Monthly Archives: February 2017

Through the Bible, February 28

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflection: Today is the “Catch Up” day (if needed) for the week of February 22-28 so no reading is assigned for today.  Below, though, are some points to ponder based on this week’s readings.

  1. Since there is no assigned reading for today don’t consider this an assigned reading. But it is hard to leave Moses without at least referencing Psalm 90.  Moses, not David, is its author.  Of all that we know of Moses and what he wrote, its opening lines are rich with meaning:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

(Psalm 90:1-2)

The rest is also well worth the read.

  1. One of the sternest warnings given to Christians in the New Testament is, “Take care brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12).

Now that’s strong!  It follows immediately on the heels of a quotation from Psalm 95 that references the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness “where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years” (v. 9).

Yes, the wilderness experience served as a warning for the succeeding generation for whom Moses wrote Deuteronomy, but also for followers of Jesus down to this very day.

Devotional Thought:

Don’t Mess with the Bible

We seem to have well impressed upon our minds the idea that we should not add to nor take from the content of Scripture.  Good for us.

Deuteronomy is one of the places where this sentiment is expressed.  “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you” (Deut. 4:2; see also 12:32).

What is found here, relatively close to the beginning of the Bible, is also found near the middle (Prov. 30:5-6) and at the end (Rev. 22:18-19) as well.

I think the Lord is serious about this and doesn’t want us to forget.

What we would never do overtly, we sometimes do practically.  Really, we do.

The Bible warns us about what some have called “practical atheism.”  It’s not that a person is verbally denying the existence of God, but they act as if He’s not there (see James 4:13-17).

In the same way we may never think of trying to remove or add to the Bible, but sometimes we act as though some of the Bible’s instruction isn’t there or that some idea, opinion, or practice we have is there.  We act as though some things are in the Bible that aren’t and other things most assuredly present are no part of God’s word.

There is more than one way to add to or take away from.

Through the Bible, February 27

Reading: Deuteronomy 32-34

Summary: Some people call it a “swan song”.  I’m sure there’s a story behind that name, but Moses had one, literally (the song, not the swan).

It may seem a bit unusual to us, but an important part of the transition from Moses’ to Joshua’s leadership was the song of Moses (32:1-43).  It was by God’s command that Moses wrote it. Remember from yesterday’s reading, God said, “Now therefore, write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.” (31:19).  He intended that in the future when “many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness” (31:21).

Finally, the book closes with the account of Moses’ death, including the fact that God buried him and no one knows the tomb’s location (34:6).

Devotional Thought:

Singing Heaven’s Song

Marketers know the value of a good endorsement. They are trying to get you to do something (usually buy their product) and to do so they employ the services of some known, respected person to speak favorably about what they have to offer.  Since you already know and trust this person the likelihood is that you will do as they suggest is greatly enhanced.

What would you think of an endorsement from heaven?

It’s not that anything is for sale, but this song that God instructed Moses to write and teach to the people of Israel as a witness for Him (Deut. 32:1-43) is also sung in heaven (Rev. 15:3).  What happens in heaven ought to be of supreme interest to us all.

The message of this song was quite important for Israel and, obviously, is one heaven itself finds worthy of repetition.  It seems appropriate that this song would capture our own attention as well.


For I will proclaim the name of the LORD;

ascribe greatness to our God!

The Rock, his work is perfect,

for all his ways are justice.

A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,

just and upright is he.

(Deut. 32:3-4)


If my interest is in heaven, and it is, then a song sung there is my interest as well.  And just think, it’s a song I can learn before I arrive.

Through the Bible, February 26

Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-22; 31

Summary: Today’s reading goes back and picks up an important prophecy about the coming Messiah (18:15-22).  When people in the New Testament thought about John the Baptist or Jesus in terms of “the prophet,” this is what they were talking about (see John 1:21; Matt. 16:14).

As Joshua has previously been selected as Moses’ successor (see Num. 27:18-23), he is now “officially” commissioned to lead (31).

Devotional Thought:

God’s Blessing is America’s Curse

We thank God for our blessings, as we should.

Do we always know how to rightly identify blessings?  It sounds like it would be easy enough doesn’t it?  All of the good things that we enjoy we acknowledge to come from the hand of God–those are blessings.

Things like prosperity and wealth and physical goods that make our lives more pleasant and easy sure do fall in this category, don’t they? Surely!

But God warned Israel–and we ought to pay attention as well–that once they had received what God had given them, when they were “satisfied and had become prosperous” they would turn away from God (Deut. 31:20; NASB).  At that point their blessings would become a curse.

Is it mere coincidence that the American culture, having achieved its greatest heights of wealth and prosperity, is at the same time suffering its worst spiritual crisis?  Hardly.

God’s blessings have become our curse.

Through the Bible, February 25

Read: Deuteronomy 27-29

Summary: The bottom line is whether or not we will obey God.  That was the critical issue of Adam and Eve’s experience in Eden and it is the critical issue for Israel as they prepare to enter Canaan’s “rest” (see Hebrews 4).

Obedience brings blessing.  Disobedience, of necessity, brings a curse.  Moses carefully and clearly lays this out (27-28).  The instructions included here that will visually and audibly impress these truths on Israel (see 27:4-8) are indeed later fulfilled as given (see Joshua 8:30-35).

Based on this restatement of “the words of the covenant” (not just the matters of blessing and cursing, but all that’s been said in this book thus far), the covenant relationship with God is reaffirmed (29).

Devotional Thought:

What God Could Do or Has Done?

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden is remembered as much for the life lessons he taught as his record number of national championships.

“Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do” was among those lessons.

We all have limitations.  But when we begin to focus on our inabilities, our handicaps, and our shortcomings, we fail to accomplish all that we are perfectly capable of doing.

We have limitations spiritually.  God says as much when we are told that there are some things which God has kept secret from us (Deut. 29:29).  We don’t know everything and what’s more, we can’t know.

That disturbs some folks. Consequently, they have become obsessed with what God could do or what is within the realm of possibility, all the while virtually ignoring what God says He has done and what He has put in place.

“The things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 20:29).

Instead of worrying about what God “could” or “might” do, we should focus instead on what He “does” and “is”.

What God is able to accomplish through us and in us and by us based on what He has made known should never be hampered by our concerns for what He has kept secret.

Through the Bible, February 24

Reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-12:28

Summary: The gist of today’s reading–and all of Deuteronomy for that matter–can be summed up in these words:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (10:12-13).

Beginning in 12:29 and going through chapter 26 Moses repeats many of the specific laws and instructions previously given at Sinai.  These won’t be a part of our readings from Deuteronomy.  Tomorrow we will move ahead to some of the closing matters of the book.

Devotional Thought:

Different But the Same

Great measures have been taken by many teachers and preachers of the Bible to show the distinction between the Old Covenant and the New; that the Law of Moses is no longer binding as a law on God’s children.  That is as it should be because the Bible itself makes that distinction (see Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13; Rom. 8:3; etc.).

On the other hand, the effort to show that both the Old and New Covenants are based on the same principles has not been so strong.  That is not as it should be.

When Paul wrote that disciples of Jesus Christ have been circumcised (see Rom. 2:9; Col. 2:11) he was saying exactly the same thing that Moses said was to be true of those under the first covenant and the Law.

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:14-18).

Circumcision that counts, whether speaking of the Old or New Covenant, is circumcision of the heart.  That is a heart that knows who and what God really is.

Different covenants, but the same God.

Through the Bible, February 23

Reading: Deuteronomy 5-8

Summary: So much about today’s reading demands our attention:

The Ten Commandments are repeated (chapter 5) as would be expected in the giving of the “second law”. The “Greatest Command” is found in 6:4-5. The three passages Jesus used to combat the temptations of Satan in the wilderness are found in this reading (6:13, 16; 8:3).

The weight of importance of Moses’ task in calling these people–whom he will soon see no longer–to faithfulness is nowhere any more evident.

Devotional Thought:

God’s Offer

I want what God has to offer.

Is that a bad thing?  Is it selfish or wrong to think that way?

Surely we don’t think so.  God has gone to great lengths to make available His blessings to me and you.  It is accessible to the exclusion of no one.

But how and why might I expect to receive it?

Moses’ words to Israel as they readied themselves to receive what God had to offer them (the promised land) are helpful to us.

We should not expect it because we are deserving of it.

Moses wanted to be sure Israel understood this (see Deut. 7:7-8).  God did not love them because they were so deserving or lovable.  Rather it was because of who He was.

We are the recipients of God’s love due to no merit of our own, and especially not in response to our love for Him (1 John 4:10).  As a matter of fact, His love is shown to the evil and ungrateful, to His very enemies (Luke 6:35; Rom. 5:8, 10).  Make no mistake; that is us in sin.

We should expect that God anticipates our submission to His will, that is, our obedience.

Back to Moses again:

“Oh that hey had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might to well with them” (Deut. 5:29). “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you” (Deut. 6:18). “And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful t do all this commandment before the lord our God” (Deut. 6:25). “Know therefore that the Lord you God is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deut. 7:9).

Not that our obedience ever puts God at any obligation to bless us in any way.  Read the previous sentence again; and again, if necessary.  Rather, we obey because of what God has done for us and what He does offer.

Our salvation is not ever deserved, that’s what makes it grace.  But that grace does not make obedience unnecessary, as a matter of fact its the very thing that moves us to obey.

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

I want what God has to offer.

Through the Bible, February 22

Reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-2:25; 3:23-4:40

Summary: Moses begins by recounting the events since leaving Mt. Sinai (note that he here refers to it as “Horeb”), the failure at Kadesh-Barnea, and forty years wandering. He marks the “official” end of the punishment of wandering as their crossing the boarder into Moab at Ar (Deut. 2:16-18).

The account tells the victory over two kings of this region–Sihon and Og–which we will not read (2:26-3:22).

Deuteronomy 4 has to stand out as one of the great chapters of the Bible.  Among many other things, God is shown to us as both “a consuming fire” and “a compassionate God” (vv. 24, 31).  This chapter is worthy not only of our reading, but much thought, study, and meditation.

Devotional Thought:


Have you ever carried a child?  Probably. Why do that?

The reasons could be many.  The child cannot walk and is unable to effectively move from one place to another.  That’s common.

Maybe the child just isn’t strong enough to walk very far or fast enough to keep up.  That happens too.

It may be for safety purposes in a crowded, busy location or maybe where at least a potential for some harm exists.  We hold the child to protect them.

But, sometimes children are held simply for the desire for closeness.  It’s a bonding time.  Physical nearness helps develop emotional ties.

Those are all good, legitimate reasons to carry a child.

With that in mind, think about how Moses describes God’s actions with Israel in the wilderness: “…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. 1:31).

What a picture.  Can you see yourself in it?

God carries us.  He does so for all the very same reasons we would carry a child; when we cannot walk or are not strong enough to “keep up,” to protect us from danger and harm, and be near to us, because He loves and cares so much for us.

Though the picture is slightly changed, the lovely notion is not: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom” (Isa. 40:11).

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

Through the Bible, Week 4 Introduction

Week 4: Preparations to Enter Canaan

February 22-28

            Forty years of wilderness wandering are over. The time from Egypt to this place has been long, but the distance is not.  It took three months to get from Egypt to Sinai and less than that from Sinai to Kadesh, with a year’s stop at the holy mountain.  That’s less than one and half years.  But it has been over 40 years.

These are now a different people than had been at Sinai and received the Law from Moses.  Those had all died in the wilderness.  These had all been under 20 years of age at Sinai or born since then.

They needed to hear again the statutes, conditions, commands and requirements of the Law.  That’s what the book of Deuteronomy is all about.  That’s even what the name means: “second law”.  Not an additional one, but a restatement of the same one–yet far from a mechanical repetition of the same information.

The book is actually organized around three speeches given by Moses beginning in 1:5; 5:1; and 29:1.

One of the greatest values of Deuteronomy is to consider it as the message of Moses preparing these people to inherit the long awaited promised land, in light of the experiences of the past 40 years.  As one might imagine Moses’ appeals are impassioned, especially since he knows he won’t be accompanying them across the Jordan.

Our readings this week will not include the portions that repeat specific laws and regulations, the bulk of which are found in chapters 13-26.  Some of the readings, though (particularly on the 22nd to the 24th), are a bit longer than typical.

Through the Bible, February 21

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thought and Reflection: Today is the catch up day for the week of February 15-21 so no reading is scheduled.  Below, though, are some thoughts prompted by this past week’s reading.

  1. When Paul warned the Corinthian church against spiritually harmful behaviors (1 Cor. 10), he appealed to Israel’s wilderness experience to show Christians what not to do. He specifically mentions the events recorded in Numbers 21 and 25, as well as others (1 Cor. 10:7-10).  That discussion closes with the reassuring promise, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may endure it” (v. 13).
  2. Sin carries guilt and sin carries consequences. Those aren’t always the same thing.  When the people sinned at Kadesh in following the 10 unfaithful spies, Moses interceded for the people, asking God to forgive.  And God did forgive (Num. 14:20).  Still, they must suffer the consequences for that sin, which God determined would be that they would not enter the Promised Land.  We may be forgiven of sin and still suffer its consequences.
  3. Not included in our reading this week, but rather interesting, is Numbers 33. In it is listed every place the Israelites camped in the wilderness from leaving Egypt to the plains of Moab next to Jordan just prior to crossing into Canaan.

Devotional Thought:

It’s Not Enough

Do you attend worship services regularly?  Good.

Do you read your Bible and pray with any frequency at all?  That’s good.

Are you part of a fellowship of Christians, a church family, where you have encouraging friendships and associations with people of like faith?  I do hope so.

Do you live among people who, though they may have differing religious views, still have respect for God, Jesus as His Son, and the Bible as His word?   What a blessing.

Do you have a family that supports and encourages and perhaps even shares your faith?   That’s a plus.

We may feel–and it may well be true–that we have a wonderful support network, a safety net if you will, that helps to hold us up spiritually and to catch us if we might fall.


The Bible warns us not to get too comfortable in all of that.

As a warning Scripture uses the experiences of the children of Israel in the wilderness.  They were afforded great and numerous spiritual blessings and advantages (see 1 Cor. 10:1-4).  “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (v. 5).

After recounting several of these events (vv. 6-11; most of which we’ve read this past week), Paul says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (v. 12).

Christian family and friends, a church family and fellowship, spiritual practices and habits are all good, admirable and enviable even.  But they are no guarantee.  And certainly they can never be made the foundation of our faith.  They serve well to support and encourage, but the bedrock of it all is our relationship with God through Jesus.  It’s my trust and confidence that lies solely with Him.

Nurture, guard, protect, feed, foster, cultivate, strengthen and stimulate that relationship.  Nothing can substitute for that.

Through the Bible, February 20

Reading: Numbers 26:1-4, 63-65; 27:15-23; 32

Summary: Wandering Officially Ends

Previously at Mt. Sinai God had Moses conduct a census of the people. It counted males 20 years old and over of all the tribes (except Levi).  Now after the plague at Peor, God instructs a second census to be taken.  This census confirmed that all of the unfaithful generation who had sinned at Kadesh had indeed died in the wilderness.  The punishment was complete.

Several events begin to play out that look toward the entrance into the Promised Land.  These include the selection of Joshua as Moses’ successor and a special request from two of the tribes.

Devotional Thought:

Outlive Yourself

That’s a nifty little trick, isn’t it? It isn’t living longer than you could or should, but making sure your influence and that to which you have dedicated yourself outlives you.

So how does that work?

Two ways: First, by dedicating yourself to something bigger than you.  If your life is all about getting what you want, satisfying self, and aligning all of life’s circumstance to your liking then you’ve set your sights way too low.  As a matter of fact, a more unworthy pursuit of life would be hard to find.

Here’s the best advice I can offer–and it’s not even mine: “But above all pursue his kingdom  and righteousness” (Matt. 6:33; NET).  No bigger, better, or higher pursuit could be found for anyone’s life.

Second, help someone else along that same path.  Some people call it mentoring.  Call it what you will, it’s about doing what you can to make sure there is at least one person who will continue pursuing the purpose and goal of your life.  And so, you outlive yourself.

Moses’ concern, knowing that his time was limited, was that the Lord’s people “not be as sheep that have no shepherd” (Num. 27:17).  The needs of the Lord’s people would outlive him.

God’s answer was Joshua.  He would immediately be designated as a leader like Moses.  He would receive the Lord’s commands and would himself lead them out and bring them in.

This principle is not only applicable to designated, recognized, “out-front” leaders.  In what capacities do you specifically serve God as you pursue his kingdom and righteousness?  Bible class teacher, parent, friend, ministry leader, business man or woman, community volunteer, a specific professional career?

That list is virtually endless, but it’s important to identify what you are doing.  And then, ask, “Who is my Joshua?”  If you don’t have one, find one.