Have you seen the children’s decoder toy? The secret message is printed in blue ink under a maze of red lines which makes the message hard to decipher. Once you wear the red-lens glasses, though, you are able to discern the mysterious message.
Sometimes God and His ways are as mysterious to us. We can see enough to be drawn to Him, but we can’t see the whole picture. Are there any special red-lens glasses we can use to help us discern God’s ways? Deuteronomy 29-30 is the fourth message delivered by Moses to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land. This sermon is the cipher code to help unlock the secret things of God. Moses speaks of these secret things in Deuteronomy 29:29 where he says, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” God does not keep everything a mystery. A few verses later, Moses says, “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off…But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11, 14). You have the glasses that can crack the code of God’s ways. This is not to falsely claim you will completely understand all God’s ways. He is infinite. His ways and thoughts are not our own. However, your comprehension of the secret things of God is made more clear by your obedience. If you want to know God more, then you have to obey.
The key to understanding the secret things of God is to use the revealed things of God. The secret things, the future and all it holds, belong to God. The revealed things, His will, those things belong to you and it is through His will you can know God more and more. Your future is destined by your walk with God. This is why Moses pleads yet again for the people to love God. “That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:20).
I love Thee, I love Thee, and that Thou doest know;
But how much I love thee my actions will show.
We faithfully teach our children in Sunday School the following instruction:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesian 6:1-3).
How does the last phrase, the blessing attached to this commandment, become a reality? Is this a promise for long life per se? Certainly, there have been very obedient children who did not live long upon the earth, so it must mean something more.
Whether it is Christmas or a birthday celebration, children will often receive a gift which has two dangerous words printed on the packaging: “Assembly Required.” At that point, an adult steps in and assembles the lovely gift. Instructions probably accompany the project. If you obey the instructions, you will be able to enjoy the gift. If the child, follows the instructions for using the toy, they will be able to enjoy the gift. There may come a point where the child’s disregard for the gift’s design could damage the toy or themselves. An adult may have to intervene and take away the gift for a time until the child’s maturity indicates that they can handle the toy correctly.
God promised the special land to Abraham and his descendants. It was a gift beautifully wrapped by miraculous events. The Israelites, as the descendants, were the rightful possessors of the land, but whether they would be able to enjoy it or not depended on their obedience. The first generation of the nation of Israel who stood at the threshold of the Promised Land refused to obey and honor God their Father. This disqualified them from enjoying the land. Their children were the ones to whom the promise was extended. Children, obey…and you will live long in the land.
Deuteronomy 28 is a full disclosure of God’s instructions for the gift of the Promised Land. As long as they obeyed God’s instruction, they would be able to delight in the gift. If they refused to obey, they would not enjoy the land and eventually, they would be removed from the land. The key was for them to learn how to live in abundance:
“Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things…” (Deuteronomy 28:47).
Clearly, most Americans are wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Moreso, believers in Christ are loaded with heavenly riches. We have many gifts, but the secret to enjoying them is using them to serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness. When we use the abundance of all things incorrectly, for our own desires, we are failing to follow God’s instruction. This means we forfeit the privilege to fully enjoy those blessings.
How will you use the many blessings, physical and spiritual, God has given you? Will you follow the first generation of Israel’s example of disobedience? Will you respond like their children? Live obediently in the abundance of things.
How long does it take for you to talk yourself out of doing something? You know the moment. It is when the intelligent part of you sneaks a thought past the praetorian guard of feelings and for a moment the neurons in your brain begin to rev up for this brilliant plan. Only to suddenly grind to a halt because of the nagging tug of your feelings. You know you should read your Bible, but you do not feel like it. You know you should speak to the person at the gas station about God, but you do not feel like it. You know you should not indulge in that conversation or movie or whatever it may be, but your feelings reign.
One motivational speaker has said you only have five seconds to whisk any good intention from the jaws of feelings and put it into action. She believes based on brain studies and habit forming observations, from the moment of epiphany to follow through you only have five seconds. God knows how frail we are and he knows that we are easily distracted. Through Moses, God tells the people of Israel they needed to immediately confirm the laws of God once they entered the Promised Land. “And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Deuteronomy 27:2). He did not give them a week to get their house organized. He did not allow them time to do any sightseeing so they could rave about the beautiful land flowing with milk and honey. God’s instruction to them was, upon the day you enter the land you will confirm this covenant as a nation.
In our lives, we have the same complexities as the children of Israel. We can easily be derailed by our feelings. The life currents guide our vessel into the doldrums from time to time and we are held back by our feelings. However, if we were to react within the countdown, 5-4-3-2-1, we would be much more likely to respond according to what we know is right instead of how we feel.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
In Deuteronomy 21, the subject is almost awkward. The scenario is of a dead body found in the field. It is an unsolved mystery. No one knows who committed the crime. God instructs the people to perform an unusual ceremony. They are to measure the distance from the dead body to the surrounding cities, and the closest city bears the responsibility to invoke God’s mercy upon the nation of Israel. They were required to take a heifer which was never a beast of labor and take it to a place in the valley where there was never any plowing and sever the head from the beast.
It seems brutal, but it perfectly pictures the culpability and the value God has placed on life. No life is worthy to be discarded. The vicious ceremony was a vivid reminder to the elders and leaders of the social failures. In a way, they failed to influence their citizens in the ways of God. The tragedy of a life taken was supposed to be treated seriously because it was the thievery of the most blessed gift of God.
How many lives have been snuffed out in silence? There is no answer to the cries from the innocent who have been slain in the name of preference and individual rights. Every life discarded screams an indictment upon the leaders of our communities for their failure to influence others in the ways of God. Every life is precious in God’s eyes. Those who advocate for the life of the unborn have been accused of being overly graphic when they show images and videos of the abortion process. It would seem to parallel the visual impact God ordered in this chapter. The ones who take an innocent life have placed themselves in God’s seat and decided who lives and who dies, and it is the community who is guilty in the eyes of God when this practice is permitted without restraint. The cold case of abortion must be addressed. The inestimable value of life will inevitably cost a community more than they could ever realize.
What Scripture did believers cherish before John 3:16 was ever written? As important as teaching children John 3:16 presently, it is likely Jewish children were taught with the same intensity Deuteronomy 6:5-8. Also, as much as John 3:16 has become tritely affixed upon banners at events and cheeks of athletes, the Hebrew’s tendency to trivialize the “Shema” was extremely possible. Locked in this nugget of Scripture is the seed bank of eternal blessing for all who love God. You could study this passage for a month and still thrill at each new discovery. However, in an effort to remain concise, here are a few observations from this vital passage.
First, you will find a unique exclusiveness. “The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This was startling to the pagan cultures who worshiped many gods. The value in the Lord’s exclusivity is realized in that you can worship with absolute allegiance. Your devotion is not fractured across a pantheon of gods. The Lord is your “one-stop” focus. Whatever your station or situation, the Lord is your God. This demands absolute commitment and echoes the description of God’s character as a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).
Second, you will notice the law was to be engraved upon the hearts of these people, and they were responsible for impressing them upon the hearts of their children. If they truly heard the word of the Lord and loved Him, they would obey with complete devotion from their heart. The statutes of God would become their delight (Psalm 119:97). Before long, their love for God’s word would define their character. As the saying goes, wild horses could not tear the wisdom of God from their life.
Third, the expression of God’s law was in the form of teaching. The method was not really focused on memorization, but rather immersion. Through the examples of everyday life, parents and teachers were given the grave responsibility to nurture their children in the admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). This is impossibly difficult if your allegiance to God is divided among other gods of this world and if your personal application of God’s law is weak. God’s statutes were not merely to be a system of laws, but a style of life.
Moses tells the people to not repeat the Massah experience where the people challenged, “Is the Lord among us?” Moses knows that the people will soon cross the Jordan River. Once they enter the Promised Land, the cloud will disappear, the manna will cease, and Moses will be dead. All of the tangible indications of God’s presence, protection, and provision will dematerialize. The transmission of truth was not something to which they could point, but something they could pattern in their life and pass to the next generation. The reality of God’s presence rests in their faithfulness to the revealed Word of God.
How you listen, love, and live today impacts the next generation. You are a thief of the next generation’s blessings when you choose to live selfishly today. If you really want to leave a legacy worth more than the world for your children, then love God with all your heart. Do it for the children.