Thoroughly Equipped: Free Indeed

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20, Luke 11:37-12:7, Psalm 78:1-31, Proverbs 12:19-20

Though we have moved on to Deuteronomy 29, my thoughts are still back in chapter 28. Yesterday we talked of the blessings of obedience to the Lord.  What joy we experience, what fulfillment is ours when we walk in obedience.  Of course, we do not always walk in obedience. We do not always choose God and His way.  What are we to do?  We are to remember that Jesus is the bridge between a holy God and an unholy people.  We walk that bridge of faith, walk boldly upon the scarred back of the One who took our curse.  Then we are redeemed.  Then we are blessed.  And how sweet those blessings are!

21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses[a] and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

                                                                                     Romans 3:21-23

But what if we choose a different path?

What if we are indifferent to the ways of the Lord?

What is our lot in that case?

Today’s reading shows us a sobering truth, a great warning, and a sad description.  It culminates in the following passage.

64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.

                                                                                                Deuteronomy 28: 64-68

The consequences of disobedience are revealed in many ways.  But what caught my attention is this: “an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.  You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread…never sure of your life.”

What a sad description!  And yet, I have experienced those feelings at times in my life.  Have you?  Thankfully, it did not last long, but I know of dear ones who live in that place of suspense and anxiety and fear.  And what occurred to me is that we do not have to stay there.  If Jesus has taken the curse, we do not have to live in that space of anxiety and despair and uncertainty.  And yet, many of us still do.  We have offered ourselves into slavery again, experiencing a journey God does not intend for us, the Redeemed.  This is not our inheritance, this is a lie from the enemy of our souls.  Satan knows we are redeemed.  He knows we are set free from the curse of sin, from the inability to obey.  He just works very hard to make sure we don’t know it ourselves.  If he can keep us believing that this is our lot in life, he can keep us focusing on our fear, focusing on ourselves.  And though he cannot keep us from ultimate salvation, he will try to keep us stumbling along, without the energy to bring others along with us.  Dear friends, Jesus paid the price for you.  Will you trust Him to redeem you?  Will you trust Him to make your path straight? Will you trust Him with your anxiety, despair, and uncertainty?  He is waiting for you.

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

                                                            John 8:36

Thoroughly Equipped: The Bridge to Blessing

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 28:1-68, Luke 11:14-36, Psalm 77:1-20, Proverbs 12:18.

In today’s reading we see the continuation of the proclamations of blessings and curses between the two groups of God’s people from one mountain to the other.  As we discussed yesterday, 6 tribes, descendants of the “free” women were on Mount Gerizim shouting the “freedom” of obedience.  Six tribes from the “slave” women (including the first and last sons of Leah) shouted the “slavery” of disobedience.  And the priests were in the middle declaring curses of disobedience, which all the people agreed to with a resounding “Amen”.  We realized yesterday that Jesus, the greatest High Priest, was the bridge between the mountain of curses and the mountain of blessings.

Today’s reading reiterates the truth that there is blessing in obedience.  We can’t achieve this on our own.  We can’t be righteous enough to receive all the blessings of obedience, but that does not mean we are without hope.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

                                                          Ephesians 2:8

But just as a gift offered, must be received, we must stretch out empty, open hands to the One who took our curse.  He then will place in our hands the tremendous gift of His righteousness so that we may receive the ability to walk the Bridge from the mountain of curses to the mountain of blessing. Then we are ready to stand in His righteousness, ready to receive His blessings.  Today’s reading describes those blessings.  Read it again, out loud if possible.

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:

Your towns and your fields
    will be blessed.
Your children and your crops
    will be blessed.
The offspring of your herds and flocks
    will be blessed.
Your fruit baskets and breadboards
    will be blessed.
Wherever you go and whatever you do,
    you will be blessed.

“The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven!

“The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

“If you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways, the Lord will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do. 10 Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you.

11 “The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops.12 The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them. 13 If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. 14 You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.

                                                                                    Deuteronomy 28:1-14

What beautiful words!  What beautiful promises!  But with a word of caution, I must say that just as we are given the ability to receive such promises, we are also given the ability to have the gift of faith and trust in receiving the promises which He deems appropriate and generous for us.  His blessings will not always look like the world’s definition of blessing.  His are much better, much deeper.  But they may not look like what we expect them to look like.  That is where faith and trust come in.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight. 

                                                                       Proverbs 3:5-6

This Old Testament concept of blessings and curses has not been voided.  It has simply been redeemed.  Jesus took our curse, so that we may receive His blessings.  Praise Him this day for this marvelous truth!

Thoroughly Equipped: Blessings and Curses

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 26:1-27:26, Luke 10:38-11:13, Psalm 76:1-12, Proverbs 12:15-17.

In our reading today, we come across a seemingly strange activity God’s people were called to do after the crossed the Jordan into the Promise land.  They were to divide the whole of the people into two groups.  The tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin were to stand on Mount Gerizim and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulum, Dan, and Naphtali were to stand on Mount Ebal.  Six on one mountain, six on the other, facing each other.  The first group were to loudly proclaim a blessing over the people and the other group were to proclaim a curse.  The tribes on the side of blessing were from the birth children of the free women, Rachel and Leah.  The other six who proclaimed the curses were from their concubines, sons of Zilpah and Bilhah, as well as Zebulun, the youngest of Leah’s sons, and Reuben, the oldest.

The idea was that the blessings of following God and His instructions would be shouted and echoed across the Promise land in declaration that this was their belief and it was right.

In the same way, the curses were to be shouted across the land.  These curses were related to the consequences of disobedience to God and His instructions and would only be seen if the people did not follow and obey God.

The priests stood in the valley between the two and shouted more curses (or declaration of consequences) of what would happen if the people disobeyed God.  To these curses, all the people would shout Amen, which means “so be it” or “I agree” or “it is true”.

The fact that the priests shouted curses and consequences was in contrast to what the Lord had told them to do on a daily basis, and that was to proclaim blessing on the people, as we read in Numbers 6.

2The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

                                                            Numbers 6:22-26

So, why was this important for them to do, just after they entered the Promise land?  First of all, it was a way to take back the land.  As they first entered the land, it was still occupied by groups who did not follow God or His ways.  They were declaring that things were about to change.  It was also a declaration that God’s people were not to fall into the patterns of the people around them.  And as the blessings and curses were declared between the two mountains, and their agreement with them, the truth of it echoed across the land.

This time of shouting from one mountain top to the other was also symbolic of what was to come.  Where were the priests?  They were in the middle between the blessing and cursing.  Who is the greatest High Priest?  Jesus of course.  As the people shouted the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience, and their agreement of these truths, surely they were also prophetically acknowledging that only through Jesus, the High Priest, could the curse of sin cross over to the blessing of salvation. Only, Jesus, the bridge between a sinful people to a holy God could connect the two and bridge the gap between the mountain of curses to the mountain of blessing.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”[d] 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[e] through faith.

                                                                                    Galatians 3:10-14

Thoroughly Equipped: Don’t Mess With It

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20, Luke 9:28-50, Psalm 73:1-28, Proverbs 12:10.

In today’s reading we find a passage that may seem innocuous to us, but it is one we should pay attention to, nonetheless.  Here is what I am thinking about:

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. 10 For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering.[a] And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft,11 or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the Lord your God will drive them out ahead of you. 13 But you must be blameless before the Lord your God.14 The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the Lord your God forbids you to do such things.”

Of course, none of us would consider offering our children as a burnt offering.  But what about the second part of this passage? It may feel innocent to read your horoscope or phone a psychic hotline just for the fun of it.  Or what about those slumber party games as a child?  Or what about all the children’s programs and games that have an innocent-looking witch casting spells?

First, let me say:  Take these things to Lord and ask Him what of those are dishonoring to Him.  Are they really so innocent if God forbids His people to do them?  And why would He forbid them?  Because the source of the inquiry is not of the Lord.  And if it’s not of the Lord, I really don’t want another spirit-being’s opinion.  Yes, there is a spiritual realm, and no, it is not always beautiful or holy.

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[e] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[f] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

                                                                                    Ephesians 6:10-17

Recently, I asked one of my older kids what they learned growing up in our home.  One of the first responses was, “I learned that evil is real and you don’t need to mess with it.”  I believe that is good advice.

Thoroughly Equipped: He Is Our King

Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20, Luke 9:7-27, Psalm 72: 1-20, Proverbs 12:8-9.

Today’s passage refers to the guidelines for a king.  At this time, Israel had no king.  Moses was the leader and spokesperson, but not their king.  In fact, God Himself served as their King.  And He still is today for us—King of all kings.

But God knew their hearts.  He knew they would look around them and want what the other nations had.  In fact, many scholars believe these were prophet words.  At the least, they were warnings of what very likely could happen if they did not guard their hearts.  Let’s look at the details.

First, he said, “When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’

And that is exactly what happened.  In 1 Samuel 8 we see these prophetic words come true.

Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

6Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. 7“Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

19But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20“We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

Even though the Lord gave them what they wanted, the people didn’t really need one.  They had a King already.  This is what set them apart and made them unique and special.   But they didn’t want that.  They wanted to look and act like everyone else.  They wanted an earthly king.  And the very things that He warned about came to fruition.

16 “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ 17 The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.

As we continue reading through the scriptures, we see that the very things He warned about became a stumbling block to even the most anointed kings.  David, the man after God’s own heart, had a season of sin, due to the fact his heart was turned toward another wife.  David was humble enough to acknowledge his sin and repent.  And Solomon, too, was a wise and godly king—until he later took many wives and accumulated large amounts of wealth for himself.

In Solomon’s old age, they (his many wives) turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the LORD his God

                                                            1 Kings 11:4

But at the end of this passage God provided a way out for them.

18 “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees.20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.

God’s Word will keep us humble.  His Word will keep us close to the path of righteousness.  His Word will be a measure of protection for our future generations.  We, just like the kings of Israel, would do well to daily read God’s Word as long as we live.  And remember, we have a King already.