Altars of Remembrance

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 27.4-7
And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. Build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool on them. Build the altar of the Lord your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God. Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God.

Reflection: Altars of Remembrance
By Julia Bitler

In Deuteronomy 27, Moses concludes his speech to the Israelites by calling them to obey. He laid out God’s law for the nation including their calling to live holy lives as God’s chosen people.

Before moving on to the curses of disobedience and the blessings of faithfulness, Moses calls the Israelites to pause and reflect.

He instructs them to build an altar to the Lord. Not only will the people worship the Lord by offering sacrifices and burnt offerings, but they will also write the Law on stones to remind them of the holiness of their God and the consecrated lives they are called to live as his chosen people. It is an altar of remembrance.

In the same way, I believe that God desires for us to set up altars or memorials in our own lives. These monuments or markers of faith speak to us, reminding us who the Lord is and what He has done. 

A monument could be a tangible object like a sign, poster, or journal. A more abstract monument might be a day that you set aside time to remember the faithfulness of the Lord. Whatever it is, God calls us to mark moments in our lives. These markers can help us remember who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do for us. 

God doesn’t want our obedience to be motivated by fear of the curses and joy of the blessings. Rather, he calls us to obey him because we love him. He wants us to obey out of love and remembrance of who God is.

One of my reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness is my car. A year ago, I was in a terrible accident that resulted in my car being totaled. By the grace of God, I walked away with only a few bruises. After such a traumatic experience, I learned to trust God to provide for all my needs and within a month, I had a new car and was healing from such a scary incident. When I drive my car, I am reminded that it is God who is in the driver seat of my life and not me. He alone is worthy of all of my love and obedience. 

What memorials do you have? Where are your monuments? What moments remind you of his faithfulness?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life. — Psalm 54.4

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28.19 (Listen13:27)
Romans 7 (Listen 4:09)

Read more about The Sojourn of Sanctification
The desert sojourn is a transforming experience for Israel and this process of sanctification can be mirrored in the lives of modern believers.

Read more about Attending God’s Lessons
Through their liberation from Egypt and their time in the desert, God became Israel’s teacher.

The Sojourn of Sanctification

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 27.9-10
9 Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God. 10 Obey the Lord your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.” 

Reflection: The Sojourn of Sanctification
By John Tillman

The desert sojourn is a transforming experience for Israel and this process of sanctification can be mirrored in the lives of modern believers.

When Israel entered Egypt, they were small, humble, and in need but carried with them God’s blessing. Egypt, so long as she remembered Joseph, enjoyed these blessings and was transformed into a nation that blessed other nations. Soon, however, nationalism took hold in Egypt. Joseph was forgotten. Foreigners were to be feared and exploited. Generations of Israilites were oppressed in slavery. They became a people unfamiliar with freedom and separated from the pleasures of life. They were disconnected from their calling to bless others.

The Exodus is about more than freedom. The desert transforms Israel. They are reintroduced to their purpose, calling, and empowerment. Those who had been exploited as foreigners were commanded to become a nation that blessed foreigners. Those who had been held in slavery, were commanded to become a nation marked by releasing slaves from bondage. Those who had been indoctrinated in the false gods of Egypt would become the teacher of all nations, showing them what the one, true God is like. 

God’s people are always in a process of becoming. Moses says, “Be silent…you have now become the people of the Lord, your God.” (Deuteronomy 27.9) When we come to Christ, we are freed from sin as the Israelites were freed from Egyptian slavery. Sin’s chains are struck from our hands in an instant, but it takes time in the desert with God’s word for the chains of an enslaved mindset to be melted from our hearts.

Jesus says, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17.19) Jesus is our model, our pattern, our leader to follow through the desert as we are changed from one kind of people to another.

Paul says, “We…are being transformed into his image, with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Corinthians 3.18) God is glorified with every step we take in becoming more like Christ.

We are like the people of Israel in many ways. We are not just freed from sin, but called for a purpose. The desert of sanctification is transformational so let us hold nothing back from its influence. May we become the people of the Lord our God.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “It is not anyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: ‘I have never known you; away from me all evildoers!’” — Matthew 7.21-23

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28:19 (Listen – 13:27)
Psalm 119:1-24 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Attending God’s Lessons
Through their liberation from Egypt and their time in the desert, God became Israel’s teacher.

Read more about Ready to Exit the Desert
Their faith wasn’t ready to exit the desert and enter the promised land. Desert months turned into desert decades.

Occupation of Meditation

Psalm 119.23-24
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Reflection: Occupation of Meditation
By John Tillman

In a letter to a frustrated friend, Amy Carmichael wrote:

“Did you notice the words ‘occupied in Thy statues’ in Psalm 119.23 (Prayer Book Version)? It is a beautiful word. I have nothing to do today but to please Thee.

That is true of you, for this weariness is part of life, bonds that are allowed to be. But I do hope for health and ask for it. He knows what He is doing. ‘Jesus himself knew what He would do.’ (John 6.5-6) There will be a lovely ending to this story of frustration, something worth all it has cost.”

The word Carmichael refers to as “occupied in” is translated “meditate on” in most modern translations. Siyach carries an additional meaning beyond pondering or thinking. It also implies telling, speaking, and producing thoughts and words. As Carmichael implies, meditation is more than just privately “thinking” about God’s word. It is occupation—something that implies action.
Prayer and meditation are real for Christians not only because our relationship with God is real, but because the results of true prayer are tangible actions on our part, empowered by God to make a difference in our world.

This is illustrated in the biblical story Carmichael references. In John, Jesus is asking Phillip how to feed a large crowd. Feeding the crowd is impossible for Phillip. It is even impossible for the united power of the disciples working together. But it is Christ’s will that they act in faith—doing what little they can do. Christ accepts our ineffectual actions when accompanied by effectual faith. He then miraculously works his power through us to change the world.

In the Psalm, the writer is being slandered and attacked by rulers, representatives of government and this world’s systems of power. The psalmist’s response of meditation is not one of plugging one’s ears with God’s Word so as to retreat from the world. It is that of filling one’s mind, and then one’s mouth with God’s Word—speaking that truth to the powers of the world.

Whatever our earthly frustrations, and whatever the tactics of the powerful princes and rulers who would slander or attack us, our source of strength is not human wisdom. Only meditation on and occupation with God’s Word can bring us peace in our frustrations, and give us power to oppose evil and help the suffering in this world.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?… — Luke 6.46

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13) 
Psalm 117-118 (Listen – 2:52) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28:19 (Listen – 13:27), Psalm 119:1-24 (Listen – 15:14) 
Deuteronomy 28:20-68 (Listen – 10:11), Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14) 

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Read more about A Discipline for the Anxious
The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God…in the midst of doubts and fears, he remembers God’s faithfulness in the past. He meditates on these memories in the heated moment of stress.

Read more about Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
Meditation is not new age, but old. However, in the modern age, it has often been forgotten on the shelf as many Christians and Christian leaders followed our culture into frenetic clamor instead of leading our culture from a place of peace and rest.