Deuteronomy is our view into the final days of Moses’ journey as he led the Israelites to the promised land. These first two chapters provide a clear look back at the history of the cycle of disobedience, repentance, and deliverance that the Israelites were prone to living in. Moses reminded them of their lack of faith and likewise the complete faithfulness of God. They had been traveling toward the promised land for forty long years, a trip that should have taken eleven days. A delay caused only by their lack of faith and subsequent disobedience. However, their sinful hearts didn’t keep God from fulfilling the promises He’d made generations before.
This spoken history of the Israelites journey, strikes in my heart a conviction. A conviction to take time reflecting on the continuous faithfulness of God in my own history. So often I spend time fussing about with a heart bent toward frustration. In the midst of these moments I tend to ask God when He will make things right or when He will provide this or that. When really, what I should be doing is taking time to look back on all the ways God has shown His faithful love and provision in my walk with Him. As Moses sought to remind the people of the implications of their sin and the greatness of God’s glory, I challenge you today to take time to reflect on God’s goodness in your own life.
When struggling, the instinct for a lot of people (myself included) is to bemoan the troublesome circumstance and trudge through the days in a muddle of frustration and dissatisfaction. Neither tend to bring peace. This passage presents us with classic scene of the Israelites struggling with faith and obedience while Moses struggles with frustration in his leadership role. The Israelites spent countless hours venting to one another about their perceived lack of provisions. Did they take time to remember all of the times God had provided for them? To be grateful for the provisions He was supplying? To look beyond their own desires? No. Instead they complained. The posture of their heart was not turned toward the God who is always faithful, but rather it was turned inward, selfishly focused on what they wished they had. They had forgotten that God’s plan is always best. In the end, their choices during the struggle led them into disobedience and ultimately consequences from the Lord.
However, the Israelites weren’t the only ones struggling. Moses was dealing with his own attitude, his burden of leadership, and his exhaustion. The difference we see in his struggle is the choice he made in the way he chose to deal with it. Instead of running to Aaron to vent or sitting in bitterness, he went straight to his faithful God. He was brutally honest with God about his struggles and pleaded for help and relief. God heard Moses and eased his burden. Moses knew that he was called to lead the people for God’s glory, but he also knew that he couldn’t do it alone. He understood that his provision was to come from the One who had called him. He knew that only God had the power to refresh his spirit and lift his burden. And he knew that seeking God, no matter the outcome, would always be best.
So take a minute to ponder with me about our own tendencies. Do we react to struggles like the Israelites, fussing about in discontent? Or do we respond to struggles like Moses, by going straight to our Provider for sustenance and guidance through the trial? Do we seek our own comfort or God’s glory? Are our hearts postured toward God or ourselves?
The precision to which Moses and the Israelites followed in obedience as they prepared the tabernacle is incredible. They did as the Lord commanded down to the tiniest of details. As we’ve seen, this wasn’t always the case for God’s people. More often than not, they would end up floundering in disobedience and frustration, consistently tangled up in sin, often feeling the consequences of their choices to stray from their Creator. This instance is different. This instance shows God’s approval. It also gives a clear picture of how God dwelt among His people and led them in the ways they should go, how he set them apart from other nations. I always find it fascinating to think about how God’s glory was evident in the cloud by day and fire by night…so that the people always had a clear view of where God was leading.
When I teach on these Scriptural accounts, the most common comment I get from older kids is, “What?! They could actually see where God wanted them to go? I wish it was that easy for us.” But the beauty of it is that He’s also provided us with clear guidance. We sometimes like to complicate it and get ourselves in a tizzy, in turn excusing ourselves for our missteps and disobedient choices. Ultimately, God is clear in how we should live. He’s clear that we should be meditating on His Word, making disciples, and glorifying His name. He may not always provide crystal clear answers as to where exactly to camp out like He did for the Israelites, but He does guide us through His Word and Spirit as to how we should live for Him. He dwells with us and desires for us to dwell with Him, growing in deeper communion daily.
At first glance these two chapters read like a well written instruction manual. When passages like these pop up in a reading plan it can be tempting to skim over them quickly without much thought. However, these types of writings are included in God’s Word for a reason. It’s often a prime opportunity to pause and dig deeper as opposed to hurrying past looking for the next exciting account.
The tabernacle was the temporary dwelling place of God. We know that spiritually God is omnipresent, but this was a relational dwelling. When the people participated in the building of the structure, its moving, and the sacrifices at its altars, they remembered that the one true God desired to dwell with them. This was where they made atonement for their sins, where the priests communed with God, where they worshiped. Their relationship with the Creator King was played out in and around the tabernacle.
How comforting is it to realize that the God who created everything out of nothing has a plan and desire to dwell with us? We no longer need a physical tabernacle because He provided a way for our redemption and the Spirit dwells with us. The question is, do we desire to dwell with Him? Do we daily meditate on His goodness, spending time in His Word? Do we seek to be more like Him in word, thought, and deed? Is He a priority in our busy lives?
As I read Old Testament texts, I tend to have a running graphic in my mind. Sort of like a mind map with arrows and boxes connecting certain pieces of dialogue, events, or symbols with their New Testament mirrors. It fascinates me to see God’s plan unfolding and the ways in which he provides a picture of atonement, justice, and redemption right from the beginning. It reminds me that our God is unwavering. His attributes don’t change with the seasons. He is not moody. He isn’t swayed by circumstances. He is steady, always holding true to his warnings and promises alike. This particular look into the history of God’s people is incredibly rich as it describes the great deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage all while pointing us toward the greatest deliverance…our own deliverance from sin.
With this tenth plague, God made good on His warning to the Egyptians and provided a path of redemption for His people if only they would follow in obedience. The sacrificial animal that was needed to consecrate the Israelites’ homes would have a direct correlation with the Sacrificial Lamb that paid the price for our sins. The extent of this historical event can only be credited to the great power of our God, and the Israelites were called to commemorate it year after year and pass it down to all the generations that would follow. They were to worship and glorify God for His mercy as he passed over their homes in the midst of extraordinary destruction.
I can’t help but think of the power of the Passover Feast and the meaning it held for the Israelites–the gratitude and understanding it brought for God’s love and justice. He called them to remember and rehearse these things, so that they would be grounded in their faith and knowledge of who God is. How much more should we be rehearsing the gospel? In contrast, it’s more than a yearly festival, but rather, something to be acknowledged daily. Leading us to glorify our Father who provided an escape from our sins. To a grounding in our faith that will lead us to seek Him in times of trial. To an unquenchable need to share this great work with those around us.
Identity. Intention. Indication. When we think of Moses, we often have a clear picture in our minds of the type of man he was based on the biblical accounts we study about his life. This passage takes us on a warp speed journey from Moses’ birth to his interaction with God at the burning bush. About 80 years of life summed up in two chapters. It’s the foundation for our picture of Moses’ identity. It’s a striking display of God’s intention in the calling of Moses. It’s an indication of a far greater Rescuer to come.
Moses was an ordinary man whose life was defined by his dramatic start and his hesitant, yet ultimate, obedience to lead God’s people to freedom. We often think of the patience he must have had to endure the complaints of the Israelites over the years. The way he interceded on their behalf even though they continually questioned his leadership. Sometimes, we even put him on a pedestal. In reality, Moses was an ordinary man whose identity was found in his relationship with his Creator. God called him into relationship and then into service. God intentionally sought after Moses and used him for the deliverance of His people. God had no need of human help, however, He intentionally used Moses for His glory. His inclusion of Moses as a rescuer, indicates and points us to the perfect Rescuer. Unlike our perfect Rescuer, Moses was a sinner and he questioned God regularly. He was slow to obey and still failed on occasion. Jesus is better. Jesus lived a sinless life, willingly taking on our sin and rescuing us from our certain separation from God.
As we go out (or stay in) today, let’s remember where our identity is found. It’s not found in our own success or accomplishments, but rather it is rooted in our relationship with our Creator. God intentionally calls us as Christ-followers to be in relationship with Him and serve Him in whatever we do. We are called to bring glory to Him above all else. Our lives should be an indication of God’s mercy and grace. Our lives should point those around us to the Rescuer who paid the greatest price for our freedom from sin.
In my mind, the mark of an excellent book is the mystery and beauty of watching the story unfold. The ending is apparent, but as you read, it becomes clear that the author had other plans…plans that don’t necessarily match your own. The storyline keeps you fully engaged, feeling almost as if you are living through the plot points and surprises alongside the characters. After suffering or celebrating with them, you feel an attachment, and it’s as if you are saying goodbye when the book comes to an end. Of course, as we read the greatest Story, that of the Scriptures, we know that the Author’s purpose is all grounded in His glory and our good. We know the ending, and we are truly a part of it as the body of Christ.
This particular portion of the Story is one of those that, regardless of the number of times you read it, simply leaves you on the edge of your seat. The tension can be felt as the brothers begin to feel the weight of the guilt for their actions against Joseph all those years ago. The agony is palpable as Jacob comes to the realization that he may lose yet another favored son. The emotion is tangible as Joseph tests and observes the character of his estranged brothers. Even though we know the ending, we still feel the uncertainty at how the string of events Joseph sets into play will unfold.
Ultimately what we see is a family fractured by sin, a set of brothers burdened with decades of guilt, a man who has endured a lifetime of suffering, yet still forgives, and a sovereign God with a redemptive plan for His glory. As we read these chapters and experience the almost tangible emotions, let’s be reminded that this is not just an excellent book. This is an account displaying the greatness of our God and his provisional working in the midst of our suffering. Let’s be humbled by the suffering in our own lives and astounded by God’s good plan. Let’s pause and reflect on our own engagement in our calling to be Christ-like and share the wonder of the gospel. After all, the Author’s plan is indeed better than our own.
Today you get a picture with your words…a picture from my garden, actually. As I was inspecting my terribly overgrown garden I noticed that an okra plant that I had planted had finally produced fruit. This wouldn’t be odd except for the fact that when I put said plant into the soil it was damaged and honestly looked half dead. For months it’s just been sitting there looking pitiful as it’s surrounded by other lovely plants. I thought as I planted it that I may as well just toss it and cut my losses but I couldn’t bring myself to do it and decided to give the wee plant a chance, but I didn’t hold onto much hope. As you can see, the plant fought through, gained strength, and managed to be quite successful!
I found it rather fitting that this happenstance occurred as I’ve been ruminating over the changes in the life of Jacob found in this passage of Scripture. We know from Jacob’s history that he struggled with a prideful heart and was most cunning in his interactions. Time and time again we see these sin issues flaring up in his life. He manipulates his brother, he tricks his father, he takes advantage of his father in-law, he favors Rachel over Leah. One thing after the other and he is still constantly paying the price for his pride and deceit. We see that even after all of these years he’s still at it. As a matter of fact, he can’t imagine his brother not coming after him in violence so he tries yet again to scurry through a tight situation by dividing his family and flocks.
Little does he know, his life is about to change. At that pivotal moment, as he wrestles with God, a work is begun. No, his heart doesn’t change overnight. No, he doesn’t come out of the match as a fully restored and honest man. Rather he comes out broken and humbled. He’s been confronted with his sin problems and has been given a new name. A name to match the blessing that would come. In those moments with God, Jacob’s life was redeemed. As I look at my flourishing okra plant that has undergone a glorious change, I am reminded of the change that is possible with God’s mercy and grace. Unlike my half-hearted attempt to give that plant a chance, God has provided the ultimate opportunity for change through the sacrifice of His Son. Sometimes we allow ourselves, even as Christ-followers, to get distracted by the struggles we face. How can we humble ourselves and succumb to God’s amazing grace? How can we bring glory to Him even on the days when things feel hopeless and we feel like that wee sickly plant? How can we live not in a posture of pride, but in a posture of service to our great King?
God’s requirement of Abraham in this passage was of greatest difficulty. Honestly, I don’t have adequate words to describe the misery Abraham must have been in as he prepared to follow in obedience as God called him to sacrifice his son. It wasn’t as if this was a quick ordeal. He had to prepare for the trip, gather his supplies, and then travel close to 45 miles WITH Isaac. We all know that feeling of dread when we have something on our agenda that will be difficult or uncomfortable. The days leading up to it we feel sick and anxious. I’m sure that feeling is nothing compared to the days of travel that Abraham endured. Even in the midst of what must have been emotional torment, he trusted God. He trusted that the God he served was faithful. God had promised to provide a son for Abraham, and He did. If God was going to ask him to give that son up, he knew that God would provide yet again.
We are blessed with a view of the story in its entirety, so we know that ultimately God was testing the faith of Abraham. He was not going to have him kill his one and only son. The faith Abraham displayed was of great note. Even as Isaac began questioning the lack of sacrificial animals, Abraham simply responded with expectation of God’s providence. This provision turned out to be that of a sacrificial ram in the thicket. Imagine the relief and joy that must have overtaken Abraham’s heart as he pulled that ram free and began praising God! He had pleased the Lord with his faith and obedience and the Lord vowed once again to bless the nations through his lineage. How amazing is the greatness and glory of God that is on display in this instance!
The rich imagery of the gospel in this account sets the tone for what is to come and brings goosebumps to my skin. I challenge you to read this passage just one more time. But read it slowly looking through the lens of God’s eventual sacrifice for our sins. What parallels and foreshadowing do you see? I could line them out for you but what fun is that? As you you see God’s plan unfolding and you observe Abraham’s faithfulness, be reminded that the life of a Christ follower is not an easy one. Your faith will certainly be tested, trials will come, and opportunities for uncomfortable obedience will be plentiful. If you are in one of these places today, take comfort knowing the God you serve is faithful. If you aren’t in one of these places, check on your brothers and sisters…encourage them in their walk and lift them up in prayer.
I find self-reflection to be an insightful exercise. It intrigues me to look back over the course of a day, month, or even years whilst observing the seasons of my heart and the way they overflowed into my words and actions. Sometimes these observations bring a smile as I remember seasons of faith or joy, when I’ve trusted the Lord’s leading or enjoyed the blessing of being humbled by His greatness. Other times these observations make me cringe as I recall seasons of pride or self-reliance, when I’ve trusted my own understanding and leaned on my skills instead of God’s provision.
This passage of Scripture is much like an exercise in self-reflection. We are able to look back at man’s history and see the prideful tendency to seek accolades and power. We see the sin nature that we are stricken with that has only one resolution…the blood of Jesus. We see the turning of men to follow God, such as Abram and Sarai, willing to set aside everything they knew and loved in willing obedience to follow God’s leading and trust in his promises. Then we look at the way these faithful followers so easily fall into the temptation to trust in their own understanding and make way for an apparent salvation apart from God’s will, which only leads to destruction.
With the seasons in the midst of transition, can we all take time to pause and reflect? What has been the most recent season of our own heart? Have we been prideful like the people building the Tower of Babel? Seeking recognition and glory? Have we been faithfully seeking God’s leading and enjoying His blessing of joy in the midst of struggle? Or have we been floundering as we try and fail to find solutions for problems that lie heavy on our hearts without seeking the guidance of our all knowing Father? Though the seasons of our lives and hearts are ever changing, our God is ever steady. Let us take stock of our hearts and be humbled. Our hearts are deceitful above all else, so let us cling to our faithful Father and seek to follow His call.