioral expectations that they were to follow.  They had to  be exclusively loyal to God, they could not murder, steal, lie, cheat, they were to be respectful and honoring of parents and not misuse God’s name.

Now we are completing what God began in Israel.  Through Christ we have entered into a covenant with God.  We are now the covenant people, we are called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  That is the Church’s role.  And God expects us to live lives of holiness as we are set apart to serve God.  As you read through the many laws in the Old Testament, recognize that some applied very narrowly to the Nation of Israel and do not necessarily apply to us.  Dietary laws and sanitary laws were important in Israel at the time they were given but are no longer applicable.  However, some of the laws which pertain to morality have been reaffirmed by Jesus Christ for the Church.  In other words, as Christians we are free to eat pork and worship on Sundays, but we are not free to practice polygamy or murder.

God is truly a God of grace and mercy, but God is also a God who hates sin and punishes sin.  In this way we are still to live in fear of the Lord: Exodus 20:20 “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+19-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 22-24 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Presence and the Exile

 

Text: Ezekiel 11

Ezekiel 11 19

This week so far, we’ve talked about creation, the garden, and the tabernacle, exploring how they fit into the theme and story of God’s presence. Today I want to talk about exile, or that feeling you get when you know you aren’t home, and things aren’t right. It’s an ongoing theme for the Israelites. We see it when Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden, we see it when the Israelites are held captive in Egypt, and now we’re going to see it again as Israel and Judah are given into the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

 

Let’s do a quick fly-by to bring us to this point from where we left off in history. Moses and the Israelites wander around in the desert for a while and eventually reach their promised land in Canaan. The Israelites capture the land under the leadership of Joshua. After Joshua, Israel is led by a series of Judges, people who get Israel out of a bind after they have been stupid over and over (and over) again. After that, Israel is brought together under the kingships of Saul, David, and Solomon. David, like Moses, receives plans for a temple from God, and his son, Solomon completes them, the difference being that Solomon’s temple was much more grand and permanent than Moses’s tent. Moving on, after Solomon’s death, the people divide into northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms.

 

God’s people at this point have an ongoing problem. They aren’t following their covenant with God. They prostitute themselves to other gods. Even under dire warnings (Dt 29 and Jer 25, among many others), they continue to make their own way. They aren’t even getting along with each other, hence the divided kingdom. They simply do not get the point, and as a result, God, even while being slow to anger (Exo 34:6), has reached a point where he has to serve justice. And by that, I mean allow Assyrians and Babylonians to come clean house on them.

 

And clean house they do. Israel is pummeled and scattered by the Assyrians. Judah is taken by the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar sieges Jerusalem in about 598 BC and 587 BC, taking the people of Judah into captivity. The second time, the temple of Solomon is destroyed, too. You can find a particularly devastating account of this siege in Jeremiah 52. It’s great bedtime reading for all the kids.

 

What. In. The. World. At this point, it would sure seem like God’s people are done for. They had a pretty good run, but this must be the end.

 

But not all is lost. In Ezekiel 11:16-20, God shows Ezekiel a glimmer of hope, and has him relay the message to the others who are in exile. Even though they are scattered and captive, God is still their sanctuary (or their temple, if you will). He is going to give them back their land, and turn their hearts of stone soft. They’re going to be his people, and he’s going to be their God. Yet, in verses 22 and 23, God shows Ezekiel that his presence is leaving the temple, in the form of a strange cherubim-driven chariot. So God’s not even in his temple anymore, but he’s still with a few of his faithful people who are in exile, sustaining them.

 

Through Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, among others, we see God making some pretty big promises about coming out of exile, a new temple, a messianic king, and a renewed rule (kingdom) of God, for starters. But for the time being, exile is the reality for God’s people.

 

The Persians eventually conquer the Babylonians in 539 BC, and Cyrus the Great allows the Israelites in exile to go home if they want. Only a small portion go back. Maybe now things will get better, back to the good old days. We can get a new king, build the temple again, and God will be with us. We’ll have rest from our enemies.

 

And they do rebuild the temple (see Ezra and Nehemiah about all of this), but it isn’t anything near what it used to be (Hag 2:3), and there is no indication that God’s presence ever fills it like the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple. Something is still not right. God’s people are back to their land, but it doesn’t really feel like home. They are struggling to find their identity again. They’re still not following God’s covenant. Where’s God? What is going on? It’s like the exile never really ended. And perhaps it still hasn’t ended. It has, at best, been replaced by new exiles into new Babylons over the centuries, and that’ll likely be what we continue to see until everything is restored.

 

If this whole thing makes you feel a little bummed, that’s just a taste of the exile feeling. The exile was massively painful for God’s people, and so much of scripture is dedicated to wrestling with the questions and emotions brought up by it. According to many, the narrative of scripture is shaped around it. And exile isn’t just the experience of Israel, it is a reality we share in, as well. While we give Caesar his due, really we are citizens of God’s dimension, heaven (Phil 3:20). So we remain faithful to our God, and hold on to a hope that there is something better just around the corner.

 

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” -Malachi 4:2

 

I hope that verse made you smile as it made me smile. There’s hope and a new day. There is indeed a new temple for the Israelites, with the presence of God, even. But it’s not the kind they’re expecting. More on this tomorrow.

 

-Jay Laurent