Deuteronomy

Pass it Down

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In Bible times, the Israelites didn’t have smartphones, tablet computers and laptops to take video, pictures or to write down important things that they would save for their children and grandchildren. Instead, they would usually pass knowledge and sentiments down through songs that they would teach their children. Other times, stories would be told and passed down through the generations. They might’ve also decorated their houses by writing important information and posting it on their doors or, even literally, wearing scripture on their wrists and foreheads as if it were a form of jewelry. Whatever the case, if something were important enough for one generation, it would be passed down to those who would be born after them. That is the way it was with the commandments that God gave them, so that future generations would continue to follow them. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 the Bible says:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Like the Israelites, God wants us to pass down our faith to our children. We need to talk about it when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up, as the Bible says. It should be so important to us, that we should make it a part of our daily conversation. Our children shouldn’t have to wait for Sunday school to learn about God. And we shouldn’t have to attend a Bible study to get our weekly dose of Bible knowledge. Families should talk about God on a daily basis. Do you? If not, I’d encourage you to find ways to make your faith a greater part of who you are. Just as important, we need to pass our faith down to our children so that they can pass it down to theirs and so on. We’re not just talking about a neat tradition here, we’re talking about generations of souls that need to be taught the truth.

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It is our responsibility to pass what we know about God to the next generation. It could be our kids, nephews, nieces, grandkids, or even our brothers and sisters. In a world where the gospel is being silenced and treated as irrelevant, those of us who know that eternity hangs in the balance should treat it as the most precious thing we can pass down to another. It is literally more important than anything you could ever give someone. And when God is talked about consistently, the truth can be planted so deep that when they grow old, they will not depart from it. God’s command to the Israelites is his command to us as well. God should be a daily conversation within our families, because if they don’t see us valuing the gospel, they may not either.

God Carries you

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Remember the story in the Old Testament where God brings the Israelites to the promise land, but when they scout it out in preparation of taking possession of it, they lose heart because of the large people and the fortified cities? Because they lacked faith in believing that God would fight for them, they were sent to wander in the desert until the faithless generation died out. When they finally made it back, Moses recounted what happened the first time around. Deuteronomy 1:28-31 says this:

“Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’”

The Israelites feared the occupants of the promised land because they were behaving as if their own strength would win or lose the fight. But Moses reminded them that God carried them through all of the hard times from Egypt to the promised land. So in reality it had never been about their strength, it was about God’s faithfulness. We have to remember that as well. When we are going through difficult times, it is God who carries us as a father carries his son the Bible says. If we put our faith and trust in him, he will carry us. Like the Israelites, we need to remember how he has carried us in the past and know that he can also carry us through whatever situation we are facing, or will face, in the future.

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God miraculously ordered 10 plagues in Egypt before delivering his chosen people. Then, he split the Red Sea to rescue them from Pharaoh. He appeared as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to lead them. When they were hungry, he made manna appear for them in the morning. When they were thirsty, he made water gush from a rock. Time and time again, God carried the Israelites to the promised land. It was never by their own strength, but by the strength and deliverance of God. We serve the same God who did all of the things we read about in the Bible. And as the Israelites are called his children, if we believe in Jesus, we are called his children as well. If God carried the Israelites, don’t you think he can, and will, carry you as well? He will. And maybe if you consider your life up until now, you’ll realize that he has been carrying you all along.

Hold Fast

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When I read the words in Deuteronomy, it seems like a million years since they were written. But in actuality, it was only a few thousand. It seems alien because the way we live today is very different than the way they lived back then. But like us, they were human. And being human carries with it the same temptations, frailties, and needs that are common to man. In chapter 13, Moses warns the Israelites to stay focused on their devotion to God. In his time, there were prophets and seers who would reveal what would happen in the future. Some were from God and others were not. For those who were not, it was feared that they might lead the Hebrews away to other gods. But in verse 4 Moses says: 

"It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him."

Earlier, Moses says that God might allow false prophets to enter their midst in order to test them. To past the test, their eyes needed to be focused on God. In much the same way we need to have our eyes focused on God. We may not be tempted to worship other gods, but there are other temptations that could lead us away from him just as easily. But our first love, our first focus, needs to be on him. Moses says that we must follow and revere God; that we need to keep his commands and obey him; that we must serve him and hold fast to him. I encourage you to pursue these goals as well.

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Matthew warns us not to allow the seeds of God’s word to fall on thorny ground or life may choke it out. Is your life choking out your devotion to God? Moses warns us that it is the Lord our God that we must follow; that it is to him we must hold fast. It is kind of like a sailor strapping himself to the mast of his ship when a storm hits. That mast holds him fast. He is not thrown overboard. For us, God is our mast. We need to hold fast to him. We need to cling to him. We need to understand that he should be our primary focus. Matthew 6:33 tells us that if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness then he will take care of everything else. I encourage you to do that today. I encourage you to hold fast to God.

Remember

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I find it amazing that we, as humans, are at times quick to forget events that should otherwise define us or shape who we are. Maybe it is human nature to stay on an even keel and not let our highs or lows drastically affect us, but at times that could be to our detriment. We see this with the Israelites as they were quick to forget the amazing miracles that God performed for them in Egypt and in the desert. What God did should’ve been branded on the heart of every Israelite, shaping their trust in God for whatever was to come next. For some it did, and for others it didn’t. But Moses reminds them in Deuteronomy 10:21:

"He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes."

For some of the Israelites, even the incredible miracles; the 10 plagues against the Egyptians, parting of the red sea, sending mana from heaven, and producing water from a rock did not seem to affect their faith. For every hurdle that came next in their journey, they seemed to forget the truth; that nothing is too great for our God. I encourage you not to be like that. If God has answered your prayer, remember what you saw with your own eyes. Let that experience change you. Let it grow your faith. Let it shape and define you. Use it the next time you cry out to God as a reminder of who he is.

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When God answers your prayer, when he shows up in a miraculous way, when he intervenes on your behalf, use that experience to boost your faith. Remember what he has done the next time you cry out to him. Faith is necessary in every believer’s walk. Hopefully, your faith and my faith increases over time, and that God’s faithfulness shapes our view of him. Remember to give God high praise when he comes through for you. And the next time you cry out to him, remember what he did for you and know that he will come through for you again.

Heart and Soul

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I’ve found that many believers aren’t too keen on reading the old testament. And even if they journey there every once in a while, books like Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are often avoided. But I encourage you to give them a look. You might find that there are a lot of powerful accounts that help us to better understand our God and his character. We can also learn from the Israelites and in many ways, apply what God says to them to ourselves a well. One such example comes from Deuteronomy chapter 10 verses 12 and 13 which says:

"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask 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 observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"

In this, Moses describes an attitude of total reverence for God, total obedience to God, and total dedication to God. He says that we are to walk in his ways, to love him and to serve him with all of our heart and soul. And although he is talking to the Israelites here, I think that we today, should adopt this same attitude. I encourage you to follow God with everything that is in you. To pattern your entire personality, your goals, your thoughts and your life on a submitted and dedicated relationship to our created. And to serve him with all of your heart and soul.

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To love and to serve God with all of our heart and soul means total commitment. It doesn’t mean serving him half way. It means going all in. In my mind, I picture someone literally throwing off everything that doesn’t matter in life and running hard after him - kind of like the parable of the pearl found in the field. He sold everything he had to buy the field to obtain the pearl. That is the attitude that every believer should aspire to. That is the attitude that God seeks in his people. He wants followers who will worship him in spirit and in truth. And there is no stronger evidence of that than to serve him with all of your heart and soul.