Spiritual Indicators

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 14.22-23, 28-29
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always. 

28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 

Reflection: Spiritual Indicators
By John Tillman

The offerings the Israelites presented served many purposes. They symbolically pointed to the future sacrifice of Christ, but they also served practical and direct functions in society.

The spiritual purpose of these offerings was to bring people into the presence of the Lord for a meal. When people worshiped at the Temple, it was a large family meal in which they and the Levites and priests ate in God’s presence. This picture reflects other meals that God ate with his people, including the elders on Sinai, the disciples with Jesus, and the coming wedding feast of the Lamb.

There were practical purposes as well. Levites had no land to support themselves. They were to focus on cultivating faith, not grain or animals. The tithes, offerings, and sacrifices were God’s provision for these families. God often would judge the condition of the nation by the condition of the priests and Levites. If they were starving and struggling, the people were being unfaithful. If they grew fat and overly prosperous (1 Samuel 2.22-36) the priests and Levites were unfaithful.

God also expected the poor and marginalized to benefit from the offerings. God holds his people responsible for the welfare of the poor, the foreigners, the widows, and the orphans. The tribal economic system was not perfect and had specific problems and abuses that commonly harmed widows and orphans. These groups represent to us people who may regularly fall through the cracks of our flawed economic systems.

As with Israel, God will judge nations by the conditions of these groups. 

How are our “Levites?” Are they neglected? Are they struggling without enough financial support? Are they weighed down with demands? Are they crying out for righteousness but no one is listening?

It is simultaneously possible for Levites to become the abusers. Are they growing fat on the sacrifices? Do they abuse their followers? Are they concealing corruption and allowing abuse to continue?

How are our poor and marginalized people? Are they harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd? Are they victimized and blamed for their own suffering? Are they crying out for justice but no one is listening?

These groups are spiritual indicators, testifying to the condition of the hearts of those who claim to follow God. If we expect to dine with God in fellowship, we should not be surprised to be confronted/convicted based on the condition of these groups.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said: “As long as the day lasts we must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” — John 9.4-5

 – Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 13-14 (Listen – 6:35)
Psalm 99-101 (Listen – 2:48)

Read more about Christ, the True Hero
We are not the saviors, but the ones in need of saving. It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.

Read more about Where Judgment Falls
Eli’s sons were corrupt in the extreme…a textbook case of spiritual abuse and financial malfeasance in the name of ministry.

Ways of Canaan, Ways of Christ

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 12.4-7, 30-31
4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

…be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.

Psalm 97.10-12
10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil, 
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones 
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 
11 Light shines g on the righteous 
and joy on the upright in heart. 
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, 
and praise his holy name.

Reflection: Ways of Canaan, Ways of Christ
By John Tillman

Despite Moses’ warnings, eventually the Israelites would accommodate to the practices of the land, even while claiming to be God’s people. Every evil thing that God sent Israel to destroy Israel would eventually set back up. 

They topple corrupt and brutal kings, then ask for their own. They cleanse the land of cultic prostitution, only to become prostitutes themselves. They destroy shrines and altars soaked in the blood of children, and later set them back up. The Temple in Jerusalem that Babylon would later destroy had been debased with the very Asherah poles God commanded Joshua to cut down. Some children in the line of Christ’s human ancestors would be sacrificed to Molech by wicked kings in David’s line.

The way the world worships, the way the world operates, and the way our world’s kings lead will always be a temptation for us, just as they were for Israel. 

The way of the world is the way of Canaan. The world idolizes brutality in leaders, demanding our opponents to be crushed and dominated. The world lusts after promiscuity, desiring endless and unlimited sexual conquest. The world sacrifices others (children, family, friendship) for self-empowerment in the form of financial success, political acceptability, and personal advancement. 

As in Israel, some will take up these practices while claiming to serve God. But God will not be mocked in this way by us any more than he would by Israel. In our devotion to God, we must not take up these ways of Canaan but the way of Christ.

God would eventually choose Jerusalem as the place for his name and for centralized worship. Our worship must stay centered on Christ. Christ is the city where God dwells with us, the temple through which God meets us, the priest who serves us, the king who rules us, and the sacrifice which saves us.

We must admire gentleness instead of brutality in our leaders. We must maintain a passion for pure and holy ways of loving others, rather than satisfying our own desires. We must be willing to sacrifice our own empowerment for the benefit of others.

Our priestly task is to set before the world a better way, a light in the darkness.
Seek God’s face and ask him to reveal and remove “ways of Canaan” within you, replacing them with the ways of Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away. — Psalm 65.5

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 12 (Listen – 5:11)
Psalm 97-98 (Listen – 2:19)

Read more about Over Jordan
When we cross over the Jordan with Christ, the land has no enemies to be defeated.

Read more about Ready to Exit the Desert
The exit from Egypt was more than salvation from slavery. God began shaping Israel to walk in their role as his priestly nation, to bless all nations.

Between Gerizim and Ebal

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 11.18-20, 26-29
18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,

26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. 29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.

Reflection: Between Gerizim and Ebal
By John Tillman

Moses gave instructions for a gigantic event that he would never see. Joshua would carry it out after Moses died. (Deuteronomy 27.9-13; Joshua 8.33-35) Half the tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim and half on Mount Ebal. The tribes standing on Gerizim would pronounce the blessings that would come from obedience. The tribes standing on Ebal would pronounce the curses that would come from rebellion.

It was part antiphonal choral reading, part performance-art, part visual demonstration, part community learning event, and part worship ceremony. What a meaningful and memorable moment.

Standing in between Gerizim and Ebal, there is more at stake than personal holiness or individual choices. Israel was not just choosing whether they would be blessed but whether they would be a blessing to the nations as God promised Abraham that they would.

Israel’s role was not to destroy all other nations but to bless them. They were to bless them by being an example of righteousness. They were to bless them by being the priestly nation to whom all could come to meet God. 

God wants blessings for all people and his loving voice echoes in scripture like shouts across a canyon. Often, however, we plug our ears to God’s voice and shout back our rebellion and rejection of him. Curses echo back to us in our own, proud, stubborn voices.

Yet, God does not abandon us to the curses we choose. Jesus came to become a curse for us. (Galatians 3:12-14) Through Christ, the curse’s hold on us is broken (Revelation 22:3) and our life can overflow with good things. Jesus took the curses of Ebal and he brings to us the blessings of Gerizim.

Israel was to be God’s instrument but forgot the tune they were to play. Through Christ, we can pick up the melody. Will we choose God’s blessings and to bless others?

When we lie down and when we get up may we talk about God’s word and pass it on to others. (Deuteronomy 11.19-21)
Let us daily make a meaningful and memorable moment, dedicating ourselves to God.
Let us set before ourselves the image of Gerizim and Ebal.
May we hear and obey God’s call toward blessing.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.3

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 11 (Listen – 4:38)
Psalm 95-96 (Listen – 1:37)

Read more about His Blessings, Our Curse
We have your blessings today, Lord,
Because you took our curse!

Read more about The Value of Words
Our purpose at The Park Forum is to produce words that are filled with life, not death.
Words that bless and do not curse.

Quotations from the Desert

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 8.3
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Psalm 91.11-13
For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Reflection: Quotations from the Desert
By John Tillman

Jesus and Satan both quote from our readings today during the temptation of Christ. Satan quotes Psalm 91, telling Christ that the angels would hold him up and would shield him from harm. The words are accurately quoted, and the psalm does claim that God will miraculously aid those he loves. However, the meaning of the verse is twisted.

From the temptations in the garden to the temptations of Jesus and his followers, Satan encourages us to misapply and misinterpret God’s words. In the garden, he says, “Did God really…,” minimizing God’s provision. Standing on top of the Temple, he says God, “will command his angels,” exaggerating God’s provision.

Commenting on Satan’s use of scripture, John Piper wrote, “What makes Satan happy is when he can get Christians to believe that Proverbs 15:6 justifies the accumulation of wealth in a world of hunger; that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 abolishes charity; that Romans 9:16 makes evangelism superfluous.”

It is significant that Satan stops his quotation of the Psalm before the verse about himself: “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” He is, after all, speaking to the one destined to do the trampling.

That brings us to Christ’s quotation, in which Moses is reminding the Israelites of the purpose of the manna in the desert. Manna wasn’t a backup plan. Israel’s hunger and God’s provision was a divine plan teaching his children dependence upon God and not the wealth of the land.

Christ and the Israelites weren’t hungry in the desert for no reason. Nor are we.

Christ demonstrated that he mastered the lessons of the desert that Israel failed to learn. He demonstrated that he learned the lessons of the Garden that Adam failed to learn. He locked eyes with the serpent upon whose head his heel would soon step down with infinite crushing weight.

Connecting to God’s Word and relying on it for our sustenance, for our source of life, is a consistent theme of scripture and the purpose of spiritual disciplines. In our deserts, we must eat the Word of God and drink the Living Water of Christ. We will be fed with Honey from the Rock.

What we lost in the garden, Christ has regained.
What we failed in the desert, Christ has won.
What we cannot bear, Christ has carried.
What we cannot complete, Christ has finished.

“Lord God Almighty
Came as a preacher man
Fastin’ down in the wilderness
Quotin’ Deuteronomy to the Devil
And then He set His face like a flint
Toward Jerusalem…”

Quoting Deuteronomy to the Devil, Rich Mullins

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God; I will present to you thank-offerings;
For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living. — Psalm 56.11-12

 – Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 8 (Listen – 2:58)
Psalm 91 (Listen – 1:39)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 9 (Listen – 5:06), Psalm 92-93 (Listen – 2:09)
Deuteronomy 10 (Listen – 3:12), Psalm 94 (Listen – 2:08)

Read more about Our Opportunistic Opponent
We can resist Satan and he will flee. But just as he left Jesus in the wilderness, he is only waiting for an opportune time to return.

Read more about There is a Fountain Filled with Blood — Lenten Hymns
When we are at our lowest of lows, Jesus extends his hand to rescue us. He has been there.

The Shema and The Lord’s Prayer

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 6.3-9
3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 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. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Matthew 6.9-13
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: 
“ ‘Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be your name, 
10 your kingdom come, 
your will be done, 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
11 Give us today our daily bread. 
12 And forgive us our debts, 
as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
13 And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from the evil one.’

Reflection: The Shema and The Lord’s Prayer
By John Tillman

Many people today pray daily using The Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught his disciples in the New Testament. Jesus and his disciples however, already grew up saying a daily prayer. It was a prayer taken from Moses’ speech to the people about to enter the land and was, in Jesus’ day, said twice daily. Jesus answered using this prayer when he was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was. (Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 22.36-40)

This prayer is called, “the Shema.” The Shema takes its name from the first word of the prayer. The Hebrew word shema is sometimes translated to listen or hear. In this prayer, and elsewhere in scripture, hearing and obeying are intrinsically linked in the Hebrew language. Shema implies not just hearing words but carrying them out. 

In The Lord’s Prayer, action is also implied. Praying “your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven,” is not intended to be a passive wish with no participation on our part. In both the Shema and The Lord’s Prayer, we are expected to engage in concrete actions once we stop praying.

We will pray today, combining these two prayers from scripture. Before you rise from prayer, ask God to guide your feet and hands to enact his word.

Hear, Listen, Obey
We ask you to hear us, God, but we need to hear you.
You alone are God, our only Father in Heaven
Your name is holy as we are to be holy.
Father, Son, and Spirit are one, as we are to be one.

You alone are the provider of our bread.
You alone are the forgiver of our debts.

In return, Lord, we love you with all our heart, showing your love to others in forgiveness
In return, Lord, we love you with all our soul, opening our inner being to your indwelling
In return, Lord, we love you with all our strength. The strength of our body and mind, we give to you for your service and will.

Tie your Word to us that…
In your strength, may we resist temptation.
In your love, may we rescue the falling.
In your Spirit, may we speak the gospel with our words, carry the gospel with our feet, and enact the gospel with our hands.

Video: (Shema — The Bible Project)

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.” —- John 14.21– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 6 (Listen – 3:13)
Psalm 89 (Listen – 5:29)

Read more about Lewis on Prayer Without Words
For many years after my conversion I never used any ready-made forms except the Lord’s Prayer… — C.S. Lewis

Read more about Public, Prayerful, Persistent Protest
Daniel prayed in defiance of an unjust law. He was guilty before the law of the land, but blameless before God.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.