Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, February 27, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 1, Dt 5-7

Today's readings are Dt 5-7.

Moses repeats the Ten Commandments in Dt 5:1-21. Some are complex, and some easily understood even if not so easily observed. Still, God leaves no room for misinterpretation. He is holy and His people are called to be a holy people. The commandments serve three purposes. First, they are a description of His perfection and holiness. Second, they will show His people that they are in need of a savior. Third, once the need for a savior is realized, the ongoing need for sanctification will become apparent. The commandments are not calling His people to perfect behavior. They are there to reveal that His people are human and unable to live perfect lives on their own. They need God as an active, guiding, daily presence in their lives, helping them to become a godly people.

When Israel was still at Horeb (Sinai), the commandments were given to show that God's people, being unique among nations, are to be set apart as a holy people (Dt 5:22-27). This singular calling will become the hallmark of how they are to take possession of Canaan (Dt 5:28-33).

In Dt 6:1-3, we see that the commandments as an expression of that holy calling. They are enduring statutes, to be handed down from generation to generation. Obedience will bring blessing, disobedience will net hardship. The commandments are to be followed diligently and are not subject to changing times, developing situations, or advancing cultures. God is unchanging, His holiness is immutable, as are His guidelines. His people are not to put this to question them or try them  (Dt 6:16-19). The commandments also serve as a constant reminder of His power to deliver His people and His grace in doing so.

All the teaching about God and Israel’s relationship with Him begins to come together in Dt 7:1-26 as the nation moves into the Promised Land. All vestiges of the pagan world, gods, and their worship are to be ruthlessly obliterated. There is to be no interaction, no intercourse with the people of the land. Any contact with them runs the risk of God's people becoming like those they associate with and less like God. God's people are set apart and called to a higher standard than the world. This by no means requires isolation, as God’s children they are “in the world but not of it.” The call is for His people to be those who influence rather than those who are influenced.  

A few spiritual truths are made evident. Those who are called and set apart, if they are obedient to the word, will be blessed. Those who are not obedient will fall on rough times. None of it affects their calling. God’s faithfulness to them Israel perfect and complete. He will fulfill His promises because of who He is rather than who they are. If they become discouraged, if the circumstances begin to look overwhelming, they are to remember how far God has brought them and how true He is to His promises.

All of these instructions and guidelines have meaning and purpose for us today. Sin is to be ruthlessly obliterated from our lives, but it can only happen by God's power, not ours. Allowing the world to permeate and influence our lives can lead us down the wrong path and should be avoided. When we strive to obey God's word, we will be blessed. If we rebel against it, times will get tough. Dwelling on God's word and His promises will get us through intimidating times.  

One day, all this will be made perfect, and all the promises of God will come to fruition. Meanwhile, like the Jews, we have His word, His promises, and His commandments to live by. As we strive to abide by and in them, we come to the growing realization that we are unable to keep them on our own and need help, an advocate, a mediator, a savior. Once we are saved, though, we continue to struggle, just as Israel will continue to struggle once they enter the Promised Land. As we see God unfailingly demonstrating His grace even though the Jews continue to struggle, we will know that He does the same for us.

These hard lessons Israel is learning will lead to a time when they can rest in the Promise Land. For us, they point to a time when all striving will cease. We're not there yet, just as God's work among the Hebrews was not yet complete simply because His people entered Canaan. There was work to be done. For them, the victories before crossing the Jordan were a shadow of what was to come. Their successes and cautions pointed to the prospect of a promise fulfilled.

Even though we have a better and more complete understanding of God's plan of redemption, we too live in a shadow of what is to come. Just as Canaan was the promise of a beautiful and bountiful new home, we have His promise of an eternal home that is free from sin and corruption. His Son has gone there to prepare a place for us. That is a promise to all believers. God is true and faithful to His promises!

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