Deuteronomy 33-34 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows us and blesses us with what is best

Some people seem to have a gift or talent for making money, everything they touch turns to gold.   Many have a natural ability for making friends, never meeting a stranger. Still, others are great communicators, whether verbal or written.  We always seem to envy the gift we don’t possess and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be wealthy, popular or wise?   But so often our striving to achieve what others possess backfires on us. Better to walk in the blessings and talents He has given us.

@ Deuteronomy 33
“This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:  ‘The Lord came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us…Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.  They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.  Moses gave us the Lord’s instruction, the special possession of the people of Israel.’” (1-4)  As the Israelites stood at the threshold of their Promised Land, they listened as Moses gave his final address to them, one that was filled with blessings for each tribe.

Just before his death, Jacob, the patriarch of the sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, delivered a similar message of blessing to his sons but included what would be the history of their sins as well.  The address by Moses was about the blessing, character, and function that each tribe possessed through their relationship with God.

The tribe of Simeon was not mentioned by Moses because it no longer existed and had been absorbed into the other tribes.  Levi was blessed with the ministry role for the tribes, Gad would be the great landowner and Asher was blessed with prosperity.  Altogether, the tribes would be a formidable nation in their new land…if they kept their relationship with God.

God has blessed each of us, His children, with giftings and talents that not only enrich each one of us on a personal level but also advance His Kingdom here on earth.  We may envy the abilities of others, but we have no idea about the responsibilities that come with them.  According to Jesus, great wealth comes with a great struggle to surrender it to Him for His purposes (Luke 18:25).  Thankfully, without a struggle, He has promised that He “will supply all [our] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, I’ve discovered that when I use the talents He has given me, His blessing overflows in many other areas of my life.

Early in his ministry, Moses did not want to accept the role that God had assigned him, yet this leader, gifted and blessed by the Lord for this task, delivered the Israelites to the door of their promise.  He may have worn the same pair of shoes for 40 years, but Moses was successful beyond measure because He walked in the gifts God had given him, “…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11), “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (34:10)  Life just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward:  I really don’t want the gifts and talents God has given others, but I do want to be faithful with what He has given to me. 

Tomorrow @ John 14

“Deuteronomy 31-32 

Discover His heart:  He is our Rock, an immovable foundation

While I’m not an avid beach-goer, I have managed a few treks to the beach over the years, loaded down with beach chairs, towels, ice chest, and sunscreen. All that effort is spent to catch a few rays that will eventually dry my skin and give me freckles.  Somehow, it just doesn’t work for me; however, I digress. It’s definitely relaxing to listen to the waves and watch them blanket the shore with their glistening cover.  We build our sand castles and then watch the surf slowly eat away our creations, grain by grain, right down to the foundations. There’s something to be said about building on the rock – an immovable foundation! 

@Deuteronomy 32
The leadership of Moses was drawing to a close, and like most of us when our tenure in a position is ending, he shared his heart.  More importantly, Moses gave his final declaration from the Lord to the Israelites and did so in the form of a song before the entire assembly.  His song included Israel’s history, God’s warnings and words of hope. Shepherd, prophet, leader, warrior, writer, and songster! Moses was a man whose words deserve our attention.

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!” (3-4) When everything around us is shifting and changing, He is the Rock! When governments and institutions crumble and fall, He is the Rock!  When others abandon or fail us, He is the Rock!  There’s something to be said about building on the Rock!

“But Israel soon became fat and unruly…Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation.” (15)  I would imagine the crowd grew a little quiet when Moses sang this stanza. God delivered Israel from 400 years of Egyptian bondage – He was the Rock of their salvation! But they took Him for granted and abandoned Him to worship other gods. Just as we read about the Young Woman in Song of Solomon, sometimes we take for granted that He saved us from eternal bondage. He is the Rock of our salvation!

“You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.” (18) The Song of Moses became very personal in this verse, from they to you. As any father would do, God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage because He was the Rock who had given them birth.  He nourished and clothed the Israelites for 40 years in the desert because He was the Rock who had fathered them. He protected them from the hordes that came to annihilate them because He was the Rock, their father!  How could we ever forget the One who gave us new life, the One who delivers, provides and protects. He is the Rock, our Father!

“But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock…The Lord says, ‘Look now; I myself am He! There is no other god but me!’” (31)  No other rock is like our Rock.  No other god is like our God.  I love the Dottie Rambo song that few have sung better than Whitney Houston on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack:

“I go to the Rock of my salvation
I go to the stone that the builder’s rejected
Run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When all around me is sinking sand
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.”

I pray Whitney went to the Rock in her final hours.  No other rock is like our Rock!

“When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, he added: ‘Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. These instructions are not empty words—they are your life!’”  (45-47)  He is the Rock of our salvation who has given us birth – there’s no other rock like our Rock.  These are not empty words – they are our life!

And today, especially this day, I am thankful for the Rock of our Salvation as we celebrate His coming to us! Merry Christmas, one and all! 

Moving Forward:  Another great song comes to mind, my theme today, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” No other rock is like our Rock! 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

Deuteronomy 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is with us through every battle we face

My husband and I were thrilled with the opportunity some years ago to take a few days off after a busy summer.  We rented a cabin in the Tennessee Mountains and enjoyed lazy days and beautiful scenery.  One late afternoon we were grilling out on the deck and spotted an uninvited guest. A black bear smelled our delicious barbecue ribs and decided to join us.

Having read several books and seen movies about bears and their hunt for prey, I knew the most important thing was not to be afraid because the bear would smell my fear and could attack.  Well, needless to say, he smelled a lot more than ribs.  We ran in the cabin, slammed the glass door shut and locked it as if the bear would choose to try to open the door.  Fear can cause irrational behavior.  The bear walked around the deck for what seemed like an eternity, sniffed the ribs and peered in at this shaking woman and then sauntered down the steps and out of the yard.  I’m assuming his delicate palate was looking more for sushi than my ribs, and I just wasn’t worth the effort. Thank God! 

@ Deuteronomy 20
“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (1)  Whether we’re facing a battle right now or in the future, we can take the words of Moses with us as a source of encouragement.  As the Israelites looked at the strength of their adversary in their new land, it may have caused their knees to shake, but he encouraged them, “do not be afraid.”  David, the mighty warrior, often found himself facing the giants of the land but encouraged himself, “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)  In the heat of the battle, we need to remember the Lord is our General and recall His faithful guidance in the past.

Moses then urged the officers of the army to release from battle all those who were distracted by the cares of this life. (5-7)  Focus is a powerful tool in our battle against the enemy as we follow our leader to victory, but distractions will change our focus and resolve.  Another concern of Moses was that of fear. “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.” (8) Fortunately, my fear did not frighten my husband in our close encounter with a bear, perhaps because he was too busy videoing our dinner guest and laughing at me.  In a truly perilous situation, fear is contagious.  It can cause even the bravest of souls to lose heart, and it’s not helpful on the battlefront.

The advice Moses gave that day as the Israelites sat poised for victory in the Promised Land was advice that we should take to heart when we face any battle.  Whether it is in the area of our health, our relationships, our finances or anything, we should keep our focus on the Lord and remember His faithfulness.  We never should be afraid.  “Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory!” (3-4)  Thank you, Moses. I needed that today! 

Moving Forward:  By His grace, I am focused, unafraid and ready to see what the Lord will do on my behalf today.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 1-4

Deuteronomy 7-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has adopted us as His very special treasure.

There’s nothing like being a part of a family.  Even with all of its ups and downs, black sheep and sibling rivalries, there are certain privileges afforded a family member that others are not given.  As long as we are a part of the family, we are provided with food, clothing, and shelter, and we are included in all the family gatherings such as family reunions, holidays and Will readings.

We don’t earn the right to be a part of the family by our good deeds or because we are perfect, but it is because our parents chose to bring life into the world.  Out of disobedience or rebellion, some have decided to leave the protection that the family provides, and they often end up living empty troubled lives, alone.  With the holidays just around the corner, I’m especially grateful for my family, and I want to protect it and all the privileges that come with it.  Oh, Israel, how could you desert the family!

Moses continued his instructions as the Israelites sat poised to enter the Promised Land and reminded God’s children of who their Father was, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.  The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!  Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.”(7:6-8)  And the Lord did not provide for His children because they were so good, “You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (9:6)  Ouch!

Moses also reminded the people of the responsibilities that came with being the children of God.  “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord…Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.  So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” (8:2-6)  Unfortunately, the Israelites did not accept every word that came from the mouth of the Lord and in their stubbornness and rebellion, most of them eventually deserted the family and left all the privileges that came with it.

Just like many childless fathers, God adopted or grafted in a new family, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”(Romans 11:17)  I’m so thankful to be a part of the family!  However, because of His great love, God is like the prodigal’s father in Luke 15, who waits and waits for His lost children of Israel to come home and rejoin the family by accepting His Son.

We, too, need to remember the privileges we have received as members of the family of God.  Because of Jesus, we have become “joint heirs” in all that God has to offer His children.  We are God’s special treasure as well.  We did not receive His blessing because we are so good, but simply because He loves us.  With His love and all the privileges I receive as His child, I can’t imagine why I would ever desert my family. 

Moving Forward: I’m encouraged today to walk in the privileges provided for me as His child, to protect the family name through my behavior and never leave the safety of His love and care. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 29-32

 

Deuteronomy 4-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His commandments guide our steps as we keep our focus on them

Having already confessed the fact that I’m a compulsive list maker, I might as well come completely clean.  Some have labeled me the Queen of Sticky Notes, and there is an element of truth to this lofty title.  Surely everyone finds them helpful, just as I do in organizing my day, my stuff and my life – I even have sticky notes for my sticky notes. I’m happy to report, for those who are not as savvy on the subject of sticky notes, these notes come in many sizes, colors, degrees of stickiness and some even have lines!  Imagine my relief to find that Moses was also a little over the top on posting notes everywhere to remember important things. 

@ Deuteronomy 6
Ready to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites were once again instructed by their leader, Moses, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (4-9)  They would have loved our sticky notes.

Moses began his exhortation with a call to love the Lord and follow His commands with their whole hearts because it’s impossible to remember something we don’t already know.  Once they were acquainted with God’s commands, they were to repeat them over and over to their children while at home and while on the road, when they went to bed and when they got up in the morning.

It’s been my experience that many parents expect the church to do all the teaching about God to their children, and that’s a big mistake.  The greatest chance of a child remembering scripture and its concept outside of the church walls, while at school or with friends, is when scripture has been taught and reinforced outside of the church walls by the parent as well.  God’s Word is not just a Sunday thing – it’s a seven-days-a-week guidebook for everyone.

Growing up in my mother’s home, a day never passed without her quoting, at the very least, one scripture to me, and we always started the day by pulling out a scripture verse from the Scripture Box on the kitchen table.  Her examples followed me in raising my own children where long rides to our church were filled with Bible stories disguised as great adventures.  The books of the Bible and scriptures were taught by my husband with the Jerry Lucas picture/memory system, and we still laugh today about the inventive pictures that were used.  Each night they fell asleep listening to Bible stories on tape by the delightful “Dan and Louie.”  God’s Word was not just for Sundays.

Still today, Orthodox Jews tie small boxes around their foreheads with scriptures inside in observance of this command.  I must confess I have not posted scriptures on my forehead with my sticky note fetish, but I have posted them on mirrors, computer screens, kitchen cupboards, calendars and just about everywhere else, even a doorpost or two.

I can’t seem to get enough of God’s words of encouragement as well as His disciplines.  The commands that Moses was speaking of are what guide our steps to do what blesses Him, and when God is blessed, we are blessed.  “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Oh, that’s a good one.  Where are my sticky notes… 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for His commands that give guidance to my day as I follow them, assured of success. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 25-28

Deuteronomy 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He sometimes waits to answer our prayers to make us stronger

There’s nothing I like more than when God says yes to my prayer.  Bring out the brass band, serve the fried chicken and potato salad.  It’s time to celebrate!  When He says no to my prayer, I may have a low day or two or 30, but eventually, I accept His wisdom.  When He says wait, I want to perhaps negotiate a deal, offer a bribe or, in my weakest moment, move forward on my own.  Not good.  I have come to understand when God says wait, it’s not because He wants to make me suffer, but it’s because He is perfecting me or my circumstance to answer my prayer according to His will.  He always has a purpose in my waiting.

After 40 years traveling in the desert to make an 11-day journey, Israel was finally poised to enter the Promised Land.  In Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, we’ve learned in our reading that God was perfecting His people, but it seems they were terribly slow learners. “Forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.” (1:3)

Moses began his instructions from the Lord with a brief history of their travels since they had left Mt. Sinai headed for Canaan.  Because of the people’s negative response to the scouting reports by ten of the spies sent into Canaan, they would have to wait as a nation to receive the answer to the prayers that they had cried out in Egypt. Because of their hard hearts during their waiting period, only their descendants realized the answered prayer, except for Joshua and Caleb.

It seemed like every time the Israelites moved forward one step, they would retreat two steps, and, of course, it’s impossible to make any progress on a journey that way. As with Israel, it’s in the waiting period that we discover what we are made of.  While we wait for our prayers to be answered by God, our choice is whether or not will we trust Him or murmur, complain and disobey like the Israelites did in the wilderness.  The writer of Psalm 119 understood the challenge, “My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.  When will you comfort me?” (82)  No one has said it’s easy to wait for our answers to prayer, but do we really want to turn an 11 day waiting period into 40 years? Help! 

It’s in the waiting period that we learn what God is made of.  Through the history lesson of Moses, the Israelites learned that God was faithful, even when they were not.  God was merciful even when they didn’t ask for mercy.  God was loving even when they were unlovable.  God was leading even when they didn’t want to follow.  Even more important was that God revealed His glory to them throughout the entire journey whether they wanted to see it or not – a glorious pillar by night and by day.  We are not alone while we wait! God is revealing Himself to us along the way.

It’s in the waiting period that we learn what we are made of.  Will we trust Him regardless of the circumstances?  As we wait for God’s answers, are we learning what He is made of?  Do we see His glory leading us along or have we closed our eyes in discouragement?  Ultimately, God may answer no as He did to Moses when he requested to enter Canaan; but regardless of the answer, it will be the perfect answer at the perfect time.  After all, one day Moses’ journey would be to the eternal Promised Land.  His final answer was yes.  There’s nothing I like more than when God answers yes to a prayer in His timing and in His way.

Moving Forward: Some days I’m straining to see answered prayers, but in His perfecting and with His grace I sense His glory and receive His goodness as I wait.  He can be trusted. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 21-24

Proverbs 29-30 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He keeps safe those who trust in Him

One morning a couple of years ago I was sitting in my family room having devotions when the doorbell rang.  It was early, I wasn’t expecting anyone and wasn’t dressed for the day, so I decided not to respond.  After repeated ringing, I looked out a security window in the door to see a young man.  Moments later I turned to see him peering in the family room window across the house right where I had been sitting.  When I heard glass shatter, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he was up to no good.

I grabbed the house phone, my cell phone and ran out the front door, robe and all, and started phoning 911 and my husband as well as yelling to my neighbors.  The police arrived in four, I repeat, four minutes and caught the man as he circled around to get his car left in my driveway.  Now, a little advice to any would-be felons out there, it’s not terribly smart to park your car in the victim’s driveway and, of course, even less smart to be a felon.  Although the police said my response was textbook, it was a terrifying experience.  Even now when the doorbell rings, I sometimes feel the chill of fear for a brief moment, but then fear of man comes in a variety of ways. 

@ Proverbs 29
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (25)  People who experience a frightening situation like I did often become too afraid to live a normal life.  Others are so afraid of people that they won’t leave their homes.  These individuals are afraid of what man may do to them.  Abraham, the great man of faith, was so fearful of the Egyptian men that he told them that his wife, Sarah, was his sister.  I’ve always wondered how this made her feel – fear makes us do unnatural things.  Peter denied knowing Jesus three times out of fear for his life, and I think we know from scripture how his behavior made the Lord feel.  Fear will turn us into something we don’t want to be.

Sometimes we fear what people think of us, and that is every bit as debilitating as fear for our lives.  Moses almost missed his mission in life of delivering the Israelites out of Egypt because he was afraid they wouldn’t accept him, afraid that they would question his authority.  Many of the Old Testament prophets feared that their messages would be rejected and mocked by the people. “Fearing people is a dangerous trap” and may keep us from fulfilling our calling.

Fear may keep us from sharing the gospel with others because we are afraid they will reject our message or laugh at us.  Fear may stop us from using our gifts and talents for the Lord because we are afraid of making a mistake in front of others.  Fear is a tool the devil uses to stop us cold, and that is why it is so dangerous.

However, “trusting the Lord means safety.” To overcome fear, we need to change our perspective and who better than God to help us do that, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you.  So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?” (Isaiah 51:12)  God is the eternal One, not man, and He holds our eternal souls in the safety of His hand. He is the one who keeps us and protects us.  When we focus on the faithfulness of Almighty God instead of fearing mere humans, there’s nothing left to stop us from pursuing all that God has for us and those things with eternal value. 

Moving Forward: I can pursue all that God has for me today because I’m trusting in Him, not fearing any man. 

Tomorrow @ Micah