Generosity is rewarded!

Scripture reading for February 24: Deuteronomy 12-16

In many cultures, the poor and needy are viewed as under the judgment of the gods.  These people are despised and live in the worst conditions on the fringes of society.  Children born in the families are destined to live in poverty, sickness, and usually have an early death. India has millions living in the caste system and viewed as nearly untouchable by their peers. The Hindu religion and the teaching of reincarnation and this caste system keeps the bondage in place.

The God of the Bible, creator of heaven and earth, is compassionate and merciful.  When He formed the nation of Israel and delivered them from slavery, He instructed them in the care of those society had looked down upon.  The orphans and widows were singled out for care by the Lord.   (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)  God promised to bless the Israelites for caring for them.  The alien was also to be cared for, because the Israelites were also aliens and strangers in Egypt and could identify with what it was like to on the outside of the economic and political power system.

God said that there should be no poor among His people. (Deuteronomy 15:4)  The reason given was that if they fully obeyed the Lord in keeping all His commands, God would so bless them that they would have an abundance to help others.  They would lend only and not borrow. (Deuteronomy 15:6)  They would also rule and not be in servitude. “. . the borrower becomes the slave of the lender.” (Proverbs: 22:7) 

God said that some would be poor among His people because of disobedience and they would need help.  Those who were fully obeying the Lord were to be generous with the poor.  They were not to be “tight-fisted” or “hard-hearted” towards their poor brothers, but to be “open-handed” and “freely lend”.  (Deuteronomy 15:7-10)  God said it was sinful to be stingy toward the poor brother! (Proverbs 14:31) He was indicating His love for those who are truly needy. God always pays well when we help the poor, for He promises to repay what we will give. (Proverbs 19:7)

Take time today to remember someone who is in need or suffering because of poverty. As the Holy Spirit guides you, be generous and give cheerfully. “A generous man will prosper and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25)

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The land of milk and honey!

Scripture Reading for February 23: Deuteronomy 8-11

In 1995, my son and I went to Israel and Egypt on a three week study tour of the Holy Land plus the route of the Exodus and Egypt.  In Egypt we visited the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx and several museums.  The land of Egypt was primarily desert and dry rocky mountains until we got to the Nile River where the water and irrigation made some green areas and lush groves of tropical plants.  The land was fairly flat and sandy.  Israel, on the other hand was varied in topography and had many different areas of climate and vegetation.  The Jezreel valley was a rich agricultural region with big farms. The vineyard country was terraced and had trees and vines.  The area around the Sea of Galilee was lush and had banana and pineapples growing.  There were herds of cattle and sheep in the Golan Heights.  Shepherds drove their flocks of goats and sheep and camped in tents in the Negev desert.  It was a varied land full of milk (goats and cattle) and honey (bees pollinating vines and flowers).

God described the land that the Israelites were going to as a land flowing with milk and honey!  It was a land of hills and valleys! God sent the rain of heaven on Israel where in Egypt, by hand and foot, the land had to be irrigated! In Canaan, God cared for the land and His eyes were upon it to bless His people! (Deuteronomy 8:7-12) God wanted to inspire His people to move forward in faith to possess it.

As my son and I walked and rode through that land, God’s presence was evident to us.  It is a special land, although it is not remarkable or extraordinary in itself.  God’s presence and His people made it special!  God’s promises to Israel and His love for His people and our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stand as a testimony of God’s faithfulness.  Four thousand years after Abraham, his descendants are still in that land and are taking possession of it yet!  They have defeated armies more numerous and stronger, because God is with them and His Word is still true.  (Deuteronomy 11:23,25)  It is a land that God cares for and His eyes are upon it continually!  He desire them all to know their Messiah, Jesus Christ!

Take time today to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and support God’s land and people!  Pray for the salvation of those who are seeking to destroy Israel. A blessing is on those who bless Israel!  (Genesis 12:3)

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Are your children ‘impressed?’

Scripture Reading for February 23: Deuteronomy 5-7

“Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your foreheads.  Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This passage is known by faithful Jews as the “Shema”, which means “listen”. The Shema is quoted twice daily by devout Jews around the world reminding them of the importance of a relationship with the One true God.  This passage was quoted by Jesus in part when he was asked which was the greatest commandment.  He answered with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  (Matthew 22:37-38)  This ancient word from a sermon of Moses around 1500 years before Christ was foundational in the devotional life of God’s people and has great application for believers today.

Hearing is important!  God wants us to have ears to hear His voice!  Remember that the nation of Israel did not want to hear God’s voice speaking His commandments.  They had asked Moses to hear for them so they would not die.  Moses was repeating what God had told him.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God! (Romans 10:17)  God sends His people out to speak His Word to bring faith and obedience and the resulting blessing.

There is no other God but God!  He is the creator of heaven and earth.  He is holy and complete in Himself.  He desires the love of His children and loves them infinitely, desiring the best for them.  His love is expressed in his Word and commandments.  When we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will actively respond to His Word in a life of daily obedience.  (John 15:9-11) If we love Him, we will pass them on to the next generation.   His joy will be in us and our life will be full!

How would you evaluate your hearing of God’s Word? How do you show your love for God and seek to impress it on the next generation? Take time this week to listen to God’s Word and take action towards one of your offspring, if you have them.

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Questions for the next generation

Scripture Reading for February 21: Deuteronomy 1-4

The name “Deuteronomy” literally means “second law”.  Deuteronomy is quoted directly in seventeen of the twenty seven New Testament books and alluded to nearly eighty more times.  This book is a record of the last four sermons given by Moses to the congregation of Israel.  It records lessons he learned and that God wanted to pass on to the next generation who would possess the promised land.

Moses had led the nation for forty long years around the wilderness.  A journey that should have taken less than two weeks stretched out because of grumbling, complaining, doubt and unbelief.  (Deuteronomy 1:26-27) Moses, himself, did not get to enter the promised land due to his dishonoring of God at Kadesh. (Numbers 20:8-12)  In explaining the forty years of wandering, Moses appeared to blame the Israelites for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 1:37)  But God holds leaders to a higher standard because of the revelation and intimacy they share with Him. 

Moses also preached to this next generation to inspire faith in God.  His questions to them are typical of the rabbinical style of teaching.  “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”  “And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:7-8) The obvious answer is “none!”  They were a special people marked by their Holy God traveling with them.  They must be careful to teach these truths to their children and grandchildren!

What lessons do you find helpful for you today from these ancient sermons of Moses? Is history helpful to us today? Choose a family member from the ‘next’ generation to pray for and possibly share your faith or life lessons with in this coming week. Consider some questions you might ask them.

“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below.  There is no other.  Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so 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.” Deuteronomy 4:39-40

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Our God provides everything!

Scripture reading for February 20: Numbers 34-36

The God we serve knows everything!  God told Moses about the boundaries of the land He was giving them and how to divide it when they took possession of it.  (Numbers 34:2) They had yet to own any of it.  They were to cast lots for their portion in the land.  “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

As the Israelites entered the land and took possession of it, God had Moses appoint a leader from each tribe to oversee the assignment of the inheritance.  The only name that stands out in this list is Caleb.  He and Joshua were the only ones left from the generation twenty years old and older who had not perished in the wilderness on the way to the promised land. These two are examples of  the veracity of God’s promises.  “God is not a man that He should lie.” (Numbers 23:19) God alone knows the end from the beginning and He speaks to His people to build their faith, inspiring them to possess their inheritance.

In these last chapters of Numbers, we find provision for cities of refuge.  God knew that His people would need mercy.  Emotions get out of control and things happen.  Revenge instincts are strong and sometimes violence  that causes death erupts.  The cities of refuge were scattered throughout the land and provided a place where someone who had killed another could flee from the avenger of blood.  (Numbers 35:6)  These cities were Levite cities.  The Levites had no inheritance but were given cities and pastureland throughout the promised land to use and to minister to the people.  Six of these forty eight towns were cities of refuge. They were to mediate the serious situations when someone came for refuge.

Our God does know everything and has good plans for us.  He wants us to know those plans and walk by faith and claim our inheritance!  He has provided a refuge for any who sin through Jesus Christ!  Take time today to ponder some of these promises and by faith possess those that you need today!  Our God is on your side!

“What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

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Just short of your full inheritance!

Scripture Reading for February 19: Numbers 31-33

As our last two adopted children were growing up, I had them write scriptures as a discipline for doing wrong.  This helped them in several ways.  They needed to learn to write English and they needed to learn the Word of God and build their faith.  After writing the verse, I would ask them to explain what it meant to them. Some of the things they did were normal childish things, but some were willful. They obeyed to a point, but always looked for a way to get around true obedience.  One of the scriptures that we used was this simple warning found in Numbers 32:23: “you can be sure your sin will find you out.They wrote this verse dozens of times!

The context for this verse was a warning given by Moses to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh.  These tribes petitioned Moses to be able to stay on the east side of the Jordan River and not enter the promised land with the rest of the tribes.  They were lured by the lush pastures and the potential to make money with their large flocks and herds of sheep and cattle.  They were going to have a great life without their rightful inheritance promised by God.  They were satisfied with what they could see–why take a chance on what they might get?  They promised to fight and help their brothers take their inheritance, however.  So Moses warned them against failing to fulfill their promise to fight. It would be a sin that would find them out!

There are lots of people today like these tribes of Israel.  They experience the blessings of God’s deliverance from sin and see the miraculous daily supply of God.  They agree that a full inheritance is fine for others, but they are satisfied with what they can have right now.  They want the easy life and are not sure that what God promises is worth the chance or the effort.  They choose to go part way with God’s people, but they fall short of their full inheritance!

These tribes were later unfaithful to God and prostituted themselves to other gods.  God gave them over to their enemies and they went into captivity!  Don’t let this happen to you!  Take time today to be honest with God! Ask Him to help you to be faithful to keep His promises and take your full inheritance.

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Sunday rest and reflection: Moses and Christ

When we started our journey through the Bible, I began with Luke 24.  The resurrected Jesus taught his disciples on the road to Emmaus and again in the room in Jerusalem everything concerning Himself in the Law and the Prophets.  (Luke 24:27, 44) The Law refers to these Books of Moses that we have been reading.  As we take time to rest today, let’s think about these Books in relation to what they reveal about Jesus Christ.

Moses himself was a picture of Christ.  Moses was a prophet, a priest, a servant, a shepherd, a mediator, and a deliverer.  We find that Jesus is the final Word from God and holds the office of prophet and priest, as well as king (which Moses was not).  Jesus was a servant, (Matthew 12:18) the Good Shepherd, (John 10:11-14) the only mediator between God and man (1Timothy 2:5) , and our deliverer (1Thessalonians 1:10) In his character description, Moses was the meekest of men. (Numbers 12:3)  Jesus was humble of heart as well. (Matthew 11:28-30)  Moses was faithful and obedient as was Jesus Christ.  Like Christ, Moses was powerful in word and deed (Acts 7:22)!

In the account of Moses’ early life, he was a baby in Egypt and had to escape Pharaoh’s murder attempt.  Jesus, as a baby, was taken to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder attempt.  Both were providentially cared for by God to survive and fulfill their mission of deliverance!  Moses was rejected by his brothers and as a result obtained a Gentile bride while on the back side of the desert.  Jesus was rejected by His brothers and also has a Gentile bride, the Church!  Moses delivered God’s people from the death angel by the blood of a Passover lamb.  Jesus delivered God’s people from death by His own blood spilled on the cross! Moses was eventually accepted by his brothers.  Jesus will be when He comes again!  Moses led the people and fed the people and mediated their concerns.   Jesus Christ is our King, Provider and Intercessor!

Take time today to think of some other aspects of our Lord that he has revealed to you as you have read these Books of Moses!  May your heart burn with love for Jesus!  Have a blessed day!  Pastor John

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A godly woman named Hoglah!

Scripture reading for February 17: Numbers 26-30

My wife and I raised lots of hogs in our early years!  As we considered names for our daughter, I would teasingly submit the Biblical name of Hoglah. Somehow, my wife never thought that was funny!  But in Scripture, Hoglah was a daughter to be proud of!  She was a pioneer in the “women’s rights” movement, and a godly woman who wanted her share of a family inheritance. She worked this out in a godly way.

In Numbers 27 we have a record of five daughters of a man by the name of Zelophehad.  This man had died during the march through the desert.  His daughters went before the Tent of Meeting and petitioned Moses for an unusual request.  They wanted to be allowed to inherit the property of their father.  One of their talking points was that their Dad had not been a part of Korah’s rebellion.  He had simply died as a result of his own sins. (Numbers 27:2-3) Up to that time, no ruling had been made and it was tradition that the sons got the inheritance.  These godly daughters felt that was unfair!  They wanted equal rights to an inheritance in the promised land!  (Numbers 27:4-5)  God agreed!

This was a breakthrough for women’s rights and spiritual equality that God has established!  Roles for men and women are defined by God and we must accept those roles.  But some things are open for negotiation.  These women teach us some important lessons.  We must all appeal to the Lord and to His established leadership when we need answers.  We should abide by the decision of leadership.  Some problems in the community of believers must be worked out through prayer and interaction.  God will help us through godly leaders and godly appeal for what is righteous.

Their story continued at the end of Numbers, where another question arose concerning their inheritance of property.  What if they married outside of their family?  Would that land transfer out of the tribe?  God’s answer was that they must marry within their clan to keep the property!  These godly women responded in obedience and married their cousins. They kept their inheritance!  (Numbers 36:1-12)

Have you had disputes about inheritances? What principles of working out problems within the family or church do you want God to help you with?

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Ancient snake-bite remedy!

Scripture Reading for February 16: Numbers 21-25

As they were guided by God through the desert wilderness, the Israelites were doing what they did best–grumbling!  As they grumbled against Moses and God, God sent poisonous snakes which bit the complainers and caused death.   (Numbers 21:5) The Israelites asked Moses to pray for them and confessed their sin. (Numbers 21:7)  God answered Moses as he prayed with some strange instructions. He was to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole in the camp.  Anyone who was bitten by the poisonous serpent could look at the bronze snake on the pole and he would be healed! (Numbers 21:8-9)

What can we learn from this ancient story?  One lesson is that sin causes death!  God has repeated this over and over but His people seem to forget!  Another lesson is that grumbling against leadership isn’t pleasing to God.  When we do, we are actually grumbling against God.  A third lesson is that when sin’s consequences come, we run to our leaders for help and prayer–and God does answer.  We then must have faith to do what God asks in order to be saved or healed!  True faith is obedience to God’s revealed truth.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus referred to this story.  The snake that was lifted on the pole is a picture of Jesus Christ crucified.  He was made sin, Who knew no sin, that we might be healed from the serpent’s poisonous bite.  If we will look with faith to Jesus and His finished work on the cross, we will be saved and healed!  God loves His people and wants to save them from the poison of sin’s bite and the consequence of sin–eternal death! (John 3:14-18)  If we refuse the remedy provided by God, then we will die!  This ancient snake-bite remedy turns out to be the only remedy for all mankind!

Have you been obedient to God’s Word in dealing with sin in your own life? Was there a time in your life when you asked another believer or Christian leader to pray for you?  Thank God today for providing His “snake-bite” remedy through His Son, Jesus Christ.

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A negative translation!

Scripture Reading for February 15: Numbers 17-20

God’s wrath against rebellion is recorded for us.  The earth actually opened up and swallowed Korah, a son of Levi and other leaders of Israel. (Numbers 16:31-34)  The Israelites heard their screams as they fell to their deaths. It’s so easy for people to criticize leadership.  Each person thinks they see a different or better way to do things.  And each leader has his own faults as well for none are perfect!  God chooses leaders and places them in authority.  When we rebel or criticize leadership, we are rebelling and criticizing God and He is not pleased with grumbling and rebellion!

In Numbers 17, we have a record of God’s mercy towards the people of Israel.  He had the leaders of each tribe bring their staffs and lay them before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting.  The next morning, Aaron’s staff had budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds! (Numbers 17:8)  The other staffs were still dry sticks of wood!  God had demonstrated his choice of authority!  Only Aaron and his sons would be High Priests!  Moses was to take this rod and place it in the Tabernacle of Testimony as a reminder of God’s chosen authority.

This incident is a picture of Jesus Christ as God’s chosen authority!  He meekly and obediently followed God’s instructions as he lived and walked on earth. He lived a sinless life and was crucified and laid in a tomb.  All religious Jews had criticized His leadership and servant ministry.  But God raised Him from the dead!  He produces fruit in raising to eternal life all who put their trust in Him.  He is presently God’s “rod of authority” seated at God’s right hand.  He is our High Priest forever!  He ever lives to make intercession for us!  What a pleasure to trust God’s authority!  All those who won’t trust will end up like Korah!  The earth will open up and Sheol will swallow them with weeping, crying and gnashing of teeth!

Take some time today and pray for those in authority over you. Give them a call or drop them a note and let them know that you appreciate them. Practice giving honor to God’s chosen authority! “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” 1st Peter 2:17)

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