Deuteronomy 25-26

Gratitude for God’s Magnitude.

“The LORD has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. And if you do, he will make you greater than any other nation. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD your God, just as he promised.”Deuteronomy 26:18-19 NLT

We take a lot for granted as God’s people. Sometimes even our salvation itself can become “old hat.” We can get so used to the fact that we have been saved by God through Jesus Christ that it loses its significance. The Israelites faced this same problem. As God’s chosen people, they ran the risk of forgetting the significance of their position. With all the talk about rules and regulation, laws and legal requirements, they could very easily begin to think it was all about what they were doing for God instead of all that God had done for them. But God wanted them to remember. He wanted them to constantly recall the reality of their situation and the significance of their calling. Their lives and their keeping of God’s laws were to be a response to all that God had done for them. He had taken an insignificant group of people, placed them in the land of Egypt, multiplied and blessed them, rescued them from the slavery imposed on them by the Egyptians, led them across the wilderness, provided for all their needs for more than 40 years, and given them an incredibly fertile land in which to live. Their response should have been one of gratitude. They should have been willing to give back to God a portion of what He had given to them – out of thankfulness for His grace and generosity.

And the same should be true of us. Not only does God shower us each and every day with all kinds of physical blessings, He has made us His own possession. We are His people, His treasured possession. He has set us apart as His own and given us His promise of eternal life. Peter reminds us of this very fact. “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you–from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9-10 MSG). We are blessed. We belong to God and He has chosen to make us His instruments to accomplish His purposes here on this earth. And our attitude should be one of gratitude. Gratefulness for God’s incredible goodness and grace.

Father, thank You for all You have done. Forgive me for the many times I take Your grace for granted. Too often I fail to remember all that You have done for me. Never let me forget the greatness of Your goodness. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 23-24

He Walks Among Us.

“For the Lord your God walks about in the middle of your camp to deliver you and defeat your enemies for you. Therefore your camp should be holy, so that he does not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.” – Deuteronomy 23:14 NET

Like the two chapters that precede them, chapters 23-24 contain what seems to be a wide range of topics that don’t seem to fit together. But they all have something to do with the presence of God. They each reflect an awareness that God is in the midst of His people. As a result, He has different standards and He expects His people to live differently than the nations around them. We may view some of these restrictions as unnecessarily harsh, but God had a reason for them. He was illustrating for His people His own holiness and set-apartness. Even when the people of God went out on manuevers as an army, they had to remain holy. They couldn’t cut corners or excuse themselves from following God’s commands. “When you go out as an army against your enemies, guard yourselves against anything impure” (Deuteronomy 23:9 NET). Personal and corporate purity were to be a priority – at all times. Even when it came to personal hygiene, they were to practice purity. When an army was out in the field, each of the men was to cover his waste products, not leave it out in the open like a latrine. Why? Because God would be walking about their camp. He would be in their midst. Not only did this result in good hygiene, it resulted in a constant awareness of God’s presence. God’s people should ALWAYS conduct themselves in view of God’s presence among them.

This is a huge need in the church today. So often we fail to sense God’s presence among us. We act as if He is nowhere to be found. Which results in a flippant, casual kind of attitude about our thoughts and actions. Over in his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul says, “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes––these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God” (Ephesians 5:3-4). We are to remove these things from our community. We are NOT to live like the rest of the world. Our homes are NOT to have in them the same kind of things the rest of the world has. We are NOT to watch the same kind of movies and TV shows. We are NOT to listen to the same music. We are NOT to have the same kinds of conversations. Because we are better? No, but because the holy, righteous God walks in our midst. He walks among us. I remember one time having a conversation with my oldest son about his use of the Internet. I warned him about the dangers of pornography available online. I tried to tell him that there would be temptations to look at things he knew he was not supposed to look at. But the thing that made the greatest impact on him was when I told him to consider what it would be like if he was surfing the Internet and decided to click on a site he knew was inappropriate – and I was sitting next to him when the improper images appeared on the screen. I remember the uncomfortable look on his face. I asked him if he would ever click on something inappropriate or improper on the Internet if I was sitting next to him and he said, “No!” Then I told him to consider the fact that God Himself was sitting next to Him at all times. The holy, righteous God of the universe was with Him every second of every day. So if he did end up clicking on that site in order to look at images he knew were wrong for him as a believer, he would be doing so right in front of God.

But most of us don’t seem to believe that God is with us at all times. We don’t recognize that He walks in our midst. So we tolerate all kinds of “uncleanliness” in our midst. Rather than bury our filth, we allow it to remain in the open, subjecting God to our sin and uncleanness. Sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes. Sounds like a description of prime-time TV doesn’t it? Yet as we sit on the couch taking it all in, God is there with us. He is in our midst. His presence is there whether we feel it or not. Yet we live like the nations around us – ignoring His presence and pursuing a lifestyle that has no place among God’s people. “GOD, your God, strolls through your camp; he’s present to deliver you and give you victory over your enemies. Keep your camp holy; don’t permit anything indecent or offensive in GOD’s eyes” (Deuteronomy 23:14 MSG).

Father, You are in our midst, but we live like You are not there. We allow all kinds of uncleanness to exist in our camp, ignoring Your commands for holiness and purity. We resemble the world around us more than the God among us. We have lost our distinctiveness. Forgive us Father and remind us once again of our uniqueness as Your people. You walk among us. You have placed Your Spirit within us. We belong to You and not this world. Make us increasingly aware of Your presence so that we might willingly remove any and all things in and around our lives that have no place in the life of a believer. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 21-22

Extremely Tough Love.

“Suppose a man has a stubborn, rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. In such cases, the father and mother must take the son before the leaders of the town. They must declare: ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a worthless drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town must stone him to death. In this way, you will cleanse this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.” – Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NLT

Chapters 21-22 of Deuteronomy are difficult at best. The content appears to be somewhat random and unrelated. It covers everything from how to properly marry a woman taken captive in the defeat of an enemy city to the proper resolution of manslaughter cases when you don’t know who committed the crime. There’s even some admonitions about home safety, cross dressing, and the care of animals. But all these topics have something to do with the fifth, sixth and seventh commandments. “Honor your father and mother.” “You shall not murder.” “You shall not commit adultery.” Each of the situations covered in these chapters have something to do with illustrating in greater detail what these commandments really meant. These two chapters are practical, daily applications of these three laws. Yes, they seem a little odd to us at times, but they fit the context in which the people of Israel were living. They were real life events that took place every day.

But the one that struck a chord with me was the one on the rebellious son. As the father of two boys, I have actually used these verses to jokingly remind my sons how important it is that they obey. At times, when they have given me a hard time and disobeyed me, I have reminded them that in “Bible days” boys like that could have been stoned. Now hear me out. I never threatened to stone my kids and I was not trying to instill the fear of God into them. I was just kidding around. But as I read this passage again in its context, I am struck with how much this is NOT a laughing matter to God. Obedience is a serious matter to God. So is rebellion. In God’s economy, parents are his legal representatives. They exercise authority over their children on His behalf. This is not a role we should take lightly. This passage is given as a last resort for parents who have exhausted all other avenues to restore their son to a right relationship with them and with God.

The fifth commandment states, “Honor your father and mother.” This was a command that God took seriously. Disobedience to authority was a serious matter to God. A child that habitually disobeyed his parents would be a man who willingly and regularly disobeyed the commands of God and every other authority in his life. He would become a bane to society and a blot on the community. This passage was not intended to give parents the freedom to kill their rebellious sons, but to encourage them to do everything in their power to restore their child. But in the end, their love for God was to supercede their love for their child. This passage seems to indicate a son who had developed a habit of willful rebellion. The terms “stubborn and rebellious” are used to describe the son. They are the same terms used throughout the Old Testament to describe the nation of Israel in terms of their relationship with God. Whenever Israel disobeyed God, it was in effect saying, “You are not my God!” They were declaring by their actions that they rejected His authority over their lives. They were dishonoring Him as their rightful ruler and authority. In rejecting the authority of his parents, a son was doing the same thing. The son, in renouncing his relationship with his parents, has effectively
declared, if not by his words, then certainly by his deeds, what the adopted son in the Mesopotamian adoption contracts says when he abrogates his contract, “I am not your son; you are not my parents.”

As a parent, I am to place my love for God above my love for my child. I am not to excuse his behavior, but see his rebellion and disobedience as an affront to the authority and sovereignty of God. A rebellious child will grow up to be a rebellious man. To allow my son to habitually disobey my authority would be to encourage his future rejection of God’s authority in his life. God seems to have given this regulation as a reminder of His ultimate authority and requirement of obedience, but also as an effective deterrent to disobedience and juvenile delinquency. No loving parent would have willingly brought their son to be stoned without first having done everything in their power to restore their son. But in the end, our love of God should even overshadow our love for our own children. Our desire to honor God should supercede our desire to tolerate our childrens’ rebellious behavior. In his commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Dr. Thomas L. Constable has this to say about this passage:

“It may appear at first that God was commanding the Israelites to exercise less grace with their own children than He showed the whole nation. However, God had previously promised never to cut off His people (Genesis 12:1-3). The Israelites were to be God’s instruments of judgment in many specific situations, as we have seen in Deuteronomy. The punishment of sinners, be they Canaanites or Israelites, for specific types of sin was imperative for Israel to fulfill God’s purpose for her in the world (Exodus 19:5-6). This legislation teaches us that parents should put their love for God above their love for their children.”

Father, as a parent it is so easy to excuse little acts of rebellion or disobedience in my children. I have done it regularly over the years. And when I do, I fail to see that I am creating an environment of rebellion. I am encouraging a lifestyle of disobedience. I am allowing what I think is a love for my child to become a tolerance of unrighteousness. You have given me a position of authority with the responsibility to teach my children to obey me so that they might one day obey You. When I allow them to reject my authority, even in small ways, I am training them to reject Your authority in the future. Show me how to love You more than I love my own children. May I long to see them live lives of obedience so that they might grow up to obey You in all things. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 20

He Will Give You the Victory.

“He will say, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight today! Do not lose heart or panic. For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’” – Deuteronomy 20:3-4 NLT

One of the realities facing the people of Israel was war. For them to enjoy all the blessings inherent in the Promised Land, they were going to have to do battle with the inhabitants of the land. This was not going to be a cake walk. It was not going to be easy. God was not just going to hand over the land with no effort expended by the people. Sure, He had given them the land. But they were going to have to fight for it in order to occupy it. So war was going to be a regular part of their life for the foreseeable future.

And the same is true for us as believers. We have been assured of a victory by Christ because of His death on the cross. We have been promised a life filled with joy, peace, contentment, and the daily, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. But we live in a land where the enemy hates us and is out to destroy us. We are under daily attack by that enemy. He is out to defeat us in any way that we can. Jesus promised us that He came to give us life more abundantly (John 10:10), but that does not mean we are going to have an easy go of it. He also promised trials and tribulations in this life. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT).

In Deuteronomy 20, Moses reminds the people that they are getting ready to do battle. When they begin the process of possessing the land, it was going to involve war. And this was not a nation with a standing army. They were not trained to do battle. They had been farmers and shepherds in Egypt. They had been common laborers. But now they were going to have to prepare to do battle with nations much more numerous than them and with a lot more military experience. But Moses tells them, “When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The LORD your God, who brought you safely out of Egypt, is with you!” (Deuteronomy 20:1 NLT).

Do not be afraid! Instead, they were to remember that God was with them and to rely on His help with confidence regardless of the enemy’s strength. As believers, we are called to trust God in the midst of the conflicts of this life. We are to recall God’s past faithfulness and gain courage from His promises that He will be with us.

It is interesting that the priest had a role to play in preparing the people for battle. He even accompanied the army into battle. But before they engaged the enemy the priest was to remind the people by telling them, “Attention, Israel. In a few minutes you’re going to do battle with your enemies. Don’t waver in resolve. Don’t fear. Don’t hesitate. Don’t panic. GOD, your God, is right there with you, fighting with you against your enemies, fighting to win. (Deuteronomy 20:3-4 MSG). The priest represented the Tabernacle of God, the place where the very presence of God dwelt. As a servant of God, the priest was to consecrate the people and represent the Tabernacle and God’s name in the midst of the battle. The presence of the priest was a visual reminder of the presence of God. The priest didn’t just give a pep talk and then send the people out to do battle. No, he went with them.

We must remind ourselves constantly that we are at war. We are engaged in an epic struggle between two kingdoms. And just because we know how the story ends and who the ultimate victor is, does not mean that the war is any less real. In a real sense, every one of us, as followers of Christ, are priests. We are His representatives. As such, we should remind one another daily that we are in battle, but that we can face and foe with faith and not fear because our God is with us. We don’t need to fear, panic, or worry. Our God goes into battle with us. He fights alongside us. And we fight alongside one another.

Father, we are at war. The enemy is real and he is out to destroy us. But You have promised to fight with us and for us. You have given us the weapons of our warfare. You have equipped us with everything we need to live in this world victoriously and confidently. May we learn to remind each other daily that You are with us. There is no reason to fear. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 18-19

A Prophet Like Moses.

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites, and you must listen to that prophet.” – Deuteronomy 18:15 NLT

Back in Exodus 19-20 we have recorded the incident where the people of God begged Moses to intercede with God on their behalf. They had seen the power and presence of God on the mountain top in the form of thunder, lightning, and smoke. God had just given His commandments to Moses and the people were terrified. So they told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die” (Exodus 20:19 NASB). Moses became their spokesman and intercessor. He communicated to them the words of God. He interceded on their behalf with God. Now in Deuteronomy 18, Moses lets the people know that there would be other prophets to come after him. There would be one in particular who would be raised up by God from among them. God would put His words in this individual’s mouth and he would speak on behalf of God.

This statement by Moses clearly speaks of Jesus and His future coming. “But even as he said it, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him.'” (Matthew 17:5 NLT). In speaking to the Jews of His day, Jesus said, “Yet it is not I who will accuse you of this before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, on whom you set your hopes. But if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me because he wrote about me. And since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” (John 5:45-47 NLT). Jesus made it clear that He spoke on behalf of God, just as Moses had predicted. “But all who reject me and my message will be judged at the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me gave me his own instructions as to what I should say. And I know his instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say!” (John 12:48-50 NLT). Peter, after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, told the Jews in the crowd, “Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be cut off from God’s people and utterly destroyed.’” (Acts 3:22-23 NLT). Jesus was clearly the ultimate fulfillment of this prophesy.
This prophesy is clearly a Messianic promise and Jesus fulfilled that promise in a number of ways::

He was spared in infancy (Exodus 2; Matthew 2:13-23)

He renounced a royal court (Hebrews 11:24-27; Philippians 2:5-8)

He had compassion for the people (Numbers 27:17; Matthew 9:36)

He made intercession for the people (Deuteronomy 9:18; Hebrews 7:25)

He spoke with God face to face (Exodus 34:29-30; 2 Corinthians 3:7)

He was the mediator of a covenant (Deuteronomy 29:1; Hebrews 8:6-7)

God had revealed Himself through Moses in the Old Testament period. But that role, as great as it was, would be surpassed by Jesus during the New Testament period. While Moses saved the people from slavery in Egypt, Jesus would provide salvation from slavery to sin and death. But while there are many similarities between Jesus and Moses, Jesus is superior. Moses was a prototype of what was to come. Jesus was the fulfillment. Moses was simply a shadow of the Light of the world. So here are seven ways in which Jesus was superior to Moses.

Jesus provided eternal salvation through His death

While Moses died in the wilderness, Jesus was resurrected from the dead

Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father

Moses job as prophet and intercessor ended with his death, but Jesus continued to speak on behalf of God after His death (through the New Testament prophets)

Jesus continues to intercede for us

Jesus will one day return for us

Jesus will ultimately bring us into God’s presence

The writer of the book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus was and is superior to Moses. Moses was a man who spoke on behalf of God. Jesus is the God-man who came as the very image of God in human form, delivering God’s message of redemption and reconciliation. Jesus didn’t just deliver from physical slavery, but spiritual slavery. Jesus didn’t just come to provide a land in which to live, but an eternity in which to dwell with God. “But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a fine house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but God is the one who made everything. Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.” (Hebrews 3:3-5 NLT).

Father, Your Son is the fulfillment of all things. He is the prophet Moses promised. He is the one who was to come, and He did come, delivering Your message of hope and healing. He was the ultimate sacrifice. He was the prophet, priest, and king. He was the deliverer and the One who was delivered up for my sake. His words are Your words. Teach us to listen to Him, just as Moses said. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 16-17

When God Was King.

“Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. They must appear before the LORD your God at the place he chooses on each of these occasions, and they must bring a gift to the LORD.” – Deuteronomy 16:16 NLT

There is something interesting going on in these two chapters that I have never noticed before. At first glance, they appear to be disjointed and a little confusing. Moses seems to jump around from talk about festivals and feasts to judges, idol worship, and then kings. It’s almost as if Moses suffers from ADD. He appears to be all over the map topically. And yet, after closer examination, the emphasis seems to be on the sovereignty and reign of God.

This section is all about God as king. In fact, when Moses reminds the people that they are to come before the Lord three times a year at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths, he is calling them to bring tribute to God as their king. This was a practice common among the nations who occupied the land. This requirement that the men of Israel  report to the central sanctuary three times a year had a parallel in the Near Eastern treaty requirements. It was common practice for suzerains to require their vassals to report to them periodically, in some cases three times a year, in order to renew their allegiance and to bring tribute. So God is calling His citizens to come before Him three times a year to renew their allegiance and to bring tribute to Him as king.

As king, God would appoint judges, just and righteous men to help settle disputes and dispense justice. “Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:20 NLT). God wanted justice to flourish in His kingdom. And as king, He would not tolerate the worship or veneration of other gods. He demanded unflagging loyalty from His citizens. Unfaithfulness was to be punished. Justice was to reign in His land and among His people.

But Moses also alludes to a day coming when the people of God would demand a king other than God. In spite of the fact that God would allow the people to enter the land, possess it, and live in it, they would decide that they want a king like all the other nations. They would become dissatisfied with God as their king and determine to place a human king on the throne of Israel. God anticipates this event and even gives requirements regarding this eventual outcome. This king would be chosen by God. He would rule according to God’s standards, and adhere to God’s laws. His kingdom would only be as successful as he was faithful. Sadly, we know the outcome of this story. Israel would demand a king. And God would give them a king after their own hearts – King Saul. He would be all they ever hoped for – tall, good looking, a natural born leader. But also a lousy follower of God. He would disobey God and disappoint the people of God. God would eventually replace him with David. But David and his son Solomon would both violate the very requirements outlines in this passage. And their disobedience would lead to God’s punishment on them and their kingdoms. Their legacy of less-than-perfect leadership would live on in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah, most of whom were flawed and faithless kings and sorry replacements for the one true king – God Himself.

This is about God. It always has been and always will be. He is our God and we are His people. We owe Him tribute and honor. We are to live according to the rules of His kingdom, not our own. We are to remain faithful to Him and to be satisfied with His leadership in our lives.

Father, You are king. I am to answer to You and You alone. But so often I fail to obey You and I seek others kings in my life. Help me to remember that I owe all my allegiance to You. I am to worship You and You alone. I am to live according to Your rules and the terms of Your kingdom. You are a faithful and just king who rules with fairness and dispenses justice. There is no reason I should ever doubt You or dethrone You from my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 14-15

Distinctively Different.

“You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you to be his own special treasure from all the nations of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 14:2 NLT

The people of Israel were no different than anybody else. At least when it came to their worthiness. They were no better than any other nation. They were no more deserving of God’s love than any other people group on the planet. There was nothing about them that set them apart except for the fact that God had set them apart – for Himself. These chapters are all a reminder to the people of God that they belong to Him. As they get ready to go into the Promised Land and occupy it, Moses is reminding them that they are to live distinctively different lives. They have a different standard by which to live. God has called them to live lives that are reflective of their unique relationship with Him. Rather than blend in and fit in with the surrounding culture, they were to stand out and be set apart from it. In every area of their lives. The external appearance of the people should reflect their internal status as the chosen and holy people of God.

From the food they ate and the clothes they wore to the way they worshiped, everything was to be different. They were not free to eat anything they wanted. They were not free to dress like the surrounding nations. All of these rules and regulations seem highly restrictive to us, but they were really God’s way of ensuring that His people stood out from the crowd. They were designed to keep the people of God from living like the Canaanites and other people groups who occupied the land. God did not want them eat like them, act like them, worship like them, or treat one another the way they did. So God provided the people of Israel with divine standards for everything from food consumption to debt reduction. Even their treatment of the poor was to be distinctive. God was blessing them so that they might be a blessing. That was part of the original Abrahamic covenant. They were going to be enjoying the blessings of God in the land, so they were required to pass that blessing along to those in need. “…as the Lord your God has blessed you, you must give to them” Deuteronomy 15:14b NET). Even to the point of suspending or forgiving debt. This would have been unheard of among the people who lived in the land. Word of this kind of relationship between brothers and sisters would have spread quickly among the pagan nations. News of forgiveness of debt and compassionate care for the poor would have gotten the attention of all the neighbors of Israel. It would have set them apart as different and distinct. But it would have also illustrated the heart of God.

We are called to live lives that are set apart. Not to inconvenience us, but to mark us as belonging to God. We are His and as such, we are to live lives that illustrate our unique relationship as His called out ones. We only are a people holy to GOD, our God; GOD has chosen us out of all the people on Earth as His cherished personal treasure. And we should live like it.

Father, You have called us out and set us apart. Yet so often we fail to live distinctively different lives. We would rather blend in than stand out. We would prefer to reflect the world’s standards than live according to Yours. Forgive us and continue to call us out. Show us how to be in the world but not of it. May our lives reflect our unique relationship as Your sons and daughters. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 13

A Crime Worthy of Death

“Stone the guilty ones to death because they have tried to draw you away from the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery.” – Deuteronomy 13:10 NLT

So just how serious was God about His people keeping the first commandment? It seems that when He said that they were not to have any other gods in place of or besides Him, He meant it. Deuteronomy 13 is an explanation of what was to happen to anyone who tried to tempt the people of God to worship idols. Whether it was a prophet, brother, son or daughter, wife, or even a best friend who tried to entice the worship of false gods, the penalty was the same: death by stoning. In God’s eyes, these individuals were counseling rebellion against Him. God had called the people of Israel to follow Him, fear Him, keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him (Deuteronomy 13:4). God required faithfulness and fidelity from His people, and unfaithfulness was not to be tolerated. God saw idolatry as spiritual sedition. It was rebellion against His rule and authority in their lives, and it was a serious crime that carried a serious punishment.

But today we have softened our stance on idolatry. We seem to believe that we are safe and secure because we don’t have any idols in our lives. After all, we don’t worship totems or golden statues on the mantel of our homes. We don’t pray to other gods or offer sacrifices in pagan temples. But are we idol-free? Have we kept the first commandment fully and completely? In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller helps us see that idol worship is a lot more evident in our lives than we might like to admit.

“The Bible often speaks of idols using the religious metaphor. God should be our true Savior, but we look to personal achievement or financial prosperity to give us the peace and security we need. Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares. What do we fear the most? What, if we lost it, would make life not worth living? We make ‘sacrifices’ to appease and please our gods, who we believe will protect us. We look to our idols to provide us with a sense of confidence and safety. The Bible also speaks of idols using a political metaphor. God should be our Lord and Master, but whatever we love and trust we also serve. Anything that becomes more important and non-negotiable to us than God becomes an enslaving idol. In this paradigm, we can locate idols by looking at our most unyielding emotions. What makes us uncontrollably angry, anxious, or despondent? What racks us with a guilt we can’t shake? Idols control us, since we feel we must have them or life is meaningless.”

So you see, idols are more prevalent in our lives than we might like to admit. And when you couple that fact with God’s hatred for them, we have to take this as a wake-up call. We must see our tendency to seek other source of satisfaction and fulfillment as a serious crime against God. It is nothing less than spiritual sedition. God is to be our sole source of comfort, security, safety, strength, hope, satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment. Any time we seek for those in something or somebody else, we have made that thing or individual an idol in our lives. And God will not tolerate it. Is He asking us to stone one another today for our acts of idolatry? Probably not, but He is testing us. “The LORD your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3 NLT). He wants to see if we will worship Him and Him alone. Will we remain faithful. Are we willing confess our love affair with other things and return to Him? If we do, He promises to bless us. Because He is faithful even when we are not.

Father, I have so many idols in my life and I ask Your forgiveness for allowing myself to turn to them in place of You. The sad thing is that they never really deliver what they promise. They disappoint all the time, but I keep going back to them. But You are always faithful and true and never let me down. Help me see the seriousness of my sin. Help me to take idolatry seriously and see it as rebellion against Your rule and authority in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 11-12

No Other Gods!

“So have love for the Lord your God, and give him worship, and keep his laws and his decisions and his orders at all times.” – Deuteronomy 11:1 BBE

We are entering a portion of the book of Deuteronomy where Moses begins to unpack the commandments of God in practical ways. He is preparing the people for entering the land and giving them a recap of the Law that God had given them back at Sinai. He is explaining in greater detail the meaning of the various Ten Commandments and helping the people understand how they will apply to their life in the Promised Land. But in revisiting the commands of God, Moses is giving them and us a glimpse into the heart, mind, and will of God. We see how He thinks, how He relates, and what His desires are for the people He chooses. Chapter 11 is a call to love and obey God, to keep His commandments, to walk in His ways, and to hold onto Him. “Be careful to obey all the commands I give you; show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and clinging to him” (Deuteronomy 11:22 NLT). It paints a picture of blessings and curses based on obedience or disobedience to the commands of God. Chapter 12 is really an elaboration of the first commandment: “You must not have any other gods besides me” (Deuteronomy 5:7 NET). Moses is making sure the people understand the commandments fully so they can keep them completely and enjoy the blessings of God.

God gives the people very explicit instructions regarding the worship of Him when they arrive in the land. He makes it clear what they are to do and not do. They are to completely purge the land of all alters, high places, and shrines to false gods. They are not to leave any remnants of them in the land. Why? Because God knew the people would be tempted to worship these gods in place of Him or in addition to Him. They had to worship the one true God, not the god of their choice. They were not to worship their version of the one true God, but only God Himself. And not only were they to worship God and God alone, they had to worship Him correctly. They couldn’t worship Him using an alter built for a false god. They couldn’t worship Him in a place other than the one designated and determined by God. The bottom line is that God is very specific about how we are to worship Him. So He tells the people that it is going to be very different when the arrive in the Promised Land. He even tells them, “Today you are doing whatever you please, but that is not how it will be” (Deuteronomy 12:8 NLT). They were going to play by His rules and live according to His standards, not their own.

In the introduction to his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller makes this sobering statement: “Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from those ancient ones. Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols. Each has its ‘priesthoods,’ its totems and rituals. Each has its own shrines – whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios, or stadiums – where sacrifices must be made in order to procure the blessings of the good life and ward off disaster. What are the gods of beauty, power, money, and achievement but these same things that have assumed mythic proportions in our individual lives and in our society?” We are called to love and worship God and Him alone. We are commanded to have no other gods beside Him. Yet each of us struggles daily with the temptation to offer our time, talents, money and attention on something other than God. We worship at the shrines of power, position, pleasure and possessions. We have taken the idols of our culture and made them our own. We seek satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, and contentment from them. We expect them to deliver what only God Himself is capable of providing. And we suffer as a result. We are disillusioned, disappointed, dysfunctional, dissatisfied, and distant from the very God who wants to bless us beyond our wildest dreams. But our God wants to be our only god. He wants us to worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He wants our undivided attention and love.

Father, You have called me to love and obey You. But to do that I must remove all the other gods in my life. And there are a lot of them. I worship anything and everything, including myself sometimes. And even though none of these things really deliver on their promises, I find myself going back to them time and time again. You have told me to have no other gods before me. You have commanded me to remove all these idols from my life. Give me the strength and determination to do just that. So that I might worship You and You alone. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Deuteronomy 10

God Chose Me!

“Look around you: Everything you see is GOD’s–the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors that GOD fell in love with; he picked their children–that’s [you]!–out of all the other peoples. That’s where we are right now.” – Deuteronomy 10:14-15 MSG

I have to be honest. Sometimes I don’t fully understand or appreciate the reality that the God of the universe has chosen to have a relationship with me. For some reason I lose sight of just how incredibly awesome that fact is. I take it for granted. I even convince myself that I somehow deserve to have a relationship with God. But I know I’m not alone. The Israelites had the same problem, and Moses knew it. That’s why he has spent the last few chapters reminding them of all the great things God has done for them. Now in chapter 10 he gives them a not-so-subtle reminder that God chose them, not the other way around. The Creator of all things, the God of the entire universe, “set His affection” (NASB) on Abraham and his descendants. He showed them favor. He delighted in them. All so He could express His love for them. His choosing of Abraham had nothing to do with Abraham himself. It was not based on anything Abraham had done or not done. God chose Abraham. And God chose Abraham’s descendants. And God chose the Israelites who found themselves standing on the edge of the Promised Land, waiting to inherit the blessings of God, in spite of their stubborn hearts and rebellious spirits.

And God chose me! Not because I deserved to be chosen. He just chose me. That ought to blow my mind every time I think about it. But instead, I have grown so accustomed to the reality of it, that it sometimes carries no weight with me at all. I use phrases like “child of God” so flippantly and casually, not realizing or appreciating the remarkable nature of my relationship with the Almighty God, creator of all things. When I think about the reality of my relationship with God, it should blow me away. And it should engender a response, much like the one Moses encouraged the people of Israel to have. To fear Him, obey Him, love Him, and serve Him with all my heart and soul. “So now Israel, what do you think GOD expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve GOD, your God, with everything you have in you” (Deuteronomy 10:12 MSG). I am to serve Him with everything I have in me. But I will never do that fully if I don’t come to realize just how marvelous it is that He chose me! Moses describes God in these amazing terms: “GOD, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome” (Deuteronomy 10:17 MSG). That same God chose me! He wants to have a relationship with me. He put HIS Spirit within me. He calls me His child. He has made me His heir. That incredible reality should produce in me a desire to obey Him, love Him, follow Him, fear Him, listen to Him, and more than anything else, appreciate the fact that I can have a relationship with Him.

Father, thank You for choosing me! What more can I say? Thank You, thank You, thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men