I shouldn’t complain because I have always loved Jazzercise. It is a fun aerobic workout that combines the latest music and dance moves. It burns a lot of calories and it’s nice to take one hour and do something healthy for myself. What I wish is that getting un-fat was as fun and easy as getting fat was. I have noticed that I don’t eat as much, and I am getting leaner. I’m not losing weight quickly, but I am toning up and becoming less of a shell of my former athletic, muscular, toned self. I know I have to patient, but I would have no problem if I woke up tomorrow and didn’t have this pouch I got after carrying my babies. Just call me Kanga-Mom. Ugh.
I took a sleep aid so before I drift off, let me post a bit quickly…
Deuteronomy chapter twelve involves a discussion about the laws that guide proper worship. Not trying to beat a dead horse, but just recall that Deuteronomy is basically a recitation of previous material, if you will. The Israelites are being given a “refresher course” of sorts before they prepare to enter Canaan, the Promised Land. Despite the fact that the Israelites have seen wonders that people in modern times can only imagine, they are still, overall, spiritual babes, having emerged from hundreds of years of Egyptian bondage in an environment engulfed in pagan worship. It has been a very trying time getting the people to be faithful to the Lord their God. They need constant reminders of who God is.
But aren’t people these days the same way? I try to remember as I read the Word, and particularly these first five books of the Bible, that my life journey in the Lord has mirrored that of Israel. As I have mentioned before, my belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was accomplished at a very young age, but I did some serious backsliding in my late teens and early twenties. At that time, I was a slave to sin. The Israelites were slaves living among a sinful nation–sinful in that they practiced rampant idolatry. Like Israel, God delivered me from a sinful life, and sought to build me into what He would have me to be. I have not always done what I know He would want me to do; I have not always been what I know He wants me to be. I have never committed the sin of idolatry in terms of worshiping any other gods, but I have idolized other things and allowed them to replace God in terms of importance.
Look at people as a whole. Just like the Israelites, people tend to forget about God when things are going well. As soon as calamity comes, they cry out to God for rescue, when the entire time before they weren’t thinking about God. So as I have seen before, as appalling as Israel’s behavior is, we aren’t that different.
So the people are reminded that once they reach the land they are to destroy everything related to idol worship–their altars, sacred stones and Asherah poles. The people are reminded that they must not worship the Lord their God in the same manner that the inhabitants worship their gods. But God will pick an area that will be the central location of their worship, the capitol city if you will, and in that place the people will go to “bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and clocks” (v. 6).
One might not see the big deal, why it was imperative that Israel totally destroyed the idols. I like to think of the Bible in contemporary contexts. I also like to apply it to my own life and personal experiences. As I have mentioned plenty of times, I used to drink–heavily. Every now and then, particularly when I was heading out for a night on the town, I liked to have a good buzz. When I first committed myself to being alcohol-free, it wasn’t easy right away. The best thing for me to do was stay away from situations where I might be tempted to drink. That was right around the same time I finally figured out that the nightclub scene was no longer for me, after I actually found myself being more and more disinterested and altogether disgusted with clubbing. It took awhile before I was as confident as I am now, that I can cut through the alcohol aisles in the grocery stores to get to the frozen food without thinking twice, or go into a corner store to get a Peppermint Patty fix and go on about my business.
As good as I am doing, I of course cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that I will never slip up. I know that some habits die harder than others. The curse words are probably the hardest–it was easier to stop drinking than it has been to stop cussing. Admittedly, I do it a WHOLE lot less than I used to, and I don’t aim my cuss words at people anymore–I am more likely to slip when I am driving, because for some reason when I get behind the wheel my Jekyll/Hyde really comes forth–but it still comes more often and easier than I’d like for it to. I said all that to say this–it was absolutely necessary for the Israelites to remove any possible temptation from their lives, just as we ought to do as Christians today. No one is safe from occasional backsliding. As we mature spiritually we do it less, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
God reminds the people that they will live in safety… of course we know that is contingent upon whether or not Israel keeps up their portion of the agreement. Of the central place of worship, God tells the people to bring their entire family to rejoice in the Lord: “…you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own” (v. 12). We know that our God is a God of order, and everything is to be done properly. Sacrifices are not to be done just anywhere in any old form or fashion. (It doesn’t say that worship has to be confined to the worship center, though…) The people are reminded not to eat the blood of any animal or their tithes (whether in the form of grains, wine, olive oil or animals), firstborn of their herds and flocks, anything they have vowed to give, and any freewill offerings or special gifts. Basically, once someone had vowed to give something to God, they could not take it back. (How in the world could one rationalize that anyway??)
The main point of this chapter is that Israelite worship is not to mirror pagan worship. They cannot offer sacrifices just any and everywhere. Their God of order has set decrees to guide them in proper worship. They are to be set apart from the pagan nations in all other ways. God reminds them that they must be careful not to even inquire about pagan worship, and he informs the people of some of the detestable practices the native Canaanites perform: “They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods” (v. 31).
What kind of god is that??? I’ll pass!!! Whenever I read this, I think of what possible benefit would I have to be promised before I could sacrifice my own son or daughter. Ahh…nothing came to mind. SMH. I wouldn’t be interested in worshiping a god that tells me to kill my children. I mean, seriously? And not just my own children, I wouldn’t be interested in worshiping a god that told me to kill ANYONE. Why would any true god need a mere mortal to kill someone? A true powerful god could just…do it himself..?
In chapter thirteen we continue discussing worshiping other gods. When I read Deuteronomy I think of how I learned best in school and all throughout life, as a matter of fact. Think of it this way–imagine that you are trying to learn a new language. You take a one-day class on the language. Have you mastered it in just that one class, or do you need some repetition, some practice? Maybe some flashcards, etc.? There are common tools that people use to teach others. Repetition is one of them. God really wants Israel to understand that this whole idol worship concept is a no-no.
God says he might send a false prophet to the people as a test: “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them’, you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul” (vv. 1-3). False prophets and false teachers are very much alive and thriving even today. We all know of people who use Christianity as a scam. Easiest way to tell if a person is false is if what they say does not align with the Word.
The prophet or dreamer who has brought the message to disobey God is to be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord.
I think we all know family members can be a thorn in one’s side sometimes. In Moody class, we often talk about how family members are the most difficult ones in terms of accepting your newly saved status. Family members know your dirty secrets from your illicit past and some have no problem bringing them up when they find out you are saved. Some of that may be due to disbelief, some of it may be jealousy, and some of it may be out of anger for losing their former drinking buddy, former chasing buddy, former whatever. Either way, the people we loved can pull us away from God if we allow them. God says this is not okay. He tells the Israelites that if they have a family member–sibling, child, or even wife, or a close friend, tries to entice them to worship another god, they are to be put to death too. Not only that, but “Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you ought of Egypt, among the land of slavery” (vv .9-10).
Wow. That would suck. But obviously God took that seriously and expected for the Israelites to do the same. Imagine if that command had been adhered to completely–each time someone tried to lead someone else astray, they were stoned immediately. I’d be willing to be less people would do it. Can you imagine Christian society, and society in general, if, as soon as other practices began to fully infiltrate our society, we completely squashed them? Would there be as much sin and confusion as there is today? When Madalyn Murray O’Hair first contested her son having to read the Bible, imagine if she had been rebuked right away…
The following passage of Scripture leads me to believe that indeed, in this situation that stoning the offender is supposed to serve as an example to the rest of the community: “Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again” (v. 11).
The Israelites are supposed to keep each other in check. If members of the Israelite community hear that their brethren in another town are engaging in idol worship, they are expected to investigate the claim thoroughly. If the rumor is found to be true, every person and the livestock of that town are to be put to the sword. None of the consecrated things from that town are acceptable for use. The town itself must be obliterated, never to be rebuilt. That tells me that as Christians we should say something when we see our brothers and sisters falling into sinful, ungodly practices. We all have to keep each other in check even today. People always say “don’t judge”, but as I have mentioned before, I think the understanding of what judging truly is is being misrepresented. We cannot judge whether or not one is truly saved, but it is our responsibility to tell other Christians AND the world when they are doing something that is unacceptable in God’s eyes. Why would God give us the gift of His Word and tell us to make disciples out of people if we weren’t supposed to tell them how to live correctly? It doesn’t make sense. Of course we cannot put ourselves on a pedestal because we are still sinners–sinners saved by grace. But if we see a Christian brother or sister living wrong and we tell them, that is not “judging”. That called correction.
I will say, that in the case that you confront a brother or sister about ungodly behavior, be armed with appropriate Scriptures and the right attitude, because people these days do not like to hear that they are doing anything wrong. People today are living much like the Canaanites–doing whatever they see fit to do, whatever brings them instant gratification and pleasure. You have to be backed by the Word because most people aren’t going to listen to you otherwise.
I’ll be brief about chapter fourteen, because again, many of these concepts have been discussed fully. The chapter begins with a discussion of clean and unclean food before moving into tithes–a tenth of all that their fields produce each year. Here, we see God providing an alternative for people who lived far away from the central place where the sacrifices were to be performed: “But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away) then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place where the Lord your God will choose. Use the silvert o buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice” (vv. 24-26). Instead of hauling a bunch of cattle meat several miles, for example, Israelites had the option to go to a Cattle Coin-Star and get money instead. They could then take the money and buy whatever they wanted to present to the Lord once they reached their destination.
At the end of every three years the people are instructed to bring that year’s tithes and store it for the Levites, foreigners, fatherless and widows so that they may have adequate provision. Imagine that. The poor and vulnerable were not looked down upon. They were to be taken care of, not ridiculed.
Chapter fifteen begins with an expansion on how people of lesser means are to be treated. As was discussed before, all debts are to be cancelled in seven years. And that means cancelled completely. Loans were forgiven, slaves were given the option of going free. No, creditors could not sell a person’s debt to another collection agency and buy another seven years worth of collection efforts. At the end of seven years, the debt is forgiven.
It is amazing to me that people who claim to be Christians can have a bad attitude toward poor people. There are far too many examples and Scriptures in the Word that teach us we are to have compassion toward poor people for me to make sense of that. God tells Israel that no one among them needs to be poor–if they would just obey him when they have established themselves in Canaan, he will bless them richly. They would lend to many nations and borrow from none; to rule over many nations but be ruled over by none. IF ONLY they could obey and keep the commandments.
God admonishes the people to refrain from becoming tighfisted or hardhearted toward the poor; instead they are to lend freely. They ought to refrain from the possible practice of refusing to give to a fellow Israelite as the seventh year of debt cancellation approaches. As an example: Israelite A approaches Israelite B and asks for two hundred bucks. Israelite B knows that the seventh year is coming up in two months, and since it’s November (I’m thinking in terms of our calendar. Of course theirs was different. Go with me here) that would only give Israelite B one year to try to collect on the debt. If Israelite B had the money to give and refused to do it because his chances of collecting the money in full decreased, it was considered sinful. God wants his people to give generously and without a grudging heart. In verse 11, God says “There will always be poor people in your land”. No, this does not contradict the above passages of Scripture where God says if the people of Israel obey they will not be poor. Why? Because that section seems to address the nation as a whole. Remember, the Israelite was supposed to be a tight-knit community in that they took care of each other. If the people were truly doing what God told them to do, technically there might be poor people there, but God would bless obedient Israel so much that there would be enough resources that everyone would still be provided for, rich or not.
Hebrew servants are to be freed in seven years, and once their period of service is over, the master should give them a number of parting gifts. The servant has the option to stay, and if he chooses to do so his ear will be pierced with an awl (same for a female servant). Masters should not be bitter when their servant is freed the seventh year–as a matter of fact, they should be pleased. If they have taken care of the slave and done everything God has told them to do, God will bless them: “Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because their service to you those six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do” (v. 18).
This chapter concludes with God telling the people to set apart all of the nation’s firstborn male animals for him.
Whoa. I can feel the sleep aid kicking in.