One of the most reoccurring themes in scripture, and a favorite of mine, is how God is working his purposes out in history, to his glory. There is a purpose to the world, and to the things that God has done in history, and they should point us to him. Hints of Romans 1 there.
That is evident in Exodus 10, Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 77, if you have been following this blog. There are re-occurring themes and texts that explain God's workings to his 'children.' It is evident again as we start reading Joshua this week, especially in yesterday's reading at the end of chapter 4, where we read: "For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed
over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may
fear the LORD your God forever." (Joshua 4:23-24)
That is the answer we give our children when they ask what 'all this means,' Deuteronomy 6: 20.
I love how this all unfolds, how Scripture tells us what all this means. It is not a mystery hidden from us.
And now in today's reading, Joshua 5, another layer of the onion is peeled back. God has worked purposefully in history so that when people see his works, they will respond appropriately, and it includes his enemies.
"As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the
Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel. (Joshua 5:1)
God's acts in history were to redeem a people, yes, and give testimony and witness, so we would have a story to tell, and a God writing that story to trust and believe in. But he also wanted to teach those who would not believe.
Even today, we have an echo or trace of that in the response of the atheist who says "I hate God" and then deny him. They do not want to believe in God. Their hearts melt, their spirits wane. They want the god of self on the throne. The Amorites would have been better to bow and worship the true God, but instead they faint away in fear.
To paraphrase a mentor, 'that's why there are no Amorites on the streets of New York.'
Yesterday's post talked about God hearing us in prayer, and that theme continues today, with a reading from Psalm 143. The Psalmist opens with these words, from verse 1: "Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications! In your faithfulness answer me, and in your righteousness." (NKJV)
There is much to reflect and meditate on in the beautiful words, and truths they impart, in Psalm 143. But those words alone, in verse 1, strike us immediately. The Psalmist, as in Psalm 5, is asking God to hear the prayers spoken. 'Hear my prayer...give ear.'
What is interesting, and should encourage us in prayer, are the words that follow: "In your faithfulness answer me, and in your righteousness."
God is being asked to respond to prayer on the basis of, or on the grounds of, his faithfulness and righteouenss. When we pray, we can say 'God hear my prayer, and answer because you are faithful and righteousness. Note it will not be the answer we demand. We do not have that right. We can - must -
The honesty of the Psalms is evident in today's reading from Psalm 5, as well as elsewhere in this wonderful collection of songs, laments and praises. Time spent in the Psalms is good for the soul!
Psalm 5 starts with a call from the psalmist to be heard by God. "Give ear to my words...consider my meditation." In today's parlance, we would say 'please listen to me. Hear me.' That is the essence of good communication, or one key part: to be heard, as well as to speak clearly. The Psalmist here asks to be heard. He goes on to say 'heed my voice.' One can imagine the tone becoming slightly more pleading.
At verse 3 the Psalmist says what many of us can not, because we do not pray, in the morning, or anytime, not as we should. He says "My voice you will hear in the morning."
So the Psalmist starts with a plea to be heard, and then he makes himself heard. He does not ask to be heard
Self-discipline is a life skill - or discipline - worth developing. It is the gift of personal development and achievement that keeps on giving. It enables you to accomplish much. Focus, self-discipline, wisdom, they all go together.
I came across this in some office clean-up this week (I realized after I wrote about my 'discovery' that Standridge below had a similar chance finding!) and though it worth sharing.
AUGUST 9, 2016
John MacArthur’s 9 Tips on Self-Discipline by Jordan Standridge
Discipline is without a doubt one of the hardest things to master. As a young guy in ministry, I’m always looking for advice from men and women who live very disciplined lives. Recently as I was looking through my seminary papers I found a short article written by John Macarthur in response to this question: "Practically speaking, how can a person develop self-discipline in his or her life?"
Here is John MacArthur's response.
In today's reading from Deuteronomy 6, the beginning of which is called and forms part of the 'Shema Yisrael.'
The full text for our consideration is:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall
teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the
way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as front-
lets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
It was from an old friend and mentor, whose influence in my life has been great, that I first learned from this passage and meaning. He cited verses 4 and 5, from the OT, and asked if we might know what followed. Everyone answered "And love your neighbour as yourself..."
No, he said, that would be the NT. He then completed the reference by citing verses 7, and onwards, opening up the chapter. It taught, among other things, the importance of remembering the whole story of God's dealing with his people, his calling them out of Egypt, his leading, and the importance - primordial of teaching. He cited Samuel Johnson's words, to the effect 'we need not so much to be taught as reminded.'
We need to be reminded. We need to remember. Deuteronomy 6:12 "Take care, lest you forget.."
Some of the best quotes and lines in the OT are found among today's readings, in this scribe's view.
“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live"
"Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when
they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’"
"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart
from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children—"
"Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live
on the earth, and that they may teach their children so."
"...you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul."
"For the LORD your God is a merciful God."
"...know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; jthere
is no other."
"Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with
you and with your children after you..."
And that's just from chapter 4. (I opted not to insert the verse references, as an encouragement that readers might go to the text themselves, and find these truths, mark their bibles, underline them.) These are texts that ignite the heart and mind!, that promote God's sovereignty and glory, his overarching plan in calling out a people, and showing love and mercy.
And it should move our hearts, when we see its foundation, at v. 37. "because he loved." Yes, he loved, and loves, the same God of the Old and New Testaments. John 3:16!
Much of the Old Testament can be dry and hard to understand, but chapter 4 of Deuteronomy - and much more in this book - should cause us to pause, consider, and worship.
Today's readings include Deuteronomy, a rich historical book, and a favorite of many. At the start of the book, a quick intro and overview of its contents might be worth reading, available here.
As one reviews Moses opening words, especially at vv. 21-33, we have to marvel or puzzle at the lack of faith of God's people. And one application is to ask ourselves if we are failing to trust in God's promises, not unlike God's people in the text.
Moses at v. 22 tells the people "See, the Lord your God has set the land before you." He tells them to go and possess. And yet the people would not (v. 26).
It may seem a stretch to us that God has led them from Egypt with such signs and wonders, (vv. 29-33, as Moses reminds them), and yet they rebel. We want to cry out, from our perspective, 'These stubborn people.' And note the level of rebellion, at v. 27: "God hated us so much he brought us out of Egypt, only to be destroyed by the Amorites.' They accuse God of wanting to get rid of them by the hand of the Amorites!
Then note at v. 41 that after Moses has rebuked them, and God has said "ok, so none of you except Joshua and Caleb, and the younger generations (the very ones you said would be prey to your enemies, v. 39), will live to inherit the promised land,' the people turn around and say "ok, we will go fight.' (v. 41) But God's command at v. 42 is 'No, don't go fight. Obey me, listen!' Yet at v. 43 we read they went and fought. And lost.
When God says go, they say no. When God says don't fight, they say we'll fight.
A caution in this story for us is found at v.32: "Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God."
Believing his promises and the truth about God (and ourselves) contained in scripture is one way we assure that the Lord 'remains in our midst,' v. 42.
The world often cries for justice, and yet reproaches those who judge others and say the Christian message should be all love and tolerance. Support for capital punishment is low, for example, and those who support capital punishment (precisely because they value human life) are criticized for being overly harsh. The bible has something to say in this regard, in today's readings in Numbers 35.
The biblical approach to justice is often caricatured as being captured by the line an 'eye for an eye,' but the truth is more complex. That is a limitation, a call for proportionate justice. While the world thinks it is compassionate, sometimes the world is harsher than required in the application of 'justice.'
In Numbers, we see more of that. The call here is for those who commit murder by accident - pushing someone who falls and dies, etc - to be given exile. This is contrasted against those who deliberately murder. Their punishment is their own death (but never on the evidence of a single witness).
So the bible is in this regard more compassionate than the world? Just saying...
2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, where the gospel truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, was 'recovered' and proclaimed. Works do not save, we can not 'earn' salvation.
Yet Christians sometimes struggle with the interplay of faith and good works, to the detriment of trusting in faith alone, or to the detriment of good works. We either downgrade faith and cross the line to a works-based (attempt at) righteousness, or we neglect good works and so fail to 'bear fruit in keeping with repentance.' Ask yourself, have you ever questioned your motives in doing good, and neglected to do the very good you contemplated thinking "My motive here is selfish, to simply do good from obedience, not delight" and then you let it slide?
John the Baptist in today's reading in Luke 3 commanded his hearers to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (v. 8). What might that fruit look like, the crowd asked? In the passage, it meant sharing, charity, honesty and contentment (vv. 10-14).
Christians should work at good works. We should do good. and being conscious of doing good should not lead us to neglect it. Doing the right thing is right and good. Yes, we want to do good from right motives, from thankful hearts to God, a 'grace' response to Grace (capital G!). But we do not 'get out of doing good' by thinking (wrongly) "I risk falling across the line into works-based righteousness...". That would be wrong, but we should check our theology, fall back on grace, and do good.
Paul's words at Ephesians 2:8-9 are well-known and oft-cited: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
But we should not neglect verse 10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
John the Baptist had it right: "bear fruit in keeping with repentance."
In short, 'Believe true, and do right.'
Today's readings in Numbers, chapters 26-29 (Sunday's readings, which we do on Fridays), chapters 28 and 29 stood out, in their entirety.
The chapters lay out a series of offerings to be performed at various appointed times. There are daily offerings, Sabbath offerings, monthly offerings, Passover offerings, and so on. The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Booths. The prescriptions for offering here and elsewhere in everything we have read in the opening books of the Old Testament are complex, precise, and ordained. If they are not done, there are consequences.
The benefit of reading the Bible regularly and from different places is that one begins to see the big picture, and what is read in one section corresponds to another, even explains it. You begin to see the connections. It is harder to see the big picture and appreciate or understand if we are reading infrequently, or only small portions. Reading more helps in appreciating the role of offerings and sacrifice in today's readings, because in this 5 day reading plan we just finished Hebrews, so we can bring what we read there to mind.
The words in Hebrews at 9: 26 are great: "[Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
'Once for all.' No more repeated offerings, no more adherence to law, no repeated spilling of blood. At v. 1 of this chapter we read "Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship an an earthly place of holiness." At vv. 11-12, we read the beautiful words "But when Christ appeared....he entered once for all into the most holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption."
Again, 'Once for all.' No more repeated offerings.
Read Numbers and marvel at the precise prescriptions of the old covenant, but read Hebrews and wonder at the perfect sacrifice once offered for all: Jesus Christ.
Derek Butler - I am a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, reader, et al, all inadequately. This blog is a tool to encourage daily bible reading, for myself and others.
Click above to access the 5 Day Reading Plan used here. I am using the 5 readings Monday through Friday, with other postings on topics of interest Saturdays and Sundays.
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Desiring God Ministries
Bible Design Blog
Calvary Baptist Church