“Hopeful Love” – Deuteronomy 33:1-29

June 3rd, 2018

Text: Dt. 33:1-29

“Hopeful Love”

Aux. Text: Eph 4:17-32

Call to Worship: Psa 64

 

Service OrientationThe tongue has the power to curse or to heal. Blessings can empower the hearer to a greater life.  Our speech should always be tempered by the Spirit of God.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  — Ephesians 4:29

 

Background Information:

  • Moses’ death looms over the congregation of Israel and the book of Deuteronomy. Having delivered his final pastoral addresses, installed Joshua as successor, taught the people the Song, and received Yahweh’s command to climb Mount Nebo, all that remains in the extended liturgical event reflected by Deuteronomy is the blessing of the congregation.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 786)
  • Just as Isaac (Gn 27:27-40) and Jacob (Gn 48:15, 16; 49:1-28) spoke blessings to their sons before they died, Moses now assembled Israel’s tribes before he died and pronounced his blessings on them as though they were his “children.” Such a blessing was more than a fond wish–“I hope you have a good life”–more even than a forecast of the tribes’ futures.  The dying words a father spoke to his sons were considered his unalterable last will and testament, acceptable as decisive evidence in court cases; in addition, they were creative words, which not only foretold the future but actually brought about the promises they contained.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 324)
  • The Blessing of Moses, together with the Song of Moses, aid in bringing closure to the book of Deuteronomy, coming just prior to the final closure, which is an account of Moses’ death and burial (ch. 34). The two ancient poems bring Moses’ valedictory address in the plains of Moab to a grand climax, the Song containing a riveting indictment and judgment of Israel for breaking its covenant with Yahweh and the Blessing giving a needed word of healing for the Israelite tribes as they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter the promised land.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 939)
  • Observing that this chapter contains no exhortation, but rather invocations of future blessings, Brevard Childs remarks, “The canonical function of chapter 33 serves to place the law fully within the perspective of divine sovereignty, shifting the focus from Israel’s behavior to God’s ultimate purpose. The Mosaic legislation is thus subordinated to the overriding purpose of God for his people, and the final eschatological realization of his will is attested to in spite of the nation’s failure.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 321)
  • Some scholars disagree with Josephus, insisting that Moses could never have spoken this blessing. Why?
  1. Moses seemed to locate Dan’s territory in the north of the land (verse 22), while Dan’s original allotment of land was in the south (Josh 19:40-48). Dan didn’t migrate north until at least two generations after Moses died (Jdg 18:1-31).
  2. The extensive blessing Moses spoke to Ephraim and Manasseh (verses 13-17) presuppose a time when these two tribes possessed great political power. This didn’t occur until well into the time of the Judges.
  3. Moses didn’t mention Simeon at all, although Simeon’s tribe was still very much in existence during Moses’ lifetime (Nm 26:12-14). Critics conclude that someone else must have spoken this blessing after Simeon was absorbed within Judah.

The common denominator in the critics’ objections is that Moses couldn’t have predicted the future, and if these were nothing more than Moses’ words, they’d have a point.  But when Moses spoke, he was “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt 1:21).  Because God is Lord of the future as well as the present, any objection to the Mosaic authorship of this chapter quietly disappears.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 323-4)

  • In one way, Deuteronomy 33 reaffirms Genesis 49. From another point of view, it reaffirms the prophetic poem of chapter 32.  The Song of Moses ends with the conviction that ultimately God would bring victory and well-being to Israel by defeating her enemies.  Chapter 33 now reinforces that message by applying it to each tribe’s individual future.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 189)
  • In v. 1 and in the formulaic introductions to the individual tribal blessings, we read in the third person: “About. . . he said” (vv. 7, 8, 12, et al.).  While a person speaking or writing of himself in the third person is not unknown in Deuteronomy and elsewhere, this chapter has every appearance of being reported by one other than the speaker.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 219)
  • The order of the tribes in the blessings is not the order of the patriarchal blessings of Jacob, nor the order of birth of the tribal fathers, nor the order of their encampments, nor the order of either list in the census narratives in Numbers, nor the order of their tribal allotments in Transjordan and Canaan. For various reasons–some known and some unknown–all these differ from one another.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 221)
  • (v. 1) The introductory statement very fittingly calls Moses “the man of God.” Never before in the Pentateuch had this designation been used.  The second occurrence also is a reference to Moses as the man of God (Josh 14:6).  Subsequently, messengers of God (prophets especially) are called men of God (Jdg 13:6, 8, and more often in 1 and 2 Kgs).  Moses is again designated as the man of God in the superscription to Ps 90.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 219)
  • (v. 1) Moses is described in verse 1 as “the man of God.” This title is used elsewhere in the OT to characterize a prophet (1 Sm 9:6; 1 Kg 13:1-3; 2 Kg 4:7, 16).  Deuteronomy declares Moses to be a prophet par excellence (18:15; 34:10).  Here Moses gives a blessing to the individual tribes before his death, as did the patriarchs (Gn 27:7; 49:1-28).  Such blessings were more than empty wishes; once uttered, they carried the promise of fulfillment.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 320)
  • (v. 2) God revealed himself at Sinai with myriads of holy ones. Such language normally describes angels (Ps 89:5, 7; Isa 13:3; 1 Thess 3:13), and that is likely the intent here.  Although angels are not described in Exodus as present during the Sinai events, the NT affirms their involvement in the transmission of the law of God (cp Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 368)
  • (vss. 2-5) Verses 2-5 give three points that are the grounds for the blessing Moses will give. These are, first, God’s love for the people (33:3), second, God’s actions in history (33:2, 4), and third, the covenant that the people have made with God (33:5).  This is not simply a case of wishful thinking.  It is hope based on the record of God’s faithful, powerful love for his people, and it is conditioned upon the people keeping the covenant they made with God.  Similarly, we, too, can bless people, based on God’s love for them and in the hope that they will be faithful to their covenant with God.  Moses’ blessing is well thought out and appropriate to the object of blessing.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 674-5)
  • (v. 6- REUBEN) Reuben, the eldest son (Gn 29:32), is the first to receive a blessing, as in Gn 49:3 and most tribal lists.  His blessing, however, is terse and promises little, perhaps reflecting his misdemeanor (Gn 35:22; 49:4).  Historically, too, the tribe struggled to survive (cf. 2 Kgs 10:32-33).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 470)
  • (v. 6- REUBEN) The blessing to Reuben is somewhat muted by a qualification: “Let Reuben live, and not die, but let his men be few” (33:6). This is in line with Jacob’s words about Reuben in the blessing he gave before his death, in which Jacob said Reuben “shall not have preeminence because [he] went up to [his] father’s bed” (Gn 49:4).  This refers to Reuben having sexual intercourse with Bilhah, Jacob’s concubine (Gn 35:22).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 675)
  • (v. 7 – JUDAH) Judah’s blessing is probably connected to what Nm 2:9 says; that tribe “was to march at the head of the army as the vanguard.  In this role Judah would hold a very dangerous place in battle.”  So Moses prays, “Hear, O LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people” (33:7a).  If this interpretation is correct, the prayer is that they be brought back safely to their people despite being in this dangerous place during the battle.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 676)
  • (v. 7 – JUDAH) Since Judah often led the tribes into battle (cp. Jdg 1:1-2), the prayer may cover multiple military situations, a view that is supported by the reference to foes. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 368)
  • (v. 7 – JUDAH) The hand of Judah, according to Jacob’s blessing, was to be on the neck of his enemies, and for this victory his brothers would praise him. The prayer of Moses that Judah should be brought to his people may relate to his victorious return to his people from battle.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 223)
  • (vss. 7-11, 13-17 – LEVI/JOSEPH) Within the collection of blessings, Levi and Joseph represent the tribal center of gravity, receiving as much attention as all the rest combined. This interest not only anticipates the future religious and political significance of these tribes, but also reflects their significance within Israel in the recent past (cf. Gn 45-50; Ex 32:25-29; Nm 25:7-13).  At the same time, given the tribe of Judah’s later significance of the Davidic monarchy and its separate existence as a nation, the relatively little attention that Judah receives is striking.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 787)
  • (v. 8 – LEVI) It speaks of Levi’s status of caretaker, teacher, and revealer of the covenant and will of God, and of the bearing of the priestly responsibility of offering the sacrifices of the ritual system; that is, the Levites were both to represent the people before the Lord and to represent the Lord and his revelation to the people. That revelation of the Lord involved taking care of the written Book of the Law and the means of determining the Lord’s will through the use of the Thummim and Urim that were deposited in the breastpiece of the high priest.  Not only were the Levites (particularly the priests, the sons of Aaron) to have charge of the physical, inscriptured word placed beside the ark of the covenant and of the Thummim and Urim, they were also to teach that word to the people at regular intervals (Lv 10:11; Dt 31:9-13).  The one that the Thummim and Urim belonged to is called the godly man or the man God favored (v. 8).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 224)
  • (v. 8 – LEVI) The special devotion of Levi to the Lord is said to be portrayed by the action of the Levites in purging the community of sin by killing many of their own relatives after they had worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32:26-29). Because of the Levites’ loyalty to the Lord on that occasion, they were set apart to him as the priestly tribe (Ex 32:29; Dt 10:8).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 224)
  • (v. 8 – LEVI) Levi was the priestly tribe. These verses give a good description of who a good priest is today, too.  Under the new covenant, all Christians, especially those in full-time ministry, are priests (1 Pt 2:9; Rv 1:6).  Moses first says, “Give to Levi your Thummim, and your Urim to your godly one” (Dt 33:8a).  The Thummim and Urim were possibly two flat stones, used for drawing lots, in order to find the will of God after all other checks had been made and two or more possibilities were found in keeping with God’s principles (see Nm 27:21).  Such devices were used only after all the homework was done to find which options were in keeping with the revealed will of God.  We must first do our Word-related homework even today when we ask God for guidance.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 676)
  • (v. 8 – LEVI) In every other occurrence of these two terms, the order is reversed. How the urim and thummim (“lights and perfections”) were used to determine God’s will remains a mystery.  They formed part of the breastpiece of the high priest, which was in turn part of the ephod that was worn over his shoulders.  (For the biblical description of the details of these items, see Ex 28:6-30).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 372)
  • (v. 10 – LEVI) The last two lines of verse 10 highlight the Levites’ liturgical role. The references to “incense” and “whole burnt offerings” are shorthand for the entire tabernacle ritual system prescribed in Exodus and Leviticus.  The reference to “incense in your nostrils” alludes to the practice of waving incense before a deity’s image to evoke a smile of approval.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 793)
  • (v. 12- BENJAMIN) Moses’ phrase “the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders” reminds one of a father toting his littlest child on his back; as Jacob cherished and shielded his youngest son, Benjamin’s tribe would continue to receive extraordinary blessings from the heavenly Father. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 331)
  • (v. 12- BENJAMIN) Although the Lord is everywhere at once, he chose to dwell at his sanctuary, located temporarily at Bethel (Jdg 20:26-28; 1 Sm 7:16) and more permanently in Jerusalem (2 Sm 6:1-5, 17-19; 1 Kg 8:1-6), both in Benjamite territory (Josh 18:11-13, 22). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 331)
  • (v. 12- BENJAMIN) Moses prayed that Benjamin’s descendants would likewise rest secure in God’s future protection, much like a choice son riding upon or between a father’s shoulders. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 369)  
  • (v. 12- BENJAMIN) Moses asked that Benjamin as the one loved of the Lord and shielded continually by him would have a secure rest between the Lord’s shoulders, that is, on his shoulders, as a father might carry a son–a figure already used to describe how the Lord carried the Israelites all through the desert journeys (1:31). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 225)
  • (vss. 13-17 – JOSEPH: EPHRAIM/MANESSAH) The first part of the Joseph blessing (vv. 13-16a) is a prayer for the agricultural prosperity of his land while the second part (v. 16b-17) describes his status and his military strength. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 226)
  • (v. 17 – EPHRAIM) Dt 33:17 calls him “a firstborn bull” and says, “He has majesty” (some think this designation is for Ephraim and not Joseph). This is an example of how “firstborn” is used in the Bible to refer to preeminence rather than the first to be born.  Groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the references to Jesus as “firstborn” (e.g., Col 1:15) to say that he was a created being. But the reference in those texts is to Jesus’ preeminence.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 680)
  • (v. 17 – EPHRAIM) Then it talks of the two tribes that came from the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh: “. . . they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh” (33:17b). Ephraim is the second son, but he is mentioned first and has “ten thousands” while Manasseh has “thousands.”  This reflects the event recorded in Gn 48:8-20 when Jacob reversed the order and gave Ephraim the honor of the firstborn.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 681)
  • (v. 17 – EPHRAIM) Ephraim enjoyed political prominence throughout Israel’s history. Joshua was an Ephramite (Nm 13:8), as was Deborah (Jdg 4:4, 5), while Gideon (Josh 17:2; Jdg 6:11) and Jephthah (Jdg 11:1) were from Manasseh.  The great worship centers where the ark was later located–Shiloh, Shechem, and Gilgal–were in Ephramite country.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 333)
  • (v. 17 – EPHRAIM) This tribe, the largest of the northern tribes, was divided. The two divisions were named after Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn, and Ephraim, Joseph’s second son.  Though Manasseh was the older son, Jacob gave Ephraim the blessing of the firstborn (Gn 48:17-20).  Therefore, Ephraim is mentioned first and credited with “ten thousands,” while Manasseh is only credited with “thousands.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 322)
  • (v. 17 – EPHRAIM) Ephraim became the dominant tribe in the northern kingdom and was often militarily the more powerful kingdom in Canaan in the ninth, eighth, and seventh centuries B.C. The goring of the nations is thought by some rabbinic authorities to be fulfilled in the conquests under Joshua, who was an Ephraimite (see Reider, 335).  The extent of the military victories of Joseph, however, should best be taken as poetic hyperbole signifying the greater relative strength and prowess predicated of the Joseph tribes.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 227)
  • (v.18 – ZEBULUN/ISSACHAR) The poetic parallelistic structure of the first two lines is to be understood as a play on the fairly common expression of one’s daily activity as “going out and coming in,” with “in your tents” equivalent to “coming in.”  So then the sense of “Rejoice, Zebulun, and you, Issachar, in all your activities.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 228)
  • (v.18 – ZEBULUN/ISSACHAR) The boundaries of Zebulun and Issachar as allotted by Joshua did not give either Zebulun or Issachar access to the Mediterranean; but Moses is in harmony with the vision of Jacob, who saw Zebulun living by the seashore, a haven for ships, with his border extending toward Sidon (Gn 49:13).  The influence of the tribes and the actual boundaries did not always remain where the original allotment placed them.  Josephus (Anitq. V, 84 [i.22]) reports that Zebulun’s lot included land that “belonged to Carmel and the sea.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 228)
  • (v.18 – ZEBULUN) They would inherit perhaps the choicest of Yahweh’s land grants, comprising much of what was later called the Galilee, including the Valley of Jezreel, the nation’s breadbasket.  Moses predicted that they would feast on the abundance of the seas.  The territory of Zebulon contains Israel’s only natural harbor (at the modern city of Haifa), but the feasting in question could refer to goods gained by trade with seafaring nations, treasures exchanged for the tribes’ abundant foodstuffs.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 369)
  • (v.19 – ZEBULUN/ISSACHAR) The harvest would include primary marine resources like fish and shells (used for making jewelry, lamps, and dyes), as well as products of maritime trade:  timber, precious metals, pottery, and agricultural products from abroad.  He describes the mercantile enterprise strangely as “sucking” (NIV “feast on”) abundance from the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.  Like Gn 49:13, this blessing envisions Zebulun and Issachar along the coast in Phoenician territory rather than inland as described in Josh 19:10-23.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 796)
  • (v. 19- ISSAHCAR) The “treasures hidden in the sand” could refer to mollusk shells found along the Syrian and Phoenician coastlines, from which a highly prized purple dye was extracted. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 335)
  • (v. 20 – GAD) The blessing to Gad begins with a blessing either to Gad or to the persons who help Gad prosper: “Blessed be he who enlarges Gad!” (33:20a).  Then Gad is presented as a warrior: “Gad crouches like a lion; he tears off arm and scalp” (33:20b).  Next, there is a reference to the land allotted to Gad:  “He chose the best of the land for himself, for there a commander’s portion was reserved” (33:21a).  This land was east of Jordan and therefore already occupied.  Moses commends them for participating in the conquest for the land west of Jordan for their brothers though they were secure in their own land:  “. . . and he came with the heads of the people, with Israel he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments for Israel” (33:21b).  The conquest is described as an executing of the “justice” and “judgments” of the Lord.  It seems that Gad is given a special portion of land known as “a commander’s portion” (33:21a) for participating with distinction in this battle.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 681-2)
  • (v. 20 – GAD) Gad was known as warlike and aggressive. The tribe was able to hold onto the territory and to keep its tribal identification on the east of Jordan until it succumbed to Tiglath-pileser in the latter part of the eighth century B.C. (1 Chr 5:23-26).  This warlike character is portrayed as a lion that tears an arm and even the head of its prey.  Jacob too saw Gad attacking its enemies (Gn 49:19), and 1 Chronicles describes some Gadites as having faces of lions (12:8); the least of them “was a match for a hundred, and the greatest for a thousand” (1 Chr 12:14).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 229)
  • (v. 22 – DAN) Jacob also promised that Dan would “provide justice for his people” (Gn 49:16). Samson, Israel’s most colorful judge, was a Danite (Jdg 13:1-16:31).  His judgeship featured some treachery, as did Dan’s migration to its new northern home (Jdg 18:1-31).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 337)
  • (v. 22 – DAN) When Jacob blessed Dan, he compared him to a serpent that bites a horse’s heels and causes the rider to fall backward (Gn 49:17). Now Moses compares the tribe to a young lion which suddenly springs from ambush to make an attack.  He could be referring to the impetuous nature of the Danites, who were quick to follow their own inclinations.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 323)
  • (v. 22 – DAN) The last location is used not because Dan settled there but because Bashan was a place where lion cubs were more commonly seen. Dan’s territorial allotment lay in the extreme southwest portion of the promised land adjacent to the Philistines (Samson was a Danite).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 369)
  • (v. 22 – DAN) Being “a lion’s cub” points to future potential. Though they may look timid when cubs, lions grow to be very strong.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 682)
  • (v.23 – NAPHTALI) Naphtali will have the Lord’s favor in abundance and will be full of blessing–blessing that will be his because of the excellent and fertile land the tribe will inherit. His land will extend from the north of Galilee to the area west and south of the lake.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 230)
  • (v. 24 – ASHER) The Galilean highlands, in which the tribe of Asher settled, were famous for olives. Moses’ words suggest that they would have so much olive oil that they could wade in it.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 337)
  • (v. 24 – ASHER) Asher inhabited the Mediterranean coast from south of Acco to north of Tyre. A highway extended north to south through Asher’s territory, which proved a mixed blessing.  In peaceful times the highway brought traders, their products, and the profits they generated, but the highway was also a convenient route for invaders to storm Palestine from the north.  Because of its location, Asher would need to defend itself, so Moses’ words suggest a fortified defense.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 338)
  • (v. 24 – ASHER) “The picture of bathing feet in oil is one of extravagance, betokening great prosperity.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 683)
  • (v. 24-25 – ASHER) Asher, declared to be a most blessed of sons, is to be favored above his brothers. Bathing his feet in olive oil (probably mixed with various fragrant unguents) and having a secure residence behind gates bolted with iron and bronze bars, the tribe of Asher will grow in strength as its days increase in number.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 231)
  • (v. 25 – ASHER) The third blessing is for security from enemies through strong fortifications: “Your bars [metal door-bolts] shall be iron and bronze” (33:25a).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 683)
  • (v. 26) “The figure of deity riding on a chariot through the heavens is an ancient Near Eastern motif known to the Canaanites, but occurring also in the OT (Ps 18:10; 68:33; Isa 19:1; Ezek 1).” The Canaanites would have sung that Baal rode in triumph through the heavens.  But they were wrong.  The God of the Israelites is unique–Baal or any other God cannot be compared with him.  Victory belongs to God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 686)
  • (v. 26) The following line which speaks of Yahweh riding through the heavens/skies in “majesty” to come to the aid of his people, points in the latter direction (cf. Ps 104:3). This imagery recalls Canaanite myths of the storm god Baal, one of whose stock epithets was “rider of the clouds.”  By claiming these epithets for Yahweh, Moses declares his jurisdiction over all the spheres that Canaanites had distributed among the gods.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 798)
  • (v. 26) The conclusion of the Blessing turns to focus on Israel as a whole, who once again is given the honorific name of Jeshurun. The nation is addressed directly and told that there is none like the God Israel has known.  This God rides majestically and triumphantly through the heavens to come to Israel’s aid and is Israel’s refuge in time of need.  It has been so longer than anyone can remember.  Underneath are the everlasting arms ready to support Israel when support is needed.  The nation is reminded how Yahweh drove out the enemy in its battle for the Transjordan and it was able to dwell in security, unmolested by enemies.  The land there was the “firstfruits” of what was to come, a land of grain, wine, and much else.  Israel is therefore told to be happy, for it is a nation like no other, knowing a great salvation from an even greater God.  Yahweh is a sword and shield for the people, and because of this, nations will come cringing to them when defeated or near defeat.  Israel will either be treading on the high places or on the heads of its foes, in either case marching in triumph.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 941)
  • (v. 29) Whereas the coda had begun by declaring the incomparability of Israel’s God, it ends by declaring the incomparability of God’s people. They are the beneficiaries of his rescue and protection.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 799)
  • (v. 29) With the majestic and eternal God as helper, refuge, and sustainer, Moses can anticipate Israel’s security and prosperity and present it as if it has already happened. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 688)
  • (v. 29) The NIV translates the final phrase of verse 29 “you will trample down their high places.” With the Lord as shield, helper, and glorious sword, Israel would have the will and the strength to conquer the land of Canaan completely and rid it of false worship.  As the NIV footnote suggests, the final phrase of verse 29 could also be, “. . . you will tread upon their bodies,” on the backs of the enemies Moses mentioned earlier.  In the ancient Near East, when one army gained the advantage over another, the conquering general placed his foot on the neck or the back of the defeated commander, as the defeated leader exhibited total surrender.  The life itself of the losing commander and his soldiers rested entirely in the victor’s hand.

Later history revealed that Israel seldom gained such momentous victory over their enemies, but that was their fault, not the Lord’s.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 341)

  • (SIMEON) Moses didn’t mention Simeon at all. Jacob predicted that he and Levi would be scattered throughout Israel (Gn 49:7) because they’d violently murdered the men of Shechem (Gn 34:25-29).  While Levi’s scattering became a blessing, because the Lord selected his tribe to be priests and servants in the tabernacle, Simeon’s scattering wasn’t so favorable.  In the space of one generation the number of Simeon’s fighting men was reduced more than half, from 59,300 to 22,200 (Nm 1:23; 26:14).  When they crossed the river, Simeon didn’t receive a block of territory, but only about a dozen and a half towns and villages within Judah’s borders (Josh 19:2-9).  Eventually they lost their tribal identity entirely.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 328)
  • The Simeonites for the most part found their future together with Judah and never realized a tribal patrimony except for certain cities in Judah (Josh 19:1-9). The Simeonites were swallowed up in Judah.  At least some of the Simeonites, however, did continue their tribal identity, as 1 Chr 4:24-43 shows, even though they did not become as numerous as the people of Judah (1 Chr 4:27).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 222-3)
  • In the ancient world nations states typically derived their name from the people’s perceived ancestor, and the people’s sense of cohesion was based on a sense of common descent from that ancestry (e.g., Moabites, Edomites, Israelites). Although Moses was obviously the first and founding leader of Israel as a nation, despite Yahweh’s offer to make of him a great nation (Ex 32:10), Moses made no effort to change Israel’s story or to secure allegiance to himself.  And in contrast to the leaders of other nations, he made no effort to secure his personal legacy by erecting memorials to himself.  Instead in his final days he poured out his energies in “setting his house in order” and securing the well-being of the people he had led for forty years.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 800)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why does God through Moses offer this blessing to the 12 tribes of Israel?

 

Answer: God through Moses is encouraging the 12 tribes to greater obedience as well as empowering them to fulfill their destiny.

 

To bless means to grant prosperity or well-being (“fortunate power”), and God is generally the subject, bestowing physical and spiritual grace upon man in the form of long life, affluence, and power (Gn 39:5; Ps 3:8 ‘[Mt 9]; 24:5; 129:8).  He blesses mankind in creation (Gn 5:2) and throughout history (26:3; Ex 18:10).  Such acts often provide fertility for man (Gn 1:28; 17:16, 20; 22:17; 48:4), animals (1:22), and various forms of produce (Ex 23:25; Dt 7:13; Ps 65:10 [Mt 11]; 132:15).  God blesses man for keeping His laws, implying sanction (Dt 7:12-14; cf. Ex 23:25).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 523)

 

People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.  —D.L. Moody

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Encourage

 

In the NT the blessed exhibit the traits of the faithful (Mt 5:11; Lk 11:28; Rv 16:15), particularly suffering (Jam 1:12; Lk 6:20-22).  The condition may be shared by parts of the body (Mt 13:16; Lk 10:23; 11:27).  Generally applied to God with the sense “praised” or “praiseworthy” (1 Tm 1:11; 6:15), Gk. makários occurs in the same sense with reference to actions (Acts 20:34) and qualities (Ti 2:13).  The rewards that accompany such favor are often reserved for the future (Ps 128:2-4).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 1, 524)

 

A definition of the family blessing that contains its five major elements reads:  A family blessing begins with meaningful touching.  It continues with a spoken message of high value, a message that pictures a special future for the individual being blessed, and one that is based on an active commitment to see the blessing come to pass. (Gary Smalley and John Trent; The Blessing, 47-8)

 

Why does Moses bless the12 tribes of Israel?:

I-  Through his blessings, Moses desires to encourage greater obedience to God as well as empower them to fulfill their destiny.  (Dt 33; see also: Ex 17:1-7; Nm 11:7-9; Dt 7:13-15; Josh 1:8; 2 Sm 6:11; 1 Kgs 3:13; 17:2-7, 12-16; 2 Kgs 18:6-7; 20:1-7; 2 Chr 17:3-5; 26:5-15; Dan 1:9; Mt 6:26-33; 1 Cor 2:9; Phil 4:12-19)

 

The promise that God would go before Israel to conquer the land has always in it the participation of the people in obedience to the Lord’s commands, but that participation is always to be understood as effective only as the Lord works with them and through them.  The result will be victory that will leave Israel as a secure nation living in “safety” (v. 28), without the interference of support or other nations, relying rather on the Lord, who would give them victory and would sustain them.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 232)

 

When the NT church was established, the covenant community became an international community, which meant that God’s reputation and the advance of the gospel were no longer tied to one state or one people; this text’s promises of material well-being have been transformed.  A transnational and global Christianity may not claim these promises of dipping feet in oil and other idioms of agricultural prosperity as literal and unconditional foundations for the health and wealth gospel peddled by so many today and exported around the world, particularly in places of desperate poverty.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 803)

 

God’s blessings are frequently presented as dependent upon man’s obedience, in contrast with cursings which result from disobedience (Dt 30:15-20); nevertheless, they are ultimately gracious, and cannot be referred to anything but God’s mercy and kindness.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, 625)

 

The NT makes clear the relation of blessing to commandment.  The Beatitudes precede the call to obedience in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5 and 6; cf. the blessing-cursing contrast in Lk 6:20-26), so obedience is the response to blessing, not the means of obtaining it (perhaps the gracious prologue to the Sinai law in Ex 20:1 is analogous).  Much the same stress is seen in the introductory blessings of Paul’s epistles (“Grace to you and peace,” esp. the extended blessing of Eph 1:3-14), which precede instruction to the churches.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, 625)

 

Obedience to God results in general material prosperity, including supremacy over Israel’s neighbors, economic prosperity and flourishing families, while disobedience results in just the opposite (Dt 27:3).  Material blessing must not be understood as having no spiritual application:  Israel’s role as witness to the world of the might and love of the Lord depends upon the evidence of the Lord’s favor to her; the promise of numerous descendants rests upon agricultural and military success; the very worship of the Lord is to be centered in Jerusalem, to which exile (military defeat) is the antithesis.  God’s personal choice and blessing of His people inevitably involves His blessing of the details of their lives.

What is true of Israel as a people is true of the individual believer, and his happiness and blessing also rests in obedience.  Proverbs esp. indicates how happiness consists in finding wisdom (3:13), hearing the Lord (8:34), trusting in Him (16:20), and keeping His law (29:18).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, 626)

 

The affirmation of God’s eternal, enveloping care for those who find refuge in the everlasting arms (v. 26a) is a reality claimed and proved by untold numbers of believers.  It is not, however, a picture of repose in the arms of God.  There are battles ahead, literal and spiritual, and we are reminded that Deuteronomy is a book “on the boundary” as the people prepare to cross over into the land.  There they will face enemies, as the people of God always have and always will when they move forward with God.  The reassurance, therefore, is not one of a peaceful paradise but of divine protection and deliverance in the midst of conflict.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 312)

 

Ralph Winter has popularized the analysis of biblical Israel as a nation that wanted to be blessed but didn’t want to be a blessing.  The result was their destruction.  (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, 191)

 

The first step in any spiritual awakening is demolition.  We cannot make headway in seeking God without first tearing down the accumulated junk in our souls.   Rationalizing has to cease.  We have to start seeing debris we hadn’t noticed before, which is what holds back the blessing of God.  (Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 159)

 

I don’t mean to disparage any spiritual discipline, commitment, or sacrifice. These all have their place in the realm of grace. But they are never to be relied on as a meritorious cause for expecting God’s blessing or to answer prayer. Martin Luther, in his exposition of Dt 8:17-18, spoke of “blessings that at times come to us through our labors and at times without our labors, but never because of our labors; for God always gives them because of His undeserved mercy” (emphasis added). (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 72)

 

But, Charles Hodge so aptly said, “Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us; but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the Grace of God.”  Humility, then, gives credit where credit is due, namely to the working of Holy Spirit in our lives. Pride, which is the opposite of humility, seeks to find within ourselves some innate goodness or even to ascribe to our own commitment or faithfulness the cause of any blessings of God in our lives. Pride might say, for example, “Because I have been faithful and obedient, God has blessed me”; whereas humility would say, “Because of God’s grace at work in me, I have been motivated and enabled to be faithful and obedient.”  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 99)

 

If you want to know the blessings of God, the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings of the Christian gospel, the first thing you must do is admit that you have no claim at all upon them, that you do not deserve them, that actually you deserve nothing but punishment and hell.  If you are still trying to defend yourself, if you still feel that God has not been fair to you, that God is unkind to you or that God has kept something back from you, you are not a Christian; you are still in the position of rebellious Adam and Eve; you are in the position of the Pharisees.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 91)

 

Heb 10:25 instructs us not to neglect the assembly of the saints.  Instead, we are to gather and encourage one another more and more as we await Jesus’ return.  The public assembly is meant for the edification, the building up, the growth of the Christian.  Neglecting to participate in the corporate life of the church or failing to actively serve and be served is a sure-fire way to limit our growth.  Eph 4:11-16 offers a pretty strong argument that participation in the body of Christ is the main way in which Christ strengthens and matures us.  When we serve others in the church, bear with one another, love one another, correct one another, and encourage one another, we participate in a kind of “spiritual maturity co-op” where our stores and supplies are multiplied.  The end result is growth and discipleship.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 91)

 

It is the tongue of the Christian that destroys the fellowship.  (Chuck Swindoll James Series:  “The Perils of Playing God” )

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who desires your best and encourages you to pursue His best for your life and His glory.

 

Defeat of enemies, protection and security, good laws–these are the things expected of kings and these are the things Yahweh as the true king provides for Israel.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 310)

 

Moses exults in the generosity and power of Yahweh and pronounces the people blessed because of their association with him.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 370)

 

Although the course of Israel’s future will prove rocky, the nation belongs to God, and he will bless them.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 370)

 

God’s love does not depend on the current spiritual condition of those whom he loves.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 370)

 

The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings, and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 28)

 

Earlier this same name {Jeshurun} was used in a sarcastic manner of a rebellious nation (32:15).  Now it is used positively.  But perhaps there is a hint of exhortation to Israel, telling them that the uniqueness of God described here is available only to an upright nation.  The Bible moves much more comfortably than we do from the importance of holiness among the people to praise for God.  Times of praise today are sometimes so silent about holiness that some have suggested that praise is like an opiate that gives people an emotional high without challenging them to live transformed lives.  The Bible talks about praise to a holy God who requires holiness of those who worship him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 685-6)

 

Deuteronomy 19 says, “They shall call peoples to their mountain; there they offer right sacrifices; for they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”  Here we see the obligation of those who have been blessed by God to have occasions devoted to thanksgiving and praise to God for his goodness.  These thanksgiving services should not focus on boosting persons or organizations, on being public relations events.  Rather, they should be times devoted to praising God along with people who can join heartily in genuine thanksgiving and praise.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 681)

 

The noted British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was walking through the countryside with a friend.  The two noticed a barn with a weather vane on the roof.  Part of the metalwork of the weather vane proclaimed, “God Is Love.”  Spurgeon observed to his friend that he thought the weather vane was a poor location to enshrine such a sublime message.  “After all,” Spurgeon noted, “weather vanes are changeable, but God’s love is constant.”

His friend demurred:  “I don’t agree with you, Charles.  You misunderstood the meaning.  That sign is indicating a truth:  regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love.”  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 367)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus said, “. . . out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt 12:34b; 15:18-19; Lk 6:45; Jam 3:3-12)  Only Jesus can give you a blessed heart to speak words that bless others.  (Jn 3:1-16; 2 Cor 5:17)

 

Moses’ blessing of the tribes follows the ancient pattern of heads of households gathering their clans around them for a final blessing before their demise.  In the NT Jesus picked up the practice when, immediately prior to his own death, he called his disciples around him for final conversations and to bless them (Jn 13-16).  Once Judas had left, Jesus began his lengthy address to the disciples who remained.  Remarkably, although he repeatedly drew attention to his Father in heaven, he presented himself as the focus of the disciples’ trust and security:  They trust in God; they must trust in him (14:1).  He bequeathed to them his peace (14:27; 16:33), promising them that in him they would find all the resources needed to cope with a hostile world:  (1) the hope of a future with him (14:3); (2) resources for any circumstance (14:13-14); (3) divine presence and aid in the person of the Holy Spirit (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7); (4) his and the Father’s love (15:1-15; 16:25-27; cf. Dt 33:3); (5) reminders of their divine election (15:15-19); (6) their ultimate triumph (16:33).  All these notions are thoroughly Deuteronomic, and they also address universal concerns.  Jesus, Yahweh incarnate, is indeed “the way and the truth and the life” (14:6).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 801)

 

True well-being and security are found in Jesus Christ, through whose death and resurrection a personal relationship with God is secured.  This does not mean that we are immune from disaster, but that when disaster strikes, our well-being is ensured.  The gospel calls us to take up the cross and to suffer for the cause of Christ.  Making material prosperity and physical health our passion is idolatry, a modern version of Canaanite fertility religion.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 803)

 

The tongue is you in a unique way.  It is a tattletale that tells on the heart and discloses the real person.  Not only that, but misuse of the tongue is perhaps the easiest way to sin.  There are some sins that an individual may not be able to commit simply because he does not have the opportunity.  But there are no limits to what one can say, no built-in restraints or boundaries.  In Scripture, the tongue is variously described as wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, gossiping, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, complaining, cursing, contentious, sensual and vile.  And that list is not exhaustive.  No wonder God put the tongue in a cage behind the teeth, walled in by the mouth!  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 144)

 

Socrates said, “Words are the windows to the mind.  Speak, young man, that I may know you.”

 

Jesus Christ is the Son of the Blessed (Mk 14:61); i.e. He is to be praised with the same praise due to the Father; both Christ’s accomplished salvation and His return reflect the glory of that blessed Father (1 Tm 1:11; 6:15).  His birth is a blessing (Lk 1:42, 48); His death is remembered by the cup of blessing of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 10;16), reflecting His own blessing of the meal (Mk 14:22; cf. 6:41).  He blesses His disciples as He ascends, having promised His return (Lk 24:50).  His continued ministry to His people is a “greater” kind precisely because of its blessing character (Heb 7:1, 6).  His return blesses His people who are awake, are keeping His words, have washed their robes, and so may enter and rest, being invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (the doxologies of Rv 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 22:7, 14).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, 626)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Be like God.  Speak the truth in love so that others might be built up and encouraged to become all God desires for them to become.  (Prv 18:21a; 22:6; Mt 12:36; Lk 6:45; 1 Cor 13:6; Eph 4:15; 1 Pt 1:22; 2 Jn 1:3)

 

The father is charged with passing on the spiritual blessing to the children.  That duty is a serious transfer of God’s blessing upon the family and cannot be received through any other means or persons (see Gen 27; 2 Sm 6:20; 1 Chr 16:43). (George Barna; Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, 82-3)

 

We live by encouragement and die without it – slowly, sadly, angrily.  —Celeste Holm

 

Christians never know security in terms of a quiet life separated from the pain of people.  Our security in Christ gives us the boldness to risk helping others who are in need.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 682)

 

Good leaders pray for a vision of the potential that lies behind those they lead.  That potential becomes a personal ambition that drives them in the way they lead those people.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 682-3)

 

In the same way, we leaders can bless our people as we think of the future prospects for their lives.  In the blessing we could include the prayer or hope that the people will remain faithful to God.  Generally, in addition to getting to know the background of the people, I pray asking God for guidance about what I should say in the blessing.  These are serious times, and we do not want to mouth words that have no real meaning.  We want to be agents of God who communicate his thoughts.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 675)

 

Today this may mean that as God’s priests we help people find out what is God’s will for their lives.  We may do this through supernatural gifts such as the gifts of discernment, knowledge, and prophecy.  We will always ask God to lead us.  But now, more than in the time of Deuteronomy, we have a completed canon of Scripture that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tm 3:16, 17).  So now we generally give guidance to people by mastering the Scriptures and by knowing how to apply them to the lives of people.  Therefore, we study the Word, and we work with people and develop, through practice, the skill of letting the Scriptures address the issues they face.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 676-7)

 

Can we pray for such prosperity for people today?  The Bible does have many such prayers, and that would suggest that we can.  But prosperity theology goes wrong when it puts the emphasis too much on material prosperity and when it does not take sufficiently into account that sometimes God’s choicest blessings come to us through suffering.  We can pray for material prosperity with the assurance that if he does not answer as we ask, it is because he has something better in store for us.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 680)

 

Churches that give away blessings are much more likely to be blessed.  (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, 192)

 

LESSONS FROM LIFE:

A child that lives with ridicule

learns to be timid.

A child that lives with criticism

learns to condemn.

A child that lives with distrust

learns to be deceitful.

A child that lives with antagonism

learns to be hostile.

A child that lives with affection

learns to love.

A child that lives with encouragement

learns confidence.

A child that lives with truth

learns justice.

A child that lives with praise

learns to appreciate.

A child that lives with sharing

learns to be considerate.

A child that lives with knowledge

learns wisdom.

A child that lives with patience

learns to be tolerant.

A child that lives with happiness

will find love and beauty.

—   Ronald Russell

 

Children need pats on the back.  One high enough to encourage them when they do right, and one low enough to discourage them when they do wrong.  Effective discipline requires knowing which end of the child to pat.

 

Don’t unsay with your life what you say with your tongue.  — Richard Baxter

 

The tongue is so much more than what we actually say out loud.  In fact actual speech is probably only a small percentage of the use of the tongue.  We cannot think without formulating thoughts in words; we cannot plan without describing to ourselves step by step what we intend to do; we cannot imagine without painting a word-picture before our inward eyes; we cannot write a letter or a book without ‘talking it through’ our minds on to the paper; we cannot resent without fueling the fires of resentment in words addressed to ourselves; we cannot feel sorry for ourselves without listening to the self-pitying voice which tells us how hard done by we are.  But if our tongue were so well under control that it refused to formulate the words of self-pity, the images of lustfulness, the thoughts of anger and resentment, then these things are cut down before they have a chance to live:  the master-switch has deprived them of any power to ‘switch on’ that side of our lives.  It is in this way that if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man (2).  The control of the tongue is more than an evidence of spiritual maturity; it is the means to it.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 121)

 

Taken together verses 2-3 paint a picture of Yahweh’s universal authority, balancing his superiority over the heavenly hosts with his sovereignty over Israel.  Moses emphasizes Israel’s role in Yahweh’s earthly agenda.  What the angels are to his cosmic administration, the Israelites are to the earthly.  This idealized picture of Yahweh’s holy ones investing their energies in the divine agenda provides significant background for interpreting the blessings.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 790)

 

So What?:  Oh be careful little lips what you say!   Our tongue can bring forth life and death.  (Prv 18:21a)

 

It was words that spoke the universe into being.

 

For every word in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, (Hitler’s political ideology) 125 lives were lost in WWII.  (Warren Wiersby, Be Mature)

 

Unfortunately, the history of the nation is a history of frustration and failure.  Because Israel refused to trust Yahweh their God and spurned his protective grace, the reality of their history differed radically from the hope and the promise declared here.  In the end, the divine Warrior who first appeared to deliver them and to bring them to the Promised Land became their enemy.  The privileges of salvation, protection, well-being, and divine presence may not be taken for granted.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 802)

 

There is a danger that we may let the ecstasy resulting from the meeting of immediate needs overshadow the deep joy of salvation.  Sadly, the meeting of immediate needs is more attractive to people than the gift of eternal salvation.  This can result in churches making a marketing decision to give more prominence to less important things.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 690)

 

Climacus urged monks, “Once outside your cell, watch your tongue, for the fruits of many labors can be scattered in a moment.” (Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 273) . When we are burning with the desire to speak, we should pause and check the source of that fire.  “A man should know that a devil’s sickness is on him if he is seized by the urge in conversation to assert his opinion, however correct it may be.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 111)

 

We hear arrogant people proclaiming the present generation as the most intelligent in the history of mankind.  What nonsense!   This is a grievously ignorant age.  We cover ourselves with filth and pretend we are clean.  We murder the unborn by the millions and spend colossal sums of money trying to save a single infant from some devastating disease.  We treat morals as dung and filthy speech as if it were a world-class treasure.  We forbid the display of the law of God in public places and then groan because of the growing lack of morality.  We arrest a patriot for flying an oversized flag and make a national hero out of a profligate who burns the flag.  We teach and encourage our children to disregard the Ten Commandments and then pretend to be outraged against the evils that result.   We destroy the family and yet wish to be known as a caring society.  How long can we expect God to overlook our times of ignorance?    (Owen Roberts; Repentance, 215)

 

The greatest encouragement that believers have over unbelievers for positive change is where we choose to spend our money.  For the unbeliever, money talks!  If an unbeliever is supporting something our Christian world-view cannot accept as healthy, the most effective way to get them to rethink their position is if it costs them money.  Unbelievers care little about our Christian world-view.  But, when opposition to a Christian world-view costs them money, they pay attention and listen very carefully.  So when a company, an artist, a musician, a politician, a university, or an agency promotes a world-view that is against your convictions . . . I would highly encourage you to refuse to support that world-view by your not giving them your dollars.  And, in obverse fashion, if you see someone sticking their neck out and getting hurt for values you hold; I would like to suggest you do all you can so support them financially or by some other form of encouragement.   Let’s face it.  In a materialistic, pagan, naturalistic world . . .money talks!  —Pastor Keith

 

JESUS:

THE GREATEST

ENCOURAGEMENT

 

 

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