God’s Work Across Generations

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 34.4-12
4 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. 9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Reflection: God’s Work Across Generations
By Makayla Payne

The beauty and wonder of Moses’ ministry were real. God used him to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and to cross the Reed Sea on dry ground. He brought God’s people the Ten Commandments and spoke with God face to face. (Deuteronomy 34.10) God even tenderly buried him in a place only he knew. This passage acknowledges the significance of his life in advancing God’s plan. Moses’ ministry is worth remembering, and the end of his life is worth grieving.

The final chapters of Deuteronomy make clear that Moses’ absence didn’t mean God was absent. Just a few pages prior, God promised to always be with his people. (Deuteronomy 31.6) This is God’s mission, not Moses’. God was always the source of Moses’ ministry, from beginning to end. God’s work is never dependent on any one person.

Chapter 34 brings Deuteronomy, the Torah, and the life of Moses to a close, Walter Brueggeman notes. As Moses looks out at the Promised Land, his assignment is now complete. God is the one who will lead his people into it, just as he was the ultimate one who delivered them from slavery and sustained them in the wilderness. 

Even as this passage hones in on the specifics of Moses’ ministry, it also zooms out to remind us of God’s sweeping plan. This land was promised before Moses even came into the picture. (Deuteronomy 34.4) The story began with Abraham and Sarah. It moved on to Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. On and on it went, as the genealogies remind us. The Israelites would now see God continue his work under Joshua’s leadership. 

As we consider our own lives, the grief we feel after a good leader dies is honorable and even necessary. Yet, that grief need not turn into hopelessness. The miraculous rescue of baby Moses from the Nile shows how eager God is to raise up leaders of integrity and justice.

God is always at work in the next generation. His plan spans across transitions, leaders, cultures, and times.

Thank you, Father, Son, and Spirit, for the faithful lives of good leaders who’ve gone before us. Give us grace and strength to live well in the particular time and place you’ve called us, as Moses did. Give us courage to persevere amidst grief as Joshua did, for it’s the same Spirit who lives in us today. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord has sworn an oath to David; in truth, he will not break it:
“A son, the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne.” — Psalm 132.11-12

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 33-34 (Listen6:35)
Romans 13 (Listen 2:35)

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If we long to see youth, like Josiah, rise up to lead revival instead of abandoning faith, we need to be like Zephaniah.

When the Day Turns Dark

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 32.17-18
17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God—
    gods they had not known,
    gods that recently appeared,
    gods your ancestors did not fear.
18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
    you forgot the God who gave you birth.

Deuteronomy 32.39
39 See now that I myself am he!
    There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
    I have wounded and I will heal,
    and no one can deliver out of my hand.

Romans 3.25-26
25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Reflection: When the Day Turns Dark
By Anna Beth Vollema 

Come, let us contest child, 
    if you will not leave me again.
If you will not bend
    to the whisper of the air; 
Soft and Sweet,
    easy and enticing,
    everything you asked for;
When you spoke out of the night,  
    out of desperation and impatience, 
    out of fear and forgetfulness;
You’ll want it all,
    and you’ll want it quickly.
Like a junkie wanting his next fix, 
    you’ll strip your gold bangles,
    you’ll pull out your hairs,
    you’ll throw in your shambles,
    you’ll give up your years,
To an idol of your own making; 
    a statue in your own image; 
    a chasing after the wind. 

Tremble my child, and quake.   
 For I AM he; 
    there is no god besides Me!
My presence is life; 
    My absence is death.
The justice you long for is the crown of my head;
    the chaos of the world is reigned by my ropes;
    and the floodgates of my wrath will clear all the wrongs. 
So, bask in the light of my face, oh child; 
    shelter in the rays of my eyes
For I see what you need,
    and I see who you’ll be.
So, be with me.
Or I’ll have to let you go;
    go stumbling after the wind;
    go traipsing into the floodwaters, 
    so that you taste darkness again. 
The darkness of my absence; 
    My face turned away. 
You’ll bear the burden, 
    I bear for you every day. 
You’ll bear the sadness, 
    of remembering what once was; 
The sweetness of the food,
    in the house of your First Love. 
I’ll let you bear this burden
    so that you remember again, 
       who I AM; 
       who I’ve been; 
       the redemption, 
       in my hands. 

Rest my child, be still. 
For I AM He;
    there is no contest,
    there is no god besides Me!
By my life there is Truth; 
    by my death, there is life. 
Justice was quenched by my time on the tree, 
    the chaos of the world will end by my love, 
And from the floodgates of my wrath, 
    you will be protected. 
So, bask in the light of this lamb, oh child; 
    shelter in these lion eyes. 
By wrath and mercy intertwined,
     my love, unified; 
To set you free
    free to run back to Me; 
    free to skip like a child,
    on a holiday at the sea. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105.4

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

Today’s Readings

Deuteronomy 32 (Listen7:10)
Romans 12 (Listen 2:58)

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Facing “No”

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 31.7-8
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 
8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Reflection: Facing “No”
By Carina Bruno

I’m a stubborn person who’s determined to complete any given task. This trait plays out in my faith because I always want to be physically doing something for God. I want to play a role in carrying out His will. I often wait for the next “big task” he will give me. I want to complete the entire thing all on my own.

Moses was given a sizable task to complete. He was instructed to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. After partially completing his work, Moses’ plan came to a halt when God told him the work would be fulfilled through someone else. The task would be passed on to Joshua. 

One of the most difficult, universal human experiences is facing the word “no” from someone in authority. It affects us strongly because we must surrender our original plans to new plans. We tend to think that our loss generates another’s gain, and our selfish hearts struggle to let go.

Moses, however, doesn’t react in a way that is jealous or demeaning. He does the opposite. He encourages Joshua to valiantly complete the work of the Lord. He reminds Joshua that the Lord “goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Dt. 31.8) This verse reveals Moses’ conviction to humbly encourage others to do work he cannot do himself. Reading this verse, we should be strengthened to do the same.

Perhaps someone surpassed you in a competition, or a coworker has been assigned to finish your task. Perhaps God has changed your circumstances, or has called you to a different church.

Whatever the reason, God is using others to bring his will to fruition. We ought to encourage those people to be courageous in their work, because God does not abandon his people (Isaiah 41.10).

God did not abandon Joshua as he finished leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. God also did not abandon Moses, when his portion of the task was complete. God will not abandon you in a season of newness, and he certainly will not abandon you after a season is complete.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you.
They make known the glory of your kingdom and speak of your power;
That the peoples may know of your power and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. — Psalm 145.10-12

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen4:57)
Romans 11 (Listen 5:23)

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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)

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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)

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