Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 31 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 25:3 – “Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.” Luther said the Law serves us today as a curb, a mirror, and a guide – “First, the Law helps to control violent outbursts of sin and keeps order in the world (a curb). Second, the Law accuses us and shows us our sin [and total reliance on God’s grace] (a mirror). Third, the Law teaches us Christians what we should and should not do to live a God-pleasing life (a guide). The power to live according to the Law comes from the Gospel.” In Deuteronomy 25:3, the law of forty stripes is intended to provide restraint and to prevent inappropriate overreaction fueled by unbridled emotion. The law also seeks to preserve the dignity of people, even guilty people. And the law maintains mercy in justice, reflecting the character of God. This law specifically applies to the punishment of whipping, but the principle of restraint and compassion applies universally. The letter of the law was no more than forty lashes, but the intent was to prevent cruelty, to preserve human dignity, and to preserve merciful justice. However, hard-hearted people, who had lost sight of the intent of the law, learned how to stick to the letter of the law while still being cruel and merciless by making more destructive whips. The flagellum, uses to scourge Jesus, was a whip with several (at least three) thongs or strands, each perhaps as much as three feet long, and the strands were weighted with lead balls or pieces of bone. Many did not survive scourging with this instrument. The letter of the law is not enough – it cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit to change the heart. We need the power of the Holy Spirit which uses the law, God’s word, to convict our hearts and to coach us along the way to develop an increasingly Christ-like heart, increasingly united with Him in genuine love and purpose. Apart from the Holy Spirit, the heart is wicked beyond imagination and will always find a way to do evil despite the law. The heart of a man’s problem is the problem with his heart.
2. Deuteronomy 25:11, 12 – Throughout the Old Testament, there are very strict laws to protect the production and reproduction capacities of both people and animals. God protects livelihood and future growth.
3. Deuteronomy 25:16 – “…all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Dishonesty is an abomination to the Lord. Do we take dishonesty that seriously?
4. Deuteronomy 26:2-9 – God wants us to put worship first, worship which professes God publicly and often recounts the history of salvation.
5. Deuteronomy 26:13 – “I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.” The tithe honors God by giving Him the first and best, and it is given to Him by giving it to others in need. Remember, we show our love for God primarily through obedience to His commands, and His greatest commandment is love – we love God by loving others. If you don’t love the brother you can see, you cannot love the God who you can’t see (1 John 4:20)
6. Deuteronomy 26:17 – To profess God as your God is to commit yourself to obey Him as your Lord (and Savior). The demons believe in Jesus, but they don’t follow Him – they know He exists and who He is, but they don’t love Him. Do you have a saving faith that desires to love, trust, and obey? Do you have a faith that desires to truly “know” Jesus (to become one with Him) as your life ambition?
7. Proverbs 31:1 — “An oracle that his mother taught him…” A wise mother desperately wants her son to find a wise, godly wife. A wise mother carefully instructs her children on God’s plan for marriage.
8. Proverbs 31:6-7 – “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” Various forms of escapism are for the weak and not appropriate for a Christian who faces the responsibilities and opportunities God has set before them with courage and strength. Some turn to drink, others turn to food, still others turn to entertainment, and there are many other ways people seek to avoid responsibility. Christians seek wholehearted devotion, practicing the disciplines of discipleship.
9. Psalm 37:1 — “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers (Psalm 37:1)!” Psalms 37 is an acrostic Psalm with verses for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it is written as the verses of music. This indicates to me that God inspired the Psalmist to write this Psalm in such a way that it could easily be remembered and recited by God’s people. Why? Because God knew His people would face many trials and times when it would seem like evil was prevailing. Today, God’s people need to sing the song of Psalm 37. Do not fret and do not be influenced by evil doers who seem to be winning the culture war. Trust in God and become more faithful to Him than ever (Psalm 37:3). Delight in the Lord; make your heart’s desire Him, and He will give to you Himself – you will have joy regardless the chaos around you (Psalm 37:4). As you draw closer to God while the world moves farther away from Him, you will be a shining light in the darkness (Psalm 37:6). Don’t get upset, fret, or get angry because that will only cause you to act foolishly and wrong. Rather, have faith in God and wait patiently on Him – He is in control (Psalm 37:8). What power do the wicked have over God? None! (Psalm 37:12-15). Remaining faithful during these times might cost us some worldly comforts, but our comfort is in the Lord (Psalm 37:16). If we remain faithful in the midst of the unfaithful, the Lord will sustain us and our families through the inevitable trials (Psalm 37:24, 25). Again, when the world turns towards evil, we need to intentionally turn away from it and draw closer to the Lord – we need to do good. (Psalm 37:27) We must walk more and more by the word of God which we have on our hearts, and we must communicate to the world only what God’s word says (Psalm 37:30, 31). God knows that you will be hated for standing for the truth and that the wicked will use the law to persecute you. However, God will not abandon you, and we must remember that our justice is in the hands of the Lord, not men (Psalm 37:32, 33; see also Proverbs 29:26, 27). In conclusion, the Psalmist reminds us again – “Wait for the Lord and keep his way (Psalm 37:34). Don’t fret! Walk with God in delight, joy, and confidence as described in Psalm 23. Be a beacon of light to the world around you. Light always overpowers darkness.
10. Psalm 37:3, 4 – “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” If you truly trust in the Lord you will obey Him; contentment and fulfillment come when all you want out of life is Him.
11. Psalm 37:7 – “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way.” A lack of faith often causes us to do too much, to act prematurely, to over-react, or to do things God never intended.
12. Psalm 37:8 – “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Don’t chase the poisonous snakes that bite you; just let it go, and let God handle it. Whatever was taken from you, God can replace ten-fold. Again, “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Focusing on what the evil are doing will only tempt us to sin. Focus rather on what God has called us to do, one day at a time with what God has given you. Trust and delight in the Lord today and serve Him wholeheartedly. Don’t get upset. “Turn away from evil and do good…. Wait for the Lord and keep his way.” Remember, “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is [our] stronghold in the time of trouble;” our hope is not in governments, institutions, or economies.
14. Psalm 37:21 – “The righteous is generous and gives.” Your righteousness is revealed, in part, by your generosity. It takes faith to give, particularly when you have little for yourself. If you are not generous, you have a faith problem, a problem with loving God and trusting that He will truly provide for your needs.
15. Psalm 37:23, 24 — “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” Let God be your guide by obeying Him unconditionally.
16. Psalm 37:25, 26 – “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.” Once again, giving is an act of faith, believing that God will provide for your future so you don’t have to hoard today. Mother Theresa said that she never saw anyone go into poverty from giving too much. Trust God and give. See what happens.
17. Psalm 37:34 – “Wait for the LORD and keep his way,” – The command to “wait” is repeated several times today. This is patient, faithful obedience that perseveres in times of hardship. In times of crises, the world says, “Don’t just stand there; do something!” God says, “Don’t just do something, stand there and wait for the Lord to lead and then follow Him one step at a time.” In Ecclesiastes, Solomon say’s. “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Eccl 7:29) We Christians are far too buys doing things, often in the Name of the Lord, that God never intended us to do. So many other Bible verses speak to this point. Don’t be consumed by the worries of the world. “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
18. Psalm 37:39, 40 – “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” Perhaps these verses should be committed to memory so that we can recite them to ourselves and others over and over again every day in order to help us fight the constant temptation to seek refuge in ourselves, in others, or in things.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 31 April: Today, let God’s word be your curb, mirror and guide. Show your love for God today by being obedient beyond the mere letter of the law, with a heart of genuine, sacrificial love. Love God by loving others. Remember, the law establishes rules of fairness (an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth), but Christians, having received unmerited grace, live above and beyond rules of fairness – we no longer demand fairness for ourselves. We wash the feet of those you would betray us to death (see John 13 and 14). Just as God’s love for us does not depend on our faithfulness, so our love for others is unconditional – it is not a fair exchange but rather a sacrificial gift. Trust God by making yourself vulnerable in giving and in grace. Watch God work in your loving obedience.