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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Way or the Highway

“I will be safe even though I persist in going my own way (Deut. 29:19),” think those whose hearts turn away from the Lord. Adam and Eve entertained such thoughts and look where that got them (and us)! God never blesses disobedience. 

Many in Israel thought that because God had made a covenant with the nation that they were safe from the consequences of disobedience. The blessings and cursings taught Israel that God desires to bless an obedient people, but that He will not bless disobedience. The one who persisted in going his own way during the days of Israel proved that he was not a child of the covenant, even though he was an Israelite in name. He was externally identified, but not internally tied to the God of Israel. 
So it is today; some people who have grown up in church and externally identified with God’s people believe that they can persist in going their own way here on earth and still go to heaven when they die. Such thinking is foreign to Scripture. Every true child of God has bumps along the way, including times when they fall back into sin and struggle with the flesh; however, they rise up when they fall, and they long to be restored to the way God has marked out.
Those who persist in going their own way demonstrate that they do not know the Lord. Their lives testify to an external identification without a corresponding internal change. They believe that their external profession will overcome that internal emptiness, but God says such is not the case. All His true children will seek to walk in His way rather than their own.

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"At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel appears before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people--men, women, and children, and the aliens living in your towns--so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord our God and follow carefully all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). 

It has been said that marriages sometimes hit a wall in the 7th year when one or even both partners experience a "seven year itch" where they entertain getting out or getting involved with someone else. There's something about that seventh year!

Every seven years the entire congregation, from babies to senior citizens and everyone in between, were to hear the law read in entirety. This makes me wonder how many people in our churches read or have heard read the entire Book of the Law or Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) in the course of their lives. Many Christians read mostly in the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. Yet, the Book of the Law serves as the foundation for New Testament teaching.

The first five books of the Bible teach us much about God, man, sin, and the way to God (the shedding of the blood of the innocent on behalf of the guilty). Paul tells Timothy that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So, how does the Book of the Law teach doctrine, reprove, correct, and instruct?
  • Doctrine: The Book of the Law teaches us that God is holy, man is sinful, and that God moves towards man redemptively. The Book of the Law tells us who we are and why we are here, where we are headed, what's wrong with our world, and how we can be right with God.
  • Reproof: Sin is judged globally (flood), regionally (Sodom & Gomorrah), nationally (Israel) and individually (Cain, Miriam, Aaron, Korah, etc.).
  • Correction: Through the story of Jacob we see how God teaches a schemer to walk by faith. The wilderness experience with its many testings reveals how prone people are to grumbling and rebellion.
  • Instruction: Through the story of Abraham we see how God teaches a man to walk by faith. Joseph's life teaches us about the sovereignty of God and the grace of forgiveness. Through the regulations surrounding the Tent of Meeting we learn how sinful man approaches Holy God, etc.
To know the Book of the Law is to appreciate fully God's mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness and truth (Ex. 34:6). In order to avoid the seven year "spiritual" itch where our heart drifts away from God let us be people of the Book--to know it and to love it.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Deuteronomy 29:1-31:29
  • What purpose does the wilderness experience serve in lives of the children of Israel?
  • Why is simply hearing the words of the oath not enough?
  • Since 1948 we have seen God fulfill His promise to "gather again from all the nations where he scattered you." Israel now has more than 7,000 millionaires in a population of just over 7 million people--Jews from around the world have immigrated to Israel.
  • Moses tells the people to choose life. What does it mean for Israel to choose life?
  • What does the Lord tell Joshua about the children of Israel?
  • What does God command the children of Israel to do which will help them to remember what God has done for them?

Turning truth into prayer:
All throughout the book of Deuteronomy we have seen how central the Book of the Law is to be within the life of Israel. How central is God's Word in your life? Ask the Lord to make you a person of the Book, to know it and to love it.