The Lord your God

Read: Deuteronomy 8-10, Marik 12:28-44

On the eve of Israel’s move to the Promised Land, Moses takes a few moments to set some reminders for his people.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)

Israel had a terrible habit of forgetting about God and the covenant they had with Him. In the morning they’d be picking up manna and by the afternoon, they’d be complaining that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Moses knew he’d been leading a stubborn group of people. They only existed because of his intercession on their behalf. After all the trouble he’d gone through, he wanted to be sure they got things right once he was gone.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV)

The Promised Land was not a reward for good behavior. If God were to reward His people according to what they deserved, He’d have to send them back to Egypt. But because of His covenant and Moses’ prayers, Israel would take possession of the land promised to their forefathers.

This possession was not without its trials. God had already let the people know that they would have to fight. And it would be a long fight. The land would only be cleared of its inhabitants as Israel was prepared to occupy it. God would fight for them, but they still had to go into battle. God would make them prosper, but they would still have to do the work.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to you forefathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1 (NIV)

The promise to possess did not come without conditions. God wanted the obedience of Israel and He wanted their love.

When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied:

Mark 12-30-31.jpg

I believe that we, too, need the reminder, like Israel did, that the Lord is our God. And, if the Lord is our God, we should love and obey Him. Twenty-four times, Moses used the words the Lord your God in Deuteronomy 8 through 10. It must have been important. Important enough for Jesus to used the very same words when speaking of the greatest commandment.

If Israel remembered the Lord their God, loved Him, and obeyed Him, all would go well for them. The very same goes for us.

And we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

16x

Read: Leviticus 18-19, Matthew 27:32-66

Some days, I have the memory of an elephant. I remember minute details about things that happened over a decade ago that never really mattered, even while they were happening. Other days, my memory has the lifespan of a gnat. I think that, for the most part, the Israelites fell into this latter category.

Through much of the Pentateuch, Israel gets reminder after reminder. Sometimes I read a passage and have to go look back because I am positive I’ve read it already. Today is no different.

Leviticus 19:2

After this verse, the words the Lord your God are repeated fifteen more times within the chapter. Sixteen times within thirty-seven verses, Israel is reminded that the Lord is their God. If repeating something three times is important, how important is sixteen?

The number sixteen in the Bible is often associate with love. In the Old Testament, sixteen of the various names and titles for God specifically signify His constant, never-ending love for the children of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists sixteen distinct qualities of love.

When questioned about the most important commandment, Jesus wraps it all up.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30 (NIV)

I find it interesting that, for as many qualities as Paul uses to describe love, God reminds His people that He is their Lord. Far more than God wanted Israel to follow a strict set of rules, He wanted them to love Him. From a pure love, obedience flows. God wants the very same for us.

Even as I write this study, I wonder for myself how much would change in my life if I were to intentionally remind myself daily of God’s lordship in my life. The Lord is my God. He is my Lord. I believe that this is what God was doing with Israel. He was working to renew their minds to His way of thinking.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Our love for God should be, like Jesus stated, with our whole being. But it all starts in our spirit, followed by our mind. If the mind does not conform to the spirit, our strength cannot follow suit. Our spirits know and love God, but it is the daily reminder of His lordship in our lives that will cause everything else to conform.

So remind yourself that God is your God. He is your Lord. Do it sixteen times if you have to.

The seventh day

Read: Exodus 31-33, Matthew 22:23-46

When you think of something as being holy, what comes to mind? A certain place? The empty tomb. Jerusalem. A church or temple. A specific thing? The Bible. Communion elements—bread and wine. The ark of the covenant. Things that are holy usually generate a picture in our minds. But the very first thing that God set aside as holy was neither a place nor a thing.

And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 2:3 (NIV)

According to our religious way of thinking, once God had completed creation, we would expect that He would create a dwelling for Himself, a holy sanctuary where He could reside. But He didn’t. No such thing was made.

Things are only temporary. Out of sight, out of mind. Had God set aside a place or a thing, it could (and probably would) be easily forgotten. Instead, He set aside time, a regular occurrence at which point humanity was to set aside all else so that our focus could be on our Creator alone.

Exodus 31:13

We can set aside places and things to be considered holy, but unless we actually take time, God will not be glorified or worshiped. Even though western Christian tradition sets aside Sunday—the first day of the week—as the Sabbath. I don’t believe God is so concerned with which day or time we set aside as He is with the fact that we actually take the time to turn our focus off of everything but Him.

Our holiness is entirely dependent on God’s holiness. And we cannot be made holy if we do not know the One who makes us holy. Whether you take the first day, the seventh day, or the fourth day, take a day. Consider it holy. Don’t just abstain from work, but use that time to pursue God. Let it continue to stand as a reminder for the generations to come that He is the Lord, who makes us holy.

Commemorate

Read: Exodus 13-15, Matthew 19:1-15

Both in Canada and the United States our mints—the place where physical currency is made—like to commemorate things. Watch television late at night and you’ll probably see a commercial offer for a commemorative coin. These coins serve to honour or celebrate a particular person, place, event, or institution.

Roughrider Loonie

Of all Canadian commemorative coins, this loonie (one dollar coin) celebrating 100 years of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, is my favourite.

Our governments do a good job of helping us to remember certain things. These memories live in our purses, our pockets, our nightstands, our change jars. We need money to make it in our world and, what better way to immortalize something than to put it in the hand of every person in the country?

When something spectacular happened to God’s people, Moses asked Israel to do something similar.

Exodus 13:13

The Israelites were serious about their commemoration. Even today, phylacteries (small, black, cube-shaped leather boxes) are often worn by Orthodox and other conservative Jewish males aged thirteen and older. The purpose of these objects are to remind the Jewish people of God’s deliverance and of their duty to remain faithful to His commands. Thousands of years after the fact, these people are still commemorating their deliverance.

The Israelites celebrated their deliverance every year at the same time with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As their children grew, they would tell the story of how God brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. And then their children would tell their children who would tell their children. You get the picture. Stories of God’s greatness were passed down from generation to generation along with an object and traditions that would be a perpetual reminder.

Most of us have never been enslaved. We’ve never had to be delivered to the extent that Israel required. But God has done something for every one of us. He has delivered us all from something and brought us into His promise. So what do we do to remember that?

Several years ago, my pastor preached a message series called All In. Every person in attendance was given a poker chip with the words All In printed on it. Ask anyone who was in the congregation that day about their chip and most everyone could tell you where theirs is. Mine is in my work belt. I know that my pastor keeps one in his pocket. Our youth leader keeps it in his wallet. Like a commemorative coin, we all have a reminder to give our all when it comes to our relationship with God.

What do you keep to remind yourself of God’s grace and goodness in your life? Whether it be a phylactery, a coin, or a poker chip, it is worth keeping a memento so that you can keep in mind—even in the hard times—God’s faithfulness. Believe it or not, I even have a tissue (unused) tucked in a particular Bible that reminds me that I have the mind of Christ (Jesus in no way relates to a Kleenex, but the illustration worked and the reminder is there).

How can you commemorate the mighty hand of God in your life?

Renew

I’ve been to several wedding vow renewal ceremonies. I’ve also heard people scoff at the idea. After all, the couple made a promise for a lifetime. Why should they have to go through it again?

How many times did God renew His covenant with Israel? Over and over again! In 1 Samuel, I’ve counted no less than three times when David and Jonathan renewed their covenant of friendship with each other.

So to the two of them renewed their covenant of friendship before the Lord. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh.

1 Samuel 23:18 (NLT)

If a covenant is supposed to last for life, why should it have to be renewed?

You may have heard the story of a husband who never tells his wife he loves her. His reason, “I told you I loved you on the day I married you, if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” Imagine how that wife would feel? How secure would she feel in the love of her husband if he never told her so?

The purpose of renewing a covenant isn’t necessarily to fix what was broken, but it serves as a reminder for all parties involved of the original promise. Often in church, a pastor will invite the entire congregation to repeat the prayer of salvation. While this serves to make a new believer more comfortable, it can also be a sacred time of renewal for a long-time believer.

I think that there are times in our walk with God where a reminder of our promise can be helpful. Perhaps you are going through a tough time. Maybe you’ve pulled away from your relationship with God. Or maybe you just need the affirmation that God is still on His throne and He still accepts you no matter what.

When you are offered the opportunity to recommit yourself to the Lord—no matter what your circumstance—don’t scoff at it, rather jump at it. Just like we may need a reminder of who we are committed to, I’m sure God enjoys and appreciates our words of a renewed covenant with Him.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 22-24, Luke 16:1-18

Reminder

Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Exodus 2:23-24 (NLT)

He remembered His covenant promise. Do you think that God—the God who knows everything—really forgot His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Do you think that God required a reminder? “Oh, shoot! I totally forgot about them. I was so busy doing my own thing somewhere else.”

I don’t think so.

So why did Israel have to cry out?

My youngest niece is three. She’s the cutest little thing. But sometimes she gets it into her head that she’s not going to talk. She’ll gesture and grunt, but refuse to speak. Can she speak? Sure, there are times when you can’t get her to stop talking. But when she wants or needs something, she needs to ask for it, not point and grunt.

I think God is the same way with us sometimes. He knows what we need. He’s never ignorant of that. But He wants us to ask. He knew what He’d promised to Israel, but He wanted them to remember what He’d promised.

This is one of the reasons that, when I teach Bible study, I put stress on learning the “In Him” scriptures. Learn what God has said about you and to you. Know who you are in Him so that, when you’re going through a rough time, you can remember and say, “Hey God, you said you’d be here. You promised me healing. You promised me comfort.”

He doesn’t need the reminder. We do.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 1-3, Matthew 15:21-39