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.

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SOAP Journal – 12 September 2016 (Revelation 2:25)

Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

Revelation 2:25

This verse comes from Jesus’ letter to the angel of the church at Thyatira. The church had some good things going for them — love, faith, service, perseverance — and the church, as a whole, was increasing in these things. But there was also tolerance for someone who claimed to speak on behalf of God; someone who led the people into immortality and eating food sacrificed to idols — the issue with the latter being the idolatry involved, not the food, as Paul made clear in Corinthians. The word translated as immoralities is a term that shares a root with the English pornography. Essentially, this self-proclaimed prophetess was teaching that all manner of sexual sin was just fine. Jesus is having none of that and declares a judgment on her and those who continue to go her way.

After all of this, Jesus comes to those who do not hold this teaching (v24) and says that He places no other burden on them. There is nothing more that He asks than that they hold fast what they already have. And what they already had is pretty great: love and faith and service and perseverance that were all growing.

By way o application, I find myself drawn to the idea of holding on to the good things that I see in my walk. Where I have seen God growing some fruit of His Spirit within me — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control — let me hold on to that and seek to continue in that growth.

Father, Jesus told us that You are the vine dresser; the One pruning and guiding the growth in our lives so that we might bear much and more fruit. Thank You for being so intimately involved in what fruit my life bears and when and how much. Thank You for seeking that fruit in me. Please show me where there is growth to which I can hold fast.