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Category: Deuteronomy

Blessings of Obedience

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
Deuteronomy 30:15-16

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Matthew 7:24-27

I always enjoy the fact that my reading plan puts me in both the Old and New Testaments each day. I especially enjoy it when the readings seem to reinforce the same ideas. Today the theme was how obedience to God leads to blessing.

In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told that they will be blessed in the promised land if they obey the commandments of the Lord. In Matthew, Jesus tells His listeners that the wise obey the commands of God and in turn, are set on a solid foundation.

Moses gave the Israelites a picture of what it meant to obey the commandments of God. It meant to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and rules. I think the key thing here is that it all starts with love. The active obedience of walking in His ways and keeping His commandments and rules are simply demonstrations of love for God. This is in line with John 14:15 when Jesus said, ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obedience is a (super)natural response to God’s love for us and a demonstration of our love for Him.

My big idea: if you want to more faithfully obey the Lord, don’t try harder to behave well. Instead, humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and fall more and more in love with Him. Do this by coming to a better understanding of just how much He loves you.

In Matthew, we learn that just knowing or simply agreeing with Jesus’ words are not enough. Jesus tells us that “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock”. If we desire to be like that wise man we are to “do” the words of Jesus. So, what does it mean to “do” Jesus’ words? It means to act on them. It means to listen, hear, believe and respond to the words of Jesus.

My big idea: if you want to be like the wise builder who does Jesus’ words and establishes himself on a firm foundation, don’t exert more effort in trying to make the sand under your feet feel more firm. Instead, spend more time getting into the word of God that the word of God might get into you. Allow your heart and mind to be transformed by the living word of God that you might walk by faith and allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to step out in obedience.

Both Moses and Jesus made it clear that there is a choice to be made. Life or death. Good or evil. Wise or unwise. Rock or sand.

My prayer is that, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, I am continually filled with a willingness, desire and strength to obey the Lord – regardless of the temporary costs or consequences. I pray that my obedience would be motivated by love and not fear. I pray that I will always be grateful for the fact that God loved me first, despite my disobedience. I pray that my life will always be built upon Christ the solid rock and foundation of truth. For His glory and my joy.

Resting in response to the law

Last night I attended a men’s Bible study as I do every Wednesday night. We were studying and discussing Deuteronomy 28 which details a list of blessings and curses. Blessings associated to the Israelites obedience to the commandments of the Lord and curses associated to disobedience. One of the guys, after acknowledging he understood that what we were studying was written at a particular time and to a particular people in a specific context, wondered what the application of Deuteronomy 28 was for us. How did it apply to our own lives today and what were we supposed to do in response to what we had just read. It’s a good question really. We should always consider how we are to respond to the revelation of God. As we read His word and learn more about Him and His character, we should respond to what we have learned. But how on earth are we to respond to a section of scripture that details the blessings and curses of an agreement that God made with His chosen people before they entered the Promised Land of Canaan?

Although I haven’t given it too much thought or careful study yet, the thing that came to mind this morning as I waited on my train is that the application for us is to simply rest. We are to rest in the fact that Deuteronomy 28 is the inspired word of God. We are to rest in the fact that God reveals Himself as equally righteous and just as well as faithful and merciful. We are to rest in knowing that the law that was given to the Israelites – the law that we also were unable to keep – was fulfilled and perfected in the life, work and person of Jesus Christ. We are to rest in appreciation that the law was useful in revealing to us our sinfulness and need for a savior. We are to rest with thanksgiving that we have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and no longer stand condemned before a holy God.

Deuteronomy 28 was written during the 40th year of the Israelites wandering in the desert. Their wandering was due to their disobedience. Their wandering was because they did not trust the Lord. Their wandering kept them from enjoying the Sabbath rest that God had promised to them. Let us not miss out on the rest that is available to us as we trust and hope in what the Lord has done and what He has promised to do. He is faithful. He is worthy.

Have you been circumcised?

In Deuteronomy 29-30:10, Moses has gathered all the people together in the land of Moab to renew the covenant that he first communicated to them at Horeb. In a nutshell, in light of all that the people have witnessed – God’s faithfulness and provision for them, even during their 40-years of wandering in the wilderness – they are to obey the laws that He has given to them and when they do, they will experience blessing. Of course, it’s also acknowledged that Israel is unlikely to respond appropriately because of some issues with their collective heart, eyes, and ears. There is an expectation that the people will turn from God and worship idols. But there is also an expectation that a loving, patient and faithful God will draw the people back to Himself and when they repent and turn from their evil ways, He will be waiting to receive them and forgive them.

And then we see this promise:

“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:6

It seems that no matter where I happen to be reading in God’s word – Old Testament, New Testament, Pentateuch and History, or Gospels and Epistles – I keep running into the same thing; grace. Not only that God would forgive His people but also that He would circumcise their hearts so that they might be equipped to love Him with all their heart and with all their soul. And when they are able to love Him with all their heart and soul, they will be able to obey Him.

I am reminded that when Samuel was sent to anoint David he was told that man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. God knows something about our hearts. And He knows that we are unable to please Him unless our hearts are united and wholly committed to Him. He also knows that we are unable to change our own hearts. And so, in His grace, He changes them for us. Here, He promised to circumcise the hearts of the Israelites – to remove the selfish stubbornness that kept them from properly loving their God.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” Deuteronomy 10:16

Being a follower of Jesus goes beyond the external. Showing up at church on Sundays, wearing a WWJD bracelet, having a Jesus fish bumper sticker on your car, and listening to Spirit 105.3 isn’t enough. While there was some value in the physical circumcision associated to the Abrahamic covenant, it wasn’t enough. God desires that our hearts would be circumcised. But how do I make sure my heart is circumcised? What can I do? Again, only God can change your heart but practically speaking, here’s a few things you might try:

  • Allow the light of God to expose the inner darkness of your heart.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin and to reveal anything in your heart that might quench the Holy Spirit.
  • Acknowledge sin, repent, and seek forgiveness.
  • Expose yourself to regular fellowship with God’s people.
  • Spend time every day reading His word, allowing it to cut between soul and spirit, joint and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitude of your heart.
  • Invite God to create in you a new, clean heart.
  • Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit.
  • Thank God that, by His grace, He has given you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a desire have your heart circumcised.

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

Let them hear

On the heels of yesterday’s reading in the book of Jonah, I see yet another reminder today as I read in Deuteronomy 4 that the delivery and receipt of God’s word is a demonstration of His grace. As Moses spends the bulk of chapter 4 commanding the people of Israel to obey all of the Lord’s statutes, I see God say this in verse 10:

Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.” Deuteronomy 4:10

Despite a history of disobedience, grumbling, and turning away from Him, God is patient, kind and compassionate enough to still draw His people to Himself. Here he commands Moses to gather the people to Him. All throughout the Bible, we see evidence of God pursuing His people (even while His people are in sin) and this is no exception. Here, He pursues His people so that they might hear His words. And they will hear His words not because there is anything “special” about them. They will not hear His words because they are especially attentive, or gifted, or because they are trained and educated in theology. No, they will hear His words because He will “let them hear” His words. God is gracious toward an ungracious, ungrateful, and undeserving people and He is no less gracious toward us today.

How could I ever take for granted that I have a Bible to read? God, in his grace, has allowed me to be gathered to Him that I might hear His words. How could I ever not avail myself of that opportunity? How could I dare to disregard or decline that invitation? I have the privilege of being able to commune with the Lord of all creation. I have the luxury of being taught, instructed, rebuked, corrected, and trained in righteousness by the King of the universe.

What excuse could I possibly have for not spending regular time in the Word of God? It’s my hope that I would never take for granted that, just as the Israelites were gathered near so that God might let them hear His words, God has given His word that I might learn to fear Him all of my days and that I might teach my children so as well.

That they may hear

After many years of being faithful to the Lord’s calling on his life, it is time for Moses to execute his succession plan. It’s been clear for a while now that he would not be the one to lead the people into the promised land. And, as the day of his last day on earth draws near, it is time for Moses to commission Joshua to take his place. After publicly acknowledging Joshua as the new God-ordained leader, Moses proceeds to write the law and command and charge the priests with the task of publicly reading the law in the hearing of all of Israel – men, women, children, and sojourners. Here’s what Moses said in Deuteronomy 31:

Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
(Deuteronomy 31:12-13 ESV)

This wasn’t just a hollow command that was more about putting the pageantry of the priesthood on display. This wasn’t just an opportunity for the priests to have the spotlight put on them or a chance to be recognized and appreciated for their oratorical skills. Like most things in the Bible, this was a command aimed at glorifying God and benefiting His people. Moses wanted the priests to publicly read the law before all of Israel so that:

  • They may hear – one might argue that this is a means to an end but it’s an important variable that should not be taken for granted. I have had the opportunity over the years to attend quite a few different churches as a visitor and I am sorry to say that more often than not, I left their Sunday service having never heard the word of God. Romans 10:17 tells us that, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” How can we expect unbelievers to come to faith unless they hear the proclaimed word of Christ and how can we expect believers to be established and strengthened in their faith unless…
  • They learn to fear the Lord – the Bible instructs us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the hatred of evil, that it prolongs life, it gives believers confidence, it’s a fountain of life, it’s instruction in wisdom, and it leads to life. Learning to fear the Lord means that His people understand who God is – His holiness, His character, etc… In light of that understanding, a deep reverence for Him and His name is developed in the life of a believer.
  • They are careful to do all the words of the law – in other words, the reverence that was established by learning to fear the Lord now manifests itself in full submission and obedience to the Lord as enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Future generations may know Him – Moses knew that by allowing all of Israel (not just the men) to hear the reading of the law on a regular basis, their children that had not previously know it, might hear it and learn to fear the Lord.

Although Moses’ command was to a particular people, at a particular point in time, there is wisdom in it that may be applied today. The regular reading and hearing of God’s word yields the same benefits as it did for the Israelites prior to their entry into the Promised land. Today, we even have the added benefit of accessing God’s word on this side of the point in history when the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. We have the opportunity to read and hear God’s word as illuminated by the Holy Spirit. How glorious for us. I pray that I would never take God’s word for granted.

I encourage you to make it a regular practice to read and hear God’s word. But not only as an individual during your private time of reading the Bible. Make it a point to join in with a body of like-minded believers and participate in corporate worship as a member of a local church. And not just any church. Make it a church that regularly reads and teaches from God’s word that the people in it’s hearing might hear and learn to fear the Lord.

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