Friday, 7 March 2014

(67) March 8: Deuteronomy 3-4 & Mark 11:20-33

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


To discover:­­
As you read note why obedience is so important.

To ponder:
Moses continues to recount Israel’s wanderings. Like Heshbon, the people of Bashan were also “completely destroyed.” The two lands were then given to the tribes who would remain east of the Jordan, and who must fulfil their commitment (3v18-20). Moses stressed God told him not to be afraid because he had already “handed” Bashan over to him. So Moses commanded Joshua in the light of those victories not to fear either because the LORD “will fight” for him. This would embolden Moses hearers. He then affirms God’s choice of Joshua to them, recounting how God first refused his (Moses’) request to enter the land. Here Moses models how we can respectfully plead with God, whilst readily submitting to his will, even when not to our benefit.
Christ did not fear as he went to the cross to defeat evil. And he promises to be with us “to the end of the age” (Matt 28v20). We will face opposition and trials. But in him we will overcome, for “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8v31).
            Yet obedience matters. It matters if Israel are to live and take possession of the land - a key theme of the book. So Moses points out those who previously rebelled died, whilst Caleb and Joshua who “held fast to the LORD” are “still alive.” And obedience is to be total: neither adding or subtracting from God’s commands. And it is this that will cause the nations to acknowledge Israel’s wisdom, understanding, greatness and privilege in enjoying God’s presence.
            This pattern remains the same. Although forgiving our sins, Jesus calls us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5v48). And because obedience reflects our love for him, it still affects whether we will live or die, for “without holiness, no-one will see the Lord” (Heb 12v14). Moreover, it is this that is to attract the nations as to light (Matt 5v14-16).
The Ten Commandments are central: They are God’s “covenant.” In other words, for Israel to be “the people of his inheritance” depends on obedience to them. So Israel must not commit idolatry. Indeed, if future generations do, Moses calls heaven and earth as witness, that they will “perish” from the land, being “scattered” amongst the nations, with only a “few” surviving. Yet if they then seek God with all their heart and soul, they will find him and return and obey him, for he is “merciful” and will not “forget” his covenant. These truths are critical to understanding Israel’s future history in which just this happens. They remind us in our sin too, that whilst we live we can still repent.
Throughout Moses urges Israel to “be careful” not to “forget the things” she has “seen.” They should remember how God actually “spoke” the Commandments, before writing them on the tablets and directing Moses to teach them. And they should grasp that nothing as great as God speaking to a nation or redeeming them with the awesome deeds of Exodus and Numbers has ever happened. But these happened so Israel would “know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.” The people are therefore urged to “acknowledge” and take this “to heart,” so that they obey God and it goes well for them and their children.
This is why reading the whole Bible is key. We will never want to obey unless we truly know the supremacy and character of God. So we must constantly meditate on his awesome deeds, remembering what he has done for us and how he has instructed us in Christ – all so that we would revere him.

Praying it home:
Thank God for giving us such enviable wisdom and righteous commands in scripture. Pray that we would meditate on and remember him as he actually is, and so be motivated to obey Christ.

Thinking further:
Scripture models marriage on God’s relationship with Israel (Jer 1-4). So God’s “jealousy” mentioned by Moses is like that of the loving husband who is rightly angered at his wife’s infidelity, and wants her to benefit from his love. The promise that if Israel commits idolatry and then repents, God will forgive, can therefore be understood as similar to the husband desiring to be reconciled to his wayward wife. In such a situation jealousy is good, and a lack of it would suggest a lack of love.

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