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.

Who is the Sabbath There For?

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 5.15
15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. 

Reflection: Who is the Sabbath There For?
By John Tillman

A “preacher joke” many preachers have alluded to is that when there is a “therefore” in scripture, one must look back to previous verses to see what the “therefore” is there for. Therefore…why is it that God commands the Israelites to observe the Sabbath? 

Because you were slaves. (v. 15)
Because your workers need rest. (v. 14)
Because work should have limits. (v. 13)
Because holiness is connected to rest. (v. 12)

Repeating the sabbath rules, Moses adds the remembrance of slavery. This emphasizes that not only must Israel not work, they must not compel others (even animals) to work for them. Moses seemed to realize that sabbath rules could be twisted to enable abuse. 

British manors were often divided into areas for masters and servants. Pulling a cord in the “upstairs” rang a bell in the “downstairs” summoning a servant. Today, however, even low-wage workers carry a device in their pocket through which the “master” can “ring a bell” to summon them at any time.

In the late 90s, I remember an acquaintance having to bail on plans because she got paged to go to work. She wasn’t on call to perform life-saving surgery or another similarly urgent task. She was on call to stock sweaters and shirts on shelves and attend to customers in fitting rooms at a mall retailer. Being “on call” for a part-time job making near minimum wage seemed like an overbearing, outrageous expectation even then. Today, it seems like a quaint practice from a gentler time.  

The invasion of work into private places and times is near complete. As much as smart phones have blessed our lives (such as enabling us to receive email devotionals) they have also allowed work to become, for many, a demanding and omnipresent god.

Let us center our weeks on the sabbath rather than on work, but without allowing sabbath to become a self-obsessed, self-care day which compels others to provide for our rest. Gods of modern economics demand we work harder in their presence, our God begs us to rest in his.

God’s model of the sabbath says, “I rest so that all can and will rest.” Jesus says the sabbath is for humans, not for God. Our rest, observed rightly, is an act of faith in God’s holiness and an act of kindness to all around us. May our rest bless others, not just ourselves.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms. — Psalm 95.1-2– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 5 (Listen – 4:25)
Psalm 88 (Listen – 1:58)

Read more about Keeping the Sabbath by Action
To Jesus, keeping the Sabbath holy meant staying in step with God’s Spirit and leaving nothing undone that the Spirit commanded.

Read more about Better Things to be Doing
“When will..the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?” — Amos 8.5 There is nothing more profitable…than worshiping God.

The Garden of Psalm 119

Psalm 119.174-176
I long for your salvation, Lord,
    and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
    and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
    Seek your servant,
    for I have not forgotten your commands.

Reflection: The Garden of Psalm 119
By John Tillman

We finish Psalm 119 today and reflect on it with some words from Charles Spurgeon: 

“Those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought…The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it.”

Spurgeon is convinced that David wrote the Psalm and if not he, then some other writer who spent long years in its work and created it not over a short span, but through a lifetime of faithfulness.

“There is evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom.”

In the end, rather than rising in acclaim or celebration, the aged wisdom of the psalmist leads him to a humble and prostrate stance.

“The psalmist is approaching the end of the Psalm…he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring. This nearness creates the most lowly view of himself, and leads him to close the Psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep…It is a very sweet thing to a suppliant when he knows of a surety that his prayer has obtained audience. It is to Jehovah that this prayer is expressed with trembling earnestness…we crave audience of none else, for we have confidence in none beside.”

Meditating on Psalm 119 daily has been a common spiritual practice over the centuries and many have reported its wealth of spiritual benefit.

“This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, holy writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. This Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.”

It is our hope in each cycle of our two-year-long tread through the garden of scripture to produce not pride, but humility. Not judgmental attitudes, but merciful gratitude. Not clamoring commands for others, but tender notes of correction in our own hearts.

*Quotations abridged from “A Treasury of David,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight. — Psalm 72.12-14

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 33-34 (Listen – 6:35)
Psalm 119:145-176 (Listen – 15:14) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Joshua 1 (Listen – 3:11), Psalm 120-122 (Listen – 2:12) 
Joshua 2 (Listen – 3:49), Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about Quotations from the Desert
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.

Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
The reason that we cannot set aside the Scriptures that we don’t like, is that Scripture must be considered holistically. Each part is bound up with the others for a purpose.

His Love Leads to Peace :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 119.134-136
Redeem me from human oppression,
   that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine on your servant
   and teach me your decrees.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
   for your law is not obeyed.

Reflection: His Love Leads to Peace :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

We weep as the psalmist when God’s law is not obeyed.

We weep because God’s law is love. His commandment to ancient Israel was to show love even to the foreigner. His commandment to us, his disciples, is to love one another. His commandment to his church is to love without showing favoritism.

We weep to see his commandments ignored for his love leads to peace.

This prayer from Myanmar centers on the essential nature of spiritual worship that goes beyond a song service, beyond a sermon, and beyond the church walls. When we worship in Spirit and in Truth, the result will be a demonstration of love that leads to peace.

His Love leads to Peace
A prayer of intercession from Myanmar

Our Father in Heaven, may your name be glorified and be praised by all your people of the world.

Bless us in our worship to feel your presence,
To open our hearts and minds,
To be really in touch with you,
To worship you in spirit and in truth.

Preserve our soul and keep us from all evil.
Help us not to wander away from your presence.

May we experience your powerful love
So that we can share it with others.
Help us to share the blessing
Of knowing you with others
And be at peace with you
And with each other.

In Jesus’ Holy name we lift our voices of praise with thankfulness.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Turn to me and have mercy upon me; give your strength to your servant; and save the child of your handmaid. — Psalm 86.16

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 32 (Listen – 7:10)
Psalm 119:121-144 (Listen – 15:14) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about The Kiss of Righteousness and Peace
When love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other. But before that happens in today’s psalm, there is confession and justice, mercy and redemption.

Read more about Thankful Workers for Peace
You have placed everything in perfect order so that
we may live in peace and harmony with all that
you have created. You have provided sustenance for your children.