SOAP Journal – 09 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I have read these verses before. This is familiar ground on which to tread. But I had not noticed that the verses are connected. There is no full stop between them as there is with other verses to signal the end of a thought. Tee only full stop appears in the middle of one of the verses. The punctuation might be inserted by the translators — I do not know enough about Hebrew to be able to comment intelligently — but I agree with the notion that these are linked thoughts.

Moses calls heaven and earth to witness. Wrongs, according to The Law, had to be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. So Moses calls in two witnesses: heaven and earth. This could be the physical heaven and earth, as in the sky and dirt, or the spiritual Heaven and Earth, as in the abode of God and of humanity respectively.

The part of these verses that I want to zero in on is in the middle of things: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.

Moses had gone over God’s promises — the pleasant and the terrifying — and God’s commands — even those that are difficult to understand — and what the consequences of obedience and disobedience are. Moses had set before the Israelites life and death, the blessing and the curse. God does the same thing for me through His Word and through those who teach it.

What this presentation should do is prompt me to choose life. The consequence of which is that I and my descendants will live. How do I choose life? I choose lifeby loving the LORD [my] God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him.

To love is a simple complexity. For example, I love my wife, but to live in such a way as makes that clear to her requires deliberate action on my part. I cannot blithely wander through life and expect that she will understand that I love her. Experience and available data do not support this idea. I must do things that she understands as loving her. Likewise, loving God is more than a feeling (now I have that song in my head), it is a deliberate choice to live out love as The Bible describes it.

Obedience is straightforward, but not always easy. I understand that God wants me to speak the truth in love, but some truths are difficult to take and trying to frame them in a gentle and loving manner requires a great deal of effort on my part.

Holding fast to God is a necessity if my faith is to survive the modern Western world. Everywhere, there are distractions and enticements that try to lure me away from the simplicity of the gospel and of my faith in God. There are outright assaults on the senses: billboards and advertisements of various kinds, music with earwormy lyrics and sounds and punditry blaring in almost every quarter. The Western world is an audio-video assault on my senses and my sensibilities. The only way to keep from being carried away by the waves of all this is to hold fast to God.

This is my life and the length of my days. If I want a full rich life and days that I can take pleasure in, then I must love, obey, and hold fast to God.

hank You, Father, for loving me first. Thank You for being dedicated to me before I was even aware of You. Please teach me to love and obey and hold fast to You so that I might walk in Your blessing rather than in the alternative.

SOAP Journal – 08 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 29:29)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29

I have heard this verse quoted, but do not think I noticed it in my reading until  this morning.

There are things about which The Bible does not speak; areas in which The Bible seems to be mum. This is not to say that God has nothing to say on the matter, only that His thoughts on that subject are not revealed. There are secret things, or hidden things that God keeps to Himself. And He has every right to do so. Just as every person has every right to hold certain information close, so, too, does God have every right to withhold things from us. As with the lesser (us), so with the greater (God). This also means that God is not going to hold me to account for something which He did not reveal.

There are other things about which The Bible is quite specific. There are commands that are clear and prohibitions that leave no room for argument. There are blessings and curses and promises both pleasant and ominous. These things belong to me. God has revealed them so that I know them. If I know them, then I am now accountable for them. This is heavy when dealing with The Law, because it means that I know what the standard of perfection is and know that I have never, am not currently, and can never measure up to it. This is delightful when dealing with God’s promises, because it means that all of the promises that are properly directed to me (and not to, say, the Israelites specifically) belong to me. Just as the onus to obey is mine, so, too, the fulfillment of promises rests on the God Who made those promises.

As I struggle to obey, God sees and has made clear to me that He is mindful that I am but dust. He knows my weakness and my failures. He does not condone them, but nor is He surprised or shocked or put off by them. He is ready to restore me and move me forward.

The things revealed belong to us and to our children forever. While Moses said this to the Israelites, the principle is sound and what God reveals belongs to those to whom He has revealed it.

God, please make solid in me those things which You have revealed and which belong to me — both things to obey and promises in which to hope.

SOAP Journal – 05 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 23:3-6)

No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their [descendants], even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless, the LORD your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you. You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days.

Deuteronomy 23:3-6

Right off the bat, this passage catches my attention, because Ruth, the forebear of King David, was a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4). But there seems to me to be a renunciation of that heritage on the part of Ruth. Naomi tells Ruth to go back to her people and her gods and Ruth refuses, saying that Naomi’s people (the Israelites) shall be her (Ruth’s) people and that Naomi’s God shall be her (Ruth’s) God (Ruth 1:15-17). It is an often taught passage of scripture. And I think that there is application in this for the believer.

The Israelites are told to hold the Moabites and Ammonites as enduring enemies because those peoples did not meet the Israelites with provisions, but summoned a prophet to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22-24). Plenty of peoples did not receive the Israelites on friendly terms. The Edomites, for example, were cold toward their distant relations, the Israelites and Edomites being descended from a pair of twin brothers named Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom) (Genesis 25:30; 32:3; 36). The Moabites and Ammonites were also distant relations, Moab and Ben-Ammi being the sons of Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19:36-38). It is one mass of familial dysfunction. But the point of departure seems to be that the Ammonites and Moabites tried to have the Israelites cursed. Apparently, God understands turning a cold shoulder to your family, but trying to curse those whom He has blessed is grounds for Bad Things. It should have been obvious, what with God telling Abraham that He (God) would bless those who bless him (Abraham) and curse those who cursed him (Genesis 12:3). This also carries application for me, as a believer.

Last item of note, for me, is that the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you. God is still in the business of turning curses into blessings. He regularly flips the script on behalf of those whom He loves and who love Him. I have often experienced this in my own life and can attest that God has done this and continues to do this.

How can I apply all of this?

First, repentance; renunciation of what lies behind permits access to even those who were once barred from entering the assembly of the LORD. There is no wrong so grievous that repentance cannot elicit God’s forgiveness. The Moabites were supposed to be barred from the assembly even to the tenth generation. David, Ruth’s great-grandson, not only entered the assembly, but was anointed king of the Israelites. God can forgive anything if there is repentance.

Second, opposing God does not end well. The Moabites and Ammonites tried to do the exact opposite of what God intended to do. They tried to have the Israelites cursed when God intended to bless them. So the king of Moab squandered resources and time trying to have the Israelites cursed when he could have been blessed by doing nothing more than blessing them. The Israelites only wanted to pass through his kingdom and go on to the places God had in store for them. They sent messages saying this. All the king of Moab had to do was sit back and do nothing to avoid trouble. He could have invited blessing on himself and his people by blessing the Israelites. Cooperating with God’s plan always yields better results.

Last, God has turned things around for those He loves and who love Him in return. Paul later writes that God works all things together for good to whose who love God and are called according to His (God’s) purpose (Romans 8:28). The seas, I have learned, are not always peaceful when I am in the center of God’s will. But I always have peace on those rough seas that place me in the center of God’s will. There is always blessing for those who love God.

Let me repent of the things I have done wrong and do them no more. Let me cooperate with God’s plan. And let me love God wholeheartedly, knowing that He will be the One to protect me and provide what is needful in the midst of difficulty and trial.

Thank You, Father, for loving me and for being ready and willing to forgive anything of which we will repent. Please give me a repentant heart toward those things that displease You and give me a heart that wants to cooperate with Your plan and program.

Bless, Not Curse (Romans 12:14)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:14

It seems that there is an almost endless flow of people wanting to curse one another. This is not cursing in the sense of so many of the supernaturally themed TV shows, but simply to wish evil on an other person. This election cycle, it seems that there is vitriol to spare about one group or another and I am often tempted to join in with the throng and start shouting imprecations. This morning’s verse is a challenge to do the opposite.

There will always be people with whom I disagree. Worse, there will always be people who are openly hostile toward me. God, through Paul, tells me to bless them. The word used is actually from two roots that mean “beautiful” (εὖ) and “word” (λόγος) God is not merely telling me to bless those who would like to do me harm, but to speak well of them, as well. My speech about those who would persecute me should be beautiful. Challenging, to put it mildly.

As things grow more difficult — and they will — and rhetoric becomes more vitriolic — and it will — God’s instruction to me, through Paul, is to speak beautifully: to bless and praise and otherwise make my words a blessing to those who hear them.