Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 1 Apr 18:
1. Deuteronomy 27:1 — “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.” Partial obedience is disobedience. Jesus, who quoted Deuteronomy more than any other book of the Bible, commanded us in Matt 28 to teach others to obey “all” that He commanded. We Christians need to do some deeper thinking about obedience, a word that carries much baggage for us. For some, the word obedience is a killjoy; it conjures up notions of legalism, judgmentalism, guilt, shame, and confinement. Many view obedience as antonymous to grace, but this misunderstanding is based on a false assumption that the purpose of obedience is to earn God’s love (which is impossible by definition) rather than to display God’s love, to live out God’s love, and to unite with God in love. The foundation of “all” of God’s commands is love. The first and greatest commandment is love, and the others are practices of love. Love is required to obey, and obedience is required to love – “Love [comes] from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5) If we seek to obey the practices of love from anything other than a heart of love (motivated by selfish desire rather than selflessness), we remain disobedient, failing to obey the commandment of love. Jesus called this hypocritical (the word hypocrite means actor), pretending to be loving. Nonetheless, our practices of love, though often poorly motivated, can produce positive external effects on others and can (with the counsel of the Holy Spirit) produce positive internal results, conditioning our hearts to a more genuine love. So, in practice, we often obey out of a sense of duty (“I don’t really want to, but I know I am supposed to.”) while seeking to obey out of genuine love. Certainly, if we waited for a perfect heart to obey, we wouldn’t obey much at all; and that is where God wants us to walk in His grace, not a grace-based living that takes comfort in hopeless disobedience or in dutiful works of obedience, but a grace-based living that celebrates the righteousness we have in Christ, which enables us to freely and fearlessly pursue lives of righteousness and genuine love. Ephesian 4:23 and Romans 12:2 reminds us that our behavior starts with our thoughts. What we choose to focus our attention on will guide our thoughts. The key to sanctification is not focusing more on ourselves (identifying our weaknesses and seeking greater will-power) but rather focusing more on Jesus. The more we appreciate the love of Christ, the more naturally love will flow from us Him and to others (Him and others always goes hand-in-hand). Fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
2. Deuteronomy 27:6 — “You shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones.” The alter focused all attention on the works of God rather than the works of man. There was no human pride attached to the sacrifice or to worship.
3. Deuteronomy 27:9-10 — “Keep silence and hear,… you have become the people of the LORD your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today.” Talk less; obey more. “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6)
4. Deuteronomy 27:12-13 — “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.” The mountains and the tribes selected for the proclamation of blessings or curses are intentional. Concerning the mountains, some have suggested that when the people faced Mount Gerizim, which was very green, they faced Jerusalem, but when they faced Mount Ebal, which was without vegetation or bald, they turned their backs on Jerusalem – a physical contrast representing the consequences of good and evil. Concerning the selected tribes, there have been many suggestions. Those on Gerizim, the mount of blessing, are children of Jacob’s lawful wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen 35:23-26). Reuben and Zebulun (children of Leah) are the exceptions— Reuben was cursed because he had sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen 35:22; 1 Chron 5:1). It is still unclear to me as to why Zebulun makes the list of cursers.
5. Deuteronomy 27:15-27 — Life and obedience to God is all about relationships.
6. Deuteronomy 28 is one of the most gruesome chapters in the entire Bible, describing in horrific detail the physical manifestation of God’s wrath inflicted on a nation that rejected Him as God. One cannot help but see the ominous warning for our country today. However, if from these warnings we start searching for political solutions for our nation’s ailments, we have seriously missed the point. Individual repentance and collective revival is the only hope for our nation. Our mission is the Great Commission – making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey. If the church fails at its mission, no politician or policy, no financial system or military can save us. Note, repentance and revival happen among God’s people. The problem is not that sinners are sinning, the problem is the light of the church has dimmed in its infidelity.
7. Deuteronomy 28:9, 10 — “The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself… if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.” God’s people obey Him and are recognized by unbelievers because of their obedience.
8. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 — God will be glorified by your life in a positive way, through your obedience, or in a negative way, through your disobedience. Either way, the truth of His holiness and righteousness will be revealed to the world. Choose obedience and its subsequent blessings.
– “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.” (Deuteronomy 28:58, 59)
9. Proverbs 1:5 – “Let the wise hear and increase in learning.” Developing wisdom is a life-long endeavor involving daily study of God’s word. Those who truly want wisdom are willing to do what the unwise (or fools) aren’t willing to do.
– Thoughts from A. W. Tozer on Proverbs 1:5 — “When a very young minister, I asked the famous holiness preacher, Joseph H. Smith, whether he would recommend that I read widely in the secular field. He replied, ‘Young man, a bee can find nectar in the weed as well as in the flower.’ I took his advice (or, to be frank, I sought confirmation of my own instincts rather than advice) and I am not sorry that I did. John Wesley told the young ministers of the Wesleyan Societies to read or get out of the ministry, and he himself read science and history with a book propped against his saddle pommel as he rode from one engagement to another. Andy Dolbow, the American Indian preacher of considerable note, was a man of little education, but I once heard him exhort his hearers to improve their minds for the honor of God. ‘When you are chopping wood,’ he explained, ‘and you have a dull axe you must work all the harder to cut the log. A sharp axe makes easy work. So sharpen your axe all you can.'” (Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 33.)
10. Proverbs 1:8 – “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” God intended for children to be raised by a father and a mother. This is not always possible, but we must make every effort to promote and protect the sanctity of marriage and the holiness of the home, which is the schoolhouse for character development – “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15)
11. Proverbs 1:28, 29 – “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD.” There is a point of no return where change is no longer possible. Only God knows the point of no return, but we should heed God’s warning and not presume upon God’s patience.
12. Psalm 38:3 — “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.” Sin affects your health.
13. Psalm 38:11 — “My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.” Sin affects your relationships.
14. Psalm 38:13, 14 — “But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.” Sin hinders your ability to hear God and to pray effectively.
15. Psalm 39:1-3 — “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.’ I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:” It is extremely hard to control your emotions and hold your tongue. You will not be able (or willing) to do it from a worldly perspective.
16. Psalm 39:4 — “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” Life is too short to be bitter.
17. Psalm 39:8 — “Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!” Understanding your own sinfulness and dependency on grace will help you control your temper and impatience with others.
18. Psalm 39:9 — “I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it.” Understanding that God knows what is happening and remains in complete control will help you control your emotions.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 April: “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4) Today, prayerfully take an account of your life. Psalm 90 says, The years of our life…. are soon gone, and we fly away…. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10-12) So, start by counting your days, estimating the number of days you have left on earth, assuming the best case. Write down how you will serve and glorify God in your remaining days. Don’t worry about what you haven’t done to date, focus on what you are going to do. Based on the average life expectancy of a male in America, I have about 10,220 days remaining (assuming no untimely death). There is not time to waste doing things God never asked me to do.