Opening Up God’s Word: Old Testament

Genesis 1 – 2

“In the beginning, God”  – The first four words of the Bible take us back to the point where we can go no further, back to the eternity of God.

What do we find when we are taken back – into the heart of the eternal God?

We find love. We discover that “God is love.”

Creation is love because God is love. Before God made us, He loved us.

The love which we find in the opening chapters of Genesis is the love that is proclaimed throughout God’s Word – from Genesis to Revelation.

It’s the great love of God for us. It’s the love that never ends. It’s the love that goes on and on.

* How do we get to know God the Creator? How do we come to know that His heart is full of love for us?

In Genesis 1, three words are repeated over and over again: “And God said”.

These words emphasize the creative power of the Word of God.

God created through His Word. He proclaims His love to us through Jesus Christ, the living Word of God. He declares His love for us in the Scriptures, the written Word of God. We come to a true knowledge of god as our loving Creator when we come, in faith, to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  As the Scriptures proclaim the Saviour to us, we learn that we need to be re-created in Christ, if we are to discover the  purpose of God’s love when He created us in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). In Jesus Christ, we learn that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Through Christ, we read Genesis with new eyes, the renewed eyes of “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through this new creation in Christ, we come to a real understanding of what it means to say, “Lord God, You created me. You are my Creator.”

* When we see creation from the standpoint of Jesus Christ, it is no longer merely a matter of ‘long, long ago.’ When we see God, our Creator, through the eyes of Jesus, our Saviour, we no longer have the feeling of something ‘far, far away’, something which is so distant and remote from our lives that it does not really concern us very much at all. In Jesus Christ, God, our Creator, has come to us. In Jesus Christ, God, our Creator, has declared his love to us.  When you read the story of the Garden of Eden, let your thoughts move beyond that garden to another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed to His Father, “Not My will, but Yours be done (Luke 22:42). As you come, in faith, to the Christ of Calvary, you will see creation from the vantage-point of the cross. You will read what God’s Word says about creation with the eyes of one who has become a new creation in Christ. You will read of God, breathing the breath of life into man (Genesis 2:7), and you will rejoice in the gift of God – the Holy Spirit: God’s gift to every believer in the lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:14). When you read of God’s command to man to do His will, you will, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, make it your delight to do the will of God. This is what it means to be re-created in the image of God. It is a life of learning to pray, with Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.” To believe in God as our Creator is to obey Him as our Lord. Faith in God, the creator, is a living faith, when we know that Jesus is “God with us” and acknowledge Him as Lord.

We make our confession of faith  – “Jesus is Lord”, and we give thanks that “creation’s voice proclaims” that He is Lord.

Genesis 3

“Behold, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought many devices” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

* Following the glory and majesty of the Creator and His creation in Genesis 1 & 2, the third chapter of Genesis begins with the enemy of God, the enemy of our souls, the devil, Satan (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). He is “subtle” – sly, cunning, crafty. He is evil.He sows seeds of doubt: “Did God say?” (Genesis 3:1). From his very first words, it is clear that he is the enemy of God. “Did God say? Did God really say?” One can almost hear the wicked, unbelieving tone of voice with which Satan spoke.

* When the woman heard the voice of Satan, she ought to have turned away from him. She ought to have said, “Get behind me, Satan. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” She ought to have said this, but she didn’t. She discussed the matter with the enemy. She had no right to do this. There was one answer she ought to have given to the devil: God has spoken, God has stated His will, God has given His Word.  This is what she ought to have said to Satan, but she didn’t.

* As Satan spoke to Eve and she listened to him, he made her doubt God’s Word and question His command. Eve started to talk things over with Satan. This is where she made her big mistake. She should have told Satan that God’s command is for our good. She should have told him that God’s law is good and pure and holy. She should have said this to the devil, but she didn’t. The more Eve spoke with Satan and listened to him, the less she delighted in God’s holy Word; She was seduced by the devil’s subtlety. She was led astray by the deceiver. By this time, Satan had moved beyond questioning God’s Word. He was contradicting it. He was saying the exact opposite of what God had said. He was saying “You will not die” (Genesis 3:4). By this time, Eve was taken in by the tempter. When she looked at the tree, she saw only what Satan wanted her to see (Genesis 3:6). She had cast aside the Word of God and listened, instead, to the voice of the devil. She no longer allowed God’s Word to be the last word on the matter. Now, she thought that she had the right to decide whether or not God’s way was the best way. She made herself the judge of what was good and evil, right and wrong. She had stopped listening to the Word of God. She was no longer committed to obeying the Word of God. The story of Genesis 3:6  continues down to the present day – Adam’s sons are still “rushing helter skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears” (Don Francisco).

* The immediate effect of sin was shame. Note the contrast between Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:7. Sin and shame go together. Sin is not something of which should be proud. Sin is something of which we should be ashamed. Refusing to listen to god’s word is a matter of great shame. Refusing to do god’s will is a shameful thing. The shamefulness of sin is bound up with the undeniable fact that sin makes us guilty – utterly and completely guilty before God. The innocence of Genesis 1 & 2 was lost. Like, Adam and Eve, we are guilty – unquestionably guilty before the God of perfect holiness. The judgment of God is upon us. Like Adam and Eve, we may resort to finger-pointing. Adam blamed the woman (Genesis 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:13). There can be no passing the buck. We must acknowledge our sin before God. We must confess our sin to Him. as we come to God, seeking His forgiveness, we will discover the wonder of His love for us.

When we come, acknowledging the holiness of God and our own sin and guilt – “God made man upright, but they have sought many devices”, we discover that the God of great holiness is also the God of great love. The God, who pronounces His judgment upon sin, is also the God who demonstrates His love for sinners.

When God says, “What is this that you have done?” (Genesis 3:13), this is not only a Word of judgment on sin. It’s also the Word that speaks of God’s love for sinners. God is declaring His love for sinners. He is saying, ‘I have loved you so much. There is absolutely no reason why you should have done this.’ God is declaring His love for us. In love, He’s appealing to us not to turn our backs on Him and lose out on the blessing that He wants so much to give to us. He’s saying to us, ‘I love you. Why are you turning away from Me? Will you not return to Me, and discover how much I love you?’

When God says, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9), this is not only a Word of God’s holiness, from which we have been separated by our sin. It’s also a Word of His love, This is God’s seeking love. This is the God of love, seeking the lost sinner. He is saying, ‘I love you, and I am seeking to save you.’

The God of love, the God who seeks to save sinners, gives the first promise of a Saviour, as early as Genesis 3:15. These words, spoken to the enemy. promise that there will be One who will triumph over the enemy: “I will put enmity between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Jesus, our Saviour, fulfils this promise of love. He was “bruised” for our sins, and, through His death, He has triumphed over Satan for us. So, even here in Genesis 3, with its message of sin and guilt, there is, for us, a message of hope – triumphant hope, glorious hope, eternal hope.

Genesis 12:1-3

Our concern is not so much with Abraham. Our chief focus of attention is on “the God of Abraham.” The story of Abraham is both the story of Abraham and the story of God’s grace and power. We see the grace of God, revealed in the promises of God. We see the power of God, revealed in the fulfilment of His promises: “God can do anything; God can do anything; god can do anything but fail; He can save. He can keep. He can cleanse, and He will. God can do anything but fail.”

God’s promise to Abraham has three parts: (a) personal – “I will bless you; (b) national – “I will make of you a great nation”; (c) universal – “by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As the fulfilment of God’s promise moves forward from Abraham to Israel to Christ, we hear God’s Word speaking to us: “I will bless you” – saved, kept, cleansed.

As we receive the blessing of God’s salvation, we discover how faithful God is, in His love towards us. “God can do anything but fail” – God cannot fail, because He is the everlasting God. He is Lord. He is carrying out His purpose, the purpose of His unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable love. This purpose of love is expressed in His promises. His promises have been fulfilled in Christ. His promises are offered to us today. These promises are summed up in the simple yet rich words, “I will bless you.” His promises express “the unchangeable character of His purpose” (Hebrews 6:17). We know that God will not fail us. He will not let us down. He will not forsake us. He will not leave us. We know this not only because of the promise given to Abraham. We know that God is faithful, in His love, because of the Cross of Christ – “the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).

As we learn about the faithfulness of God, we discover that the God of Abraham is our  God, and the God of Jesus Christ is our God. We find ourselves drawn to Him. This isn’t a superficial and shallow attraction. It’s a deep devotion. It’s a heartfelt, loving loyalty. As we think about God’s faithfulness, our hearts are filled with hope for the future. This hope is summed up for us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. we think of Him, and we say, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”

Exodus 2:23-25

The mercy of God, revealed in the Exodus, is connected with the ongoing purpose of God – “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24).

From Exodus 1:13 to Exodus 2:23-25, there were 80 years (Acts 7:23,30). These 80 years are referred to as “the course of those many days” (Exodus 2:23). Egypt is “the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). The people of God were in bondage for many years. Year after year passed, and the people remained in bondage. Where in the world was God in all this? Was He absent? Has He left His people? Had God forgotten His promises? No! Not at all! God was there all the time. In mercy, He was waiting patiently for His people to call upon Him, to cry to Him for mercy.

Is there not here a lesson for our Church and our community? Don’t give up. God hasn’t given up on us. He is still waiting for us to call upon Him. In mercy, He is waiting for us to cry to Him for mercy.

In Exodus 2:23-25, we read about the time when the people of God are brought to an end of themselves, the time when they cry out to the Lord for mercy, the time when God’s plan of salvation is set in motion.

Notice that, if the Lord’s blessing is to come to us, we must be brought to an end of ourselves, and we must learn to cry to the Lord for mercy.

We must note the contrast between Israel’s past in “the house of bondage” and the future that was opened up for them by God’s mighty act of redemption, the Exodus. Is there not here a picture of the future could be for our congregation and community? Before start thinking about what the future may hold, we must think about the past from which we need to be delivered. Have we, like the people of Israel, lived in “the house of bondage”? Have we been in bondage to a self-centred and godless lack of spiritual priorities? Have we been in bondage to prayerlessness? Has this bondage, like the people of Israel’s bondage, continued for many years? Have we been in bondage to fear which holds us back from being faithful and loyal witnesses to Jesus Christ? Our future can be very different. We can leave “the house of bondage.” We can leave it in the past. We can follow the Lord into the future He has planned for us. We can set out on a new journey of faith, a journey that will lead us to a new, bright, Christ-centred future – a future which will be blessed by the Lord.

What will our future be? Will it be a life of continuing in “the house of bondage”? or Will it be a new life – a life that has Christ at its very centre? Will we rise to the challenge of being the people of God – people who are serious about living for the Lord, even when it would be so easy to settle for something less than God’s very best?

What will your choice be? Will you stop saying ‘No’ to God, and start saying ‘Yes’ to Him? Will you dare to start being honest with God and with yourself? If you and I dare to be honest with God and with ourselves, we will be deeply humbled before Him, we will acknowledge our need of God’s mercy, and we will make a new beginning with Him.

As we think about the future, we will be tempted to ask, “Have things gone too far?” This is the voice of the devil, speaking to us. God is saying something else to us. He’s speaking to us of His mercy. If we forget the mercy of God, we will be pessimistic about the future. If we look to the God of mercy, we will grow strong in the faith that things can be turned out – by God.

If things are turned around, we must make outr response to the God of mercy. We must receive His mercy, which brings to us the forgiveness of our sins. We must receive, from Him, the power that we need to rise up and live as His faithful servants, who learning day-by-day what it means to be set free from our self-centred way of life, set free for a life of serving the Lord and bringing glory to His Name, the Name of our salvation.

There is an alternative to being real with God. It’s the way of hypocrisy. We can ‘go through the motions’ of religion – but we must not forget what Jesus says about that way of life – “I never knew you, Away from Me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).

May God help us to open our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord – and we’ll see the difference that He makes, when we give Him life-service, and not just lip-service.

Leviticus

We need to study Leviticus – not just read it.

Leviticus follows on from Genesis and Exodus. In Genesis, we see man ruined. In Exodus, we see man redeemed. In Leviticus, we see man worshipping. This is a book of worship. It is a book for redeemed people. It shows them how to worship God. What is true worship? We do not begin with the worshipper. We begin with the God who is worshipped: ‘The Lord called Moses’ (1:1). Before worship, there is revelation.
God reveals Himself to us. (a) He shows us who He is. (b) He speaks His Word to us.
(a) He says to us, ‘I am the Lord’ (22:2-3, 8-9, 16, 30-33). He says to us, ‘I am your God’ (23:14, 22, 28, 40, 43). We say to Him, ‘You are our God’ (23:14).
(b) ‘The Lord spoke.’
‘The Lord said.’ ‘The Lord commanded.’
Leviticus contains many direct messages from the Lord.
In Leviticus – the book of holiness and atonement – , God reveals Himself as the God of holiness and love.
(i) Leviticus speaks much about God’s holiness. It also speaks of our call to live a holy life (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). In Leviticus, we are given instruction concerning approaching the holy God and maintaining fellowship with the holy God.
(ii) Leviticus speaks about atonement. The shedding of blood is emphasized. This points forward to salvation through the shed blood of Christ.
Holiness and atonement – these two themes belong together in a true understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* The holy God cannot stand sin. He has said, ‘Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).
* The God of holiness is also the God of love. When we say, ‘God is holy’, we must never forget that ‘God is love.’ He is holy love. He is loving holiness. In Christ, God has provided a way for sin to be forgiven. In Christ, God Himself has become the Sacrifice for sin. He has taken upon Himself the punishment for sin. He has met the requirements of both His own holiness and our need for forgiveness.
Through the death of Christ for us, God has provided for our justification and our sanctification.
He imputes holiness to the believer. This is our justification. In Christ, we have received the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 3:24). He implants holiness in the believer’s heart. This is our
sanctification. In Christ, we have received new life (Romans 6:1-6).
The command – ‘Be holy’ – is also a promise
– ‘You shall be holy’ (11:45; 19:2). Why is the command also a promise? It is because the command is based on God’s gift to us. In Christ, God has given us a holy nature. Our holiness is not an inherent holiness. We are not holy by nature. Our own nature is sinful. Our holiness is a derived holiness. It is derived
from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
* Leviticus, the book of atonement, points us to Christ. Through Him, we are cleansed from all our sins. In Him, we are clean before the Lord (16:30).
* Leviticus, the book of holiness, calls us to live a holy life. The life is a life of redemption and glory.
Where does the glory of the Lord come from this? It comes from this – the Lord is working out in us His great plan of redemption.
Redemption
Every Sabbath day – in the context of worship – the people are reminded of God’s covenant (24:8). This is a continuing reminder of all that God has done (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob … redemption from Egypt). It speaks to us also of all that God will do. As well as salvation from Egypt, there is also the life of sanctification in Canaan (25:3; 20:24 – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ – and the life of service
(25:35). We are saved for sanctification. We are saved to serve. The Christian life is to be a life of holiness (sanctification) and love (service). Both arise from our experience of God’s salvation, an ongoing experience of the glory of God.
* In chapter 27, great emphasis is placed on holiness
(vs. 9-10, 14, 21, 23, 28, 30, 32-33). We are called to live a holy
life – ‘every devoted thing (person) is holy to the Lord’ (v.28). We are to surrender ourselves to the Lord – all our possessions are ‘holy to the Lord’ (v. 30). In giving ourselves to the Lord, we must seek to maintain the attitude of gratitude (Genesis 28:22).
* As well as holiness, there is to be love in our lives. We are to love our neighbour (19:18). We are to love the stranger (19:33-34). We are to be like the Good Samaritan. The stranger is our neighbour (Luke 10:25-37). What is our motive for loving the
stranger? It is redemption. God has redeemed us. We must not withhold His love from the stranger.
Glory
We must seek to be like Christ. Like Him, we are to live a life of holiness and love. This life of obedience is a life of entering into the glory of God (9:6; John 14:21). Sin robs us of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Salvation restores to us the glory of God
(2 Corinthians 3:18).
The contrast between the life of sin and the life of salvation is highlighted in chapter 26.
In vs. 1-13, we have God’s promises. He promises to give His
blessing to those who live in obedience to Him. In vs. 14-46, we have God’s warnings. There will be punishment for those who refuse to obey Him.
The essential character of the saved life is described in verses 1-13. We see this, especially, in verse 12 – ‘I will be your God and you shall be My people.’ In this relationship with God, we have His great promise – ‘I will make My abode among you, and my soul shall not abhor you’ (v. 11). When the Lord makes His abode in us, His glory is revealed through us (John 14:21). This glory is seen as we walk with the Lord in the ongoing experience of His salvation. We are ‘not … slaves.’ We ‘walk erect’ (v.13).
God’s purpose is for men and women to leave the life of sin and enter the life of salvation. He chastises the disobedient with a view to their returning to Him (26:18; 23). For those who return, there is the promise of grace (vs. 40-46).
The pathway to holiness begins at the gateway of grace. We travel from grace to glory. The words, ‘by grace through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8), are written over the whole course of the Christian life. At the beginning, it is ‘by grace through faith.’ At every point of the journey to glory, the message remains the same – ‘by grace through faith.’ In glory – ‘in the coming ages’ when God reveals ‘the immeasurable riches of His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:7) – our joyful confession remains the same for all eternity: ‘by grace through faith.’

Numbers 

“In the wilderness (or the wild country)” (Numbers 1:1).

“Stage by stage” (Numbers 33:2) – Moses kept a record of Israel’s journey.

“In the wilderness”, “stage by stage” – When we read these two phrases, and think about our own journey through life, we are invited to think about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.

Have we been in the wild country for far too long? Will we leave the wild country in the past?

There’s more to life than being in the wild county. This is the message of Numbers for us today.

When we’re in the wilderness, what we must remember is this – There’s a way out of the wilderness.

Where will we find the way out of the wilderness? The book of Numbers gives us God’s answer.

When we read about life “in the wilderness”, we must remember this – We are not alone in the wilderness.

God is there with us. He’s with us all of the time – not just some of the time.

This is what we need to hear and know, when we feel like God’s gone away and left us.

Numbers isn’t just about wilderness wanderings. It’s about the guiding, delivering, sustaining and protecting hand of God.

God brought His people out of Egypt, and He was leading them to the Promised Land.

We must not forget this, when we’re reading the book of Numbers.

When we’re reading Numbers, it’s easy to get bogged down. It’s a tragic record of sad failure. That’s what we see when we only see the human side of this story.

When we look beyond the human situation, we see something more. We see God – and we begin to see something else. We see another story – a story of glorious victory.

Numbers invites us to think about past, our present and our future. We read about the old generation, the transition era, and the new generation – and we wonder, ‘Where do we fit in?’

This isn’t just about old age and youth. It’s about the old life and the new life – the life without Christ and the life that’s being transformed by Him. It’s about the struggle to put the old life behind us. It’s about the call of God. He’s calling us to walk with Him in new life.

In Numbers, there’s a strong emphasis on divine revelation (Numbers 1:1; Numbers 2:1). More than eighty times, in Numbers, we read the words, “The Lord spoke to Moses.”

What does God say to us about our life?

 – Without Him, our life is in ruins.That’s the message of our fall into sin (Genesis 3).

 – With Him, we are redeemed. This is the message of the Exodus.

 – Once we’ve been redeemed by the Lord, we’re to worship Him. That’s our calling. We learn much about worship in Leviticus.

 – Worshipping the Lord involves more than what happens when we’re in the Lord’s House. We’re to serve the Lord while we’re travelling through life’s wilderness. This is the challenge of Numbers. Find God in the wilderness. Follow Him as He leads you out of the wilderness and on to the Promised Land.

How are we to serve the Lord? We must begin with this – We have been saved by the Lord. Salvation comes before service. We’ve been saved by grace. Now, we must grow in grace. “Stage by stage”, we must put the wilderness behind us, and press on to a life of faithful and fruitful service.

 – Serving the Lord is a privilege that is given to us by the God of grace (Numbers 3-4).

 – We are to serve the Lord – according to His will (Numbers 7).

How are we to become God’s faithful and fruitful servants? What we must learn is this – The way of service is the way of consecration (Numbers 6:1-8) and blessing (Numbers 6:24-26). Blessing comes from the Lord. It comes to us when we are consecrated to Him.

What does it mean to be consecrated to the Lord? It means this – We are to follow Him in the way that He leads us. When we take our eyes off Him, we will drift away from Him, and we will be pulled more deeply into the wilderness. When we keep our eyes on Him, He will lead us towards the Promised Land.

Numbers challenges us – What will we be? Will be faithful? Will we be failures? In Numbers 13, we read about the unbelieving ten and the faithful two. God is saying to us, ‘Let there be less unbelief, and more faith.’ Numbers 13:30 is particularly challenging – “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’”

In these words of Caleb, we learn about faith.

 – Our faith is based on facts – the promise of God.

 – Standing on the facts – God’s promise, we believe that God is faithful. We believe that He will fulfil His promise. This is faith.

 – This brings us on to feelings. We don’t start with feelings. We begin with facts. We build on facts. God’s promise gives the firm foundation for our faith. When our faith is securely based on God’s facts, our feelings will follow the lead given to them by God’s facts and our faith.

Without the God-given foundation for our faith, our feelings will take us all over the place. That’s what happened to the people of Israel. The majority of the people lost sight of God’s saving purpose – and they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years – “Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly” (Numbers 32:11-12). When we read about failure of the majority, we must not forget faithful Caleb and Joshua. What a great example and wonderful inspiration they are to all of us.

In Numbers 27:18-23, we learn that Joshua had been chosen by God to succeed Moses as the leader of His people.

So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership,and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence … At his command the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.’ Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.”

Reading about those who failed the Lord and those who were faithful – This challenges us: What will we  do? What will we be? Will we fail the Lord? Will we be faithful to Him?

To those who are unfaithful, the Lord says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

To those who are faithful, He gives His promise – “Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess” (Numbers 33:53).

Looking beyond the promised land, we see the promised Saviour.

In Numbers 19:9, we read about “cleansing … purification from sin.” This is what Jesus came to do for us. He’s “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

In Numbers 28, we read about the feasts of Israel. they’re full of prophetic significance. They point forward to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the promised Saviour. Let us learn to look beyond all the details – to catch a glimpse of Jesus, our great Saviour.

Deuteronomy 4:32-40; 6:1-7 and 8:3

As we seek to build our Church and our lives on Jesus Christ, we turn to the book of Deuteronomy. Here, we are following our Lord Jesus Christ. When He was being tempted by Satan, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 – “Man does not live by bread alone … Man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

This is the lesson which comes through, again and again, in Deuteronomy: We need to hear the Word of the Lord, We need to build our lives on the Word of the Lord.

The teaching of Deuteronomy has been summed up in this way: (i) Looking back; (ii) Looking up; (iii) Looking forward.

  (i) Looking back – God’s people were to look back to the past. They were to remember what the Lord had done for them. This is what we must do. Look back and remember. Why are we to look back to the past? We look back to the past so that we might learn to look up to the Lord and look out into the future with faith (Deuteronomy 4:32, 40).

  (ii) Looking up – The people of God were called to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). Love for the Lord is not to be a half-hearted thing. The Lord stands before us with a call to decision. He calls us to choose. Jesus says to us, “You cannot serve two masters.” He says to us, ‘There are two alternative ways of living. You can love the Lord, or you can love the world.’ He asks us, ‘Which will it be – the Lord or the world?’ Think about how much the Lord has loved you, and let your response be the love for the Lord. Look back and remember what the Lord has done for you. Look up to Lord and let him be the centre of your life.

  (iii) Looking forward – Life in Christ, life as the redeemed people of God, is always life with a future. As God’s people, Israel looked out. They saw “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 6:3). This is, for us, a picture of the life into which the Lord is calling us. It is a life “sustained by God and helpful to men” (Hans Kung, On Being a Christian, p. 602). Israel looked out to the land God was giving to them. We look forward to all that He has planned for us, as we learn to walk with Him. Let us move forward with faith. Let us pray, ‘Lord, bless me, and make me a blessing.’ We must not keep the blessing of the Lord to ourselves. We, who receive  blessing from the Lord, must share his blessing with others. We, who have heard the Word of the Lord, must share His Word with others (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Look out from where you are. Look forward to what God is going to do. Say to God, “Here I am, wholly available” – and let Him work in you and through you. Israel advanced, with God, into the promised land. Let us step forward, in faith, with God and for God/ Let us step forward into the blessing He’s going to give to us – the blessing that reaches out to us, the blessing that reaches out, through us, to others.

_____________

After I had posted these notes on Deuteronomy, I came across this quotation – “I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward” (Charlotte Bronte). This made me think about what I had written. We cannot live our life without looking back and looking forward. There are, however, dangers in both looking back and looking forward.

When we look back, we may see only our sin and fail to see the grace of God. This will fill us with guilt and regret. This can overwhelm us. What we need to do is this – look upward. On the other hand, we may look back and see only our own achievements. this will fill us with pride in ourselves. There will be no giving glory to God. What are we to do when we look back? We must look up to the Lord. This will take our attention away from our sin and failure. This will fix our attention on our Saviour and His salvation. We will learn to say, “To God be the glory! Great things He has done … ”

When we look forward, we will filled with fear. This can fill us with dread, constantly wondering what bad thing is going to happen next. We may think about the future in a very different way, “I’m going to achieve this, that and the next thing.” Really?! What’s this all about? It’s not about God. It’s about me – This is what I’m going to achieve. What are we to do when we start thinking like this? We must look up to the Lord – and ask Him to help to keep on looking up to Him.

Life includes the backward look and the forward look – but it must also include the upward look. Without the upward look, our life is in a mess. We may be painfully aware of the mess we’re in. We may be blissfully unaware of the mess we’re getting ourselves into. Whatever kind of mess we’re in, we need to look up to the Lord. We need to say, “Lord, we need you every day and every hour – all the time.” We need to say, “Everything good comes from You, Lord – especially our Saviour, Jesus. Thank You, Lord, that you keep on loving us – even when we’ve forgotten You. When we forget to look up to You, show us Your love – and teach us to love You.”

Deuteronomy 8:7-8 and 8:17-19 

Deuteronomy emphasizes the importance of responding to the Lord right now.

 – We are reminded of the past, but we must not live in the past.

 – We are pointed to the future, but we must not daydream about the future.

  (1) One of Deuteronomy’s main themes is the love of God.

God’s love points us back to the past, to the death of Christ for our sins (Romans 5:8). It also points us forward, to the heavenly place that the Lord is preparing for His people (John 14:1-3).

God’s love is not, however, something that belongs to the past – and it is not something that is kept for the future.

God loves us now. He loved us in the past – and He loves us now. God has not forgotten us – and He will not forget us.

We can face the future with the assurance that God loves us. He loves us with a love that will not let us go. He loves us with a love that will not let us down. He loves us with a purpose. He plans to bless us. His purpose of blessing is a purpose of love. He says to us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  (2) Another major theme of Deuteronomy is the land of promise.

In John 3:16, we learn that God’s promise is given in love – and His “land” is “everlasting life.”

For those who are trusting in Christ, “the land of promise” is not something in the distant future. We are in “the land of promise.” Eternal life has begun It has begun – and now, we press on toward its fulfilment.

  (3) Deuteronomy stresses that the love of God and the land of promise are not to be taken for granted.

In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and Deuteronomy 8:17-18, there are very clear warnings against the sin of spiritual pride.

 – How easy it is to forget how much God has loved us!

 – How easy it to forget the promises that God has given to us!

When we are tempted to forget the Lord – His love and His promises, we need to hear God’s Word – “You shall remember the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

When we are tempted to forget the Lord and become preoccupied with ourselves, the Word of God comes to us with this warning: “if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you this day that you shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 8:19).

The Gospel is a message of joy and gladness – but not to those who have forgotten the Saviour, not to those who think only of their own good works.

The Good News of salvation does not begin with the word, “I” – ‘I have done this. I have done that. I have done the other – therefore I will be saved.’

The Gospel cuts right across our human pride, and says, “Jesus saves.”

This message brings joy and gladness – but only when truly believe it, only when we receive its truth into our hearts and minds, saying, with the hymnwriter, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; No merit of my own, I claim, But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.”

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