Thursday, 6 March 2014

(66) March 7: Deuteronomy 1-2 & Mark 11:1-19

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the lessons from each stage of Israel’s journey.

To ponder:
We begin where we left off, east of the Jordan. Deuteronomy comprises speeches Moses gave to preach God’s law, exhorting Israel to obey in the land (1v1-4). Likewise, we need preachers to “always remind” us of God’s great acts and will, so that we don’t go astray (2 Pet 1v12).
Moses begins recounting Israel’s journey. God ordered the people to leave Horeb (around Mount Sinai) to take the land, assuring them he had given it to them in fulfilment of his promise (1v7, see Gen 18v18-21). Desiring that God continue to bless the people with increase, Moses realised the need of help in administering God’s law. So he chose some “wise” men to share his “burden.” They were given authority over 1000s, 100s, 50s and 10s, and to “judge” disputes fairly and impartially, even between Israelites and aliens. But harder cases were to be brought to Moses. Once, more this looks us to governance within the church.
On reaching Kadesh Barnea, Moses urged the people to take possession of the land, stressing it was already theirs and calling them to faith: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” However, they asked that spies be sent out first. These returned with fruit, a report that the land was “good,” but also that its people were large. So the Israelites lost heart and grumbled. Despite Moses encouragement that they need not fear because God would “fight for” them, they did not “trust in the LORD their God,” who had already proved himself by leading them in the pillar of fire and cloud. In anger, God therefore “swore” that all adults, except for Caleb (and Joshua) would die in the desert. This included Moses, perhaps for being pushed by Israel to send the spies (1v23, 37), or to act without glorifying God (Num 20v21). Too late, Israel arrogantly decided they would then enter and fight the Amorites after all. But as God was not with them, they were defeated. We should not doubt God ability to fulfil his promises, no matter how unlikely this may humanely seem.
The people then wandered in the desert for forty years, whilst God “blessed” and “watched over” them, so that they didn’t lack anything (2v7). Throughout, they were kept from hostilities with the descendents of Esau and Lot, being told they would not have their land. This displayed the depths of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and Isaac in protecting and providing for their other relatives, not just the chosen line. But it also urged Israel to faith, as God enabled Esau and Lot’s descendents to possess the land of other nations. In this way Jesus’ parables often outline how everyday people act, before rebuking us with the phrase “how much more” then, God’s people should do likewise.
Finally, Israel’s battle with the Amorites began to fulfil Abraham’s dream (Gen 15v16), the possession of the land (Num 2v31), and God’s purpose of putting fear into “all the nations under heaven,” no doubt so that they were reluctant to attack Israel. Sihon, the Amorite King was given the chance to let Israel pass peacefully, but refused because “the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate.” So God ensured his judgement would come against the Amorites through Israel. Because this was judgement, he “delivered” them to Israel, and Sihon, his army, “all his towns” and even “men, women and children” were killed, with “no survivors.” Nevertheless, the livestock and plunder were carried off. Israel therefore defeated the very people that previously defeated them (1v44). This is the first of the coming instances where peoples are completely wiped out, foreshadowing Christ’s return in judgement.

Praying it home:
Thank God for providing us with every spiritual blessing we need to be sustained in faith until we reach our inheritance. Pray that church ministers would be faithful to their calling to preach God’s word and govern his people.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Deuteronomy, click here. To see a map outlining Israel’s desert wanderings, click here.

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