February 27 — Reflecting Commandments. Deut. 21-23. The ESV Study Bible points out that many of the laws we have been reading about in Deuteronomy are following a general pattern of the Ten Commandments. In our reading for today, chapter 21 reviews laws under the general category of the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder.” Then we read about many laws that would fit under the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
February 28 — Must I? Deut. 24-26. Israel was told to keep “all his commandments” (26:18) and to do it with all their heart and soul (:16). Our actions of obedience are very important but so also are our attitudes. Some of you may be approaching your daily reading of the Pentateuch with more of a feeling of duty than of joy. Being asked to be accountable in keeping up with the reading schedule may feel burdensome but it is only a means used to expose your heart and soul to what God has to teach you about Himself and His message. Don’t focus on the duty but on the “booty”—the benefits of God’s teaching and molding you.
March 1 — Warning — Deut. 27-28. Did you come away from today’s reading feeling a bit negative? After Israel entered the Promised Land, like an antiphonal choir, half of them were to remind each other by shouting blessings and the other half by shouting curses from opposing mountain tops on each side of Shechem. But in our reading for today, only the curses were mentioned—12 of them. Then, in chapter 28, the first 14 verses innumerate national blessings that would follow continued obedience to God’s commandments. Following this are 53 verses listing the negative consequences of disobedience. Why did they need four times more warnings of disasters than promises of blessings? I think the answer is that they had a natural bent toward disobedience. Even though we have the Holy Spirit living in us today, we still have a sinful nature that bends us toward disobedience.
March 2 — Purpose — Deut. 29-31. Why are we reading through the Bible this year? An important purpose is given in our reading for today. Every seven years all the people of Israel were to gather to hear the Law read to them. In Israel’s other collective celebrations, only the men were required to assemble at the place where the Ark of the Covenant was located. But every seven years all the people, including wives, children, and foreign servants, were to assemble. Why? Because being exposed to the Word of God is so important. Some of the benefits are listed in 31:11-12, i.e., that they may “hear … learn … fear … [and] do.” As we read, we are hearing what is of vital importance to us; we are learning to fear God, both in the sense of respecting Him and dreading the results of disobedience; we also are enabling ourselves to do what it says. And as God said in 30:11 & 14, it is “not too hard for you … so you can do it.”
March 3 — Words of Life — Deut. 32-34. The Pentateuch closes with the Song of Moses and the strong reminder that the words of the law given by God through Moses were of vital importance. Moses said that “it is no empty word for you, but your very life …” Jesus is called “the word of life” (1 John 1:1) and the gospel is “the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). Jesus said that the one who “hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24). The Word of God contains words of life. What we are reading is not just history or literature; we are reading God’s words of life to us. They are powerful, life-changing words. In 1874, Philip Bliss wrote a hymn pointing out that in Jesus and in the gospel, are the Wonderful Words of Life:
March 4 — Getting Your Feet Wet — Josh. 1-3. Today we begin the historical section of the Old Testament. The book of Joshua tells of the primary conquest of the Promised Land, as God punishes the inhabitants for their persistent idolatry and drives them out through Joshua’s leadership. Did you know that the origin of the expression “get your feet wet” comes from our passage today? God told Joshua that the Jordan River would not stop flowing until the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the water (3:13). The dictionary now defines the getting-your-feet-wet expression as “to start doing something for the first time” but originally it had more to do with the action-element of faith. Sometimes God challenges us to demonstrate that we believe Him by stepping out in an action of faith. For instance, in Luke 6:35, Jesus promises that “your reward will be great,” but that promise requires getting our feet wet first. How? “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” Just as God promised Joshua that his concentration on the Book of the Law would result in his way being prosperous (1:8), so our daily exposure to the Word of God will bring us spiritual benefits.
March 5 — Warriors — Josh. 4-6. When I began this project, I didn’t intend to write comments every day but it has turned out that my biggest problem now is deciding between many things I would like to write about. God’s Word is inexhaustible in its depth and richness. When we read Numbers 30-32, I commented that we would have to see later how many fighting men from the two and a half tribes settling on the east side of the Jordan River would be required to go with the rest of Israel to fight on the west side. Today we got our answer: 40,000 (4:9). When the census was taken of all the men 20 years of age and older, there were a total of 110,580 from these 2.5 tribes (Num. 26:7, 18, 34). So, the 40,000 who crossed the Jordan were only 36.2% of their available fighting men, and the rest were allowed to stay as guards in the towns and cities where their families were living. Okay, it is not a spiritual insight, but it was interesting to me.