Joshua Israel's new leader

Day 79 (March 20): Moses reviews Covenant, God shows mercy, life choices, Joshua is Israel’s new leader, Book of Instruction, God predicts disobedience

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 29:29): This is an interesting verse.  Has God said this before that there are secrets that He has not revealed?

A. I don’t think it has come up to this point, but honestly, there will always be things about the infinite God that are incomprehensible to the finite “us.”  I don’t really like the way that this verse in translated in this version.  The NIV makes Moses’ point more carefully.  The focus is not on God and His secrets, i.e. things He has not revealed, but rather on the Law as a blessing to the people and future generations of their children.

O. (30:1-10): Yeah!  God has mercy on the Israelites.  God is merciful.

O. (30:9-10): This passage made me smile.  It’s nice to know we can delight God.  So many times, it feels like we can either make Him happy or make Him mad.  But, the thought that we can bring joy to His heart brings joy to my heart, much like when I look at my girls and think how lucky I am that God made them a huge part of my life.

Q. (30:17): I know these commandments are for the Israelites — I never really differentiated that rules were for them and not necessarily for us today until Rob explained that — nevertheless, we can still learn from them, right?  Here Moses is telling the Israelites that if they worship other gods, they will be destroyed.  There are other false gods to worship, but I think that once you become a Christian, you are not likely to be lured by other cults, religions, etc., but we have idolatry of today — TV, work, money, hobbies, food, alcohol, sports, travel, lust — anything that we give so much importance to that we forget about God.  Would you say that applying this passage to today in this way is accurate?

A. I think it is.  You have begun to see the way that we should think about idolatry today: as anything that competes with God for our attention and time.  It is anything that we trust in besides God.  Having said that, I think that we as a society are moving toward a more open view of mixed religious theology.  We usually call it pluralism, and say things like, “all roads lead to God.”  Unfortunately, this goes exactly against what Moses is teaching the people here.  We must be very careful about allowing other religious ideas to infiltrate our faith.  Intermixing their faith in God with other faiths will get the Israelites in a lot of trouble.

O. (31:1-8): Just reading this gets my heart pounding.  I imagine the Israelites thinking about how big and numerous these inhabitants were and here God said He is going to conquer them.  And now, since they did not actually see the miracles in Egypt, there may be many who doubt His power.  But, Moses keeps reminding them of the deliverance and miracles and I’m sure their parents did — the loyal, wise ones anyway.

Q. (31:12): What is in the Book of Instruction?  The curses and the blessings?  Was this book placed in the Ark of the Covenant also?  Do any of these exist in museums today?  That’s another question: Can you give us a nutshell version of where all of the scrolls that form the Bible were found?

A. The Book of Instruction is the Law.  It is basically some form of the previous four books we have been reading: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  I suspect the versions of the books that we have been reading were edited together to combine the instructions of the Law with the journey in the wilderness that we have been reading about.  There will be various references to copies of the Law throughout the OT, but it appears a copy of the Law did end up in the Ark.  It is very unlikely, however, that it was a copy that would have been used.  It is likely that other copies made by the priests were used for everyday study.

Regarding your other question, you’ve touched upon a complex subject: the transmission of the OT.  There’s a few things to note. First, the oldest known copy of the complete OT in Hebrew is called the Masoretic Text (usually MT), which is a medieval copy of the OT from the Middle Ages.  We have portions of the OT that are found throughout the Middle East, but there’s a catch.  In the late BC era, the OT was translated into ancient Greek, to create a document known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for seventy from the number of translators who worked on it).  Most of the ancient copies of the OT are Septuagints: Greek, not Hebrew copies.  Modern Jews reject the use of the Septuagint (probably because it’s the version that many early Christians, including Paul, used), and feel that only the Hebrew is valid for translation.  So while we have many fragments of the OT in Hebrew, and several copies in Greek, the oldest complete text comes from the Middle Ages.

I hear the questions rising now: isn’t that a long time?  Yes it is, but one of the coolest discoveries of modern Biblical archeology was the discovery of what is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 50s- found near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.  This was a collection of nearly a thousand clay pots that contained scrolls of various sizes.  These scrolls contained various portions of nearly every book of the OT (the exception was Esther, for reasons that don’t concern us here).  The ultimate find, however, was a full-length copy of the Book of Isaiah on a 12-foot scroll.  The coolest part of the discovery: the text of Isaiah matched more than 99% of the Masoretic text, despite being more than a thousand years older!  This, I think, tells us the great care with which Jews have copied their sacred text (and the way early Christians transmitted theirs), and gives me great confidence that the copies of the Bible that we have today are accurate representations of what the original author and editors desired to write about God.

O. (31:16-18) I doubt this is news that sits well with Moses, especially on the day of his death!

Q. (31:29): So much for peace in the valley of milk and honey.  Why does the disobedience have to continue?  From reading the Bible thus far, it seems that God does have a hand in what disasters strike.  Is this just more of God testing to see who deserves His blessings?

A. The people continue to rebel against God.  And just because God can “see it coming” as it were, does not make the people any less responsible for their actions, which is part of what God is telling Moses here.  The purpose of the curses, the droughts, the conquest by other tribes, these are all tools used by God to call His people back to Him.  None of us deserve the blessings God provides for us.  Like the Israelites, our call is to be faithful to God, and He will handle the rest.

Tune in tomorrow: a song God gave Moses to share with the Israelites.

For further study: What are the oldest copies of the Bible? https://biblearchaeologyreport.com/2019/02/06/the-three-oldest-biblical-texts/

Shop: We are so blessed to have a merciful God who forgives us 70 x 7! https://livinlight.org/product/490/

Tomorrow’s reading
— Deuteronomy 31:30-32:52
— Psalm 90

 

Greatest Love of All!

Admittedly, I have read the Bible frivolously. I have breezed through verses, taken It for granted, and to my great loss, not realized the depth of God’s message. I have skimmed Scripture where he describes the enormity of His love for humanity. I always knew He loved deeply, but I have not let the words come alive, digesting and absorbing them into my soul and really letting myself feel the vastness of His love. With the help of the Holy Spirit and some ladies at a Bible study, I have slowed down my reading to where individual words pop off the page making each one more powerful. Now I can better grasp the depth of His love and never cease being amazed at His care for us!  

A Passage that has hit me most recently is Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT): And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Read that again, but slower. Take in every word.  

Absolute love

I know that God loves me, but honestly, sometimes I think or say “yada yada yada” because I have heard those verses over and over, much like John 3:16. But now, I read that His love is so amazingly wide, deep and high that we can never fully grasp its size. However, by trying to realize the magnitude of His love, we are gratified and delighted. I think of a universe-size love — totally immeasurable! Try to imagine it and recognize just how much you are fulfilled. It’s a refreshing, peaceful feeling beyond description!

In Romans 8:38 (ESV), God details more specific, absolute parameters of His love, even death. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NOTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION.  Try to grasp that!

Symbol of love

God’s symbol of how much He loves us is in His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was persecuted, severely beaten, hung on the cross, mocked and died as payment for our wrongdoings. He took our punishment so we could be considered holy, clean from sin and worthy of God’s love. That’s how much God and Jesus love us … so much that they made the ultimate sacrifice to give us a way to go to heaven. Romans 5:8 (NLT): But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Because Jesus arose from the dead after three days, we know that even death cannot get in the way of God’s abilities and love. He has the power to bring us back to life, like He did with Jesus. He gives us life! A life rich in love, understanding and amazement. He tells us in Scripture that He understands our struggle with sin and knows we cannot be perfect. He is merciful! Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Jesus came to show us love. And, John 3:17 NIV: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Why does God love us? He is the creator of everything, including love. 1 John 4:19 (NET): We love because he loved us first. Moreover, He IS love. That’s one to think about. 1 John 4:16b (NLT): God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 

Love like Jesus

Jesus is our role model and we should reciprocate His love for us by loving others. John 13:34 (NLT): So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. And just how much should we love others? Matthew 22:39b (NLT): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

By loving others, we put aside our selfishness and make others a priority. In a recent Bible class, my pastor summed up loving others like this: If you don’t tell others about being saved, you must not like them very much because their afterlife may not be desirable, to say the least. That is something I need to work on! 1 Corinthians 10:33b NLT: I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

Loving others is so freeing, especially when they reciprocate. As Christians, we know that with deep love, comes understanding and forgiveness. So, when I apologize after I say something hurtful to a fellow Christian, he or she knows I am sincerely sorry and they forgive me just as Jesus did. There is peace. Ephesians 4:32 (ESV): Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV): Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

What does love look like?

Love conquers all! Listen to this next passage where God describes what love looks like. Feel your mind and body relax in its assurance. Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV): Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God is with us, always

God’s love goes beyond giving us a way to Him through Jesus Christ. He gives us Himself, the Holy Spirit, who is a gift for all of those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Because it’s nearly impossible to memorize the whole Bible, God gifts us the Holy Spirit to guide us. John 14:26 NASB: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. Ezekiel 36:26 NLT: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

The Holy Spirit, God Himself, directs us to righteousness. His voice is distinctive. It’s the one that tells you to do the right thing. Romans 8:6 (NLT): So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. And, luckily, God tells us that He is greater than anything, so with Him, we are fortified, protected, well. 1 John (4:4) NIV: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.