Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 27 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 17:1 –“You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.” The level of your sacrifice for God reveals how much you value God. A real sacrifice costs you something you care about. A gift that is highly valued by the giver displays genuine love.
– Comments on today’s readings by Henry T. Blackaby: Deuteronomy 17:1 – “God’s love moved Him to sacrifice that which meant the most to Him—His only Son. Our response, if we truly understand His love for us, is the desire to give back to God that which means the most to us. The Old Testament reveals that God set forth high standards for the sacrifices He required of His people. A worthy sacrifice had to cost the people something. As their hearts shifted away from God, the people began struggling to give God costly offerings. They would bring blind, lame, and sick animals, assuming God could not tell the difference (Mal. 1:8). God saw what they were doing and declared their offerings to be in vain (Mal. 1:10). Throughout the Old Testament period, God was setting the stage for the ultimate, perfect, and sinless sacrifice of His Son for the sins of humanity. The offerings we give back to God reveal our hearts’ condition. A heart that overflows with gratitude for God’s love will respond in selfless devotion. If we are unwilling to sacrifice our time, our possessions, our money, or our energy, we indicate that we do not love God as He desires. God takes delight in the person who gives to Him cheerfully out of a loving heart, a person who understands that God is the source of everything he has and who knows that God will more than compensate for whatever is sacrificed for Him (2 Cor. 9:8). If you struggle in giving your best offerings to God, pause and reflect on what God sacrificed for you. Trust Him and give Him the best that you have because you love Him with all your heart.
2. Deuteronomy 17:7 – “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” Jesus used this law to exonerate the woman caught in adultery in John 8 – “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Jesus was asked to judge a ‘kangaroo court’, a mob-led trial with no real evidence and with a pre-determined outcome. Though caught in the act of adultery, the woman stood accused alone – where was the other adulterer? Jesus called for the “two or three witnesses” (Deut 19:15; Numbers 35:30; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; John 8:17; 1 John 5:7) who observed the act of adultery to cast the first stones, knowing as likely would everyone else, that whoever through the first stone would have condemned themselves to stoning as a false witness. Jesus was not making light of adultery or excusing sin as some have suggested. In fact, Jesus ends His conversation with the woman to “sin no more.” How would things be different in our legal system today if criminal allegations required at least two witnesses, and the witnesses faced the penalty of the accused if found to be perjuring?
3. Deuteronomy 17:11 – “According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left.” God knows we have a tendency to obey the laws and legal decisions we like and to disobey the ones we don’t like. We are called to obey all of the law, unless a law demands disobedience to God who is the Source of all justice. God also knows that any human system for handling disputes or complicated decisions between stakeholders is not perfect, and He expects his people to accept the outcome of the decision-making process.
4. Deuteronomy 17:16, 17 – “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” God does not want leaders to get rich from their positions of leadership. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 gives further instruction on the matter: “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” God wants leaders who are not selfishly motivated but rather motivated by love for Him and for others. True leadership comes a great personal expense. Don’t you wish we had more politicians and civic leaders today who selflessly led with their eyes affixed on Jesus? Solomon, ignored these commands and permanently divided Israel. As our nation gets more and more divided, our leaders seem to get wealthier and wealthier. And as for our most well-known religious leaders, look online to see their net worth.
– I assume kings are pretty busy, busier than me. Yet God expected them to read/study their personal copy of God’s word every day of their lives, being careful to OBEY every bit of it. People who lived in centuries past, had no more time than us, they just had fewer options for their time. We must make the choice to read, study, and obey God’s word every day of our lives. God’s word is a lamp unto our feet. (read all of Psalm 119) How different would our leaders be today if they were committed to reading, understanding, and obeying God’s Word? What impact would they have on the Nation and the world?
5. Deuteronomy 18:2 – “They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them.” The Bible says that we are all priests; so, we claim no inheritance on earth, but the Lord is our inheritance.
6. Deuteronomy 18:18-20 – “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’” True prophets only speak the word of God given by God. False prophets speak presumptuous words that God never intended.
7. Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Make today count. You cannot do anything about the past, and you have no idea what tomorrow may bring. Today is your opportunity to trust God, obey God, and glorify God, one decision at a time. Today is your mission field. If you are faithful with just today, God will show you a future for which you never would have planned. Just one faithful moment today could change the course of your life forever. If God puts something on your heart, act on it today; don’t wait until tomorrow. And don’t worry about tomorrow either. God is in control of tomorrow. Faith is trusting God today; hope is trusting God with tomorrow; and love is our goal, our motivation, and our vocation (which means calling).
– Luke 9:62 — Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:10 — Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
– Hebrews 3:13, 15 — But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin…. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
– Luke 5:26 — And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
– Luke 12:28 — But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
– Proverbs 3:28 — Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
– Matthew 6:34 — “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
– James 4:13, 14 — Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
– Ephesians 5:16 – [make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
– Colossians 4:5 — Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
8. Proverbs 27:5, 6 — It is unloving not to rebuke someone who needs it.
9. Proverbs 27:7, 8 — “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.” A person starving for love is more susceptible to sin.
10. Proverbs 27:4 — “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” Jealousy is worse than anger. Jealousy despises another not because of an offense but because of blessings they have received. Jealousy is purely an internal temptation that reveals an ungrateful heart. Jealousy is outwardly directed at a person but inwardly directed at God who gave someone else something He didn’t give the jealous person, which makes the jealous person resentful. Jealousy reveals a deep relationship problem a person has with God. Treating people poorly out of jealousy only makes the problem worse.
11. Proverbs 27:18 — “Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored.” If your boss is wrong, and you can protect him from his mistakes, you will only benefit from it. Yes, there is a concern about enabling bad behavior, but with wisdom, your influence can change a leader over time. Most change takes a long time, but consequences for bad behavior are immediate and can have devastating consequences. Much of leadership from the bottom up is about damage control while influencing by example and subtle counsel.
12. Mark 6:7 – “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” God sends His people out under His authority and power. That includes you.
13. Mark 6:12 – “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” The salvation message starts with the demand for repentance. Here’s a message you don’t hear preached much these days — repent. It has become unsophisticated to preach about sin and the wrath of God, causing many to wonder why people need a savior. Even from the pulpits, we hear the message that people don’t need a savior, they need a psychologist, and Jesus merely provides us the example of how to live or how to ‘save’ ourselves from the consequences of bad behavior. Too many have turned the Bible into a supernatural self-help book rather than a message of reconciliation with God through Jesus. We might still hear someone ask, “Are you saved?”, but saved from what, from the consequences of our bad behavior? No, saved from the wrath of The Almighty, Holy, Just God – Saved from God by God, through faith in His grace, not our good deeds. We are not communicating clearly that we need salvation from the wrath of God and that we are incapable of saving ourselves. John the Baptist lost his head, ultimately, because he condemned adultery. Remember when preachers once condemned adultery and other sexual sins, not merely because of the obvious consequences of such behavior but because of its offense to a Holy God? Perhaps part of our problem is that we have lost the art of condemning the sin without condemning the sinner, of pointing past the sin to the Savior. Are you proclaiming to people that they must repent, not to turn from bad behavior but to turn to Jesus?
14. Mark 6:18 – “For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” As stated above, John lost his life because He challenged adultery in a corrupt society with corrupt leaders. His words were offensive and negative, but his aim was positive, reconciliation. Today, John the Baptist would have been labelled a hater. But if you truly love God and others, you must hate sin and speak out against it, again, not to make more agreeable sinners, but rather to promote reconciliation with God through Jesus. “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10)
15. Mark 6:26 — “And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word.” Pride, lust, power, and rash decision-making drove Herod to hideous sin he did not intend. The Bible says that Herod gladly heard God’s word through John the Baptist and “feared John,” but nonetheless beheaded him (Mark 6:20). The Bible points out that Herod “was exceedingly sorry,” but sorrow is not the same as repentance. Herod demonstrated “worldly grief” rather than “godly sorrow.” Godly sorrow leads to repentance and reconciliation with Jesus: John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance – “In those days John the Baptist came… saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:1, 2).’” Jesus began his public ministry with a call to repentance – “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4:17);’” and Jesus sent his disciples with a call to repentance in our readings today – “They went out and preached that the people should repent (Mark 6:12).” Repentance comes from “godly sorrow” (genuine, spirit convicted sorrow) and involves the decision (followed by action) to seek the forgiveness of God, to turn away from sin, and to do the will of God, to “walk” with Him. Repentance involves 180-out decisive change with tangible results, the “fruit of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) Both worldly grief and godly sorrow are deeply felt but produce opposite results. Consider the difference between the sorrow felt by Judas and the sorrow felt by Peter, both of whom betrayed Jesus. Peter returned to Jesus with a strong reaffirmation of his love for Jesus (John 21:15-17) and a truly changed life. Even to the point of torturous death, Peter never denied Christ again. Conversely, Judas carried his worldly grief to his suicidal death, refusing to turn to God for restoration. Many live in pain, misery, regret, and perhaps bitterness over mistakes that they have made in life and perhaps continue to make. However, God does not want us to live in worldly grief that leads to death, but rather God wants us to respond to the godly sorrow that comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repent, live in obedience by the grace of God, and have life to its fullest with godly joy.
– 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
16. Mark 6:27, 28 – “And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.” Jesus commended John for being the most honorable and faithful of His day, yet John was not spared a brutal, seemingly dishonoring death. Jesus’ most faithful are most hated by the world. They receive no honor on earth but unimaginable reward in Heaven.
17. Mark 6:31 — “And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’” God knows the importance of rest and spiritual renewal for His servants.
18. Comments on Mark 6:45-52 from Oswald Chambers: — “And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side… .” We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end. What is my dream of God’s purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and un-perplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God. God’s training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get wrong when we think of the afterwards. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end. God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.
19. Mark 6:53-56 – “When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was.” Remember, Jesus told the man He had cleansed of demons (chapter 5) that he could not go with Jesus but must stay and testify to others. Now Jesus returns to huge crowds. Do crowds want to know Jesus because of your testimony? Your salvation is a personal experience, but it is intended to also be very public, your witness to the world of the power of the Gospel. Read John 14-17 – Jesus wants you know Him and make Him known – the two endeavors are inseparable and symbiotic.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day): 27 Mar — Tell others about the need of repentance today. References from today’s readings: Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter…. So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. (Mark 6:12)