Happy Friday!

My poor sweet little boy is sick today.

He had a great ninth birthday. Although I spent the day feeling pretty nostalgic, leafing through his old baby book and looking at the pictures of him in his little crib in the NICU, there was little time to relax after he got out of school. He had about ten or twelve of his little friends from school and some relatives join him for a bowling birthday party. Then, on Friday, we went to what is now my new favorite (relatively) close family destination, Kalahari Resorts in Ohio. MAAAAAAAN that place had it ALL! A fantastic buffet, little shops, a huge arcade, a zoo, well-equipped rooms with fireplaces (we had a FABULOUS suite with a hot tub on the balcony), and, of course, a FANTASTIC waterpark with one of the best slides ever…

Image result for slides at kalahari resort ohio

It was a ton of fun. What made it even more fun was that we had a big group of people. I was especially pleased that my father-in-law was able to come, all the way from Alabama. After my Dad passed (it still bothers me to say that) he decided he wanted to see his grandkids more often. I don’t blame him, and I am glad that he made that decision. My kids just love him. He’s a fun guy 🙂

All in all, the ninth birthday was a success for my son. He works hard at school and he is so kind.

With him in bed already and my daughter on her way, I have time to hopefully get through a few more chapters of Deuteronomy. I believe I was on chapter sixteen.

Here, the Israelites are reminded that they are to celebrate the Passover in the month of Aviv (which roughly corresponds to when spring begins, around March 21), because that is when God delivered them from Egypt.They are reminded of their Passover instructions–the sacrifice to be made and there is to be no yeast used for seven days. The Passover sacrifice cannot occur just anywhere; it must be done where the Lord decides to choose a dwelling place for his Name. The people are also reminded of the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. In verse 16, we see that the men of Israel are the ones who are required to attend these Festivals: “Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, at the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles”. Although women were allowed to attend, and were expected to worship God outside these festivals, their primary place was at the home with their children. The man, as the head of the household, was also the spiritual leader of the house, if you will, so it makes sense that the men were required to attend while the women’s attendance was voluntary.

The people are then exhorted to appoint judges within each of the tribes who shall judge the matters of the people fairly. God tells the people–again–not to set up any Asherah poles or erect any sacred stones.

In chapter seventeen, God again warns the people against idolatry. The discussion begins with God telling the people that their sacrifices to him are to be flawless. Almost as an addendum to previous Deuteronomy scriptures, God tells the people that anyone among them who engages in idol worship, including bowing down to the sun, moon, or stars, the matter must be investigated thoroughly. If the investigation reveals that the person is guilty, they are to be taken to the city gate and stoned. There have to be two to three witnesses before conviction–the testimony of one witness is not sufficient for a death sentence. The hands of the witnesses have to be the first ones to take part in the stoning, followed by all the rest of the people, in order that full purging can take place.

With the understanding that there was the possibility that there might be a case presented to the human judges that would confound them, God gives them some additional help. In this situation, the party or parties involved are to be taken to the place where God chooses (as his dwelling place). The Levitical priests and the judge who is in office at that time will render a verdict in the case (sounds like the Supreme Court, doesn’t it? Are we also seeing some reflections of what would eventually become the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council that was instrumental in having Jesus put to death?). Whatever the priests and judge decide, the person is to adhere to or risk being put to death for showing contempt. God does not want the people to think it is ever okay to show disrespect for those who are ministering in his name, and he explains that in verses 12-13: “Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again”. Imagine that–if after the failing and punishment of one person, the people might learn their lesson. That just doesn’t happen anymore. People have no respect for God. More and more people are denying his very existence, and trying to take away from his many accomplishments. SMH. I guess one who doesn’t believe in God wouldn’t have any fear of him, but for those who do, I wonder if they have quenched the Holy Spirit, because I see far too many people who call themselves believers acting completely out of order.

This next passage of Scripture interests me. God with all of his knowledge knows that Israel is going to follow in the footsteps of other nations and eventually want to have a human king. One would think that God would be sufficient, but as we see in later books of the Bible, the Israelites did indeed follow the lead of pagan nations and request a king. God lays out the instructions for choosing this king right here. This king must be a fellow native-born Israelite. Here are the other qualifications, and here is a spoiler–in later books, the kings do not follow these rules:

“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again’. He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver or gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”  (vv. 16-20, italics added by me).

IMAGINE that kind of leadership. I must admit, that is what I think is wrong with a lot of our politicians. I find it hard to believe that people who make hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars can relate to someone like me. For a long time, I’ve had a problem with rich politicians, because number one, most of them in my humble opinion may have come upon their money in less-than-honorable transactions (not all, of course), and number two, we all know how money pollutes the mind. I would rather have someone representing me that makes forty to sixty grand a year and UNDERSTANDS the STRUGGLE of the many people he or she is expected to represent. The vast majority of Americans are NOT millionaires. We need representation of the people BY THE PEOPLE. Not saying millionaires are all blissfully unaware of the plight of others, but the millionaire politicians just don’t seem to get it–or don’t always seem to care. Some of them seem to think that they made it all by themselves with no help from anyone and because of that, everyone should be able to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. I find it hard to believe that everyone who was become wealthy had NO help at all–no help from family, no financial backers, no support or grants from the government ever? Yeah right.

Unfortunately when money and power come together a lot of people tend to forget where they come from and begin to blame those less fortunate for their circumstances. Of course there are some people in bad situations due to their own mistakes. That is not the vast majority of people. What do you think would happen if the same elite school that exists in Beverly Hills or something existed in Detroit? Do people really believe people would rather be poor than be comfortable?

That reminds of me of something else I have to get off my chest, now that we’re on people thinking they’re better than others… I know this is now considered old news at this point, but it burned me up…

So… apparently Raven-Symone believes that her name is traditional? But as per the main point of that segment… I’ll admit I have been appalled at some of the names I’ve seen popping up as of lately. Take when I go to my son’s school, for example, or from working at the office. I see parents bring in an absolutely darling little boy or girl, and when they write their name down, I can’t pronounce it correctly. Now, I stuck to fairly common names for my kids–I liked the way they sounded and what they meant. I did consider their future when I named them–neither my husband nor I really cared for unique names. But the point is that it is SAD that I even considered that my son or daughter’s application for a job might be trashed because I made the wrong name choice for them. Let’s say I had wanted to give my beautiful baby boy or girl something unique, that no one else had, something I had thought up. He or she might grow up to be an excellent student with great credentials, yet his or her resume might end up in the shredder because of the name that is at the top of the cover letter? How is that FAIR or RIGHT to anyone??

In my life, I’ve encountered tons of people with names that were, to me, DIFFERENT. Heck, Indian names are different. I went to middle school with some Vietnamese kids whose names were different. I remember one girl’s name was pronounced “Tampon” (that’s not how it was spelled, but that was how it was pronounced). I’ll never forget when I graduated from Eastern Michigan University–one of the names that was called out, belonging to a man, was Vijaynah. I’ll let you figure out how it’s pronounced. Did their name, and the fact that I had difficulty pronouncing it or because it sounded funny per my American standards, have any bearing on who they were as a person or their capability to learn and be productive? Absolutely not. I meant to do this awhile ago, but even after the bland apology she gave, here’s to you Raven-Symone:

Image result for have several seats

It is BAD ENOUGH that Blacks still have to face the possibility of being discriminated against by others because of skin color. Unfortunately we also have to worry about being discriminated against by our own because of petty stuff like names. SMH.

But I digress.

In chapter eighteen God discusses the offerings for the priests and Levites, reminding the people that the priests and Levites (remember that all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests) did not have an allotment or inheritance among Israel, as the Lord is their inheritance. Details are given as to what part of the sacrificial animals belong to the Levites, as well as the firstfruits of their grain, wine and olive oil, and first shearing of their sheep. Levites are free to travel between the towns of Israel, and are to be welcomed in their servant role wherever they go. Other Levites are to welcome them with open arms.

When the people of Israel have fully inhabited the new land, they are prohibited from engaging in the practices of the people who currently reside in Canaan. Some of the detestable practices that God warns the people of Israel about are sacrificing their own children in fire, practicing divination or sorcery, interpreting omens, engaging in witchcraft, casting spells, or acting as a medium or spiritist or person who consults the dead. These are some of the practices for which God is driving those people from their land. The same can happen to the people of Israel if they decide to live in that way as well.

While those nations are practicing divination and sorcery, God informs the people that they will have something better–prophets. I like this passage of Scripture quite a bit, as it helps clear up any misunderstanding about prophets and prophecy:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed”  (vv. 15-22).
Interesting.
GOD is the one who called those particular men or women to be prophets. Was there something special about the people God chose for such a monumental task? Well, I’m sure being a prophet must have required strict obedience, as they could not do any “ad-libbing”, if you will. They had to say exactly what God told them to say, to whom God wanted them to say it. It was no small job, particularly if we consider the stressful economic situations during which the prophets spoke their messages, which were not always happy-happy-joy-joy messages. And we see that the punishment was severe–if a prophet said something he had not been commanded to do, or a person who prophesied in the name of any other god, was to be put to death.
Determining whether or not a prophet was truly sent by God was easy–if their message did not come true, they were not acting on the Lord’s behalf.
The only prophecy that is needed today has already been covered in the Instruction Manual. The entire Bible tells us what is going to happen, so we don’t need anyone to proclaim they know something different. And for people who go to other limited people and ask them about whether or not they are going to have a baby, get married, or get a job promotion, I wonder why you aren’t taking those questions to the ONLY ONE who really knows the answers–GOD.
That brings us to chapter nineteen. I’ll be brief here–God reminds the people they are to establish cities of refuge (three on each side of the Jordan for a total of six), and that there have to be multiple witnesses to a crime. Cities of refuge are only for people who have committed crimes without malice. The example given is very clear–if a man is cutting wood in the forest with a neighbor, and he swings his axe and the head comes off and hits his neighbor in the head, killing him, that man can go to one of those cities of refuge so as to avoid the wrath of the deceased’s family. God says that initially the people are to set aside three cities, and if he so decides to enlarge them (and eventually it becomes so) that they are to set aside three additional cities (that is why there ended up being six). Someone who plans and executes a cold-blooded murder are not to be shielded. They have to be turned over to the appropriate authorities and killed. God takes false witnesses seriously–if someone is found to have given false testimony (this person is referred to as a malicious witness), the punishment intended for the claimant will now be handed down to the person who provided the false witness. A phrase that is repeated multiple times in these chapters is you must purge the evil from you (or some other form of that phrase). One of the mothers from my church (now deceased, may she rest in heaven) used to say “if you give the Devil an inch, he’ll take a mile”. Sin has to be dealt with immediately and thoroughly so as to decrease the chance of widespread corruption.
(I guess I wasn’t that brief).
Chapter twenty deals with war. The Israelites ought not be afraid of any army, even if they have more horses and chariots and appear to be outnumbered, because they have God on their side. Before battle, the priest will address them to calm any fears they may have by reminding them of God’s protection. Although the following Scripture is intended for the Israelites as they prepare for battle, doesn’t this make for a good mantra or whatever for all believers to use at the beginning of our days, as we prepare to go out into the world, where our beliefs are in opposition to the entire world system???
“…(Hear, Israel): Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (vv. 3-4, parentheses added by me).

Some men may be exempt from a particular battle. If a man has just bought a home and not had the chance to yet live in it, he may go home and enjoy his house, lest he die in battle before being able to enjoy the fruit of his labor. The same goes for a man who has just planted a vineyard or become engaged to a woman. Interestingly enough, a man who is frightened or disheartened can be dismissed from battle too, because God would not want his fear to spread throughout the group. I assume not participating in battle was not necessarily an admirable thing to do, particularly for that last reason, but there were ways out.

Before attacking any city, Israel is to make them an offer of peace. If those people accept the peace terms, they are to be slaves to Israel. If they refuse the terms, the Israelites are to lay siege to their city, killing all the men and taking the women, children and livestock as plunder. They are able to use that plunder as they see fit. This is ONLY for the cities that are distant from them, not the ones they are to inhabit. The cities in the Promised Land are to be wiped CLEAN. Anything that breathes has to go:

However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God” (vv. 16-18).

When the Israelites attack the cities they are not to cut down the trees that bear fruit they can eat, but they can cut down other trees and use their wood.

Myriad topics are covered in chapter twenty-one. Atonement has to be made for any bloodshed, and that includes in the case of a murder where the assailant is unknown. If a body is found in a field, for example, the elders and judges are to measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns. The elders of the nearest towns are to take a heifer that has never been worked or worn a yoke and break her neck in a sacrificial act in a valley that has never been plowed or planted and has a flowing stream. The elders of that nearest town are to wash their hands over the heifer, clearing them and the city of any bloodshed.

One of the easiest ways to get a man to fall is with a beautiful woman 🙂 God knows this. We have seen many instances where women have led men into bad decisions or even idolatry. Yet, God knows that beautiful women from the cities that Israel is demolishing or taking over may catch the eye of an Israelite man. If among the captives an Israelite man notices a beautiful captive woman, he can take her as his wife, but once home he is to shave her hair, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when she was captured. In essence, she is being stripped of her former identity in order to make way for the new. Think about it–a lot of most women’s identity revolves around her hair. We take pride in our hair. For most of us, in order for us to do something extreme to it there has to be a very good reason. She is allowed to mourn her mother and father for about a month before the husband and wife thing becomes truly official. If the man decides he is not pleased with her, he has to let her go wherever she chooses, but he cannot sell her or treat her as a slave, since he has dishonored her (by quitting her, I suppose).

Interesting circumstances are discussed in the next passage. Suppose a man had two wives, one he loved and the other he didn’t (I’m thinking Jacob and the situation with Leah and Rachel, perhaps?). If his firstborn was borne to him by the wife he doesn’t love, that firstborn still gets the firstborn rights. The firstborn son is considered the “first sign of his father’s strength” (v. 17) and as such he is entitled to a double portion of the father’s belongings.

The next set of Scriptures talks about a rebellious son (but not a rebellious daughter, interestingly enough). If a son consistently disobeys his mother and father, they are to take him to the elders of the town at the city gates, where he is to be stoned to death by ALL the men of the town. Again we hear that familiar phrase: “You must purge the evil from you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid” (v. 21).

Now, do you think God intended that to be an everyday thing? No. One would think it would only take ONE rebellious son being put to death before others would think twice about it. And if you notice in that passage of Scripture in its totality, the parents accuse the son of being a glutton and drunkard. Apparently they are not referring to a rebellious seven-year-old. I don’t think God ever expected small children to be perfect in their behavior. This sounds to me more like older rebellious sons whose behavior was disgracing themselves and their parents. Obviously, if God prohibited child sacrifice, he wouldn’t turn around and tell people to stone their small children, would he??

To close out this chapter, God discusses an interesting concept… if someone is put to death and their body is displayed on a pole (sound kind of familiar?) they cannot be left hanging overnight. It must be buried that same day, because “anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse” (v. 23). Yes, our Lord Jesus subjected Himself to becoming a curse in God’s eyes, all so people like you and me could be counted among those who inherit the kingdom of heaven.

And now duty calls. Hopefully much more later 🙂

I’m not a huge football fan… but ummmm…

HAIL, TO THE VICTORS VALIANT…

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