SOAP Journal – 28 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 6:5)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Yesterday’s verse gave God’s godhood was given as a starting point. God is God. I have to fight down my inner monologue’s “No duh.” to that statement. But the verse goes a step further. God is MY God. He is not merely some impersonal deity out in the cosmos somewhere being disinterested in me and my life. He is, instead, my God. What should my response to that be? Love.

If I begin by hearing that the LORD is MY God and that He is singular; unique; holy, then it should prompt me to love. But is not merely a casual love. This is not to love Him the way that I love puppies or a warm shower. I love these in a purely experiential way — while I experience them, but I can go for long periods without giving them a thought.  This is not even to love Him the way that I love my friends and family. I love them and call them to mind so that I can enjoy loving them and remind myself of why they are wonderful. When we get to the love of spouse or children, we are beginning to approach the love Moses is talking about. I do not have to call my wife and children to mind, they are simply there. Things remind me of them. Idle thoughts turn to them. This, however, falls short of what Moses is talking about.

Moses says that I should love God with all of my heart, soul, and strength. The word translated all means precisely that. I am to love with absolutely everything. Every ounce of strength; every thought; every action is to be consumed by love for God. And love for God will overflow into all the places that I ought to love. If I love God in this way, then I will love my wife better. If I love God in this way, then I will love my children better. Every love relationship benefits from loving God with everything I have. As Shakespeare wrote, love grows as we give it. As I love God more and more, I learn to love others better and better.

The ideas of heart and soul seem similar when I look them up. There is a fair bit of overlap. What those two ideas comprise is my thoughts and emotions and will and … well, really everything that makes me me; everything that is not physical. My strength is more the physical side of things. I am to live out my love for God in both physical and non-physical ways. I should live out my love for Him in service and praise and prayer and so on (physical). I should live out my love for Him in obedience (both physical and not). I should live out my love for Him in the thoughts I dwell on and the feelings I choose to entertain and the desires that I permit to remain (non-physical).

I feel like this entry is a bit of a mental ramble., but the injunction Moses gives is far-reaching and impacts literally every aspect of my life. I need to be consumed by love for my God and everything else will fall in line.

I once heard a pastor comment that Moses prefaces many of the commands in Deuteronomy with the phrase you shall love the LORD your God and …. I think that I would like to put that to the test. If it is as prevalent as all that, then this book — far from being a long-winded repetition of The Law — becomes a manual on what motivates obedience to The Law. And it all begins with love.

Thank You, Father, for loving me. Please stir up love within me as a right response to Your love. I have often been cold and distant and not preoccupied with You. Please make that right and teach me to be consumed by You.

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SOAP Journal – 27 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

Deuteronomy 6:4

In chapter 6, Moses says that he is getting into the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments that God has commanded him to teach to the Israelites (6:1). Moses begins what will be a fairly lengthy lesson — Deuteronomy is 34 chapters long — with this morning’s verse.

Hear. Moses is not merely telling them to listen, which we regularly do. We listen to music. We listen to people talk. We listen to our significant other. Moses wants them to go beyond recognizing that he is speaking and registering that it is Moses talking and to move into the realm of taking the words and mulling them over so that they completely understand what is being said and remember it.

The LORD is our God. All of The Law and obedience to it; all of the statutes and judgments that follow are couched in this context. If the One telling me how to live my life is anyone less than God, then I am under no real obligation to pay that person any mind. Sure, governments can apply coercive force to make people compliant — that is more or less how the punitive measures in the system of law are designed to work — but governments do not make people, people make governments. The atheist would argue that God is also a fabrication of people. And the whole conversation would grind to a halt, because we could not get past that one essential point. For the believer, there is One God and He is owed obedience if for no other reason than because He is our Maker. For the atheist, we are the product of some process or another and a process is owed no allegiance. Moses calls out this fundamental departure point at the outset. He has already reminded the Israelites of the miracles they have seen and the Ten Commandments, which were delivered in a miraculous fashion. If the LORD is not my God, then I can close The Bible and walk away, because I am not obligating myself to hear what it has to say or obey what I find therein. If the LORD is my God, then I am obliged to listen to Him and do what He bids me.

The LORD is one. There are layers to this statement. On one layer, this is a statement that there is only one God. On another layer, this is a statement that God, while being three distinct persons, is One God. I very distinctly see Father, Son, and Spirit all acting independently, yet always toward the same end. On yet another layer, the first layer gives some scope. If God were one of many gods, then I would need to learn how to please all of the gods, as all of the polytheistic beliefs have. But He is not. Because He is the one and only God, I need only learn what pleases Him and act on that.

Because God is my God and because He is one — the only God, three persons in one God, and the only Lawgiver — I need to hear what He commands and act on it. Let me do so.

Thank You, Father, for giving me clear direction and a singular set of directives. Thank You that You later boil it all down to just two things: love You and love others. Simple is good for me. I can remember simple. Please teach me how to and give me the ability to not only remember simple, but to obey it and live it.

SOAP Journal – 26 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 5:2-3)

The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, [with] all those of us alive here today.

Deuteronomy 5:2-3

Moses begins his recounting of God handing down the Ten Commandments by reminding the Israelites listening to him that they were there when these commands were issued. This covenant; this agreement was not made between God and someone else, as if they inherited it, but between God and them. They were recipients of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac and Israel, but the covenant; the agreement was between God and the people alive at that moment.

I, too, entered into a covenant with God. My wife and children are not entered into the covenant because I have decided to follow Jesus, but must make their own decisions. I was not entered into the covenant because my parents decided to follow Jesus, but had to make the decision for myself.

And that is the application for this morning: everyone must make their own decision to enter into a covenant; a contract with God or not. My children will have to make that decision for themselves. My part; my place is to live out my faith in such as way as my children see God’s benefits and want to enter into the same covenant of salvation.

Father, thank You that You deal with each of us individually and that no one else can make the decision for us. Please cause me to live out my faith in such a way as shows the salvation You offer in the best possible light.

SOAP Journal – 25 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 4:31)

For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:31

In verses 25-30, Moses tells the Israelites that when they are faithless, God will remain faithful and will be ready to receive them back when they are ready to return to Him. Paul writes a very similar statement to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:13, saying If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. But there is more in what Moses says to the Israelites than God merely remaining faithful despite human faithlessness.

Moses states three things it in this verse that Paul does not address in 2 Timothy 2:13. Moses states that God is compassionate, that He will not fail, and that He will not … destroy.

God is compassionate. To be compassionate is to feel what another feels; to understand their feelings about something and to want to make that individual’s circumstances better. This does not excuse wrong thinking or bad decisions, it merely sees the hurt of another, recognizes it for what it is, and comes alongside to empathize and try to help. Compassion, therefore, is an outpouring of Love. And God is Love.

God will not fail. This is beyond merely being faithful. God will not just stay with me and make good on His promises, but God will follow through on His promises when every other individual’s promises have crumbled into nothing. When every promise of every person who loves me has fallen through, God will still make good His promises.

God will not … destroy. The verb used could mean spoil, ruin, destroy, pervert, or corrupt. God will do none of these things. Though the Israelites will make graven images in blatant violation of the Commandment. Though the Israelites will become thoroughly debauched. Moses assertion is that none of that will be God’s doing. The New Testament writers were still working believers through this issue, as James had to write that no one should says that God is tempting them when they encountered various temptations. James spells out the progression from walking with God to having fallen into sin pretty well. But the word in this verse can also mean that God will not ruin me. Maybe this has the connotation of financial ruin. I cannot be sure as I am no Hebrew scholar. It may be an all-encompassing idea of ruin and Moses is saying simply that God will not ruin the Israelites in any sense of the word.

The application for me is pretty one-to-one. God will be faithful to me and ready to receive me back even when I am faithless to Him. God will be compassionate to me and will not fail (even though I will) and will not destroy me in just about any way I can understand the term. My part in all of this is to live faithfully (as much as I am able) and to repent and come back to God when I fail.

Father, I know that I have failed and failed often. Thank You for being faithful despite my being faithless. Please bring me back to You and restore me to fellowship with You. Please teach me to live faithfully and to not be drawn away by the empty promises of the world’s false gods.

SOAP Journal – 24 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 4:24)

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24

I had to stop and mull this statement over for a bit. Three times in Deuteronomy and three times in Exodus, God is called a jealous God, but 1 Corinthians 13 states that love is not jealous and 1 John tells me that God is love. I could easily end up chasing my tail on this. If God is Love and Love is not jealous and God is a jealous God then … what?

A quick glance into the concordance tells me that the Hebrew word used in this verse (and those other Old Testament places mentioned) is a term used only for God in The Bible and describes God’s intolerance for rivals. God wants us to be One God people and He, for His part, is a one me God. To put it into more understandable terms, He wants His relationship with us to be exclusive. It is like the old time movies where the guy and gal are dating and they decide to be exclusive and not see anyone else. They are devoting themselves to one another and to no one else. And, as finite beings, this is good policy. Maintaining one healthy relationship is exhausting to some of us (fingers pointing at myself) and that is doing the work imperfectly and sometimes failing to maintain that healthy relationship. God is not thus limited. But God does, when He speaks to Israel, make promises that are exclusive to them. It is not that God loves the rest of us any less, but that He has a unique relationship with Israel and He is not going to extend that same relationship to anyone else.

If I jump over to 1 Corinthians, the word used for jealous is derived from an ancient Greek daemon (the personification of an idea, like Nike — the winged woman, not the company) named Zelos. Both the deamon and the word captured multiple ideas into one container. The idea of zeal, or devotion to a person, idea, or cause comes from the word used. So, too, is the concept of jealousy bound up in the idea. Nestled in among the ideas I would expect is an unexpected concept: envy. In fact, several translations of the verse in 1 Corinthians render the phrase love does not envy.

So the apparent contradiction resolves itself and I reach the conclusion that God is, in fact, a jealous God; that God wants an exclusive relationship with me. The idea is implied when believers are collectively referred to as the bride of Christ. And I conclude that God is not envious. About what, after all, should be envious of me?

Father, thank You for Your desire to have an exclusive relationship with me. Please forgive me my wandering heart and draw me to Yourself with cords of love. I know that I am weak and often unfaithful, please stay zealous for me and jealous for me and, as one hymn has, take my heart and seal for Your courts above.

SOAP Journal – 21 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Still in the transition between remembering what they have seen and heard and experienced and The Law that God had given them, Moses exhorts the Israelites not to forget what they have seen. More, he exhorts them to teach their children and their children’s children the things that they have seen. Come the New Testament, Paul writes a letter to Timothy in which he exhorts the young church leader to hold on to what was put into him by his mother and his grandmother. Clearly, some folks took Moses’ exhortation to heart.

As a father, I find this verse challenging. Not because I do not want to tell my children what God has done in my life. Not because I have any lack of material to communicate. But because I have not been consistent with the first step: do not forget. God does things large and small in my life regularly. His fingerprints are all over me. But I cannot recall all of those things, because I have forgotten them. I did not rehearse them and share them with others nor keep a record anywhere of the amazing things that God has done for me. In this, I need to improve.

Father, thank You for the good You have done me all through my life. Please bring those things to mind when I am with my children and the opportunity arises to brag about You to them. Please show me ways to improve in giving heed to myself and keeping my soul diligently so that I do not forget.

SOAP Journal – 20 April 2017 (Deuteronomy 4:1)

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.

Deuteronomy 4:1

It would be a simple thing to slide right past the word Now in this verse and miss something terribly important. Moses is changing gears from recounting the victories that God has already won on behalf of the Israelites to going over The Law with them. And in changing gears, he explains what he predicates obedience on.

First, the word Now signals that present obedience is predicated on past experience. If I have seen God come through for me in times past, it is only fitting that I obey Him in the here and now. Just as the Israelites had seen God give them victory over enemies in their recent memory and were being exhorted to listen to The Law in the present.

Second, obedience is predicated on future promise. After Moses ties obedience back into their experience of God’s faithfulness in time past, he pivots and points forward to the promises God has made to the Israelites. He exhorts them to obey so that [they] may live and go in and take possession of the land. These are promises for their future and Moses situates the Israelites firmly in the present; right between God’s faithfulness in the past and God’s promises for the future.

That is where my life of faith; of obedience should be lived and walked out: between God’s faithfulness to me in times past and His promises concerning my future. I have seen God come through for me time and again when I was walking in obedience to Him, so there is no reason for me to think He will stop now. Likewise, His promises have been made good in their proper time as I was obedient, so I can look forward and know that God has still more good things waiting for me over the horizon if I obey.

My obedience is to be tied in to the whole of my life. Present obedience is anchored by past experience of God’s faithfulness and looks forward to God’s future promises.

Father, please teach me how to rightly live here and now. Please remind me of Your faithfulness and Your promises and keep me anchored between them.