Defining Good

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 11.2
Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm.

Reflection: Defining Good
By Carolyn Westendorf 

My 2-year-old son ran off in the parking lot. It seemed good to him to have some fun. I saw danger with cars driving around us. I knew what was actually good for him. Parents discipline their children for their good. Children resist discipline for their own definition of good.

Consider the Lord’s discipline (Deuteronomy 11.2-6). It seemed good to Pharaoh to attack Israel at the Red Sea, but his hard heart caused him to be drowned. It seemed good to the Israelites to complain and doubt God, but their unbelief left them in the desert for forty years. It seemed good to Dathan and Abriam to overthrow Moses and Aaron’s leadership, but their selfish ambition led to the ground swallowing them up. What seemed good was not actually good.

God urged his people to remember these examples of discipline because he knew where he was taking them. The Promised Land was different from the land they knew (Deuteronomy 11.10-12). The Israelites planted and irrigated their gardens in Egypt. God was preparing them for a new way of working. They would plant. God would water. They needed to trust God to provide the rain and provide it at the right time. They needed to believe that God cared for them and would not let them starve. They needed to let go of their own understanding of good provision and lean on God’s definition of what was for their good.

The Lord disciplined the Israelites to prepare their hearts to live in the Promised Land. I discipline my son to prepare him for living under God’s discipline. God disciplines Christians to prepare their hearts for a future with him. A relationship with God is one of continual trust in his definition of what is for our good. God’s correction in our lives matures us to embrace this kind of life.

God wants us to choose him and to live in his ways, not what seems good to us. He corrects our definition of good and teaches us how good his ways are. He has our future in mind when he stops us from spiritually running in a busy parking lot.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O God of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 11 (Listen 4:38)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen 3:14)

Read more about Between Gerizim and Ebal
God wants blessings for all people and his loving voice echoes in scripture like shouts across a canyon.

Read more about Much Given, Much Expected
If Abihu and Nadab were given much, how much more have we been given?…we bear a greater responsibility.

Stubborn Praise

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 10.16, 21
16 do not be stiff-necked any longer…21 He is the one you praise; he is your God.

Reflection: Stubborn Praise
By Jane Schaible

We know the story of grumbling Israel. Generations were stiff-necked and stubborn. Their ancestors were known as the ultimate complainers. They were grumblers who often failed to praise God. They had hearts that were headstrong and contrary. We read about them and sigh, thinking, “Again, Israel?”

But we need to be fair here. Before completely condemning them, we should take a moment for self-reflection. Are we really that much “above” the ultimate complainers? 

I’ll confess something to you. I’m probably one of the most critical, stubborn, stiff-necked people you’ll ever meet. And usually proud of it. 

In these moments of self-glorying pride, my eyes land on God’s unchanging words – “do not be stiff-necked any longer.”

When I read them, I get a wee bit squeamish. I can’t take my eyes away from them and I begin to self-doubt. I reluctantly ask myself, has the condition of my headstrong, contrary, stiff-necked heart kept me from praise?

Yes. Yes, I admit that it has.

He is the one I should praise. He is the one I want to praise. He is the one I long to praise. He is the one I gladly praise. That is when I do praise. 

Too often I have stubbornly allowed my prideful heart to guide how I respond to his great wonders. I have been stiff-necked even in my praise. 

Instead of being stubbornly proud, I want to be stubbornly humble. I long for the strong determination in me to fuel praise, rather than complaint.   

Scripture reminds me that God has done his great wonders and gives his words for our own good (Deuteronomy 10.13). These wonders and words of deliverance, grace, affection, and love renew my stubborn ways. They open up my heart and my mouth towards a new kind of stubbornness, one that is stubbornly determined to lift my voice up to him always.

Oh Lord, your mercy is great, and your grace is abundant. I praise you because you are the faithful, committed, loving God, who set his affection on me and my sisters and my brothers. You are the mighty and awesome God who delivers me in my weakness by the strength of your Son. You are the one who saved me and gave me your living word (John 1:14). You have been the determined one.

You, you alone are the one I praise, you alone are my God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done. — Psalm 9.11 – From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 10 (Listen 3:12)
2 Corinthians 4 (Listen 3:02)

Read more about Grumbling and Doubt
Even great leaders grumble. Leaders are prone to doubt, discontentment, and grumbling just as much as followers.

Read more about Complaints and Responses
When the reality of our world does not match the promises of God, complaint can be a spiritual practice rather than a sin.

Defeating Giants of Pride

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 9.1-6
1 Hear, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. 2 The people are strong and tall—Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” 3 But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.

4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Reflection: Defeating Giants of Pride
By Carolyn Soto Jackson

God frequently warned Israel against taking on pride and claiming righteousness that was not their own. In Deuteronomy 9, God promised to go before them and annihilate the Anakites. These descendants of Anak, who are noted as tall and strong, did not intimidate God. He told Israel not to fear these “giants.” God made it clear he would destroy them with one quick blow and the land they possessed would be given over to the Israelites. 

Pride frequently tempted the Israelites. They might think they had reason for pride after defeating the Anakites but they were certainly not capable of defeating them without God.

Pride is often described as, “haughty eyes” as in Proverbs 6:16-17. In Hebrew, sinful pride means being “set on high” or “lifting oneself on high.” In English, we have similar idioms such as “high and mighty” and “holier than thou.”

Why do we take on pride? For what reasons do we try to lift ourselves above others? It can be easy to succumb to haughty eyes by looking down on others or viewing ourselves above others. For centuries, followers of God have taken on pride for no other reason than their own glory, all the while, robbing glory from God who deserves it.

Let us not forget, God detests the sin of pride. When God’s people boast about themselves, fill their chests in arrogance, and exult in their own righteousness, God cringes. 

God destroyed the wicked nation of the Anakites because of their evil ways, graciously handing over the land to the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan.

God did not give Israel possession of the land because of their humility or righteousness. It was because of God’s disgust at the pride and wickedness of the Anakites. This revealed to Israel God’s grace, omnipotence, and desire to teach his children to give glory where it was due.

There will be times in our lives when we believe we figured it out, and we succumb to pride. But God is the one who goes before us. God is the one who gives us wisdom. God paves the way. Knocks down every giant. Empowers every success. When we are tempted to take on pride in any accomplishment, let us be reminded, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory.” (Psalm 115.1)

Let God defeat our giants of pride.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 9 (Listen 5:06)
2 Corinthians 3 (Listen 2:25)

Read more about Are We Proud of the Prideful?
Too often, we aren’t ashamed of the prideful, we are proud of them. “Look at all they’ve done!”

Read more about Icarus and Israel
God commanded his people to repent and show their sorrow. Instead, the people are filled with pride.

A Prayer Against Spiritual Amnesia

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 6.12
12 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Reflection: A Prayer Against Spiritual Amnesia
By Dennis Nicholson

Sprinkled throughout the pages of the Pentateuch is one recurring word: remember. 

Sometimes the authors use it to describe God acting in covenant faithfulness to his people. In the wake of a cataclysmic flood, God remembered Noah and his family and commanded the waters to subside (Genesis 8.1). When the people of Israel cried out under the aching burden of slavery, God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and executed swift justice (Exodus 2.24).

Many times the authors use “remember!” as a command. They exhort their readers to re-envision their circumstances, priorities, and responsibilities through the lens of God’s actions, character, and commandments. Throughout his life and writing, Moses pleaded with the Israelites to remember God’s mighty power, his steadfast love, and his just laws, so that they would obey him and enter the flourishing, prosperous land he had set apart for them (Numbers 15.37-40, Deuteronomy 6.13, 25). 

When we remember God’s past faithfulness, we find strength for present obedience and hope for the future.

Sadly, like the ancient Israelites, we are afflicted with spiritual amnesia (Numbers 11.5). Just as Israel turned away from following the Lord and forgot his gracious care, we are distracted by a thousand other voices and forget to heed the voice of Jesus. May this prayer recenter our hearts and minds on the God whose love we are prone to forget.

God, we remember that you are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: faithful to the thousandth generation of those who love you (Exodus 34.6).

We confess that…
We have failed to remember your covenant faithfulness. 
We have let anxiety cloud out your provision. 
We have let guilt foot the bill for sins your blood redeemed in full.

We are nearsighted; our spiritual eyes have grown dim.
We suffer from memory loss; we continually forget to seek your face.

Open our eyes, so that we can see the full brightness of your steadfast love.
Renew our minds, so that we always remember your forgiveness and embrace.
Remind us of your sovereign care with each passing sparrow we encounter today.
Strengthen us to obey your commands, that we may grow in our love of you.

Father, impress your salvation on your children’s hearts.
May we talk about Jesus when we lie down and when we get up.
Inscribe your laws on our hearts by your Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6.6-9).

In all things, may we remember. In remembering, may we obey. In obeying, may we live.z

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66.7-8

  – From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 6 (Listen 3:13)
1 Corinthians 16 (Listen 2:54)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 7 (Listen 4:13), 2 Corinthians 1 (Listen 3:52)
Deuteronomy 8 (Listen 2:58)2 Corinthians 2 (Listen 2:13)

Read more about Forward-Looking Remembering
Remembering is not “living in the past” or “longing for the good ole days,”…it informs our hope for a future that God has for us.

Read more about Meaning in Remembrance
Remembering is not just the recall of facts. Remembering is powerful. God often commanded the people to “remember.”

The Heart of Christ in Deuteronomy

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 5.28-29
28 The Lord heard you when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! 

Reflection: The Heart of Christ in Deuteronomy
By L E Mulford

We see the Ten Commandments illustrated clearly in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Christ expounded on the Ten Commandments, showing his desire for his people just as God the Father showed his desire for his people here in Deuteronomy 5.

This desire is deeper than a cursory obedience to the Ten Commandments. Christ referenced the sixth commandment in Matthew 5.21, but more than to “not murder” he wants us to find the root cause of why we murder. Hanging the Ten Commandments in a building just for show requires no more faith than a nail in a wall. Writing the Law of Love in our hearts puts nails through all our sins (Jeremiah 31.33). Christ takes each commandment and goes to the heart of each sin. 

Christ’s message shows that the Ten Commandments were intended to be a gateway to loving God. The people heard God’s voice and were afraid (Deuteronomy 5.29). But just as God had graciously shared his heart with them, he wanted their hearts in return as demonstrated by the first commandment: you shall have no other gods before me. Christ repeated this idea by stating that the greatest of all the commandments is to love the Lord (Matthew 22.37).

But do any of these laws apply to us today? “In the land the Lord your God is giving you,” in verse 16, seems only to apply to ancient Israelites. And yet, in verses 3 and 4, Moses says that when God spoke to the Israelite ancestors, he was speaking to every Israelite. God is still speaking to us today. He wants more than mere obedience or lip service. He wants to write this law on our hearts.An overemphasis of the 10 Commandments in our lives makes us lose focus on Christ’s desire for our entire hearts: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10.27) By following Christ in his selfless pursuit of love, we will more than surpass the legal requirements of the Ten Commandments. God gave us a glimpse of his heart with the Ten Commandments and gave us his entire heart in the gift of his son. How is the Spirit calling you to give more of your heart to him?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp, I will give thanks to you, O God my God. — Psalm 43.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 5 (Listen 4:25)
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen 8:06)

Read more about The Broken Power of Death
For those in Christ, death is a toothless predator, a limbless wrestler, who cannot hold us down for long.

Read more about Who is the Sabbath There For?
Jesus says the sabbath is for humans, not for God. Our rest, observed rightly, is an act of faith…