Day 79: An End and a Beginning

Deuteronomy 33-34; Luke 1:26-56

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 34:4-5
And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

Luke 1:30-33
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Today we read of the death of Moses and the conception of Jesus. It is the end of the law-giver and the beginning of the law-Fulfiller. It is the end of the shadow and the beginning of the full-color glory.

The end of Deuteronomy marks the end of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). All the themes of the Pentateuch find their fulfillment in Christ.

  • The promises of the Abrahamic covenant, specifically “All the nations are blessed through Abraham and his descendants”Genesis 12:1-3), point forward to all nations being blessed through Jesus.
  • The climax of the Pentateuch, God coming down to fill the Tabernacle with His glory (Exodus 40:34-38), points forward to Christ coming to earth to reveal His glory to the world.
  • And finally, “Jesus is seen as the new and greater Moses. As Moses declared God’s law for Israel, so Jesus declared and embodied God’s word to the nations. As Moses suffered and died outside the land so that his people could enter it, so the Son of God died on earth so that his people might enter heaven” (from the article “Introduction to the Pentateuch” ESV Study Bible, Crossway).

Imagine if the people of Moses’ day could look forward and see the fulfillment of the promises in Jesus… It would have been beyond their imagination! Just as the ultimate fulfillment that Revelation describes is beyond our imagination :) It is no wonder that C.S. Lewis referred to our life on this earth as the “Shadowlands.”

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Day 78: Source of Life

Deuteronomy 31-32; Luke 1:1-25

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 32:46-47
“Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.

Luke 1:13; 20
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. […] And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

Idolatry. It is the most grievous of sins – and it would be Israel’s downfall. Moses tries to safeguard the people from falling into idolatry by commanding the people to read the law regularly…

At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing (Deuteronomy 31:10-11).

For the most part, this generation would stay faithful, but that could not be said of the subsequent generations. They failed to remember God’s law – they forgot God’s word.

Deuteronomy is a mixture of warning and exhortation. Moses warns the people against idolatry. But he doesn’t leave them helpless. He equips them with God’s law and exhorts them to remember God’s word.

Reading God’s word every day brings life to our hearts. It brings life to the weary heart, the apathetic heart… even to the defiant heart! The Spirit uses this word as a catalyst in our hearts for change. It is slow and deep – and sometimes takes months or years to manifest visibly in our lives… yet it’s real. As we take God’s word into our hearts, we are better able to guard our hearts against idolatry.

This slow change is evident in Zechariah’s life. In today’s reading from Luke, he hears the word of the Lord from the angel Gabriel (that his barren wife would conceive), but he is slow to believe… Zechariah suffers immediate consequences for disbelieving God’s word and is made mute until his baby is born. When Zechariah speaks again, it is obvious from his words that he has changed. God’s word made his way into his heart and rooted and grew until the fruit of belief and faith were born. The change was slow, but it was real.

We have much to learn. The time we are investing in studying His word is not wasted. Rather, it leads to real change and ultimately gives life.

Day 77: Resurrection Power

Deuteronomy 29-30; Mark 16

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 30:6
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Mark 16:6-7
And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

The resurrection. Thinking in literary terms… this is the climax of the story. Everything – everything – in the Old Testament and the gospels points and leads to this one moment.

Jesus’ resurrection proves that God has power over death and sin, which is the cause of death. This is the same power that God uses to change our hearts and give us new life.

Apart from the power of God, we are dead in our sin. But when our weak faith is mingled with God’s grace and compassion toward us, we are changed…

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV).

Because of the resurrection, we are set free from the burden of the law and fear of the curse. Instead, we are given a new heart, the power to obey and the gift of eternal blessing!

Day 76: Blessings and Curses

Deuteronomy 27-28; Mark 15:21-47

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 28:3-6
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

Mark 15:37-39
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Blessings for obedience; Curses for disobedience. And the span between the two is wide.

Reading through Deuteronomy 28, I notice that the curses far outweigh the blessings. It’s like God knew that the people would one day walk away from Him. The curses seem to hit too close to home… the fruitlessness of labor, the fear of enemies, the battle with sickness and disease, the sense of purposelessness and anxiety.

We live in a fallen world. We desperately need a Savior. Someone to lift us up out of the mire and give us a purpose and hope. Someone to make sense of our suffering and pain. We need our minds opened to see life through an eternal lens – to know deeply – that our lives count for something – that we are worth something… that we are valuable.

Have you considered how Jesus’ death proves your worth to God? Read through today’s passage in Mark – and meditate on the death of our Lord – and know that He endured the cross to ransom a people. He endured the cross to save you from eternal curses.

His death guarantees that those who believe in His name –  to those that have been given the right to be called children of God – that they will receive eternal blessings! Read the first paragraph of Deuteronomy 28 and consider that these blessings are just a foretaste of the eternal blessings awaiting the believer in heaven!!

Day 75: King and Servant

Deuteronomy 23:15-26:19; Mark 15:1-20

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 26:18-19
And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.”

Mark 15:17-19
And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.

Today’s passage in Deuteronomy concludes Moses’ detailing of the specific laws… Most of the laws are miscellaneous but can still be loosely categorized by the 10 commandments…

  • Deuteronomy 23:19-24:22: 8th commandment (Do not steal)
  • Deuteronomy 25:1-16: 9th commandment (Do not bear false witness)
  • Deuteronomy 26: 10th commandment (Do not covet) + conclusion

Now that this section of Deuteronomy is complete, let’s take a wide-angle view of chapters 12-26. Specifically… how is God’s character revealed through this section of Scripture?

First, consider this: The following phrase is found eight times in chapters 12-26: “So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” It usually follows a command of capital punishment.

Conversely, Moses mentions the “sojourner” twelve times. And each time, the context is how to show compassion and is usually grouped with laws describing how to care for the fatherless and widow as well.

What does this teach us?

First, God is severely holy and perfectly just. But. He is also compassionate.

There is no greater illustration of the coupling of these two character traits than in the death of Jesus. In today’s passage in Mark, we see the conclusion of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. We read that Jesus was cruelly scourged and mocked. WHY? Why did Jesus allow himself to be so cruelly treated? Why did He submit himself to the treacherous authorities? Why? Why?

Because of his perfect justice and compassion. There had to be shedding of blood for the payment of our sin. But because of his compassion, he offers a substitute for the offering of our own blood as payment. He offers his blood. He is both the righteous judge and the bearer of iniquity – both the King and the Servant – both the Lion and the Lamb. He is both just and compassionate. He is our God!!

Day 74: The Orchestrator

Deuteronomy 21:15-23:14; Mark 14:51-72

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 23:14
Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy.

Mark 14:61-62
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Many of the laws in this section of scripture pertain to sexual morality which correlates with the 7th commandment: “Do not commit adultery.”

One law from yesterday’s reading directly applies to today’s reading from Mark…

A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established (Deuteronomy 19:15).

The trial described in Mark 14 takes place before the High Priest, Caiaphas. This trial is highly irregular. Firstly, it takes place at Caiaphas’ house. Secondly, it is in the middle of the night. Whoever heard of a trial taking place in the middle of the night? Everything about this trial seems clandestine. They can’t find corroborating testimony, and in the end… Jesus, himself, provides the condemning testimony.

The injustice of this trial is preposterous. I almost wonder if Mark precedes his description of the trial with verse 52 – as a literary commentary on the absurdity of it all..

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked (Mark 14:52).

This entire scene… the naked man, the middle-of-the-night-trial, Peter’s denials – it all seems nightmarish – yet it was part of God’s plan.

Jesus’ death is the ultimate example of God bringing good out of suffering. Even though the circumstances of this night seemed out of control, God knew what He was doing. He was the one orchestrating the farce of a trial – not the unjust Sanhedrin. This should be a great comfort as we experience confounding and difficult circumstances – that God is the orchestrator; He has a plan, and His plan is good.

Day 73: The End-Result of Failure

Deuteronomy 19:1-21:14; Mark 14:26-50

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 20:4
…for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.

Mark 14:34-36
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” …And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

This section of Moses’ speech loosely correlates with the 6th Commandment (do not murder). Moses begins Chapter 19 by discussing cities of refuge – a place for a person to flee if they accidentally kill someone. There were to be three cities of refuge (which are later named in Joshua 20:1-9), but Moses mentions the possibility of three additional cities…

…provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three (Deuteronomy 19:9).

There is no record of additional cities of refuge being named in the Old Testament…which leads me to believe that the people did not meet the qualifications. They were not faithful to keep the commandments.

Looking forward to Mark… Jesus predicts that his disciples would all fall away. Despite Peter’s protest, Jesus knew – and we know – that Peter, along with the rest of the disciples – abandoned Jesus following his arrest.

The people of Israel failed to keep the commandments. The disciples failed to stand by their Lord. We fail… in so many ways.

Jesus came to earth to rescue us from our failures. Today’s passage in Mark describes Jesus’ final prayer before he was arrested. He was anticipating the physical and spiritual suffering which he would endure…

He endured the cross for our sake. Consider this; meditate upon it, and wrestle with it… Jesus died for me. Jesus died for you. Do not belittle the sacrifice.

Day 72: A lesson in Covenant

Deuteronomy 16-18; Mark 14:1-25

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 18:18
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Mark 14:22
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”

Moses continues his review of the law by following a loose pattern of the 10 commandments. Today’s reading includes instructions concerning festivals (chapt. 16) – which is loosely patterned after the 4th commandment (keep the Sabbath holy) – as well as laws concerning various leaders (chapt. 17-18) – which is patterned after the 5th commandment (honor your parents).

In today’s reading in Mark, we see Jesus eat his last meal before He is betrayed. Listen to His words…

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24).

He alludes to “the blood of the covenant.” This echoes Moses’ words in Exodus after the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai…

Then [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:7-8).

Notice that the covenant Moses institutes at Mt. Sinai is a covenant of works. The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant. God promises to bless the people but only if they obey the law. The new covenant that Jesus institutes is an unconditional covenant – a covenant of grace. Jesus fulfills all the requirements of the old covenant – perfectly – and then offers to transfer his perfect record to us. This is grace.

Many Christians wonder why God gave the law if He planned to replace it with a new covenant. But the law wasn’t replaced… it was fulfilled. The law was necessary to teach us the holy standard of God. If there were no law, there would not be a need for grace!

Both the Old and New covenants flow from the unconditional promises found in the covenant God made with Abraham – that He would make for himself a great nation and through Abraham’s descendants, all of the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3) – and that He would be our God, and we would be His people (Leviticus 26:13).

We are covenant breakers, but God is the covenant keeper. We are blessed because of the promise made to Abraham which finds its fulfillment in the work of Christ. For Jesus is the ultimate fulfiller. 

Day 71: Another paradox of the Kingdom

Deuteronomy 14-15; Mark 13:14-37

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 15:11
Therefore I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”

Mark 13:31
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Today’s passage continues yesterday’s theme of rooting out idolatry by giving specific ways to show faithfulness to God. The people honored him in what they ate, how they tithed and how they cared for the poor. One of my favorite examples from today’s reading is the section on tithes…

The tithe that is described in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 is a second tithe given in addition to the regular tithe set aside for the Levites. This second tithe was unique in several ways. First, it was a celebratory tithe to be enjoyed with the Lord and with members of your household and others. Second, after two years of enjoying this tithe with the Lord and your neighbors, in the third year, the people were to layup the tithe in their own towns to care for the poor.

What a picture of freedom and trust. Imagine if everyone so whole-heartedly trusted God that they joyfully offered the best of the best over and above their regular tithe to the church – and the whole community would come together to enjoy the luxurious gifts of God. And every third year, the whole town willingly gave their best to be stored up for the poor. This would require that no one was greedy or selfish, and it would be a visible sign that idolatry had been rooted out of the community of faith.

In Mark, Jesus reminds us that He could come back at any time. We do not want to be chasing after other gods when He returns! His words remind us to hold on to the things of this world with a loose hand – for they will all be wiped away.

Paradoxically, as we loosen our grip on one of the most powerful idols of this world – money – and give sacrificially to those in need, we can experience joyful communion with God. And we discover that as we tighten our grip on His word and promises, this leads to fullness and satisfaction. And interestingly, His word (which brings ultimate satisfaction) will never pass away. God’s supply is endless. No idol can come close to fulfilling our deepest desires – only God can satisfy. He is good, and His ways are best!

Day 70: Faithfulness

Deuteronomy 11-13; Mark 13:1-13

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 11:26-28
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.

Mark 13:13
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The past two days, we have studied the first half of Moses’ 2nd speech to the people. It began in Chapter 5 and has been a general plea for obedience… He winds down this part of his speech at the end of chapter 11 and begins a more specific point-by-point review of the law in Chapter 12…

Moses uses the 10 commandments to structure this review of the law. He introduces Chapter 12 by instructing the people how to worship (1st commandment: you shall have no other gods before me). And by the end of chapter 12, he is pleading passionately for the people not to chase after idols (2nd commandment) and to honor the Lord (3rd commandment). The directions given to purge the nation of idolatry seem extreme, but the harsh consequences for idolatry highlight the severity of the offense.

Idolatry exists today. We might not worship carved images but that doesn’t mean we don’t chase after other gods…. comfort, success, security, love… pick your poison. We all have idols. We need to heed Moses’ warning and consider the seriousness of our wandering eyes.

But don’t think you can root out the idols of your heart by sheer will! Even recognizing your idols is a work of the Spirit, so how much more should we depend on the Spirit to help us overcome the idols of our hearts!!

Jesus exhorts his disciples in Mark 13 that faithfulness is a mark of a true believer (vs. 13). It’s tough to be faithful while we’re chasing after other gods…

Oh Lord, forgive my adulterous heart. Help me look to you alone for joy and satisfaction in this life. Show me where I depend on other ‘gods’ to fulfill me and help put them to death in my heart. I can’t do this alone. Please God, help me to persevere… Please, help me be faithful.