What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, September 2, 2022):
· Deuteronomy 2-8
· Ezekiel 32-38
· 2 Corinthians 6-12
Notes on Deuteronomy
In chapter two, Moses begins to go through details of their wandering through the wildness over the past forty years.
In 3.21–28, we read that Moses himself would not be able to enter the land. His apprentice, Joshua, would be the one to take them in. Joshua is an enormously capable leader, and will be a competent successor to Moses, one of the greatest leaders to ever walk this planet.
Notice in 3.26, Moses accuses the people of getting God angry at him. God had responded to him like we parents respond to teenagers: “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”
Chapter four transitions from their history to the call to obedience, followed by the warning against the worship of idols; next is a declaration that the Lord is God, and then the reintroduction of the Law itself is begun.
In 5.5, Moses refers to the fire on the mountain, and gives credence to my theory that God wanted everyone to go to the top of the mountain, not just him.
Also in this chapter, the Ten Commandments, originally given in Exodus 20, are reiterated. But you may notice that some of them are elaborated on here far more than in Exodus.
Notice God’s emotion, and his desire for us to be blessed and content in 5.29: “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”
The most important verses in the Old Testament are Deuteronomy 6.4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Though I would consider Habakkuk 2.4 as the theme of the entire Bible (“The righteous will live by faith”), these verses in Deuteronomy are the key to the faith that the righteous will live by.
Reading through Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, it seems that God is almost obsessive about following laws. But here Moses cuts to the chase and emphasizes the real priorities, saying first that God is ONE, and secondly, that loving him is more important than anything.
When Jesus expounds on the greatest commandment of all, he quotes these verses. I always love to read about the old scholar’s response as he listens. This exchange is from Mark 12.28–34:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Notes on Ezekiel
The Old Testament does not say much about the afterlife, but we find some really fascinating descriptions in 32.17-32, talking about the “realm of the dead”. All of this judgment sounds so depressing, and makes God look like someone who likes to bring it on. However, he reminds his people in 33.11 that he would much rather see repentance and give life. The stubbornness of our hearts is the only thing that drives this continual discipline by the hand of God. The Israelites were offered the world from God’s hand, if only they would receive it with thanksgiving and obedience. However, they fell back on the idea that all would be theirs regardless of their attitude toward God. But the Lord reminded them again and again that they could forfeit it all if they continued to mock his laws and chase idols (33.24-25).
In 33.24-25, they lean on the promises of God to bring them hope and life while they continue to blatantly disregard God’s holy law. What do they expect, really? May we not be lulled into complacency like the Israelites, who seemed to enjoy the words of God (which they regarded like love songs and music created on well-played instruments) while putting none of them into practice (see 33.30-32).
David’s name is given as a placeholder for his eventual descendant, the Messiah (34.23). The prophets prophesied not only to individuals and nations, but even to land and to mountains! See 35.2 and 36.1.
Chapter 37: The Valley of Dry Bones! This vision given to Ezekiel must have been more frightful than the most horrible horror movie anywhere.
Chapter 38: Gog and Magog. I’ve heard a hundred sermons on this (usually end-times evangelists) and to this day have no idea what these two names represent or mean.
Notes on 2 Corinthians
Our attitude toward sin must be different that simply trying to earn something in God’s eyes. We need to see sin as something that will poison us, infect us, and ultimately destroy us. We avoid sin not to win God’s favor, but to avoid contamination (6.17-7.1). The results of truly godly sorrow (7.10-11) are a far cry from those who simply feel guilty for getting caught or exposed. Godly repentance leads to change. Worldly grief simply leads us to the dark side (7.10). Giving should never be grudging or difficult. It should flow out of who we are as sons and daughters of the king. Giving is part of his nature, it is who he is. Conversely, Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10.10a). God is a giver, Satan a taker. Our new nature should generate giving simply out of our renewed spiritual identity (8.8-9, 9.7). The law of sowing and reaping is laid out in 9.6-11.
Generosity not only meet needs, but also energizes praise. See 9.12-14.
One of the best descriptions of spiritual warfare and how we should see ourselves in said battle is given in 10.3-6. These verses are worth memorizing. In 12.2, the man whom Paul refers to who was “caught up to the third heaven” was probably himself (though this is not entirely clear). The words of Jesus, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” are only found here, not in the gospels. This is a very powerful promise, a good one for us to keep within reach at all times!