March 4 Numbers 29-32
March 5 Numbers 33-36
March 6 Deuteronomy 1-3
March 7 Deuteronomy 4-7
March 8 Deuteronomy 8-11
March 9 Deuteronomy 12-15
We finished Numbers this week. At the end of the week we read about vows. Maybe you wondered why single or married women’s vows could be canceled by a husband or father, but a man’s were not cancellable. Seems sort of unfair, doesn’t it ladies? And gentlemen -- what a responsibility you had! But when we step back to remember that God made male and female roles, and He made the man as a covering, a leader for us women. So, if a woman was subject to a man’s authority (and a widowed or divorced woman was not), then the man could step in to help a woman who spoke rashly. From our American 21st century perspective it seems sexist, but it’s the way God designed things.
Moving along, the Exodus was recapped, as was God’s reminder that the Israelites were to drive out the inhabitants of the land. He wanted His people to be a separate people and not intermingle with foreigners. He wanted them to remain pure to the ways He had set down. He wanted them to be set apart as His chosen ones. He was fulfilling His promises to them, and He wanted them to fulfill their promises to Him.
See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’ Deut 1:8 (ESV)
God recapped His wonderful promises to the people. He reminded them that He was there for them, but He also showed them that if they disobeyed, there would be consequences.
“When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. Deut 4:25 -31 (ESV)
What precious promises! That’s exactly what did happen to Israel. They were scattered for many years, and within some of our lifetimes, God brought the nation back into existence. He remembers His covenants and His promises. If He can bring 2 million people out of bondage and bring them into a new land hundreds of miles away (without a GPS, map, or the need to ask directions), if He can give them daily food and water, and if He can protect them while they are scattered around the globe – can He help you with your problems today?
Deuteronomy is one of the most-quoted texts in the New Testament. Did you notice the verse that Jesus quotes to when asked about the greatest commandment?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deut 6:5 (ESV)
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. Matt 22:36-38 (ESV)
Why do you think that God spent so much time telling the people to turn away from idols; to turn from the way of the people; to turn only to Him? What temptations do you think the Israelites might have seen that we would see today? How did their society compare to ours?
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy when He was being tempted in the wilderness:
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deut 8:3 (ESV)
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Matt 4:3-4 (ESV)
God reiterates precious promises – and warnings – to His people.
“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. 16 Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; 17 then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you. Deut 11:13-17 (ESV)
As I read this passage I was saddened that the Israelites couldn’t seem to stay in God’s good graces long enough to receive the bounty of His promises. But then I began to think about my own sin-riddled life. I live under His promise as well. How well do I keep the law (we are not under the law in Christ, but the commandments God set forth are the rules He wants us to live by( – starting with that first and greatest commandment? It’s easy to look back with disdain and say that we would have behaved differently. In reality, though, I’m just like them!
Finally, God had a long discussion with the people about temptation. He reminded them that proper worship is where and how God chooses, not where and how we choose. He told the people to stay away from other religions and to refrain from even asking how they worship, lest their curiosity would turn their hearts from Him. He reminds the people that they should only worship Him, even if they experienced peer pressure. Those commands hold even today! You may be tempted to look at this religion – or that ministry – that seems to promise something you don’t see in Christianity. Please stay away! The God Who covenanted with Israel and sent His only begotten Son to die for you so that you can receive the free gift of salvation tells us that looking at any other religion is sin which can lead you into idolatry.
As we read through the Bible, I hope you notice that things haven’t changed all that much since the fall. People kill, rape, lie, cheat, steal, turn from God and create idols. We have been offered a free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ if we choose to turn to him. Friend, if you have not yet received the free gift of God, do it today! Accept the fact that you are a sinner and separated from the God of the universe. Acknowledge that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth, born of a virgin, leading a sinless life, and choosing to walk to Calvary to die. He would have died just for you because He loves you so much. Telll Him that you are sorry for the sins you’ve committed and ask Him to forgive you. He promises that no matter what you have done, He WILL forgive! Once you’ve accepted His free gift of salvation, tell someone! Email me – write the pastor – tell a friend! You’ve been saved from hell! Then go to church and study His Word to learn more about what the Christian walk looks like. You will learn that church members are just like you. We still sin. We still struggle. We still complain and get angry at God. We still hurt. But under all the humanness you see, you’ll see something else, as well. You’ll see us trying to live by the greatest commandment. You’ll see us helping each other instead of cutting each other down. You’ll see grace.
Did anything in particular stand out for you? Do you have insights from this week’s reading that you would be willing to share? I look forward to hearing from you. Please email me with questions or with comments. This is a forum for people to learn more about the Bible, and there is no “dumb” question.
See you next week!