SOAP Journal – 13 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 32:43)

Rejoice, O nations, [with] His people; / For He will avenge the blood of His servants, / And will render vengeance on His adversaries, / And will atone for His land [and] His people.

Deuteronomy 32:43

The last part of the song that Moses teaches to the Israelites before his death caught my eye this morning. The song, as a whole, is an interesting thing. It is a mixture of prophecy about the impending faithlessness of the Israelites and winds its way around to this morning’s verse.

In these words, I see an early promise of the sacrifice of the Messiah. To make sense of it, though, I had to break it into three promises divided by the conjunction and. 

The verse begins with an invitation to the nations, to rejoice … [with] His people. The square brackets around with indicate that it was added by the translators. But this is the same song in which God has promised to make them jealous with [those who] are not a people and provoke them to anger with a foolish nation (v 21). It is possible that the phrase could be understood as inviting the nations; His people to rejoice.

The first part that caught my attention is the promise to atone for His land [and] His people. This is precisely what happened at the cross. Jesus made atonement by His death. And the law of the kinsman redeemer says that the One Who redeems the person also receives that person’s land inheritance. Back in Genesis, God gave dominion of the whole Earth to Adam, hence to people. It would seem that when people are redeemed, the Earth over which we were given dominion comes along for the ride. The word used for people here can also be used in the figurative to mean flock. And Jesus is my Good Shepherd.

But there is another promise: the promise of vengeance. The verse says that God will avenge the blood of His servants and will render vengeance on His adversaries. Almost this same phrasing is used in Revelation when those who are under the altar cry out to God, saying How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:10) Many of the atrocities committed against those who place their faith in God seem to have gone unanswered throughout history, but God has promised that vengeance is coming.

I think, though, that the order is deliberate. The fulfillment of these promises will happen  and has happened in the opposite order. Redemption is already available and vengeance has not yet come. But placing them in the order of (1) vengeance and (2) redemption is a reminder that all of us deserve the vengeance of God to be visited on us, but we can all be redeemed and preserved from that judgment.

Let me seek God’s judgment insofar as it is the end of suffering. Let me seek to see people redeemed, that God’s vengeance is taken on as few people as possible.

Thank You, Father, for redemption; for a way to not be waiting for Your vengeance to be visited on me. Please make my heart such as desires to see all redeemed and to see Your vengeance rendered only on those angels that rebelled.

SOAP Journal – 12 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 31:8)

The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8

The book of Deuteronomy is drawing to a close and the life of Moses with it. God summons Joshua and Moses to the tabernacle so that God can commission Joshua and, with that commission, deliver a prophecy about the faithlessness of the Israelites. They will turn away and they will worship other gods despite having seen the LORD do awesome things — seen these things with their own eyes. Joshua will later throw down the gauntlet and tell the Israelites to choose whom they will serve. This will be at the end of his time as leader.

With the bad news on his mind, Joshua hears this morning’s words from Moses.

The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you. You know that you are walking into a place where there are giants; where the people outnumber you by a significant margin; where the people are going to be faithless. Despite all of these obstacles, know Who it is that goes before you. If this were going to be attempted in your own strength and ability, then you would be best served to hang it up before you got started. But it is not you who has gone ahead to scout positions and prepare the field for battle, but God.

He will be with you. Not only has God gone on ahead to get things ready, but He will walk beside you. When you need counsel, He will speak with you. When you are weak and need someone to lean on, He will be there. As you obey and do as He has commanded, He will be present.

He will not fail you or forsake you. Things may look hopeless. In fact, the very first city with which the Israelites will do battle after crossing the Jordan is Jericho. The walls of Jericho might as well be the walls of Troy. There is no human way of getting past those walls. But God has promised to drive the people out before you and He will not fail you. There will be times when you are not sure how God is going to come through, but He will come through. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Do not fear or be dismayed. Sure, it may sometimes look bleak and things may not go well, but do not be afraid. God is still going on ahead of you to prepare the way. God is still with you to keep you in the way He has prepared. God will not fail you. God will not forsake you. With those promises in mind, do not be afraid or lose heart.

So goes Moses’ instruction to Joshua. And the same things can be said to all believers. God still goes before us and walks with us. God still holds Himself to the promise never to fail or forsake us. God is still as described in this morning’s verse. He has not changed.

In light of that, I should not be afraid of the future or of what is around the corner. God is already there. I should not be lose heart when it seems that God is not answering my prayers, because He has not left me or forsaken me. I do not always understand His silence — why He refuses to answer — but I understand that He will not fail me or forsake me. And that should be enough.

Father, I know that I have sometimes been fearful; sometimes dismayed. I also know that You are good to Your Word and that You have promised never to leave me or forsake me. You will not leave me a spiritual orphan, but will always remain my Father. Thank You for Your faithfulness.

SOAP Journal – 25 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 18:9)

When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.

Deuteronomy 18:9

There is an interesting implication to this command. This command forbids learning to imitate the detestable things done by non-believers. And the implication that I see is threefold.

First, there are sinful practices that are common to everyone. God has given prohibitions against these sins on their own, making no note about how anyone might need to learn to do those things. For example, one needs no instruction to lie; to bear false witness. My daughter lied before she knew what lying was. No learning involved, except the instruction that my wife and I had to give about what lying is and why it should not be done.

Second, there are sinful practices that are not common and that require a bit of learning. For example, one does not just launch out into burning their child alive (the first thing the are told Israelites NOT to do after this verse). Parental instincts generally drive a parent to preserve their child’s life, so one must learn to do something as horrific as sacrificing their child.

Third, it is perfectly acceptable for me to emulate the virtues of anyone — believer or not. Is someone honest? I should emulate that. Is someone a person of their word? I should copy that habit. Where virtues are concerned, God is not worried that there will be overlap between those who are His and those who are not. God loves honesty and keeping one’s word, so there is no issue there. It is when the believer begins to copy the non-virtuous behaviors of unbelievers that a problem arises.

Who am I emulating? Whose behavior am I copying?

Father, thank You for this reminder that some wrongs are learned. Thank You that what has been learned can also be unlearned. Please keep me from the things that would drive a wedge between You and me and show me those — like Your Son — whose behavior I can emulate.

SOAP Journal – 23 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20

These verses round out a portion of Moses’ instruction about the future king of Israel. There are a few things said that bear note.

First, Moses states that the king must copy down The Law of God in the presence of the priests. There is good reason for this. The priests are the keepers of The Law, so the master copies would be with them. The priests are also responsible for studying and understanding The Law, so they would be able to answer the king’s questions as he was copying and he could make notes off in the margins.

Second, the king is to keep that copy of The Law with him and read it all the days of his life. This keeping and reading comes with purpose. In point of fact, the rest of the verses are the promise that comes from keeping God’s Law with him and reading it daily.

The effects of daily reading of The Law and keeping The Law ready to hand constantly is threefold: (1) that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, (2) that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, (3) that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left.

The Bible tells me that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Keeping The Law with him and daily reading it will cultivate wisdom in the king. And kings need wisdom to rule well. So [fearing] the LORD his God is a good place for the king to begin.

The second effect is humility. The verse says that constant contact with The Law and daily reading will yield the result that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers. The king needed to remember that he has been chosen by God from among God’s Chosen people to lead them. He was no better than his brothers and sisters. He was entrusted with an office.

The third effect is obedience. It is stated that the daily exposure to The Law may have the result that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left. In God’s view, the ruler must be ruled. In context, the king must submit to the authority of God and of The Law. By submitting himself to God, he becomes one to whom others can readily and willingly submit themselves.

While this may seem woefully disconnected from me, as a believer, it is not. Revelation includes a moment when those redeemed by Christ sing a song that includes the declaration that Christ has made the redeemed kings and priests (Revelation 5:10). Peter’s first letter calls the believers a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). In short, the instructions given to the king can be applied to me. And they are excellent practice, regardless of where I sit in the social hierarchy.

This morning, the focus is on having The Law ready to hand at all times and reading it daily. I have the daily reading part going on Monday through Friday, but I only read it the one time in the morning and I tend to skip Saturday and Sunday (unless I count reading during the church service). So I could do with more consistency in my reading.

But I need to watch for those three effects mentioned: fear of the LORD, humility, and submission to God.

Does God’s Word produce a holy fear in me or do I walk away thinking that I read something wonderful every morning? I am told to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). There is a fear that is holy and right and I must have it.

Does God’s Word humble me and remind me regularly that I am a sinner, just the same as every other sinner I see around me? If not, then I am reading my Bible wrong.

Do I submit myself to what I have read or do I nod agreement then go off and live in contradiction? Submission is active, on my part. While I can learn to fear God without any real action on my part and can be humbled without doing much, submission requires me to do something. Submission requires me to recognize my will and God’s will and to voluntarily pursue God’s will, even and perhaps especially when my will disagrees with it.

Fear of the LORD. Humility. Submission.

Father, thank You that these traits are not limited to kings and priests and people with a special calling on their life, but are the province of all believers. Please foster these in me. I know that I have room to grow in each and every one and that my life will only be better and more blessed by pursuing them.

SOAP Journal – 22 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 16:20)

Justice, [and only] justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

Deuteronomy 16:20

Sandwiched between Moses reminding the Israelites to regularly observe the Feasts of Passover, Weeks, and Booths and a prohibition against planting “sacred groves” around God’s altar is a reminder to appoint judges and a brief bit of guidance for those judges.

Moses could have gone on at length giving guidance for the judges, but there was very little reason. While the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness, there had been judges settling disputes. Less complex matters were handled by those judges and more complex matters were brought to Moses who would then put the question to God directly. The system had been in place and working for 40 years or thereabouts.

But the judges who had been deciding things in the wilderness had been vetted by God. The people had put them forward, but God had confirmed the choices by putting some of the Spirit that had been in Moses into those men. Moses states that the Israelites will appoint their own judges when they get into the Promised Land. No mention is made of whether or not the people will seek God’s approval of these men. Just as Moses gives instruction about what a king should and should not do — despite the Israelites having no king over them when the instruction is given — he also gives instruction about what the judges and officers are to do when they are appointed.

What does this instruction to judges and officers have to do with me?

It is good practice. Moses instructs the future judges and officers to pursue … justice. They are not to take bribes or the apply one standard to one person and another standard to another. They are, simply put, to be consistent.

As a believer, I, too, am told to be consistent. I am not to tell someone that a thing is wrong, then turn around and say that it is okay for me. If it is wrong, then it is wrong. If it is wrong for my children to be disrespectful to my wife and me, then it is just as wrong if my wife or I were to be disrespectful to our parents. If it is wrong for my children to spend too much time in front of a screen, then it is also wrong for me to do so. I cannot be inconsistent with my standard. If I have inconsistent standards, then I proclaim with my life that morals and ethics and rules in general are relative. And that simply is not true.

Let me live consistently, applying the same standard to all and sundry.

Father, thank You for Your consistency. Thank You for being the Righteous Judge and for showing no partiality. Please work the same heart in me, that I might be consistent in all my dealings and apply Your Law to myself in the same way I would apply it to others.

SOAP Journal – 18 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 16:17)

Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

Deuteronomy 16:17

As Moses reviews with the Israelites the three times a year that the men are required to show up in Jerusalem — called the place which He chooses in this chapter — Moses mentions that they are not to show up empty-handed.

It is a comfort that every man shall give as he is able. There are plenty of teachings about how much people should give and when and how and so on and so forth. From the mouth of Moses, the answer to how and what a person should give to God is that every man shall give as he is able. This means that some people will bring much and others will bring little. The important thing is the recognition of God’s blessing by not coming empty-handed. By bringing as he is able, a person shows how he estimates the financial blessing of God in his life and demonstrates his trust in God’s provision when he is only able to bring a little and brings it.

My family is in a place where we must reevaluate how much we give to God’s work monetarily. Our gross income has not decreased, but our necessary expenditures have which means that our net income is decreased. So the amount given needs to be revisited and consideration given to what our current expenses are. In addition, we can still give of our time and abilities.

Father, thank You for not demanding that we all give the same, but telling us to give according to how we are able. You know our hearts and what resources are at our disposal. Please make my heart generous toward You and my mind receptive to know Your will. Thank You.

SOAP Journal – 17 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 15:1)

At the end of [every] seven years you shall grant a remission.

Deuteronomy 15:1

Moses commands the Israelites to grant a remission … every seven years. This is a kind of miniature Jubilee that Moses is commanding them. In the Year of Jubilee, all debts were forgiven and all land except as prescribed otherwise reverted back to its original owner. This miniature Jubilee was limited to fellow Israelites. There was nothing in this about how to treat those outside the nation.

There are similar injunctions for Christians. Time would fail me to write them all down, but I am told to love my brothers and sisters in Christ and by that love to be known to the world.

But I am going to apply this by taking a step back and being a bit more liberal with how I view the injunction given here. Instead of continuing on and seeing that Moses limits the debt forgiveness to fellow Israelites, I am going to stop with the command that I am to forgive; to grant a remission. I am going to view this through the lens of Jesus Christ commanding me to forgive as I wish to be forgiven — that is, to do to others as I would have done to me.

Father, thank You for forgiving me my debt to You. Please make my heart as forgiving as Yours.