Saturday, February 29 2020
“An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” Back in the 20th century, many world leaders have reflected on this sentiment to encourage peace and mercy when everyone bore some guilt. The idea is that returning evil for evil accomplishes nothing but a bloody field and destruction. Paul taught, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom 12:17 ESV). For this reason, Paul taught that love fulfilled the Law (Rom 13:8–10). However, the quote among so many is a misinformed mockery of the Law of Moses outside of its biblical setting.
Whenever someone carelessly hurt a pregnant woman to cause her to miscarry her child, Moses commanded, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exod 21:24). Moses wrote that the person who lied and slander should receive the punishment that he intended to bring upon another (Deut 19:19–21). For this reason, Moses commanded justice for the judges to decide and instructed the people, “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deut 19:21; cf. Lev 24:20). This is to be done for “the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you” (Deut 19:20). Discipline that causes fear is a good thing for everyone, and it belongs to the governing authority and to a moderate extent in the home.
Jesus gave further instruction upon this command, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth” (Matt 5:38). Christ was revealing that the individual did not have the right to inflict one’s own personal justice. Instead, Jesus taught, “Do not resist the one who is evil” (Matt 5:38). Much good can come enduring injustice before others. Evil is exposed and authorities have reason to take action. Therefore, Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, give away your cloak to whoever takes your tunic, and go the extra mile with the person who compels you to go one mile (Matt 5:39–42).
“An eye for an eye” belongs to justice in a civil society. However, “an eye for an eye” does not belong to your own personal vengeance. Paul taught, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Rom 12:17). How does God justly avenge? Paul revealed about the governing authority, “For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:4). Christians must trust God to bring about vengeance through the governing authority on those who do wrong or trust God to come with providential wrath upon the governing authority when they do wrong. “An eye for an eye” belongs with God’s minister of justice — the governing authorities.
The context of “an eye for an eye” came with instructions from God to the ancient republic of Israel to maintain justice by cross-examining witnesses to any crime. Moses taught, “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deut 19:15). That is justice fairly applied. The same standard stands among most civilizations and in the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, trust God’s plan.
Following these words from the Scriptures can be difficult because this is an act of faith. The person who endures a beating does so trusting that God will accomplish a greater good (1 Pet 2:19–25). That is a lot to believe to do what most others would never consider doing. Thank God for His mercy and justice. Trust Him to resolve injustices.
Saturday, February 22 2020
How does the media shape the way that we see the world? Many unknowingly accept the culture and the world as the media presents it. Their presentation of how reality is in movies, shows, and series presenting people living Godless lives without displaying the horror of abuse, hate, greed, and depression of reality in the shadowing of a hopeless life and death. Watching this distortion of reality can persuade us to consider satisfying our wants and goals with “what if I…,” so that now even our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors have bought into thinking that Godless living isn’t that bad. Mature Christians see this deception, but the naïve think the previous generation is foolish. Some think that maybe human rights have everything to do with not offending others and nothing to do with the absolute morality that cannot exist without God's holiness.
Consider Moses’s warnings about Godless influences affecting the people of Israel:
1. God allows false prophets to speak for good reason. If a prophet or dreamer gives a sign or a wonder and urges you to follow other gods, Moses instructed Israel not to listen to their words (Deut 13:1–2). God allowed such false prophets to test the love of the people of Israel (Deut 13:3). God commanded Israel to react by putting false prophets to death civilly (Deut 13:5). Jesus warned of the coming of false prophets, and the New Testament writers also depicted the false works of false prophets (Matt 24:24; 2 Thess 2:9; Rev 13:13–14). Today, Christians are to examine themselves to pass the test (2 Cor 13:5–8). Will you continue to choose Christ or will you choose just once to deny Him? What affect could one sin have on the rest of your life and eventually the hope of eternal life? Maybe you'll be like Peter and repent or maybe you'll be like Judas.
2. God opposes the worship of false gods for good reason. All other gods are false gods. Why recognize lies as though equal to the truth? Other religions are not equal to Christianity and have no place in comparison. Moses taught Israel to put to death by stoning anyone including brother, mother, son, daughter, wife, or friend who try to entice Israel to serve other gods secretly (Deut 13:6–11). To draw someone away from the true God is to draw people away from the only standard of morality and righteousness. To follow other gods is an absurdity for choosing to follow the inventions of ignorant people.
3. God commanded the destruction of everything connected with false gods for good reason. If some deceived a city to go after other gods, then Moses commanded Israel to inquire diligently to prove it true (Deut 13:12–14). If a city had gone after other gods, then Israel must devote them to destruction by the sword (13:14–15). God commanded that all the spoil of the city be burned as an offering to God (13:16). Moses instructed that Israel take nothing from the spoil so the LORD may show mercy and compassion on Israel. God would not multiply the nation if they did not obey the LORD, keep His commands, and do what is right in His sight (Deut 13:17–18).
For the Christian, God commands His church to withdraw from false teachers (Rom 16:17–18; Titus 3:10; 2 John 10–11). While Christ ate with sinners, His closest friends were His disciples. Christians may eat with sinners to bring them to Christ, yet God also commanded by Paul, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:14–16). God commands His people to “go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the LORD, and touch no unclean thing” (2 Cor 6:17).
Thank God that He is not a distant impersonal watchmaker. God is not far from any one of us so that we can find Him anywhere (Acts 17:26–27). God has warned us repeatedly of the lies in the world. Thank God that He has given us Christ as the cornerstone and rock of our faith.
Saturday, February 15 2020
“For your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that He did” (Deut 11:7 ESV). Moses reminded Israel of God’s discipline when He brought them out of Egypt by signs before Pharaoh including destroying Pharaoh’s army by the waters of the Red Sea (Deut 11:3–6). What signs have you seen that God has done? Consider every cooing baby and all the life on the earth, and look at every starry nightfall and glowing daybreak that displays the creation of the universe. What is the enduring purpose of it all but signs in an amazing display of creative power in every work of God?
Have you seen signs in your life as God has brought you through times that you couldn’t imagine facing? Consider God’s discipline of His people of Israel:
1. Those who love God and keep His commands see how God disciplines His people (Deut 11:1). God disciplines His people with an outstretched hand. God brings His people through difficult trials to make them better people. This is true for His people of Israel in the Old Testament and for His people, the church, in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews revealed that God disciplines His people for their own good (Heb 12:7, 10). God’s discipline for His children is not pleasant but produces “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:11).
2. Those who keep God’s commands become strong (Deut 11:8). When people are obedient to God and keep His whole command, then God gives them strength. God told Israel that they would be strong to overcome the inhabitants of the land of Canaan by remaining obedient to His commands (Deut 11:8–9). Furthermore, God blessed Israel by giving them a promised land that flows with milk and honey receiving heaven’s rains upon its hill and valleys, because God cares for the land and His eyes are on it throughout the year (11:11–12).
3. God provides for those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deut 11:13). For this reason, Moses taught Israel to serve God with all their heart and soul, because God did not want Israel to be led away by other gods (11:16). God warned Israel that they would face the curse of His anger if they went after such gods. God promised the curse of shutting up the rains of the heavens. Pagan gods are evil invented for the worship of mammon and lusts leaving their worshipers without pity to sacrifice their own children in fire.
4. God’s words are to be on one’s heart and soul (Deut 11:18). God’s words are to be like a sign on the hand or on the frontlets of the eyes. In other words, God’s people must put God’s words before them in all they do with their hands and perceive with their eyes. The Word of God will change the believer's perception when it is foremost in one’s life. For this reason, the believer should teach their children when sitting, walking, rising, and laying (Deut 11:19). God’s words belong written on our doorposts and gates as a constant reminder of going in and out (11:20).
Everyone who comes near our homes should know where we stand with God. Imagine posting Scriptures above the doors of your home and over the gates of your fence. No one in your home will escape the priority of God’s words in your lives. Furthermore, think about what causes you to be encouraged and talk about your faith. Keep following that route and continue to read and share those scriptures with your family. Don’t keep it shut up from your children.
God set before His people of Israel both a blessing and a curse (Deut 11:26–28). Today, this is true for all people. Rebellion against God is a cursed life, but a righteous life is a blessing. We may not have the individual power and influence to change the world by politics and edicts, but we can change the world around us by the strength given to us by God's Spirit (Eph 3:16). We can affect change in the people around us by obeying God with all our heart and soul and so love others with the love that God has poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Monday, February 10 2020
Forty years after God spoke from the fire of the cloud on Mount Sinai, Moses again instructed God’s people of Israel on the east side of the Jordan River. They were preparing to cross over into the Promised Land. They completed their wilderness journey and were set to engage in conflict with the wicked nations of Canaan. Within this setting, Moses’s preparation was to remind them of God and His Law for them. Moses reminded Israel of the Ten Commands given from Mount Horeb (Deut 5). God gave the Law to Israel so that they may live (Deut 5:32–33).
Today, few people think about God before doing what they plan to do. James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (Jas 4:15 ESV). Christians can gain great insights about God from Moses’s teaching in Deuteronomy 6. Moses is the archetypal leader of a people who proclaims values of justice and love based upon the nature of the Creator of the universe. Israel represents the nature of humanity to wrestle with God. Some live by faith and others rebel. Within our families, we see foolish rebellion after growing up in Christian homes and the faithful immerging from desperate circumstances.
1. Obeying God’s commands ensures receiving God’s blessings (Deut 6:1–3). God gave the blessings of life, freedom, and land to Israel according to His promise to Abraham who received them by faith. Neither Israel nor their patriarchs earned God’s favor but received His gifts. God gave commands to live in a way that ensured the safety and welfare of the people of Israel. Today, God’s commands are for the betterment of those who obey Him. Life is better according to God’s way.
2. Love Yahweh God with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deut 6:4–6). The rebellious heart responds, “Why should I? Who is God?” God gives everyone life, breath, and a world within to live. The foolish support rebelling against the God who gives life, offers to prolong life, and gives eternal life to the faithful. Therefore, God is more than worthy of love, admiration, and worship.
3. Teach and talk of God’s commands especially to your children (Deut 6:7–9). The fool teaches his children while judging others and not recognizing that he is a sinner too who must come to repentance. Moses’s command was not to teach their children only on special occasions or only when asked but to teach children diligently when one sits, walks, lies down, and rises up.
4. Do not forget the LORD (Deut 6:10–19). People forget what gifts they received last year and who gave them the gifts. Moses warned Israel not to receive the land and forget their God. People live life not thinking about the God who gave them life. Few consider their lives and the world in which they so happen to fit and survive has a greater Cause, purpose, and meaning then to live as one wants.
5. God gives commands for the good of His people (Deut 6:20–25). God’s commands are not arbitrary or selfish. His commands reflect His loving nature for His people — the faithful. Moses taught, “And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (Deut 6:24).
Saturday, February 08 2020
Look at the horizon. That’s what I do to rest and see the beauty of God’s Creation. This amazing world is the setting of our journey and conflicts. As Christians, we have the mission to pull down the walls and destroy the castles set against the knowledge of God and take thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:4–6). Proclaiming God is a part of sharing the Gospel in the world and making disciples. The apostle Paul proclaimed “the living God” those who wanted to offer sacrifices to Barnabas and him in Lystra. The apostle spoke that God created the heavens, the earth, and the sea, and God gives the rains and the fruitful seasons (Acts 14:14–18).
Being a Christian means coming to know God — the Creator of the universe. A person’s salvation is dependent upon knowing God (2 Thess 1:7–9). One must have a zeal for God according to knowledge (Rom 10:2). For this reason, one must study and learn to know God and perceive the attributes of God throughout the Bible and as displayed in the Creation. Deuteronomy reveals much about God’s nature. Consider these observations about God from Deuteronomy 8:
1. God wants His people to be careful to keep His whole command and so live (Deut 8:1, 6). Jesus revealed that His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). No one has a “spiritual life” without the words of Christ. John wrote, “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it” (2 John 6 ESV).
2. God humbles His people through the trials of life to bring them to live by God’s Word. God humbled Israel while in the wilderness (Deut 8:2–3, 16). God wanted Israel to hunger and be fed with manna from Him to know that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8:3). Likewise, Christians suffer with Christ and that produces endurance, character, and hope (Rom 5:3–5; 1 Pet 4:13).
3. God disciplines His people as a father disciplines his son (Deut 8:5). Moses revealed, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you” (8:5). Likewise, God disciplines those whom He loves as a father who delights in his son (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6).
4. The faithful thank God for the good that God has given them (8:10; 8:17–18). Moses warned Israel not to credit themselves for the good that has come to them. “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deut 8:17–18). God will give those who do not thank and honor Him over to lusts and passions of dishonor (Rom 1:18–28).
5. A person forgets God by not keeping His commands (8:11). Moses warned that if Israel forgot God and served other gods then they will perish (Deut 8:19–20). Those who forget God cannot obey Him. Many people live without much thought of God today and they will perish (2 Thess 1:7–9). The same is true for believers who leave God to worship wealth, recreation, influence, and lusts.
Thank God and humble yourself before Him. Obey God’s Word and live in His commands because His commands are for your good. Remember all that He has given you.