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

Numbers 33-36 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  His instructions will provide a blessed future for us

I really don’t like going to the doctor, but sometimes I just have to do it.  A while back a doctor diagnosed me with pharyngitis, sinusitis and some other itis and then ordered a prescription of antibiotic to kill all the infection.  His most important instruction was that I will be certain to take all the medicine even when I started feeling better because we want to kill all the infection or it could return.  And really, when those with experience and authority give instructions to us, it’s wise to follow them.  Sadly, the Israelites just didn’t see it that way. 

@ Numbers 33
The Israelites had finally finished their 40-year trek in the desert and sat poised to enter Canaan, God’s Promised Land.  Through Moses, God gave a prescription of sorts to the Israelites for them to enjoy a healthy and productive life in Canaan.  “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy.” (51-53)  The instructions seem clear enough, take all the medicine, drive out all the people and destroy all their idols.

Like my doctor explained to me, God let the Israelites know what would happen should they fail to drive out all the people, “But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live.  And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.” (55-56)  And as we know, that is precisely what happened to Israel.

Because they failed to drive out all the Canaanites and destroy all the idols, the Israelites’ everyday lives were slowly infiltrated by them, and this brought about their downfall.  Eventually, the Assyrians and Babylonians swept in and drove them out of their land.  What part of all do we not understand?

I’m happy to report that I have taken all my medicine so that not even a little trace of infection is left to grow and infect my body again. What we don’t destroy could destroy us. And so it is with sin.  How foolish it is to preserve something that we know to be sin simply because it seems so harmless, because it is too beautiful to let go of or because it makes us feel good.  There’s no such thing as a little bit of pornography, a little bit of stealing or a little bit of lying because eventually it will grow, spread and easily affect our entire lives.

The lesson we learn from the Israelites today is to follow all of God’s instructions, and then we can be assured that we will live happily and healthily in the land He has given us.

Moving Forward: Lesson learned! Taking all my medicine and following all of God’s instructions. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 16-20

Numbers 29-32 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: Just as He is faithful to His word, He expects the same from us

Sometimes it’s difficult to accept people at their word, particularly if we don’t know them very well.  In fact, if we’ve been taken a few times, it’s easy to become a little cynical when we’ve provided goods or service for someone in exchange for a promise to return with a payment.  When I’m asked to do this at my book table, I have to admit I sometimes hesitate for a second or two. That old spirit of suspicion creeps in, and I wonder if I’ll ever see the promised payment.  I’ve learned, however, sometimes for God’s people to be blessed, we have to put aside cynicism or preconceived ideas and just trust. 

@ Numbers 32
Moses understood this scenario all too well.  After leading this challenging group of Israelites for over 40 years and experiencing many disappointing responses from them, He was asked a favor, a request from the men of Gad and Reuben that involved trust. “The Lord has conquered this whole area for the community of Israel, and it is ideally suited for all our livestock.  If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.”(4-5)  Because Canaan was to be divided amongst the tribes of Israel, this request did not seem so unreasonable, except that the rest of the territory west of the Jordan had not yet been conquered!

Moses may have choked on his manna at this request as he offered this immediate response, “‘Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?’ Moses asked the men of Gad and Reuben. ‘Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them? Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land…’” (6-8), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Moses ends with, “You brood of sinners, doing exactly the same thing!” (14)

Even a great leader like Moses was capable of jumping to the wrong conclusion on occasion. The men of Gad and Reuben had no intention of deserting their brothers before conquering the land.  They desired to leave their wives and flocks east of the Jordan while they joined their brothers in the battle for the rest of the territory. These tribes were true to their word and fought alongside their brothers until the land was conquered.

We can’t really fault Moses for misjudging the intention of these tribes.  As a whole, the Israelites had not lived over the previous 40 years in a manner that would develop trust in them, but giving others the benefit of the doubt rather than living with cynicism is a much more enjoyable way to live.  If we lose something tangible in the process, it’s good to remember everything in this life is fleeting.  On the other hand, if we live our lives in a way that builds trust in the hearts of others regarding us, this discussion is a moot point.  I’ve always told teenagers that their parents will trust them when given a reason to do so, and the same is true for us in our relationships.

Perhaps Moses was sensitive to the request of Reuben and Gad for another reason as well.  Why did these tribes desire to stop short of the Promised Land? Rich pastures and grazing land were a substitute for God’s intended blessing for them.  Some people just choose to live on the edge of God’s blessing, but then that’s a discussion for another day. 

Moving Forward: I choose to live my life today without cynicism towards others and to live with integrity so that others will know I am true to my word. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 11-15

Numbers 25-28 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides the best leadership to guide His sheep

Several years ago I started a new job, and I was the first person to hold the position.  There were no precedents to follow, no one to train me and a lot of what I did at the beginning was hit or miss.  Through the years I developed a job description and worked out most of the kinks and challenges.  In situations like this, it’s easy to take ownership, view it as my baby and become protective of it.

The time had come for me to move on and train someone else to fill the position.  Now I had to trust that the leadership would choose someone who would not harm the job that I had developed and worked so hard to make perfect.  As I trained the new employee, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a highly qualified person who would use the equipment and resources to an even greater degree of efficiency than I had done.  And that made my heart sing!  The work would not suffer and would move forward.  Today in our reading, Moses found himself in somewhat the same circumstance, released from a position that he had been the first to hold.

@ Numbers 27
God met with Moses on the mountaintop to show him Canaan, the land he would not enter because of his sin at Meribah.  The 120-year-old leader showed his true heart in his response to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (16-17)

Even though Moses had not met Jesus yet, although one day he would do so on the Mount of Transfiguration, he had the compassion of Jesus who said, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  Jesus had just been called a devil because He delivered a man from the demons that possessed him, but both leaders looked past their own situations and were concerned about the needs of others.

A wise Moses wanted God to choose his successor.  Two men, Joshua and Caleb, had both proven to be led by the Lord and to be worthy of leadership roles, and no doubt there were others who thought themselves worthy of the position.  Sometimes we desire to choose our replacements on the job or in the church; and as parents, we would even like to choose the spouses who will become central in the lives of our grown children. But how much better to leave it to our superiors or the leadership of the Holy Spirit, removing ourselves from the possibility of error.

Of course, God had chosen the perfect replacement for Moses, “The Lord replied, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.  Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people.’” (18-20)  Our public acceptance of those who follow us in any position provides continuity so the work will not suffer.  This requires a generous heart, without envy or selfishness, regardless of how much of ourselves we have given to it in the past.  This was the heart of Moses, “So Moses did as the Lord commanded.  He presented Joshua to Eleazar the priest and the whole community. Moses laid his hands on him and commissioned him to lead the people.” (22-23)

When we find ourselves in a situation similar to Moses, where we will pass on the baton to someone else to fulfill a role we have served, may we do so with a generous heart towards his or her success. In doing this, we will reveal a compassionate heart for those being served, trusting that nothing will suffer in the process.  That should make our hearts sing! 

Moving Forward:  I can serve Him with confidence today knowing that when He provides my next step, He also will provide my successor.  He’s very faithful that way. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 6-10