February 24th

Deuteronomy 7-9

  • 7: 1-5 – Moses explains to the Israelites why they must wipe out the other people groups. God commands this in order to protect them from the temptations they will certainly fall to worship other gods.
  • 7: 17-19 – God knew that the Israelites would be fearful to face those they were to fight, but they are reminded of God’s intervention with the Egyptians so they can have confidence that he will be faithful again.
  • 8: 3 – Though the Israelites were so worried about food throughout their time in the desert, God provided miraculously to help the Israelites rely on him, not food. Jesus also quotes this verse when tempted by the devil in the desert.
  • 8: 11-20 – A great reminder for us today that God is the giver of all of our gifts and we shouldn’t abandon him once we’re comfortable.
  • 9: 4-5 – Self-righteousness is always a struggle for people who consider themselves “good people”. The Israelites could have easily started to see their blessings as based on their own skill and righteousness instead of because of God’s faithfulness.
  • 9: 6-21 – Moses recounts the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in making a golden calf as God was making a covenant with them through Moses up on the mountain.

February 23rd

Deuteronomy 4-6

  • 4: 1 – Listening and knowing what God calls us to do is good, but the doing is where faithfulness really comes in.
  • 4:9 – This is a command to the Israelites to keep up the oral tradition of passing down the story of their God
  • 4:25-29 – God knows that we will stray at times and he promises that when we discover the error of our ways and turn back and seek him that he will be there ready for us.
  • 4:32-40 – Moses reminds the Israelites that there are no other gods like our God and that he has proven himself and his faithfulness to them in a variety of ways. It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t treat pagan gods as if they don’t exist at all, but rather as if they simply have no power- this is why many New Testament authors and later Christian theologians assume these gods to be demons
  • 5:1-21— The Ten Commandments are repeated here- again, this is an example of the ancient oral traditions repeating important information to ensure it’s accurately preserved. It’s also repeated simply because it’s important- this is a summary of the entire law, and the Israelites need to remember this.
  • 5:22-33— Moses has been the mediator of God’s will until now, but from here on out the Law will mediate God’s will.
  • 6:4-5—We often attribute these words to Jesus, but in fact he was quoting the Old Testament when he called this the greatest commandment.
  • 6:8-9— The Israelites took these verses quite literally, and wore small boxes called tefillin containing slips of paper with that commandment (called the Shema) written on them strapped to their wrists and their heads, and still today it’s common for Jewish households to have it on their front door. (see pictures below)

Tefillin Note the box on his arm and on his head- at various times in history the custom has been to wear these from sunrise to sunset every day, and at other times- such as now- the custom is to only wear tefillin during the weekday prayer services.

MezuzahThis is called a Mezuzah- like the tefillin it has a small scroll inside with the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) on it. It’s still quite common to see these in the doors or doorframes of Jewish homes.

February 22nd

Deuteronomy 1-3

  • 1: 9-18 – Until now, Moses was the Israelites leader, judge, and connection to God. In this statement he spreads the power amongst leaders and judges of the individual tribes.
  • 1:30-31 – It’s helpful to look back at God’s faithfulness in our past so we can be assured that he will continue to be faithful.
  • 1:39 – God kept his promise to give the Promised Land to the Israelites. He did not give it to the older generation because they were unfaithful, but saved it for the younger generation.
  • Chapters 2 and 3 are summarizing the events that transpired on the journey through the desert- this is partly to remind the Israelites of all that God has already done for them, and partly to help preserve the story for future generations.

February 21st

Numbers 35-36

  • 35: 2 – Earlier in Numbers God explained that the Levites would not receive an inheritance, but instead would receive what was offered to God. This command is another way God provided for the Levites.
  • 35:11 – They had specific cities of refuge for people who accidentally killed people, but God makes it clear what defines an accidental death and who should not have access to the cities of refuge.
  • Chapter 36 ends Numbers with one final commandment about marriage- this one deals with ensuring that property remains in the proper tribes. It’s a strange note to end the book on, but Numbers is all about two things: 1. Getting the Israelites to the Promised Land and 2. Teaching them how to live once they’re in the Promised Land.

February 20th

Numbers 33-34

  • 33: 1-41— This is a summary of the whole journey- originally this book wasn’t written down, but passed down orally. We often think of oral traditions as being unreliable ways of conveying information (ever play the telephone game in school?), but in reality ancient cultures were exceptionally skilled at passing down information without writing it: several legends told by the native Australians have accurately recorded a rise in sea levels that isolated Australia from the Indonesian islands over 10,000 years ago. Repetitive summaries like this chapter are one of the ways they helped ensure the continued accuracy of the story
  • 33:50-56—These verses are important for understanding the Book of Joshua- note that God doesn’t command the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites (descriptions of such exterminations in later books are narrative hyperbole) but to drive them out– to clear them out of the land, and to dismantle their culture. This still seems harsh and unfair, but the Canaanites were radically evil- in addition to rampant sexual immorality, they practiced child sacrifice as one of their principle forms of worship. God commands the end of their culture because: a) He doesn’t want the Israelites to be influenced by their practices, especially since they’ve already shown that they’re easily influenced by other cultures, and b) God simply wants to rid the world of their evil.
  • By not ordering the complete extermination of the Canaanites, God is actually showing mercy- if the Israelites can dislodge them from the homes and dismantle their culture they might have a chance at redemption.
  • 34:1-15— For much of Israel’s history they will not hold all of this territory- the amount of land within these God-given boundaries that Israel actually controls will always be directly related to how faithfully they are upholding their covenant with God. During the reigns of David and Solomon, they actually exceed these boundaries in some places.

February 19th

Numbers 31-32

  • 31:13-24— Killing the women and male children seems extremely harsh, but the Israelites were always tempted to mix with other nations when they weren’t completely wiped out. Moses reminds them of their indiscretions in Peor caused by their unwillingness to follow God’s commands completely.
  • Chapter 32— Moses sniffs out the fear of the leaders of the tribes of Reuben and Gad. They do not want to go to war to inherit the land God has promised to them. Eventually they come to a compromise where they will still fight, but leave their children and livestock behind.

What to expect this week

We finish Numbers and start Deuteronomy.

The word Deuteronomy comes from a Greek word that means “second law”; this is because Deuteronomy restates much of the Law written in Leviticus. This book is Moses’ last sermon to Israel- it’s his final public address as their leader.

Moses will die before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, and he knows it. Still, he’s spent over forty years leading these people and during that time he hasn’t been merely their political leader- he’s served as the mediator of God’s will for Israel. God has communicated to Israel through Moses, and Moses has been responsible for teaching Israel how to live in accordance with God’s will. Now, they will finally enter the Promised Land, and Moses won’t be with them. He must have felt the way so many parents feel when their children leave to go live on their own; as you read Deuteronomy, try to put yourself in Moses’ shoes and see this book as he saw it.

February 18th

Numbers 28-30

  • Most of us tend to read through the explanations of offerings simply to get through that section. Today, try reading it as if you were an Israelite who actually needed to know the details in order to follow God’s law.
  • Burnt offerings are often followed with a description that it has a “pleasing aroma to the Lord.” Since we no longer offer burnt offerings, what do you think we offer that presents God with a pleasing aroma?
  • Considering the quantities of the feast that starts in 29:1212, the Israelites must have had massive herds.

February 17th

Numbers 25-27

  • 25:1-5 – God takes idolatry and worship of other gods very seriously. Israel’s continues disobedience and lack of faithfulness is truly astounding at this point- it seems incomprehensible that they could continue to make the same mistake so many times even when they know what the consequences are- and yet that’s a constant theme in human behavior.
  • 25: 9 – A plague killing 24,000 people seems harsh, but God’s plan was to set the Israelites apart. When they intermixed with other nations, they often fell to the temptation of worshipping other gods. Clearly this Israelite who took the Midianite woman did so without regard to the congregation and interfered with worship in doing so.
  • Chapter 26– The Israelites were meticulous with their record keeping
  • 27:1-11 – All inheritance was passed down through male offspring until this story. This was probably shocking to the Israelites because women were seen as property, not landowners.
  • 27: 17 – In Matthew, Jesus looks at the people of Israel and has compassion on them describing them then too as “sheep without a shepherd.”
  • 27:18– Joshua becomes Moses successor. He also becomes the first official judge of Israel

February 16th

Numbers 22-24

  • Balaam consistently goes to the Lord for guidance before taking any action. He makes a powerful statement in vs. 18, “Though Balak were to give me his house of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more.”
  • 22:22 – It is confusing why God gets angry about Balaam going with the princes of Balak because God gave him permission. God’s permission, however, was to only do what God told him to do. Balaam may have acted in a way at some point that was not pleasing to God.
  • 22:23-35—I want that donkey; who wouldn’t want a talking donkey? Also, I love that the angel’s first words are essentially “Hey, idiot, why were you hitting that donkey?” as if it’s totally normal for a man’s talking donkey to be able to see supernatural beings that are invisible to the rest of us.
  • Balak continues to push Balaam to bend to his will instead of God’s. Balaam’s response is continually, “All that the Lord says, that I must do.”
  • 24: 3-9 – Through Balaam’s obedience to God, he is blessed with a greater understanding and insight to God’s plan, provision, and protection for the Israelites. He expresses this in this oracle