Today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 2-3:29; Luke 6:12-38; Psalm 67:1-7; Proverbs 11:27
Moses continues his speech recalling the events in the wilderness in Deuteronomy today. Its interesting that, even though Israel had refused to have faith in God 38 years before, God has been with them the entire time (Deuteronomy 2:2). This is a good reminder that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is always willing to guide us if we will just let Him, even when we are rebellious.
We see a couple of instances where God orders Israel not to bother certain people because He had given them land too. For example, in Deuteronomy 2:5 God tells Israel not to bother the Edomites who were the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:8) whom God had promised to bless.
God also tells Israel not to bother the Moabites who were descendants of Lot (Deuteronomy 2:9). All of these nations were weaker than Israel and could have easily been conquered by God’s people. But God wasn’t giving their land to Israel – He was giving the land of Canaan to them. So He wanted Israel to behave in a way that showed respect to God by following His commands. That is really what obedience is. Our society promotes freedom and despises the thought of anyone being “obedient” to another. But what we are really saying is that we don’t respect others.
In Deuteronomy 3 we continue to see the victories of Israel, notably one against King Og who was a giant (his bed was 14 feet long (Deuteronomy 3:11)). The prior generation was too afraid of these giants but we see here that the people of these lands were no match for Israel. The fears of the original Israelite refugees from Egypt were unfounded. They could have spent the last decades of their lives in the Promised Land. But instead, due to their lack of faith, they spent that time wandering around going nowhere. The same thing is true today. Our lives can be so fulfilled if we just trust God to lead us where He wants us to go. He has great things planned for us (Jeremiah 29:11). But so often we are too afraid of change and end up living lives in which we just wander without joy.
Moses asks God to let Him cross the Jordan into the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 3:25 but God says “no”. It is easy to sympathize with Moses here. He has spent 40 years in Egypt, many of those as a slave. He then spent 40 years in his own wilderness, being humbled by God. He then worked very hard for 40 years leading God’s people out of Egypt. But he had ruined a good work that God wanted to do at the rock in Meribah.
The incident at Meribah (Numbers 20) was meant to be a picture of Jesus. God ordered Moses to strike the rock once, not twice. Jesus was “struck” once. His death was all that was needed to provide salvation to those who believed. Additionally, Moses spoke harsh words to the people when He should have spoken words of faith. It is through faith we are saved, through Jesus. By his disobedient acts (remember, disobedience is lack of respect) Moses ruined the lesson God was trying to teach Israel. Although he had done a lot of great things, that didn’t matter. Leaders and teachers are held to a higher standard.
Even though he was not going to go with Israel into the Promised Land, Moses still had to train, encourage, and strengthen his successor, Joshua (Deuteronomy 3:28). Even though we may not get to do the things in life we want, we need to prepare others to do them if we can. We need not be concerned about our glory. We need to let God use who He will use. It is all for His glory. Even though Moses wasn’t going to lead his people across the Jordan, he had a very important work to do in preparing Joshua for doing that. Even when we are not the center of attention we can do something for God.
Luke 6 opens with the story of Jesus praying all night, apparently for guidance in choosing the 12 disciples. This shows us that Jesus can relate to us as human beings – even He needed to pray. Despite being God in a human body, Jesus was subject to some of the same limitations that we are. This allowed Him to be able to say that He knows exactly what we have to go through. Life isn’t easy for us and God knows that.
We’ve already seen that 11 of the disciples were teenagers (Peter was not). So they certainly had their own attitude and immaturity problems. But they were moldable. Jesus was looking for people He could train – people that weren’t so set in their ways that they were unwilling to change. Notice too that Jesus made some interesting choices. For example, Matthew was a tax-collector who worked for Rome. But Simon (not Peter) was a zealot – one who was vehemently against the Roman occupation of Israel. I’m sure this created an interesting dynamic.
Jesus gives a sermon in Luke 6:20-38. Notice how His words are directed not at the people, but at the disciples. The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. They had become poor. Therefore the Kingdom of God “is” (present tense) theirs. Jesus also promises that in the future (“will be”) those who are hungry and sad will be blessed. God rewards those who make sacrifices on His behalf. Maybe not immediately, but someday.
A perfect example of this is Luke 6:23. The disciples will face all kinds of hate and ridicule for following Jesus. Yet they should be happy because a reward will be given to them in heaven. This should encourage all of us to stand up for Jesus in this life. Many people will reject us. They will laugh at us. I know — I was one of those mockers. But now when I am on the receiving end of such ridicule and hate I can take comfort in the fact that I will get a reward in heaven. And, hopefully too, the seeds I plant in the minds of such people will take root and grow. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.
The world’s values are not God’s values. We see that in Luke 6:24-26. Those on earth who think they have all they need now will someday realize the flaw in their thinking. Sadly that day will happen after they die and then it will be too late. There is nothing in this life that goes with us to the next. So it is all temporary. Nothing on this earth can provide any long-term security.
Jesus just addressed people who were not going to listen to Him. Now He addresses those who will (Luke 6:37). We are to love our enemies. We are to do good to those those who hurt us with their words (“curse”), abuse (“slap”), or actions (“takes”). That certainly is not a worldly way to live. But it is God’s way. God loves even those who curse Him or don’t believe in Him. Followers of Christ should imitate God in this way. Clearly Jesus’s teachings are not easy to follow. But they make a lot of sense. They set a new standard for living.
Luke 6:37 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. Even unbelievers have memorized it, though they misapply it. We are called to “judge” or “evaluate” our own behavior and that of others. But we are not to go so far as to condem. We should forgive. What is there to forgive if there first wasn’t judgment? When we see people acting in a way that indicates that they don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ then the most loving thing we can do is help them create such a relationship.
God blesses those who praise Him (Psalms 67:5-7). When we turn our back on God we can be sure of one thing – life will get much more difficult. God wants us to have the best. Only He is capable of giving that to us.
Proverbs 11:27 reminds us that we get what we seek in life. Some people go through life looking for trouble. In that case trouble will find them. There is plenty of trouble to go around. But if we go through life looking for good we will find God’s favor. A heart that earnestly seeks God will not be disappointed.
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