March 31

March 31.

Joshua & His Charge — Being strong & courageous to keep the Word.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 1

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 5:28-33

Reading 3: Psalm 27

It is a hard act to follow when your mentor is the most humble man in the world, the finest prophet ever, and the one who led the nation out of slavery. But Joshua is commanded by God to be strong and courageous, and the promise is “I will be with you wherever you go.”

With that kind of backing, Joshua is prepared to lead his people to victory. He surely recalled the promise from Deuteronomy 5: “Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.”

We, too, are called by God to follow closely, obey His voice, be strong and courageous, and fulfill our destiny in Him. Just as David reflected in Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid?” and “I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LordBe brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Let’s say “yes” to our callings today, and move forward, with Joshua, to obediently follow God!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 30

March 30.

Moses’ Death — Moses’ death, his dead body, & discussion with Jesus about the cross.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 34

Reading 2: Luke 9:27-36

Reading 3: Jude 9

So we reach the end of the book of Deuteronomy, and with it the end of the life of Moses. This completes the five books of Moses in the Old Testament (called the Pentateuch).

Moses was still fit at 120 years old; the greatest prophet ever, who saw God face to face and faithfully passed on God’s instructions to the people.

When Moses died, God buried him, and no-one is sure where the grave site is. In similar manner, Jesus has no grave site, and it may have been this similarity that He discussed with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9. Just as Moses was whisked away by God, so Jesus was suddenly removed after His death and resurrection.

This unique characteristic of both sets them apart from their peers, and underscores the authority and power of God to direct our lives as He wishes. Michael the archangel also respects that authority in his battle with satan, saying “The Lord rebuke you” rather than attacking in his own might. We do well to follow His example and trust God to direct our lives as He sees fit. It is as though God was speaking to each of us, as well as to the disciples, when He said “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”

Have a great day, listening and obeying!

Mark.

March 29

March 29.

Joshua’s Calling — God calls Joshua to lead & promises to never leave him.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 31

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 32

Reading 3: Hebrews 13:5-6

At the end of Moses’ life, he hands the leadership of Israel to Joshua, as instructed by God. He does not argue with God’s decision that he (like Aaron) will not see the Promised Land because they disobeyed God at Meribah when Moses struck the rock rather than speaking to it as God had commanded.

Instead we see Moses faithfully completing his course and handing on leadership to the man he had trained for many years.

Joshua’s call was not Moses’ call. Moses was the one who led God’s people out of slavery, Joshua would be the one to lead them into their inheritance.

Yet there is also plenty of honesty in Moses’ description of the future – that Israel will continue to rebel against God in many ways. Joshua is going to rely on God’s promise that He will be present and guide Joshua’s leadership. He is taking on the leadership of a rebellious people (just like us)!

There is always hope in God’s promises. If God would inspire Moses to write a song full of honesty about the rebellion of God’s chosen people, and promise Joshua that he would lead them into the Promised Land, then there is hope too for all us rebellious followers of Jesus – God has plans for us too!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 28

March 28.

The Story of their Rebellions — Reviewing Israel’s rebellions & God’s redemption.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 9

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 10

Reading 3: Psalm 78:40-59

We know how rebellious we are – it is always easier to go away from God than toward Him, and when we read the accounts of Israel’s rebellions we do well to remind ourselves that there, but for the grace of God, we go too!

Moses (and Asaph in Psalm 78) document the repeated departures of God’s people from God’s instructions. They are many, frequent, and catastrophic, yet God continues to faithfully reach out to them and seek to lead them in His ways.

God’s redemption (at Easter) demonstrates His faithfulness, just as our rebellions demonstrate our sinfulness. Thank God that now there is a way to overcome sin, through Jesus, and we (who deserve to be dead for our sins) are now alive in Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 26

March 26.

How to Raise Children — Parents should obey the Word & teach the Word.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 6:6-25

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 11

Reading 3: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Today we see the connection between God’s Word and our relationship with Him. He is like a parent, who gives His Word to help his children obey Him, and live according to His values and priorities. In this way they are kept safe from the perils of sin and disobedience.

Those of us who are parents are to do the same – obey God’s Word ourselves and teach our children to follow His instruction. There are blessings ahead of us if we do so, and droughts if we do not. The same is true for our children. In this way God can ensure continuity of blessing through the generations. He described Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (in other words the God of each successive generation). God’s Word is the means by which blessing flows from generation to generation. And it is the responsibility of each successive generation to keep the instructions given and to pass them on to their children.

Already Moses is speaking to Israelites who have not seen the mighty things God did from the Exodus to the Promised Land; those who do remember have a duty to pass on the record of God’s faithfulness and power to those who come after them. Then those descendants will likewise follow God.

Every one of us is a child to someone, so God’s instruction applies to us – read the Word and remember His goodness. And for those of us still raising children, we are to teach them to do the same. Many of us have done this, and now our children are adults. It is tempting to fret over whether they are following God’s instructions, but that is to step into their boundaries. The most effective way to ensure our children follow God is to follow Him wholeheartedly ourselves (and to tell our children of His faithfulness as we do)!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 25

March 25.

The Shema & the First Commandment — God is one, love God, & keep God’s commandments.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 6:1-5

Reading 2: Mark 12:28-34

Reading 3: John 14:21-24

Moses continues his summary of the teaching God has given Israel through him, and today we see the foundational statement of the Jewish faith – the Shema.

“Shema Israel, Adonai elohenu, Adonai echad.”

Literally: “Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

Interestingly, the word echad means unity in diversity, leaving room for “three in one” as revealed by Jesus on several occasions in the gospels. There is a different word for “uniquely singular” in Hebrew – yachid.

You can read more at this website.

At the Last Supper, Jesus refers to His Father and to the Holy Spirit when He tells His disciples that love is the foundational principle of the Godhead, and of relationship with God. And love is expressed in action – lived out in obedience – just as Moses said when he compiled the teaching God had revealed to him to guide the Israelite nation.

As you love God with all your heart, you will find yourself obeying Him more fully and more freely. May that be so today.

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 24

March 24.

The Story of their Wandering — Reviewing Israel’s history & the Word of God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 1

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 2

Reading 3: Deuteronomy 4:1-14

Today’s reading draws together many of the stories we have studied in recent weeks. It is Moses’ summary of the journey from Exodus to Promised Land. It makes encouraging reading if you trace the journey of obedience, and sobering reading if you follow the results of disobedience!

Notice how Moses leads, giving absolute priority to God’s instruction, gathering the wisdom and teaching God has given and presenting it to the people. They have a choice – to embrace the wisdom of God or to follow their own instincts. Remember sin will always lead us away from God, but God created us to be drawn TO Him.

Today’s reading is also an opportunity to reiterate that God is a loving God. Although there is much violence and judgment in the history of Israel to date, it is in response to sin, and for the purpose of rooting it out. Just as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery are violent and harmful, yet can be life-giving to those fighting cancer.

God is a covenant God – choosing to bless, and longing for those who will love Him and enter into relationship with Him. Let’s be those people today!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 23

March 23.

Phinehas & Baal-Peor — Israel’s sin against God & Phinehas’ passion for God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 25

Reading 2: Psalm 106:24-31

Reading 3: Revelation 2:14

Yesterday we saw Balaam trying to help the King of Moab, while also maintaining the appearance of being a follower of the God of Israel. Today we see the result of that duplicity. Revelation 2:14 tells us that Balaam showed Balak how to get Israel to sin (and thus to open themselves up to the consequences of sin).

The Moabites were distant cousins of the Israelites, descended from Lot through his incest with his daughters. They worshipped the god Chemosh by offering human sacrifices, and honored other gods (baals) by associating them with various places in Moab (such as Baal-Peor in today’s chapter).

So the Israelite men were invited to join in these sacrifices and then defiled themselves further by having sex with the Moabite women. It was the ancient equivalent of coming to Myrtle Beach for a week of golf with the guys, then going to a “gentlemen’s club” and hiring a prostitute.

God had already commanded Israel to keep themselves pure, and to not associate with the nations in the land, so this was out and out rebellion against God. And consequently there were severe repercussions. A plague broke out, killing thousands, yet a man of Israel brought a Midianite woman to his tent (the Midianites were allied with the Moabites and the Amorites in resistance to the Israelite advance).

Phinehas has great zeal for purity in obedience to God, and spears both the man and the woman in their sin. This zeal is commended by God.

So all this violence has a lesson to teach us. Wholehearted devotion to God is vital if we are to avoid the consequences of compromise. There will always be temptations to sin, but a passion for God will cause us to overcome.

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 22

March 22.

Balaam & the Donkey — King Balak’s offer to the prophet Balaam & Balaam’s greed.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 22

Reading 2: Numbers 23

Reading 3: 2 Peter 2:15-16

Today we read the story of Balaam and the donkey.

On face value the story seems strange, and a little confusing. First God says “Don’t go,” then God says “Go but only say what I say.” Did God change His mind? That would be inconsistent with what we read of God’s nature in other places. God block’s Balaam’s path to stop him going, after God has said he can go, and then his donkey speaks! And Balaam seems quite happy to have an argument with his animal, without questioning how the beast can speak!

Throughout the story there is money changing hands as Balaam seeks to co-operate with a known enemy of God’s people. Clearly there is, at best, a mixed motive at work here.

Although our title refers to Balaam as a prophet, it is not clear from the chapters we read that he was truly a prophet. Rather he seems to be a greedy man who is trying to “have his cake and eat it” by maintaining the appearance of devotion to God as well as seeking to have God comply with his own path to wealth.

If you read one more verse beyond our set reading for today (Numbers 24:1) you will see that Balaam was using divination to get his “words from God.” Certainly he speaks some truths from God (where his words line up with God’s stated purposes for Israel) but we must be careful not to assume he is speaking godly truth at all times. Rather, it is likely the opposite is true when we consider his motivation.

For more on this, I suggest you read the article on Balaam from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia which gives some helpful insights.

When we read Peter’s letter, we see the facts stated plainly: Balaam loved to earn money by doing wrong. Here is a warning for all of us. The love of money is the root of all evil, and seeking to acquire wealth by any means is the fastest path to sin. Instead, God wants us to follow Him wholeheartedly, and allow Him to add to that devotion everything else we need.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 21

March 21.

The Bronze Serpent — Israel’s complaints, God’s judgment, & Christ on the cross.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 21:1-9

Reading 2: John 3:14-17

Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 10:5-12

I think it is reasonable to assume that most of us want to please God. But the way we seek to please God matters. And we will do well to recognize that pleasing God is not natural to us – it is supernatural, and thus is a gift from God. Today we read three short accounts that give us insights into this challenge, and illuminate the tension between our desire for God and our natural, sinful tendency to turn away from Him.

The Israelites again show us an unpleasant reflection of our sinful propensities: God blesses them with victory over their enemies, but they have to make a detour on their journey because they are treated unfairly by those who should be their friends. On the way, they become impatient (again) and complain against God, and against Moses. They constantly come back to the theme of food, preferring the tastes they had to slave for, over the miraculous provision of God.

I’m sure you don’t fall into this temptation, but I know how easy it is to look at the daily ups and downs of life, and complain about them, while overlooking the constant, miraculous activity of God. Lord have mercy on us!

The result of their rebellious complaining is that they fall prey to poisonous snakes, symbolizing the way that earthly-mindedness bites us and ultimately causes spiritual death. But God instructs Moses to make a replica of a snake and hold it up on a pole, saying that whoever is bitten and looks to the snake will be saved. In the same way, our Lord Jesus was born as a man, and lifted up on a pole (the cross) and now anyone who looks to Him is saved from the deadly jaws of sinful thinking and action.

Remember that the purpose of the snakes was to expose the complaining, and to dramatize the consequence of turning our backs on God. God’s desire is always that we turn away from sin to be saved by Him. Jesus told us clearly that God’s priority is salvation NOT judgment. Judgment is only for the purpose of prompting repentance and salvation, just as seeing a blue flashing light makes us watch our driving habits more closely!

Thank God for the warnings that help us to turn back to thoughts and actions that please God – that is where we find salvation and the freedom for which we were created.

Have a great day!

Mark.