Deuteronomy 27-28 B

These chapters are intense, especially 28. Upon these promises of blessing and cursing lies the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Their history–all successes and failures–are measured by these passages.

They have a clean slate ahead of them, what will they do? It feels timely to read this on New Years Eve, as we look back on the faithfulness of God and look ahead for what might be in store.

2018 was full of many ups and downs for a lot of people. Each year can be described that way. We have personal accountability to how we spend our time and how obedient we are to the LORD. There’s also a communal accountability to how we will care for one another. Will we be men and women of our word? Will we live out of generous hearts? Will we let fear lead us into self preservation? Will we extend the grace we all so desperately need?

Some actions have natural physical consequences and other have spiritual and emotional consequences. Do we live in a way which recognizes the designs of the LORD?

Meditate on these blessings and curses. Not everything is directly applicable, but much of the heart behind them are.

The alter of stones reminds me of the post I made about Babel, how God likes alters made out of His creations, not bricks forged by our own sweaty substitutions.

Identify what gifts the LORD blessed you with this year and image how they can be arranged, moving forward, in worshipful remembrance.

-Bethany

Deuteronomy 25-26 B

“You must use accurate scales when you weigh out merchandise, and you must use full and honest measures. Yes, always use honest weights and measures, so that you may enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. All who cheat with dishonest weights and measures are detestable to the Lord your God.” 25:14-16

We are called by God to choose integrity over self-preservation. He is our provider and our shepherd, we don’t need to fend for ourselves.

All who cheat with dishonest weights and measures are detestable to the Lord. When opportunities like that arrive, whats your motive?

In the past, I’ve worked jobs where I was paid under the table. It definitely gained me more cash skipping out on taxes at the end of the year, but this action was detestable to the Lord.

Did I not think God would provide what I needed financially unless I took matters into my own hands? More than likely, my needs were perfectly met and I was motivated by greed (and laziness, taxes are tricky).

Is there somewhere in life where you’re using inaccurate weights, so to speak? 

What is your motivation to seek after your own success in that circumstance?

What does it look like to submit that to the Lord?

 

-Carly

Deuteronomy 23-24 B

“No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.” (23:1)

I love coming across passages like this which very explicitly changed with Christ.

In Acts 8, the LORD leads Philip to an Ethiopian eunuch who worked in the courts of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, and had gone to Jerusalem to worship. Philip explains to this man how Jesus had fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures and this eunuch asks a very important question: “What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)

Why would he ask this? Because as a eunuch, he would have been made very aware during his visit to Jerusalem, what prevented him from joining that assembly.

‭These chapters scream the inconvenient-for-humans truth that to be close to the LORD, you must be perfect in every way. Nothing remotely unclean may be near. No sickness, brokenness or bodily fluids.

This one is especially bonkers to me:

“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD.” (23:2)

TEN GENERATIONS?!?!

Did you know…

You have:

2 parents

4 grandparents

8 great grandparents

16 great x2 grandparents

32 great x3 grandparents

64 great x4 grandparents

128 great x5 grandparents

256 great x6 grandparents

512 great x7 grandparents

…And if any of them were born out of wedlock, you would be unqualified for the assembly, in the miraculous case you are otherwise qualified?! This is insane!

This makes every single interaction of Jesus touching people to make them clean all the more powerfully significant. He includes by purification. We need it! We have no chance without Him!

Who else can you think of that was disqualified by these laws, but Jesus invites them in?

-Bethany

Deuteronomy 21-22 B

Wow, I really disliked these chapters. There was a lot of underlining and a lot of scrawled question marks in the margins and some heated words to the Lord.

The verses about rape bothered me a lot. Best case scenario for a sexual assault survivor was to marry her rapist? Or, be stoned to death because she didn’t put up enough of a fight?

The deuteronomist puts more emphasis on the protection of a female bird in a nest than the life and safety of women in chapter 22. It goes on and on. Widowed, kidnapped women being treated like plunder, with the afterthought of “eh, give her a little time to mourn the life you’ve ripped out from underneath her”.

I’m deeply thankful for this glimpse of the gospel we get in 21:22-23:

“If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God.”

Jesus, innocent and holy, was punished and executed for a crime he didn’t commit. He stepped into injustice to make us just. He was defiled and cursed so that we could be washed cleaned, and blessed.

This doesn’t totally smooth everything over for me from today’s chapters. I’m still squirmy about these verses and will continue to unpack them. Studying the Bible is a bumpy road, and sometimes requires more time and resources than I give it. I’m not going to find answers to every question about sexual purity, at least not within the a 30 minutes study session.

When you are frustrated by the Bible, take it up with the author. He’s not intimated by our questions, our pointed fingers and our anger. I’m only angry about the alleged mistreatment about women because God’s spirit lives within me. It’s a symptom of being made in his image. For now, I will cling to this and trust in him. But will also stay in it and look for more answers.

How do you move forward when the Bible upsets you?

What does it look like to bring it to God?

 

-Carly

Deuteronomy 19-20 B

Carly’s thoughts on the cities of refuge were great.

  • “The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it.
  • Who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use its fruit? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would begin to use its fruit.
  • And who is the man that is engaged to a woman and has not married her? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would marry her.’
  • Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say,Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.’” (20:5-8‬)

What I love about this passage is how it screams, “we’re not desperate!” In most war movie scenarios, it is doomsday, all-hands-on-deck time, especially when they are outnumbered. Chapter 20 starts out with saying, when you’re outnumbered…

This reminds me of Gideon, as the LORD pares down his army, saying, “I can win this battle with less”. The LORD knows Israel is about to face intimidating enemies, and He wants them to know HE will be the one determining victory, not their own size or tenacity.

It also creates a sort of priorities list. What’s more important than war? Lots of things, like, building a home, planting a farm, and getting married.

What’s more, you’ve got to believe in the victory of the LORD and not be overrun with fear. He says He doesn’t need fearful people around spreading worry. He would rather worriers go home.

So often, I’ve heard Christian ministry likened to this moment with the Israelites going into battle; claiming the promises and collecting the courage. How would these priorities translate in this case?

More often we take up the words of Jesus about leaving behind family, or abandoning crops to enter this urgent spreading of the gospel. It can get confusing. When is family a priority?

In any case, I think it’s good to keep fear out of the picture. We don’t need to be out here, freaking each other out with worry. Worriers can go home. Take a break, remember who the LORD is, and focus on what He’s commanded you in your time and context.

He remains far from desperate.

I’ve spent so much of my life worried I wasn’t doing enough for the Kingdom, but it’s never been up to me. The victory has never depended on the numbers. The LORD is the One with the power. He’s not asking me to sacrifice all the things I’ve assumed in the past. He’s proving victory against all odds and will I merely believe Him?

-Bethany

Deuteronomy 17-18 B

I know it’s not polite to discuss politics on a holiday (Merry Christmas!), but I couldn’t help but notice this today:

“ ‘The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself. When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.’ “ 17:16-20

The emphasis is not made on how the king leads, but how the king lives. Humble, above reproach and a student of God’s word and instructions.

I’m thankful to be celebrating King Jesus today and how he stepped into history. He is the perfect king, worthy to be followed. He came as a helpless, innocent baby, laid down in scraps of cloth in a feeding trough for barn animals. He lived a simple life, eating meals and telling stories. He spent time with the marginalized, the smelly, the neglected, the poor. The sexually scandalous, the deformed, the begging, the corrupt rich and the social throwaways found a place at his table.

We are living in a time where the prophet in Deuteronomy 18 has come and gone, and will come again. Turn your heart towards him and thank him for coming to earth and being Immanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas!

-Carly

Deuteronomy 15-16 B

“Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.”‬ (‭16:10-11‬)

This particular feast reminds me of my church’s annual family camp. For seven days we sleep in tents, celebrating life together and eating a LOT of food. Anyone around joins a meal, a card game, a conversation around a campfire.

There’s a lot of pressure on Christmas to be the biggest, grandest holiday of the year. I love how many festivals the Jews have, and how long they last! Life is so full of pain, toil and hardship, it’s important to dedicate time for thanksgiving and celebration.

I’m also a HUGE fan of the sabbatical year idea. Can you imagine if every loan had an expiration date? The shelf life of a major loan was 6 years at most! That’s because freedom is so important to the LORD.

Current economic cultures can leave you buried in debt for the rest of your life! College, home ownership, medical bills… these things can get away with being outlandish amounts because we accept paying them for decades. Oh to live in this debt cancelling society!

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us consider the ways we can cultivate a culture of frequent rejoicing and short accounts. Just because this isn’t the culture around us, doesn’t mean we can’t bring kingdom culture into our midst. When Jesus came, the kingdom of Heaven was suddenly “at hand”. I don’t think it left with Him. He passed it onto us, made it alive in us, and taught us to pray, “They kingdom come”.

-Bethany