Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 29:1–29
In the late 1980s Stephen Covey created a stir when he wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The book, which has sold more than 10 million copies and has spawned a cottage industry of business seminars and organizational tools, lists seven principles for success in both personal and professional life.
Thousands of years ago, Moses paused at the end of his life to speak to the Israelites. He reminded them of who they were, of all that they’d come through, to whom they belonged and how they could continue living as the people of God. While he delivered this speech to the people of ancient Israel, Moses’ words provide four keys to success for Christians today:
1. Remember. Moses reminded the Israelites of the miracles they had witnessed and the trials they had endured in the wilderness. He pointed out that their clothes and sandals had miraculously held up for 40 years—a very practical example of God’s care and provision.
We can all point to times in our lives when God has met an important need. Remembering God’s expressions of love and care helps bolster our faith and courage. And we can view challenges through the lens of experience, knowing that God will continue to provide and care for us.
2. Obey. Moses urged the people to follow the terms of God’s covenant with them. By following God’s commands they would enjoy God’s partnership. Disobedience would bring suffering and failure in the new land.
God still calls us to obedience—to avoiding sin and striving toward holiness. Living this way will yield positive results in our lives now and for eternity, even when our circumstances are difficult or painful.
3. Focus. Moses knew that the Israelites would encounter many intriguing cultures and would be tempted to fall into the practices and customs of their neighbors. They were to keep their focus on God rather than being enticed by paganism and idolatry.
We too can easily get caught up in behaviors and thinking contrary to God’s plan for our lives. God doesn’t ask us to be tolerant and inclusive. Instead, he commands us to be discerning, filled with his Spirit and focused on him.
4. Recall. Moses encouraged the Israelites to hold on to what they knew about God—all that God had revealed to them.
As we celebrate the ways God works in our lives, as we walk in obedience to his Word and as we keep our eyes off the world and on him, God will reveal to us more and more of himself and his wonders.
To Take Away
- How can remembering what God has done in your past make it easier for you to endure new challenges?
- What “idols” entice you to remove your focus from God?
- When you pray, ask God to reveal himself to you in new ways in the next few months.
The Tongue of the Learned
“The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” (Isaiah 50:4)
The prophetic words of our text were spoken by the Lord Jesus in the context of His suffering: “I gave my back to the smiters…I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (v. 6)—and His attentiveness to the will of His Father despite the suffering —“The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (v. 5). The amazing love of Christ is seen in the fact that, in the midst of His intense personal pain, He could still continue, even on the cross, “to speak a word in season to him that is weary,” as He comforted His mother, spoke salvation to the dying thief, and even sought forgiveness for His executioners.
In all this, He was “leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). How easy and natural it is to complain and rebel when we are suffering. We seek comfort and counsel from others, when we (like our Exemplar) should be comforting others with “the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Though we cannot comprehend it fully, we must simply believe the mystery of the incarnation. God became man in Jesus Christ, and the omnipotent One “learned…obedience” (Hebrews 5:8). He was omniscient, yet somehow He “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52), as well as stature, and as He studied God’s Word, wakening “morning by morning,” He learned to hear the voice of the Father, thus receiving “the tongue of the learned,” that “gracious words” might proceed out of His mouth (Luke 4:22).
May the Lord grant each of His younger sons and daughters this gracious “tongue of the learned,” as we, like His Firstborn, awaken each morning to hear His voice. HMM
My Conversation with a Hedge
by Shawn McEvoy
He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility. – Proverbs 15:32
Some years during summer, my wife and kids leave me for two-to-three weeks to visit all of her relatives in Texas while I stay home and work. For the first day or two that they’re gone, I enjoy my freedom from some of my responsibilities. After that, though, I tend to go a little crazy. I find myself wandering around the house, or doing “improvement” projects I have no business tackling. Making up song lyrics. Or having conversations with inanimate objects.
A couple years ago, in the middle of their trip, I was trimming the bushes beneath our front windows. The three on the right side of the stoop grow more uniformly than the three on the left. On the left, the one closest to the stairs is healthiest, while the other two, thanks to heavier afternoon shade, don’t do as well. Oh, it’s hard to tell, because I keep them pruned so that they “grow together” in the middle and stay squared off on the tops and corners. But obviously, the two weaker bushes suffer the pruning less frequently, because I let them grow out to fill in the gaps.
As I was working, their healthier sibling, I imagined, began to speak to me. Or to whine is more like it…
Hey! What gives?
Nothing, my good man. Just time for your monthly trimming.
But why? I’m not doing anything wrong. Just sitting here minding my own business. Doing good, doing what I’m supposed to do. And here you come…
Well, just sit still, please. Trust me, I have a purpose here.
Really? Well forgive me for asking, but why doesn’t that purpose seem to apply to my lazy, stunted brethren here? All this time and barely a scratch. Maybe a nip, a cut. Nothing lost, no pain.
You’re not happy with how you look? Where you’re situated?
I’m fine. But that’s just it. I don’t deserve this cutting and trimming.
You think you planted yourself in this primo spot?
Never really thought about it. I just want to know why you’re taking so much away from me and nothing from them.
I told you I have a purpose. You can’t see what I can see. In fact, you can’t see much at all. You’re completely rooted in place. But I’ve seen all around you and through you, and have since you were planted.
But it hurts. I don’t like losing things.
Never having them in the first place, and never really growing, that’s not much good either. I have to give extra care and attention to those others. I can only hope it brings them up to the same level of maturity as you…
I finished trimming up the hedges, and went my way, unsure I had gotten through. But when I stood back, I beheld something beautiful. I could only hope those under my care understood, had not despised their discipline, and opted to forsake impractical, joyless comparison.
Intersecting Faith & Life: The next time you feel like others aren’t being as challenged as you are, or like the Lord is picking on you unfairly, consider that you can’t see all the perspectives or purposes of the Lord, not in your life and especially not in the lives of others. The Lord loves you enough to discipline you, and he knows you’re healthy and with enough green growth to handle His pruning.