Lessons in God’s word that go with the Sunday sermon. Scripture portions for the week.

The Perfect Law of Liberty

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25

Va’yelech וילך : “And he went”
Torah : Deuteronomy 31:1-30
Haftarah : Isaiah 55:6-56:8
Gospel : Luke 24:13-43

The Perfect Law of Liberty

So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel.  And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 31:9-13

Moses is about to die. In the last month of his life he summarizes the exodus experience and the gift of God’s word, the Torah. The Lord instructs Moses to present the children of Israel with a choice. The choice is one of blessing or curses, it is one of liberty or slavery, this choice is a choice of life or death. Moses calls up Joshua to anoint him as the new leader of Israel, Moses encourages Joshua to be strong and of good courage.

It is at this point that Moses entrusts the Law to the priests responsible for the Ark of the covenant. He also instructs them to read God’s Torah (from Genesis to Deuteronomy) every seven years, the year of release, during the Feast of Tabernacles. Don’t let that slip by you. Every seven years there was time for debts to be forgiven and the land was to rest. The Feast of Tabernacles is the time when God comes to live among man.

This is important. At the time that God draws close to man, man is to draw close to God. Jesus is the living Word of God who came to live among us. It follows that if we desire blessings and liberty and life we should be active in seeking the will of God as found in His word. The reason many so-called Christians do not hold a biblical world view is that they do not allow their doctrine and beliefs to be shaped by the perfect law of liberty found in the mirror of God’s word.

Standing with the Lord and Crossing Over

“All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today,  that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 29:10-13

This week’s bible reading
Nitzavim
נצבים : “You are standing”
Torah : Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20
Haftarah : Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Gospel : Luke 24:1-12

Our lives are about choices. Every choice that we make can have incredible effects on our lives. The Lord started the human race with a choice too. Adam and Eve were given the choice of obedience to God or obedience to self. We may not understand it, but we are given the exact same choice. Will we stand with the people of God or will fall to the nature of our flesh?

The title of this week’s scripture reading comes from the Hebrew word nitzavim, it is translated as “you are standing”. There are several words for standing used in Hebrew. This word is not referring to people just standing about waiting for something. Rather, this word means standing at attention, similar to how I would stand at attention to salute the flag during the national anthem while in my military uniform.

The Lord calls us to stand in agreement with Him that His ways are right and our ways are destructive. Deuteronomy 29:12 calls us to take this stand “that we may enter into covenant with the Lord your God.” The Lord through Moses uses the Hebrew verb avar, which means, “to cross over”. This could symbolically mean one who crosses over from darkness into light.

This theme is at the heart of Jesus’ message when He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17b) and “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3b)

We must listen to the voice of God and do as He tells us. Living contrary to the way of the Lord brings death and destruction. If we hear His voice and obey Him, agreeing that He is right and His ways and commandments bring life and blessing, we can cross over into a born again life and stand with His children like trees planted by rivers of water bringing forth fruit that will bless others.

I know that when I live for myself, I am not the only one to pay the price. My family and my community suffer too. That is why it is important that when God calls, I stand up, listen with respect and reverence along with everyone else who has an ear to hear.

 

 

The Wilderness and Our Walk with the Lord

Bamidbarבמדבר : “In the wilderness”

Bible Reading- Torah : Numbers 1:1-4:20 Haftarah : Hosea 2:1-22 Gospel : John 1-2

A wilderness is a barren wasteland that is without the usual food and water needed for day to day living.

The book of Numbers opens with the words, “The LORD spoke to Moses bamidbar (in the wilderness) …” The word bamidbar (במדבר) means “in the wilderness.” The Hebrew name of the book is Bamidbar. “In the wilderness” is a good description of the stories in the book of Numbers because this fourth book of the Scripture records events that occurred over the thirty-nine years of the wilderness wanderings.

It was in the wilderness that Israel had to depend on the Lord. He provided manna from heaven and water from a rock, but even greater He provided His living word for His people to live. Our Lord Jesus also spent time in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that the Lord fasted for 40 days and was then tempted by Satan. During this tempting, Jesus quoted scripture when He stated that man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Duet 8:3

The wilderness is a time to forge anew the man or woman of God. This is not just a metaphor, there are many times in our lives when we have lack in our lives, but the choice is always the same. Do we rely on God for what we need or do reject His provision and try to solve the problem ourselves. When we chose the Lord, He may not remove us from the wilderness. Jesus moved from one temptation to the next, He even called upon the Father to remove from Him the cup of the crucifixion but in trusting the Father He still drank.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses warns Israel against success and prosperity that might harden their hearts, causing them to forget God. He reminds Israel that God led them “through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water.” (Deuteronomy 8:15)

Wilderness is a place of refuge, provision and revelation. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Since wilderness requires us to rely on God, it can nurture spiritual health. The prophets sometimes look back at the wilderness experience nostalgically as they remember the romance of Israel following God through the desert. The prophet Jeremiah says:

Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.'” (Jeremiah 2:2)

Through the prophet Hosea, the LORD says of unfaithful Israel, “Behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

God instituted the Feast of Tabernacles as an annual remembrance of Israel’s wilderness experience. (Leviticus 23:42-43) The festival is strategically placed right after the harvest. When the Israelite was enjoying a sense of success and abundance, God wanted him to remember the historic wilderness experience of his forefathers. God wants us to remember the days in the wilderness, lest we forget that He is our true provider. “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.'” (Deuteronomy 8:17)

It easy to forget that the Lord has saved us and that it is Him we should trust for our daily bread. It was from the wilderness that God sent John the Baptist to call God’s people to repent and return to God. That same call is being issued today. Through the economic and political turmoil and even the natural disasters, the Lord issues His call, His warning to turn from our wicked ways and in all that we do seek Him.

Study to Learn- Learn to Do (Doers of the Word)

If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out … (Leviticus 26:3)

Behar/Bechukotai | בהר/בחקותי | “On the mountain/In my statutes ”
Torah : Leviticus 25:1-27:34
Haftarah : Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Gospel : Luke 13:1-33/John 10:22-42/Luke 14:1-15:32

In the book of James, we are instructed to be doers of the word of God, not hearers only. Scholars have argued as to why Leviticus 26:3 should say to walk in the Lord’s statutes so as to carry them out. When we study the word of God it is not enough to just read it. Reading and hearing are only the first steps in our obedience to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul talks about Abraham in the book of Romans in chapter 4. He tells us that Abraham believed what God spoke to him and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham heard and understood what God had commanded, but James teaches us the rest of the story. It is not enough to hear from God, we must believe Him and act on that belief.

What is the difference between (1) walking in the statutes, (2) keeping the commandments and (3) carrying them out? “Walking in the statutes” refers to intensive study of the Bible. “Keeping the commandments” refers to learning how the commandments of the Bible are properly kept. “Carrying them out” refers to actually doing what the commandments say to do. In other words, we should study Scripture for the purpose of learning it, and we should learn it for the purpose of doing it.

Sometimes we study the Bible simply for the sake of learning the Scriptures, but we never get around to doing what the Bible tells us to do. We often hear the Word of God and learn its message but fail to put it into practice. This is especially true in regard to the laws of God.

In some Christian schools of thought, the laws of God are believed to have spiritual meanings instead of literal meanings. That suggests that the laws of God were never meant to be kept; they were only meant to be understood as spiritual lessons.

Of course, this is the very teaching that has led us to a dying church and world that rejects the things of God. If we do not take the Lord seriously and walk the talk, how can we ever expect the world to hear the call of the Gospel. It is time to be doers of the word of God, not hearers only.