Day 74 (March 15): Moses reviews Ten Commandments, time on mountain with God, Moses urges to love and obey God, God orders places for worship in each tribe

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 10-12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 10:17): What does it mean here when it says “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords?”  I remember talking about other gods in Egypt when Pharaoh’s magicians came out to try to replicate Moses’ and Aaron’s miracles in the answers on the reading of Day 33 (Feb. 2).  Here, Moses implies that there are other powers.  We know God created the Earth, so He would have had to create these other powers also?  Help, Rob!

A. The traditional Christian understanding of these other “gods” is that they are demonic powers.  That is, they were angelic beings created perfectly by God to serve Him, but they chose to rebel with their master Satan, sometime before the creation of people.  That’s the best guess we can reach from the imperfect record of scripture, which frankly has little interest in telling us the origin story of these other powers that are described in scripture.  The primary thing to remember is that God is above them all!

Q. Why is most of this repeating scripture we have already read, almost verbatim.  Did Moses write the same thing down twice, knowing it would all go into one book?

A. Don’t forget that repetition in an ancient text was a form of emphasis.   Moses appears really determined to make sure his points are coming across clearly, so there is no reason to assume that he didn’t intentionally repeat himself in order to make the people clearly understand his point.  It will continue this way.  We will, for example, come back to the choice between blessing and curse again.  That’s the way it goes with this text.

Q. (12:15): God is cutting them some slack here?  They don’t have to be ceremonially clean or they are not directed to a certain place to eat the meat.  Why the change?  Is this because they are at Canaan and are defeating people and will have no longer have anyone from whom to be “set apart”?

A. I am not completely sure (my notes didn’t say much about this section), but I think what God is saying here is that the people were free to butcher their own animals, for the purpose of eating, in their own hometowns.  It’s not saying that the rules for sacrifices were changed; it is simply providing some guidance for the people to keep, and eat, from their own herds.  They didn’t have to bring animals to the Tabernacle if they were simply going to eat it, rather than kill it to make a sacrifice.  This doesn’t make any changes to the sacrifice system.

O. (12:23): Here is the blood discussion again.  We have talked about this in the answers on Day 49 (Feb. 18).  It’s a good discussion.

Day 72 (March 13): Moses banned from Promised Land, but gets a good look, Moses reminds Israel to obey, God’s love of Israel, cities of refuge, Ten Commandments

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 3:21-5:33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 3:21): This is such a powerful scene.  I picture Moses on a hill or cliff looking over to Canaan seeing all the cities.  What fear these inhabitants must have had after Israel started conquering them.  Has any movies been made of this that you know of?

A.  About this section of the story?  No.  I know portions of the story are told in classics like The Ten Commandments, and the more recent animated Prince of Egypt (I think both of them are really good).  But I don’t know of any movies about Moses not entering the Promised Land or Joshua’s conquest of it.  Anyone else out there?

Q. (3:23-29): Again, God is amazing.  Moses wanted to see this land that he has been leading a huge group of Israelites to and proclaiming how wonderful it is.  I really want Moses to see it.  God has a wonderful solution for Moses, while still holding up his punishment that Moses would not cross into it.  To whom is Moses referring when he says, “the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he would not listen to me?”

A. You might be happy to know that, in a way, there is a happy ending to this story for Moses.  Moses will enter the Promised Land…in the Gospel of Matthew 17.  When Jesus is transfigured, the story tells us that He is joined by…Moses! … and Elijah.  For at least a short period of time, Moses, in some form or another, sets foot upon the land of Israel.  He, like all of us, is redeemed by the work of Jesus, and the fulfillment of this redemption is one of the sweetest moments that we can glimpse in Jesus’ redemptive work to me.  Cool huh?

As to whom Moses is referring to, this entire speech is delivered to the crowd of the nation.  It is the people who were bitterly complaining that caused Moses to get angry, which in turn caused God to be angry with him.

Q. (4:2): Why do some denominations have their own rules.  Here it says to obey God’s rules and do not add or subtract from any of them.  What would you say to those churches that push more rules than are in the Bible?

A. I would be willing to bet you that any church that has such “extra” rules as you claim would say they have taken them from scripture.  Usually, such rules are adapted from various scriptural and church traditions.  At this moment in time (don’t forget that part- we are dealing with God’s relationship with a particular people at a particular time), God has given the people PLENTY of rules, as we have discussed, and there would appear to be no reason to add to them.  As to whether a church can have “too many” rules, I would have two responses.  1) Rules are not what a relationship with God is about because of what Christ has done: He set us free from the need for such legalistic regulations (Galatians 5:1).  But having said that, 2) we would have to look at particular rules to be able to judge whether they are “too many” or go “too far”.  Many rules that churches (or similar groups) have set in place are for good reason.  In the monastic tradition of monks and nuns, the convent or monastery lived by a Rule, a series of regulations, that sometimes numbered in the hundreds.  You can read about two of them here (they are fascinating to me): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Benedict and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_St_Basil

Q. (4:24): I don’t recall if we have explored the meaning of jealous when God says he is a jealous god.  I googled “jealous God” and came up with this, which I missed when we read it.

From Bible.org: The Manifestation of God’s Jealousy

He Is Jealous for His Holy Name. It wasn’t long after God first spoke of His jealousy that He had occasion to demonstrate it. Moses had come down from the mount with the two tablets of the law in his hands only to find the people of Israel carousing in idolatrous worship before the golden image of a calf. He dashed the tablets to the earth, burned the calf and ground it to powder, then commanded the Levites to discipline the people. It was a vivid expression of God’s jealousy operating through His servant Moses.

When the crisis was past, God invited Moses back to the mount for a fresh encounter with Himself. That was when He revealed His glory to Moses as no one had ever seen it before. Moses saw Him as a compassionate, gracious, long-suffering God who abounds in mercy and truth (Exodus 34:6).

Rob, do you agree with this?

A. I think this is an excellent description of what we should have in mind with the second commandment, which of course forbids idolatry.  One note for us today, however: just because we no longer make gods out of rocks or wood does not mean that we do not struggle with idolatry today.  If we put our trust into anything over our trust of God — be it possessions, money, relationships, career — we have made an idol out of that thing.  And while, as we have discussed, we are not under the Law, it would be very wise for us to know when it is we have made an idol out of anything, so that we can properly cast it aside in order to walk in right relationship with God.  I feel this is one of those areas where we can get a false sense of security by saying, “I’ve never made a golden calf, what do I have to worry about idolatry?” and not have a full understanding of the heart of the commandment.

O. (4:28-31, 39-40): I love these verses.  It shows God’s hope for man.  Ones that have been cast aside and many of their loved ones are gone, have hope, if they search with their heart and soul.

O. (4:39-40): I like the next two also, especially, “The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other.”

O. (5:7-21): Let’s list the Ten Commandments as we go through them:

1) Worship no other god but the Lord.

2) Make no false idols.

3) Don’t misuse the name of the Lord

4) Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy

5) Honor your father and mother

6) Do not murder

7) Do not commit adultery

8) Do not steal

9) Do not testify falsely against your neighbor

10) Do not covet

To see how the old covenant should be viewed after God gives us the new covenant in the New Testament, see the first and second question and answer on Day 37 (Feb. 6).  Just click on the Index tab to find that day’s reading.

Day 38 (Feb. 7): Ten Commandments and more, altar rules, treat slaves fairly, personal injury disputes, property laws

Exodus 20-22:15

Questions & Observations

Q. Here are the 10 Commandments.  We all view them as sinning against God when we break them.  But, are they still to be enforced?  Didn’t Jesus give us a new one that covers it all, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do unto others as they you would have them do unto you.”

A. Love your neighbor as yourself covers the last six (i.e. if you love your neighbor, you won’t kill them).  Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment, replied, “love God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Then He said, “all the law and the prophets hang on these two” (Matthew 22: 37-40).  Basically, if we keep these two things in mind and do them (which I freely admit is sometimes very difficult), we will have successfully kept all the Ten Commandments.

Q. (Exodus 20:5): When God says he is a jealous God, is that the same common meaning we know of jealousy now — that of envy?

A. I think God is using an emotion that we as humans understand, being jealous, in order to point out that we must be loyal ONLY to Him.  God is not petty, but the charge that we are worshipping other gods is certainly looked at harshly in the OT.

Q. (20:6): This means that those who follow God will be blessed for many generations, but those who deny God, struggle for generation after generation, right?  But, that is no longer in affect since the crucifixion?

A. Part of what we can learn from the Old Testament is that God takes a multigenerational view of His people (which can be hard for us to grasp in our individualistic society).  If we are truly keeping these commands (and the many to follow), it will be very natural for us to teach them to our children.  And in doing so, we pass the blessings of God on to the next generation, and we entrust them to do so for the next generation.  I think that this is at least partly what God is speaking about here.

Q. (20:7): How do you misuse God’s name?  I was always thought that you do not say things like “For the love of God (in a negative way),” “For God’s sake,” “For Jesus sake,” and especially, “Oh, my God!” or “Jesus!”  The latter two, I can see using them if you are crying out to them, personally, in praise or for help.  But, I hear people, even Christians saying, “Oh, my God!” all the time.  Can you give us the verdict on this?

A. The best way I ever heard this commandment phrased was, “Don’t take the name of God lightly.”  Treat the name of God with the reverence and respect it deserves.  If the names are used for the purpose of speaking to God — for whatever reason, including asking for help — we are on safe ground.  But when — and this is the crucial step — we are using the name of God absent-mindedly (i.e. we’re using the name but not thinking of God), or to use it as a way to curse others, then we are not treating the name of God with the proper respect it deserves.  Then we are taking the name of God in vain.

Q. (20:8-11): So God is saying that the Sabbath is there for us to get rest after 6 days of hard work.  And, we use it to remember that God created us and all the earth.  Most church services are still held on Sunday.  Some are not.  Some say that it doesn’t matter what day of the week you rest, as long as it’s the seventh day.  Some say that going to church isn’t really rest because of the hustling to make it there on time and then there are those who are working to provide the church service.  Is this law still supposed to be observed today?  Can you shed some light on this Commandment?

A. As we mentioned, observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday, there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

Q. (20:12): As a grown child and now a parent, I totally respect my parents.  As a teenager, of course, there were times when I thought they knew nothing and didn’t understand me.  I am now thinking about how to instill love for me and my husband in my almost 8-year-old.  She is sweet, but she is definitely testing the waters on challenging us.  Do you have any wise words or know of any books that can help parents prepare for phase of a child’s life?

A. While I’m sure there are particular psychological techniques that can work, I think you can already see the answer to your question: we teach respect to our children by BEING respectful to our parents.  Where it is possible — obviously, not everyone has parents to model this with — I think we should embrace the idea of multigenerational teaching for our children.  We should teach them about respect for their parents — and I think adults in general, especially the elderly — and talk about how when we do this, we honor God.

O. (20:20): I love this verse.  It is the perfect, short description of what to fear God means: “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

Q. (21:1): Is God telling all of these laws to Moses and then Moses has to retell them to the Israelites, or is God speaking directly to the people?

A. It appears He is speaking to Moses.

Q. (21:1-11): Is there anything to explain about God addressing the process of owning slaves?

A. Slaves were a part of life in this world, and the Bible addresses that reality.  We shall see over the course of the Biblical text the way that God moves along the idea of the dignity and equal worth of all human beings, especially through Christ, but the people in this era weren’t there yet.  God worked with the people where they were, and required them to treat slaves and others with respect.  There was a process for bring required to free slaves (the men, anyway), and providing some level of protection for them — like 21:20, you couldn’t kill your slaves).  This seems barbaric to us today, but was a great leap forward in the treatment of human beings in this era.

O. I’m really starting to get the message that everyone is important to God.  Every one has different positions in the world, which can cause confusion in self-esteem.  But, in God’s eyes, we all are equally important, if we follow Him.

Q. (21:21) Oops!  Just when I thought I was understanding God’s treatment of people, this verse pops up.  How is that fair treatment?  I just don’t understand!  From what I’ve read in the Bible, it sounds like God has chosen certain ones to be His people and others are just extras.

A. Looks like we look at 21:21 in different ways!  I see it as a way to protect slaves from being murdered.  It is certainly true that God does see everyone as having value, but that does not mean that WE do.  So basically, God provided this command because He does see value in slaves, rather than the culture in which the Israelites lived, which saw no value in them at all.  Only free men had value in the eyes of this culture.

Q. Rob, since you are a cultural history guru, when did stoning lose favor?

A. That is hard to say.  We don’t really have much in the way of evidence that the orders to stone were routinely enforced, even in this era (though we will see some particular examples of sinners who are stoned).  But the era of the New Testament, as I understand it, there was simply no stomach among the Jewish religious leaders for being responsible for the deaths of people.

Q. (21:32): There has to be some significance to the 30 pieces of silver, since in the New Testament, Judas accepts 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A. Thirty pieces of silver was the legal price of a slave in Biblical times.  The silver that Judas is offered by the religious leaders is an intentional choice designed to belittle Jesus: they are equating Jesus with a slave to be bought and sold.

Q. (22:8): Many of these verses say that the person must appear before God for judgment.  I thought God kept his distance from the people.  Isn’t Moses the liaison between God and the Israelites?

A. You’ve got it right.  Moses, as God’s representative, was the one whom people would come to for God’s judgment.