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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Deuteronomy 31; Psalm 119:97-120; Isaiah 58; Matthew 6

REFLECT FOR A MOMENT on the rich and diverse means that God granted to Israel to help them remember what he had done to deliver them, and the nature of the covenant they had pledged themselves to obey.

There was the tabernacle itself (later the temple), with its carefully prescribed rites and feasts: the covenant was not an abstract philosophical system, but was reflected in regular religious ritual. The nation was constituted in such a way that the Levites were distributed amongst the other tribes, and the Levites had the task of teaching the Law to the rest of the people. The three principal high feasts were designed to gather the people to the central tabernacle or temple, where both the ritual and the actual reading of the Law were to serve as powerful reminders (Deut. 31:11).

From time to time God sent specially endowed judges and prophets, who called the people back to the covenant. Families were carefully taught how to pass on the inherited history to their children, so that new generations that had never seen the miraculous display of God’s power at the time of the Exodus would nevertheless be fully informed of it and own it as theirs. Moreover, blessings from God would attend obedience, and judgment from God would attend disobedience, so that the actual circumstances of the community were supposed to elicit reflection and self-examination. Legislation was passed to foster a sense of separateness in the fledgling nation, erecting certain barriers so that the people would not easily become contaminated by the surrounding paganism. Unique events, like the antiphonal shouting at Mounts Gerizim and Ebal at the time of entering the land (see June 22 meditation), were supposed to foster covenant fidelity in the national memory.

But now God adds one more device. Precisely because God knows that in due course the people will rebel anyway, he instructs Moses to write a song of telling power that will become a national treasure — and a sung testimony against themselves (Deut. 31:19-22). Someone has said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” The aphorism is overstated, of course, but insightful nonetheless. That is the purpose of the next chapter, Deuteronomy 32. The Israelites will learn, as it were, a national anthem that will speak against them if they shut down all the other God-given calls to remember and obey.

What devices, in both Scripture and history, has God graciously given to help the heirs of the new covenant remember and obey? Meditate on them. How have you used them? What songs do we sing to put this principle into practice, that teach the people of God matters of irrevocable substance beyond mere sentimentalism?

Deut. 31

Joshua to Succeed Moses

31:1 So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. And he said to them, “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not go over this Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the LORD has spoken. And the LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. And the LORD will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The Reading of the Law

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 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. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

Joshua Commissioned to Lead Israel

14 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting. 15 And the LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud. And the pillar of cloud stood over the entrance of the tent.

16 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.

19 “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.

23 And the LORD1 commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”

24 When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25 Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, 26 “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD. How much more after my death! 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”

The Song of Moses

30 Then Moses spoke the words of this song until they were finished, in the ears of all the assembly of Israel:

Footnotes

[1] 31:23 Hebrew he

(ESV)

Psalm 119:97-120

Mem

97   Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98   Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99   I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.
100   I understand more than the aged,1
    for I keep your precepts.
101   I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep your word.
102   I do not turn aside from your rules,
    for you have taught me.
103   How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104   Through your precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way.

Nun

105   Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
106   I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to keep your righteous rules.
107   I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
108   Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD,
    and teach me your rules.
109   I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
110   The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
111   Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
    for they are the joy of my heart.
112   I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    forever, to the end.2

Samekh

113   I hate the double-minded,
    but I love your law.
114   You are my hiding place and my shield;
    I hope in your word.
115   Depart from me, you evildoers,
    that I may keep the commandments of my God.
116   Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
    and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
117   Hold me up, that I may be safe
    and have regard for your statutes continually!
118   You spurn all who go astray from your statutes,
    for their cunning is in vain.
119   All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross,
    therefore I love your testimonies.
120   My flesh trembles for fear of you,
    and I am afraid of your judgments.

Footnotes

[1] 119:100 Or the elders
[2] 119:112 Or statutes; the reward is eternal

(ESV)

Isaiah 58

True and False Fasting

58:1   “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
  declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
  Yet they seek me daily
    and delight to know my ways,
  as if they were a nation that did righteousness
    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
  they ask of me righteous judgments;
    they delight to draw near to God.
  ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
    Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
  Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,1
    and oppress all your workers.
  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to hit with a wicked fist.
  Fasting like yours this day
    will not make your voice to be heard on high.
  Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day for a person to humble himself?
  Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
  Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the LORD?
  “Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
  to let the oppressed2 go free,
    and to break every yoke?
  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
  when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
  your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
  If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10   if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
  then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11   And the LORD will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
  and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
12   And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
  you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.
13   “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
    from doing your pleasure3 on my holy day,
  and call the Sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
  if you honor it, not going your own ways,
    or seeking your own pleasure,4 or talking idly;5
14   then you shall take delight in the LORD,
    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;6
  I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
    for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Footnotes

[1] 58:3 Or pursue your own business
[2] 58:6 Or bruised
[3] 58:13 Or business
[4] 58:13 Or pursuing your own business
[5] 58:13 Hebrew or speaking a word
[6] 58:14 Or of the land

(ESV)

Matthew 6

Giving to the Needy

6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The Lord's Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

  “Our Father in heaven,
  hallowed be your name.1
10   Your kingdom come,
  your will be done,2
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11   Give us this day our daily bread,3
12   and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13   And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.4

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Fasting

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust5 destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.6

Do Not Be Anxious

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?7 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Footnotes

[1] 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence
[2] 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done
[3] 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow
[4] 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
[5] 6:19 Or worm; also verse 20
[6] 6:24 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions
[7] 6:27 Or a single cubit to his stature; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

(ESV)