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Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy’ Category

Part 1

Part 2

Now let’s engage some actual Bible passages:

Let us consider the following:
1. In the beginning God created the Earth and gave it to one couple Adam and Eve. They were the sole owners of the planet Earth. Think about it! Given to them by God! That was before the fall of man! That is too much wealth.
2. Then God called Abraham and Sarah and blessed them “…The Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” Genesis 24:1 Abraham had so much material wealth that he had to part ways with his nephew Lot because the pasture could not feed all their animals together. Abraham had over four hundred men working in his ranch, with their families. That is employment. When Sodom and Gomorrah were attacked and Lot captured. Abraham got the news, he took his four hundred servants and pursued the enemy defeated them and recovered all and restored to the kings what they had lost. On his way back he met Melchizedek the priest of God and gave to him tithes of all. The first tither in the Bible.
3. David was blessed materially no wonder he could provide materials to build God such a magnificent house but Solomon is the one who built it .
Then Solomon offered 120,000 sheep and 22,000 oxen in dedicating the Temple. Does this sound like poverty to you?
4. In Jesus ministry there were no offices and office bearers, but there was a treasurer…. Judas! Why? Could it be that Jesus was teaching us something about money in ministry? Yes he was. Money is the mode of exchange in this world….ignore it to your own destruction. Let us rightly divide the word of truth. Money if not put in its proper place can ruin your life…. for lack of it or much of it. So be realistic. Judas misappropriated ministry money. He also said what a woman spent on Jesus was a waste. He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, then committed suicide. Think about it! One of the twelve disciples of Jesus committed suicide!
On the other hand when Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, the disciples ran away. It took two men who had both affluence and influence to reach Pilate and demand for the body of Jesus and give him a descent burial. That was Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus. Where were those poor believers at Jesus greatest hour of need when he could not do anything for himself but needed someone’s help!

Taking our brother’s points in turn:

  1. Adam and Eve were given dominion over the living things of the earth (Gen. 1:26-28), given free reign to eat from any plant or tree (Gen. 1:29; 2:16) and given the job of working the garden (Gen. 2:15) but I can’t see anywhere that they were given the earth. The LORD’s making of the earth (and all who dwell in it) means that it is all his (Ps. 24:1-2). If there was an original giving of the earth it was a giving of the earth to the Son. All things were created for him (Col. 1:16). He walked around the garden as the owner. Adam was the priest who’s job it was to be a faithful servant in God’s house, to guard the garden tabernacle, but he was not the owner or builder of the house (cf. Heb. 3:3-6). Adam was indeed appointed king of the world but the biblical idea of a king (in great contrast to the pagan view then and now) was not that the king owned the land and people but that he was a steward, an under-shepherd, serving God’s people in God’s land. A key point in servant leadership there.
  2. Certainly Abraham was wealthy and God’s blessing of him included his wealth. It shows that God is not anti-wealth and it is possible (like Job) to be wealthy and a believer. But in applying all this to those of us who are by faith children of Abraham we need to go through Galatians 3 and see our real blessing there. On the question of tithing and whether Abraham sets a precedent in Gen. 14 see the article by Kostenberger page 3-5.
  3. Solomon is not a great positive example of wealth. Though his wealth was in the first place God-given (1 Kings 3:13), the writer of Kings is subtly but clearly making the point in 1 Kings 10 that what Solomon was doing in terms of accumulating vast amounts of gold and horses is in direct contravention of the Kingship code of Deut. 17. It could even be that the famous number of the beast (Rev. 13:18) alludes to the amount of gold Solomon received (1 Kings 10:14). And then you look at Ecclesiastes. Certainly money is very useful (Eccl. 10:19) – no-one is denying that – but at the end of it all Solomon found all his wealth meaningless and unsatisfying (Eccl. 2).
  4. Our brother makes lots of good points from Jesus’ ministry on the importance of money and using it well for gospel purposes and with proper accountability being aware of the temptations. As we’ve said several times now, we are not against money or using money in life and ministry. There were obviously wealthy believers and those with financial means who supported Jesus in his ministry and who in the early church made their homes available for the church to meet in or supported the mission of the apostles and evangelists. Jesus talked repeatedly about money and we don’t want to avoid the subject. In fact if God moves you to support the ministry of  iServe Africa please do that right now – in Kenya or from overseas. It would be great to be in partnership!

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An old question: Why does 1 Samuel 8 seem to be very negative about the idea of a king while Deuteronomy 17 seems to be fine about it and Judges seems to think the big problem is the lack of a king?

A friend helped me see recently that it’s not about having a king or not it’s about what sort of king. It’s very similar to (and connected to) the issue I keep banging on about on this blog that it’s not so much “Do you believe in God?” but “What sort of God do you believe in?”

You get two types of king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20: a) A king who is on the same level as his brothers, whose chief work is to daily read the Law so that he would fear God, keep and do the Law, and not be proud; and b) A king who accumulates stuff (“multiply for himself” x3) and sends the people back to Egypt.

The people in 1 Sam. 8 want a king like the kings of the nations around. Samuel explains what that sort of king is going to be like: v11-18 – he will be a taker (“he will take” x6) who will make himself and his aggrandisement the big project (“his” x9), basically enslaving you until you cry out like you did in Egypt (v17-18). But the people don’t care – there’s a sense in which that’s exactly what they want. They want a Big Man.

The LORD God says in choosing the world’s Big Man model of leadership they are rejecting him as king (v7). They are doing what they’ve always done, “forsaking me and serving other gods” (v8). Notice the connection between choice of deity and choice of king. The LORD God is not a Big Man-type leader. He isn’t a taker, he’s the giver. He isn’t an oppressor, he’s the liberator. He doesn’t make people serve his power agenda, he stoops to serve. But the Israelites (like we all naturally do in our perversity) want cruel tyrannical Big-Boss-In-The-Sky gods.

And the LORD says, that rejection of the true servant God and turning to tyrannical idols is now being played out at the human level: “so they are also doing to you (Samuel)” (v8). Samuel is the good leader of Deut. 17 – governing Israel by the Word and prayer (e.g. 1 Sam. 7 & 12). He is the servant leader who can say to the people, “What have I taken? Whom have I oppressed?” (1 Sam. 12).

What we need is what we don’t naturally want – The Servant King who perfectly fulfils the patterns of the Law and the Prophets: our Elder Brother who gives himself, who serves us, who sets us free. And second, we need servant leaders like Him – who are Word-driven, loving, obedient, serving, humble.

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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut. 6:4)

What’s the significance of the ‘one’? Is it saying that there is no other god – idols are nothing? Is it saying that God is the only basis of truth, life, existence? Is it saying that, though He is three persons, God is united as one? Certainly all these are true.

What if we had been reading through Deuteronomy from the beginning? What would be the most natural way to hear Deut. 6:4?

In chapter 4 you find very similar words and thoughts to those in chapter 6. Compare the language of commandments, statues, keeping, land in 6:1-3 with 4:1-2, 5, 14, 40. Compare the warning at 4:9 to guard your heart, not forget and pass this on to the next generation with the expansion at 6:6-25.

The stress in chapter 4 is very much on the uniqueness of the LORD (note the repeated rhetorical questions):

  • He’s the one near God – “What great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call upon him?” (4:7)
  • He’s the one good God – “What great nation is there that has statues and rules so righteous as this law?” (4:8)
  • He’s the one speaking God – “Has any other people heard the voice of a god speaking out of fire and lived?” (Deut. 4:33 – and see 4:11-24, 36)
  • He’s the one saving God of sovereign grace – “Has any other god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation by signs and wonders, a mighty hand and an outstretched arm?” (4:34 – and see 4:20, 31, 37-38)

Moses sums up:

the LORD is God and beside him there is no other… (4:35) lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath, there is no other (4:38)

So going back to Deut. 6:4, could it be that not only is Moses saying that Yahweh is mathematically one – the only real God – but also that there is none like the LORD.

Deuteronomy is preparing the children of Israel for pluralism (4:15-25; 12:29-13:18; 16:21-17:7; 29:18). As they crossed into the promised land they would find plenty of gods and plenty of versions of ‘worship’. And today, not only in other religions but in the church there are many versions of ‘God’. There are many gods who are distant and deaf to our cries. There are many gods who are, as Christopher Hitchens put it ‘not great’, poisonous, immoral. There are many gods who are dumb or at least unable to speak clearly. There are many gods who applaud good, hardworking people and condemn bad, useless people. But there is only One thoroughly good, loving, listening, speaking, merciful, saving, gracious Immanuel.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

What’s your God like?

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Be blessed

A few notes and pointers on Biblical blessings and curses:

  1. The foundational texts – Lev. 26 & Deut. 28 – the historical and prophetic books of the Old Testament constantly refer back to these texts (e.g. the much-used Malachi 3).
  2. The blessings: Life, health,prosperity, agricultural abundance, respect, and safety.  The curses: Death, disease, drought, dearth, danger, destruction, defeat, deportation, destitution, and disgrace.  (Fee & Stuart)
  3. Corporate – They are addressed to ‘you’ plural not ‘you’ singular.  If the people of God as a whole obey/disobey then the whole people will be blessed/cursed.  As we see in the days of Elijah and Elisha there were godly individuals and a godly remnant who were affected by the curse of drought and famine along with the rest of Israel.
  4. Historical – As you read through the curses in Leviticus & Deuteronomy they start to sound more like prophecy of what will happen rather than an abstract threat.
    And of course they did all happen, even (horribly) down to women eating their children (2 Kings 6).
  5. Relational – The point of the blessings and curses was not the blessings and curses themselves.  The blessings were tokens of his love (see Lev. 26:11-12) and the curses were discipline designed to bring his people back to himself (see Lev. 26:23).
  6. Upped in the New Testament – We are in the New Covenant now – we don’t sacrifice bulls, we don’t go to a holy place, we don’t need priests.  There are still blessings and curses but they’ve been massively ratcheted up. Compare Deut. 29:20-21 with Rev. 22:18-19.  The blessing is now the joys of perfect fellowship with God in the New Creation (Rev. 21).  The curse is now the lake of fire (Rev.
    20).  These are respectively far far better and far far worse than anything in Deuteronomy 28.
  7. Jesus has taken the curse of the Law on behalf of the believer (Gal. 3:10-14).  We still live in a fallen world where work, environment, health, our spirits groan under the weight of sin (Rom. 8).  We still await the wonderful day where there is no more curse (Rev. 22:3) but praise God that we are completely redeemed from the curse of the Law.  So let’s not threaten God’s people with old covenant curses or promise them old covenant blessings but instead preach Christ in whom we are (already) blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm.

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