Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 26 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 15:1, 2 – “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.” God’s system is designed to keep people from getting into long-term debt and to keep people from profiting on the debts of others. In case you missed it from yesterday’s readings, God did not want His people to profit from the debts of others. The seventh year is also a reminder of the freedom of the debt of sin we receive through Jesus.
2. Deuteronomy 15:3, 4 – “Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess.” God gave His people permission to charge interest to non-believers but not to take advantage of them or to let them get in over their heads. By allowing this, God was essentially allowing His people to control more and more of the ungodly world. National power is often measured in D.I.M.E – Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economics. Economics is the most powerful weapon. God intended for His people to grow powerful economically but never through unfair or inhumane ways. Debt slowly robs people of their resources. Essentially, by allowing His people to charge debt to foreigners, He was enabling His people to “subdue” more and more of the earth; by forbidding them to be in debt or to charge debt among the believers, He was protecting them from loss of economic power. More on this below:
3. Deuteronomy 15:6 — “For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.” God commanded His people to cancel all debts among other believers every seven years (and in other verses He forbids any interest on debt among fellow believers), but He also says, “of a foreigner you may exact it.” God understands and teaches His people that “the rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender (Proverbs 22:7).” He did not intend for His people to be in debt or enslaved by the world but to depend on each other to take care of each other’s needs that “there will be no poor among you (Deuteronomy 15:4).” So, when you need money you don’t have for a major expenditure where do you go? Do you go to the church for an interest free loan or do you go to a bank or credit agency owned by a secular institution or a worldly kingdom? God’s commands for economics were designed for His people to be the most powerful ‘Kingdom’ on the planet, a nation among the nations for His glory. Is that what we are? Or have we unfunded the work of the church by surrendering income to worldly kingdoms through debt? It has been reported that churches in America spend more money on building debt than they do on missionaries.
4. Deuteronomy 15:7, 8 — “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” God expects you to give you fellow Christians in need, whatever they need. The Bible warns not to harden your heart. Most people harden their hearts when they tell themselves that the poor brother doesn’t deserve help because their plight is their own fault. No one deserves grace. Give grace as God has given you.
5. Deuteronomy 15:9-12 – “Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” You have no excuse for not helping the poor. Not helping the poor is a sin. God judges your heart. Interestingly, we just read that God had a plan to prevent any of His people from being poor (Deut 15:4), yet we read that, despite His plan, there would still always be poor. Why? Is it because God’s plan was flawed? No, it is because God’s people were disobedient and didn’t follow the plan. In many cases, people likely caused their own poverty through irresponsible living. Nonetheless, God expected (and expects) His people to give generously to the poor, not coming up with justifications not to – “It’s their fault…. If I help them, they will just do it again.” Remember, no one deserves a gift, and gifts are never earned or reclaimed by the giver. Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t just pay for the sins of those who were “worth it,” or who were sure not to fail again?
6. Deuteronomy 15:14 – “As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him.” How you give to others reveals how appreciative you are of how God has blessed you. How you give to others reveals your true level of confidence in God’s provision. How you give to others reveals your love and compassion. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
7. Deuteronomy 16:12 – Worship remembers poverty.
8. Deuteronomy 16:13-15 — “You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days…. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you….” During the time of the feast, each Israelite family was supposed to construct a booth (a temporary shelter), or sukkah, and live in it for a week (Leviticus 23:42–43). This week served many purposes: it reminded the people how had God provided for them when they had nothing; it reminded them that if they had nothing again, God would provide for them; it reminded them that their joy did not depend on their many possessions; it reminded them that life if often more joyful and memorable when they live simply; it brought everyone together into greater fellowship; it focused their thinking on the Lord; it sustained their collective skills to camp and to survive and to live in austerity; and it strengthened community. Christians would benefit from reviving this annual community camping feast.
9. Deuteronomy 16:16, 17 — “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.” Three times a year, ALL of God’s people came together in one place for huge feasts for worship, fellowship, and praise to celebrate the redemption and salvation God provided. Everyone contributed to these feasts. These events lasted for days, and all work stopped. They were joyful celebrations, and aliens were invited to participate (Deuteronomy 16:14). What a powerful display of unity under the LORD-ship of God and to each other as fellow believers; what a powerful witness to the watching world. Does your church do anything like this? Does your church have such a powerful sense of community?
10. Deuteronomy 16:18-19 — “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice.” How do you settle disputes with other believers? Do you go to the church leadership or do you go to the secular court system? “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers (1 Corinthians 61-8)!” Is your church prepared to handle disputes between members, and do the members of your church trust and accept the authority of the leadership of your church to settle disputes or would they rather go to Judge Judy?
– From what you have read today, how closely do churches today reflect what God intended for His people? What role do you personally play in strengthening your community church?
11. Proverbs 26:7 – “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Knowing God’s word is not the same as understanding God’s word. The Bible says that the fool can’t understand God’s word (Psalm 92:6). Fools are those who do not really seek the fear of the Lord or true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7); they are scoffers, arrogant and prideful (Proverbs 1:22; 21:24); they are self-righteous and wise in their own eyes. (Pro 12:15; 18:2; 28:26) Many fools are well-versed in the Bible but lack wisdom and only cause division vice reconciliation.
12. Proverbs 26:7 — “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” The majority of Proverbs 26 deals with knowledge poorly applied. Our problem is often not knowing what to do, our problem is not doing what we know. Having the word of God and not doing the word of God (for whatever excuse we use) is like having food in your hands but refusing to put it in your mouth. Jesus said that He is the Bread of Life. He tells us to deny self, take up the cross and follow Him. Proverbs says, to have that knowledge and continue to pursue our own agendas in life is to feast on a daily meal of vomit (Proverbs 26:11)
13. Proverbs 26:7-9 – “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” If you are living your life foolishly, God cannot use you as His messenger.
14. Proverbs 26:13-16 – God despises both foolishness and laziness.
15. Proverbs 26:28 – “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Lying and flattery are both forms of deception for selfish, self-centered purposes. Flattery selfishly tells people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Flattery comes with a hidden agenda. It is deceptive and destructive.
16. Mark 5:14 – “The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.” The herdsmen were witnesses who personally experienced the power of God and, therefore, could not help but tell everyone. Witnesses testify to what they have personally experienced, not simply what they have heard about. The herdsmen’s story would have been hard to believe, but they were not worried about what others might say. Witnessing is only hard when the experience isn’t real, personal, and powerful.
17. Mark 5:18-20 — “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” Salvation is not just so we can enjoy Jesus for the rest of our days; it is so we can glorify God before others, fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives of glorifying Him.
18. Mark 5:23-35 — “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him…. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years…. and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment…. And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’” In context with what we have read in the Old Testament, this is an especially amazing account. Jesus, a rabbi, was called to the home of Jarius to save his dying daughter. Along the way he was touched by a bleeding woman. After her act of faith, the women was afraid, likely, in part, because she had just made the Rabbi unclean (preventing him from entering anyone’s home according to the Law). This would have placed Jesus in a predicament as he journeyed to Jarius’ home (and I suspect the crowd was none too pleased with the woman); however, along the way, Jarius’ daughter dies (a corpse is also unclean). Jesus could now enter house without risk of rendering the house unclean (it was already unclean) and without concern of choosing to become unclean (the woman has already made him unclean). Now Jesus could enter the home without breaking the law. Interesting.
19. Mark 5:30 – “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him.” The Levitical Laws forbade a bleeding woman from touching a Rabbi. While one could speculate that these laws were largely symbolic or for medical reasons, here we can see that there is also a spiritual implication we cannot understand (power had gone out from him).
20. Mark 5:37 – “And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.” Among the 12, Jesus had an inner circle of three. These three had greater opportunity to see the wonders of Jesus. Are you fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples? Who are your three and twelve? Are you one of the three and twelve of a more senior Christian who is personally discipling you?
21. Mark 5:43 — “And he… told them to give her something to eat.” Jesus is concerned with your most basic needs.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 March: Plan a week-long camping trip with your family and Christian friends to fellowship and to worship together. Consider making it an annual tradition. (Deuteronomy 16:13-15)