Thoroughly Equipped: Pass It Down

Today’s reading in Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25, Luke 7:11-35, Psalm 68:19-35, Proverbs 11:29-31.

Today’s reading highlights the commandments given to the people of God.  The ten commandments are repeated here and Moses makes an interesting distinction.

It was not with our ancestors[a] that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

                                                                        Deuteronomy 5:3

According to some scholars the translation here is more accurately a “not only” with our ancestors was covenant made.  It was also nod to what was stated in Deuteronomy 4:37.

Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power.

We see a truth here that is demonstrated throughout the Old Testament.  The past is connected to the present and the future.  What we invest or squander makes a difference in the future.  A righteous generation benefits a future generation.  If we want things to go well with our children and children’s children, we must make efforts toward developing a faith which can be passed down to the next generation.  As we continue reading in today’s text, we come to a crowning moment of truth in this regard.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[c] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

                                                                                    Deuteronomy 6:4-8

When we realize our responsibility in this passing on the truth to the future generations, it may feel overwhelming and intimidating.  So, how will we do this?  How will we be faithful witnesses when we are still working out our own faith questions?  First, we acknowledge He is Lord:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[c

Next, we love Him.  Not with just a “go to church on Sundays” love, but with all our hearts and souls and strength.  We focus on, absorb, memorize, test and approve His way as the right way. We hide His Word and truth in our hearts.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

This great love is then passed down in the day to day living.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

As our children spend time with us, they should experience the overflow of the love we have for God and see the love He has for us—and for them.  We make it a contagious faith.  But note that the methods of passing down truth to our children involves our close proximity to them.  We talk with them, sit with them, walk with them, live out our faith for them night and day.  And the responsibility is ours.  We tie the symbols on us and bind our foreheads—our thought processes—with God’s truth.  We display the truth in our homes with our words and actions.  When a child is surrounded by a sincere faith which is modeled day in and day out, it will become a contagious faith passed on to the next generation.  The best thing we can do for our children is to develop our relationship with Jesus.  It will make a difference in our lives and the lives of ofuture generations.

Thoroughly Equipped: Be Careful to Remember

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 4:1-49, Luke 6:39-7:10, Psalm 68:1-18, Proverbs 11:28.

We begin today’s reading with Moses reminding the Israelites of truth and reminding them of the consequences of not adhering to the truth.

Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

                                                                                    Deuteronomy 4:1-2

Moses was giving them a truth-filled pep talk before the game begins.  They are about to enter the long-awaited Promise land and he has only 40 days to get them ready.  He is going to teach them the laws and decrees of God.  Surely, they have heard these before.  But it was the first generation of Israelites, the ones who have now died out, who originally received these instructions.  This is the second generation, and Moses needs to make sure they understand.  He sums up his message at the beginning.  He follows the old speech writers’ method:  Tell ‘em what you are going to tell them, then tell it, then tell what you told them.

He begins this oracle with a reason to listen intently:  Follow them so that you may live.  These instructions are words and actions that bring life, not death; blessing, not cursing; pleasure, not pain.  And these commandments should not be added to or subtracted from.  They should not be adjusted to be more pleasing nor tweaked to be easier to follow.  They have been established and they are what they are.

Next, he taps into their experience.  It was this second generation who experienced the plague at Baal Peor.  And what is this he is referring to?  It is the episode when Balaam told Balak how to trip up the Israelites.  “Send in the women,” he said.  It was not just the sexual sin that was the problem.  It was the idolatry.  These sin seduced the men, but also invited and encouraged them to worship their false gods.  And they did.  And it did not go well with them.  All those who participated in this revelry died in the plague.

You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.

                                                                                                Deuteronomy 4:3-4

Moses is speaking to those who did not participate in sin.  They displayed great wisdom in this choice.  Yes, wisdom indeed is to learn from others mistakes so you don’t have to make them, too.  And all of those who held fast to the Lord were listening now.  And he reminds them to continue to hold fast.

23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

                                                                                                Deuteronomy 4:23-24

An interesting comparison is between the first generation and the second generation.  Both generations were guilty of idolatry—the first generation made a golden calf as an idol; the second generation followed after the gods of the Midianites.  They needed to be reminded of some things.  They needed to know of their bent toward idolatry, lest the same mistakes be repeated generation after generation.  And he reminds them once again about the responsibility to remember.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

                                                                                                Deuteronomy 4:9-10

What is the lesson for our practical application?  First, we must remember that we, too, are prone to idolatry.  We can make an idol of anything.  Even good, godly things can become an idol.  Anything we believe in our hearts or acknowledge with our actions as more important than our relationship with God is an idol.  And what is the remedy, the protection for our propensity to make idols?  Remembrance.  Be very careful and watch yourself closely so you don’t forget.  We must remember who He is, what He has done, and what He promises to do.  And then, we pass this faith, this remembrance, down to our children and grandchildren.

Today, ask the Lord to reveal if there is anything that is an idol in our lives.  And then be willing to repent and renounce the idol’s position in your heart.

28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.

                                                                                    Deuteronomy 4:28-31

Praise God for His mercy!

Thoroughly Equipped: Boundary Lines

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29, Luke 6:12-38, Psalm 67:1-7, Proverbs 11:27.

As we continue reading through Moses’ recap of the journey through the wilderness, we see more details which we may have missed in previous books.  As would be the case if we were given an audience to recap our past forty years, we would skip over the majority of the details and find our words in those we feel our audience would most benefit from hearing.  Moses does the same.  He skips over a good portion of 38 years and seems to fast-forward through parts which were significant for his audience, God’s people, to focus on and remember.

One of the accounts which caught my eye was found in Deuteronomy 2.  We see that Moses recounts God’s instructions regarding the boundaries of the land.  As they passed through certain areas, God made it clear that there were some areas that were off limits to the Israelites.  Yes, they were God’s people, but like all good fathers, God was not giving them spoil-inducing free reign of whatever they wanted.  He had plans, boundaries, and good spaces and places especially for them.  But He also had given other groups good spaces and places, and He instructed the Israelites to be respectful and humble.  An attitude of entitlement would not be allowed.  Let’s take a look at three examples.

“Then at last the Lord said to me, ‘You have been wandering around in this hill country long enough; turn to the north. Give these orders to the people: “You will pass through the country belonging to your relatives the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. The Edomites will feel threatened, so be careful. Do not bother them, for I have given them all the hill country around Mount Seir as their property, and I will not give you even one square foot of their land. If you need food to eat or water to drink, pay them for it. For the Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.”’

                                                                               Deuteronomy 2:2-6

“Then as we turned north along the desert route through Moab, the Lord warned us, ‘Do not bother the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, or start a war with them. I have given them Ar as their property, and I will not give you any of their land.’”

                                                                                 Deuteronomy 2:8-9

17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you will cross the border of Moab at Ar 19 and enter the land of the Ammonites, the descendants of Lot. But do not bother them or start a war with them. I have given the land of Ammon to them as their property, and I will not give you any of their land.’”

                                                                                     Deuteronomy 2:17-19

There are simple, practical lessons we can learn in these passages.  First, though we can confidently and truthfully proclaim we are special, called, chosen children of God, that does not mean we should be entitled, arrogant, and selfish.

Secondly, God has good, prosperous plans for us.  Many people claim Jeremiah 29:11-13 as their life verse.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

These are good, hopeful, truthful promises for us.  But they are not for us only.  We are not above those around us.  God’s has an intricate plan for each of us.  And they are good, hopeful, prosperous plans.  They are as unique as each of us are.  And we do not need to borrow or steal the plan of others.  Ours is perfect for us.  We don’t need to look longingly at the plan God has for others.  We simply need to follow His direction for our perfect plan.  This can be tricky when we see others advance before our time, when we see others obtain what we have desired and worked diligently toward.  But we need to keep our eyes on our prize.  We need to keep our eyes forward to our own, personal promise land, remembering He will be faithful to us.  He will not forget us.  His timing is perfect.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

                                                            Psalm 16:5-6

Thoroughly Equipped: The Patience of God

Today’s reading includes Numbers 36:1-Deuteronomy 1:46, Luke 5:29-6:11, Psalm 66:1-20, Proverbs 11:24-26.

Today we wrap up the book of Numbers and begin the book of Deuteronomy.  Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy, and it was a bit of a recap of the journey he and the people had taken over the course of 40 years.  It is really a collection of “sermons” Moses delivered to the people over the course of 40 days.  This was 70 days before they entered the Promise land (Joshua 4:19).  After the 40 days of sermons and recapping the lessons of the years, Moses died.  The people mourned his death for 30 days (Deuteronomy 34:8), and then entered the long-awaited Promise land.  So, the words we read throughout the book of Deuteronomy, were Moses last words.  The last words of a dying man are very important.  The last words are often reminiscing words of memories and wise words of what was learned along the way.

It’s important to note that almost all of the people who had originally left Egypt had died off.  The only ones who were left were Moses, Joshua, and Caleb.  Moses knew he was going to die.  He knew he was not going to be allowed to enter the Promise land because he had disobeyed God by striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock, thus blocking the display of holiness that God had intended for the people to see.  But, his eyes had seen the land and now his lips were ready to speak the final words of preparation.

Joshua and Caleb were the only ones of the original group who would be allowed to enter the Promise land because they were the only ones who stood up and believed God when the spies entered the land 40 years prior.  All the others replaced their faith with fear and caused all of the people to fear the good things God promised.  But finally, the time had come.  The Israelites were about to finally enter the land promised to them so long ago.  This was a new generation.  The old generation was gone and this young generation needed to hear the stories again.  They had not witnessed the parting of the Red Sea.  They had not been there when the ten commandments were received.  They needed to be reminded of the faithfulness of God, the laws of God, and the holiness of God.  And so do we.  And these themes are prevalent throughout the book of Deuteronomy.

In today’s reading, we see another attribute of God—His patience.

Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai[b] to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month,[c] Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.

                                                              Deuteronomy 1:2-3

Normally, it only takes eleven days.  Less than two weeks.  God’s people could have received God’s promises in less than two weeks.  Instead, it took them 40 years.  They wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, learning lessons the hard way.  And what of us?  Are we content to wander?  Are we content to stay on the east side of God’s best for us?  Are we content to put off receiving all the spiritual riches God wants to give us?  Are we continually having to learn lessons the hard way?

As we go forward in our reading of the book of Deuteronomy, let’s remember God’s faithfulness, let’s strive to understand His laws, and let’s respect His holiness and strive to be holy ourselves, trusting in the One who paid the price for us.  And let’s be thankful for His patience with us.

9The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

                                                                                       2 Peter 3:9

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

                                                                                      1 Timothy 1:15-17

Thoroughly Equipped: Our Refuge

Today’s reading includes Numbers 33:40-35:34, Luke 5:12-28, Psalm 65:1-13, Proverbs 11:23.

My focus today is on the cities of refuge, detailed in Numbers 35.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. 12 The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. 13 And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. 14 You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.

In our reading today we learn about the cities of refuge.  Six of the towns given to the Levites were to be known as cities of refuge.  These cities were designated places of safety for those who had accidentally killed someone.  They could run to a city of refuge and escape the whole “eye for eye” repercussions.  They must dwell in the city of refuge if they did not want to be killed by the avengers wanting to take their lives in revenge for the life accidentally taken.  We see in Numbers 35 that there were to be six cities of refuge, three on the east side of the Jordan River, where two of the tribes of Israel had decided to remain, and three on the west side in the land of Canaan.

Another interesting detail of concept of the cities of refuge is that the community was to protect the slayer from the avenger and escort them to the city of refuge.  Equally interesting is that the slayer had to remain there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the sacred oil.  (Numbers 35:25)

After the death of the high priest, the slayer could safely return to his own property, his family, and his life.

The slayer could not return to his life early, even if he had means to pay in retribution.  He could not buy his way out of his accidental sin.  He could only wait for the death of the high priest for this sin to be abolished.  He was at the mercy of the death of the high priest.

Interesting to note was that there were only six cities of refuge.  Six is the number for mankind.  Six is incomplete.  Seven is the holy number for completion and perfection.  So, where is the seventh city?  The one which completes and perfects the concept of the cities of refuge?  The seventh city is not a city at all.  The seventh perfect place of refuge is a Person.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

                                                                                                Psalm 46:1-2

This Old Testament provision of cities of refuge was a foretaste of what was to come.  What had to happen for the slayer, the guilty one, to be released to live his life again?  The high priest had to die.  When Jesus, the greatest High Priest, died on the cross it forever released the guilty ones, thereby releasing them into a permanent place of safety and refuge.  We, the guilty ones, can now resume our lives, and rest securely in the fact that our God is our ever present, eternal refuge.

And once we understand our security in our Refuge, shouldn’t we “escort” others to this same truth?  Find your rest in Jesus, your City of Refuge.  Dwell there in His safety.  And then as a community of believers, let’s join together to escort others to this life-saving truth.