Ok, I confess, part of this should have been done yesterday. Frankly, there weren't enough hours in the day yesterday to get it done.....well, I could have stayed up into the wee hours, but I was tired. Boo hoo! Two great sabbath day services, lunch with Mike and his family, a great visit with Joy Brown about her upcoming surgery and 8 hours with two great young men (Jordan Snyder and James Strickler) at the Winter Jam. The concert was awesome, 10 bands for $10. Sprint arena was sold out and filled with youth who were also sold out (for Jesus). It was a great night, but I didn't get home to nearly 11 p.m. Ok, now you have heard my excuses. Here are my ramblings for this section of Deuteronomy.
Much of what we are reading here is a restatement of God's instructions to Israel through Moses before they enter the Promised Land. There are some new things and some of the reinforcement would be good for us to remember.
In Chapter 13 we are reminded to keep our worship pure. I am always jealous of the pulpit. I do not like to give it up when I am available. I have been appointed to this place and God has called me to speak a word to those who come to be encouraged. I do not want the pulpit to become a place where we can make announcements and become a public service organization. the Church is the place created by God for the building up of the saints and for sending of disciples into the world in the name of God. Worship must always be aimed at God and be about God. When we have special Sundays (Boy Scout, Girl Scout, 4 H, etc.), these must not be a glorification of those organizations, these Sundays should be used to glorify God and encourage the good works of those organizations. This is God's House!!
Chapter 14 is about giving all of your life to God. We cannot segment our lives and say that this part belongs to my family, this part belongs to my employer, this part is for play, this part is for God. God wants fully devoted followers.....he wants us 24/7/365. Many of the prohibitions in this chapter (tatoos, marking) are about not allowing the world and our surroundings to pollute our witness. We are God's children, his special treasure and he wants the world to see him through us. We cannot allow our witness to be watered down by adopting the pagan customs of the world. If Jesus comes back this moment, will the thing that you are doing please him? will the world see your witness in the things you read, listen to, watch, how you compete and earn a living? Important things to think about if you want to be fully devoted to God.
Chapter 14 also speaks of the tithe as part of our responsibility. Interesting note in the reading that part of the tithe is to be consumed before the Priest in a family celebration and meal. Could this be the beginning of our fellowship dinner tradition?
chapter 15 has one of God's favorite topic as its primary subject....the poor. I think this is the first mention of God telling us that the poor will always be among us and we are never to take them for granted or to harden our hearts to them. It is almost as though God intends the poor to be a test for those who love him......will you love the least as an expression of your love for me?
The illustration of the Bond servant is stated again.....one who freely gives themselves into a lifetime of servitude. Paul uses the idea of the bond servant to illustrate his relationship to Christ....Paul says, "I am a bond servant to Jesus (see Galatians)" meaning that he has freely given himself to forever to the will of God in Christ Jesus. This is the life that God calls us to as well....to give up our own ambitions to serve the purposes of God. the reward for this life of service is the peace that passes all understanding and an eternity of blessing.
Chapter 16 reminds us of the importance of Justice. God expects us to work for justice and to establish systems that protect justice for all. I suspect God is not pleased by how we have politicized justice and the wealthy have greater access to it than the poor. Or what do you suppose he thinks about our court system where Republicans and Democrats fight to get their judges appointed who will rule favorably on their causes. How is that about justice? We may have a lot to account for one day when we are face to face with the final Judge and he asks us how we worked for justice in the world that he trusted to us.
Chapter 17 is more detail about courts and justice. Appoint judges to sit at the gates and decide disagreements among the people. but it also calls for higher courts for more difficult cases. Those that cannot be decided by the appointed judges are to be taken to a higher court where Priests and Levites would decide. Multiple witnesses are required to convict.....not a single witness. God takes this justice thing seriously. Even though God desires to always be king of our hearts and for us to turn to him for wisdom, he is Omniscient (all-knowing) and knows of our weakness and failure before we do and so 100's of years before Israel asks for a king, he tells them how to select one.
Chapter 19 is the continuing warning to Israel to not imitate the practices of the people that currently occupy the land that God is giving them. He has particular warnings against witches, soothsayers(folks who make predictions based upon the stars), sorcerers, mediums and the like. All of these are based upon a wisdom that is outside of God and is an abomination to God. God calls on Israel to eradicate all of this evil. These people (Amorited, Hittites and the like) are a great danger to Israel because they will introduce them to false teachings. Again, God knows our weakness and our failing before we do and he says to avoid it because we will fall. it smells good, looks good, tastes good and flatters us; but it is sin and sin always takes you places that you did not mean to go, keeps you longer than you ever meant to stay and costs more than you will ever be able to pay. Avoid the temptation!
God also answers the question....how will I know if a prophet is truly a prophet? Do the things he predicts happen? If not, no that he is a false prophet! The world and the church has many false prophets. There purpose is to bring glory to themselves and not to God. There are true prophets which God has raised up for a time and a purpose. They are humble and not self-serving. None of what they speak will contradict God's purpose as portrayed in his scriptures. Be careful about following the words of mean.....measure them against what you know about God.
Chapter 19 speaks to us again about the cities of refuge and insuring that sanctuary is within reach of all who inhabit Israel including aliens and travelers. This chapter again speaks of justice as an eye for an eye. We should remember that this was about restoring, wherever possible. If something is taken, it must be returned. An eye for an eye was also a limitation. Often when someone is wronged; revenge is sought and in enacting revenge more damage is done in retaliation that was experienced in the first incident. An eye for an eye was to insure that restoration did not include additional penalties. Also and eye for an eye is best thought of in terms of material damage.....it does not work nor was it intended for relational misunderstandings. When two persons are engaged in verbally abusing each other.....forgiveness is the best course of action.....that is to forgive and to forget.
Finally, chapter 20 is about warfare when God calls us to the battle. The bottom line.....if God is for us, who can be against us. Fear not!!
Talk to you tomorrow. Happy Reading!