Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Teachable Moments

Good morning! Welcome to my Bible study. Settle in on my window seat with a cup of coffee, watch the sun rise, and let's delve into Deuteronomy 8.

I actually found this chapter (like it was lost) after starting to read Matthew 4. I was brought up abruptly for the first time in my life by Jesus's quote at the end, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”

For some reason I had never thought about that quote before, but it suddenly struck me with the image of everyone living their everyday lives, all of it sustained by the words of our Lord's mouth. So I went back to the source of that quote: Deuteronomy 8. The context is God speaking His commandments to Moses after the Lord spoke to the people of Israel from the midst of the fire, causing them to say (paraphrase), "We've seen God's glory and greatness, but please don't show us any more lest we die. For who has heard His voice and lived?" And God said, "They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!"

Those last words of Father God are the beginning of a theme: a theme that I call "teachable moments." You've heard that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). The OT is simply chock full of times when the Lord took a circumstance and turned it into an object lesson for His people, to show them how things work in our world: who He is and who we are; the fear of the Lord. 

So to start in on chapter 8 (it would be nice to have a Bible handy, I'll be verse-hopping a bit). first of all, we know why God is giving these commandments, "that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land." I'll bring to light a few things which stuck out to me this morning:

vs. 3: "and He humbled you and let you be hungry and fed you with manna which you did not know...that He might make you understand (or know) that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." How many times does God let people "be hungry"? It's certainly not a pleasant sensation, that's for sure. But perhaps He's doing it so that He can feed them with manna, all for the ultimate purpose--not of filling their stomachs--but of making them understand that He is the one who makes our every breath possible and sustains us every day.

vs. 4-5: "Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son." Even when the "big" things get so hard (like wandering in the desert for 40 years), God can take care of the "little things" like clothing and health that we take for granted. Instead of thinking, "Why is God treating me so harshly?" Maybe you should say, "Wow, even in the midst of this painful discipline, look at all the wonderful things He keeps doing for me."

vs. 6-8: "Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you (though it might not look like it right now) into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills;  a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates...." It's because of this discipline that we have that wonderful heart toward God to keep His commands and reverence Him.

vs. 11-14: "Beware lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments...which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them...then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God...." And, oh, how easy it is to forget! We build our houses, then we live in them, and after a few years it's almost hard to remember all of the uncertainties and difficulties involved in building that house, much less the goodness of the God who provided for our every need as we built it. We get caught up in our everyday lives and forget....

vs. 15: "He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint." More teachable experiences. Looks like the Father is trying to get a point across, doesn't it? He goes on, "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth...." 

To sum it up: Those dirty, nasty, unpleasant, and downright painful experiences can and probably are being used by God to teach you a heart of reverence towards Him. 
"There is a God and you are not Him."
Why? Why is He so concerned that we be aware of His constant provision and gracious dealings?
"And it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God...I testify against you today that you shall surely perish...because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God." 
This is a dangerous business with steep consequences. It is "that He might humble you and that He might test you, to go good for you in the end," that He creates those learning experiences for us.

Praise the Lord!

-Scriptures from the NASB
Nothing better, a photo by journeyguy on Flickr.

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