Deuteronomy 8-10

Deuteronomy 8-10…Remembering God and His grace, and the importance of heart change.

Chapters 8-10 in Deuteronomy outline the key components of the gospel. Israel did not have the full revelation of God’s plan of salvation that we have, but the call to turn to the Lord and away from their sins is the same. Here are the key components of the gospel laid out in this text.

1) The objective reality we see in these chapters is that the Lord is their God. Regardless of what we believe, this is true for us as well. He has authority as creator to require our obedience, as we’re living in His kingdom.

2) Israel rebelled and stubbornly refused to submit to His authority. We are the same, and according to Deuteronomy 8:19, we “forget the Lord and go after other gods and serve them and worship them.” The warning here is that we will “surely perish.” He’s not talking merely about a physical death, although that is a component of the result of our rebellion against a perfectly holy and perfectly just God. The main point is that there is eternal punishment for our souls because we do not love God and obey Him like we should.

3) But God, being rich in mercy and abundantly patient and gracious, provides a rescue plan. Israel didn’t yet fully understand how God would execute the promise made in Genesis 3:15, but some believed, and the righteousness of Christ was counted as their own. God makes it clear that the people did not have a righteousness of their own to offer, and that it was only because of His faithfulness and love that they could be saved (Deuteronomy 9:5):

“Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

4) The way for us to be made right with God is not by our own righteousness. This is true for us, and was true for Israel. We see this clearly in Deuteronomy 9:6:

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

The right response to knowing that we need a righteousness outside of ourselves, is to turn from our sins and believe God’s promise of salvation. Those saved in the Old Testament had faith in God, and He credited to them as righteousness. We can look back today and clearly see that this perfect righteousness came from God the Son, and is imputed to us if we repent and believe.

Exodus 14-16

Exodus 14-16…The Lord parts the Red Sea, the song of Moses and Miriam is sung, and the Lord sends manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert.

Three observations about these chapters:

1) God’s judgement is certain for those who disobey.

The Lord delivers the Israelites by parting the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptians. Just like the Egyptians, we have a certain, pending doom if we don’t repent and believe. This should motivate us to share the gospel with friends and family who do not believe. They will face an eternal judgement far worse being drown by the Red Sea. If we love them, we need to not only tell them with our words, but also show them with our actions, that there is great power in the gospel to redeem.

2) A right response to understanding His judgement involves being laid low before Him.

Notice the end of Exodus 14 (verses 30-31), which leads into a prayer of praise to God.

“That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”

If we’re to truly place our faith in the Lord, we must understand His power and wrath against our sin. The Israelites did, and in Chapter 15, Moses and Miriam lead the people in a song about how great and powerful He is. This is what turning to the Lord in authentic faith looks like. Being laid low, rightly grasping our nothingness, then proclaiming our desperate need for Him.

3) Like the Israelites, we grumble and complain because of our unbelief, yet God continues to extend us mercy.

Despite this initial burst of faith, the Israelites become lukewarm. They distrust the Lord’s goodness, and quickly forget His mercy and grace. Yet, He is faithful, slow to anger and abounding in love. He blesses them because of an intercessor; Moses communicates with the Lord on their behalf, which is a picture of what Christ does for us. Moses was interceding on a micro level in Exodus 16, whereas Christ intercedes in the most important way possible. His perfect life is what the Lord sees when He looks upon us.

Genesis 42-44

Genesis 42-44…Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt, they return home and then go back to Egypt, and Joseph plants a silver cup on Benjamin.

Joseph was hard on his brothers, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had treated him harshly as well, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes can seem similarly harsh with those he loves, and can bring about difficulties for His children.

Joseph decided that one of them should stay, and the rest go home and bring Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, “I fear God.” This assured them he would do them no harm. With those that fear God, we can expect to be treated respectfully. We should examine ourselves to be sure that we do fear God. To be clear, this is not the kind of fear a prisoner has for his tormentor, but rather, the fear that a child has for his father. This fear involves respect and love, and deep desire to please. It can be implied from Genesis 42, that treating others disrespectfully shows we do not fear God.

In Genesis 43, Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt. They show great respect to Joseph, and his previous dreams were fulfilled more and more. Joseph showed great kindness to them in return, and this is another example of a Christ-type in the Old Testament. Joseph was a sinner, and is not our savior, but the Lord uses examples like him as well as Noah and Moses and David as a picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph makes his brothers see that he is their only refuge from destruction. He overcomes their unwillingness, and brings them to himself. Then, as he sees fit, he gives them some taste of his love, and welcomes them to the provisions of his house, as a preview of what he further intends for them. Christ does the same with us.

Though all of the brothers show repentance for the way they had treated Joseph when they kneel before him (Genesis 44:14), it is Judah who stands out as the godliest of them all. Only the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit can explain such a transformation in Judah’s life. It may have taken years to get him to this point, but the Spirit’s sanctifying work, seen in its beginning stages when Tamar convicted Judah of his selfishness (38:1–26), shows its profound results in the face of danger in Egypt. Having been humbled and put in place by Tamar, Judah now willingly puts himself last, revealing a self-sacrificing love that will give up everything so that his father, who might never love him as he does Benjamin, will not grieve. Truly, as Matthew Henry writes, Judah surpasses all his brothers “in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family.”

Genesis 39-41

Genesis 39-41…Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker meet Joseph in prison, and Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and is put in charge of Egypt.

Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, and was taken down to Egypt. Genesis 39-41 is a remarkable part of God’s history as He continues to use the most unlikely circumstances to bring about His glory. In these chapters, we can observe three things Joseph did which demonstrate his love for the Lord.

1) He trusted God’s sovereignty. If anyone had reason to grumble and complain about unfair circumstances, it was Joseph. Clearly God had given him a miraculous ability to interpret dreams, but on the surface it seemed that this gift only resulted in trouble. Later, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph explains what God was doing when he tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s trust in the Lord’s goodness was not shaken one bit. Our Father in heaven loves us and disciplines those He loves, so we need to trust His plan, even if we don’t understand it. He will undoubtedly bring us trials in this life.

2) He remained faithful. Joseph was put in a very difficult circumstance with Potiphar’s wife. She tried to seduce him, but he resisted. Notice the way in which he avoided sin in Genesis 39:10; “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.” This is the kind of vigilant faith Jesus described in Mark 9:47 when He talks about pursuing holiness. He says, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Joseph was wise enough to know that it wasn’t enough to simply avoid sleeping with her. His faith was big enough and his love for God passionate enough, that he decided he could only remain pure by avoiding her altogether. A helpful example of how we should approach similar situations.

3) Joseph sought to change his circumstances. A common misconception of reformed theology, especially by those who are not reformed, is that it removes free will and human responsibility from the equation. However, this would be hypercalvinism, which is wrong. Any teaching that assumes we must sit back and let God do whatever He is going to do because we have not control over anything is false. The scriptures are full of imperative commands, as well as examples of saints throughout history who took action. Joseph certainly understood God’s hand in his difficult circumstances, but he aggressively tries to change them to better himself. In Genesis 40:15, when he interprets the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer in prison, he says, “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” The story of Joseph is a great example of both God’s sovereign hand orchestrating events, as well as man’s responsibility to act, and his freedom in doing so. This is difficult to grasp in our finite humans minds, but God is 100% sovereign and man 100% responsible. This is true throughout scripture, and therefore is to be believed.

Genesis 36-38

Genesis 36-38..The genealogy of Esau, Joseph’s dream, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, and the sin of Judah and Tamar.

The genealogy in chapter 36 shows the faithfulness of God to his promise to Abraham. Esau continued the lineage of a people who would be opposed to heavenly things. His family had many possessions, and were influential to all those around. Chiefs and kings from Esau’s line ruled. In outward prosperity and popularity, the children of the God are often behind, and those that are attractive to the world are loved. This is a trial that all of God’s people will face if they are faithful. Jesus told us this:

John 15:18-20

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”

In Genesis 37, Joseph dreams that his family will bow down to him, and then out of jealousy, his brothers sell him into slavery. The Genesis narrative consistently teaches us that sin against others is never isolated. When we commit one sin, we try to conceal it with another. In order to hide actions which are opposed to God, humans throughout history have turned to lying. For the Christian, this is insanity, because God knows everything. There is great freedom when we repent and place our faith in Christ, but hiding sins will only result in shame and more sin. Therefore, we should confess our sins to one another, as we’re told in scripture (James 5:16). If we’re keeping our sins hidden, it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel. We aren’t saved by our own righteousness, and a recognition of our desperate need for Christ is a fundamental first step in a right understanding of God’s rescue plan for us.

Genesis 38 is a beautiful chapter, despite Judah’s sin. On the surface, one could read this chapter, and pridefully boast that our conduct is better. But, if we’ve been saved, this is exactly what we’ve been rescued from. While the behavior of Judah and his family is disgusting, the story demonstrates God’s grace to sinners. It is truly amazing, that of all Jacob’s sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah (Hebrews 7:14). But, this is just like God, to redeem and restore the most unlikely, in order to make His glory known. This is what we see in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

Genesis 33-35

Genesis 33-35…Jacob meets Esau, Dinah encounters the Shechemites, and Jacob returns to Bethel.

Jacob was no doubt afraid of what would happen when he met Esau’s 400 men. But, he prayed, preparing his heart and mind to trust God, then went on his way. There is nothing to fear for the one whose heart is fixed on trusting God. For the believer, death has already lost it’s sting. When Jacob came face to face with this massive group, he bowed to Esau. A humble, submissive behavior can often turn away anger. Esau embraced Jacob. God has the hearts of all men in his hands, and can turn them when and how he pleases. Jacob’s wisdom in praying beforehand serves as a model for us in trusting God, and calling upon Him in the day of trouble. Being constant in prayer shows spiritual maturity, and an understanding that we need God.

In Genesis 34, we see an example of how exercising wisdom even in the small, daily things can be prudent. The young Dinah goes alone out to visit the women of the land, which proves to be a foolish decision. Prayer in even the seemingly small, menial decisions each day is important. God wants this from us, because He loves when we depend on His guidance. Dinah is taken advantage of, which leads to vengeful murder in response, by Simeon and Levi. Our sin rarely stays contained to our own circumstances, and often impacts others. We should pray for wisdom in all decisions, and seek counsel from those in authority over us. For children this involves asking parents. For adults, this involves transparency with the elders in your church.

God renews His covenant with Jacob in Genesis 35. He says, “I am God Almighty.” God is all-sufficient, able to fulfill all His promises in due time, and to support and provide for us in the meantime. Two things are promised here: 1) that he should be the father of a great nation, and 2) that he should inherit a good land.

These two promises had spiritual significance, which Jacob had some notion of (Genesis 3:15), though not as clear and distinct as we now have. Christ is the promised Seed, and heaven is the promised land. Christ is the foundation of all God’s grace toward us, and He is all we need.

Genesis 30-32

Genesis 30-32…Rachel’s envy results in a tangled web of sin; then Jacob flees from Laban, prepares to meet Esau, and wrestles with God.

Rachel envied her sister. Envy is despising the good of another, which is hateful to God, and hurtful to our neighbors and ourselves. It also shows that we don’t trust God’s provision for our own lives. Envy leads Rachel to disobey God, and her selfishness and unbelief lead others to sin. Our culture tells us to take what we want in order to ensure our happiness. As we see in Genesis 30, this approach creates a mess, and the temporary happiness wears off very quickly for Rachel. Most importantly, she had offended God, and this is crucial for us to grasp. Repentance from sin does not mean sorrow over the circumstances created by the sin. Repentance includes a recognition that we’ve offended the holy God of the universe, and involves turning away from that sin to Him.

Disagreement over money leads Jacob to move away from Laban’s family in Genesis 31. The foolish consider money and possessions to be their own, and greed can often destroy families. Our over-valuing worldly wealth is an error which is the root of greed and envy. The bible tells us that our money and possessions belong to God, though. Haggai 2:8 says, “All silver and gold belong to me, says the Lord God.” This truth does not fit with the popular, prosperity gospel, which claims that accumulation of wealth demonstrates our faith. This is false, destructive, and does not align with scripture, nor does it consider for one second the life of Christ.

In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with God. Nothing requires more unceasing exertion than wrestling. This is an image in scripture for prayer as well (Colossians 4:12). It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground, though the struggle was long. This length of the struggle did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. If we are to grow spiritually, we need to wrestle in prayer in this way. Praying takes effort, and is a spiritual discipline everyone Christian should want.

Genesis 27-29

Genesis 27-29…Jacob and Rebekah deceive Isaac, Jacob has a dream, then goes to Paddam Aram (Northern Syria) and marries both Rachel and Leah.

Rebekah knew that Isaac’s blessing was intended for Jacob, and expected he would have it. But, she wronged Isaac by working to deceive him; she wronged Jacob by tempting him to sin. She put a stumbling-block in Esau’s way, and gave him a pretext for hatred toward Jacob and God. All were to be blamed. It was one of those crooked measures we often adopt when we don’t trust God. Since the fall of man, we’ve always been a people lacking trust in God. Even though we know the truth about Him, we choose to not believe and trust.

In Genesis 28, Jacob’s famous dream occurs (Jacob’s ladder as it’s well-known). Jacob saw a ladder which reached from earth to heaven, the angels going up and coming down, and God himself at the head of it. This represents:

1. The providence of God, by which there is a constant interaction, kept up between heaven and earth. This let Jacob know that he had both a good guide and a good guard.

2. The mediation of Christ. He is this ladder; the foot on earth in his human nature, the top in heaven in his Divine nature. Christ is the only way for this relational interaction to occur, and all God’s spiritual favors come to us, and all our services go to him, by Christ, John 1:51. By this way, sinners draw near to the throne of grace with acceptance. By faith we perceive this way, and in prayer we approach it. In answer to prayer we receive all needful blessings of providence and grace. We have no way of getting to heaven but by Christ.

Jacob was drawn into the sin of multiple wives in Genesis 29. He could not refuse Rachel, for he had espoused her; still less could he refuse Leah. As yet there was no express command against marrying more than one wife. It was in the patriarchs a sin of ignorance. Today, God’s will is plainly made known by the Divine law, Leviticus 18:18, and more fully since, by our Savior, that one man and woman only must be joined together, 1 Corinthians 7:2.

Genesis 21-23

Genesis 21-23…Isaac is born, Ishmael and Hagar are sent away, Abraham is tested, and Sarah dies.

It is just like God, to use the most unlikely circumstances for His glory. He would take stiff-necked people, with fluctuating faith like Abraham and Sarah, and bring about something so miraculous in their lives that they would grow in their trust in Him. Isaac is born, and is the son of a couple who are too old to have children. He is the promised seed, but there would be one to come in his lineage, who would ultimately save sinners. Christ would also be born into circumstances which would seem strange and unlikely from a human perspective.

Upon Isaac’s birth, Ishmael was jealous, and mocked him. Sarah requests that Hagar and Ishmael leave, and God agrees. God, however, did not abandon Hagar and her child. They were stranded in the desert of Beersheba, dying from thirst. An angel of the Lord came to Hagar, showed her a well, and they were saved. Hagar later found an Egyptian wife for Ishmael and he fathered 12 sons, just as Isaac’s son Jacob would. Two generations later, God used the descendants of Ishmael to save the Jewish nation. Isaac’s grandsons sold their brother Joseph into slavery to Ishmaelite traders. They took Joseph to Egypt and sold him again. Joseph eventually rose to become second in command of the entire country and saved his father and brothers during a great famine. This is a great example of how God can use anyone, and can save anyone. There is no one out of the reach of the Lord. Isaiah 59:1 confirms this truth: Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. We need to keep praying for those in our lives who are lost. If God saved you, He can save them.

Genesis 22 is a demonstration of how much Abraham had matured in his faith. God requests that he sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham obeys. The Lord is testing him to see if he really trusts Him. In Genesis 22:8, Abraham says, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” God does provide the sacrifice, and Isaac is spared. This is also a foreshadowing of God’s love for us. He was willing to give up His own Son, whom He loved, and sacrificed Him for our sake.

Sarah dies in Genesis 23. The longest life must shortly come to a close. How loose then should we hold on to all earthly attachments? Let us seek rather to store up treasures in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Genesis 18-20

Genesis 18-20…God sends three visitors to Abraham, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, but spares Lot and his family, and Abraham and Abimelech encounter God’s character.

The Lord has been faithful and merciful to Abraham despite his rebellion and foolishness. He sends three visitors to let Abraham and Sarah know once again that they will have a son, as promised. Sarah laughs at this notion, then lies about her unbelief. The question posed by the Lord here is very encouraging. In Genesis 18:14, He says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Of course, the answer is no, nothing; but, the question is asked to remind Sarah that God doesn’t operate under the same limitations as us.

Despite Abraham’s pattern of sin, he seems to be growing in faith, slowly but surely. God’s patience is amazing, and as we see the ebbing and flowing of Abraham’s obedience, we should recognize that we’re no different. He asks the Lord to spare Lot and his family, and God does so, destroying all of the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah. The messiness of Abraham’s faith is just like ours. We cannot perfectly believe, and we sin daily. Our hearts are lukewarm far too often, and we fail to grasp the seriousness of our sin against a holy God. But God is faithful, and He is maturing us spiritually, using trials and tribulations to sanctify us. If we pursue Him, He will grow us, but we have to fight, and treat each day as a spiritual battle. Sanctification does not come easily, and if we are not consuming His word regularly, praying consistently, and engaging in intimate fellowship with the brothers and sisters in our church, we won’t grow. This is important for our assurance of salvation, because if we’re not being sanctified, then we may not be saved.

In Genesis 20, Abraham once again shows that his faith is weak, and he doesn’t trust God to protect him. He lies to King Abimelech, thinking that he can protect himself through deception. These things are written for our warning, not for us to imitate. This shows us that even Abraham needed a savior. He cannot be justified by his works, but must be indebted for justification, to the righteousness which can only come through Christ.

Romans 4:22-25 is specifically about how Abraham was saved in the same way we are:

22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ 23 The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.