FEED, EXERCISE AND TRAIN YOUR SPIRITUAL MEMORY; THE ONE WHO CAUSED JESUS TO MARVEL.
DON’T FORGET THE PRIVILEGES OF GOD’S GRACE
The opening speech of Moses concludes with the injunction to remember the privileges of God’s grace in their history. God had pledged Himself to be in a ‘covenant relationship’ with them. He would be their God and they would be His people.
DON’T FORGET HIS DELIVERANCE AND HIS DISCIPLINE
He heard their cry and delivered them from their bondage. He called them to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation. Their failures were matched with His discipline and promise. Because of His love for them, He would teach them of His holiness and through them create the infrastructure for His plan of salvation that would be a blessing to all the nations.
DON’T FORGET HIS PROVEN FAITHFULNESS TO HIS PROMISE
Israel’s history is a Divine One, and thereby unique among all the nations. Its history is inexplicable without reference to the God of glory, Yahweh, who called Abram, promising him a Seed and a Land. This foreshadows the promise of the King and the Kingdom; the Messiah as the promised Seed, and a Holy Place, a Land that will be filled with the Light of the Holiest of All.
The scope of these promises continues to enlarge as history unfolds. The Seed of the woman that crushes the serpent’s head, destroys the work of the devil (sin), and defeats the enemy of death, is also the Seed of Abraham that will bless all the nations of the earth with His gospel. The little tabernacle in the wilderness will enlarge into a larger temple. The Seed will come as the Lamb and Priest. The veil will be torn as He makes a way for His people to enter the true tabernacle of fellowship in the Holiest of all. The light of His glory will spread to include the court of the Gentiles, thus birthing a new temple, the church. The church as a habitation for God by the Holy Spirit will be the expression of the body of Christ on earth. It will function as the people of the New Covenant, manifesting the fullness of Him that fills all in all. At the consummation of the age, the head of the church, Jesus Christ will return as Judge and King, appearing a second time for salvation, without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. And the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea! Behold He makes all things new!
DON’T FORGET: THE UNIQUENESS OF ISRAEL AS A TESTIMONY TO THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
MOSES CHALLENGES HIS HEARERS TO CONSIDER THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:
“Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other.
- Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it?
- Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived?
- Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
The answers to these three questions remain the same throughout human history. No.
DON’T FORGET THE PRIVILEGE OF GOD’S SELF-REVELATION
- [v.35] “To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.
- [v. 36] “Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
- and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.
- [v. 37] “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power,  driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today.
- [v.39] “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.
The truth is that we do forget. This is not just a weakness of the mind; it is the propensity of the heart. It is the result of sin and it is a wrong done to God.
Memory is a non-moral faculty of the soul. There is a consciousness that will outlive the data machine, the gray matter of the brain that will be buried with our bodies. The spiritual memory must be trained, exercised, and used. One of the greatest forces for good is to discipline ourselves to keep certain facts in mind. Some things are worth forgetting. Others we must not fail to remember. Be renewed in the “spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).
In His mercy, God calls us to remember Him. The Book of Deuteronomy, the Second Law, is a Repetition of the First Law, and a renewing of Israel’s initial covenant commitment. We need to continually revisit the Word of God by hearing it, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating upon it, and celebrating it with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and vigorous discussion.
Deut. 4:23 “So watch yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you.
Moses reminds the Israelites that central to their history is God’s self-revelation.
He is Holy. This means that all His attributes are in a category of perfection all its own. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. Yet He is invisible. No visible form had been granted to them in His communication, even in the fire and in the burning bush. We are later exhorted by the Apostle Paul, not to know Jesus, God-Incarnate, after the flesh, as if He were anything less than the Infinite Creator God (2 Cor. 5:14-16).
We are not to make for ourselves any idols. We are to delight in Him, the Creator, above all creation. We are to honor His power above all powers. And no created thing should hold any power over us!
The speech transitions to the Second Articulation of the Law.
Deut. 4:40 “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
THE NAMES OF THREE OF THE SIX CITIES OF REFUGE
Moses introduces the Law in verse 44. But before he does, he appoints the three cities of Refuge that will be on the east side of the Jordan (the side on which they are currently camping).
Remember these Cities of Refuge point to the Refuge we have in Christ:
- BEZER– meaning FORTRESS. (A mighty fortress is our God and bulwark never failing! – Martin Luther, from Psalm 46:7, 11)
- RAMOTH– meaning EXALTATION; Christ became lower than the angels that He might be exalted and lift us up to a position above the angels. As our mediator, He is seated at the right hand of the Father and we share this position as those who are seated together in heavenly places “in Him”.
- GOLAN– means JOY. He is our exceeding Joy. JESUS is the JOY of YAHWEH (Neh. 8:10). In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
When we are accused by the Law let us flee to HIM who is our REFUGE, OUR FORTRESS, WHOSE BLOOD PLEADS THAT OUR SIN HAS BEEN PAID FOR ON HIGH, WHERE HE, OUR ADVOCATE, IS EXALTED ON OUR BEHALF. HE WHO IS OUR JOY has made us sit together in the heavenly places where we are forever safe in Him.
Let us also take to heart Deuteronomy 4:2 which I will summarize: Don’t edit the Word. Just do it!
Deuteronomy 4:2 2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Luke 6:39-7:10
Jesus includes seven illustrations of hypocrisy in the Sermon on the Mount.
The word ‘hypocrite’ means a person who pretends to be someone or something he is not. In Greek dramas, the actors wore large expressive masks that could be seen clearly at a distance. It is a compound word to describe an actor who is ‘hupo’, ‘underneath’ a ‘krities’, a ‘mask’ or ‘assumed character’.
JESUS GIVES SEVEN DESCRIPTIONS OF A HYPOCRITE:
- (v. 39) A blind man wearing the mask portraying a character who has perfect vision. When the blind lead the blind both fall into the ditch! Hypocrites are those who assume positions of leadership without the eyes of their heart’s understanding being enlightened by Christ.
- (v. 40) A student wearing the mask portraying that he is the teacher. He assumes superiority over his teachers. He puts himself above the teacher but is not prepared to function and suffer as a teacher. (True disciples are teachable).
- (v. 41-42) A man with a beam in his eye who pretends to be an eye-doctor. Those who point out the faults of others while neglecting the fact that their perceptions are affected by their own faults to which they are blinded.
- (v. 43-45) A thorn bush that pretends to be a fig tree. Trees bring forth fruit true to their nature. A tree that professes to have a new nature (a good heart) yet produces bad fruit is a pretender.
- (v. 45) A person who professes to have good treasure but brings forth evil treasure. The parable of the treasures of the heart is another illustration of the fact that what is in our heart, and what our heart treasures most, will be revealed by our behavior and speech.
- (v.46) Someone who says “Lord, Lord” yet does not do what He (Jesus) says.
Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount by saying those who hear Him will go to whatever length necessary (dig deep) to:
- Come to Him (v. 47)
- Hear His Words
- Act on Them (repent of sin and believe on Him)
Those who do so will find salvation through every storm including the great tsunami of the final judgment (the torrent) (Verse 48). Those who don’t come to Him, don’t hear His words, and don’t act on them (though they may pretend to do so) shall experience immediate collapse at the judgment and great ruin.
There is only one man that Jesus is ever said to have marveled at. He was not Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Moses, or David. He was not one of his disciples. In fact, he wasn’t even from Israel.
Jesus had just taught about loving your enemy. The enemies of the Jews were the Romans.
Now, after completing his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus heads to Capernaum to be greeted by some Jewish elders who brought the report of a Roman centurion whose beloved slave was sick and about to die. The elders said that this Roman centurion was unique. He loved the Jews and built a synagogue for them. He loved his slave and would not leave his side. He knew Jesus could help.
When Jesus was not far from the house, friends of the centurion came to Jesus with this message.
“Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:6b-8)
Jesus, according to Luke, “marveled at him”. He had not even seen the Roman centurion. But He was already struck by his written testimony! The centurion understood who Jesus was. He understood His authority and was humbly submitting to it.
“Jesus marveled at him”. Both Luke and Matthew use the Greek word for amazement, ‘thaumazo’. The only other time it is used to describe a response of Jesus is in Mark 6 when Jesus is AMAZED at the UNBELIEF of those in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:6).
How unlikely it was that this man would get this response from the Son of God. He was a Gentile, with most likely a pagan upbringing. He was a Roman stationed in Palestine. He was subject to the Emperor who was worshiped by the Romans as God. He was a man of war. Centurions had to distinguish themselves in their fighting skills. He had a knowledge of human authority and the Holy Spirit caused him to recognize Divine Authority. By a miracle of grace, God had opened his heart and given him faith to submit himself to Christ.
Jesus not only performed miracles, He watched miracles. He responds with rejoicing when He recognizes the miracle of the Father giving people the revelation of Who He is (Luke 10:21). He honors the Father when people confess that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16:18). Jesus recognizes what is behind the mask of our lives. He looks beyond the Roman garb and sees the heart of a true believer in the God of Abraham. He does not look upon the outward man but looks upon the heart. He recognizes true humility, faith, hope, and love that only a miracle of grace can place there.
May the quality of our response to Christ bring Him delight today.
READING FROM THE PSALMS- PSALM 68
How excited the Choir Director must have been to have received this psalm from David! The righteousness of God is to be praised! A person is made right with God by God’s righteous work alone. This reconciliation is provided through Jesus Christ’s once and for all sacrifice. On the ground of His perfect work of redemption we who were by nature, God’s haters and enemies, fit for destruction, are now rejoicing with gladness. It is by grace we are saved (Ephesians 2:8).
Psalm 68:3-4 (NASB) 3 But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. 4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.
“Let God arise!” was the cry of Moses as the children of Israel broke camp and set out to follow the cloud by day and the fire by night! He was their protector. “Let His enemies be scattered!”
Numbers 10:35 (NASB) 35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered and let those who hate You flee before You.”
Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45) and greater Israel went through the deserts of human temptations without sin. He is the “Lord our righteousness!” (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16)
The song continues with a description of God’s character:
Psalm 68:5-6 (NASB) 5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. 6 God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
God’s character was proved during Israel’s wilderness journeys.
Psalm 68:18 18 You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, Even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there.
God’s redeeming work is accomplished through Christ, the holiest of all. He receives the verdict of perfection as He ascends before the government of God (the mountain of God) to be crowned as the Redeemer King, the Son of Man. The rewards of His victory are freely dispersed among those whom He has redeemed, even the rebellious.
In Ephesians 4:7-10, the apostle Paul sees the crowning ascension of Jesus Christ triggering the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, with His gifts given to the church, as a fulfillment of Psalm 68:18.
Ephesians 4:7-10 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? (The Incarnation) 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens (The Ascension of the Victor) , so that He might fill all things.) (Italics- mine)
A tradition at the coronation of monarchs, such as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, is that gifts would be distributed among all the subjects, whether or not they were deserving of them. And so, God distributed gifts to the church at the coronation of His Son.
Ephesians 4:11-12 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
The women who came to anoint His body at the tomb discovered that Jesus was raised from the dead according to His Word. They were commissioned to tell others the good news! (Matthew 28:7,10). This event brings Psalm 68:11 to mind:
Psalm 68:11 (NASB) 11 The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host:
READING FROM PROVERBS
Proverbs 11:28 (NASB) 28 He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.
The message is clear. A right relationship with God, and doing right, is to be sought over riches. The outcomes of these two very different pursuits, the pursuit of riches and the pursuit of righteousness, are very different. Only one leads to true prosperity.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: CAMEROON (p.189-192, OPERATION WORLD Prayer Guide)
On the continental hinge between West and Central Africa., Cameroon has a semi-arid region in the north, grasslands in the center and rainforest in the south. It is one of Africa’s most ethnically and linguistically complex countries with 279 languages; the official languages being French and English. The majority of the workforce is employed in agriculture, yet unemployment is high. It has one of Africa’s highest literacy rates, and one of the world’s highest corruption rates. Islam is strong in the north and interfaith tensions have increased over recent decades.
Answer to Prayer
The growth of evangelicals. Most of the recent growth is through localized church planting, particularly among newer Pentecostal denominations.
Challenge for Prayer
Cameroon faces internal forces that could disable the nation. Cameroon is blessed with material resources, relative stability and diversity; these all have their costs and risks.
a) Widespread and deeply entrenched corruption, for decades, has crippled Cameroon’s economic and political progress. This blight runs deep in government administration, the police, the legal system and business. Anti-corruption initiatives (done at the behest of the international bodies that hand out loans and forgive interest on debts) have made some progress, but a deeper change of attitudes must occur. Pray that those stealing from the nation would be caught and stopped; pray also for a change in people’s lax attitude toward and acceptance of corruption.
b) Deep divisions of language, politics and faith are all potential flashpoints of tension and violence. Cameroon is divided between French and English regions, between Christian, Muslim and traditional religions, between government cronies and increasingly frustrated opposition. Pray for God to raise up reconcilers and peacemakers in this divided land.
c) Integrity in leadership will make a difference if even just a few key people speak, act and live with integrity. Pray for leaders who will be examples of righteousness and transparency rather than perpetuators of the status quo.
The spiritual poverty of the churches is the country’s greatest tragedy. Nominal Christianity is a bigger problem in Cameroon than in most of Africa. Early work has been compromised with liberation theology. Tribalism, pagan practices, alcoholism and low moral standards are endemic. Pray for deep repentance, lasting deliverance and true revival and pray for a restoration of Bible reading, preaching and holiness among Christians.
PRAYER: Almighty, All-Knowing God, You see what is behind the mask. You know our hearts. I pray that You will remove our masks and let us agree with the verdict and remedy of the cross for our sinful humanity. May we no longer pretend that the Adamic nature can pass off as ‘Christian’. We repudiate the works of the flesh and accept the gift of having been crucified with Christ. We are dead to our old nature and inheritance ‘in Adam’. We humbly receive the free gift of a new life and our inheritance in Christ. We thank You that we no longer need to hide, because we are hid with Christ and alive to You through Your Spirit. Help us to walk in the Spirit today and express the fruit of His indwelling towards others. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742