Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 21 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 5:1 — “And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.'” Hear them, learn them, and then carefully do them. Some don’t hear; some don’t learn; and some don’t do. Your job on earth is to first, obey by doing what you have heard and learned. Solomon’s conclusion from life sums it up: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Salvation is not through the Law but through faith. In fact, the Law reveals our need for grace. However, the Law nonetheless reflects the character of God, and we glorify God in obedience. Whereas obedience was once motivated by a sense of fear or duty, it should more and more be motivated by genuine love for the Lord.
– Psalm 119:30 — I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
– Psalm 119:60 — I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
– John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
– John 14:31 — But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
– 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
– John 3:36 — Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
– Luke 6:46 — “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
– Acts 5:29 — But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
– 1 John 3:24 — Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
– James 1:22-25 — But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
2. Deuteronomy 5:2 – “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” God’s commands are for you, and He will hold you accountable. It is personal, between Him and you. None of God’s commands are outdated. He met you where you were, and now He expects you to obey. This is not about salvation but about sanctification. You are God’s child. Children are supposed to grow and mature. Parents discipline their children in order to mature them. Better to have discipline than to need to be disciplined. Obedience is a product of love. We are not perfected in love or obedience, but this should be our pursuit.
3. Deuteronomy 5:2, 3 — “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” Faith is not passed down from one generation to the next, nor is relationship. Faith, hope, love, and obedience is a personal matter. God speaks to you personally, and you must choose how you will respond.
4. Deuteronomy 5:7, 6:5 — “‘You shall have no other gods before me…. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” All other commandments rest on this foundation: Love God completely and let nothing hinder that total love. Obeying all the other commands from the wrong heart or wrong motives is still disobedience and, perhaps, a more dangerous form of disobedience than obvious sin because these “deeds” breed pride and convince the practitioner their self-righteousness has made them truly united with God. God is love; unity can only come through love, not mere deeds. So, you didn’t lie, cheat, or steal – why? What was the motivation? Was it fear of punishment? Was it to get some sort of blessing or reward? Was it to be honorable before men, to have a good reputation? Was it to make your family proud? Was it merely out of a sense of obligation? These are defiled sacrifices at the alter (Malachi 1:6-14), certainly nothing to brag about. Fortunately, the perfect sacrifice was provided for us so that we do not have to humiliate ourselves with our pathetic offerings, so that we can have intimate relationship with “Daddy” despite our wicked hearts. Now we are free to grow into love without fear. Certainly, we must strive with all of our might to obey all of Gods commands, but those commands must be truly on our hearts rather than just in our minds and in our actions. As long as our goal is blessings rather than the One who blesses, we are missing the mark (sinning). If there were no reward at all but merely the sufferings of Job to look forward to, would you still love and obey God just the same? Humbling to consider. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:6)
5. Deuteronomy 5:8 — “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” The Glory of God is unfathomable. The moment we think we can shape or mold God from our perceptions or imagination, we have committed an unthinkable act of presumption, have greatly insulted the Almighty, and having greatly limited God in our minds. Subconsciously, we begin to focus on the image we have created of God rather than the True Almighty in all His Wonder. As innocent as it might seem, the carved image is our feeble attempt to bring God down to our level, to worship Him on our terms. Have you missed the fact that when people attempt to paint or carve images of God, the created object usually looks like the artist? Someone once said, “In the beginning, God created man, and man has been trying to create God ever since. You may never have created an image of God, but also be careful not to limit God from the perspective of your own understanding, by what you have personally experienced, or by what you can see, touch, smell, taste, or hear. The created thing can never completely understand that which created it. God is Spirit and must be worshiped in Spirit. God’s commands protect His character from the deceptive thoughts of people.
6. Deuteronomy 5:8 – “I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” God’s character does not change. Oprah Winfrey made headlines when she said that she stopped believing in God when she read this verse. She doesn’t (or didn’t) understand that God knows that He is what we ultimately need for total joy and peace; He is the source of love; He is the source of order; He is the source of justice. In love and justice, He cannot tolerate anything that would further drive what He loves away from Him. God’s jealousy is not like man’s jealousy. God’s jealousy is perfectly loving and just, and only seeks our very best interest. Be very grateful your God is a jealous God.
7. Deuteronomy 5:11 “‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Similar to Deuteronomy 5:8, this verse warns that we must never make light of God, to speak of Him in a casual sense. The thought of God’s Holiness and Majesty should leave us undone, totally overwhelmed. To use the Name of God carelessly is to depreciate the LORD. Do you understand who you are talking about?
8. Deuteronomy 5:12, 15 — “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you….. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Much like tithes, offerings, and gifts, the Sabbath makes no sense from the human perspective — a whole day of being totally unproductive. Imagine how the Israelites must have felt about the Sabbath day while living in the desert where food and water was hard to acquire. When God commanded the Sabbath, he reminded His people of His provision. The Sabbath day is a weekly choice to acknowledge that God is in control, not us; that our survival and success depends on Him, not on our own efforts; that we trust Him rather than in our own abilities. It is more than a day off from work, it is an act of faith and a proclamation of faith before the world. Deuteronomy 5:14, 15 – “…that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” God knows that you need rest and that you need to be reminded that your provision comes from Him, not from your efforts. He also knows that He has to make you rest through a command. Also, He expects you to enable others to rest. So, you taking the Sabbath means that others will too. If no one went to restaurants on Sunday, restaurant employees would be forced to take that day off. Also, everyone would know that God was the source of that rest. Some believe that the Sabbath is no longer something God expects because Jesus “fulfilled” the Law. However, I would be willing to bet that you are not getting your rest, allowing others to get their rest, or glorifying God as well as you could if everyone knew you didn’t work on Sunday.
— Nehemiah 13:19-20 — “As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.” What a powerful international testimony. Israel was the cross-roads of trade within the global region. When the Israelites honored the Sabbath, all trade stopped. Everyone knew why – God’s people were honoring God.
9. Deuteronomy 5:16 — “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” The most important earthly institution established by God is the family, and God has given special responsibility and authority to family. The purpose of marriage is to raise up Godly children (Malachi 2:15), and God has built His Kingdom on earth from families. God also said that the marriage is the earthly model of Christ’s love for the church. God intends for both parents and children to learn about obedience to authority through the family. The family is the school house for character development. A person who doesn’t respect and honor their parents (despite their imperfections) is a dishonorable person.
10. Deuteronomy 5:17-21 — “You shall not murder. And you shall not commit adultery. And you shall not steal. And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” The majority of the Ten Commandments (six of ten) deal with how we treat others. We love God primarily through loving others. Christians should be masters of love. Jesus said that if you love Him, you will obey His commandments, and His primary commandment is to love others. How you treat others reveals how much you really love God.
11. Deuteronomy 5:29 – “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” Religious moments in your life will not bring you joy, peace, and fulfillment. We cannot simply court God, we must be married to Him and totally faithful to Him. The Bible describes disobedience as spiritual adultery.
12. Deuteronomy 5:32, 33 – “You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.” Salvation is a free gift from God that cannot be earned, but is must be taken and then used to obey Him. Obedience is our opportunity to experience the joy of God. God only wants the very best for you, but you must do what He says to have the very best. This is not hard to understand. Why throw away God’s gifts for you through disobedience?
13. Deuteronomy 6:2 — “…that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you.” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” We learn to fear the Lord and to know Him by obeying His commands, even if we don’t understand the “why” behind them and even if we have not yet obtained the wholehearted desire to follow them. Obedience shapes your character to learn to love and appreciate God. Obedience also protects you from what you don’t yet understand. As we grow in love more and more, obedience goes from being easier and easier to being something we truly want to do from the heart, regardless of how hard or easy it is. When we are truly motivated by love, we no longer need to be commanded to do what God wants because it is what we want; the Law does not end; it is just no longer needed to keep us on path. Jesus did not abolish the Law; He just fulfilled it. It wasn’t an issue for Him because He was one with the Father.
14. Deuteronomy 6:4-8 — “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” All that you are must be focused on loving and serving God in them moment. Parents must model this and discuss this with their children continuously. How focused are you on Jesus today, loving Him, serving Him, and proclaiming Him in all that you do?
15. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” You must love God to obey Him, but your love for Him grows as you work to obey Him. When you obey out of a sense of duty, you learn to obey out of love. You must teach kids to learn how to love God by teaching them to first obey. Disciples learn discipline. Disciple your children first.
16. Deuteronomy 6:16, 17 — “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you.” Don’t take God’s grace for granted and be complacent in your fidelity. You have been forgiven that you might be renewed to a right relationship with God, not so that you could continue to disgrace the Name of Christ through bad behavior.
17. Proverbs 21:1 — “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” God uses all leaders for His purposes, to bless or discipline people. If you don’t like your leadership, ask yourself why God allowed them to lead.
18. Proverbs 21:17 – “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” Too many Christians are in debt, have no savings, fail to tithe, and fail to give generously to others because they buy things they should never buy in the pursuit of comfort, entertainment, and prestige.
19. Proverbs 21:30 – “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.” Our society is full of all sorts of secular humanist theories that purport to explain and offer solutions to mankind’s problems. However, without Jesus as the solution, they are all just complicated lies, false gospels, anti-Christ. Some Christians have been tempted to merge these theories into Christian doctrine, replacing clean living water with muddy water trampled by men. Others have tried to turn the Bible into a self-help book that competes with these other theories. However, the goal of the Bible is not earthly comfort or success. The goal is knowing Jesus and being one with the Father and the Son. (see John 17)
20. Mark 2:10, 11 – “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’” The purpose of healing, charity, and ministry is not mainly to take care of temporary temporal needs but rather to proclaim the Gospel in authority. Don’t just help people with their immediate needs. Address their eternal spiritual needs by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus.
21. Mark 2:15 – “And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” Many seek to justify their continued sin by saying that Jesus hung out with sinners. However, Jesus was not just hanging out with sinners, He was fellowshipping the repentant sinners that had committed to following Him. There is a big difference.
22. Mark 2:27, 28 – “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’” Again, God knows we need the Sabbath.
23. Mark 2:9 — “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Even unbelievers, for selfish reasons, can preach the gospel from a knowledge of the Bible, but the power of God revealed in the life of the messenger validates the messenger and confirms the Truth of God.
24. Mark 2:20 — “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” Jesus anticipated the church would fast until his return. Is fasting a part of your prayer life?
25. Mark 2:23, 24 — “One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” How do you treat other people when you are famished? How do you treat people who criticize you when you are starving, really tired, sick, pressured, or when you are just having a really tough day? Jesus and his disciples were so hungry, having invested everything they had in service to others, that they were plucking heads of grain to eat — a lot of work for very little food, something poor people would do. It was that moment that the Pharisees, who lived luxurious lives in their lack of service to others, criticized Jesus and His disciples. How would you have responded? Jesus, the embodiment of love, responds calmly with God’s word, seeking to teach and positively influence his attackers. Jesus modelled conflict management for us.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 March: Treat the Pharisees in your life as Jesus did — See comments above on Mark 2:23, 24