Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

We will not be posting any new studies from 21 December until 3 January. But you can find posts which you have missed since we started publishing in May.

  1. If you are using a computer, you can choose the post you want to read by looking on the right hand side of the webpage and choosing either ‘Studies’ (click on the drop down box to select a book of the Bible) or ‘Archives’ (click on the month and then date). Or you can type the Bible chapter you are looking for in the Search bar.
  2. If you are using a phone or tablet, you will find ‘Studies’, ‘Archives’, and ‘Search’ when you scroll to the bottom. (It might take a long time, depending on what kind of device you are using and its settings. Sorry, I am yet to figure out another way of doing it.) Click on the study or date you want, or type the chapter into the Search bar.
  3. If you get the posts into your email inbox, you can find the link at the bottom to get to the website, then go through the same processes listed above.

Catch-Up Day

There is no new reading today. You can get ready for next week by reading Deuteronomy 5 (or even 5-26!).

Or if you like, take the time to catch up on anything you have missed. It’s easier to find old posts or search for specific chapters using a computer or a tablet. The books we have studied so far are: Acts, Amos, Colossians, 1 Corinthians, and Daniel. These can be found in the Studies section by clicking on the drop-down ‘Select Category’. If you’re on a phone, you’ll have to scroll down down down to the bottom to find the studies, archives and search bar.

Deuteronomy 2

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In today’s passage we learn what happened after the ‘many days’ in Kadesh. The author of Deuteronomy also gives us a mini socio-political history of the region south and east of Canaan.

The Israelites went from Kadesh back south to Mount Seir, as if to start the whole process again (cf 1:2). Then they went back north again, via the peoples of Esau (=Edom), Moab, and Ammon. It is fascinating that the LORD specifically commanded the Israelites not to provoke or trouble the peoples of those lands. They were to pay for their food and water. These lands belonged to Edom and Moab because the LORD had ordained it so, even allowing them in their own turn previously to dispossess those who had lived there before (the Emites, Rephaites, and Horites). It puts into perspective what we were discussing two days ago, how the Israelites were commanded to dispossess those living in Canaan; God in fact does not give his people priority or rights over any land that they choose, but only what he has ordained. It also shows that this idea of the LORD as sovereign over the whole earth exists here in Deuteronomy also, as we saw many months ago when studying Amos 9.

However, the mood changes from verse 24. Instead of dealing politely with the existing peoples of the lands, Israel is commanded to engage in battle with Sihon the Amorite, and start to take his land. Nevertheless, Moses still asks permission to pass through the land, as he had with the other nations, offering to pay for food and water. When he refuses, Sihon loses his land and his people. It could have been done a different way. Sihon had a choice; he could have allowed Israel to pass through. But God knew that he would not. Moses’ understanding of the situation is that God hardened Sihon’s heart so that the people of Israel could possess his land. And so, all the cities are captured and its inhabitants destroyed, although we know from the rest of the Bible that not every Amorite was killed, so presumably those not in the cities were spared (eg 2 Chr 8:7; Ez 9:1). Still it is asserted in the last verse that the Israelites did not touch those lands (Edom, Ammon, Moab) that the LORD, in his sovereignty, protected.

The key of the chapter is in its centre, verses 14-16. Thirty-eight years have passed since they stood at the edge of the promised land, as Moses recounted in 1:35. Most of it was probably spent in Kadesh (not wandering around the desert aimlessly as we usually imagine). Now the rebellious generation has perished. Again, it is interesting to note here that although “the LORD’s hand was against them”, he didn’t actually wipe them out in his anger, but simply waited until they had passed away. Have you ever noticed the grace there before? It meant that this new generation of young people on the border of the promised land had had parents, had had fathers that they lived and travelled with, had learned from them first-hand about their history and their identity. And they had seen those fathers live out their days and die of natural causes. Now we stand on the edge of the land, literally ready to begin a new chapter.

I have learned about grace in this chapter: Grace to the old generation and grace to the new generation; Grace to the existing peoples of the land; Grace even to the people that is about to be devoted to destruction. God’s modus operandi is not simply to destroy people without giving them a chance to respond to him. There will come a time when the chance is expired, but there is always opportunity to listen and obey.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that you are a God of grace, and you have poured your amazing grace out over me. Help me to live a life of grace towards others.

Deuteronomy 1:6-21

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This section is the beginning of Moses’ first speech in Deuteronomy. He is explaining how they moved out from Horeb / Sinai and came to the edge of the promised land. In today’s reading we have a parcel: the first and last three verses concern the land and the journey; the middle verses concern the multiplication of the people and how they are to be governed. We will deal with these two topics separately.

In verses 9-18, Moses remembers his feeling of incapacity to deal with this large number of people. They are like ‘stars in the sky’, in fulfillment of God’s original promise to Abraham (Gen 15:5), probably numbering around two or three million. Moses recognized that he could not bear all their burdens and decide all their disputes himself, and therefore instituted a system of leadership whereby each of the twelve tribes selected wise, understanding, well-known men to represent and judge for them (cf Exod 18). Moses commanded them to listen and to judge righteously between brothers, and also with the foreigners living among them. Literally, they were not to ‘regard face’, meaning they must be not be partial, and also they must get beneath the surface issues; they were also not to be ‘afraid of face’, meaning they should not decide according to fear of losing respect, nor be intimidated by others. We might summarize with Moses’ words, that ‘judgment is for God’ – implying that his righteousness must be upheld – not for the men. Moses conceded that some cases may be too ‘hard’ (severe, cruel, not ‘difficult’) for them, in which situation he would hear it.

Does it strike you as strange that Moses’ concept of leadership is judging disputes? Surely it is more than that, right?! But that is clearly what is meant here. I suppose every action of a leader may focus on righteousness, in the sense of making right decisions according to the context. I also appreciate Moses’ method of obtaining his leadership team; the people selected appropriate men from their own communities. Therefore, they could respect and obey the decisions that were given, because they knew and respected the decision-makers.

Verses 6-8 and 19-21 are about the land. Yahweh says they have spent a lot of time at Horeb. This is the name of the mountain used in Exodus 3, although in Exodus 18 the mountain is not named but is said to be in the wilderness of Sinai. They arrived there three months after leaving Egypt, and stayed there probably for almost one year (cf Nu 10:11-12). God tells them to continue their journey and then names locations south (Negev), east (seashore), north (Lebanon) and west (Euphrates), encompassing mountains, lowlands, sea and river. This land, God says, was promised to their fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. It is a huge amount of territory, far greater than what modern day Israel occupies now. They were told to enter and possess it, and Moses repeats the commandment in verse 21, encouraging the Israelites not to be afraid or dismayed.

Such words send a shiver down my spine today. How can it be alright to dispossess the inhabitants of a land? How can God command such a terrible act? The correct theological answer is that the other nations there were bad guys, and it was God’s right to turf the evil-doers out (Deut 9:5). But it still hurts my soul. Does it hurt my soul to think that human-traffickers, or men who sexually abuse children, go to prison? No, that seems like justice to me. That is the light in which we should view the conquest. (You might want to read the article here.) Does the promise still endure today? Does modern day Israel have a right to possess Syria or Palestine, because of this biblical text? I would say no, because the socio-political setting has changed since the command was given.

In fact, the theological setting has changed too. The promise of land and descendants has been fulfilled in Christ. Our ‘promised land’ lies beyond these shores, and its king already reigns in peace. Anyone who does not want to live under his rule will not enter there. It is this land to which we journey, by faith, as promised to us and our fathers by God. Any battle we face to secure it is fought with truth, gospel-shoes, righteousness, faith, prayer, and the word of God (cf Eph 6:10-19), not with physical weapons like the medieval crusaders used. May we be encouraged by Moses’ words not to fear or be dismayed along our journey or in our persevering efforts to enter God’s kingdom.

Prayer: God, there are a lot of things in the Bible which are hard to understand. Thank you for encouraging me through your word to continue trusting you.