Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 6-12
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves WHOLEHEARTEDLY to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Moses continued his farewell speech to the Israelites by encouraging them to remember how the Lord has rescued them. He told them to fear the Lord and serve Him only, for God is a jealous God and He desires for us to DILIGENTLY obey the His commands. He calls us to do what is right and good in His sight so that all will go well with us (Deut. 6:18).
Each January, our administrative team meets to look back over the past year. Together we remember ALL that God has done and all HE has accomplished. We celebrate God’s generosity and His grace over the ministry to which He has called us. We then look forward to the new year, asking God for His guidance and His blessing. We long to see His vision for His ministry – His plan in His time.
Perhaps you went through this same process on the first day of this month – looking back at 2017 and looking forward to 2018. Perhaps you felt like the Israelites as they saw the mistakes they had made and the consequences of their decisions. There were probably moments to celebrate and memories to regret. Looking forward to this year might have felt like getting a blank slate or a chance to start a new chapter of your life. God gives us moments like these to purposefully stand between what He has done for us and what He promises to do in the coming years – looking back and looking forward while praising God for every moment.
Moses was having a similar moment with God’s people as they stood between the wilderness and the promised land, looking back and looking forward. He told them their children would ask – Why do we do what we do? Why do we follow these traditions and rules? LET THEM HEAR THE STORIES. Make them aware of where God has brought us from and that we will be counted as righteous when we obey all God’s commands (Deut. 6:20-25).
“…Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure… Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him.” – Deut. 7:6-10
You have seen it with your own eyes! God has led you – sometimes humbling you, sometimes testing you, but all the time teaching you. He has provided in order to teach you that people do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes have not worn out; your journey has been long but your feet are neither blistered nor swollen. Now praise the Lord for this good land He has given you. In the midst of your plenty, do not become proud and forget the source of all blessings. Don’t think you have achieved anything by your own strength and energy but remember that it is the Lord who gives you the power to be successful (Deut. 8).
“..But recognize today that the Lord your God is the one who will cross over ahead of you like a devouring fire…Don’t say in your hearts, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No…it is not because you are so good or have such integrity…You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this land because you are good, for you are not – you are a stubborn people.” – Deut. 9:3-6
So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: LIVE IN HIS PRESENCE in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I’m commanding you today—live a good life.
Look around you: Everything you see is God’s—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors who God fell in love with; he picked their children—that’s you!—out of all the other peoples. That’s where we are right now. So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so willfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn’t play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing.
You must treat foreigners with the same loving care—
remember, you were once foreigners in Egypt.
Reverently respect God, your God, serve him, hold tight to him, back up your promises with the authority of his name.
He’s your praise! He’s your God!
He did all these tremendous, these staggering things
that you saw with your own eyes.
When your ancestors entered Egypt, they numbered a mere seventy souls. And now look at you—you look more like the stars in the night skies in number. And your God did it. – Deuteronomy 10:12-17 (The Message)
Father God, I cannot help but laugh out loud at your goodness! My heart is overflowing with all you have done! Thank you for being a generous God, even when we fail and struggle. Lord, thank you for the privilege to be called to holiness, to be set apart for your glory and for your excellence. We feast in your presence this morning as we rejoice in all you have accomplished! Fill us with your strength and your righteousness today, we pray.
Lord, we take this time to pray for our country. Help us to find a balance between protecting our freedoms and protecting our country. Help us to always be a refuge for those in need, to be compassionate towards ALL people. You are a God immense and powerful and awesome, taking loving care of all your children. Give us hearts that extend that same love to one another, treating foreigners with the same loving care we receive from you. Amen.