Scripture Read: Deuteronomy 6 - 7
Title: The Greatest Commandment
(H) Highlight verse: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."" Deut. 6:5
(E) Explain: At the end of chapter 4 Moses introduces the law to Israel. He begins by reminding them of the Ten Commandments in chapter 5. In chapter 6 he lays down the greatest of all commandments and this commandment deals with loving God with every fiber of your being. In doing so, they will teach their children from generation to generation. God desires for His people to do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD in order to take possession of the promised land.
In chapter 7, God declares the people of Israel as His chosen people. They are not to intermarry so as to stay away from turning to other gods and idols. Moses tells them that God has not chosen them because they are a great and mighty people, but He has chosen them because He loves them and is keeping His promise that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He also gives a condition in 7:12, "And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that He swore to your fathers." God will be with His people no matter what, and He will bless them if they remain obedient and faithful.
(A) Application: We are called to love God with all of our being. I've often thought about what He had in mind when He told the people of Israel to love Him with all their heart, soul and might. What does that look like for in today and am I successfully doing it? For me loving God with all of my being would look something like this...
(R) Respond: LORD, I know I strive daily to live my life for you. I want to live a life that is pleasing to you, but I fail so often. Help me to pursue you in every area of my life. I desire to be full committed to you in everything I do, say and think. May I love you with everything I have?
Scripture Read: Deuteronomy 3 - 4
Title: The LORD is Merciful & Jealous
(H) Highlight verse: "For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave your or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them" Deut. 4:31
(E) Explain: Moses continues to remind Israel of God's faithfulness and mercy. In chapter 4 he spends a good part of his speech on Israel's call to obedience to God and His commandments. One specific command is for Israel to worship God alone. They are not to make idols or worship false gods. He tells Israel that God alone deserves the credit for setting them free from the bondage of Egypt. Moses declares that the LORD is a consuming fire and a jealous God. He also lets them know that He is a merciful God, that when they face tribulation He will be with them, He will not leave or destroy them.
(A) Application: An idol is anything that we place above God. I would assume idolatry looks much different in 2018 than it did in the Old Testament times. In modern society we do not necessarily see people making carved images or statues for worship, but we do see people bowing down to the gods of power, money, sex, possessions and a plethora of other things. Idolatry has a more subtle look to it today than it did in the time of Moses in the wilderness. However, sometimes our idolatry has an even more innocent face as we
can place people, churches, religion and good works on the altar of worship.
In his book THE GREAT DIVORCE, C.S. Lewis writes about a fictional character named Pam who refuses to join the a couple of characters in Heaven because of her professed love for Michael, her child. Her love for her son was so great that she refused to leave him and enter into the presence of the LORD. In this particular example, her son became her idol. Idols don't necessarily have to be "bad things" they can be good things as well. Remember, whatever you place higher than God in your life, no matter if it is good or bad, it's still an idol and God will not take the back seat to anything or anyone.
(R) Respond: Search my heart God, help me to recognize those things in my life that I prioritize over you. Help me to acknowledge my false idols and turn them over to you, so that you are the only one that I worship and commit my life to.
Scripture Read: Deuteronomy 1 - 2
Title: Moses Reminds Israel of God's Faithfulness
(H) Highlight verse: "Then I said to you, 'Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.'" Deut. 1:29 - 31
(E) Explain: In the first few chapters of Deuteronomy Moses spends a great deal of time reminding and in some ways re-convincing Israel of God's faithfulness. He uses examples of how God moved among them in the wilderness. He talked about how he gave them victory when they were faithful to him and he allowed defeat when they were disobedient. He also reminds them of the consequences of their unbelief when Caleb and Joshua told the Israelites to go to Canaan. Nobody over the age of twenty (at the time of the scouting out of Canaan) will enter the promised land, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.
(A) Application: Sometimes we need reminding of God's faithfulness. There are many ways for us to be reminded. We can read the stories in the Bible to see his faithfulness. We can recount our own personal stories of when God showed his faithfulness to us. We can hear the stories of others as they share God's faithfulness to them. God can remind us through prayer and reflection. The main thing that we should know and be continually reminded is that GOD IS FAITHFUL. Take some time today and reflect how God has been faithful in your life to day.
(R) Respond: I will live today remembering God's faithfulness. There are times when I doubt and/or forget this, but I will live today in assurance of His faithfulness.
Scripture Read: Numbers 34 - 35
Title: The City of Refuge
(H) Highlight verse: "For he (the manslayer) must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the manslayer may return to the land of his possession" Num. 35:28
(E) Explain: In the final chapters of Numbers, God is giving Moses directions as to what the borders of the promise land and how it should be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel. He sets the Levites apart and gives them their own cities. The Levites were the tribe of the priesthood. The priesthood was called to a high calling and they needed to be seperate from the rest of the nation. Within the cities that were given to the Levites were to be six cities of refuge. These cities were set up as a safe place for people who commit manslaughter. They were set up for the people of Israel and for the sojourner who kills someone without intent. The person is to stay in this city of refuge until the High Priest dies and then he is free to return to his own land.
The cities of refuge were designed to be places of mercy and they were intended to keep people safe from people who sought retribution.
(A) Application: We may not have cities of refuge among us today in the United States. Fortunately, we have a judicial system that seeks fairness and justice. However, as Christians the cities of refuge are great reminders of God's mercy and protection over his people. God is a just God, but He is also a merciful God. Jesus continually reminds us that God has shown grace and mercy to us, sinners, so we must show it to others in return. We must also remember that we are still accountable for our actions here on earth. While God will always extend grace and mercy to those who seek it, however there are consequences for sin and God will judge accordingly.
(R) Respond: We have refuge in Jesus Christ. He is our protector, defender and Savior. I take refuge in him today and trust that God will judge according to his mercy and loving-kindness. This doesn't mean he just overlooks my trespasses flippantly, but he will always receive a broken and contrite heart when I bring my shattered heart to him.
Scripture Read: Numbers 20 - 27:12 - 23
Title: Moses and Aaron Are Refused Entry Into the Promised Land
(H) Highlight verse: "And the LORD spoke to Moses saying, 'Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.''" Num. 20:7, 8
(E) Explain: As the people of Israel continue to wander in the wilderness they come to a place called Kadesh. In Kadesh Moses' sister Miriam died and was buried there. It was also a desolate place. Once again the people argued with Moses and Aaron about coming to this desolate area. The land would not yield fruit and there was no water. So Moses and Aaron bring this concern to the LORD and He tells them to speak to a rock and the rock would then yield water for all to drink.
Once Moses and Aaron returned from the presence of the LORD Moses yells at the congregation, strikes the rock with his staff and water comes out of it. We find later that since Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, that this disqualified Moses and Aaron from entering into the promised land.
Shortly thereafter leaving Kadesh Aaron passed away and his son Eleazer is commissioned by Mosed to succeed his father as High Priest.
Fast forward to chapter 27, God tells Moses to appoint Joshua as his successor. Moses Commissions Joshua as directed by the LORD and thus Joshua is established as the one who will take over as leader once Moses dies.
(A) Application: Disobedience and misrepresenting God is a bad thing. We see this is the case with Moses and Aaron. God gave them a specific command, "Tell the rock to yield water and it will." God never told Moses to chastise the people and he never told him to strike the rock. Since he did this, God punished him. The punishment seems a bit harsh, but I think the point of this passage is that we must be very careful to be obedient to God and we must be mindful of how we represent Him to others. Moses represented God to Israel as being upset and angry with them when in reality God never said He was. He hit a rock in anger, instead of speaking to it thus disobeying God's command.
Now, I don't believe God will punish everyone this harshly when they are disobedient, but there are certainly consequences to our actions of representing God and being obedient to His Word.
(R) Respond: Let us be mindful to be obedient to God when He speaks to us and may we always remember that our word, actions and responses should reflect God in us. We are Christ's representatives on this earth, so in everything we do we should bring glory to God.
Scripture Read: Numbers 16 - 17
Title: Korah Questions Moses' Authority
(H) Highlight verse: "They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them,'You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, everyone of them and the LORD is among them, Why then do you exalt yourself above the assembly of the LORD?'" Num. 16:3
(E) Explain: I will admit, this is another one of those passages that I read and when I finish it I am left scratching my head and wondering what the point of it is.
Moses's authority is questioned by this individual named Korah and a group of men that are following him. We do not know anything about Korah or the men except they were unhappy with Moses' leadership. I translate their concerns as "Moses, who do you think you are? What gives you the right to place yourself as our leader. God is not with you more than He is with us." Then Korah challenges Moses and Aaron to a competition I would call "Who is God's Chosen Leader?" Of course, we are not surprised when we find that Moses is indeed the chosen one. But after the competition is over Moses shows his true leader's heart as he intercedes for the nation once again. Unfortunately for Korah and his gang, things don't end well. But both Moses and Aaron's calling are confirmed.
(A) Application: The call to leadership is both a burden and blessing. Often, if not regularly, leaders are criticized and their leadership is often challenged. Fortunately, today we do not have to have competition to prove our worth that ends with carnage and death. However, God does place a high calling on those He calls, especially in the realm of Spiritual leadership. Moses was blessed by God to be the leader of the Israelites, but it was a blessed burden. He dealt with complainers, his authority was challenged, and people rebelled against him regularly. However, Moses was a righteous leader, he didn't have to defend his leadership, God did that for him. He also had a heart of a leader as he rarely had his own self interest in mind. Instead of criticizing and accusing the people who were against him, he prayed for them and he was patient with them. Now, we will see this is not always the case for Moses, but a true spiritual leader always has the interest of the people he/she is leading over his/her own. A true spiritual leader prays for the people. A true spiritual leader allows God to be his/her defense. A true leader doesn't have to tell people he/she is the leader, his/her actions speak for themselves. Moses truly modeled leadership and I think we can learn a lot from him.
(R) Respond: Help me to be the Spiritual Leader you called me to be. May I pray for people, may I be patient with those who oppose me, may I rely on your protection when people challenge me, but most of all may my actions speak louder than my words.
Scripture Read: Numbers 13 - 14
Title: The Spies Check Out the Promised Land
(H) Highlight verse: "But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, 'Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.' Then the men who had gone up with them said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.'" Num. 13:30- 31
(E) Explain: God tells the Israelites to go and check out the land that He specifically said he is going to give to them. They went and saw that the land was flowing with milk and honey and he fruit was plenteous. They also saw that the people who dwelt in the land were intimidating. They saw there were giants and some enemies of Israel dwelling in the land. As they were instilling fear into the people Caleb speaks up and assures the Israelites that they could overcome the inhabitants. But the others said that there was no way, the people were more numerous and stronger. Caleb and Joshua later responds and tells the people "If the LORD delights in us, he will give it to us, he will bring us into this land flowing with milk and honey." Caleb and Joshua have faith that God will be their victor and defender. But the people didn't like their response was to have them stoned.
God's anger burns once again and he desires to destroy the nation and go back on his covenant, but Moses being the called leader he was interceded for the nation of Israel and reminded God of his faithfulness, promises, patience, goodness and kindness.
God responds with mercy, but not without judgment. Everyone, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua and the children under 20 would not enter the promised land. This was a punishment for their unbelief and distrust of God.
(A) Application: It can be so easy to read this passage and shake our heads and say, "Those Israelites, when will they learn to trust God? Can't they see that he is trustworthy?" But the reality is that we are just like them. I guess I shouldn't speak for you so I'll say, in reality I AM JUST LIKE THEM. I think back to the many instances where I did not trust God to pull through for me. I was so focused on the challenge that was right in front of me that I often thought in my heart, "There is no way God is going to come through for me on this one." God proves himself faithful over and over again and I think eventually I will get to the point some day (when I take my last breath) that I will fully believe this and not allow fear, worry and anxiety overtake me. We see throughout the Bible that God is faithful to do what he says he's going to do, and that is why we need to stay grounded in the Bible, because it shows us God's faithfulness time and time again.
(R) Respond: I will seek to cast my anxiety, worry, and fear aside and trust God today. He is faithful and I need to continually remind myself of this truth daily.
Scripture Read: Numbers 11 - 12
Title: Israel Complains Against God & Moses
(H) Highlight verse: "And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp." Num. 11:1
(E) Explain: According to the Jewish Study Bible, "The fourth book of the Torah, Numbers, recounts memorable events of the Israelite wanderings from Sinai, God's mountain, to the plains of Moab, just opposite the promised land. Thus Numbers continues the story begun in Exodus and continued in Leviticus of the escape from Egyptian servitude, the desert journey to Mount Sinai, the revelations at Sinai and giving the law, and the building of the Tabernacle with instructions on its operation.
"Numbers is a complex collection of texts containing an assortment of interwoven literary genres:historical narratives, legal texts, ritual prescriptions, and poetic folk traditions."
Today's text begins the section of Numbers that recounts the Israelites leaving Sinai and beginning the time of wandering in the wilderness and ending up in Moab.
As the Israelites are traveling in the wilderness they start to complain, once again, about their "misfortunes." They complained as they remembered what life was like in Egypt. They had all the food they desired, they had stability (even though they were enslaved) and they were getting tired of eating manna. They wanted meat, they wanted fish, they wanted cucumbers, onions, garlic, melons and leeks.
As Moses hears the people complain he has a complaining session with God. He accuses God of not taking care of the people. He accuses God of not giving him the help he desperately needed to accomplish the task set before him. He complained about the burden that he carried on his shoulders.
God responded and told him to appoint 70 elders who would receive a portion of the Spirit that was upon Moses. Then he addressed the complaints of the people. He promised to give them meat. However, he was going to bring so much meat that it will be coming out of the nostrils by the end of the month. In other words he was going to provide so much meat that they will be sick of meat at the end of the month. Then as punishment for their complaining God sent a severe plague and many people perished.
(A) Application: The only thing I can think of after reading today's passage is WOW! On one hand I see why God was so angry with the Israelites, but on the other hand I feel like his response was a bit harsh. But then again who am I to question God's authority and judgment.
I do think, though there is an application for all of us in this reading. I think of myself in this situation where I tend to complain against God a lot. I complain because I don't have certain things I desire... (i.e. more money, more stability, a bigger house, a car that won't break down and etc. ). In my complaining I often overlook all that I have and focus on all that I don't have. I am glad God is patient with me, because I do complain often and He still lovingly provides for my every need and gives me all that I need.
(R) Respond: I am reminded with this passage to be mindful of all I have. I need to count my blessings, because they are numerous. I need to focus on what God has provided for me, and yes I may get tired of getting the same thing over and over again, but I need to continually be reminded that God has lovingly given me what I NEED and I need to be content with that.
Scripture Read: Leviticus 26
Title: Blessings for Obedience and Consequences for Disobedience
(H) Highlight verse: "These are the statutes and rules and laws that the LORD made between him and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai," Lev. 26:46
(E) Explain: The conclusion to Leviticus, specifically chapter 26 deals with God giving final instructions of obedience. In this passage God begins by demanding that idols, statues or altars to false gods be prohibited. He then continues to speak about His expectations of obedience from the people of Israel. God speaks conditional promises and curses to Moses to inform the wilderness children. He begins by promising blessings for obedience. He basically says, "If you do what I tell you to do, then I will bless you abundantly." On the contrary He says, "If you do not do what I have instructed then I will punish you greatly." Interestingly in verses 41 and 42 we get a glimpse of God's mercy as well. He informs Moses that if the people are disobedient or rebel but eventually return to Him and be obedient He will remember His covenant with Abraham and He will forgive and bless. This truly shows the nature and compassion of God.
(A) Application: Today we have the blessings of receiving forgiveness of our sins not because we offer sacrifices to God, but because Jesus was our ultimate sacrifice. God extends forgiveness and grace to His children because of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross of Calvary. Since Jesus has sacrificed himself for us and we are forgiven does this mean we can live however we want? Absolutely not! God still demands obedience. God still expects us to walk in holiness and live our lives for His glory. We will still face consequences for disobedience. Jesus has offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and He has made a way for us to be at peace with God. His grace is truly amazing and we should never take his grace for granted and live for the pleasure of today and disregard our call to pursue holiness and live in obedience to His Word.
(R) Respond: Thank you Jesus for being perfect sacrifice for all humanity. Thank you that by your grace we are saved. Thank you that you call your people to confess and repent of our sins and put our trust fully in you so that we can walk upright as citizens and children of the Kingdom of God.
Scripture Read: Leviticus 23
Title: The Feasts of the LORD
(H) Highlight verse: "These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations (assemblies), they are my appointed feasts." Lev. 23:2
(E) Explain: This chapter accounts for what Jews consider major holidays or Feasts which must be observed. Being that the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar that we use today we may be a little confused as to when these Feasts happen, but interestingly this year many of the Feasts line up with some of the days we celebrate as Christians. Below is a breakdown that I have developed to the best of my ability of the festivals and when they happen...
PASSOVER - This festival is a time where Jewish people remember the Exodus from Egypt and how God passed over the Hebrew inhabitants who had the blood painted on the door posts. This festival happens of the 14th of Nisan. The month of Nisan corresponds with either the Gregorian calendar months March or April. This year Passover begins at sundown March 30th and concludes at sundown April 1st.
THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD - Begins on the after Passover and is a seven day holiday where people do no laborious work during these seven days. This year The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins March 30th and ends April 7th.
THE FEAST OF WEEKS - This feast commemorates to giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. It begins seven weeks or fifty days after Passover. The actual dates of this Feast are disputed I have found to be either May 26th or May 19th. Later in the New Testament this observance will be known to Christians as Pentecost.
THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS - This Feast is the mark of the Jewish New Year. It is also known as Rosh Hashanah. This is a day of solemn rest and no laborious work shall be done. This year the Feast of Weeks or Rosh Hashanah is observed on Sept. 19th.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT - This day is considered the most holy day of the year. This is the day in which atonement is made for the sins of the nations of Israel. It is also know as Yom Kippur. This year The Day of Atonement falls on September 19th.
THE FEAST OF BOOTHS - This festival is also known as Sukkoth or the Feast of the Booths. This Feast is considered one of the most joyous Feasts where temporary dwellings are constructed and the people are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering in the wilderness. The Feast of Booths begins this year on Sept. 24th.
(A) Application: So, what does all of this mean for us? How does this apply? I think it simply means that as people of God we are to be constantly reminded of our sinfulness and need of forgiveness. We are reminded that God has and always will provide for his people. It also reminds us that we should celebrate. We should celebrate as families, and in community. We should always celebrate God, because He has provided for our basic needs and our spiritual needs.
(R) Respond: I would like to take time this year and set it aside to celebrate God. I don't necessarily have to celebrate the Festivals of the Torah in the exact way they are set for the people of Israel. But I can observe God's faithfulness, provisions and forgiveness.
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.