In our last reading, we spoke of the Passover, also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The two festivals in today’s reading are also still celebrated today, although there are different names associated with them, too. I’m impressed that these traditions have stood the test of time and people are still serious about honoring God during the festival times. Jewish people take their religion very seriously and are careful to keep the ancient traditions alive.
As Christians, we will soon be celebrating the season of Pentecost in our churches. While this is another name for the Festival of Weeks, in Jewish circles it is now called Shauvot. You may recall, for us, this is when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples after Jesus had ascended. There were a lot of people filling the town of Jerusalem. They were all gathering and bringing their offerings, their “first fruits,” to God for the Festival of Weeks. Fun fact, of the thousands of people who came to the Lord that day were also the “first fruits” of the believers yet to come.
This was an interesting passage for me. I am aware of how we tithe today. That is, setting aside 10% of our income to give it to the Lord. Since we don’t have grain or herds or such, that is how we show our faithfulness. Giving back to God a portion of what is already his is how I understand tithing works.
Why do we tithe? Moses would say, “doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” For me, it’s also a way of honoring God and giving thanks for his provision. Having a mindset of gratefulness and showing that by giving back is such a joyful practice. Even when I have had little to give, there was a joy or peace in sharing.
There are a couple great nuggets for us in today’s reading. But the bottom line is we don’t want to forget God, ever. I can’t say that I’ve ever “forgotten” him, but there are periods in my life when I wasn’t connected and focusing on him like I am today. There were times that I felt like he had forgotten me.
Perhaps we can see what happens when we stop relying on God. Remember the manna? The people were hungry. They were humbled by a circumstance. Who came through for them? God. He will be there for us, too. Do you feel like you are a state of being humbled by some circumstance? Are you letting it cripple you? Or do you see how God is your answer? Let him use this as a teachable moment to help you grow.
There have been many things in our lives that we want to forget, particularly bad experiences, hurts, and abuses. But we should always hold dear those memories we have of learning about God, witnessing God in action, and hearing God’s voice. Moses has spent the first 3 chapters of Deuteronomy walking his audience (and now us) down memory lane. As his sermon to the Israelites continues. He is cautioning them in preparation for their new life.
Moses reminds the people of what they have witnessed. I wouldn’t think it would be easy to forget, yet new generations are born and need to be told. Traditions and beliefs have been passed down over the ages. Moses sets it up beautifully by saying, “Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him?” Don’t we all want to look wise. Shouldn’t we all want God to get the credit?
If you haven’t already looked at a map of the Palestine region, today may be the time. There is a map in my study Bible that actually shows the wanderings in the wilderness. Moses and the people are now on the east side of the Jordan River involved in the land conquests we’re reading about.
Today we hear of another battle much like that yesterday. God was with the people, and they destroyed another kingdom. The land and possessions of the fallen ones are now the property of the Israelites, just as God had intended, as if God said, “Here you go!” What thoughts go through your mind as you read of these battles and all the brutal killing? For me, I struggle with God sparing one life at the loss of another. If God created us all, how can he wipe out a whole kingdom to open up a way for others? That was some promise! Does God play favorites? How do I make sure I’m one of them?