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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Holy People: Food Laws Deuteronomy 14:1-21

Deuteronomy 14:1-21

            In the last two chapters of Deuteronomy and the resultant Bible studies, we read about one sanctuary and one God. We learned, too, about what that means for us today. Today’s lesson begins a series on one holy people. In Deuteronomy 14:1-21, Moses began and ended this passage with the statement to the Israelites that they are holy to the LORD God. In this sermon, Moses told the Israelites what it means to be a holy people of the LORD. The specificity for the next thirteen chapters begins in today’s study with the food laws God commands for the Israelites so they stay holy and set apart for Him. Before He gave specifics about the food laws, He gave two commands about mourning the dead. Each of these concerns the body - the external and the internal. Let us look now at these twenty-one verses.
Sons of the LORD

            Verse 1 says, “You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead.” First, note that this verse is the only time the Israelites are called the “sons of the LORD your God” in the Old Testament. God wanted them to know He cherishes them and gives them commands out of love just as a father to his child. Note that the word “son” comes from the Hebrew word ben, which denotes a male child. In this circumstance, it can mean the people of a nation, too. God spoke to the whole of Israel as His children. The laws He gave were for His children who are His followers/worshippers. God gave these laws for His children and the nation He called His own.

The second half of verse one is interesting. What did God mean when He told them not to cut themselves or shave their foreheads for the dead? The custom of the nations around the Israelites was to cut their bodies or shave part of their head in the grieving of their dead family member or neighbor. Jeremiah 16:6 and 41:5 mentions this. The nations around the Israelites did this as a part of the worship of their gods, too (1 Kings 18:28). The Israelites saw the Egyptians shave their heads and eyebrows in the worship of their god, Isis. God forbade the Israelites to cut themselves or shave their heads to keep them separate from the worship of other gods. The Israelites cut themselves via circumcision as a sign of their covenant with Yahweh. To cut or mark themselves for funerary reasons, would put a mark of a false god on themselves. God’s laws told them not to harm themselves, physically and spiritually. To keep the Israelites from absorbing the worship practices and rituals of the surrounding nations, God gave them laws about certain practices, such as not cutting oneself or shaving the hair on one’s forehead. This law may appear arbitrary, but God was providing safeguards for anything that might become absorbed into the Israelites’ way of life, which was against God’s commandments.

A Holy People

In verse two, Moses explained why God gave the laws. He said, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” God said He chose them. Remember in Deuteronomy 7:6-7, 10:15, and 12:5, God said He chose them to set His affection of love on them. He chose them as His own possession from every people group on the earth. In Leviticus 20:26, God said He set them apart from every people to be His. The English word “chosen” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word bachar, which means to be chosen, decided for, or elected. The word “possession” is from the Hebrew word vegullah and means a treasured possession or special treasure. As any father would protect his family, God’s love for the Israelites was protective. Because He loves His people, He provided every measure of protection over them to prevent their being deceived or led astray from Him. This verse, then, tells the Israelites the reason for the laws set out in the next nineteen verses. Because they are a holy (set apart and consecrated to God) people, they must do nothing that God’s laws prohibit.

The next nineteen verses told the Israelites what they could and must not eat. They must not eat any detestable or abhorrent thing, anything God considered detestable or an abomination (vs. 3). Over the centuries, people have tried to understand why God allowed the eating of some animal meat and not others. Four trains of thought about this have arisen. First, people think God disallowed the eating of certain animals because people used them in pagan rituals. This idea would stand to reason considering that pagans used animals in the worship rituals of idols, but people of other nations offered bulls to their gods, too. Another view is that God disallowed the eating of certain animals for hygienic reasons. The people of the time did not have the ability to clean and prepare certain meats so that eating the meats would not make people sick. Yet any of the meats could have made people sick if kept for more than a day since they had no means of refrigeration. Other people reckon God disallowed certain foods because of the symbolism. Because God only allowed animals that did not prey on other animals or did not die of their own as offerings or sacrifices, these were the animals God commanded the Israelites not eat. This reasoning makes sense, but does not account for all the animals. What makes sense of God’s reasoning of allowed and disallowed animals for eating? It comes down to what God says is “clean” or “unclean.” Before the Mosaic covenant, Noah knew without asking which animals were clean and unclean when God told him to take two pairs of unclean animals and seven pairs of clean animals on the ark (Genesis 7). God has sovereign choice. He did not choose Israel because they were the most moral people on the earth or the largest or the most devout. Along with this reasoning, God did not appear to choose which animals were clean or unclean based on human reasoning. He used sovereign choice. This reasoning fits when the others do not. God chose Abraham, Jacob, Mary, the Israelites, and which animals to be eaten and sacrificed. This point shows God’s choice and election just as discussed at the beginning of verse two.

Food Laws

What did God say the Israelites could and must not eat? Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11 contain the list of clean and unclean animals. Deuteronomy 14 says the Israelites could eat any animals that had a divided hoof and chewed the cud. These animals included the ox, sheep, goat, deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep. They, too, could eat anything from the water with scales and fins, any clean bird, and any winged insect that had jointed legs above their feet with which to jump. Leviticus 11 does not give the list of divided hoof cud chewing animals like Deuteronomy, but lists the winged insects that are clean – locusts, devastating locusts, grasshoppers of all kinds, and crickets of all kinds. Leviticus 11 does not speak of the clean birds the Israelites must not eat. As to the unclean things, both Deuteronomy and Leviticus give much more detail, with Leviticus giving more than Deuteronomy. The unclean animals God forbade the Israelites to eat included the following - 1. Animals that chew the cud but do not divide the hoof (camel, hyrax/shipman, and rabbit); 2. Animals that do not chew the cud, but have divided hooves (pig); 3. Animals in the water that have no fins or scales; 4. Swarming/teeming life (insects) with wings; 5. Winged insects that walk on all four feet; 6. Whatever crawls on its belly; 7. Whatever has many feet; 8. Swarming things (mole, mouse, great lizard and all its kind, gecko, crocodile, lizard, sand reptile, and chameleon); and 9. Unclean birds (eagle, vulture, buzzard, all kinds of kites, falcon, ostrich, owls, sea gulls, all kinds of hawks, pelican, cormorant, stork, all kinds of herons, hoopoe, bats, ravens, and carrion vultures). Of the unclean animals, Leviticus is more specific about the swarming things. To this list, Deuteronomy adds that any animal that “dies of itself” must not be eaten (Deut. 14:21). Deuteronomy adds one other thing that Leviticus does not include. Verse 21b says, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” God gave this same law in Exodus 23:19 and 34:26. The rationale is not obvious, though Philo, the philosopher, conjectured God commanded this because milk symbolizes life and cooking symbolizes death; thus, you cannot have both life and death in the same pot. Notice verse twenty-one says they can give or sell any of these things to aliens/foreigners in their towns and cities, but they are not to eat it. For people who are not God’s chosen people like the Israelites, the laws of the LORD did not apply.

A Holy People – Reprise and Expansion

Moses repeated for them why they were to follow this law of God. He encapsulated the food law with this reason. They were a “holy people to the LORD God,” Moses said. God’s children, those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ, are the LORD’s “holy people.” What, then, does the food law mean for us today? First, remember that the Israelites lived under the Mosaic covenant, which was a covenant of relationship with God and other people, a covenant of community. The Mosaic covenant led the people to know of their sins and ask forgiveness, but it never provided absolute salvation from their sins. God’s laws were outward actions that did not always reach inside the people. The Israelites’ thought processes focused on keeping unclean things from contaminating their inward selves. When Jesus came to earth, He taught what goes into a man is not what makes him clean or unclean, good or evil, but what comes from the inside of man that makes him these things (Matthew 15:11; Mark 7:15-22). Jesus Christ taught that He came to fulfill the Law not abolish it (Matthew 5:17). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached on the attitudes of people. He taught that what is on the inside - in the heart, soul, and mind of a person - is what and who the person is. That is why He taught that the person who wants to be His follower must love the LORD God with all his or her heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Since Jesus taught what comes from inside a person determines if he or she is clean, good, and right with God, a follow of Jesus can only be one who accepts Him with his or her whole heart - the inner man, not the outer man. Actions do not make a person acceptable to God, but the circumcising and giving of one’s heart. Actions do not lead to salvation; faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior from our sins does.
Food Law Today?

What does that mean about God’s food laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy? First, we must remember what Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 15:11, what enters a man is not what defiles him, but what proceeds out of his mouth does. Along with this, we must recall Peter’s vision from God in Acts 10-11. God lowered a sheet of many kinds of animals and told Peter to kill and eat them. Peter told God he never ate any unclean thing. God told him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” From this lesson with God, at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, Peter said the Gentile Christians do not have to become Jews before becoming Christians. He instructed them “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:28). Paul stated in Romans 14:14, “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Paul spoke about not creating obstacles for Christian brothers and sisters. Later, in 1 Corinthians 10:25-26, Paul said, “Eat anything sold in the meat market without questioning for conscience’s sake; for the earth is the LORD’s and all it contains.” This alludes back to what God told Peter in His vision and what He said at creation, everything He created is good. Paul told Timothy this same thing in1 Timothy 4:4, “For everything created by God is good, and nothings is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” I think that is a major point. The attitude of the person receiving and eating the food determines if the God received glory or not when the person at the food. Remember what Paul wrote to in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Glorifying, praising, and thanking God for everything while doing all things comes from the inside of a person, from the person’s heart and soul. From the inside of a person comes either good or evil. When a person glorifies God, God declares the person and his actions good. So what a person puts into his or her mouth is not what defiles him or her. What defiles is what comes out of the person’s heart via his or her mouth or actions. Hence, with these New Testament verses as explanation and with the new covenant that Jesus Christ brought, the food laws God gave to the Israelites are not valid for Christ’s followers. Jesus fulfilled the laws of the Mosaic Covenant and brought salvation through His once-for-all death and resurrection for sinful humanity.

This leaves us each to decide. Are you still living under the Mosaic covenant, not receiving the salvation Jesus paid for with His life? Have you come to believe Jesus is the Son of God sent to die the death penalty for your sins? Have you asked Jesus to forgive you and be the LORD and Master of your life? For those who are followers of Christ, have you allowed the laws of life to hold you down so you do not live a victorious life for the glory of God? Now is the time to let Jesus live and shine through your life – your submission, words, and actions. Will you let Him break the yoke of slavery to laws and sin in your life? It is up to you. 

God’s plans were still unfolding; His promised Messiah’s time had not yet occurred. For the Israelites to stay in communion with God, they had to follow God’s laws, statutes, and commandments. These laws, statutes, and commandments led them to see God and keep Him in their lives, but the laws could never offer them perfect absolution from their sins.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

God and False Prophets Deuteronomy 13

Deuteronomy 13

            Last week, the Bible study from Deuteronomy 12 taught how the Israelites were to worship the LORD God. God commanded they destroy every altar, pillar, Asherah pole, and engraved/graven image in Canaan. He told them to destroy the places where the Canaanites worshiped. God told them not to worship Him in the places where the Canaanites worshipped their gods. He told them not to worship Him with the same rites and rituals with which the Canaanites worshipped their gods. Yehovah (“the existing one”) God is the LORD of lords and the God of gods. Remember Baal’s name meant lord. This means then that the LORD God is greater than Baal is. In chapter twelve, Moses taught the Israelites what God required them to take to the temple as offering and sacrifice to God. He told them they are to take them to the temple for several reasons – to atone for sin, to worship God, to praise God for His blessings, to exult in what God has done, and to give food for the temple priests. God told the Israelites in this chapter He is the great and mighty God and that the place of His temple is where they must worship Him because His glory and name rest there.

            In chapter 13, God taught the Israelites about false prophets. Before we get to the actual study of the passage, we must first define what a prophet is. A prophet is a spokesman for a god or for God. During Bible times, God’s priests and prophets encountered false prophets, such as when Elijah confronted the 450 prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. Individual followers of God encountered false prophets, too, such as Balaam in Numbers 22. Deuteronomy 13 tells us what God commanded the Israelites do when they encountered a false prophet. This chapter reveals a very severe judgment of God, which He required His people, the Israelites, administer. We must remember that God’s intention was to protect His people from the influence of false gods because false gods have no power, but draw people away from God and the promises of living in covenant with Him. They seek to trick and lure the people away from the worship of the one true God, Yahweh. The LORD God is the one God and is more powerful than any other power on, under, and over the earth. He proved Himself to the Israelites from the moment Moses and Aaron entered Egypt to insist the Pharaoh release them. God joined in covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. His side of the covenant was that He would be their God, give them their inheritance, protect and provide for them, and promised they could always find Him. The Israelites side of the covenant was to fear/reverence and love the LORD by obeying His commands, laws, and statutes. The covenant carried a blessing and curse, which God gave depending on whether the people remained faithful to the covenant. God’s giving the command about false prophets in chapter thirteen, when seen in this light, is understandable. He was protecting them from the tricks and snares of false gods so they would stay faithful to their covenant with Him and receive His blessing, per the covenant. God loved the Israelites so much that He chose them and made a covenant with them. He wanted the best for them. Because of that, He gave His commands, statutes, laws, and judgments, just as a parent gives rules to their children.

False Prophets - General

            Let us now look at Deuteronomy 13. This chapter is broken into three sections. The first deals with what God commands about false prophets in general. The second concerns what God commands about false prophets among their relatives. The third relates to false prophets in their nation. After the first section, God became specific in the second and third sections. Specificity is necessary because it is easy to say, “Well, God did not tell us to do that specifically, so we don’t have to do it.” People find this important when they deal with matters more personal to them, like family. In verses one through five, God gave His general command about false prophets. He said several things – 1. False prophets show miraculous signs and wonders; 2. They lead people away from the LORD God to serve other gods; 3. If any person leads you to consider gods against what the LORD God said in the Bible, they are false prophets, even if they can do amazing or miraculous signs; and 4. Satan, the one who uses false prophets to trick God’s people into not following Him with their whole heart, gives his power to his workers for his benefit. God reminded the Israelites that they know Him. The word “known” in verse two reminds them of their history with God. Moses introduced them to Yahweh, showed them where God worked on their behalf in their lives, and then taught them about His love, purposes, and faithfulness to His word. The gods the false prophets espoused were unknown to the Israelites. They had no history with those false gods. Moses said, “Do not trust them, but trust the One whom you know from teaching and from your history with Him. Do not be mislead and serve them.” Moses spoke further and said, “You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul.”

The false prophets did not come from God, but God allowed them to test the Israelites so they would grow, understand for certain who God is to them, and so He would know their strength and resolve. When Moses said God was growing them with this test, He meant He allowed it for their growth. He reiterated for them the first commandment, “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him, and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” Moses spoke this commandment many times since Deuteronomy 5. He said these exact words in Deuteronomy 10:20. The Israelites would realize the false prophets touted false gods by listening to what they spoke about them and determining their difference from what the LORD God taught them. They had a relationship with the LORD and knew Him; therefore, they could compare Him and His commands, statutes, laws, and teachings to the false gods. The Israelites would understand the god whom the false prophet touted was not God. God told them to continue to love and fear Him as Moses taught them. He told them to act against the false prophet. They were not just to recognize the person as a false prophet, but were to act against him or her. Verse 5 says, “That prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death because he counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery to seduce you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.” God is serious about protecting His people. He is serious regarding the faithfulness of His people, too. Because false prophets bring the enticement to draw people to false gods, they entice them to rebel and sin against Him, the LORD God, Yehovah. God’s righteousness means He is fair and just. He gives what a person earns and deserves. God’s righteousness means He cannot be in the presence of sin. The other side of righteousness is judgment. When a person sins, God righteousness requires justice and judgment. The judgment for sin is death. That can mean immediate physical death, but it always means spiritual and eternal death – complete separation from God forever. Knowing this, God’s command to put to death false prophets does not appear so extreme. What appears extreme is that He requires the Israelites to kill false prophets. From this, people who are not followers of God say God is not a God of love, but of wrath. Let us come back to this discussion after we study the rest of this chapter.

What we need to learn from these verses is that false prophets will arise among God’s people. Luke, Paul, and Peter recorded this, too, in Acts 20:28-30, 2 Corinthians 11:1-5, and 2 Peter 2:1. These false prophets confront God’s people with a choice to hear and obey either God or their false gods. If the Israelites chose to follow God, then they could not tolerate the false prophets and must kill them. God created a new nation and set up laws and rules for the community. God created the nation based on one God, Himself, with no equality or toleration of other religions. The Ten Commandments were the foundations of this new nation. They were the laws of community for a new people.

False Prophets – Relatives

            God commanded the Israelites not give more weight to words of a false prophet even if they are from within their own family. The threat is more insidious because a person would consider and give more weight to what a family member says. God ruled this out in verses six through eleven. God said that even a friend who is as close as family must not be given more consideration when espousing another god. He reminded the Israelites that they know Him and they have a covenant with Him to be their God and to take care of them. The promise of the covenant said they would have abundant life, would be prosperous, and would multiply. God told them not to listen to the family member in secret as he or she entices them. He said not to “yield to him” (vs. 8). That means do not be willing, consent to, or wish to accept what they say as truth. Added to this, God said not to listen to, pity, spare, or hide him. By doing these things, they would rebel against God and fall to the temptation of the false gods. God protects His people by having the false prophet removed so His people are not tempted or tricked into listening to and believing what they say about his or her false god. God wants His people to stay loyal and protected by His hand. God’s law protects them from the trickery of false gods, which would take them out of His covenant blessing. God said they are rebellers and sinners whose  judgment is separation from Him. Death now or death later is the same judgment. They both lead to eternal separation from God.

Why did God say the relative’s hand would be the one to throw the first stones? The relative is the first witness of the trickery and apostasy. He or she makes the first attestation of the false prophet’s rebellion against God. If another person threw the first stone, he or she would be the one condemning the person based on a rumor. The one who knows the facts attests to the validity of the case by throwing the first stones. By doing this, the relatives stay faithful and obedient to the God they know who brought them from Egypt and paid their ransom price for freedom. Being obedient to this law rids Israel of this evil. In addition, when the rest of Israel heard about this incident, they would remember God’s commands, recognize His seriousness, revere, fear, and obey Him, and never tout or ask about a false god again.

False Prophets – In Another City

            Lest the Israelites become complacent because of long distance, the LORD told them specifics of what He required if they learned of a rumor regarding a false prophet and city that was not following him. Long distance from a crime or hardship makes a person less likely to get involved. God spoke specifically about rumors of false prophets so the Israelites understand that distance must not make them complacent, but vigilant. If they discovered a city or town that listened to a false prophet (here called worthless, scoundrels, and ungodly) and were following and serving false gods, God told them to do several things. The Israelites were to investigate the matter, find where it comes from, and enquire thoroughly to decide if the rumors were true. God takes false prophets seriously because He wants to safeguard His people from evil. Next, He commanded the people to “utterly destroy” the city or town, including its people, livestock, buildings, idols, temples. Remember from the law of the ban from chapter seven, God commanded they destroy everything in idol-loving Canaan. The same ban continued through chapter thirteen and continues today. God wants us to have nothing to do with false gods. He wants to protect us from the temptation to ask about them and follow them. God safeguards our future by demanding we completely remove these things from our presence today, as He did the Israelites. God even commanded they not keep the booty from the false-god-following city or town. They were to burn all booty in the middle of the city as a whole burnt offering to Him. Remember from chapter twelve, God commanded the Israelites give the complete “whole burnt offering” to Him. He commanded His worshippers consume none of it. By giving this offering, the Israelites were obedient and recognizing God’s concern for their earthly and eternal well-being. In verses 17-18, God reminded the Israelites, “Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn His burning anger and show mercy to you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers if/for you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God.” In reminding them of the law of the ban, God reminded them, too, of the alternative of which He spoke in Deuteronomy 10:12-11:32. Moses commanded them as the people of God to keep His commandments, statutes, and laws. He then explained this meant they hear, listen, obey, fear, revere, and cling to God so they are joined closely with Him and pursue Him closely (Deut. 10:20, 11:22, 13:4). By removing the potential for worship of false gods and rebellion against the LORD God, the Israelites would be able to become so close to God that they would cling to Him. To encourage their following of the law of the ban, God said four things would occur when they destroyed everything in the rebellious city/town. He said His burning anger will “be turned away from them;” He will show mercy (compassion) to them; He will have compassion (deep love) on them; and He would make them increase (become many and great). With so much blessing available for following God and such a dire end for rebelling and turning away from Him, Moses commanded the Israelites to listen to the voice of the LORD God, to keep His commandments and do what is right in His sight  (vs. 18).

Obedience to God is not always easy, especially when it hits close to home with our relatives and close friends, but we must stand firm on God’s commands because they are there to protect us from evil. When the evil is far away from us, laxity in removing a potential problem is easy, too. Yet God requires we investigate the matter so the evil there does not spread and become a problem closer to home or in other parts of the nation. Long distance should not be a consideration in handling evil. God required the Israelites to take seriously any false teachings and evil, to investigate and not ignore it, and then to remove it.

False Prophets

False prophets did not end with the Old Testament. Jesus, His disciples, and Paul each encountered them. Thirty-three times in the Bible God dealt with false prophets and teachers – five in the Old Testament and twenty-eight in the New Testament. If the father of false prophets (Satan) was active in biblical times, he very much is active now when Jesus is not walking on earth. Read and consider each of the passages in the Bible that teach about false prophets and false gods. What can you learn from them?

What the false prophet did:
Deuteronomy 13
Deceived. Urged to follow other gods. Came from within God’s people.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22
Prediction in the LORD’s name did not occur.
Jeremiah 5:30:31
Prophesied falsely.
Jeremiah 14:13-15
Deceived. Lied in God’s name.
Jeremiah 23:1-40
Deceived. Tried to get God’s people to forget Him.
Matthew 7:15-20
Produced bad/evil fruit.
Matthew 7:21-23
Did not do the will of God
Matthew 15:14
Guided people wrongly.
Matthew 16:1-4
Demanded a sign from Jesus.
Matthew 24:11
Deceived people.
Matthew 24:23-26
Mislead and taught contrary to what God and Jesus taught.
Mark 13 21-23
Mislead and taught something different from what Jesus taught.
Acts 20:29-32
Taught contrary to what Jesus taught. Came from within God’s people.
Romans 16:16-18
Deceived and taught contrary to what Jesus and disciples taught.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
Galatians 1:6-13
Taught contrary to what is taught in the Gospel.
Philippians 3:18-19
Put on a show to be well known. Known by their fruits.
Colossians 2:8
Colossians 2:18
Deceived. Taught and preached things other than Christ. Taught the worship of angels.
1 Timothy 4:1
2 Timothy 4:1-5
Taught contrary to what Jesus and disciples taught in the Bible.
Titus 1:10-16
Rebelled against God. Vain. Deceived. Detestable. See they are deceivers by their fruit.
2 Peter 2:1-3
Deceived. Taught contrary to what Jesus and disciples taught. Denied Christ. Came from within God’s people.
2 Peter 2:18
Deceived. Bragged. Had twisted sexual desires.
2 Peter 3:15-18
Taught contrary to what Jesus taught and what is in the Bible.
1 John 4:1-6
Deceived. Taught that Jesus did not come in the flesh and that He did not come from God. Denied Christ.
2 John 1:10-11
Taught contrary to the truth about Jesus.
Jude 1:1-4
Deceived. Changed the truth of the Gospel. Lewd. Denied Christ.
Revelation 2:2
Revelation 13:11-14
Deceived. Did great wonders. Cause people to worship the first beast.
Revelation 16:14
Did miracles to trick people.
Revelation 19:20
Deceived and led people astray. Performed miracles and wonders.
Revelation 20:10
Deceived and seduced.

How can we tell who are false prophets? What are their distinctive ways of working? Twenty-eight times in the Bible, biblical writers told the people false prophets deceived or mislead them. Three times, they told the people they could see who the false prophets were by their bad fruits. Three times, because of their denying Christ walked on earth and is the Son of God, they could know the person was a false prophet. Nine times, because of their “signs and wonders,” the people could realize the person was a false prophet. As people who want to know the truth, we must first learn God’s Word. When we study God’s Word, grow near Him, and cling to Him, we will be able to recognize when a false prophet tells lies and denies Christ. Added to this, we must realize that false prophets can produce miracles – signs and wonders – because Satan gives them some of his power to them to ensnare more people and draw them away from the LORD. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-20 that we will recognize false prophets based on their fruit. If prophets do not produce actions that glorify God and that come as fruit of the Spirit as Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9, Colossians 3:12-15, and Romans 5:1-5 say (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, righteousness, truth, perseverance, hope, compassion, and humility), then they are not prophets of God. God’s Word says if the prophet prophesies in the name of the LORD God and it does not happen, he or she is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

What does God’s Word say must be done or will be done about the false prophets? In Deuteronomy 13 and 18, God told the Israelites to kill the false prophets. Jeremiah 5:30-31, 14:13-15 and 23:1-40 tell us “God will punish the lying prophet” and “the Lord’s anger will burst on them.” In the twenty-eight references in the New Testament, God’s strict judgment comes upon false prophets. The Bible repeats in many verses God will judge the false prophets and the penalty of their sin will be death. The Bible states it in these ways: 1. “They will be cut down and thrown in the fire;” 2. “The blind will lead the blind and they will both falls into a pit;” 3. “Their end is based on their works;” 4. They are accursed; 5. God will judge them according to their works; 6. God will throw them in a lake of fire; 7. God will punish lying prophets with sword/war and famine; 8. The Lord’s anger will burst on them like a storm. God will expel false prophets from His presence and their city. Each of these judgments render the false prophet separate for eternity from the LORD God.

Does God still expect His people to kill false prophets? Nowhere in the New Testament do we learn that false prophets are to be killed by human hands, but that God will judge and condemn them. This does not mean God changed. The Mosaic covenant was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born, lived on earth, was crucified a sinless man for the penalty of the sins of humankind, and was resurrected to sit in power as the mediator for sinful humankind. From that point, the world lives under the Messianic covenant. The Mosaic covenant was a covenant on how to relate to God and to other humans within community. It pointed humankind to their sinfulness for which there was no permanent resolution since people sin every day. The Messianic covenant is a covenant of salvation. It provides righteousness to humankind upon confession that Jesus is God’s Son and came to earth to die for their sins. The Messianic covenant provides permanent resolution of the sin of believers. How does this concern the judgment of destruction God taught the Israelites to inflict on false prophets? Because Jesus brings salvation, He does not want any person to remain lost, but seeks them to save them (Luke 19:10). Jesus extends mercy instead of imposing immediate death to false prophets. Additionally, When Jesus encountered the Pharisees who caught a woman in adultery and wanted to stone her, Jesus told them the one without sin can stone her. From the Mosaic covenant, people set up ways to judge other people and did not consider their own lack of righteousness. Jesus made the Pharisees and His followers realize they had no right to stone a woman caught in sin because they too were sinners. It would be like the pot calling the kettle black. That does not mean to say that when God told the Israelites to kill false prophets, they had no right. With the LORD as the righteous judge and one true God, He can condemn and we must obey. Yet, in the New Testament, He did not tell people to kill other people. When He brought into being the new covenant of salvation, the laws of the Mosaic covenant were fulfilled and no longer valid. The law of killing false prophets was no longer valid. We should do as Jesus, Peter, John , and Paul taught. They said to hold onto what you are taught (2 Peter 2:1-3), which means do not fall to the trickery of the false prophet. The writer of Romans also said this in Romans 16:16-18, as did Peter in 2 Peter 3:15-18, Paul in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, and Jesus in Mark 13:21-23. In all the verses in the New Testament that speak of false prophets, they each say to turn away from them and God will judge and condemn them to hell, the pit, or death.

Death and hell are harsh judgments you say. Consider this then. From Genesis, we read God created humankind because He wanted a relationship with each of us (Genesis 1-2). Moses reiterated this in Deuteronomy 10:15 when he said, “The LORD set His affection to love them.” Paul repeated it in Ephesians 1:4-5 when he said, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons/children through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” John reported the depth of God’s love to us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God did not create humankind to judge and condemn them, but to love them and spend eternity with them. Because of His fierce love for us, He fiercely protects His people. Because of His holiness, He cannot be in the presence of sin. Because of His righteousness, when sin occurs, judgment must be given. Therefore, God protects His people by judging and condemning those who trick and lead His people to walk away from and rebel against Him. Whether God enacts His judgment on earth or after death in the eschaton (after Christ’s return and at the time when God judges every person), His judgment of false prophets will be permanent separation from Him. God does not want anyone to be lost and perish from Him forever, but wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth of His love and salvation made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4). Whether His judgment came through the hands of obedient Israelites following His commands in Deuteronomy 13 or through His own hands, as stated in the other thirty-one Scripture passages, judgment for sin is death – eternal separation from God – not just physical death.

What Does This Mean For Today?

How does this relate to us? God judged the Canaanites’ rebellion against Him and demanded their punishment and destruction. Are false prophets touting false gods still today? In the world of today, we learn of many faith systems – animism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hari Krishna, Buddhism, et al. When a person touts a god other than the LORD God, they are false prophet spreading evil. God still protects His people from evil. From this Bible study, we learn how to identify false prophets from true prophets of God. In our study today, we learned to act quickly and decisively to false prophets or rumors of false prophets. We must see the danger they pose and be ready to remove them from influencing God’s people. God said that false prophets will come from inside and outside the church (2 John 1:4-11, Acts 20:28-31, and 2 Peter 2:12-22). These false prophets will try to trick people by adding to or removing from God’s Word. Both Moses and John spoke against these practices in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Revelation 22:18-19. False prophets will try to twist the Scriptures to confuse people (2 Peter 3:14-18). They will tell people what they wish for to appeal to their sinful nature (2 Peter 2:17-18). This means then, that we must be diligent in studying the Word of God so we grow stronger in Him and in Christlikeness.

Deuteronomy 13 says that God will sometimes allow false gods to come so we will be tested and grow from the experience. With trials come perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5). James said in James 1:2-4 that testing that produces endurance has the result of perfection and completeness. Completeness comes when we enter heaven because of our faithful acceptance and following of Jesus Christ. This is the promise and divine benefit of times of testing and trials. Added to this, by growing in Christlikeness, we comprehend God’s Word and the Holy Spirit reminds us of it. In this way, we can discern when a false prophet arises, confront him or her, show the truth from the Word of God so he or she can understand the truth, and then, if they do not repent and return to God, remove them from the church as Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17. By removing the person from the church, his or her influence does not seduce people away from God.

            Maybe you have never heard of the love God has for humankind. Perhaps you did not realize that a person deceived you when they taught you what they did. Now that you understand God loves you and desires to have a relationship with you for eternity, you have the opportunity to think on it and choose whether you will return to your Father and Creator, the LORD God who created and sustains everything that exists. Possibly you have given your heart to Christ and once followed Him, but have fallen away. There is still forgiveness for sin. Jesus’ sacrifice provides salvation from all our sins once we accept Him. None of us is perfect or will be perfect until we are in heaven with Christ. We all must daily go before Him confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness from Him. Whichever place you find yourself in, will you turn to the LORD? If you have never accepted Jesus love and salvation, admit you are a sinner, believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and accept His forgiveness and grace? Will you chose to become a child of God and inherit God’s promise of eternal life with Him? If you once gave your heart to Jesus, will you turn to Him now confessing your sin and asking Him for forgiveness? Now is the time for you to decide.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One Sanctuary, One God, One Holy People (part 1) Deuteronomy 12

Deuteronomy 12

            From Deuteronomy 12 through Deuteronomy 25:19, Moses gave Laws from God about one sanctuary, one God, and one holy people. In the Bible passage of this study, Moses expounded on the law of the single sanctuary. Before we study this though, I must bring a theological theory about the authorship of Deuteronomy to light. Many modern theologians believe Moses did not write all or part of Deuteronomy. The modern theologians of this group state that parts of Deuteronomy are included in the writings of a few of the prophets’ later in the Bible. They give eight other points to back up their belief that several writers added to what Moses preached in Deuteronomy 5-11. Other modern theologians believe Moses wrote all of Deuteronomy except the ending that tells of Moses’ death. I agree with the latter stance. I believe that where parts of Deuteronomy are included in later Old Testament texts the authors of those books of the Bible used Moses’ writing for their teaching. As to the other eight arguments for multiple authors of Deuteronomy, this Bible study is not the vehicle for discussing historical theological matters. This Bible study is aimed at teaching what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy, for whom, and for what purpose. Moses, in Deuteronomy, revisited for the Israelites their covenant with God and all His statutes, laws, and judgments. By doing this, they would remember their covenant with God before they took possession of the Promised Land. As Moses did for the Israelites, later biblical authors did for the people of their era. They edited and reapplied God’s commands to the people of their time so that its truth was not lost, but was applicable to the people. That is the job of every Bible teacher today.

            Because the love and reverence of God through worship and obedience to His laws and commandments is the supreme purpose for the faith of the followers of the LORD, the place and method of worship was of supreme importance. Moses commanded the Israelites often to “utterly destroy” the nations in the land to which God was giving them. He restated this again in 12:2. Moses further told them completely destroy the Canaanite places of worship (Deuteronomy. 7:5, 12:3, Numbers 33:52). Why would a God of love, who wants relationship, demand whole nations of people and their worship sites be annihilated? People often query how God can be loving and yet destroy a people/nation. This is a quandary to them. To understand this, one must understand about the gods of Canaan that the people worshipped. In ancient Canaan, the people worshipped a Mesopotamian deity associated with agriculture, but who later became their greatest god, the giver of life. This god’s name was Baal, which means “lord” or “master.” Baal had three mistresses - Anath, Astartem, and Asherah, sisters. These goddesses governed fertility and war. In the Old Testament, Asherah appeared as the goddess by the side of Baal. Most biblical references to Asherah point to a cult object of wood. The gods required of their devotees many things that Yahweh considered abominable - sacred prostitution for fertility of the land, flocks, and herd, sacrifices of bulls and sheep, and sacrifices of first-born children who were burnt alive (Leviticus 18:23-24, 20:3). Instead of people enjoying their sexual nature in ways God planned, the Baals and Asherim required the licentious use of the sexual nature the LORD gave them. These actions used and abused people. The attractiveness of the licentious character of the worship of these gods would be a temptation for the Israelites so they would stop following the LORD. As to the burning alive of the first-born, the Old Testament often told of the burning of people alive by saying the victim “passed through the fire” (1 Kings 16:3, 21:6). These were common acts of obedience and a reverence to Baal and Asherah in Canaan from fear, not respect, honor, and awe. The Ugaritic texts uncovered at Ras Shamra speak of these gods of Canaan and their required acts of worship. Because of the detestable acts of the Baal and Asherah worship and the worship of false gods (broken first commandment), God judged the Canaanites. Added to this, because the Canaanite people did not turn to the LORD God after seeing His actions with and for  the Israelites for the forty years of their wandering, God’s judgment fell on them. These explain why God commanded the Israelites “utterly destroy” the people and their places of worship. It was not impossible for the Canaanites to see God’s hand guiding and protecting the Israelites. Rahab saw God’s hand and believed (Joshua 2:10-14). As we read further in the Bible of the Israelites’ history, we note they succumbed to the attraction of the fertility rituals. This led to a weakened faith in YAHWEH and a weakened ethic. The LORD told the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land that they may wonder what god made the land so fertile and the people wealthy and be tempted to worship the god of the Canaanites because of it. God said, though, that He is the one who watered the land (Deuteronomy 11:2-7). He is the one who led, protected, and fed them from Egypt until the Promised Land and He would continue to be their great, mighty, and awesome God. So why did the God of love command the Israelites utterly destroy the Canaanites? The Canaanites were to be dispossessed from the land to prevent Israel and the rest of the world from being corrupted (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). They worshipped false gods and committed detestable sins.

            Now that the religion in Canaan and Deuteromonic authorship is understood, let us look at Deuteronomy 12. There is an outline in this chapter which begins with the common statement to the Israelites that these are God’s commands and they “shall carefully observe” them in the land where the LORD was taking them (Deut. 12:1). Before we go further into this Bible study, notice that Moses used the word “shall” repeatedly when preaching this chapter to the Israelites. He used the word “may” in just three verses, 15, 21, and 21. Moses was adamant the Israelites knew the commands from God. From verse one’s command to “carefully observe” (shamar- hear, listen, and obey; to take heed), the general command comes to “utterly destroy” the places where the Canaanite nations served their gods (vs. 2). Next God told them what to do to the places of worship. Moses said it in Deuteronomy 7:5, too (Deuteronomy 12:3). After the destruction of the Canaanites’ gods’ altars and temples, Moses taught them how to worship the LORD God, including what and where they could eat flesh (12:4-14). He further explained what flesh they could eat (12:14-16, 20-22). In this section, regarding the eating of flesh outside the temple, Moses used the word “may” instead of the command “shall.” Further in this passage, Moses re-emphasized what was not to be eaten except in the temple (12:17-19, 26-27) and what to do if the temple was too distant too travel to often (12:21-25). At the end of the chapter, Moses gave them a final warning about inquiring after and becoming ensnared by other gods. He told them not to act before the LORD God like the Canaanites do before Baal and Asherah. Moses gave a final imperative, like at the beginning, with an addition. Now, let us dig deeper into this chapter.

Moses began with the basis of the first commandment - there is only one true God - and expounded and extrapolated it for the immediate future benefit of the Israelites. He gave them rules by which to worship and serve God. Moses began by saying the Israelites should carefully observe God’s statutes and judgments in the land He gave them to possess for as long as they live (12:1). For their immediate present, when they overtook the Canaanites, that meant removing the temptation to follow the gods of those seven nations. Moses commanded them saying,

You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods…You shall tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, burn their Asherim with fire and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place.

These acts were intentional, not accidental, while they took over the Promised Land. To “tear down,” in this passage, means to break and cast down the altars - their temples and holy places. They were to smash (break into pieces and crush) the sacred pillars (monuments and places where the idols stood). The Israelites were to burn the Asherim (the wooden image of Asherah or the groves where idol worship occurred). They were to chop into two the engraved/graven images and idols of their gods. Numbers 33:52 and Deuteronomy 7:5 give these instructions, too. We know from Judges 2:2 that the Israelites did not destroy all the Canaanites and the angel of the LORD rebuked them. One added instruction Moses gave them was to obliterate the gods’ names from Canaan. The Israelites did not do this either. Read Exodus 23:13, Psalm 16:4, and Zechariah 13:2 to confirm this.

            Moses commanded them that the way the Canaanites served and worshipped their gods was not the way they were to act toward the LORD God (vs. 4). God did not want their abominable rituals and rites to taint the true worship of the true LORD, Himself. Moses taught them how to worship God in verses five through seven. First, Moses said, the LORD would choose the place from the midst of the Israelite tribes to make His dwelling (shakan – residence). The Israelites would worship Him there (12:5). “Establish” in verse five comes from the Hebrew word suwm and means to appoint, make, or place. God appointed the place for His glory to rest and for the worship of Him. Judah was to be the place of His temple (Psalm 78:68). To God’s place of abiding, Moses commanded the Israelites bring six kinds of offerings – burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, contributions of your hand, votive offerings, freewill offerings, and the firstborn of their herd and flock. Each of these offerings to God had importance. The “burnt offering” is called olah in Hebrew. This offering was for atonement of which God received the whole thing - the body and blood. The Israelites were to offer the body of a ritually clean animal on the altar completely for God. “Sacrifices” are zebach in Hebrew and were sacrifices of righteousness where the priest slaughtered an animal brought by the person and offered it to the LORD for the forgiveness of sin (Leviticus 17:11). This sacrifice was like what the Israelites did at the Passover in Egypt. Moses instructed about tithes in Deuteronomy 14:22. Tithes were to be one tenth of what the head of household earned. God instructed His people to give back to Him first as His due and as thanks. The “contributions of your hand” were called teruwmah in Hebrew and were the heave offering. This offering was a present made to the temple or priest for the priests. The “votive offering” was a neder offering. This offering was a vow a person made to abstain from enjoying specific things. The “freewill offerings” are nedabah and were voluntary offerings. The offerings of the firstborn of the herd and flock were like the tithe. Even though the Israelite did not earn money from having his flock or herd increase in number, God commanded he give the firstborn of each animal to Him. After offering the firstborn animal to God and pouring its blood out on the altar, the family and servants could eat from it with the LORD while rejoicing in what their hand did and how God blessed their work. Verse 17 explains what of the offerings the Israelites could eat at the temple – the tithe, the firstborn animal, the votive offering, the freewill offering, and the heave offering. The final instruction Moses gave the people was they must not do what “was being done” at that point in time, each man worshipping in whatever means they thought best. When they arrived in the Promised Land, God mandated the way the Israelites were to worship Him. Before then, while the Israelites were not in the land of their resting place and inheritance, God did not command a particular method of worship. This implies then that when they arrived in the Promised Land and God chose where His name would abide, the Israelites were to worship Him at that place in the prescribed way of verses five through seven. This verse shows a unification of worship practices to one God at one place. There was to be one sanctuary worshipping, eating, and rejoicing with and to the one true God.

            From this point in the sermon, Moses reiterated in verses ten through twelve what he said in verses five through seven. This time though, Moses spoke about when the Israelites rested from their enemies and lived in security (vs. 10-12). When people feel secure, they are more apt to let their worship of and obedience to God lapse. Moses told them not to let that happen. Instead, God required them to bring the offerings and sacrifices mentioned in verse six to the temple to worship and praise God. Moses expanded the command this time by including the head of household, his family, servants, slaves, and the Levite in his town or city’s gate. God required each of these people together to rejoice before the LORD. Earlier Moses told the Israelites to rejoice with their household. God provided for His chosen priests, the Levites, by giving them food as they rejoiced with their neighbor in the temple. With this command came a warning, this time at the end. Moses said, “Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, but in the place the LORD chooses in one of your tribes. There you shall offer your burnt offerings and there you shall do all that I command” (vs. 13-14). The word Moses used for our English interpretation of “careful” was shamar, which means hear, listen, and obey; to take heed. Take heed, Moses said, that the Canaanite worship sites not be used to worship God. Instead, go where God will choose and do everything Moses commanded regarding sacrifices and offerings.

            God provided animals for meat to eat for the Israelites, just as he did plants for food. He provided for them to eat meat within their town/city gates so they could eat meat more often than when they went to the temple. Verses 15-19 tell of this part of God’s law. God allowed the Israelites to slaughter any meat within their town’s gates, as they desired with the LORD’s blessing. He warned them, though, that they must not eat the blood, but instead, pour it out on the ground. Blood represented life. By it, they atoned for their sin. The Bible states this in Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 7:26 and 17:10-12, 1 Samuel 14:33f, and Acts 15:20 and 29. As a reminder to the Israelites, Moses said the items set apart for God as sacrifice or offering in verses six and eleven must not be eaten within the gates of the Israelites’ towns/cities, but be saved for temple worship (vs. 17). God permitted them to eat all other flesh. The holy things set aside for God must be eaten in God’s presence by the head of the home, His family, servants, slaves, and the Levite who resided within in town’s gates. While eating those things, they would rejoice at the LORD’s blessing their endeavors. Moses gave a reminder warning here, too. He told the Israelites, “Be careful that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land” (vs. 19). Moses commanded the Israelites not to forsake the commands of God about the holy things set apart for Him and not to forsake the Levite whose inheritance came from the things of God, just as the temple priests received their inheritance from God.

            As God extended the boundary of the Israelites’ land with the gradual conquering of the Canaanites, the distance between Judah (Mount Zion – Psalm 78:68) and the homes of many of the Israelites was too far to walk often. God knew this and provided an exception to eating flesh in verses twenty-one through twenty-five. He reiterated what he said in verses fifteen and sixteen. The Israelites could eat meat within their gates, but not the blood. God added in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven the caveat He commanded in verses seventeen and eighteen about the holy things set apart for God. The Israelites must not eat the things set apart for God as sacrifice and offering as Moses stated in verses six and eleven. As in the last two commands, which involve the eating of meat, Moses warned them at the end of this command to be careful (vs. 28). This time the warning came with a promise. Moses said, “Be careful (shamar - take heed to hear, listen, and obey) to listen to all these words which I command you so that it may be well with you and your sons forever.” The promise of joy and pleasantness awaited the people who obeyed God’s commands. On top of that was the reward of doing good and right in the LORD’s sight. The other reward was the LORD’s pleasure at His children’s obedience. Imagine how parents feel when they watch their child do the right thing. There is satisfaction, contentment, and gladness when a child does right and good. God feels that way when His children follow His commands.

            Moses closed this sermon about the one sanctuary and the worship of God with a final warning and command in verses twenty-nine through thirty- thirty-two. He said, “Beware that you are not ensnared to follow them (the Canaanites they destroyed) after they are destroyed before you and do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’” Moses commanded them completely follow the commands of the LORD God. Be rid of the corrupting influence of the Canaanites and their culture, including their gods. There was a reason God dispossessed them. The Canaanites were abominable and detestable to the LORD because of their service to their gods and because of their choice of Baal and Asherah, not the LORD God. The Canaanites saw for forty-years the LORD God’s hand protecting, leading, and providing for the Israelites as they wandered. They could have been like Rahab and admitted the Israelites served the one true God. The Canaanites continued to worship detestable gods in detestable ways. They did not value God’s gift of life when they murdered people for sacrifice. The Canaanites showed no value for human life when they corrupted the purpose God gave for sexual relations. This people filled their cup with sin and God’s judgment came upon them. Moses commanded them not to become ensnared/trapped into following them and asking about their gods. God commanded the Israelites remove every trace of the Canaanites from the land and their lives. Moses said in verse thirty-one, “You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates, they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” In case the Israelites considered how to stretch the laws of God, Moses added in verse thirty-two, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” This makes it plain with no wiggle room. Do not ask after or serve other gods of whichever land you call home.

            The Israelites were not the only people ever to encounter foreign gods. Our world is shrinking because of the mobility we have in the twenty-first century. We do not even have to move physically to encounter ideas about gods in other countries. We just have to turn on the computer or television to face them. There is good news though. The LORD God of the Israelites in 1400BC is the same God who is supreme today. No matter what or whom a person chooses to be god to them, the LORD God is greater. He made the whole world and keeps it in balance so we have rain and sun, night and day, and summer and winter. God keeps us from floating out of control in the universe so we are not too close to the sun and burn up or too far from the sun and freeze. This same awesome God is the one who chooses to love each one of us from the moment He thought and breathed us into being. He continues to choose us. He made a way for us to return to Him through His holy and blameless Son, Jesus Christ. As Moses taught and told the Israelites about the one true Lord God, and as Joshua told them to choose whom they would serve (Joshua 24:14-15), we can choose whom we will serve, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the God of humankind. God leaves the choice to us to turn to Him. He promises that when we ask and seek for Him with all our heart, He will be found by us (Matthew 7:7-8). What is keeping you from seeking God and following Him? Jesus made the way for us to return to Him, what excuse gets in your way. Maybe today is the day to surrender all yourself, your plans, and your ideas to God and His best plan. Seek Him with all your heart and come to know the LORD of lords and the KING of kings forever.