Deuteronomy 25; The Family of the Unsandaled

I got stalled in my reading today at verse 10. Moses was talking to the Israelites about the rights of a young woman, widowed before she could have a child. Moses said the dead man’s brother was to marry her, have a child by her, and the child would be considered the extension of her first husband’s ancestral line.

If the living brother refused her, she could take him to court. If, even after the town’s elders talked to him, he still refused, the widow would bend down, remove her brother-in-law’s sandal, and spit in his face. He would be totally humiliated in front of the whole town as he held on to his stubborn disobedience.

So why wouldn’t he be identified as “The Unsandaled Man?” Why did Moses tell the people this man’s family would always be identified with his disobedience: The Family of the Unsandaled.

Jewish genealogy was so important to them, I wonder why a guy would set his children and grandchildren up to bear the tarnish his sin caused? How self-serving can a person be?

I went to the commentaries on my shelves, and even Matthew Henry had little to say on the subject. So I went to Google. Google has an opinion on just about anything. I wasn’t disappointed.

Well, a little disappointed. I found one pastor who said these verses in Deuteronomy support gay marriage. (sigh). But another pointed to Ruth and Boaz and the fact that Jesus came out of their union. Another pointed to the time the religious leaders tried to trip Jesus up by using this passage. But I couldn’t find an answer to my question concerning the family of the guilty man.

So I decided to pray. (Not proud of the order of my actions here today) I asked God if there was something He wanted me to know about this verse. I sat and thought about it, meditated on it, and I prayed again. And here is what I believe God would have me share:

We are all born into a family. We all carry a family name. We rub shoulders with the people in our community as part of an identifiable family. My sisters and I grew up as “The Zehner Girls.” And even though today most of us have different last names through marriage, we are still known to many as “The Zehner Girls.”

But there is another means of identification. And that has to do with character. I bet you know a “Family of the Unfaithful.” Or a “Family of the Liar.” Or a “Family of the Gossip.” What about “The Family of the Lazy?” “The Family of the Hot-Head,” or “The Family of the Drunk?”

Some people believe the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Maybe you also know “The Family of the Compassionate.” And a “Family of the Humble.” Do you know “The Family of the Dependable?”

The thing is, what you do and who you are in the community reflects on those dear ones in your home. Maybe you live like what you want is more important than they are. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself it’s your life, and they have nothing to do with your choices, or that your choices can’t hurt them. I think God would have us know differently.

Then I thought about another family with whom we identify. That’s our church family. When people look at your church family do they identify them as “The Church of the Faithful” because YOU are faithful? Do they recognize your fellowship as “The Church of the Generous” because of YOUR generosity? Are you known as “The Church of the Compassionate” as you reach out to the needy in your community? “Do they see you as “The Church of the Truth” because you live your life according to Scripture?

Like it or not, the world is judging your family, and your church, by how you live and the choices you make. I don’t want my legacy to be a slap in the face to my family. In fact, as I sit here and wonder about what I’d like that legacy to be, I would like us to be known as, “The Family That Looks Like Jesus.”

And if that’s my goal, I’ve got some praying, some searching of Scripture, some loving and serving to do in His Name.

I hope you will consider the title your family is known by, and what you’d like it to be. I’ll be praying for you.

Deuteronomy 21-24; God Makes Sense

As Moses teaches God’s Law to the young Jews ready to take the Promised Land, I am struck by the sense and sensibility of it all. (I just watched that movie on TCM this week)

Oh sure, we could dissect the verses concerning divorce, or agriculture, or fashion, parenting, or even using the latrine. But don’t all these chapters fall under the Greatest Commandment Jesus talked about in Matthew 22? Love God, love others? Don’t these verses in Deuteronomy fit under the umbrella of the Golden Rule?

I think our world is in the state it is in because we aren’t living with the good sense God gave us. Love Him. Worship Him only. Be kind. Have integrity. Be honest. Have compassion. Eliminate sin. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you think of others. It just makes sense.

God makes sense.

Deuteronomy 18-20; Go Home

I came across some verses here today which remind me of something Jesus said. Moses is talking about warfare as the Jews prepared to take the Promised Land. “Don’t be afraid,” he tells them, “even if the enemy seems unbeatable, because the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, will be with you and will fight for you.” (from 20:1-4)

But then Moses instructs the army officers to weed out certain soldiers:

If you’ve recently built a house, go home.

If you’ve just planted a vineyard, go home.

If you are engaged to be married, go home.

If you are afraid, go home.

It makes me think of when Jesus, in Luke 9, tells a couple of guys the same thing:

You want to go bury your dad? Go home.

You want to go say goodbye to your family? Go home. Neither one of you is of any use in my kingdom.

An effective Jesus follower cannot have divided loyalties. Period.

Toward the end of his life, my dad spoke more freely about his experiences as a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. He talked about fear, about duty, about focus and determination, senses heightened, everything forgotten but the task at hand.

He told me about a Marine in his division, who gave in to fear. He said the young man, at a critical point in the battle, stood up and tried to run away. He was immediately shot and killed by the enemy. I must have said something like, “How sad,” or “I feel bad for that guy.”

Dad quickly replied that there was nothing sad about it, that that Marine had jeopardized every other Marine in the area by revealing their position. He had no sympathy for that young man.

So what does this have to do with living the Christian life in 2017? I am reminded that being an effective follower of Jesus is not for sissies. It’s hard. It’s not popular. It takes intention and determination. It takes focus, and courage. It means loving Jesus more than your spouse, or your children. It means obeying Jesus even if it costs us a career, or a friendship. It means sharing the Gospel with that loved one, that neighbor, that coworker, even if that person will think you are an idiot.

It means living a life that doesn’t look like the world. This is war. And if you aren’t in this 100%, just go home. You might as well go golfing on Sunday morning, quit identifying with your church fellowship, stop quoting Scripture if your life doesn’t reflect the Truth.

Because you are putting the rest of us at risk. You are giving Christianity a bad name, you are undermining what God would like to do in the lives of the people you are in contact with. There are people who are totally committed to Jesus, who are obeying Him, loving Him, sacrificing for Him. And if you aren’t one of them, you are a liability.

The soldiers Moses was talking about were still soldiers, the men Jesus spoke to might have really loved Him. But they were told to go home anyway, because they were of no use in the battle at hand.

And neither are you if you aren’t in this all the way. The Bible doesn’t encourage us to kinda follow the Lord. It doesn’t tell us to turn over most of our life to Him. Scripture is pretty clear that it’s all, or nothing.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37)

I challenge you to find a verse that says differently.

I know this sounds harsh, but I think it needs to be said. We’ve come way too far away from this truth. And Christianity is suffering for it. There is nothing politically correct about being a Jesus follower. Jesus was hated and crucified because He refused to be politically correct.

I think it’s time we quit trying to look like the world, trying not to offend sinners, or by making sinners feel comfortable in the presence of a Holy God. It’s time we quit wimping out when it comes to standing for Biblical truth. The Church was never intended to be a country club.

It was intended to be an army of dedicated soldiers, giving it all for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Here’s the good news: Moses reminded the people that God Himself, the God who rescued them from slavery, was fighting with them and for them. We aren’t in this alone. And that makes me believe I can commit myself 100% and He will give me the victory.

Otherwise, I might as well just go home.

Father, I pray for Your children today. Some of us might need to take a step back, to go home for a bit and be strengthened, and encouraged to join the battle. Some of us are ready to get in there and follow Your lead today. May each of us check our commitment level, and may we all make the determination to follow You 100%. You demand no less. You deserve no less. I pray Your Church will be strong, effective, and powerful as we submit ourselves to You, in Jesus’ Name, and for His sake.

Deuteronomy 16-17; Bread of Affliction

Moses, in 16:3, called unleavened bread, “the bread of affliction.” Remember, the Jews were to eat only unleavened bread during Passover. The bread was to remind them about their ancestors’ time of slavery in Egypt, and how God told them to flee Egypt in haste.

As a non-Jew, I don’t think I’ve given enough attention to that symbolism as it applies to my own life in 2017. I don’t know about you, but there are just some things I’d rather forget. So why were the Jews commanded to remember the darkest time in their history, the days of affliction and slavery? And is this suggesting I remember my own darkest days, the days I was a slave to sin?

I think there are two reasons why this is exactly the case:

1.  If we don’t remember our mistakes, we take the risk of repeating them. “History repeats itself” is sadly true way too often.

2.  Remembering my past sins helps me to recognize what a great salvation is mine through the blood of Jesus, and how far I’ve come with Him since I asked Him to forgive me.

But didn’t Paul say, “Forgetting what lies behind…”? So which is it? Are we to remember the past or forget it?

Yes.

There is a difference between remembering the past, and living there. As awful as the things I did in my past, I don’t want to just forget them and pretend they never happened. I don’t want to ever do those things again. But I don’t want to continue to beat myself up for things God’s forgiven me for, either. That’s why Paul said he lets the past live in the past, but then he presses on toward the goal of knowing Jesus today.

I want my relationship with my Savior to be a realistic one. That’s why I have those memories of past sins, to recognize how much it cost Him to pay for each and every one. I want to live my life out of gratitude for so great a salvation. And I want to remember what being separated from Him because of my sin felt like, so I never go back to those dark days.

The Old Testament Jews were told to leave Egypt quickly, and completely. They weren’t told to go back, or even to revisit their place of captivity. But they were also told never to forget what it was like to live back there.

I am reminded Jesus called Himself, the Bread of Life. No longer the bread of affliction. He is the life-giver, the sin-forgiverer, the One who redeems by past and makes something beautiful out of my ugliness.

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me today what it was like to live in “Egypt.” A slave to sin, with no hope. A woman condemned to life and eternity without You. And thank You for being the Bread of Life, who has forgiven me for every sin that I’ve committed, who sees me as Your child, Your friend. I am in awe. I am humbled. And I am grateful for what Jesus did for even me, as He hung on that cross. May I never forget what it cost Him, may I never forget where I’ve been, and may I never go back there. I give you my past, and press on toward the future with You, my Savior and my Lord.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 12-15; Life Is In The Blood

When Moses was teaching the Jews what animals were ok to eat and which ones to avoid, he kept repeating: “you must not eat the blood.” In 12:23 he tells them why:

because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.

I know of people who will not eat a rare steak because of this directive. Is that what we’re to take from this passage?

For thousands of years, Jews refused to drink blood, while other nations did that as part of their worship of pretend gods. And for thousands of years the Jews taught their children, the life is in the blood.

The life is in the blood.

Then one day, Jesus sat with His disciples at dinner and said, “Take, eat. Take, drink.” The body (meat) and the blood, together. Why?

Because Life is in the blood.

I believe the disciples eventually understood exactly what Jesus was saying, because of the way they were raised. Jesus had told them He IS the Life. And Life is in the blood.

What we read in Deuteronomy isn’t just about dietary restrictions. It’s a picture of Jesus. It points to Calvary, where blood was shed so we can have life.

Life is in HIS blood.

Jesus did what the blood of millions of bulls could not do. He willingly shed His precious blood so that we can have life, abundant life, eternal life.

 

Deuteronomy 9-11; Parenting Eternal Souls

We all know parenting is a huge responsibility. The first time you held your newborn, weren’t you overcome with the fact that you were going to play an important role in shaping that little one into the adult he or she would become? Did you understand that you held an eternal soul in your arms?

Kids learn from us, even if our parenting is not intentional. They learn to laugh by watching what we think is funny. They learn how to handle anger, how to love, how to work and play, from watching us.

Kids learn from our example, but if that’s the extent of your parenting, you might as well be an alley cat teaching her young how to hunt. Our children need more than just an example.

In the chapters I read today in God’s Word, Moses is telling the Jews they need to obey God. They need to love and fear Him so God can bless them, and not destroy them. He talked about the Ten Commandments, and in 11:13-15 he shares what God told him about all that:

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today– to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul– then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Once again we are reminded blessings follow obedience. And if we lived our lives like Moses describes, we’d be living a pretty good example for our kids to follow. But then, Moses said something more.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframe of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (18-21)

Do your children understand why you laugh at certain things and not others? Do they know that they can be angry and not sin? Have you explained to them that love is more than a feeling? Have you talked to them about why you go to work every day, why you do your best on your job, why you ask for forgiveness when you are wrong, why you go to church, why you believe what you believe? Have you talked to them about what sin is?Your children are not kittens. They need to know these things. And they won’t know unless you talk to them about it.

God told the children of Israel to write His commandments on their doorframes and gates. Makes me wonder what we have hanging on our walls in our homes. Makes me wonder what TV shows our kids see us watch. Do we talk to our kids about those things?

What are your conversations like around your dinner table? (I hope you make it a point to gather around your dinner table) What do you talk about when you are together in the car? Have you sat on the swing in the back yard with your child, and enjoyed God’s creation together, talking about how it all began?

I think God is challenging us to make it a point to talk to those little ones in our lives about spiritual things at a very early age. Sure, it’s important to model morality, and work ethic, kindness, and respect. It’s important to live lives that demonstrate obedience to God. But it’s also important that our children understand the whats and whys of our choices before a Holy God. And it’s even more important that they understand their own choices and responsibilities before the same Holy God.

It’s eternally important.

 

Deuteronomy 7&8; Obedience= Blessing (Not The Other Way Around)

Five times in these two chapters, God makes a direct link between obedience and blessing. Verse after verse describe the Promised Land with all its abundance. But God is not handing the land over to His people without some strings attached.

Clearly He says, all the blessings of Canaan are theirs, IF. Then three times He tells them what will happen if they disobey. First, in 9:14 He warns them they’ll forget Him, then in verses 19, and repeated in 20, He tells them disobedience will lead to destruction.

For myself, I know that when I am blessed by God, it encourages me to obey Him again and again. But I think the Bible is consistent in saying God does not bless disobedience. In fact, there are severe consequences for disobedience.

Sometimes I think people believe God chose Israel (and perhaps the Church) to bless them above all nations, when in reality God chose them (and the Church) to worship Him before all other nations and people, to demonstrate how much He blesses a people who obey Him, in order to draw unbelievers to Himself, so that they can believe, worship, and obey Him, be blessed, and continue to reveal Him to others, and so on, and so on, and so on.

God delights in blessing His children. But obedience comes before blessing, and disobedience comes before a fall.