Monday, 10 March 2014

(70) March 11: Deuteronomy 11-13 & Mark 13:1-13

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


To discover:­­
As you read note how God protects Israel against unfaithfulness.

To ponder:
Moses’ sermon continues. Israel are to remember it was (largely) they themselves who as children witnessed the Exodus, desert wanderings and judgements against those who rejected Moses and Aaron. So, positively, they must “love” and “obey” God, with a promise of the land described as abundant and cared for by God himself – like Eden not Egypt (11v10-12, Gen 2v8). Negatively, they must “be careful” not to be “enticed” into idolatry, so that they don’t experience God’s “anger” and “perish from the good land.” Instead, they are to keep God’s commands always before themselves, and teach them to their children (11v18-21). Then “no man” will stand against them.
            This “blessing and curse” is to be proclaimed from respective mountains when Israel enter the land. These two choices also face us, as the gospel promises curses for faithlessness as well as blessings for faithfulness (Heb 6v4-8). And God will keep both.
            The detail of the law now begins. The places and means of false worship are to be destroyed so the “names” of the false gods are wiped out. Here, “name” represents the authority of the respective god. So the people are called to worship God only at the place he chooses “to put his Name” and “for his dwelling” – a sign of his authority over the land. The tabernacle will therefore be given more permanent locations, and eventually as the temple in Jerusalem. And sacrifices and offerings will not be offered, or tithes, offerings and gifts eaten just anywhere - as to some extent was being permitted (12v8, 13, 17). Instead, they must be brought to the specified place, where the people can eat their portions “in the presence of the LORD.” However to save travel, animals can be slaughtered and eaten anywhere, as long as the blood is poured out and the Levites’ share not neglected.
            It is thought provoking to remember God’s concern that he is worshipped as he prescribes and “not as everyone sees fit.” Not all forms of “doing church” are acceptable. He is concerned for joy and fellowship (12v12), but above all, that we look to Christ as his “place” for atonement and to which we offer our all to God’s service. The worship of both church and life must therefore be profoundly Christ centred, remembering and affirming him and all he has done, and engaging with the Father only through him.
            This is also why other religions must be rejected. Their potential for evil is affirmed with the reminder of Canaanite child sacrifice. However, whatever is engaged in, those claiming to be prophets or fortellers of dreams, who may even perform signs and wonders, must not be listened to if they advocate false gods, but must be put to death. Indeed, the Israelite is to reject and actually stone anyone who entices them in this way. And if after “thorough investigation” it is established that a town has been led astray, its people and livestock must be destroyed completely, its plunder burnt, and the town to be a “ruin forever.”
            Although these penalties do not apply within the church, the seriousness of false religion has not changed (Rom 1v18-32), nor God’s view of the “false teachers” who encourage people into false religion or morality (2 Pet 2v1-22). Churches should therefore take action when ministers “entice” people to these things, or Christians adopt the worship practices of other spiritualities. And we should remain discerning, being commanded not even to welcome those within the church who deny Christ and the gospel and so lead people from God’s true place of worship - even if they do work miracles (Matt 7v21-23, 2 Jn 7-11).

Praying it home:
Thank God for your church and all that is good about it. Pray that you, your church family and ministers would be kept from false teaching.

Thinking further:
None today.

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