Meditation on Deuteronomy 26:4-10

 Dt 26:4-10

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God,
‘My father was a wandering Aramean
who went down to Egypt with a small household
and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation
great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,
imposing hard labor upon us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers,
and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence.”
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This passage from Deuteronomy has always been a favorite of mine for at least three reasons. First, these verses are about the providential nature of God.  God cares for us. God sees our suffering, abd ultimately God will provide for and save us in times of trouble. Time and again I have seen this in my own life and in the lives of others.  God does not promise us an easy life with no problems or trials, but God does promise to be with us through anything we face.
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The providential nature of God is even referred to in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Naval Treaty.  Here Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes comment on flowers.  He writes:
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“What a lovely thing a rose is.
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He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
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“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Naval Treaty
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Doyle makes the point that roses, while not necessary for our living, our extras provided by God to show he cares for us. Hand in hand with this observation is another by a preacher who states that everything we have is given to us by the providential hand of God.  Timothy Keller writes:
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“If you have money, power, and status today, it is due to the century and place in which you were born, to your talents and capacities and health, none of which you earned. In short, all your resources are in the end the gift of God.” 
― Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just
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A second reason for my loving this passage is it’s encouragement for us to give thanks for what God has given us.  If we examine our lives honestly, we will see that everything we have is from the hand of God, as Keller states above.  Therefore, we should from time to time, at the very least, show our gratitude by returning a portion of what God has given back to God.  Saying “Thank You” to God and cultivating an attitude of gratitude is necessary for God’s people so that we don’t develop an attitude that we are responsible for our own successes and well-being.  God is, and that is why thankfulness is a hallmark of all people who recognize that they children of the Eternal One.
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The danger of not being thankful is found in the following quote:
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“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” ― John Henry Jowett
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Finally. the third reason I love this passage is it’s acknowledgement that we are “wandering Arameans.”  We are not home yet.  Our home is ultimately with God, and we are, to quote an old folk song, “wayfaring strangers” until we find our home in the divine.  Another old gospel song, written by Jim Reeves, puts it this way:
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This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
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Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
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So there you have it.  Three reasons why this short passage is so meaningful to me.  I hope this reflection will help deepen your own appreciation of these verses as well.

Devotion – God Is No Fool by Lois Cheney

Back in the dark ages, the year 1985 to be exact, I had the privilege to serve as a Student Assistant Minister at The Wesley Foundation on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. The Campus Minister, the Rev. Mark Girard, had offered me the position so I could check out what he felt was my calling to ministry. Before the fall semester began, Mark and some of us student leaders went on a retreat to Lake Junaluska (the capital of Southern United Methodism) in western North Carolina. There, nestled in amongst the Smokey Mountains, we spent several days in prayer and planning for the upcoming year. And while there I came across a small devotional book by the Christian writer Lois Cheney (no relation to our former VP). One of my favorite devotions from the book also provides the text with its title. Cheney wrote:

They say that God has infinite patience,
and that is a great comfort.
They say God is always there,
and that is a deep satisfaction.
They say that God will always take you back,
and get lazy in that certainty.
They say that God never gives up,
and I count on that.
They say that you can go away for years and years,
and God will be there, waiting, when you come home.
They say you can make mistake after mistake,
and God will always forgive and forget.
They say lots of things,
these people who have never read the Old Testament.
There comes a time, a definite, for sure time,
when God turns around.
I don’t believe God shed his skin
when Christ brought in the New Testament;
Christ showed us a new side of God,
and it is truly wonderful.
But Christ didn’t change God.
God remains forever and ever
and that God
is
no
fool.

from God Is No Fool, Lois A. Cheney, Copyright 1969, Abingdon Books, pages 55-56


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Awhile back I emailed this to a friend, and since I had to type it up, I figured I might as well post it here as well.  I love this short devotion, as well as the book from which it is taken.  Both this devotion and the book (see below) never fail to convict me.

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Twenty-One

The ancient Hebrews were so tied by tradition they couldn’t recognize the Messiah when he was right there in front of them,
and he was crucified.

The disciples, who walked and worked with the Christ, were very afraid of him; they hoped, but they also doubted, and they ran that night,
and he was crucified.

The common people mobbed him, showed him their sicknesses and sores,and they threw down an aisle of palms for him and sang to him,
and he was crucified.

His family was embarrassed, and stood outside, and wished he’d come home,
and he was crucified.

Would we crucify Jesus today? It’s not a rhetorical question for the mind to play with.
I believe,
We are each born with a body, a mind, a soul, and a handful of nails.

I believe,
When a man dies, no one has ever found any nails left,
clutched in his hands
or stuffed in his pockets.

God is No Fool, Lois A. Cheney, Abingdon Press, 1969

God is No Fool
by Lois A. CheneyRead more about this title…