God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31 - Judges 3-5: Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah

March 31
Today’s Reading: Judges 3-5

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You've made it a quarter of the way through the Bible! Keep going!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God is showing the next generations of Israelites His power and ability to defeat their enemies.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God left five kings to help Israel continue learning about war.
Israel cheated on God. Punishment? Serving Cushan-Rishathaim for eight years. Caleb's nephew Othniel saved them. Peace lasted 40 years.
Israel cheated on God again. Punishment? Serving Eglon 14 years. Ehud saved them by killing Eglon (a fat man). Peace lasted 80 years.
Israel continued doing evil. Punishment? Serving Jabin for 20 years. Deborah helped Barak lead against Sisera, the leader of Jabin's army. Jael, the wife of a Kenite, killed Sisera with a tent peg. Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to God. Peace lasted 40 years.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God wants His Chosen People to remain ready for battle.

When 21st century Americans read this we think God continuing war is strange. Once again, this confusion is a situation of misunderstanding because of our time distance. The people of that day faced military forces that were often at war with each other. If they had peace for too long, Israel would grow, in the words of Deborah, "fat and sloppy" (5:7, The Message). God knew the people would be sitting ducks for any enemy. God wants His Chosen People to be ready to protect themselves in this world.

Israel blatantly disregarded God's commands about staying away from the people in Canaan.

God told Israel that if they intermarried Canaan's people they would serve Canaan's gods (Exodus 34:16). So here are the people giving their daughters to the people in Canaan and marrying their daughters. And Israel worship Canaan's gods. God punishes Israel. Do not marry people not wholly for God!

The judges were to show how God continued to love Israel.

God provided Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah to deliver His Chosen People from their captors. Israel needed to know how God still loved them. God will rescue His Chosen People when they are led into captivity.

God chosen both men and women as judges.

It is possible to make too much of this, to make having both male and females in leadership positions mandatory. What should be seen here is that God worked through Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah because they were willing to set things right for God's Chosen People. God can set all things right on this earth through anyone willing to obey Him.

Israel goes through cycles of generations who obey God and generations who do not.

God's people are not so fickle that they turn against God right away. It takes a generation or two to turn against God. But they always do. Faithfulness to God is not inherited. It must be learned.
It is this reason that people who complain about the USA going away from its foundation are right. The story of Israel gives ample evidence that generations do not follow in their ancestor's steps. The solution, however, is not to go back to their faith but to cry out to God to deliver us from our current sin and serve God again.

"Thus may all God's enemies perish, while his lovers be like the unclouded sun" (5:31, The Message).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30 - Judges 1-2: Introducing the (Need for) Judges

Today’s Reading: Judges 1-2

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we begin Judges. Chapters one and two introduce the need for judges. The first chapter repeats much of Joshua, so scan through it if you are behind or are short on time.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Israel ignored God's commands to tear down the altars to the false gods of the people in Canaan even though He repeated it so often.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

After Joshua died God told Judah to fight the Canaanites. Judah and Simeon teamed up to conquer their lands.
Eventually Israel failed to drive out the Canaanites and made them slaves.
Though God never broke His Promise Israel did not keep their promise. Because they did not tear down the alters in Canaan God allowed the Canaanites to stay. They would cause Israel to worship other gods.
When Israel worshiped other gods they were punished. God raised judges to redeem Israel but they would not listen and remained in sin. The nation of Israel would not be wholly for God.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The first chapter of Judges sets the background for the book.

Each book of the Bible was circulated on its own for thousands of years. This meant it needed to tell background information to set the stage for what would happen in its contents. This is why the first chapter repeats much of Joshua. People reading or listening to the text would need this chapter to remember what they read or heard a few months/years ago when they read the other book.

Israel fails to obey God's most-repeated law.

It what may be the saddest part of scripture so far, God reprimanded Israel for not following the law that was repeated more times than any other law—destroy any and every trace of the gods of the Canaanites. Because they would not do this God would no longer protect them. Canaan's unholy influence would overtake them and they would be punished. When God's Chosen People do not make themselves wholly for God (holy) then they will eventually forsake God completely.

Israel's new generation does not follow in its predecessor's footprints.

Disobeying another oft repeated law, Israel fails to pass on faith in God to their children. Whether this is the fault of the parents or of the children God does not say—most likely because it is not important. Parents must pass on to their children that that God is setting all things right on this earth or they will not be wholly for God (holy).

God provides Israel's judges.

Even though Israel is not willing to obey God, He still sends them judges to call them back into a right relationship with Him. God is willing to call His Chosen People even when they are not willing to obey Him. How wonderful is our God!

God uses the Canaanites to test Israel's faith.

Since Israel was not willing to destroy the idols of the Canaanites God would no longer drive the Canaanites out of the land. This meant Israel would not only have to fight them when they wished for revenge but they would also tempt Israel to worship their gods. When we are not holy, God allows us to keep temptations around.

In what ways has God not driven out your Canaanite temptations?

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29 - Joshua 22-24: The Conquest Concludes

Today’s Reading: Joshua 22-24

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we finish Joshua! (If you are keeping count, that's seven books.) The nation of Israel is at last at peace. Tomorrow we begin the interesting time of the Judges.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Israel is now willing to punish anyone not willing to worship God alone—even their own people.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Joshua dismissed the three tribes to return across the Jordan. They were very rich from the spoils of war.
On their way, they built a large altar by the Jordan. It was built to symbolize the common history of the tribes on both sides.
Many peaceful years later, Joshua warned Israel of the surrounding nations' gods and reminded them of their history with God from the time of Abraham. He repeated the harsh penalties for cheating on God. He called Israel to choose who they would worship. Joshua and all Israel chose to worship God.
Joshua and Eleazar died.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have followed through on their promise.

To receive land east of the Jordan River these three tribes promised to go with their brothers into Canaan until all of that land was conquered. Their job was completed. Now, roughly eight years later, they are able to go home—rich from what was salvaged from the Canaanites. God can set things right on the earth when His Chosen People fulfill their promises.

For all of its drama, the story of the altar, "A Witness Between Us," gives a great example of conflict resolution.

Phinehas is a man willing to bring God's punishment on anyone who worships another god—even his own countrymen. Yet he does not run among the three tribes "guns a-blazing." He openly and forcefully tells the tribes why he opposes their actions and allows them to give their rationale in constructing this massive altar. At the end of their explanation Phinehas has changed his mind. This altar served as a sign of peace and unity. Because Phinehas was willing to be open about his feelings of hurt and listen (and believe) to the three tribes' feelings peace was preserved. When a person is open about their hurts and listen to the other side's intentions God can set things right on this earth.

Joshua repeats the warnings against the influence of the surrounding nations.

In yet another example of the leader of the Israelites warning them to stay free from the harmful influence of the nations around them Joshua tells his people to stay away from the other nations' gods.
Don't get mixed up with the nations that are still around. Don't so much as speak the names of their gods or swear by them. And by all means don't worship or pray to them. Hold tight to God, your God, just as you've done up to now. God has driven out superpower nations before you. And up to now, no one has been able to stand up to you. Think of it - one of you, single-handedly, putting a thousand on the run! Because God is God, your God. Because he fights for you, just as he promised you. (23:7-10, The Message)
God's Chosen People must be wholly for God!

Joshua gives Israel a choice in who they will worship.

After he repeats how God called Israel, liberated Israel, and gave land to Israel, Joshua gives Israel a choice: the gods of their ancestors (that did not call, liberate, or give land to them), the gods of the people who lived in Canaan (that did not call, liberate, or give land to them), or God (the god that called, liberated, and gave land to them).
The fact that Joshua can give Israel a choice, "If you decide that it's a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you'd rather serve - and do it today" (24:15, The Message) shows how God is a benevolent god. God gives us a choice in what god we choose to worship. Make sure it is the God who liberates and protect you!

Be strong and courageous!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28 - Joshua 19-21: Conquered Canaan is Parceled Out (Part 3 of 3)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 19-21

The Message

English Standard Version

Today is the final day where Canaan is given to the tribes. Unless you really like saying words in Hebrew, try not to say them in your head. Scan through these areas if you are getting bogged down.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Once again we see a tribe of Israel unable to fulfill God's entire promise.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Joshua and Eleazar finished giving the unconquered land of Canaan to the tribes left. Dan could not push out the people in the West but could conquer Leshem.
God instructed Joshua to designate the asylum cities. Six cities were chosen—three from east and three from west of the Jordan.
The Levites went to Eleazar and Joshua and requested towns and grasslands for their inheritance among the other tribes. They were given 48 towns.
God gave Israel rest on all sides to fulfill part of the promise. Everything God told Israel would happen happened.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

These chapters are included for the generations after the conquest to know how to return the land in the Jubilee.

(Repeat of Monday's comment)
God's Law stated that the land would return to the original families at the Jubilee. Therefore, a list of who received what was essential to know how to return the land. (Foreshadowing—Israel never obeys the Jubilee commands.)

God finished all he promised Israel before they entered Canaan.

God has given Canaan to Israel just as he promised both to their ancestors and the current generation. Now Israel transitions from being a conquering force to being a nation in their own land. God will fulfill His promises!

Be strong and courageous!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27 - Joshua 16-18: Conquered Canaan is Parceled Out (Part 2 of 3)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 16-18

The Message

English Standard Version

Today is day two of three where Canaan is given to the tribes. Unless you really like saying words in Hebrew, try not to say them in your head. Scan through these areas if you are getting bogged down.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Notice the difference in faith between Joshua and the descendents of Joseph.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The tribe of Manasseh was unable to drive out the Canaanites. They still lived among Israel but were forced laborers. Manasseh's descendents went to Joshua asking for more land. The Canaanites were too strong and had iron chariots. Joshua agreed that Manasseh needed more land but reminded them that they could defeat the Canaanites, iron chariots or no iron chariots.
Seven tribes had not received their inheritance. Joshua went to them and asked why they were waiting. Twenty-one men were chosen to describe the land and return to Joshua. When they returned he apportioned the land according to lot.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

These chapters are included for the generations after the conquest to know how to return the land in the Jubilee.

(Repeat of yesterday's comment)
God's Law stated that the land would return to the original families at the Jubilee. Therefore, a list of who received what was essential to know how to return the land. (Foreshadowing—Israel never obeys the Jubilee commands.)

The tribe of Manasseh shows how God cannot set things right when His Chosen People do not trust His Ability.

The discussion with the Manassehites gives yet another example of how Joshua's faith differs from Israel's. Manasseh's descendents have forgotten God's promise given just a few years ago. They are afraid of the Canaanites and therefore are unwilling and unable to force them out. Joshua has to remind them that Canaan is theirs and they can have it. Unfortunately, they do not trust that saying and the Canaanites stay in their cities. God cannot set things right on this earth when His Chosen People doubt His Abilities.

Manasseh's faith is running low and will come back to hurt them later.

Israel has been at war for almost five years and they still haven't finished conquering the land. This is why the tribe of Manasseh is unable to drive out the Canaanites completely. As time goes by this will become a great stumbling block for them and their need to be (w)holy. When God's Chosen People lose faith in God's abilities their ability to remain holy is compromised.

Be strong and courageous!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26 - Joshua 12-15: Conquered Canaan is Parceled Out (Part 1 of 3)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 12-15

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading begins three days of Israel allocating the land to each tribe. Unless you really like saying words in Hebrew, try not to say them in your head. There are also several lists. Scan through these areas if you are getting bogged down.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Caleb gets his due reward.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Israel defeated thirty-one kings so far.
God told Joshua that although he was old he had lots of land to conquer. God listed it and told Joshua to go.
The land that had been conquered already was allotted to several of the tribes according to their size. The Levites did not receive an inheritance, since the sacrifices of the other tribes would be theirs.
Caleb, now 85-years-old and as strong as ever, received land and drove out its inhabitants. He gave two springs and his daughter to the conqueror of a difficult foe.
The Jebusites lived in Jerusalem among Judah.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

These chapters are included for the generations after the conquest to know how to return the land in the Jubilee.

God's Law stated that the land would return to the original families at the Jubilee. Therefore, a list of who received what was essential to know how to return the land. (Foreshadowing—Israel never obeys the Jubilee commands.)

Joshua and Caleb received a long life because they trusted God to set all things right.

Joshua and Caleb trusted that God could bring them into Canaan the first time Israel came to the Jordan  Both escaped punishment. Joshua's life would be prolonged until the conquest was over. Caleb's was prolonged so he could receive land and conquer it as well. God rewards those who have faith that He will set all things right on the Earth.
This does not mean that Christians will have their lives prolonged or that a person who dies young was a sinner. It does mean we should expect a blessing when we trust that God is setting all things right, an unearned but graciously-received blessing from God.

Not all of the people in Canaan were driven out.

We will read in Judges why Judah could not drive out the Jebusites. However, what is important to see here is that the Hivites at Gibeon and the Jebusites were still in the land. This will come up again in future readings.

Be strong and courageous!

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25 - Joshua 9-11: Israel Conquers Canaan (Almost)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 9-11

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Notice the difference in outcome when Israel consults God and when they do not consult God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The Hivites at Gibeon tricked Israel by imitating emissaries from a far land. They became Israel's servants.
Several kings attacked Israel and Gibeon. Israel roundly defeated them when God rained stones on the kings' armies and held the sun to help Israel kill their enemy. Joshua executed the five kings to show Israel God's power.
Other kings attacked Israel and God gave them into their hands. The abnormally-tall tribe was driven out of Canaan.
Joshua and Israel did all that God commanded them to do through Moses—conquer the land of Canaan. Israel rested from war.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The story of the Hivites at Gibeon shows the perils of not consulting God on decisions.

Israel decided not to take the strange emissary's request to God before agreeing even though they had reservations at first. This provides a great example that all decisions should have God's approval through prayer. Do not make decisions without consulting God in prayer.

Joshua executes the kings in public to remind Israel that God was defeating their enemies before them.

The conquest of Canaan took a long time. Israel could have become war-weary or questioned God's ability to defend them. So Joshua gives yet another example of God helping Israel—defeating the five kings. Leaders should show how God is helping His Chosen People.

The new generation fulfilled another part of God's promise to Abraham—land.

This generation finished the task God wanted the preceding generation to accomplish—the conquest of Canaan. They were faithful. God will fulfill His Promises when His Chosen People are faithful.

The people of Canaan are being punished for their sin.

Reading this section of scripture is difficult. There is a lot of death and destruction. It is easy to write this off as God being a ruthless, punishing god. This assessment of God is one of the major reasons I wanted to write this blog in the first place. If you have followed the entire readings you know that God has repeatedly given Israel reasons to not allow the Canaanites to live. This reason is a simple one—the people in Canaan disobeyed God and polluted the land. God is cleansing the land of their sin. It is difficult for us to read this section of scripture because of its violence. However, we should feel more uncomfortable because of what it says about God's character. God will punish people who do not set things right on this earth.

Be strong and courageous!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24 - Joshua 5-8: The Next Generation Obeys (Almost)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 5-8

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God punishes all who do not obey Him.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The kings west of the Jordan cowered because God protected Israel.
Joshua circumcised the men at Gilgal. Israel ate grain from Canaan. The manna stopped. Israel was home.
God ordered the destruction of Jericho. Israel circumvented Jericho once for six days and seven times the seventh day. The walls fell and Israel destroyed everything except Rahab and her family.
Israel attacked Ai but lost. God had removed his protection because Achan took booty from Jericho. His entire household was stoned and buried.
Israel attacked Ai again and defeated it. Joshua built an altar and wrote the entire law on it.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

This generation is now "separate and apart" from its predecessor.

The generation that left Egypt never had true faith in God's abilities. They did not obey God's commands. In fact, they did not even circumcise their boys, the one sign that a person was a descendant of Abraham. The irony of their lack of faith is that God gave them all of the signs they would ever need and yet they did not obey God.
This generation is different. They will trust in God's abilities. They will circumcise their young and prove to God they are willing to obey Him. Each generation must choose to obey God on their own instead of relying on the faith of the former generation. Because this generation is willing to walk by faith and not by signs, God ends the gift of manna and allows Israel to eat of their land's produce.
Sometimes I see this in churches. Faith grows and wanes depending on the people in each congregation. One generation's lack of faith becomes the example for the next generation's massive growth of faith. The Chinese have an old proverb, "Wealth does not sustain beyond three generations." A corollary of this could be "Faith does not sustain beyond three generations."

The story of Jericho is about the people of Israel being willing to obey God, not a technical white paper on how to destroy a walled city.

What is lost in most critiques of the Bible and apologetics courses which spring up to combat such critiques is the true purpose of the Bible. It is not a science textbook, though there are scientific truths found within it. It is not a health pamphlet, though there are health truths found within it. It is not a primer on warfare, though there is war found within it. The Bible is a sourcebook on faith—leading a person to a closer relationship to the god of creation. The holes in the story which we, a culture strong on science and weak on faith, find lacking are due to our preconceived assumptions on what the Bible should and shouldn't include and not the Bible's limitations. The stories in the books of the history if the Jews have certain foci which are meant to lead a person to faith in the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The focus of the story of Jericho is that God gave the people specific instructions and they obeyed without complaining. It carries on the theme from the previous chapter where God separates the new generation from the old. The older generation might have complained that their feet would have gotten tired with all of that walking or that it was a silly thing to walk around a city. This generation simply obeyed. God can set things right when His Chosen People obey His orders.

The story of Achan/Ai shows how the sins of one person can lead to the downfall of an entire nation.

This story seems odd to us. Why would God take away His Protection from Israel because one man, Achan, disobeyed? God called the Israelites to be a people wholly devoted to Him (holy) and Achan disregarded His commands and took control of his situation over God, which is sin. Because of him the entire people of God were no longer a holy nation. So God removed His Protection. This is why Achan's entire family and possessions were destroyed—they had to purge the camp of evil to return God's Protection. The sin of one person can spoil an entire congregation. Thank Jesus for the grace that prevents a sinner from being executed today because of his sin!

Joshua writes the entire Law on the altar stones to show Israel they defeated their enemies because of God's Protection and not their own skill.

Joshua is the leader of the Israelites. He has ultimate authority, almost as a king. Yet when they have a great military battle and utterly defeat their enemy Joshua doesn't stand before the people to cry out his own majesty. He bends down at an altar made of rough stone and writes down the Law of Moses. He will show everyone, native Israelite, foreigner, young, and old that he, Joshua, leader of the crusading army, is only a servant. God can set things right on the earth when His Chosen Leaders remind everyone that they have no authority or greatness apart from God.

Be strong and courageous!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23 - Joshua 1-4: Israel Crosses the Jordan, Rahab (a Non-Chosen Person) is Saved

Today’s Reading: Joshua 1-4

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Rahab's story shows the proof of God's word—the nations would marvel at how God protected Israel.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God told Israel to enter Canaan and charged them to be strong and courageous.
The Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassehites (who wanted the land east of the river) sent their armies across the Jordan. They expressed loyalty to Joshua.
Joshua sent two spies to Jericho. Rahab protected them. The entire city shook with fear from God's protection of the Israelites. Rahab's family would be saved because of her faith.
Joshua ordered the Ark of the Covenant be carried into the Jordan. The water stood upstream and Israel crossed on dry land. They removed 12 stones as a sign of God's works.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God renews The Promise with the new generation.

Finally, Israel is ready to fulfill part of God's promise to Abraham. So God reminds the people again of His protection.
All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you. Strength! Courage! (1:5-6, The Message)
God will protect His Chosen People when they make all things right on the earth.

The new generation wants to obey Joshua.

These people are very different than their previous generation. Moses had to argue, fight, and beg Israel to follow him. Joshua does not need to battle. They are willing and ready to go. God can make all things right when we follow the leaders God has chosen.

The story of Rahab is about how the people in Canaan feared God because He protected Israel.

Most English translations consider Rahab a harlot and thus make the story about an immoral woman who had faith in God. However, that is not the point at all. The main point of the story is her statement of faith,
I know that God has given you the land. We're all afraid. Everyone in the country feels hopeless. We heard how God dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt, and what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you put under a holy curse and destroyed. We heard it and our hearts sank. We all had the wind knocked out of us. And all because of you, you and God, your God, God of the heavens above and God of the earth below. Now promise me by God. I showed you mercy; now show my family mercy. (2:9-12, The Message)
Rahab has greater faith in God than many of the Israelites! Rahab's profession was is immaterial to the story—and the reason it wasn't included in this text. God's protection of His Chosen People makes their enemies fear.

God protected Rahab because she protected His Chosen People.

Rahab and her entire family are saved from destruction because she was willing to set things right for God's Chosen People. She did this because of her faith. Yet she was not an Israelite and the spies did not tell her to obey the Torah (the laws section of the Pentateuch) to be saved. God will protect anyone willing to set things right on this earth.

Be strong and courageous!

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22 - Deuteronomy 32-34, Psalm 91: Moses Says Goodbye to Israel

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 32-34, Psalm 91

The Message

English Standard Version

We did it! We made it to the end of the Pentateuch! Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a nice meal (that's what I did!). Kiss your children (you should do that anyway—what's wrong with you?).

Since you made it this far you should have lots and lots of notes that help you remember it all. You do have notes, right? You wrote down all the great things you saw God tell Israel in the Law of Moses? You didn't? That's okay, I know someone who is blogging through the Bible who might let you have his notes. (Can you tell I'm a little giddy about getting through the Pentateuch?)

Tomorrow we begin Joshua. Now let's calm down and say goodbye to my favorite person in scripture so far, Moses.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

There was never a prophet like Moses—with his power, ability, and life full of action.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses taught Israel the song God commissioned. In it he spoke of God's greatness toward Jacob, the sins of Israel, and how God would punish them. He extols God's protection and His severe justice.
Moses blessed each tribe. He ends by praising Israel's God—unlike any god on earth!
God showed Moses the land of Canaan from Mount Nebo. Moses was not allowed to enter the land. Moses died. The people mourned his death for 30 days. There was never a prophet like Moses.
Joshua, filled with the spirit of wisdom, began to lead Israel. The people followed him.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 91

This anonymous psalm (traditionally attributed to Moses) could serve as a shortened version of his song in chapter 32. In it he instructs everyone to call on God to be their refuge. Anyone who calls on God will be protected from all problems—even from stubbing their toe.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Moses' song retells Israel's history in terms of God's goodness.

Moses' song goes back to Jacob and tells how God guided him to all he had. No foreign gods protected Jacob. Yet "Jeshurun" (the ironic name for the nation of Israel—meaning "upright" though everything they did was the opposite) did everything wrong. They grew fat, lazy, and happy. They began sacrificing to foreign gods and forgot their god,
They are a nation of ninnies, they don't know enough to come in out of the rain. If they had any sense at all, they'd know this; they would see what's coming down the road. (32:28-29, The Message)
By singing this song the people were able to remember their common history and the mistakes that were made by their ancestors.

Moses' blessings are similar to Jacob's in that they tell how each tribe would live.

Moses' blessings matched each tribe's personality and the trajectory of their future. This will be shown in the books of history.

There was never a prophet like Moses.

Moses had an extremely significant life. He grew up in Pharaoh's house as an adopted grandson, rejected his upbringing to protect his people, fled into the wilderness for 40 years where he married and began a family, returned to Egypt to battle the pharaoh, freed his people, and guided these people for 42 years wondering in the wilderness. In all that time he never lost faith in God, only once took control over God, and protected Israel when they doubted God. What a wonderful man of faith, a wonderful man of God! May we all have the faith of Moses!

God will not allow anything to harm anyone who calls on His name.

In a passage which will come up again in the New Testament, Moses tells Israel that God would protect them through all trials and in all circumstances. God will protect His people.

That's it! What was your favorite/least favorite part of the Pentateuch? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21 - Deuteronomy 30-31: Moses Reminds Israel of God's Forgiveness

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 30-31

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God tells Moses to prepare to die—and the people would not obey God's word. Not great parting words.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses comforted Israel. "If you repent, God will restore your relationship and your land.
"These are simple, understandable laws. You need no guru to interpret it—love God and obey Him. If not, death.
"I am 120 years-old and will soon die. Joshua, be strong and courageous. You are Israel's leader. Remember your ancestor's teachings."
Moses wrote the Law for the people.
God told Moses it was time. He warned Moses that Israel would soon worship other gods, but He wanted them to have a song to remember the Promise and return to Him.
So Moses taught Israel this song.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God is slow to punish and quick to forgive.

Considering what was written yesterday, this is an important part to include! Moses wants Israel to remember that God's ability to punish was equal to His ability to save. If they repented of their sin then God would save them from whatever calamity they faced. Things would be back to normal—as though nothing had happened in the first place. God's punishments are severe, but His forgiveness is complete. What a great God!

The Law of God is simple.

In a section that is quoted again in the New Testament, Moses reminds Israel that God's Law is not so difficult that they need some guru in another place to interpret it for them. The Law of God is simple—love God and keep His commandments. If you do not love God and keep His commandments, you will die. That does not need a Master's of Divinity degree to understand!

Moses passes the mantle to Joshua.

Moses knows Joshua is the next chosen leader. He does not want the same problems to happen to Joshua that happened to him when he became Israel's leader. So he, in front of all Israel, passes the mantle of leadership to Joshua. No one could question Joshua's legitimacy. He also encourages Joshua and the Israelites to obey God when they enter Canaan. Leaders should publically pass on the legitimacy of leadership to their successor.

God has Moses write a song that will help Israel remember His ability to both punish and forgive His people.

God realizes the people are not fully converted to Him. So he has Moses write a song that the people can sing for generations to come that would help them remember the god of their ancestors (chapter 32). Teach your children songs that can help them remember God when they no longer remember theology.

What songs are you teaching/have taught your children to help them remember God? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20 - Deuteronomy 28-29: Moses Reminds Israel of the Rewards and Punishments of God's Covenant

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 28-29

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses reminds the people of what God would do for them … or what God would do against them.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses reminded Israel that if they obeyed God there would be great blessings in their land. God would bless their children, livestock, and crops. All of the people of the earth would know that their god blessed them and Israel's enemies would flee before them.
If they did not obey God, He would greatly punish them. The land would become barren. Their livestock would die. Enemies would enter the land, blockade their cities, forcing Israel to become cannibals. They would flee to Egypt but wouldn't be fit to be slaves.
These are the terms of God's Covenant with Israel.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Obeying God brings great blessings.

This expands on the section in chapter 4. God has called Israel to be an example of God's holiness to the world and will bless them greatly if they obey Him.

Disobeying God brings great calamities.

In a section that I do not wish to flesh out God is very straightforward and clear—disobedience brings nothing good. The end of the reading shows why God would do this—to show the world. God has called Israel to be an example of God's holiness to the world and will punish them greatly if they disobey Him.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19 - Deuteronomy 24-27: Moses Reminds Israel to Protect the Poor, Widow, Orphan, and Refugee

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 24-27

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Several laws protected those who had no other protection.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses continued reminding Israel of God's Law.
A man may not re-marry his wife if she had married another.
God protected the poor from crippling collateral, waiting for wages, and allowed them to have leftover grain from fields.
Each person was liable for their own sins.
Israel should protect widows and orphans.
They could not punish a person excessively.
A man would be publically shamed for not producing a child for his dead brother's name.
God warned against unequal weights.
Every third year the tithe went to the orphan and widow.
Moses and the priests confirmed the Law with Israel.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God would allow couples to divorce but not to do so lightly.

A man must think long and hard before divorcing his wife. He could not divorce her and marry her again later if he "fell back in love" after she lived with someone else. God takes marriage serious. Do not divorce unless absolutely necessary!

God protects the poor but tells Israel to give to the widow, orphan, and refugee.

There are so many areas in this section where God protects the poor it is too much to comment on each one. I will give one thought, however.
God does not tell Israel to give to just anyone. God tells Israel to give to the widow and to the orphan. These people have no one to protect and care for them. The "poor" (that are not widows or orphans) have the ability to work. So God tells Israel not to return to their fields but leave that to the poor. The poor can go out, harvest what is left, and live on that. Widows cannot go out and work—their advanced age prevents it. Orphans cannot go out and work—their youth prevents it. God protects the poor but tells Israel to give to widows and orphans.

A man who would not continue his brother's bloodline would be publically shamed.

This is to protect the brother's wife. If she had no children she would have no protection when she grew older. So again, God protects widows. Most men would rather raise a child that was not considered theirs than be shamed by their peers. God protected younger widows by forcing men to take care of them or be shamed by their peers.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18 - Deuteronomy 21-23: Moses Reminds the People of Various Laws

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 21-23

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Some of the laws God gave the Israelites are higher moral laws than we have today.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The nearest city should bury abandoned corpses.
A female war-bride could be married after she mourned. If divorced, she was freed.
Birth order must stay the same. Execute a rebellious child. Bury the executed the same day.
Be good neighbors—return lost property and do not harvest another's field.
No mixing.
Wife-slanderers must be severely punished. Execute adulterers—unless the woman had no one to protect her. A virgin raped became the man's wife forever.
God restricted entry to the Tabernacle.
Defecate outside the camp.
Israel could not bring a prostitute's wages into the temple or charge interest to Israelites.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God protected women more than any other culture of the day.

Remember, women were thought of as property and child-bearers only by most people. If a man could not trust his wife then he could never really know if his children were his. So God's laws may not have given her equal rights to men as we would hope but God was not working with the same group of people. Let me explain through the examples given in the text.
A man could marry a slave captured in war but only after she had the opportunity to grieve for her loss. Later, if the man decided he no longer wanted her she went free. A man could not marry a slave girl, take advantage of her, and then sell her back into slavery when he grew tired of her.
A man who had two wives (often one married because of his parents' choice and one because of love) could not give the loved wife's children more than the other children. How does this protect the women? By protecting their children.
A man could not have remorse and get rid of his new wife by slandering her. The parents could protect her by showing the marriage bed's stains and prove she was a virgin.
An engaged woman who was raped would not be executed if she had no one to protect her. Protection is the reason a woman raped in a city did not have that excuse. She had the opportunity and ability to cry out and (because their walls were not very soundproof) have a protector come and save her. If she did not cry out then she must have been implicit in the act and would be executed with the man.
A virgin who was not engaged would become the man's wife. Remember, virginity is prized to these people. If a girl was not a virgin she would no longer be marriage material. A man could not use a girl and throw her out when he grew tired of her. Her virginity was lost but she forever had the protection of a man.
God protects women and will not allow men to treat them as possessions.

Parents are responsible for teaching their children. Children are responsible for obeying their parents.

God does not put the responsibility on one and not the other. Both sides must work together to make things right on the earth. God requires both parents and children to set things right in a family.

God wants His Chosen People to be good neighbors.

These seem like simple laws. However, think about this situation today. How often does lost property get returned to its proper owner? Not as often as it should. God's chosen people should be good neighbors.

God punishes the Ammonites and the Moabites for not allowing Israel to cross into their borders.

This event comes from Numbers. The people of Moab would not allow Israel to cross into their borders because they were scared and were inhospitable. God is punishing them for not allowing refugees into their land. God will punish those who are not hospitable to people in need.

God's law about taking from a field show that God is not the black-and-white god some present

God forbids stealing in the Ten Commandments, the first laws of Moses' law. Reaping a field that is not your own is stealing. However, God allows people to eat from someone else's field. How is this righteous? The person is hungry. The person is not allowed to take a bunch home or sell it to others. This is important because it shows that God is not a black-and-white god who has no exceptions to any laws. He does not want anyone to steal, but he will allow them to take some when they are hungry. God's laws are not so stiff that no exceptions can be made, but these exceptions must have a non-self-serving reason behind them.

God protects the poor from interest.

God has already told the people that if they obey Him they will not have poor in their country. So now God protects the poor who will be in the land from having to pay more than they borrow. God's Chosen People do not lend to other Chosen People and charge interest.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17 - Deuteronomy 17-20: Moses Reminds Israel to Purge Evil from Among Them

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 17-20

The Message

English Standard Version

The next three days' readings are chocked full of laws, many repeated from Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers with some new wrinkles added. I will not comment on the same laws as before but try to discuss the new wrinkles.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses uses the rhetorical device of repetition to ingrain the most important laws into their minds.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses reminded the people to execute anyone worshiping another god—only by the testimony of multiple witnesses who start the execution. The priests and judges would try difficult cases. Their verdicts were final.
Kings must not use their position for gain but study God's Law.
The priests would receive part of every sacrifice. No child sacrifice or any type of dark magic was tolerated.
God would provide prophets for Israel.
Accidental killings were forgiven.
Only willing warriors entered battle. Enemy cities were offered peace. If they fought, only their men should die. Others became servants—except the people in Canaan.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The multiple witnesses to a crime were to be the first to throw the stones, in other words, start the execution.

This law is what Jesus referenced (and modified) when He shows mercy to a woman caught in adultery. Those who see what happen should be the one who punish an evil act.
God will not allow one person to pervert justice. There are too many variables which could prevent justice from happening.

A priest's and a judge's verdicts were final. Anyone caught changing the punishment was to be purged.

Priests were God's chosen people to represent Him on the earth. Judges were the people's choice to make decisions. Therefore any person who disagreed with their decisions went against both God's and Israel's leaders. This would not be tolerated. God demands respect of His Chosen Leaders and the people's chosen leaders.

A king must not use his position for personal gain.

In what could amount to the most neglected and ignored part of the entire Law, this section (17:14-20) may have never been read and obeyed. It is ironic that God would push the people against having a king (in 1 Samuel) but include this section in the Law. It is almost like He did not want them to have a king but knew their hearts that they would want one anyway.
The problem with having a king is that the king believes he is above everyone and the law and takes control over God—which is sin. This is why God writes this law—to force the king to remember that he is under God's Law. By building a massive army he begins to think he guarantees his own strength. By sending trade emissaries to other nations he begins to think that peace comes based on his own diplomacy. By collecting gold and silver he begins to think his wealth comes from his own greatness. By marrying many women he begins to think his popularity comes from himself. And these wives would lead him to worship other gods. Power tempts a heart to leave its dependence on God. Studying God's Law prevents a heart from usurping God's control.

God provides a test for potential prophets.

God wanted to make sure the people could tell the difference between His Prophet and a fake prophet. So he gave them a test—if what the prophet says came true they were to believe him/her. If what the prophet says did not come true, they were to execute him/her. It was quite simple. Why would a person imitate being a prophet if they knew once being caught they would be executed?

God wages a peaceful and brave war.

First, God will allow anyone who wishes to go home to leave. Those who have just built a house, planted a vineyard, or recently become engaged are allowed to go home. Then He tells anyone who is afraid to go home so as to not make others afraid.
God's battle plan is peace because Israel must first offer terms of peace. If the enemy rejected peace then bloodshed came. God's way of war is to prevent bloodshed unless it is absolutely necessary.

God will not stand for evil to live among His Chosen People.

God repeats the idea at the end of several laws that the Israelites were to "clean" or "purge" themselves of evil, meaning the person who had done the evil must be executed. This repetition is to make His point clear. God will not stand for people who willingly do evil to live among His Chosen People.

What do you think of the command to "purge the evil from your community"? 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16 - Deuteronomy 14-16: Moses Reminds Israel to be Holy (and Party!)

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 14-16

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses is reminding the people of their (w)holiness to God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Israel was God's Chosen People and was not to harm the body to honor the dead or eat unclean animals. They were to be wholly for God.
All Israelites should tithe. If someone lived too far to carry the produce they could bring the proceeds to the Tabernacle, buy goods, and feast there.
Every seventh year was the year of release. All debts were forgiven. All slaves were released (unless they wished to stay). God promised to give liberally to them if they gave to the poor.
They must observe the festivals to remember their heritage.
They must love righteousness!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God's Chosen People are to be different, a more righteous group of people.

As mentioned one month ago, the laws against eating certain meats were to prevent diseases. However, they were also to set Israel apart from the people who came before. This is why they were not to mutilate their bodies for the dead, boil a kid in its mother's milk, not put the firstborn to work, etc. but were allowed to sell these unclean animals to foreigners to eat. These may seem like "holier than thou" laws, but, in essence, they are! The problem with the "holier than thou" attitude is not in the "holier" part but in the unspoken "I'm the cause of it." Israel was to be holier than the people around them because their god was holier than any other god.

If a person lived too far from the Tabernacle to carry the tithe, they could basically use a tenth of their produce to fund a big party at the Tabernacle.

This is an interesting passage. That is basically what it says, if a person cannot go to the priests they are allowed to sell the tithe, travel to the tabernacle, buy whatever they wanted, and feast in the presence of God. As long as they were doing this to celebrate God's blessings all was acceptable. Even the mandatory feasts are times for celebration and partying in thanksgiving. That stands in contrast to the prudish vision many have of God in the Old Testament. As long as our local poor and dedicated servants of God are taken care of, we should spend some of the fruits of our labor in celebration of God's bountiful blessings. God is a partying god!

God protects the poor by blessing His Chosen People with enough to provide for the poor and themselves.

This is a cool part of scripture. God tells Israel that they should give until there is no poor person in the land because God would supply enough food for every person, including the poor. Even if the person makes bad decisions and goes terribly into debt they could only be a slave for no longer than seven years. When God's Chosen People obey Him, they have no poor due to an abundance of blessings and the gracious distribution of those blessings.

Moses reminds the people that God's Chosen People are holy because God is righteous.

This is why he pleads, "The right! The right! Pursue only what's right! It's the only way you can really live and possess the land that God, your God, is giving you" (16:20, The Message). If we choose to set things right for God, God will bless us with uncountable blessings.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15 - Deuteronomy 11-13: Moses Reminds Israel of Bad Influences in Canaan

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 11-13

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God reminds the people again and again of the harmful influence brought by the people in Canaan.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses reminds the people how God was active in their lives. Canaan would be fruitful beyond their imagination.
Israel was to destroy everything about the inhabitants of Canaan's culture to prevent any form of synchronism. God would punish Canaan for all of their evil deeds. God required Israel to live a very different life.
God allowed the people to offer sacrifices without a priest if they lived too far for the journey.
If anyone mentioned worshiping another god, the people were to execute them. It did not matter who the person was. Any Israelite who worshiped another god was executed.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Moses reminded Israel that God, their god, was not some legend found only in myths.

This may be the hardest part of believing and obeying God today. When we read of the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna every morning, and all of the other acts of God we need faith to help us believe these things happened. We cannot prove them. But Israel did not have that problem. Israel saw them happen firsthand. That is why they should have no excuse in doubting God's ability to fulfill His Promise. People who see God at work have no excuse to doubt God.
What about today? We see God working today. God may not open seas for us to cross, but He works within us. He works through. And sometimes, He works despite us. We, as God's Chosen People, must continuously see and tell others how God is working in our lives. When we slack in doing this we should not be surprised when we and others doubt God's abilities.

The land God gave the people would not be difficult to work.

Canaan was a great place to live. It was fruitful beyond measure and would be so without irrigation. Israel had a great place to live because God loved them. God richly blesses His Chosen People. This will lead to a temptation mentioned in chapter 13.

God is trying to help the people stay faithful to Him.

You may wonder why God keeps repeating this part about Canaan over and over (see March 9 for the list of times God mentioned this in Exodus-Numbers). This is the third day in a row Moses has mentioned how the people in Canaan worshiped other gods. God does not want them to forget why they are getting the land. We must continue to remind ourselves why God is blessing us and what happens when we worship other gods.

God realizes other gods may take credit for His blessings.

I had a professor at Fuller mention this in a class. Israel would enter a land where the natives had a god of the earth, Ba'al. They would pray to Ba'al and he would give them a great harvest. Because Canaan was blessed by God to be a bountiful land their sacrifices worked—or so they believed. When Israel entered Canaan they would see and hear of this and may think that Ba'al is the god of the land. "It worked for the Canaanites, let's see if it works for us." God is explicitly warning them not to let other gods take credit for their blessings because their god is the god over everything. Our god is the God of everything. We do not need any other god to help us in any aspect of life.
Another professor gave an example that shows how this problem can be adverted. In the village where he worked the people would walk around their fields praying to their earth gods for a bountiful harvest. A certain man became a disciple of Jesus. He continued walking around his field. Worried that the man continued worshiping his old gods, the missionary asked the man why he continued this practice. "I still walk around my field praying for a good harvest, but now I pray to God for that good harvest and not the gods of the past," he replied. God should replace all other gods of our past.

God does not allow for family members to be exempt from punishments against worshiping other gods.

Unfortunately, we do not want this section to be here. We are fine with strangers being punished for worshiping other gods. We may join in the punishment. But our own child, our own parent, our own sibling, our best friend, our own spouse? We want God to let us talk them down, win them back. But God is adamant to Israel,
Don't feel sorry for him and don't make excuses for him. Kill him. That's right, kill him. You throw the first stone. Take action at once and swiftly with everybody in the community getting in on it at the end. Stone him with stones so that he dies. (13:8-10, The Message)
The reason is clear, "He tried to turn you traitor against God, your God, the one who got you out of Egypt and the world of slavery" (13:10). God requires this because of the example it will set:
Every man, woman, and child in Israel will hear what's been done and be in awe. No one will dare to do an evil thing like this again. (13:11)
It may sound harsh, but God is not to be tested. All people, even your closest friend or your nearest family member, are held to the same standard—there is no other god but our God and anyone who worships another god is not worthy of God.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14 - Deuteronomy 8-10: Moses Reminds Israel of Why God is Worthy of Obedience

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 8-10

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses is reminding Israel of the God they serve and why God should be obeyed—and that they had not done a great job so far.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses reminded Israel of why God was worthy of being obeyed. He fed them in the wilderness when they were hungry—so they would learn to live by faith. The land they would receive would be ready for a great harvest. Moses warned them not to forget God when they had an easy life because their work was not the cause of their improved life.
Moses also reminded the people of their rebellion at Sinai and that he had to talk God out of destroying them.
He reminded them of the basics of obeying God.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God gave the Israel manna in the wilderness to help them learn dependency on Him.

God reminds the people that they received food in the wilderness because God wanted them to depend on Him. God took care of them and became the reason they survived. We should not concern ourselves with the physical alone. We should live dependent on God. When we depend on God for our spiritual needs our physical needs will be taken care of.

Prosperity brings laziness and temptation to leave our (w)holiness.

Moses' words are once again adamant—God will give you this land not because of you but because of Him. God did not make a promise with you; God made a promise with our ancestors. You are the benefactors of generations who obeyed God. In fact, the truth is the opposite; Israel would receive Canaan because the inhabitants of Canaan would not obey God. Moses cries, "Do not mess up that long line of God-worshippers!" We do not receive our blessings because of our righteousness. We receive our blessings because of the righteousness of our ancestors (either physical or spiritual) and the wickedness of our enemies.
This is why I detest arguments that the USA is prosperous because we are somehow more righteous that the world. No. We are prosperous because our ancestors escaped Europe to worship God. God gave them this land because of it. Our blessings are not proportional to our righteousness. Our blessings are proportional to our ancestor's righteousness. We struggle to obey God because we are wildly blessed by God and have forgotten to pass on the source of our blessings.

Moses reminded Israel of their penchant for rebelliousness.

Two readings ago Moses reminded the people that God spoke to them. Within two months of that encounter they gave up on Moses and their God and created an idol-god. Humans are fickle. We are prone to leave God the moment we don't see Him working. This is why we must have God's words written everywhere, including our heart! Out of sight, out of mind. That could very well have been coined because of these people.

Moses reminds Israel to take care of orphans and widows and to protect foreigners.

God will not let this go. This is why God is our praise! He took us out of slavery! He gave us everything we needed to survive! He gave us a land ready for a great harvest! This is why God is worthy to be obeyed! God is worthy of our praise, loyalty, and obedience because His love was made real!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13 - Deuteronomy 5-7: Moses Reminds Israel that God, Their god, is One

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 5-7

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses is repeating God's call to holiness by repeating the commandments God gave Israel.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses reminded Israel of the Ten Commandments and how they begged Moses for him to hear God in secret. God told them to stay on His spiritual road.
God gave commandments that would help them live long, fruitful lives if they obeyed them. "God, our god, is a mono-god. Love Him with everything you can! Let His laws guide everywhere you go. God will give you a developed land. Remember how you got there.
"Stay away from Canaanites in every way. They will tempt you to leave God. God chose you because you would be faithful. Make God's choice correct!"

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God punishes parents for what they teach their children. God rewards parents for what they teach their children.

This is the reason God says that he punishes to the third and fourth generation and rewards to the thousandth generation what is taught. Parents have an essential role in setting their children pointed toward God. Parents set the spiritual foundation for a child. This is why later Moses will repeat God's command to
Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. (6:6-8, The Message)

Our God is only one god and we honor Him by loving Him will our all.

Jews today call the sentence, "Hear, o Israel, God, your god, God is one," the Shema. You may have noticed that I write both (G)od and (g)od when I mention our God. This is because the word "god" is very confusing in English since it has two meanings. The Hebrew word for "God" (name) is Romanized as YHWH and anglicized as Yahweh or Jehovah. The Hebrew word for "god" (generic) is elohim. So this sounds to a Jew as "Yahweh, our elohim, Yahweh is one." In English we are limited to "God, our God, God is one." That is completely confusing. So instead, I use (g)od when I want to write about the generic "cosmic being." So our god is God (Our elohim is Yahweh).
I mention all of this to point out that the god of Abraham, the god of the Promise, is not a consortium of gods coming together to decide what we mortals will do. Our god is God. We are monotheist. ("mono-" meaning one and "theist" meaning god). He is completely and utterly different than the gods of the Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and any other polytheist (poly- meaning many) religion.
This is why I sing David Sexton's arrangement of "Hear, O Israel," to Josiah most mornings. I want him to know from an early age that our god is God and that He is one.

God once again repeats the warnings to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan to prevent temptation to add other gods to God.

I have mentioned this several times, so I won't repeat myself. But it is here again. Don't allow people who worship other gods be part of the Chosen People. They can and will erode the Chosen People's whole-ness. Don't even bring a souvenir home. Destroy all of it.

God chose Israel because of the Promise, not because of their strength or merit.

God is adamant—Israel does not deserve the land He will give them. The people in Canaan are bigger, stronger, more numerous, and well-fortified. Israel will receive Canaan because God made a promise with Abraham.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12 - Deuteronomy 3-4: Moses Reminds Israel of God's Works and His Righteousness

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 3-4

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses is reminding Israel of the God they serve and what He has done for them to prevent what happened the last time they came to the Jordan.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

"God roundly defeated king Og. Three tribes now have his lands.
"Joshua, do not to be afraid of the Canaanites. Remember our God! I wanted to view Canaan and God allowed it.
"Everyone, obey God's laws. You have seen God's blessings and punishments. If you follow God, the world will wonder in amazement. Teach your future generations. God spoke the Ten Commandments at Horeb. There was no form, so make no images to represent Him. If you worship anything else you will be taken from your land. How great is God for doing this awesome thing for His Chosen People!"

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God is reminding the people of their experiences to help them not be afraid as they enter Canaan.

Apparently taking a census was not helpful enough for Israel to know God would defeat their enemies. This time God used examples of their past. God also reminded them of His punishments He gave to the idolaters at Baal Peor. God wants us to remember our victories to gain strength to win other battles.

If Israel obeyed God's laws, the nations around them would be in awe.

This is something often missed by legalists and anti-legalists.
You'll become wise and understanding. When people hear and see what's going on, they'll say, "What a great nation! So wise, so understanding! We've never seen anything like it." Yes. What other great nation has gods that are intimate with them the way God, our God, is with us, always ready to listen to us? And what other great nation has rules and regulations as good and fair as this Revelation that I'm setting before you today? (4:6-8, The Message)
God deserves to be obeyed because His Laws are more fair and more just than any human law can create.

God wants to be remembered because of Righteousness not His Form.

God strongly prohibits making any image of Him. He reminds Israel that they saw no form when He spoke to them. They only heard a voice and saw a great fire on the mountain. God's followers must not make an image to represent God for God is Righteousness made real.

God's punishments are very strong and very real. God's mercy is equally as strong and as real.

Moses almost challenges Israel to worship another god.
[I]f you … become corrupt and make any carved images, no matter what their form … I can tell you right now, with Heaven and Earth as witnesses, that it will be all over for you. … God will scatter you far and wide. … [In captivity] you can worship your homemade gods to your hearts' content, your wonderful gods of wood and stone that can't see or hear or eat or smell.(4:25-28, The Message)
Immediately afterwards he reminds them,
But even there, if you seek God, your God, you'll be able to find him if you're serious. … God, your God, is above all a compassionate God. In the end … he won't forget the covenant with your ancestors which he swore to them. (4:29-31, The Message)
This is why Moses exclaims great praise to God for doing this magnificent deed for Israel. God is worthy of obedience because of what He has done for us in the past!

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11 - Deuteronomy 1-2: Moses Reminds Israel's New Generation Their Story

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 1-2

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we begin Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch. It is a series of sermons given by Moses to the Israelites before he dies and they cross into Canaan. Much of the book repeats narratives and laws found in the previous three books (Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers). I will not copy-paste what I have written in those books but will touch on themes that repeat.

Onward and upward!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses begins his series of speeches on why they were there and not in Canaan already.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses spoke to Israel near the Jordan River 41 years after leaving Egypt.
"God led us through the wilderness. Now you can take the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God fulfilled part of His Promise—Israel is as numerous as the stars! You chose leaders to settle quarrels justly.
"We sent scouts into Canaan. You became afraid and God punished us. You tried to enter without God and were routed. I cannot enter. Joshua will lead you.
"God had given the wilderness we visited to the descendents of Esau and Lot. But some fought us and were defeated."

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Moses is retelling the wilderness story to a new generation.

No one over 20-years-old when the scouts went into Canaan could enter Canaan. They have all died. Now a new generation is ready to enter Canaan. Moses wants to make sure they understand how they got here and who will protect them when they go in. He does not want a repeat of the previous fiasco. Every generation must receive its call from the previous generation. Without this the next generation floats by without truly knowing God's purpose for His Chosen People.

God has fulfilled part of the Promise—Israel now numbers as the stars.

God promised Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars. Moses gives praise to God for fulfilling that part of the Promise. God will fulfill His Promises!

God also makes promises to non-Chosen People

The Moabites and the People of Esau are not people of the Promise. They are relatives of the Israelites but God did not make the same promise to them as He did Abraham. However, He promised them land. God makes promises to those outside the Promise of Abraham.
What does that mean for us today? It means we do not hold a monopoly on God. God will deal with anyone willing to listen to Him. This can be people who know nothing about Christianity as we know it. What does this mean for missions? Missions is not about taking God to a new place He has never been. Missions is about taking Jesus' name to a people who have not yet called on His name.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10 - Numbers 35-36: God Provides for the Levites and Accused Murderers

Today’s Reading: Numbers 35-36

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You've made it through five books of the Old Testament! Only one more to go in the Pentateuch.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God is providing for the Levites, the ones who go between the people and God, and someone who accidently kills another.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God gave land outside every city for the Levites to graze their livestock. Six towns were given for asylum-seekers. The Levites were also given 42 cities inside Israel.
The asylum towns served as courts for accused murderers. If they knowingly used a tool or waited for the person to kill him/her, the person was executed. If a pure accident occurred, he/she lived in the asylum city until the high priest died. One person's testimony could not condemn an accused murderer.
God commanded any woman who received her father's inheritance to marry within her own tribe to prevent cross-tribal land transfer.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God gave land to His Priests.

The Levites would not receive a land inheritance as the other tribes. The grasslands and 42 cities were to serve as their replacement for the large province the other tribes would receive. God provides for His Priests.

God protected the accidental-killer but not the murderer.

God would not allow the innocent person (or someone who killed another in an accident) to be executed by a relative bent on revenge. However, God knew that once a person's close relative was killed (that is how a person became the blood redeemer), the person would never be able to let it go. So God gave a statute that any person who was found innocent of murder could not leave the city. If they did, their asylum was revoked. God protects the innocent and punishes the murderer with death.

God does not allow one person to condemn another alone.

God realizes that one person alone is not a reliable witness. Too many variables could prevent righteous justice: personal distaste, grudges, bad view, mistaken identity, wanting easy justice instead of righteous justice. So God stipulated that one person could not condemn a person. God protects the innocent from someone with a vendetta against them.

God's statute that a woman with no brothers who wishes to marry must marry within her tribe helped each tribe maintain clear borders to keep the peace.

Land transfer was an important issue. God stated that land must be returned to its original tribe during the Jubilee. However, land was transferred through male lineage and not female lineage. So when a woman married outside her tribe, she in essence left her claim on her tribe's land. So if a woman had no brothers and received her father's land as an inheritance, she could no longer marry outside her tribe so the tribe could maintain control over the land. This helped the tribes stay peaceful with each other and prevented larger tribes from gaining land within the smaller tribes' area (or vice versa). It's a complicated law, but one that was important for that time period.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 9 - Numbers 33-34: Moses' Travel Log

Today’s Reading: Numbers 33-34

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading has a lot of geographical places and names. Scan-able areas are 33:5-47, and 34:20-28.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Moses kept a record of everywhere Israel had camped for their generations to come.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Moses kept a diary of where the Israelites camped during the 40 years from the time they left Egypt until they entered Canaan. They left Egypt while the Egyptians buried their firstborn. God showed Egypt how puny their silly gods were.
God repeated his warning about the people in Canaan. Israel was to defeat them and destroy all of their idols, altars, high places, etc. They were to apportion the land to each tribe according to its size.
God gave the borders of the country of Israel. God appointed men from every tribe to distribute the land to their tribe.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God showed the lunacy of other gods.

In a final barb to the Egyptians, God reminds the Israelites that He showed why the Egyptian gods were no gods at all. He did this, of course, by taking all that their gods would control and mocking their lack of control through the ten plagues. God would mock other gods, for example when confronted with the gods of the Philistines.

God once again reminds Israel that He is their God and they are to destroy all of His competition in Canaan.

This is something God has mentioned several, several times. He warns them again that if they do not destroy all of the existing areas of worship created by the Canaanites they will fall into the same problems the Canaanites had. God is adamant! He is to have no competition and anything associated with other gods should be destroyed among His Chosen People.

The men God chose would perform a task that would last for generations.

God told the people earlier that the land would return to the original land owners in the Jubilee. So these men were going to decide the potential fate of each family. If the family received great, fertile land they might become a rich, powerful family. If they received land that was barren, they might become paupers. This was an important task given to leaders of each tribe.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8 - Numbers 31-32: God's Punishes Moab

Today’s Reading: Numbers 31-32

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The people went to battle and did not lose a single person because God was with them.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God told Israel to destroy Moab. This would be Moses' final act. The people sent 12,000 warriors and killed all of the Moabite males. They brought the women and children back. Moses and Eleazar allowed only the virgin girls to survive. God split the plunder half between the warriors and half between the tribes. One out of fifty of the animals and girls were given to the Levites. All of the warriors survived.
The Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassehites wanted the grazing land east of Jordan for their inheritance. They promised to go with the others into Canaan to fight.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God took revenge on Moab for causing His Chosen People to sin.

God would bring His vengeance on Moab for tempting His Chosen People to sin against Him. God will punish those who tempt His Chosen People to sin.

Moses and Eleazar were angry at the Israelites for allowing the women, the cause of the sin, to live.

God told the people not make a covenant with any group. These women tempted the men to worship their gods. Israel spared them, most likely because they wanted them for their own wives. This is why Moses and Eleazar were so angry. The warriors cared more for having beautiful wives than being right with God. So any woman who could have a sway on the men was killed and only the young women were allowed to live, since they were innocent of Israel's sin. Choose a mate who is fully-committed to God instead of one that looks good.

None of the warriors died in battle.

God will protect His Chosen People when they go to battle for Him. However, notice that this was not a war the Israelites chose to enter on their own. This was a war that God told them to enter. This will be important later when Israel becomes a nation with land.

The conflict between the tribes of Reuben and Gad verses Moses and Eleazar show a good way to resolve conflict.

Reuben and Gad want the grazing land east of the Jordan. Moses and Eleazar think they have a similar lack of faith the Israelites had forty years earlier. However, because they both listen to each other any disaster is adverted. When people listen to each other's needs and wants, God can set things right on this earth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

March 7 - Numbers 28-30: Sacrifices and Vows

Today’s Reading: Numbers 28-30

The Message

English Standard Version

This is my 100th post! I can't believe I've made it that far. Over two-thirds are Bible readings, but I made it! 

Today's reading has several sacrifice-oriented laws. Scan chapters 28 and 29 if you are low on time.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The offerings were to remind the people of God's presence and to remind God of the people's presence.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God gave commandments to the priests regarding daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and festival sacrifices. Each included an animal and flour mixed with oil. The people of Israel were to do no work on the days of the festival.
God also gave rules regarding vows. A man's vow was always intact. A woman's vow could be vetoed by her husband or father if he did it when he first heard the vow. If not, the vow would stand. If a woman was married during her vow, the husband could nullify it without the woman being guilty of breaking her vow.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The Israelites' sacrifices were to remind them of God's presence and to remind God of their presence.

God is not bloodthirsty and needs blood to bless the people. God is a God that wanted His Chosen People to be fully and wholly His. The sacrifices were to help the people remember that God is always with them. The pleasing aromas were to remind God that His Chosen People still served Him. If they stopped sacrificing to God then they might forget and God might kindle his anger against them.

God places spiritual leadership with the father/husband.

As written yesterday, God's decision looks sexist to us in the 21st century. However, the culture and times of ancient Israel are very different than today. At that time, women were cared for but not considered equal to a man. They were not educated as males. They were not taught the Torah as well as their brothers. Because of this, God gave spiritual leadership to the males. Would God give this law differently today? Maybe not. However, we think of male spiritual leadership as a power grab. That's not the intention. God doesn't give fathers and husbands the ability to blithely reject any and every vow their daughters and wives make. If a woman is so intent on something that she makes a vow to do it (or not do it) a man would be embarrassed in the community and/or risk family strife if he went against her wishes. A godly man would not want such embarrassment/tension in the home.

Vows are serious. God expects you to obey your vow.

Vows are something that we do not have as often today. In fact, when we think of vows we think of a wedding. At that time there were vows that meant you offered certain things over to the Lord. This will be exemplified in 1 Samuel. Over time, this law would erode away at the hands of the Israelites and Jesus would correct their misunderstanding in the New Testament.