Thursday, 29 September 2016

Deuteronomy 3 and 4: obedience.

And then a string of military success and overwhelming defeat of enemies before Moses commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land in his place: "“You’ve seen with your own two eyes everything God, your God, has done to these two kings. God is going to do the same thing to all the kingdoms over there across the river where you’re headed. Don’t be afraid of them. God, your God—he’s fighting for you.”"  (v21)

But how painful for Moses. He had begged God to let him go over into the Promised Land but God refused and Moses could not go in.

I wonder why. Moses had demonstrated his obedience - and yet it is Abraham who is held up as the model of faith, not Moses. Perhaps there was, at times, more preoccupation in Moses' heart with himself than with God's cause. It took a visit from his father-in-law to show him how to lead the Israelites effectively: was Moses inefficient, or just not listening well to God?
"The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood round him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?’
Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’
Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Let them serve as judges for the people at all times, but let them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.’
Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves." 
Exodus 18:13-26
As the leader, too, God had held him responsible for the Israelites' disobedience. And almost seems unfair. In our individualistic society we have lost sight of corporate responsibility, yet 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.'  Even Moses. It must have been bitterly disappointing to him, and yet he faithfully teaches the Israelites what God has told him about their new life in the Promised Land. In chapter 4 he commands obedience and reminds them of how amazingly mighty God is. "Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God[a] speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lordis God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.
 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.  Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time." (vv 32 - 40)
And so we, too, are to listen to God's voice, follow what He says, neither adding nor subtracting anything, and keep His commands.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Deuteronomy Chapter 2

So then Moses recounted the epic travels - 38 years' worth - in one sentence: "Then we turned around and went back into the wilderness following the route to the Red Sea, as Godhad instructed me. We worked our way in and around the hills of Seir for a long, long time." (v1)

A lifetime. It must have seemed never-ending.

So do our troubles. When difficulties come, we often lose sight of the good times and are tempted to lose hope. BUT:

Then God said, “You’ve been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go north.

As Lysa Terkeust says in @FirstFive, we need 'go to' Scriptures to remind ourselves of our purpose and destinies and this verse, Deuteronomy 2:2, can be one of them: I was made for more than to be stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat.

I can turn north, out of the wilderness, towards the promises God has for me.
I can turn away from my past and move into the future.
I can turn away from temptation.

The Israelites then travelled peacefully through different areas, obeying God's commands not to cause any trouble. But when they arrived in Hesbon, God "made his (the king of Heshbon's) spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done. The Lord said to me, ‘See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land.’" (vv 30- 31)

The Israelites were about to step into the future God had for them, because it seems that they had now learned to obey God.

"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" Deuteronomy 10:12 - 13

My challenge too: obedience - to God - in everything.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Deuteronomy! Chapter 1

Deuteronomy 1.
Verse 3: 'Moses addressed the People of Israel, telling them everything God had commanded him concerning them."
Moses reminds the Israelites of the journey they have been on and the way he, under God's guidance, has led them.
Initial thought: why is he telling them all this? Were I there, would I feel like a child being reprimanded for having been disobedient? Would I feel guilty, chastised? A journey which should have taken 11 days took 40 years of much trouble and heartbreak.
God said: (v6, v8) "The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, ...  See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers – to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and to their descendants after them.’
God TOLD them. Again, in v21 " See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
But they didn't just accept this - they wanted spies to go in first to reassure them. Even then, although the reports were of a good land, the Israelites still refused to go because they were too afraid of the inhabitants, even though Moses reminded them that God would fight for them:
vv29 - 33 "Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’

In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God..."

Then God was angry with them and would not let them go in to the Promised Land: even Moses, who, as their leader, He held responsible. It was only Caleb and Joshua, the spies who encouraged the Israelites that the Canaanites could be defeated, and the youngest, innocent children, who would go in. (vv 34 - 40)

And of course the Israelites then regretted it, tried to make it right by going in to fight even though God said he would not be with them and they were defeated. 

This seems scary. That we can lose a God-given opportunity and cannot reclaim it. Even risking God's anger further. This was the God of the Old Testament, the God of the Law, clearly laid down for all to follow with rules and consequences.

And even though Jesus is loving and forgiving all who come to him, we still need to learn to live with consequences, which may not change however remorseful we might be....

So Moses, at the end of his life, begins his final address to his people by reminding them of their failure...

We need to learn from the past.

The Israelites had God: His presence, promises, provision, protection. Yet all they could see were the problems.  Their vision was clouded by the circumstances.

So why did Moses remind the Israelites of all their mistakes and failures?  So they could learn from the past and make better choices in the future. To trust God, not making hasty decisions and rushing ahead.

We need to learn from the past. We need to admit our failures, accept the consequences and turn to God in humility for our futures.

And remember that God " works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

We can trust Him.