Russell and Duenes

Archive for September 2014

That It Might Go Well

leave a comment »

“Honor your father and mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. . . Oh that they had a heart as this always, to fear Me and to keep all My commandments, that it might go well with them and their descendants forever . . . You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you.”  ~ Deut. 5:16, 29, 33

Why does God command us to reserve sexual intercourse for marriage between one man and one woman? Why command such a “narrow” or “limited” application of our sexual desires? So that “it may go well with us.” Why does He command us to refrain from vengeance and instead love and pray for our enemies? Particularly when our enemies are literally slaughtering us? “That it may go well with you.” Why does God counsel against greed and envy, against love of money and the hunger for it? Why command that our every word should be intended to build others up, when we’d really like to verbally let them have it? “So that it may go well with you.”

Indeed, God’s every command – whether we think it hard or easy, tough or tender, stern or kind – is designed toward one end: our good and God’s glory. As Jonathan Edwards has said, “God’s respect to the creature’s good, and his respect to himself, is not a divided respect; but both are united in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself.” (The End for Which God Created the World). God is infinitely wise and gracious, and seeing as He created us, He knows what’s best for us. His commands are like a doctor’s prescription, to borrow an analogy from Daniel Fuller.

I suppose God could have been the kind of god who commands just because he’s on a power trip, or conversely, who issues no commands, like some kind of absentee parent who will  let his young children “decide on their own what they’ll believe.” But He’s not. He commands because He “delights in the welfare of His servant.” (Ps. 35:27). He commands because He yearns for our happiness and joy. He made us for infinite delight. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Lord, give us hearts to fear You and to be careful to keep all Your commandments, so that it might go well with us. Amen.

-D

Advertisements

Written by Michael Duenes

September 29, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

To Take a Nation for Himself

leave a comment »

“But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today…Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” ~ Deut. 4:20, 32-34

God considers Himself unique at just this point (though there are other uniquenesses, of course), namely, that He willingly, out of love, called a particular people out to be His own. That is, He chose the Israelites to be a special people upon whom and in behalf of whom He would bestow His great power, compassion, wisdom and love. They would receive all of the benefits and resources that flow from knowing a sovereign and almighty, personal God. God indeed owns them, and this is a good thing, not an oppressive tyranny, as modern libertarians might conceive of it.

As people owned by God, unspeakable benefits have come, and will come, to them. God delivers them from evildoers, works miracles for them, gives them their own homeland, hears them and answers whenever they call on Him, makes a covenant with them to never forsake them, sets His unfailing love upon them, and gives them laws and rules which lead to wisdom and understanding. They must never forget these benefits by wandering off to follow other false gods, for there are no other gods. They are only safe with Him.

St. Peter tells us, as Christians today, that we are God’s “chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9). As such, we are to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” and “keep [our] behavior excellent among the Gentiles.”

It may help us to remember that we are “possessed” by God. It may thrill our hearts and minds to think of ourselves as belonging to Him in a special way, at His behest, ultimately, and not ours. If we do, we may remember that He has given us good commands and has delivered our souls from death and damnation, so that He might marshal all of His love, power, mercy and provision on our behalf. Our allegiance to Him is precious. Let us, therefore, not push Him aside and wander afar from Him. Help us to remember and obey, O Lord.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

September 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

We Destroyed the Men, Women and Children Alike

leave a comment »

“[T]he Lord told me, ‘Do not be afraid of [Og], for I have given you victory over Og and his entire army, and I will give you all his land…So the Lord our God handed King Og and all his people over to us, and we killed them all. Not a single person survived…Not a single town escaped our conquest…We completely destroyed the kingdom of Bashan, just as we had destroyed King Sihon of Heshbon. We destroyed all the people in every town we conquered—men, women, and children alike.” ~ Deut. 3:2-4, 6.

This is the kind of Old Testament text at which we modern Christians recoil. It seems to smack much of the Allah of fevered Muslim extremist imagination, and we are loathe to be lumped in his devotees. If we can distance ourselves from the above image of God by invoking the mild-mannered Jesus, so much the better. Yet Jesus Himself was at pains to tell us that He and God the Father are one, and that if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father. The words above from Deuteronomy are spiritual words from the heart and mouth of Jesus himself.

Of course, God’s program in our world has changed in its current expression and call, but God’s character has not. The same God is coming again, as the creed says, “to judge the living and the dead.”

It’s hard to reckon the God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” as the God who hands over even the women and children of Bashan to be destroyed. But this is not some capricious anger that arose in a moment. By the time we get to Deuteronomy, God has already killed everyone on earth save Noah and his family. He has rained fire on the Sodomites and Gomorrahites. He sent plague after plague upon the Egyptians, ultimately slaying the firstborn in every Egyptian home. And such deeds were not reserved only for non-Israelites. God opened up the ground and swallowed Korah and his minions alive, along with their wives and children, to give just one example. As C.S. Lewis made sure to remind us: The lion Aslan is not safe (though He’s good).

Our command in the New Testament, under Jesus, is to “persuade” others of their need of God’s saving work. We are to “disciple the nations” in love, by proclamation of the gospel and good deeds done in Jesus’ name and power. Yet we ought to carry out this Commission strong in the knowledge that we go in the name of a God who is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” in the name of the Jesus from whose “mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations,” and who “will rule them with a rod of iron” and “tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Rev. 19:15). Father, let us not run afoul of you. May your character put a proper fear in us, so that, like the Israelites, we may be careful to obey your commands and keep your statutes, for our good and the good of our fellow man. 

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

September 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

He Has Known Your Wanderings

leave a comment »

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”’ ~ Deut. 2:7

Imagine wandering around Phoenix for 40 years, except without the civilization. Imagine, too, having no way to get new clothes or shoes or any other physical necessity. You and your people are nomads, stopping at various desert camp sites for who knows how long, and then starting out again on a moment’s notice. I can’t fathom wandering around an urban area with moderate climates for 40 years, much less in a barren and blisteringly hot wasteland.

It’s really easy to romanticize the Israelites’ “wilderness wandering,” but if you concentrate your mind on the actual conditions in a middle eastern desert in the 14th century, B.C., you begin to grasp the oppressive nature of their situation. Have you ever tried to simply take a walk around your neighborhood on an especially hot day? You get the picture.

Yet here is God, reminding His people that they “have not lacked a thing.” Nothing. Everything they’ve needed in their 40 years of desert heat has come freely from God’s hand, at just the right time.  This had to include all of the nitty-gritty things that make up everyday life: their food, water, clothes, shoes and animals. It’s an astounding claim when you ponder it.

What stands out most, however, is the simple fact that, in the midst of some of harshest conditions on the planet, God knew His people’s “wanderings through this great wilderness.” He had been with them each moment, guiding and bearing them along. To have God was to have everything. The Lord knows our modern wanderings, too. He is with us in our exile here on earth. We lack nothing under His care. As the psalmist tells us: “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Ps. 34:10). O Lord, may we rest in this even in our most barren and forbidding circumstances.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

September 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

The Lord Hates Us

leave a comment »

“Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.” ~ Deut. 1:27.

So said the Israelites in the burning desert when confronted with walled cities and giant men occupying the land they were told to go in and possess. I am not so different from them. I have known this sentiment in my heart. I, too, have voiced it in not so many words (sometimes in worse words). I shudder sometimes when I think about it.

Moses tries to tell the people that God will surely vanquish them against their foes, just as he did when they came out of Egypt. He will carry them just as he carried them in this desert, “as a man carries his son.” But to no avail. They were unmoved. As Daniel Fuller says, they gave God a vote of “no confidence.”

It’s interesting, in saying that it is the Lord who hates them, the Israelites at least recognize that the prime actor, the sovereign of their circumstances, the one controlling it all is the Lord, and not some other force or being. They aren’t railing against the devil or wicked spiritual beings bent on their destruction. No, they reckon this sovereign God as one who despises them; it is he who holds them in contempt, who hates them, to the point of bringing them into this miserable desert only to slay them and their children. And it’s not disappointment they express, but defiance. It betrays the heart of a person who not only believes that God hates him, but worse, who also finds God himself hateful and contemptuous, as though he never did anything good for him and has determined to make a hash of his life.

God’s response to it, when they later wept before him, was to shut his ears to them. No wonder the apostle Paul warns us to learn from their example, lest we “crave evil things as they also craved.” (1 Cor. 10:6). O Lord, that we would have hearts confident that you go before us on our way. (Deut. 1:32).

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

September 25, 2014 at 8:22 pm