28. Walk in His Ways

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 28 :  Walk in His Ways

(Focus: Deut 10:1-29)

Deut 10:12,13 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Yet again Moses reminds Israel of their history with the Lord. He reminds them that after the first two stone tablets had been smashed, he had had to make two new ones and an ark or wooden chest in which to keep them (10:1-3) and the Lord wrote on them as before (10:4). Then they had travelled on and Aaron had died (10:6), then further on when the Lord set apart the Levites to carry the ark (10:7-9). On the mountain he had pleaded with the Lord not to destroy them and the Lord allowed them to go to enter the land. (10:10,11) After reminding them yet again of that, Moses calls them again to comprehensively follow the Lord (v.12,13 above). Observe the language.

Attitude fear your God, have a right respect for His awesomeness. Actionwalk in all His ways. Let your daily lifestyle conform to His will for you. Heart commitmentlove him. Heart expression serve Him. Assessment of both – wholeheartedly and being obedient. Note that the complementary attitudes of fear and love and seen to be there by the willingness to serve and obey the Lord.   Service and obedience are the measure of the heart. Yet, one must add, that a cold obedience and service is NOT what is being asked of Israel; it is to be a relationship of love.

The apostle John had this in mind when he wrote, We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:3-6) i.e. a genuine relationship of love with the Lord is expressed by obedience to all the New Testament says, and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Failure in these areas raises questions as to the reality of the relationship.

So, Moses has appealed to the memory of the recent past to encourage Israel to be obedient to their calling by the Lord. But he wants to yet enlarge their understanding of the Lord: “To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” (v.15). The Lord who delivered them out of Egypt and drew near to them at Sinai and who provided for them and disciplined them, is the Creator of the World. Everything in all of Creation belongs to Him. That is His greatness which makes all the more marvellous what has happened to them: “Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.” (v.15) He isn’t a distant God somewhere ‘out there’ but He has drawn near to them to enter into relationship with them.

But Israel have a problem that has been revealed by their past behaviour that Moses spoke about in Chapter 9 (which reaches its conclusion here): “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” (v.16) A little bit of mixed metaphors here! Cut out from your hearts the hardness that is there so that you will no longer be arrogant and rebellions (stiff-necked).

But there is another aspect to this particular problem: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” (v.17)  God is both holy (utterly different) and righteous (always behaving absolutely rightly).  The implication is that He will not tolerate their rebellious attitudes any longer. He is a good God and He looks for goodness in them: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” (v.18,19)

So, he concludes, “Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” (v.20,21). Stick close to God, He is the cause of all praise for He is God who has done great things for you, summed up as, “Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (v.22) God has done what He said to Abraham. He is faithful to His word and Israel are the proof of it. Now live it out!

 

4. Promise of Transformation

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.4

Isa 1:18 Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool

I have lived long enough to have heard a variety of sermons interpreting this verse in a variety of ways. However, I am going to argue as logically as possible to obtain the simplest possible understanding of its meaning. It starts with the Lord’s invitation to talk out their situation. Very often when we are not in a good place we hide away from the Lord and from other people, just like Adam and Eve did (Gen 3:8), but the Lord takes the initiative, as He so often does, and invites us to talk. It is when we talk that we can come to a place of fresh understanding. The communications slogan, “It’s good to talk,” really does apply when you are hiding away, cowed by the enemy into believing lies about yourself and about God. We also hide away when we feel we will be condemned for our sin, but the Lord’s intent is very different.

He brings two contrasting pictures. The first is of their sin which He describes as scarlet or crimson. The second is the Lord’s intended outcome, what He intends to do with their sin, and their end outcome is simply described as white as snow or as wool, which is also white. Now whatever clever applications we try and see in this, I would simply suggest that this is a picture of total transformation. One minute their sins are like a bright red colour, the next they are pure white. This is a complete transformation. Let’s just see it like that!

Now of course we do tend to use the expression, “Pure as the driven snow” and the whiteness described does suggest purity. What is there to suggest our understanding is correct? Well the first part of the chapter is clearly a negative assessment of Israel’s state and so the next verse comes as a complete surprise in the light of those earlier negatives: If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (1:19). The Lord never blesses sin and so this offer of goodness must accompany the picture of complete transformation. What is it that will bring this transformation? Willingness and obedience! The matter is in their own hands. The Lord intends them good (as He always does), but it is only their sin which stops that happening. Now we shouldn’t see this as some magic formula or even as a means to criticise the Lord. There are those somewhat unthinking people who speak negatively of the Lord in these sort of situations. Look, they say, He just looking for an opportunity to judge them. How silly is that! It is exactly the opposite; He is looking for an opportunity to bless them but their foolish behaviour prevents that.

Now it is not that the Lord is inadequate and cannot bless people, but if they are harming themselves and He won’t force their wills, then it is only going to be bad coming into their lives because they are bringing it on themselves. Consider the godless person who lives a completely promiscuous life, say. This person just happens to express their godlessness in promiscuity. It could have been in a number of ways, but they chose to be promiscuous – and then they caught a sexually transmitted disease. If I jump from an upper storey window I am going to seriously hurt myself. I can’t blame God for not catching me. He would have been speaking to me previously encouraging me not to jump. Thereafter He respects my free will and allows me to make sovereign choices – as harmful as they may be. To talk about Him blessing me when I am having to live with the consequences of my sovereign choices is just plain silly. Remember the willful child I used as an example in the previous meditation? Away from the family home they cannot receive all the goodness of the home. Like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable he ends up eating with the pigs (Lk 15:16). We really have to take responsibility for our own actions and realise that we reap what we sow (Gal 6:7).

One side of the coin is the blessing the Lord offers us, by living in accordance with His design-laws, so that he can add blessing to us. The other side of the coin, as we have seen, are things going wrong, “but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (1:20). Why? Is this the Lord being nasty or is it a natural outworking? I suggest first the latter. If they disregard the Lord, then they will be spiritually, morally, socially and militarily weak, and being weak they will become a prey to the surrounding nations. Now the Lord isn’t being ‘nasty’ but sometimes He does bring discipline by either stepping back and allowing the neighbours to invade Israel, or even at times provokes them to invade, but it is always with the intent of turning Israel around and back to the place of blessing. The father who refuses to bail his child is allowing them to feel the full weight of the Law to help them come to their senses. The mother who allows her children to hurt themselves by way of the learning process (without serious danger) is allowing them to learn that we reap what we sow, dangerous things cause harm and are to be avoided. The society that overprotects erodes personal responsibility and we are poorer for it.

These are the lessons that the wise parent knows the child needs to learn, and God is the wisest of all parents! Thus we will find again and again, when Israel stray they get into trouble, but that is how life is in a Fallen World, and this no way detracts from God’s love that will always be there working to bring good to us out of every situation (Rom 8:28). Let’s learn the lessons.