Sunday, 9 March 2014

(69) March 10: Deuteronomy 8-10 & Mark 12:28-44

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

To discover:­­
As you read note what God wants to remind Israel of.

To ponder:
We are to remember to remember. God tested his people in the desert to know their “heart” – whether they would keep his commands. He “humbled” them by causing hunger so he could then provide manna if they followed his instructions. This taught that his provision depended on obedient faith. In this sense Israel learnt “man” lives “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So God was lovingly teaching Israel in her wanderings as an act of fatherly discipline. And hers was a critical lesson to remember. God provided so fully that her clothes didn’t even wear out nor feet swell. And so, if she will only “observe” his commands, “walk in his ways and revere him” she will be abundantly provided for in the land (8v7-9).
            In the light of this Moses urges the Israelites against pride so they don’t “forget” the LORD when all goes well. Rather they should remember it is God who “gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant.” Indeed, to forget him and follow false gods will inevitably lead to destruction.
            Christians are always more reliant on God in times of difficulty. So every believer is in danger of this same temptation. We must remember we have nothing that we did not receive (1 Cor 4v7). And so to turn from God endangers what we have in this life, not to mention the next.
            Israel therefore need God as the Canaanites are greater and stronger. And so when God gives the land, Israel mustn’t say he has done it because they are somehow more righteous. Again, that’s to forget how reliant they are on him, and on his grace. No, Israel are “stiff-necked.” They have the land only because of God’s promise to the patriarchs and in order to bring judgement on the wickedness of those there. So Israel must remain humble. They must remember how utterly in need of God they constantly are.
            Moses recounts Israel’s sin to cement this: They must “remember” God was angry enough to “destroy” them (and Aaron) over the golden calf. They were “corrupt” and “stiff-necked,” quickly turning aside from the commands God proclaimed himself and wrote with his own finger. And this continued when they “rebelled” by not trusting and obeying God by entering the land at Kadesh Barnea. In fact, they were saved at Sinai, only because Moses intervened, fasting for forty days, and prostrating himself in prayer before God, appealing to God’s promise to the patriarchs and his own honour in the eyes of Egypt.
So it was by grace that God gave the commandments a second time. It is therefore in awareness that despite owning the universe God has chosen them, that Israel are to “circumcise” their hearts. The image implies being set-apart from the nations by cutting sin away in their inner attitude to God, so that they fear, love and serve him, “walking in his ways” and “holding fast to him.” Israel must do this because the LORD is her God, and because he is worthy of it, impartial in his justice, providing for the needy just as he had for her.
Biblical religion has always been of the heart and in response to grace. And in grace God would eventually circumcise the hearts of his people by his Spirit, so that they would display the love he called them to. This is our experience (Rom 2v29). But we still need to remember our sin, so we remember God’s grace, and so cherish and hold fast to him all the more.

Praying it home:
Thank God that even in hardship he lovingly teaches us. Pray that you would never forget how reliant you are on him for grace and provision.

Thinking further:
None today.

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