What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, September 30, 2021):
· Deuteronomy 30-34 ~ Joshua 1-2
· Daniel 12 ~ Hosea 1-6
· 1 Thessalonians 1-5 ~ 2 Thessalonians 1-2
We are now past halfway. A few things are happening this week: We have finished the Torah, and now move on to the historical books of the Old Testament. We are also navigating the minor prophets and the epistles at the same time. This means we will be covering many (short) books in rapid order over the next few weeks.
Take time to savor them all!
Notes on Deuteronomy
The Israelites have come out of 430 years of slavery. Then 40 more years in the wilderness. Now they stand at the gate, so to speak, of the Promised Land. They will be entering shortly. Moses takes a lot of time to review their history to this point. He reads and instructs about the law. Joshua is commissioned to take them in, as Moses prepares to die. In 30.6, we read that the Lord will circumcise their hearts. This shows that the Lord had made it clear back from the start that outward acts, even in obedience to the law, were not enough. God wants our hearts, and he wants to totally capture our attention and devotion. This has been his desire from the beginning and has never changed.
In verse after verse after verse here at the end of the book, God utters words of blessing for future obedience and words of harsh discipline for a lack thereof. The people are excited and are speaking of their desire to obey God and to enjoy their new, and promised, homeland. And right on the brink, right before Moses dies, God pulls him aside and says, “Oh, and by the way, shortly after you are gone these people are going to rebel massively against me (31.16)”. You have to wonder how that made Moses feel. In any case “soon” would be after the life of Joshua. He would be an excellent leader to follow up Moses’ tenure, as we will see in short order. Moses blesses the tribes in chapter 33. He addresses the original twelve tribes, with special mention of Ephraim and Manasseh at the end of verse 17. You most likely already know this, but two tribes of special significance are Levi and Judah. We already have seen that the priesthood and “pastors” for Israel come out of the Levites. Judah (which means “praise”) is the royal tribe and will eventually be identified as the tribe from which the Messiah will emerge. Jacob prophesied this in his blessing that we read in Genesis 50.10 : “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” Jeshurun is kind of like a pet name for Israel that God uses in a favorable way. We saw it in 32.15, 33.5 and 33.26.
Like Jacob at the end of his life and at the end of Genesis, Moses prophesies over each of the tribes in chapter 33 (even though he prophesies to an entire nation, whereas Jacob spoke to the original twelve patriarchs, his sons).
Moses concludes his review and dies without entering the Promised Land himself.
Chapter 34 concludes the Book of Deuteronomy, the Torah, and Moses’ life. He is buried by God in an unknown grave, keeping anyone from creating a shrine that would most certainly attract ungodly worship… exactly the “honor” that Moses would despise the most. Interesting to compare 34.6 with Jude 9.
Moses stood alone as the ultimate Old Testament prophet (34.10), the greatest prophet, and the greatest leader (IMHO) in world history, with the exception of Jesus himself.
Notes on Joshua
As the book of Joshua opens, the Lord encourages the man of God as he prepares to cross the Jordan and usher the Chosen People into the Promised Land. The promises God gives him are extraordinary: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…you will lead these people to inherit that land…You will be prosperous and successful…the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.“ All of these are found in chapter one.
Joshua would prove to be a worthy successor to Moses, which is saying a lot. He even appointed men to follow his footsteps and lead Israel in a godly way for another generation. God placed his personal stamp of approval on Joshua, and this young leader enjoyed the favor and support of the Israelites throughout his life. See 1.5 and 3.7.
Reading 1.6, I’m wondering again if the Lord was encouraging him to be strong and courageous more for the internal conflicts he would face with the Israelites than for external enemies. The people of Israel promised to obey Joshua the way they "fully" obeyed Moses (1.17). Not much comfort in those words when you look at their track record!
Though God told Moses that the people would “soon” prostitute themselves to foreign gods”, it would be after the tenure of Joshua. Moses' mentoree was well-prepared for his leadership task (see 1.5). The excitement of entering the Promised Land had to be subdued just a touch by the ongoing awareness that the two and half tribes would not be staying (1.12-15). The fact of their impending withdrawal messes up some of the living illustrations that God would have them construct (see 4.8).
In chapter two, the first city they come to in the Promised Land is Jericho. Joshua sends spies out, but only two. Even so, they are apparently spotted by their enemies (2.2). Rahab the prostitute lives in a home apparently built into the wall of the city. She helps to hide the spies and covers for them in exchange for her life and the life of her family.
Joshua was one of the twelve spies that went on the ill-fated excursion into the Promised Land that we read about in Numbers. So you may wonder why he would send spies of his own in 2.1. However, you can be sure that he prepared his spies far better for their journey and their purpose than Moses had done with his. How did they end up at the home of the town prostitute? This may raise some eyebrows, yet there was something spiritually strong in her. She recognized the power of God in his people and would eventually find herself marrying into the tribe of Judah and become an ancestor of the Messiah.
Word of the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea got out. See 2.10-11. After appearing to make the spies feel like grasshoppers in comparison (Numbers 13.33), the enemies are now the ones melting in fear.
Notes on Daniel
Daniel closes out his last chapter, number twelve, with more cryptic prophecies. Here we see Michael the angel again, introduced in chapter ten. He is one of only two angels in the Bible who is actually identified by name (I think—correct me if I am wrong). The other is Gabriel.
In 12.2, final judgement is alluded to, for both the believers and the wicked alike. There are few references in the Old Testament to the afterlife. Daniel is specifically given the promise of rest and reward (12.13).
Notes on Hosea
Hosea prophesied for a long time, through the same four kings as Isaiah and beyond. Compare 1.1 and Isaiah 1.1. His message is pretty brutal, top to bottom. Israel is swimming in sin. Yet God has a hard time dropping the hammer because of his intense love for his people (see 11.8-9 and 14.6-8). If we only could truly realize how much God loves us in spite of our sin. All of Hosea’s message is centered around the analogy of marriage. His entire 14-chapter treatise is based on the word picture of God as the husband to his people, the wife. It is a study in unfaithfulness and redemption.
God called this faithful prophet to use his very life as a living illustration, marrying a prostitute who has children that are apparently not his (see 1.6, 9; 2.4-5). She continues in unfaithfulness to him during their marriage, and God uses the prophet’s undying love for a wife that doesn’t deserve it as a pattern of his undying love for his faithless people, where idolatry is the metaphor for adultery (2.23).
Hosea goes and buys back his wife who apparently got herself sold into slavery, undoubtedly as a prostitute (2.1-2). The rest of the book will now be God’s commentary on all of this, his relationship and ceaseless love for an undeserving bride. God loves his people, but there will be consequences for her behavior. The basic case is laid out in 4.1-6. Like Ezekiel, he had a role to play that I would have had a very hard time accepting.
The tribe of Ephraim became so prominent in Israel, its name was often used in the Old Testament to represent the ten tribes of the north (e.g., 4.17).
The people carry a “spirit of prostitution” in their hearts, so they cannot find God even when they seek him (5.6). In 5.13, the issue of Assyria looming is identified. Ephraim, representing Israel/northern kingdom, is not going to be able to find help from the Assyrians. This enemy eventually will in fact conquer and resettle virtually all of the Israelites of the northern kingdom to locations outside of the Promised Land.
The love of the people for their God is fleeting at best (6.4). There still seems to be some ritual worship going on, but the Lord delivers a line that Jesus would use against the Pharisees a few hundred years later: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, an acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” (6.6). If your heart isn’t in it, God is not interested.
Jesus well-known words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” come from 6.6.
Notes on 1 Thessalonians
The church in Thessalonica was a bright spot in Paul’s ministry. You can feel his love for this congregation oozing through its pages. They were a church that was holding onto the gospel despite some significant challenges. The first chapter sets all of this up for us. Through chapter two, the lovefest continues.
Even the mighty apostle Paul could be hindered in his movement by Satan (2.18). Simply rebuking the devil would not be effective. In chapter three, we find that Timothy, Paul’s protégée, was an active part of the ministry to this church. He had brought Paul an encouraging report of their faith and love. In chapter four, Paul turns to some theological issues. Best advice on dating and relationships anywhere is found in 4.3-7.
The Thessalonians were a persecuted church, and had endured with the joyful thought of the return of Jesus. However, some had come among them and convinced them that Jesus was actually in the process of returning (by somehow spiritualizing the event), and this brought great discouragement to think that their present state was as good as it would get. Paul points out here in 4.13-17 (and 2 Thessalonians 1.7-10) that the return will be awesome, overwhelming, undeniable, obvious, glorious, and incredible… and that they should encourage one another with these words (4.18). I’m sure they did. The rapture (a term we recognize, but a word we do not find in the Scriptures) is laid out here in the clearest way we find anywhere in the Bible.
In chapter five, Paul returns to explaining the day of the Lord, this time focusing on its unexpected timing. Here we find the phrase “like a thief in the night” (5.2). Paul closes out this letter with a lot of practicals: “work hard…live in peace with one another…warn those who are idle… encourage… help… be patient… rejoice… pray… give thanks… do not quench the Spirit” et al.
Notes on 2 Thessalonians The awesomeness and terrifying sights of the Day of the Lord are given in 1.7-10. You can find more of this in 2 Peter 3. I’m glad I’m saved!
The end doesn’t come until the Antichrist seats himself in the Temple (which needs to be rebuilt before he emerges) and calls himself God (2.3-4).
The Antichrist will be powerful, but no match for Jesus, who will kill him simply by the breath of his mouth (2.8).
If you wonder why people today, including loved ones, seem so vulnerable to the lies that have led them away from the gospel they once treasured, see 2.11. The “strong delusion” (2.11) is coming and is already here, as our world is being swallowed up by fake news, deep fake and so much more deception.