Tuesday, 18 March 2014

(78) March 19: Deuteronomy 31-32 & Luke 1:1-23

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 Israel are to be reminded of their covenant commitments.

To ponder:
Moses prepares the people for his departure. He reassures them again that God will “cross ahead” of them, and “destroy” the nations as he did the Amorites, so the people “will” take possession of the land. Israel are therefore to be “strong and courageous,” not because of confidence in themselves, but because God “will never leave” them nor “forsake them.” Likewise, Christ’s promise to be with his people even to the end of the age emboldens them to spread his kingdom throughout the world by preaching the gospel, no matter what spiritual or human enemies stand against them (Matt 28v20).
            With the people present to witness it, Moses charges Joshua in the same way, instructing him to divide the coming inheritance. In the light of the people’s grumbling about Moses, this was necessary so that they recognise Joshua as God’s chosen leader. God’s declaration at Jesus’ baptism and Christ’s later affirmation of the apostles are similar.
We then learn how the essence of Deuteronomy (and possibly Numbers) came into being. Moses writes the law down and gives it to the Levites - a pattern followed by the apostles as their deaths approached. The feast of tabernacles that ended the seventh year signalled a sort of re-booting of Israel in terms of the inheritance. So it is then that “all” the law is to be read to the assembly. Even the children were to “hear it” and so “learn to fear the LORD” – a gentle rebuke of those who argue things must always be brief and simple in church for children.
            Joshua is then commissioned in the visible presence of God and Moses. And God relates once more how Israel will forsake him for idols, bringing many “difficulties and disasters.” God therefore instructs Moses to write down and teach Israel a song to “testify” against her when she goes astray. This forms an early justification for music ministry. It is not just about praising God, but being reminded of his deeds and our response to them.
            The book of the law was also to be a witness, being placed beside the ark (which already contained the Ten Commandments) in the tabernacle (later temple). The book and song would be a constant reminder that what Israel experience because of her apostasy was just what God predicted. No doubt this would urge Israel to respond rightly as our Bibles and songs do.
            The song’s poetry is worth reflection. It brings home Israel’s history and future. Heaven and earth are first called to witness, with a prayer that God’s word would bring abundant life to Israel. God’s faithfulness is affirmed, making Israel’s corruption all the more serious. His care as Father and Creator in making and forming her (Jacob) is then outlined. The language reflects his purpose, protection and provision. And the past tense marks how certain the future is: Israel will reject and “forget” him for gods they hadn’t even known. In loving jealousy God will then reject them, bringing the promised disasters. But Israel will not understand this is all from God. He therefore calls them to “see” there is no God but him. And this will be proved by him bringing the nations to actually praise him for judging those he brought against Israel, and by his making “atonement” for the land and people. This great concern for Israel is of course fulfilled when, through faith in Christ, Jews and Gentiles join in “seeing” who God is, praising him and receiving atonement.
            Moses concludes affirming to Israel that the words of the song “are your life.” If they heed them, they will “live long in the land.”
Praying it home:
Thank God for the gift of music and musicians in helping you be reminded of God’s deeds and will. Pray that those who choose songs in your church would choose wisely, and that the church would learn from what they sing.

Thinking further:
Jesus referred to the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch or Torah) as the “books of Moses.” We need not understand this in a literalistic way. It is quite apparent some later editing has taken place (under God’s sovereign guidance). Later place names are inserted so later readers can locate places. And the book ends recording Moses’ death. However, as we have seen God instructed Moses to write the law down, and the sermons of Deuteronomy are obviously from him. There is no reason therefore to doubt that the content of these books is substantially Mosaic.

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  1. Are you using a special bible? Mine doesn't have Mark 17!

  2. Yes, should have been Luke 1:1-23. Well spotted! Now changed.

    1. Thanks. Great work by the way, really benefitting from all your efforts.