full repentance

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full repentance

Deuteronomy 30:1-3 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 30:1 “When all these things happen to you — the empowerments and afflictions I have set before you — and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where Yahveh your God has driven you,
Deuteronomy 30:2 and you and your children return to Yahveh your God and obey him with all your heart and all your throat by doing everything I am commanding you today,
Deuteronomy 30:3 then he will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where Yahveh your God has scattered you.

full repentance

We Christians are often guilty of casually throwing around the word repentance as if it is a simple thing. But the repentance Moses was talking about was a complicated set of actions and reactions. It involved…

  • …recognizing how good they had it when God was blessing them for their obedience,
  • …recognizing that the tough times they were now experiencing were also signs from God, calling them to change,
  • …returning to God and recommitting to following his covenant (as families),
  • …obeying the commands associated with the covenant wholeheartedly,
  • …patiently waiting in faith for their restoration, and
  • …preparing themselves for God’s promise of restoration.

Repentance is not a simple reset. Just as rebellion against God takes more than a simple act of the will, so recovery will take more than simply admitting one’s sin. It starts with that, but there is much more to it.

Lord, we beg for your forgiveness, and ask you to show us how to walk in full repentance.

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time machine

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time machine

Deuteronomy 29:26-29 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:26 They began to serve other gods, bowing in worship to gods they had not known – gods that Yahveh had not permitted them to worship.
Deuteronomy 29:27 Therefore Yahveh’s anger burned against this land, and he brought every affliction written in this book on it.
Deuteronomy 29:28 Yahveh uprooted them from their land in his anger, rage, and intense wrath, and tossed them into another land where they are today.’
Deuteronomy 29:29 The hidden things belong to Yahveh our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children permanently, so that we may follow all the words of this instruction.

time machine

God not only warned the Israelites of the consequences of rebelling against the covenant, he as much as brought them in a time machine to the land of their future exile, and treated them to a glimpse into that future. This beautiful land they are beginning to experience with all its wonder and joy would be lost, and it would be their fault.

Verse 29 is intriguing. It talks about the hidden things and the revealed things. In this context, the future is not one of the hidden things. It is displayed in all its tragic irony. God did not keep them from knowing their destiny. But his revelation did not stop them from abandoning his covenant.

God loves you and me so much that he wants to covenant with us as well. It’s a different covenant, but the same mission. He wants to draw all the nations to himself through us, as we reflect his glory by our obedience to Christ’s commands. Could we be so stupid as to think that we could enter into covenant with God through Christ’s blood on the cross, and then rebel against that covenant by abandoning the lives of holiness he calls us to? Or, do we think that just this once we can do what the Israelites did and not be tossed into exile?

Lord, thank you for revealing the future of rebellion against your covenant. We renounce any thought of failing you.

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a burning waste

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a burning waste

Deuteronomy 29:22-25 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:22 “Future generations of your children who follow you and the foreigner who comes from a distant country will see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses Yahveh has inflicted on it.
Deuteronomy 29:23 All its land will be a burning waste of sulfur and salt, unplanted, producing nothing, with no plant growing on it, just like the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which Yahveh demolished in his fierce anger.
Deuteronomy 29:24 All the nations will ask, ‘Why has Yahveh done this to this land? Why this intense outburst of anger?’
Deuteronomy 29:25 Then people will answer, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of Yahveh, the God of their fathers, which he had established with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.

a burning waste

The land was supposed to be a holy land. It was supposed to shine like the sun in dark space, displaying God’s goodness and grace. But when the Israelites rebelled against God’s commands and abandoned his covenant, the land would be the sign of God’s displeasure with them. These words were not a description of the land as it was. When Moses first spoke these words, the land was a promised land — flowing with milk and honey — ready to be entered and enjoyed. But it would not be enjoyed for long, because God’s grace was extended to the children of Abraham for a purpose. When the purpose is abandoned the blooming garden will become a burning waste.

Can I ask you, Christian, where are you right now. Are you confidently prancing around a beautiful garden, enjoying God’s grace, or are you scouring the countryside for your next meal? I’m not asking you to ignore your surroundings, I want you to notice them. Because the condition of your land is often a sign of your current relationship with God.

If you do find yourself in a burning waste land today, there is still hope. The God who rescued you by his grace can return you to the garden he promised. Return to the covenant you have abandoned.

Lord, show us how to reconnect with our covenant with Christ, and return to the life you promised.

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faith and reality

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faith and reality

Deuteronomy 29:19-21 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:19 When someone hears the words of this oath, he may celebrate himself, and this is what he says: ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’ This will lead to the destruction of the well-watered land as well as the dry land.
Deuteronomy 29:20 Yahveh will not be willing to forgive him. Instead, his anger and jealousy will burn against that person, and every oath written in this scroll will descend on him. Yahveh will blot out his name under the sky,
Deuteronomy 29:21 and Yahveh will separate him for harm from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the oaths of the covenant written in this book of the instruction.

faith and reality

Some people view religious faith as a kind of stubborn insistence on being at peace in spite of everything going on around them. They think of God as for them no matter what they do. This is not the faith the Bible proclaims. It is religious presumption.

Gospel faith comes only to a heart that recognizes one’s own failure, and asks forgiveness. Gospel faith seeks not to ignore or redefine reality but to reconcile with a holy God.

Ironically, those people who saw faith as a celebration of the self were setting themselves up to be recipients of all of the curses of Mount Ebal. They would be separated for harm from all the tribes of Israel.

Lord, keep us from religious presumption, and keep us near your altar, seeking forgiveness.

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poison roots

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poison roots

Deuteronomy 29:14-18 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:14 I am establishing this covenant and this oath not only with you,
Deuteronomy 29:15 but also with those who are standing here with us today in the presence of Yahveh our God and with those who are not here today.
Deuteronomy 29:16 “Indeed, you know how we stayed in the land of Egypt and passed through the nations where you traveled.
Deuteronomy 29:17 You saw their detested things and idols made of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which were among them.
Deuteronomy 29:18 Or else there may be a man, woman, clan, or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from Yahveh our God to go and worship the gods of those nations. Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.

poison roots

If you ask any Christian whether he or she wants to be an idolater, the answer will be “no.” But idolatry still exists among us.

The Israelites were the same. They had come from pagan roots, and those pagan roots would show up in their history, leading to idolatry, defection, and disaster.

Moses seems to caution his people to dig out those dangerous roots, but he doesn’t actually say that. What is the secret to ridding ourselves of idolatry — rooted in our ancestry? The answer is the same today as it was then. Establishing the covenant with God is the only way.

Today, God is covenanting with his people through Christ his Son. If we who name the name of Jesus Christ are not careful, the roots can emerge again in us. We need to cling to the new covenant, being careful to obey the commands of Christ, and focus on the Great Commission of Christ. If not, those dangerous roots will try to come back, “bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

Lord, inspire in us a careful observance of your new covenant through Christ.

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entering one covenant

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entering one covenant

Deuteronomy 29:10-13 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:10 “All of you are standing today before Yahveh your God – your leaders, tribes, elders, officials, all the men of Israel,
Deuteronomy 29:11 your dependents, your wives, and the guests in your camps who cut your wood and draw your water –
Deuteronomy 29:12 so that you may enter into the covenant of Yahveh your God, which he is establishing with you today, so that you may enter into his oath
Deuteronomy 29:13 and so that he may establish you today as his people and he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

entering one covenant

The whole community entered the one covenant. There was no separate covenant for the men, that didn’t include the women. There was no separate covenant for the parents that didn’t include the children. And there was no separate covenant for the foreign guests who hired on as immigrants to work for an Israelite family. Anyone entering into the land also entered into the covenant — with all its stipulations and all its benefits. God’s purpose was to showcase the land as a place he would bless, so the whole people had to participate in the witness. Everyone entering the land had to sign off on that purpose.

The new covenant in Christ is similar, except that the land of the new covenant is not limited. The new covenant commission is to enter into every land, and be witnesses to every nation. We enter into the covenant by committing ourselves to doing what he commanded us to do. Every land we touch is to be dedicated to him, and is to be permeated with his gospel.

The unity of the covenant family is also essential. Every husband commits his wife, and every wife her husband. Parents dedicate their children, and employers dedicate their workforce. The task of spreading the gospel is the primary task of the community. Everyone in the community has to commit to that purpose.

Lord, show us how to commit each other to your covenant purpose.

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stubbornly faithful followers

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stubbornly faithful followers

Deuteronomy 29:7-9 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:7 When you reached this place, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan came out against us in battle, but we defeated them.
Deuteronomy 29:8 We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh.
Deuteronomy 29:9 Therefore, watch the words of this covenant and follow them, so that you will succeed in everything you do.

stubbornly faithful followers

The early defeat of Sihon and Og was one of the signs the Lord gave the Israelites. They had intended to move through those two territories without aggression. But they were attacked, and their victory over these two kings gave them a large territory east of the Jordon river. Two and one half tribes settled in these lands.

Moses uses this story as a sign that the Israelites could be successful in everything they do. But it was not a blanket promise, covering all contingencies. It was not a guarantee that they would walk unhindered into the promised land. There would be battles. The Israelites also had to watch the words of the covenant and be careful to follow them. If they lost their faithfulness, they would also lose battles. They needed to be stubbornly faithful followers.

Lord, we know you are with us as we face our life’s battles. Make us stubbornly faithful followers of Christ so that we stay with you.

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extraordinary

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extraordinary

Deuteronomy 29:5-6 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:5 I led you forty years in the open country; your clothes and the sandals on your feet did not wear out;
Deuteronomy 29:6 you did not eat bread or drink wine or beer – so that you might know that I am Yahveh your God.

extraordinary

Ordinarily, the Israelites would have expected to stop and settle somewhere many times in that forty year wandering period. They would have to stop and make new clothing, grow their own grain, plant their own vineyards, so they could resupply themselves with clothing, food and drink. The Lord provided for them in an extraordinary way, to show that he was willing to do that for them in the land as well — as long as they stayed faithful to his covenant.

Why all this grumbling in the wilderness if God was providing for them in an extraordinary way? It was because God was providing for them in an extraordinary way, but these former slaves wanted to provide for themselves. In their hearts, they longed for the ordinary.

Christian, don’t set your heart on the ordinary. God wants to show the world how gracious he is, not how gifted you are. If you want to provide for yourself, you will have little chance to testify about him.

LORD, make us a people determined to testify of your grace. Purge us of our selfish self-dependence.

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internal miracle

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internal miracle

Deuteronomy 29:1-4 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 29:1 These are the words of the covenant Yahveh commanded Moses to establish with the Israelites in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.
Deuteronomy 29:2 Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything Yahveh did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to his entire land.
Deuteronomy 29:3 You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders.
Deuteronomy 29:4 Yet to this day Yahveh has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.

internal miracle

Moses points out here that the Israelites had seen all they needed to see in order to be blessed and a blessing. But the proper walk with God involves more than just seeing a miracle. They would also need “a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.”

We as Christians are also tempted to think that all we need is for God to answer our prayers. But, deep inside we know that an external miracle would not be enough. We need an internal miracle — one that changes our heart, and opens our eyes and ears to who God really is.

Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ today, that you would work the miracle in their hearts that would change them into who they need to be to share your glory with the nations.

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doubt and dread

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doubt and dread

Deuteronomy 28:66-68 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 28:66 Your life will hang in doubt before you. You will be in dread night and day, never certain of survival.
Deuteronomy 28:67 In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening! ‘ and in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning! ‘– because of the dread you will have in your heart and because of what you will see.
Deuteronomy 28:68 Yahveh will take you back in ships to Egypt by a route that I said you would never see again. There you will try to sell yourselves to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”

doubt and dread

If a covenant subscriber rebelled against his covenant with the Lord, he would be on his way to destruction, and each moment lived would be plagued with doubt and dread. He would live like a death row inmate, never knowing his execution date, but always expecting it. That’s no way to live.

I need to reiterate that these are not general curses. They were given as part of the setting up of the Mosaic covenant, and they applied not to the pagans around them, but to the covenant subscribers. They were the horrible outcomes of an abandoned faith.

Lord, we want to embrace the life of confidence and hope that you have given us in Christ. Strengthen our resolve to stay with you.

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