Thursday, July 30, 2015

Deuteronomy 31: Moses, Songwriter

You know him as a Law-Giver.  You've heard him referred to as a Prophet.  But did you know that Mr. "I-drew-him-from-the-water" is also a smashing Songwriter?

Deuteronomy 30: Choose Life!

For several chapters, Moses has been delivering some bleak news to the people.  The Israelites are going to go into the future (and the Promised Land) without him, and they face a stark choice between blessings and curses.  Moses has been doing his best to lay it all out for them impartially and dispassionately.  But now, at the end of his matter-of-fact speech that has included prophecies of cannibalism and national exile, Moses makes his feelings and concerns quite clear: he comes down squarely and decisively on the side of life.

Deuteronomy 29: One Way Or Another

The message of Deuteronomy 29 is that God will make Israel a sign to the nations - one way or another.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Deuteronomy 28: Blessings Or Curses

Deuteronomy 28 is the stuff of dreams...and nightmares.

Deuteronomy 27: Oddly Specific?

Sometimes when you read the Bible, it is striking to hear some of the specific details that made it in!  We know, for instance, that someone in the Corinthian church was in a sexual relationship with his father's wife (I Corinthians 5:1).  We read about the fat of Eglon who, when he was stabbed, covered over the knife (Judges 3:22).  And we learn that Satan and Michael had an argument about Moses' body (Jude 9).  Such details add a lot of color to the Bible and make us wonder about the specifics of what was going on back then.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Deuteronomy 26: The Least Of These

There are many places in Deuteronomy where we notice seeming contrasts between the Covenants.  The God of wrath in the Old Testament becomes the Lord of mercy in the New.  Yet Deuteronomy 26 reminds us that there are also many linking fibers between the two Testaments, not least of which is God's manifest concern for those disenfranchised by society.

Deuteronomy 25: No Hitting Below The Belt!

Deuteronomy 25 continues an exposition on fairness.  You might call this section a tutorial on keeping things clean, or no hitting below the belt!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Deuteronomy 24: Social Justice

If you've ever been in charge of others - such as being a teacher, a pastor, a policeman or a parent - you know how difficult it can be to keep the peace and get people to treat each other fairly.  Deuteronomy 24 contains God's words for various social situations and how to keep things just.

Deuteronomy 23: Life In The Bronze Age

The Bible is the timeless Word of God written to all ages and all peoples; each book also represents a specific word to a specific people at a specific time in history.  As the Israelites wait on the verge of the Promised Land, God has special instructions for them in accordance with their bronze age understanding of such things as hygiene and economics.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Psalm 79: The View From The Ditch

You may have heard that the good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there is nowhere to go but up.  Sometimes, like the case with the Prodigal Son, it takes landing in the gutter to get us to come to our senses and realize that we need to look up.  The view from the ditch is often that of God!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Deuteronomy 22: Responsibility

Many of the laws in Deuteronomy 22 detail the responsibilities of various parties.  Whether you are a neighbor, a hunter, a married person or a homeowner, you incur certain responsibilities with your role.

Deuteronomy 21: Making The Most Of A Bad Situation

One objection that nonChristians sometimes raise to the God of the Bible has to do with His laws that they find offensive.  For instance, Deuteronomy 21 addresses such scenarios as the taking of captive women as spoils of war and that of having multiple wives, one loved and one disliked.  Because the Bible talks about what to do in situations like these, it would be easy to assume that God somehow benignly approves of and endorses this kind of behavior.  But there may be more here than meets the eye!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Deuteronomy 20: God And War

A chapter like Deuteronomy 20 can be difficult to reconcile with our New Testament faith.  What about Jesus' ethics such as, "Love your enemies?"  Why does God not only green light the killing of others, but even commands it in the case of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites?  The wiping out of entire nations smacks of genocide.  What gives?

Deuteronomy 19: Principles Of Justice

In a world without police and prisons, it must have been quite a challenge to maintain order and provide justice.  For instance, without a criminal court system in place, what prevents a person from taking the law o the jungle (revenge and retribution) into their own hands?  Especially in the case of an accidental death such as manslaughter, how can one who may have unintentionally killed another be protected from vengeance?

Deuteronomy 18: A New Prophet?

Deuteronomy 18 contains a message about good religion, bad religion, and a coming religious figure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Deuteronomy 17: Spiritual Safeguards

Moses knows that his time is coming to a close and he will soon be passing from the scene.  In Deuteronomy 17, he attempts to erect procedural safeguards to ensure that the Israelite nation stays strong and spiritually healthy in their relationship with God.

Deuteronomy 16: What Holidays Teach Us

Tradition can be a two-edged sword.  Many younger people dislike tradition because it sometimes feels binding and arbitrary.  When tradition interferes with our plans, it's easy to become resentful.  However, tradition can also serve as an effective cultural teacher.  Some traditions, like the regular practice of holidays, leave a powerful societal memory that is transferred from one generation to the next.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Deuteronomy 15: A Generous God Wants Generous People

The fifteenth chapter of Deuteronomy reveals God's passionate concern for the poor - and includes His command that the Israelites help the poor: "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land'" (vs. 11).

Deuteronomy 14: Distinctives

God wants His people to be set apart, special, distinct from those around them.  Moses says to the Israelites, "You are children of the Lord your God...For you are a people holy to the Lord your God" (vs. 1-2).  Deuteronomy 14 lists several of the ways that Israel is to be different.

Deuteronomy 13: Zero Tolerance

Barry Goldwater once famously said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."  Deuteronomy 13 might be summarized as saying, "Extremism in the rooting out of idolatry is no vice."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Psalm 78: Faithful God, Faithless Israel

If you wanted to summarize the books of Exodus and Numbers, you could do worse than to read through Psalm 78!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Deuteronomy 12: The Singularity

Something that may surprise Christians about the Old Testament Law is its emphasis on there being only ONE appropriate place to offer sacrifices and offerings to God.  Especially in Protestantism, we are familiar with many congregations and church buildings in which it is possible to serve God and present gifts.  In Judaism, however, there is only one acceptable location - "the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes as his habitation to put his name there" (vs. 4).  To offer a burnt offering or sacrifice "just anywhere" or at one of the "high places" was a serious sin.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Deuteronomy 11: The Carrot And The Stick

There are two paths laid before Israel, and the choice is a stark one: "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known" (vs. 26-28).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Deuteronomy 10: Why Is It So Hard To Obey?

Have you ever realized just what a predicament our stubborn inclination to sin continually lands us in?  It's not enough that death entered the world through an initial act of rebellion that ushered in the Fall.  That was just the first in a long, virtually unbroken line of disobedience of God's laws.  And we know that sin always leads to great misery and dismay in the world.  Why, then, do we keep on sinning?  Why is it so hard to obey?  I'm not sure of the answer to this question, but I do know that obedience is highly valued by God.

Deuteronomy 9: "It's Not You, It's Me"

As Moses continues to recite the history lessons of the past 40 years, he is intent on driving home a message: It is not due to the Israelites' righteousness or holiness that God has favored them, it is because God honors His covenant and keeps His promises.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Deuteronomy 8: The Curse Of Blessing!

"It's a blessing...and a curse," as Adrian Monk used to say on Monk.  Something similar could be said of God's warning about blessings in Deuteronomy 8 - that they could actually become a curse for the people!

Deuteronomy 7: Why Destroy?

In Deuteronomy 7, the Lord again calls for the utter destruction of Israel's enemies.  His people are commanded to thoroughly wipe out the other nations living in the Promised Land and leave no trace.  Why?  Does God just really hate non-Jews?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Deuteronomy 6: Absorbing, Integrating, Transmitting

Deuteronomy 6 (a very famous chapter of scripture) focuses on the importance of absorbing the faith into our hearts and integrating it into our lives so that it may be transmitted to the next generation.

Deuteronomy 5: Jealous God?

Occasionally you will encounter non-Christians (and even some Christians) who express misgivings about the nature of the God of the Bible.  "What kind of repugnant character is this?" they ask.  "He freely admits that He is a jealous God, and that He punishes children for the sins of their parents!  How is that fair?  How is that good?"  As always, I believe an honest question deserves an honest answer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Deuteronomy 4: The Israel Project

We have been seeing in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, sometimes also called the Torah) how the Jews are a people of destiny.  God ordained that they were to be chosen for a special mission, a purpose that would extend to the whole world.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Psalm 77: Why We Study The Bible

"I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds" (vs. 11-12).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Deuteronomy 3: The View From Pisgah

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
Moses?  No, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Deuteronomy 2: Am I Right About The Amorites?

As Moses continues to recount the travels and travails of Israel in Deuteronomy 2, he mentions their encounters with other nations and people-groups along the way.

Deuteronomy 1: Recapitulation

The word "Deuteronomy" literally means "the second law."  It is a repetition of the law that was previously given in the prior books, stated again for the Israelites now about to finally go in and take possession of the Promised Land.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Numbers 36: Kissing Cousins

Well, the Bible may occasionally surprise us.  Such is the case with Numbers 36 where the answer to a nettlesome real estate problem is found by commanding women to marry their cousins!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Numbers 35: Special Cities

Included within the borders of Israel are to be 48 special cities, designated as possessions for the Levites, who are a tribe without a land inheritance.

Numbers 34: Borders

Numbers 34 anticipates the day when the Israelites will enter into their inheritance of the Promised Land.  The boundaries of their possession have been set by God.  He speaks, through Moses, and tells the people where their southern, northern, eastern and western borders will be set.  Also, representatives from each tribe are designated for the allotment that will occur for each group under Eleazar and Joshua.  The pieces are in place - now the baton is being handed off to the next generation who will go in and claim their land.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Psalm 76: God's Home

Psalm 76 is an expression of praise to the Lord - all the while noting that God has chosen to dwell among Israel.  We hear these specific geographic references to God in this psalm: "In Judah" (vs. 1), "in Israel" (vs. 1), "in Salem" [Jerusalem] (vs. 2), "in Zion" (vs. 2), and "of Jacob" (vs. 6).  Again and again, the psalmist drives home the point that the Jews enjoy a special relationship with the God of the universe - a fact that other kings and nobles ought to keep in mind!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Numbers 33: A Look Back And A Look Ahead

Here's a trivia question for you: How long did Moses lead the Israelites in the wilderness?  The answer is about six months.  The remainder of the time he was just as lost as the rest of them!

Numbers 32: Compromise

Some people think that compromise is great; others think that it is virtually a dirty word!  While I never endorse moral compromise, strategic compromise can be wise.  Moses discovered this in Numbers 32.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Numbers 31: Ethnic Cleansing

Numbers 31 is only one among several disturbing accounts of genocide (euphemistically "ethnic cleansing") that we will encounter in the Bible.  God commands Moses to unleash the armies of Israel upon the nation of Midian - and wipe them out completely.

Numbers 30: The Head Of The House

Numbers 30 describes what happens when a person utters a vow to the Lord: in general, he or she must keep it.  This is true for men, divorced women, and widowed women.  There is, however, a "safety net" provision in the case of daughters/wives who make a vow that their fathers/husbands disagree with.

Numbers 29: Countdown!

Numbers 29 concludes the instructions given to the people concerning daily offerings and occasional special sacrifices at the Tabernacle.  Of particular note is the eight day celebration during the Festival of the Booths.  One can't help but notice the countdown implicit in the scheduled offerings prescribed for each day of the festival:

Numbers 28: Guidelines For Giving

How do I know what to give?  As a pastor, I have heard this question asked many times.  Sometimes it comes from a sincere heart, searching to know an appropriate amount to give to the Lord.  At other times, however, the question is more cynical, carrying a mercenary motive, looking for the most affordable gift possible.