Friday, June 10, 2016

More of Deuteronomy

Here is a wrap-up summary I shared with our Bible Study on one of the lessons we studied in Deuteronomy. The lesson was entitled Choosing Life.
Choosing life is only possible because God loved and chose us first. We wouldn't know there was a choice if He had not chosen us to reveal himself too. He created us in his image so we would reflect him in this life on earth.  He made us objects of his love and part of his family.  And he provided all we need to live life to the fullest as his people. 
We have the story of God's people in Deuteronomy as example of God's longing for a people who reflect his glory. He cares for and provides for the ones he loves. It's our choice to love him in return, and the more we experience his love we find it is irresistible and greater than any other loves. In spite of our propensity to get distracted with idols around us, his love woos us back and rewards us for seeking him.  Yes, it's amazing that  anyone could wander from that kind of love, but it's also amazing that God has always had a people that have made that choice and are making that choice to follow him; that heaven will be filled with a
diverse group of peoples who love him and will consummate their love with him forever.

I found it helpful in preparing this to watch the Bible project video on Deuteronomy again. The way they condense the whole book makes  even  more sense now that we've studied most of it in detail. Briefly here are the highlights:

Moses starts the book reminding a new generation of their history as he does again in this lesson. One commentator sees this as God saying if I've done all this for you in the past, you can be assured that I'm not leaving you now.  I've got a future and big plans for this people.  Reminds me of that song-

" He didn't bring us this far to leave us, he didn't teach us to swim to let us drown, he didn't build his home in us to move away, he didn't lift us up to let us down." We too can be comforted in believing that he that began a good work in us will bring it to completion.

Moses goes will be successful because God loves you and has a promise to keep to your forefathers. So don't covet the wealth and idols of the evil nations around you.  Remember who you are! Your success depends on your devotion to worshiping me and gathering at a central place so everyone is united and together as families expressing joy to God for his gifts.

Then Moses goes over some specific laws to keep them holy and distinct as a people---tithing, canceling debt, what to eat and not eat, sacrifices, feasting, leadership, judiciary practices, marriage and in my Bible even a section called miscellaneous laws. Then in last week's lesson Moses had gathered them together to renew their covenant with God.  
​The people​
declare that
 belong to him and he claims
 as his people. He swears it with an oath.
​ ​
The priests and elders say a few words for they will continue on as leaders with Joshua.  Moses then gives the last minute instructions to build the memorial after they cross the Jordan and to declare the curses and blessings on the two mountains.

And now in today's lesson, Moses gives a brief remember- your -past speech again and asks the people to follow the terms of the covenant. He makes sure to address every group of people among them starting with the leaders all the way down to the "foreigner who chops your wood". And even to anyone who is not there-maybe they couldn't come because of illness, or maybe some were deliberately staying away.  It didn't matter.  The covenant would be binding for all; they needed to buy into it as a whole group.  So they are standing to express the seriousness of the occasion showing their alertness, standing in solidarity.  We have similar practices today-standing at the end of a church service to agree with the pastor's prayer, standing for worship together, standing at attention to show submission to military officials, standing in a game huddle to await the coaches instructions .

Then  Moses gives a warning again of what will happen if they disobey.  He even predicts they will, but gives them an amazing promise that when they turn back to God he will restore them and even give them hearts to love him.  I can hear him say, "Listen people! God has revealed what you need to know and hasn't made it difficult.  You can do this! Now CHOOSE LIFE! so you may live, love him, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.  He is your life".
Let's look more closely at verse 18-

"I am making this covenant with you so that no one among you—no man, woman, clan, or tribe—will turn away from the Lord our God to worship these gods of other nations, and so that no root among you bears bitter and poisonous fruit."

This reminds me of Heb. 12:15 which says-

"Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many."

The bitter root from th
e Hebrew text is probably referring to holding resentment against another person or maybe against God.  In the verse in this lesson bitterness comes from allowing a seed of desire for idols to enter a heart.  Roots start from seeds underground, hidden. As the
​ plant​
up the growth is gradual.  In this case it bears bitter poison.  In Hebrews the fruit from the bitter root of resentment, is trouble and corruption.

It's sobering to think we can't sin in secret; it will
gradually ​
infect others around us. Maybe it shows up in an attitude or an action.  It could keep us feeling unqualified and from being all that God intended us to be which would effect others by robbing them of receiving the gifts God meant to come from us.

So what about the times we as parents feel guilty when we see our wrong attitudes or sins show up in our adult children? We lose sleep over thoughts like, What if I would have made a different choice at that certain point in their growing up years, or why was I so concerned about them conforming to my idols of keeping a good reputation or the idol of perfection that doesn't allow for grace? What if I was too preoccupied with my personal pursuits and didn't take enough time with them, or I should have taught them more Bible truths. 

As I was preparing this I received an email devotional from Proverbs 31 Woman's Ministry.
The writer was sharing her​
regrets when looking back on raising her sons. As she brought all the regrets to God, overtime, she realized where she needed to ask for forgiveness, repented when necessary, but in other areas God showed her that her imperfect parenting had been enough. She says, "God was much gentler with me than I was with myself.  For each regret, he promised that his work would succeed where mine had failed and that he would complete what I had left unfinished....God is still at work in our children's lives...their story isn't over and God is big enough to finish the work he started in our hearts and homes."  So
​ as parents we have the choice to believe God forgives, doesn't deal with us according to our sins, or reward us according to our iniquities and to not allow guilt and despair to weigh us down. ​
et's not miss God's grace, but rest in it and keep praying for our kids and rejoicing in little answers along the way.  Let's keep expressing our love and pride in them.  We realize that they are responsible as adults for the decisions they have made also. 

I notice that both these verses, in Deuteronomy and Hebrews, ask us as a community of people to look out for each other--
See to it that no one misses the grace of God", and ​"make sure there is no man, woman, clan or tribe among you whose heart turns away".  We need each other. 

Another verse that stands out to me in this lesson is verse 29-

"The secret things belong to our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

Matthew Henry commentator says that God has kept nothing back that is profitable for us, but only that which is good for us to be ignorant of. We recently took our grandkids out to eat.  On the way the 11 year old, Aubrey, gave us a detailed run down of a movie they had all seen. As she talked the 5 year old interjected her memories that may or may not have fitted in to the reciting her sister was giving and the 8 year old interrupted his big sister to make a correction or tell another detail.  You get the picture.  At one point one of the younger ones said something and Aubrey said, "Stop, you can't say that because it will give the whole thing away.  You don't want them to know that." She was wanting us to be surprised if we ever saw it. I think God has surprises he's holding back for us--

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him1 Cor 2:9

My husband's siblings and I were in a meeting last week discussing the future needs of my husband's aging parents. As the healthcare facility director shared possibilities and what the future might look like for them, at one point she added, "but you might not want to tell them that part right now, because it makes some seniors anxious."

In this case information would be withheld because the timing wasn't right; it was needful to protect my parents-in-law from unnecessary worry about the distant future.  I'm sure we would be overwhelmed if we knew now about some of the events ahead.  God in his mercy protects us from what we don't need to know.

When we consider all that he has revealed to us, we are in awe.  We know enough about the future to give us expectant joy and peace.  Jesus tells us he's preparing a home for us.  We've been given the Holy Spirit to teach us and help us. He's revealed to us his character, how to act as his children, how to say no to ungodliness.  2 Peter 1:3 says we've been given everything we need for life and godliness.
​ And Ps 84:11-"No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly".

God is wanting us to be successful in following him.  He hasn't made it difficult to understand what he wants or how to get to know him.  Like verses 11-14 say we don't have to look to other places
(up to the heavens, beyond the sea)​
to get understanding; it's near us.
​ ​
It's in our mouths and hearts.  It's in our language. It's not too hard to understand. 
Unbelievers may turn to astrology or stimulants to "open" their minds.  They may seek knowledge, no matter the sourceor try to manage their fears and anxiety by whatever promises to bring relief.

And when things aren't spelled out for us
​, God's people​
? What then? Some Christians just make more rules so things are black and white or they live in confusion and fear.  Our challenge is to trust God who didn't give us all the answers because he is good and knows that sometimes we just need to draw near to him and ask for wisdom or direction. That's what he's after-our closeness, our focus to be on him and listening for his voice.  Even Jesus said he was dependent on the Father to give him words to say and how to say them.
Let's stay close to him, realizing how vulnerable we are and how much he loves us. 
We need his help to make right choices in the little things of every day. Then we will be seasoned, trained and ready when the bigger choices come like remaining  faithful in persecution or taking a stand for righteousness when we might be the only one. ​
May God help us to love him with everything within us, listen to his voice and hold fast to him, to choose him who is our life. ​

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