March 26, 2009

Reality Check - Year Bible #12

This book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ 5th and final book. It’s interesting because it spends very little time in the present tense. There’s a re-cap of the past and a glance towards the future through various prophecies. These views of the past and future offered kind of a reality check to the Israelites to help them understand where they were in the big picture. In His day, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they wanted to see miracles performed but weren’t interested in prophecies fulfilled. They told Jesus “Show us a sign.” Many Christians today have a disinterest in the Old Testament. On my blog recently, a Christian basically wrote that I am wasting my time by studying and teaching the OT. Interesting how Jesus showed the Pharisees their error. He said “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” These men knew how to study the weather, to give a weather report each day and predict the seasons, but had no clue about the more important spiritual climate and season of history they were in. Though a lot of the news today is pessimistic, in a way it is exciting to see how many of the prophecies are being fulfilled in our generation. Internet news tends to have less censorship and propaganda than mainstream TV news and I’ll recommend some resources at the end of the article. Here are some more reasons why I believe it’s important to study both the OT and NT:
  1. Jesus said “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Mat 5.17) If you don’t know the OT, you won’t really understand what Jesus fulfilled. You won’t be able to fully understand the NT, especially books like Revelation.
  2. The NT says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Tim 3.16) You won’t really know in what ways the OT can apply to your life personally until you study it. Try it with an open mind and you’ll like it!
  3. Many have a “been there done that” attitude with the Bible. But, in reality, the insights are fresh no matter how many times a person has read a certain book. Paul wrote “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Ro 11.33).
  4. The prophecies in the Bible are the main proof the Bible is a unique book and God is real. Jesus said “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Lu 16.31). Are you ready to give an answer to a non-believer who questions if any prophecies from the OT have come true? If not, you have a good goal to work towards. (I Pet 3.15).
These are just of few examples, but I hope you get the point. The OT is an exciting book because it shows how God is outside of time. He sees the beginning and the end at one time. The best example I’ve seen of this is the example of a parade. A person standing in the center of a parade sees only one marching band at a time. But a person up in a helicopter sees the whole parade. He sees the beginning and the end at the same time. In a similar way, God is outside the space-time continuum. He has revealed to the prophets what happens at the end of the parade. As time marches on, we see the prophecies being fulfilled one by one. If you don’t think that is exciting, then I think we need to check your pulse. Hey, is there a doctor in the house?
Describing the Details
In the book of Numbers, it showed how Moses sent spies into the land to scope out the territory they would enter into. Deuteronomy 1.22-23 we see how it was actually not Moses’ idea. It was the Israelites who kept asking for this and he agreed to their request. God had promised the land to them and sending the spies in was really a bad idea. It caused them to doubt God’s plan. The Bible doesn’t gloss over the details, even the ones that put His people in a bad light. God’s heart is for us to know the real history that we can learn lessons from the past. Deuteronomy 4.9 states: "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (NASB)
Covenants and Consequences
In Deuteronomy 4.25-31, Moses prophesies the dispersion of the Israelites. He shows how they will forget God and begin to worship idols. In Chapter 5, Moses reviews the 10 Commandments and in the following chapters gives warnings that the covenant with Israel is a conditional covenant. Why was Israel chosen to be God’s special people? The answer is shown in 9: 5 "It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but {it is} because of the wickedness of these nations {that} the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Israel was not chosen because she is special; she is special because she is chosen, therefore don’t be prideful (9.4). We can apply the same maxim to any believer today in the New Covenant.
The conditional Covenant with Israel can be summed up in Deuteronomy 11.26-28: "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.” It’s important to realize that today we are not under this conditional covenant of the law, we are under the unconditional covenant of grace which Christ ushered in, as affirmed in Hebrews 10.16-17: "THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," {He then says,} "AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." (NASB) Jeremiah prophesied of this new covenant back in Jeremiah 31.31-33. In the remaining chapters of Deuteronomy, additional laws are described for the nation of Israel. Many Jews choose law as a profession because Israel has a history filled with detailed laws. Debating the finer meanings of the Torah has been a time honored tradition in many families, which also develops skills for a legal profession.
The Final Conclusion
One of the main messages of Deuteronomy is that we as sinful people cannot keep the law of God. In Deuteronomy 30:14 Moses says the law is not too hard to keep, but notice what he writes in his final conclusion "But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it." He's referring to God's help, the word of God as experienced "in your heart" just as Jeremiah mentioned! And so there is a foreshadowing of the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" which has set us free from "the law of sin and death." (Rom 8.1-2). Though the law of sin is still at work, the law of the Spirit is greater. It's like going on a passenger plane. Gravity keeps you in your seat during the ride, but at the same time, the laws of aerodynaimcs lift the plane and cause it to fly. The conclusion is that we cannot overcome sin on our own but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can live as overcomers. The message of Deuteronomy perfectly precedes the message of Joshua, living the abundant life God has for us.
The Final Pep Talk
The book of Deuteronomy in some ways is like a pep talk from a football coach before the final championship game. Moses outlines the challenge in 9.1-3, the big challenge is to enter enemy territory. The teams could be called the Saints and the Giants. The Giants have the size and skill and the home field advantage. The Saints really don’t have much to go on and are relying on a miracle to win (In this way it is like the actual NFL teams). Like a good coach Moses outlines some of the past failures but reiterates their main advantage, which is that God is really on their side and that is the deciding factor.
The Final Song and Final Word
After his review of history and his review of God’s word, Moses actually pens a song and tells it to the people of Israel. (Deut. 31.30) Often songs are born out of reviewing the word of God, as implied in Colossians 3.16: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms {and} hymns {and} spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The song Moses penned is really a beautiful one and reminds me of David’s Psalms. Moses’ song inspired me to write a song “Honey from the Rock” named after verse 13. After the song Moses describes the importance of God’s word and the law “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life…” and this is similar to the words of Jesus in John 6.63 “…the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” God had showed Moses that he would not enter the land of Canaan. So in 34.9, it describes how Moses had laid his hands on Joshua before the people and had transferred to him the authority God had given him as leader of the people. Moses would later appear with Elijah supernaturally during the transfiguration of Christ described in the New Testament (Mar 9.4). Many believe Moses and Elijah will again appear in the future as the two witnesses described in Revelation 11.3. So, it seems, the world is still waiting for the final word from Moses.
Summing Things up
As we consider where we are in the big picture of history, it helps to know what's really happening in the world through uncensored news. Here are some options I would recommend: Chuck Missler's Koinonia House, a Christian ministry, has an email newsletter which is sent out once a week. Alex Jones' Infowars is not a Christian site, but has cutting edge news you won't find on prime time TV.
Even as Moses reviewed the 10 Commandments and the Old Covenant with the people, it can be helpful to review the New Covenant once in a while. Firstly, we have a great position in Christ. John the Baptist was described by Jesus as the greatest prophet in history, and yet Jesus said we who are in the New Covenant are even greater (Mat 11.11). What is this greatness? It is translated as “larger, greater more.” The main difference between us and John the Baptist is that he was executed before the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He’s not a part of the Church and did not receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. For us it should be very encouraging that scripture places our position so highly, simply because we have received Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. When Moses spent time with God, his face shined with God’s glory and yet II Corinthians 3.8 says we have a greater glory in Christ “…how much more glorious will the ministry of the Spirit be?” The glory on Moses’ face faded away but the glory of the gospel in our hearts doesn’t fade away, as written “For if what was made ineffective came with glory, how much more has what remains come in glory!” (V11 NetBible). The most exciting thing about the New Covenant is that it’s all unconditional. It is a covenant of love not of law. We are to receive Christ and abide in Him, that’s the main deal. All that we do and all that we are is based on the reality of His Spirit living in us and working through us. It’s not about us, it’s about God. We can relax and live by grace simply yielding to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to guide us each day in all the decisions and details of life. God calls us His friends and wants to share His plans with us (Jn 15.15). We can give ourselves this reality check today, “Am I living in the freedom (II Cor 3.17) and the fullness of the New Covenant (II Cor 3. 5), living enjoying the grace of God?”

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