Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 1: Deuteronomy 18 – 20; Psalm 73; Proverbs 12:10; Luke 9:28-49


            Deuteronomy: Levites don’t have an inheritance of land in Israel. They are given portions from the offerings, parts of the animals, grain, wine, and oil. The Lord has chosen them to minister before him for all time. If a Levite moves from one town to another, he is to have a share along with those already living there.
            Israel is not to follow the abominable practice of the nations. No is to sacrifice children or engage in occult practices of any kind. The Lord is driving them out because of these.
            The Lord will raise up a prophet from the people who will be like Moses. Israel is to listen and obey him as the Lord put his words in the prophet’s mouth. If the prophet says something will happen and it doesn’t then the Lord didn’t send him.
            When Israel takes possession of the land, they are to measure and divide it into three parts with one city in each where a manslayer can flee. If the Lord enlarges their territory, then they shall set apart three more cities of refuge. These are for the protection of a person who accidentally and unintentionally kills another, where he will be safe from the avenger of blood. If the elders determine the man is a murderer and not a manslayer, then they will turn the murder over to the avenger of blood to kill him.
            No one is to move property landmarks.
            No one can be convicted of a crime based on only one witness. If a malicious witness accuses someone, then they shall appear before the Lord and the priests and judges in office. They shall inquire diligently. If the witness is false, then whatever he was accusing the other of will be his punishment, tooth for tooth, etc. The evil will be purged and it will be a deterrent to others.
            When going to war, Israel is not to be afraid of larger armies for God is with them. The priest shall encourage the people in the Lord. The officers shall excuse anyone who has built a new house and not dedicated it, planted a vineyard and not harvested yet, or is engaged but not yet married. If a person is afraid, he is excused so that he won’t make others fearful.
            When making siege of a city, Israel is to offer peace. If it is accepted, then the people will become slaves. If they decline then all the men are to be killed. Women, children, and everything else will be plunder for Israel to enjoy because the Lord has given it to them. This applies only to cities far from them and not the nations they are to dispossess in the Promised Land. They are to be completely destroyed because of their abominable practices.
            When making siege, they are not to cut down fruit trees but only trees that do not produce food. They may eat of the trees but not cut them down because the trees are not their enemies.
            Psalm: God is good to Israel, but Asaph says he came really close to stumbling over envy of wicked people. It appeared to him that they had no problems in life. They had everything they wanted even though they were wicked. They think that God doesn’t see their wickedness.
            Asaph was thinking that his goodness was in vain. He was suffering and stricken. He didn’t want to say anything to discourage others. He was having a hard time understanding this until he understood wicked people’s eternal destiny.
            They will be destroyed and swept away by terror. They will be cast down.
            When Asaph was acting on his emotions, he was like a dumb animal. But God took him by the hand and counseled him. He was assured his destiny will be in glory with God.
            So now, he desires nothing on earth besides God. Even if his health fails and he dies, he will be with God forever. But those who are far away from God will perish and Asaph will be near to God.
            Proverbs: Godly people take care of their animals but even merciful wicked people appear cruel.
            Luke: Eight days after Jesus told the disciples that some would not die before seeing the kingdom of God, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop where he is transfigured in intensely white clothes. Moses and Elijah appear with him and talk with him about his departure in Jerusalem. Peter was about to fall asleep but then saw this. He wants to make a tent for each but a cloud comes over them and a voice tells them Jesus is his son and listen to him. Then everything returns to normal. They kept silent about the whole thing.
            The next day, a crowd met him. A man says his son is seized by a spirit and convulses. He says Jesus’ disciples couldn’t cast the demon out of a boy. Jesus rebukes them for their unbelief and asks for the boy to be brought to him. On the way, the demon throws the boy down. Jesus casts out the demon. Everyone is astonished.
            While everyone is marveling, Jesus tells his disciples about his impending death. They don’t understand because it was concealed from them. They were afraid to ask.
            The disciples have an argument about who was greatest. Jesus knows their hearts and uses a child to explain that anyone who receives a child in his name receives him and the Father. The one who is least among them is great.
            John says he someone casting out demons in Jesus name and they tried to stop him because he didn’t follow Jesus. Jesus tells them not to stop him because anyone who is not against them is for them.

What Stood Out

            Deuteronomy: “Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own” (Deut 20:8).
            Psalm: “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (Ps 73:22).
            Proverbs: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast” (Prov 12:10).
            Luke: “And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not” (Luke 9:40).


            Deuteronomy: I’ve always thought that these excuses for not serving during war were extraordinary. The Lord places a high value on things that our culture doesn’t even blink about. A new house that hasn’t been dedicated, a new vineyard, and an engagement wouldn’t even show up on a questionnaire for a draft deferment. The only things we are concerned about are the person’s physical or mental ability to fight. Mental ability might be tied to being afraid. But the last time I checked, no one would be allowed to go home if they were afraid.
            However, in one way all of these make sense. In God’s army, there isn’t any room for preoccupation with other things. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). If we are preoccupied with things of this world, we will not be good soldiers in God’s kingdom. Just as these men would be thinking about that house, vineyard, or bride, when we are trying to do the Lord’s work and keep thinking about other things, we are at a disadvantage. Satan can use these distractions to his advantage.
            The difference between Israel going to war and our service for the Lord is that we really don’t get excused. Once we’ve sign on, we have no valid reasons for leaving. If someone does change their mind and desert, it only shows they were not committed in the first place (1 John 2:19).
            Psalm: It is easy to fall into the trap of being envious of those who have everything, even those who have gotten their stuff by wicked means. The world has a way of rationalizing that might makes right or the wealthy get whatever they want. Sometimes we want just a little piece of that. The cost of that is usually eternal hell. We shouldn’t be envious of that at all. That’s what happens when we take our eyes off eternity and put them on temporal things.
            The solution is to repent of those desires. Asaph admitted to something that we often ignore in our own lives. He admitted to his absolute brutish behavior toward God when he was wishing he could have what wicked people had. We may admit that we have sinned but we don’t usually take it to the depth that Asaph did. Repentance needs to have a right attitude about how badly we have treated our Lord. Once we’ve seen that, it helps us to appreciate God’s forgiveness and our dependence upon him to live a godly life.
            Proverbs: We should be a lot more aware of how God wants us to treat animals. Yes, God provided for animal sacrifices and for us to be omnivores. But he also shows that we should respect nature. An instance is his provision for only taking the young out of a bird’s nest and leaving the mother. He said it would go well with us and live long if we did that (Deut 22:6-7). I don’t think trophy hunting is very pleasing to the Lord but neither is protecting animals at the expense of people.
            Luke: Previously, Jesus had given his disciples power and authority over demons (Luke 9:1). John even reported that someone who was not following them was able to cast out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9:49). Then we see that the disciples couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy.
            In Matthew 17:20, Jesus say it is because they have little faith. In Mark 9:29 Jesus explains that this kind of demon can only be driven out by prayer. Less reliable Greek manuscripts include fasting (KJV, NKJV). Luke doesn’t say a thing about the disciples asking why they couldn’t cast out the demon. However, Jesus’ statement that this generation is faithless and twisted supports that idea that the disciples and perhaps the father didn’t have enough faith. Mark records that the father asked for help to believe.
            Jesus obviously had faith and he was always in prayer. He didn’t pray for the demon to come out. He commanded the demon to come out. Where does that leave us and the disciples?
            We need to ask what happened between the time the disciples were given authority and power and when they couldn’t cast out the demon. Jesus feeds the five thousand. There is some discussion about who Jesus is and Peter confesses he is the Christ. Jesus tells of his death and resurrection. He explains that one must deny himself and take up his cross. Eight days later, three of them are on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus. Then after the incident with the demon, Jesus explains his upcoming death again. The disciples didn’t understand because it was concealed from them.
            The disciples’ response when the crowd was fed and Peter’s response on the mount of transfiguration reveal that they still don’t have a lot of faith. Their ability to understand has not developed. Their faith was experiential. Experience can build faith but faith can’t depend on experiences. Just a few days later, they don’t have enough faith to cast out this demon. This is what happens with many kids who get excited about Jesus at summer camp and then fade away when they get back among their peers at school. It happens with some people who raise their hand for salvation at a service or convention but don’t do anything afterwards. The ones that build on their faith are the ones that are in the word and develop a strong prayer life. The appreciate the experience but their faith us rock solid in Jesus.


            I want to avoid envying worldly people and thinking they have it better than me. I want to make sure my faith is rock solid, built on Jesus and his word, not based on my experiences.

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