Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 8 July 2022:
Deuteronomy 34:10-11 — And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
“Moses hesitated to accept God’s call at first, protesting that the Israelites would not obey him and that he was too “slow of speech and of tongue” to lead Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:1–4:17). Yet the Lord, in His patience and grace, remained with Moses and strengthened his hand. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Moses stared down the mightiest king on the planet (4:18–14:31), led the Israelites against the Midianites (Num. 31), and did many other mighty works.
Despite years of serving the Lord, however, Moses never stepped foot in the Promised Land; rather, Joshua led Israel into Canaan (Deut. 31:1–8). Joshua may also have written Deuteronomy 34:1–8, one of the few texts of the Pentateuch (Genesis– Deuteronomy) that Moses did not pen. Certainly, Moses did not record his own death, so Joshua or some other close companion of Moses wrote it. The same person may also have authored verses 9–12, but many scholars believe a later person, perhaps Ezra, added this note about Moses’ prophetic office after Israel returned from exile. For as is clear from the Old Testament, no other period of old covenant history had the numbers and varieties of miracles as the days of Moses. Other prophets performed miracles (2 Kings 6:1–7), but the flurry of miracles in Moses’ lifetime was unsurpassed until the ministry of Christ.
Even though Moses did not enter the land, God granted him a vision of it, reminding Moses that the promise to the patriarchs (Gen. 15) would come to pass. Moses died on Mount Nebo after seeing Canaan, and God Himself buried him (Deut. 34:1–8), probably to guard against the people later building an idolatrous shrine to Moses. Being buried by the Lord, of course, was also a great honor.
Death before entering Canaan was earthly discipline for Moses, who failed to trust God at Meribah-kadesh (32:48–52; see Num. 20:1–13). Even the greatest old covenant prophet had to learn his place in the kingdom is through a grace that covers all his failures. No less than all the other saints of God, Moses had to recognize the truth Augustus Toplady so beautifully expresses in the hymn Rock of Ages: “Not the labors of my hands can fulfill the law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone.”
The grace of God is large enough to cover all of our failures and sins. This great truth ought not be abused by us (growing callous toward sin); rather, it is to comfort us when we have sinned, for it reminds us that past failures and disobedience do not render us unable to serve Christ now, if we have repented. Consider how God’s grace has overcome your sin and how it should move you to serve Him today.” (Ligonier Ministries)
Colossians 2:2, 3 — “…being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Our goal is not to live a good life; our goal is to be one with Jesus Christ and to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) This distinction is critical to the Christian life. Many Christians make “righteousness” their idol, unwittingly replacing Christ for morality. However, apart from Christ, there is nothing at all. Solomon sought wisdom and was the wisest man that had ever lived, but as Solomon learned the hard way, wisdom is not to be our ultimate goal. If we aim in life to be wise or to live good lives, to be good people, we will neither obtain true wisdom or goodness, nor will we obtain the fullness of joy that comes from true union with Jesus Christ. If we rather seek to truly and fully “know” Jesus, to be “knit together” in love with Him, we will “reach all the riches” with “whom is hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge.” We are not trying to act like Jesus, we are becoming fully and truly one with Him – a dead body now alive in Christ; a once empty vessel now filled with the Holy Spirit; not us working but Christ working through us. (Romans 15:18) The Bible says that Noah “walked with God,” before the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but notice that Paul says that “those who have received Christ Jesus the Lord,” are not to just walk “with” Him but rather to “walk in Him, rooted and built up in him.” (Colossians 2:6, 7) In union with Christ, our identity becomes nothing. This relationship has been described as a bottle in the ocean, not just full of water by also surround by vast water, engulfed. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Our joy is not in the world and what happens to us; our fulfillment is not in what we achieve, what others think of us, or what we think of ourselves; our joy and fulfillment (filled fully) is Christ. Paul reminds us today, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2: 9, 10) You ARE the Temple of God. Doesn’t that change everything? Yes, we are called throughout the Bible to be obedient, but not obedient in the pursuit of self-righteousness, obedient in pursuit of oneness; obedient out of love — “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Love, faithfulness, and obedience are inseparable. We are incapable of any of those of ourselves – God is love, and it is only God in us, consuming us, that produces true goodness. Concerning the good people (even Christians) try to do from their own “righteousness,” Paul says, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23) Die of self. Be one with Christ.
- Philippians 2:5-8 — Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Fully knowing God requires uncommon unity among God’s people. You cannot fully know God alone. God did not design you that way, and you cannot fulfill God’s top command for you of loving others by seeking Him alone. In Genesis, whenever God created on one of the six days, He gave His benediction, “This is good,” until His first malediction when man was alone — “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18) You were saved into a spiritual family of believers. God wants us to be so close as a body of believers that we can be described as being “knit together in love.”
- John 17:11, 21-26 — Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
- John 15 — 1, 4, 5, 7-17 — I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Colossians 2:6 — “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”
You can fully receive Christ without “walk[ing] in Him.” How does that truth change your approach to today and every day?
Colossians 2:8 — “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
The philosophies and traditions of the world are captivating and deceptive; in Christ we have no need of them. The wisdom of man is foolishness in the eyes of God, and, in fact, powerless. Christ is our Head, and the Holy Spirit our Counselor. Those who are of the Kingdom of God should not attempt to live by the principles of the world, though some try to blend God’s ways with worldly ways – impossible! In today’s OT readings we see that Solomon made this mistake: “Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her for he said, ‘My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark for the Lord has entered are holy.’” (2 Chronicles 8:11) It was common practice in Solomon’s time to marry into the families of neighboring kings in order to promote peace between nations. To most, Solomon’s decision would have appeared very wise. However, in so doing, Solomon compromised with the ungodly and attempted to compartmentalize his faith. To often, God’s people attempt to compromise with the world in order to “keep the peace,” and to receive some of the apparent benefits of the world. However, this infidelity always leads to sorrow of some sort. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Anything else is a lie and destroys. Paul points out that the philosophies and traditions of the world have “an appearance of wisdom” but they are actually worthless.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 — “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe…. Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”
“There is a subtle temptation that encourages Christians to be ‘practical.’ That is, they try to do God’s work in man’s way. “Getting results” becomes the primary focus. It almost seems that we believe that the end justifies the means. Don’t be led away by the world’s reasoning. An examination of God’s Word shows that the means are sometimes even more important than the results. The world tries to convince you that as long as you can accomplish something for the kingdom of God, that’s all that matters. For example, Ananias and Sapphira gave an offering to their church, which was a good thing, but they did it deceitfully. God judged them immediately, not for what they did, but for how they did it (Acts 5:1-11).
Satan tried to trap Jesus with this same temptation. Satan did not question the worthiness of Jesus’ task, but simply offered “practical” solutions to accomplish Jesus’ goal more quickly and at lesser cost. God’s ways are not like man’s ways. “Efficiency” from man’s perspective is not prized by God. It did not seem efficient to have the children of Israel march around Jericho thirteen times and then blow their trumpets, but it brought the walls down (Josh. 6). It did not appear wise to select the youngest of Jesse’s sons to become the next king, but God saw a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 16:11). At first glance, it does not seem logical for Jesus to have picked the twelve disciples He did, yet through them God dramatically affected their world.
It is never wise to attempt to do God’s work in man’s way. It is an age-old temptation that seems to make sense on the surface but often is at variance with the purposes of God.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Colossians 2:13 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses….”
Your sins of which you have repented are forgiven – rejoice and live accordingly.
Colossians 2:15 — He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
“Christians are not called to defeat Satan. God has already done that in Christ! Nor is it our mandate to ‘bind’ Satan. Jesus has already set limits on the extent and duration of Satan’s freedom. Satan, ‘our ancient foe,’ was decisively and completely defeated by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and in His resurrection. With regard to Satan, our assignment is to trust in the victory that Christ already achieved and daily resist him with the truth of his defeat, as Jesus did.
Satan is the father of lies and a master deceiver (John 8:44). If he can convince you that God has not defeated him, then you will not experience Jesus’ victory. You will find yourself fighting battles that Christ has already won! You will fear Satan though he has already been utterly and humiliatingly defeated. Your responsibility is to resist Satan, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). When you resist him, you are acknowledging that Jesus has defeated him and given you victory over his influence. God has provided you with spiritual armor that is more than sufficient to withstand any assault by Satan (Eph. 6:10-20).
Christians can become preoccupied with battling Satan. This deceives them to invest their time and energy attempting to do something that Christ has already done for them. If Satan can divert you to wage a warfare that has already ended in surrender, he will have eliminated your effectiveness where God wants you. Fearing Satan is fearing a prisoner of war. You have no need or calling to defeat Satan, you need only to apply Christ’s victory in every area of your life and to live the victorious Christian life. As you go about sharing the gospel message with others, Satan and his forces face the reality of their defeat in each life that is claimed by the kingdom of God (Luke 10:17-20).
Colossians 2:23 — “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
Religious practices designed to control the flesh cannot do the work of the Spirit and change the heart’s desire for sin. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Only through truly knowing Jesus can one overcome the desires of the flesh. The Bible, even in the New Testament, calls us to obedience, purity, and holiness, but the pursuit begins and ends with the pursuit of Jesus, seeking Him in truth. Love for Jesus inspires a desire for obedience that rules, regulations, and rituals can’t.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 July 22: Today, meditate upon the product of your obedience to God and your disobedience to God. How much of both has been based upon your level of will power and inner personal strength rather than your genuine love for Jesus? Is your obedience truly motivated by genuine love or something else such as self-justification, pride, fear etc? Doesn’t your disobedience reveal a heart problem rather than a head problem or physical control problem? Seek a closer relationship to Jesus to deal with your disobedience problem. (Colossians 2)