Don’t Forget!

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 28.58-59
If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the LORD your God— the LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.

Reflection: Don’t Forget!
By Jessica Wolske

Throughout Deuteronomy, God calls the people to remember their story as the people of God and to remember his character. He is the “faithful God who keeps his covenant of love…” (Deut 7.9) As the new generation steps into their calling to keep God’s covenant as his people, their identity is formed through remembrance that leads to worship. (Deut 8.6, 10.12, 13.4, 17.19)

Deuteronomy is the retelling, the passing on, of the covenant to the new generation. This was to prevent forgetting their identity and to encourage fellowship with God through worship and reverence.

What helps us hold on to our identity in Christ so that we too may be led to worship in Spirit and in Truth? (John 4.24)

God warned the Israelites that if they didn’t follow his commands and revere him they would experience plagues, disasters, and illnesses. (Deut. 28.58-59) Christ has paid the punishment of all our sins. So while we, as Christ’s followers, may endure hardship, it is not because of God’s punishment.

Sickness, natural disasters, or plagues are not always the result of not remembering or obeying God. However, when we don’t remember our identity and follow his ways, God’s peace, joy, and other fruits of the Spirit will elude us.

One way Israel remembered God and his ways was through festivals and feasts outlined in the Law. These ordained pauses obliged them to reflect and remember their relationship with God.

Creating rhythms and rituals to remember God can include taking on something new, like a spiritual discipline that you’ve not tried before. Similarly, we can take the existing rhythms of our everyday lives and special occasions and include moments of silence, a prayer of thanks, or lighting candles to center on God.

Take time this week to meditate on Psalm 78 which retells Israel’s failed attempts at keeping God’s law and the sickness, disasters, and plagues that God sent to draw them back to him, just as our Deuteronomy passage addresses. How are you remembering what God has done in your life through Christ?

From the beginning of time, God has desired a relationship with his people. He welcomes our creativity in remembering him as an act of worship. In light of Deuteronomy 28.20-68 and Psalm 78, write your own psalm of what God has done in your life through Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Whom have I in heaven but you? And having you I desire nothing upon earth. — Psalm 73.25

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 28.20-68 (Listen10:11)
Romans 8 (Listen 6:22)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen4:14), Romans 9 (Listen 5:15)
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen3:12), Romans 10 (Listen 3:21)

Read more about Reversible Blessings and Curses
The gospel message we carry is that, in Christ our curse is broken and all people can join him to be blessed.

Read more about Remembering Relationships
The life of faith is one of great highs and great lows. At times we may feel the very river of life bursting out to bless those around us. At times we may feel weak and dry.

Reversible Blessings and Curses

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 28.15-19
15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: 
16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. 
17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. 
18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. 
19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. 

“You wish to have the curse reversed? I’ll need a certain potion first…” — The Witch, Into the Woods, Steven Sondheim

Reflection: Reversible Blessings and Curses
By John Tillman

Curses in fairy tales are written to be reversed. The musical, Into the Woods, uses this storytelling trope as its primary plot device. Reversing the curse involves multiple characters from familiar storylines interacting and confronting each other with lies, betrayals, and, at times, the truth.

The opening sections of Deuteronomy 28 promise a blessing to God’s people that will be a pervasive good, touching their lives in every way. They will be “blessed in the city and blessed in the country…blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.”

However, God’s blessing can be reversed into an all-encompassing curse. They will be “cursed in the city and cursed in the country…cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.” God says this curse will “come on you and overtake you.” At times Israel would run an impressive race as God’s people, eventually this curse would overtake them.

Anyone steeped in the magic stew of fairy tales tends to see salvation through the lens of a heroic quest. Heroes in fairy tales, often through a combination of cooperation, wit, and luck, typically reverse their own curses. Divine assistance, from fairy godmothers or otherwise, is elusive and typically not determinative of the outcome. Humans, not the gods, exert heroic effort to break fairy tale curses.

Yet, we are not plucky heroes who can, with just a bit of luck, turn the tables on our enemy and reverse our own curse. We can’t make the potion. We can’t kill the dragon. We can’t climb the tower. And our kiss is the kiss of death, not a kiss of life.

Like many other curses of God, the curse of Mount Ebal is a reflection and reenactment of the curse of Eden. It overtook Israel, and it overtakes us. Peter describes our adversary as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Paul describes an inner curse of sinfulness that even he, the great “Hebrew of Hebrews,” cannot escape.

Yet, the curse of Eden is written to be reversed. Within its words, a hero is promised who will break it. Jesus is that hero. The gospel message we carry is that, in Christ our curse is broken and all people can join him to be blessed in the city, in the country, when we come in, and when we go out.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 28:-20-68 (Listen – 10:11)
Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Two Lamechs, One Jesus
There are those who work to reverse the curse, flooding the earth with hope, peace, and rebirth. 
Which line of Lamech will you follow?

Read more about Accepting Jesus
May we, poor family that we are, join the holy family in redemptively reversing the curse.

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) 

Thank You!
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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.