places we revere

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places we revere

Deuteronomy 12:2 Destroy completely all the places where the nations that you are taking possession of worship their gods — on the high mountains, on the hills, and under every green tree.
Deuteronomy 12:3 Tear down their altars, smash their standing stones, burn their Asherah poles, cut down the carved images of their gods, and destroy their names from every place.
Deuteronomy 12:4 Don’t worship Yahveh your God this way.

places we revere

It was not simply the fact that there were false gods behind the religious trappings of Canaan. No, God’s instructions were to demolish the places where worship happened. He did not want the Israelites worshiping him in the same way the Canaanites worshiped their idols. The Israelites were to care for Yahveh, not manipulate him for their own wealth and advantage over others. So, it was not just the idols, but the whole religious system that had to change.

Christian, is God only your means of getting what you want, or correcting what you don’t like? Is church where you go to meet people you like — to be someone you are not? Do you think of your church building as a magical place that can change the people in your community if they would only visit it once a week? Then God’s command for you is to tear that structure down. The place itself has become an idol, and you have adapted the religion of the Canaanites.

Lord, give us the wisdom to destroy all the trappings of idolatry from our lives — even the places we revere.

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the land we are being given

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the land we are being given

Deuteronomy 11:31-12:1

Deuteronomy 11:31 You see, you are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land Yahveh your God is giving you. When you take possession of it and settle in it,
Deuteronomy 11:32 be careful to do all the prescriptions and rules I set before you today.
Deuteronomy 12:1 “Be careful to watch these prescriptions and rules in the land that Yahveh, the God of your fathers, has given you to take possession of all the days you live on the land.

the land we are being given

Did you notice the tense change? In 11:31, God “is giving” the land, and in 12:1, he “has given” it. From God’s standpoint all our salvation and all our inheritance is a gift already given. From our standpoint in space and time, it’s a gift in progress.

Life itself is a gift we have been given, but also a gift we are being given. Every good gift from God comes with a set of built in obligations. Abuse of the gift could lead to losing it.

For the Israelites, the land was a gift from God but also part of their mission to show off God’s holiness to the surrounding nations. That was where the law came into the picture. The prescriptions and rules for covenant living enabled them to accomplish God’s objective for the gift of the land.

In the new covenant, we have the same phenomenon at work. We have been saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross. But we are being saved in space and time. That is why Jesus did not just pop down for a few hours to suffer and die as our sacrifice. His mission involved more than the cross.

We need more than that. We need instructions for using the gift of salvation to accomplish God’s mission for us. Like the Israelites, God wants Christians to live holy lives to draw the nations to him. That was why Jesus spent years teaching us how to live in the land we are being given.

Lord, thank you for our finished salvation, bought by the blood of Christ. Thank you for the words of Christ which teach us how to live in such a way as to lead others to the same gift.

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two summits

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two summits

Deuteronomy 11:29 When Yahveh your God brings you into the land you are entering to take possession of, you are to proclaim the empowerment at Mount Gerizim and the affliction at Mount Ebal.
Deuteronomy 11:30 Aren’t these mountains across the Jordan, beyond the western road in the land of the Canaanites, who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, near the oaks of Moreh?

two summits

There is something majestic and surreal about a mountain summit. After all that toil and sweat and exertion, when you finally reach the summit, and see the surrounding country from the advantage of superior elevation, you cannot help but feel different about life.

The Lord chose two mountain summits as the location for the Israelites to perform their first public dramatic presentation of the empowerments and afflictions. The mountains were located within the boundaries of the land they were to conquer. So, all the time they were busy assuming ownership of the land, they were also preparing for this show. What better way would there be for them to learn the consequences of covenant obedience and disobedience?

There is another way, but it is certainly not the better way. We can learn the consequences by failure to live up to our covenant. Then we will experience the covenant afflictions and lose the covenant empowerments.

Christian, listen to the words of Christ concerning our covenant with God through him. Memorize his words. Recite them aloud to yourself and your family. Take the covenant seriously.

Lord, thank you for the covenant of grace, bought by the blood of Christ.

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turning aside from the path

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turning aside from the path

Deuteronomy 11:26 “Look, today I set before you an empowerment and an affliction:
Deuteronomy 11:27 there will be an empowerment, if you obey the commands of Yahveh your God I am commanding you today,
Deuteronomy 11:28 and an affliction, if you do not obey the commands of Yahveh your God and you turn aside from the path I command you today by following other gods you have not known.

turning aside from the path

Appalachian Trail hikers know all about turning aside from the path. Along the trail there are side trails marked with different colored blazes. We take those trails if we want to visit a popular location, get to a shelter for the night, or find water. But it isn’t wise just to head off into an unmarked area. It’s too easy to get lost. Regularly there are stories of people who do just that, lose the trail, and starve to death in the woods.

The Israelites had God’s light and cloud to follow to keep them on the right path, physically. But they needed the covenant laws to keep them on the right path morally. If they obeyed, they would keep getting stronger. If they disobeyed, the would be afflicted. The physical evidence would follow the spiritual condition.

Are you still on the right path, or have you strayed? Do you feel empowered today or afflicted? It is not too late to get back to the covenant path you agreed to when you came to Christ. Go to the Gospels and read the words of our Savior. It is his commands we agreed to obey.

Several years ago, I did a short study of the Commands of Christ. I recommend starting with those passages. Following the commands of Christ is not difficult, but you cannot accidentally stumble onto the correct path. It has to be intentional.

Lord, draw us back to the right path by the covenant commands of Christ.

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third string

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third string 
Deuteronomy 11:18-25
Deuteronomy 11:18  “Place these words of mine on your hearts and throats, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads.
Deuteronomy 11:19  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 11:20  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates,
Deuteronomy 11:21  so that as long as the sky is above the land, your days and those of your children may be many in the land Yahveh swore to give your fathers.
Deuteronomy 11:22  You see, if you carefully watch every one of these commands I am commanding you to follow – to care about Yahveh your God, walk in all his ways, and remain faithful to him –
Deuteronomy 11:23  Yahveh will take possession of all these nations before you, and you will take possession of nations greater and stronger than you are.
Deuteronomy 11:24  Every place the sole of your foot treads will be yours. Your territory will extend from the open country to Lebanon and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Deuteronomy 11:25  No one will be able to stand against you; Yahveh your God will put fear and dread of you in all the land where you set foot, like he has promised you.
third string 
When I was in High School, we had an impressive football team. It won all kinds of championships. The kids on the team who were not so impressive were put on the third string. If the team was really swamping its opponents, the coach would put the third string in, so they they could get some play in.
The Israelites were like God’s third string.  They didn’t have to be stronger than their enemies. They did not need superior numbers or more powerful weapons. They didn’t even need superior wisdom or education. Their secret weapon was something nobody would expect. All they had to do was love God and be faithful to him.
The secret is out. The world knows about our secret weapon, so it is going to throw every possible obstacle in our path to keep us from victory. It wants us to doubt his existence. It will try to convince us that God has abandoned us. It will busy itself dividing us so that we focus on trivial things instead of being faithful to Christ. The world fears faithfulness.
We can be faithful because God has gone before us. There is not one inch of territory that he calls us to invade that he has not already conquered. He has already gone before us with his powerful first string, and mopped up with his second string. But he wants his lowly third string to get some play time in as well.
Lord, we are ready to invade this world with your gospel. We are not the best, or even second best. But we are confident you can use us.
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breaking the cycle

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breaking the cycle

Deuteronomy 11:13-17

Deuteronomy 11:13 “If you carefully obey my commands I am commanding you today, to care about Yahveh your God and worship him with all your heart and all your throat,

Deuteronomy 11:14 I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and fresh oil.

Deuteronomy 11:15 I will provide grass in your fields for your livestock. You will eat and be satisfied.

Deuteronomy 11:16 Be careful or else you will be enticed to turn aside, serve, and bow in worship to other gods.

Deuteronomy 11:17 Then Yahveh ‘s anger will burn against you. He will shut the sky, and there will be no rain; the land will not yield its produce, and you will be destroyed quickly from the good land Yahveh is giving you.

breaking the cycle

God’s grace brought the Israelites out of Egypt and into the promised land. He rained down from the sky and brought them a good land— flowing with milk and honey. All the Israelites had to do in return was to obey a few basic laws. Then the nations around them would see that all that blessing came from the God who gave them the laws. That is why obedience was their mission.

But if they were to turn aside from that obedience, to worship and serve other gods, the mission would be a bust. The Israelites would be interrupting the cycle. The sky God would shut the sky.

Christian, have you interrupted the cycle? Do you feel like God has shut you out because you have failed him? You may be right! Don’t fight him. Come back to God in repentance again. He is still the God of grace. He can forgive again.

Lord, forgive us for breaking the cycle. We want to glorify you with our lives. Forgive us again!

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not like Egypt

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not like Egypt

Deuteronomy 11:8-12

Deuteronomy 11:8 “Watch every command I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong enough to cross into and take possession of the land you are to take possession of,

Deuteronomy 11:9 and so that you may live long in the land Yahveh swore to your fathers to give them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Deuteronomy 11:10 You see, the land you are entering to take possession of is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated by hand as in a vegetable garden.

Deuteronomy 11:11 But the land you are entering to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys, which gets water by rain from the sky.

Deuteronomy 11:12 It is a land Yahveh your God cares for. He is always watching over it from the first to the last of the year.

not like Egypt

Moses warned the Israelites that they could not expect things to happen like they did in Egypt. When they were there, they had to water the crops they planted by carrying water from the river. But the land they are going to live in will be too vast for that method. It will depend on rain from the sky.

Fortunately, the sky God will be always watching over that land, because he cares for it. He will keep raining on that land, causing it to flow with milk and honey. The nations would see God at work among the Israelites and long for a god like that. God is going to bless us as well — for the same reason.

Lord, transform us, by renewing our minds, so that we can demonstrate the goodness of Christ to a world who needs him.

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informative informal education

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informative informal education

Deuteronomy 11:2 Understand today that it is not your children who experienced or saw the discipline of Yahveh your God: His greatness, strong hand, and outstretched arm;

Deuteronomy 11:3 his signs and the works he did in Egypt to Pharaoh king of Egypt and all his land;

Deuteronomy 11:4 what he did to Egypt’s army, its horses and chariots, when he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued you, and Yahveh destroyed them completely;

Deuteronomy 11:5 what he did to you in the open country until you reached this place;

Deuteronomy 11:6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when in the middle of the whole Israelite camp the land opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, their tents, and every living thing with them.

Deuteronomy 11:7 Your own eyes have seen every great work Yahveh has done.

informative informal education

A few moments ago, I was thinking about all the educational experiences I had that did not result in degrees, so did not end up on my resume. While I was in the army, I took a correspondence course at seminary, got trained on computers, and took advanced individual training in logistics. Recently I took several training sessions on sales and safety, and was certified on the forklift.

What struck me as I read this passage this morning is that Moses warns the Israelites that their children will not have the benefit of all their informal education. Only they will have seen God’s power deliver them from slavery in Egypt. Only they will have walked through the middle of the Red Sea. Only they will have experienced the ground swallowing up the rebellious ones.

We have a responsibility to the next generation to pass on the things we have learned, especially those things that we didn’t learn in a classroom.

Lord, thank you for all the ways you teach us.

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throats like the stars

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throats like the stars

Deuteronomy 10:20-11:1

Deuteronomy 10:20 You are to fear Yahveh your God and worship him. Remain faithful to him and take oaths in his name.

Deuteronomy 10:21 He is your praise and he is your God, who has done for you these great and awe-inspiring works your eyes have seen.

Deuteronomy 10:22 Your fathers went down to Egypt, seventy throats in all, and now Yahveh your God has placed you here – numerous, like the stars of the sky.

Deuteronomy 11:1 “Therefore, care about Yahveh your God and always watch his mandate and his prescriptions, rules, and commands.

throats like the stars

When I meet people and tell them that my wife and I have seven grandchildren, most are amazed that we have that many, and look so young. I tell them that the families that make up our family are a blessing from our Lord.

In today’s passage, Moses encourages the Israelites to consider their great number in the same light. They started out as seventy throats. Now their number is like the stars if you could count them.

Any time that we are blessed by God in any way, we should consider the blessing a challenge to live up to his standards, not a guarantee that we are already doing so. It is in God’s nature to empower his children, but it is unfortunate that often we who are more empowered tend to view that empowerment as endorsing our behavior. In fact, our loving God tends to bless first, then sit back and see if we can respond in obedience due to appreciation.

Lord, thank you for the blessings you have given us. May we be wise enough to recognize those blessings as a challenge to obey Christ.

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the Yahveh difference

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the Yahveh difference

Deuteronomy 10:17 You see, Yahveh your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.

Deuteronomy 10:18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and cares about the guest, giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 10:19 You are also to care about the guest, since you were guests in the land of Egypt.

the Yahveh difference

Note carefully the distinction between Yahveh and the other gods that the Israelites were called to abandon and avoid. God cannot be bribed into showing partiality— even to an Israelite. He cannot be manipulated by formal worship and ritual. He has no need for anything from the rich. He cares equally for all— including the marginalized— the orphans and widows and foreign refugees.

The Israelites were challenged to have the same attitude toward the needy among them. Instead of using God to better themselves, they were to imitate God’s impartial love toward those around them. Instead of taking advantage of their new status to dominate the foreigners among them, they were to treat them better than they had been treated in Egypt.

Christian, have you been using your religion as a tool to advance yourself? Do you pray only to meet your needs, and give only to those who can return your generosity? That is idolatry.

Lord, bend our wills to your purpose. Help us to imitate your impartial love, and show others the difference between you and false gods.

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