Deuteronomy Helps: Peterson and Maps

Several have remarked how helpful these are in your reading.  So, continuing on with Eugene Peterson and The Message, we embark upon Deuteronomy.  Peterson’s excellent introduction is bellow.  Following that, there are three different maps that show where exactly the Hebrew wandered.
Prayers for understanding and patience as you reading,
Deuteronomy is a sermon – actually a series of sermons.  It is the longest sermon in the Bible and maybe the longest sermon ever.  Deuteronomy presents Moses, standing on the plains of Moab with all Israel assembled before him, preaching.  It is his last sermon.  When he completes it, he will leave his pulpit on the plains, climb a mountain, and die.
The setting is stirring and emotion-packed.  Moses had entered the biblical story of salvation as a little baby born in Egypt under a death threat.  Now, 120 years later, eyesight sharp as ever and walking with “a spring in his step,” he preaches this immense sermon and dies, still brimming with words and life.
This sermon does what all sermons are intended to do:  Take God’s words, written and spoken in the past, take the human experience, ancestral and personal, of the listening congregation, then reproduce the words and experiences as a single event right now, in this present moment.  No word that God has spoken is a mere literary artifact to be studied; no human experience is dead history merely to be regretted or admired.  The continuous and insistent Mosaic repetitions of “today” and “this day” throughout these sermons keep attentions taut and responsive.  The complete range of human experience is brought to life and salvation by the full revelation of God:  Live this!  Now!
The Plains of Moab are the last stop on the forty-year journey from Egyptian slavery to Promised Land freedom.  The People of Israel have experienced a lot as a congregation:  deliverance, wanderings, rebellions, wars, providence, worship, guidance.  The People of Israel have heard a lot from God:  commandments, covenant conditions, sacrificial procedures.  And now, poised at the River Jordan, ready to cross over and possess the new land, Moses preaching his great Plains of Moab sermon, makes sure that they don’t leave any of it behind, not so much as one detail of their experience or God’s revelation:  He puts their entire experience of salvation and providence into the present tense (chapters 1-11); he puts the entire revelation of commandment and covenant into the present tense (chapters 12-28); and then he wraps it all up in a charge and a song and a blessing to launch them into today’s obedience and believing (chapters 29-34).
“Let’s go.”

Numbers: Eugene Peterson

Bible in 90 Days: As I barrel toward Deuteronomy in my reading, I’m working through Numbers.  Here is Eugene Peterson’s introduction to Numbers from The Message:

Becoming a truly human community is a long, complex, messy business. Simply growing up as a man or woman demands all the wisdom and patience and courage that we can muster. But growing up with others, parents and siblings and neighbors, to say nothing of odd strangers and mean enemies, immensely complicates the growing up.

The book of Numbers plunges us into the mess of growing up. The pages in this section of the biblical story give us a realistic feel for what is involved in being included in the people of God, which is to say, a human community that honors God, lives out love and justice in daily affairs, learns how to deal with sin in oneself and others, and follows God’s commands into a future of blessing. And all this without illusions.

Many of us fondle a romanticized spirituality in our imaginations. The “God’s in his heaven/all’s right with the world” sort of thing. When things don’t go “right” we blame others or ourselves, muddle through as best we can, often with considerable crankiness, and wish that we had been born at a different time—”Bible times” maybe!—when living a holy life was so much easier. That’s odd because the Bible, our primary text for showing us what it means to be a human being created by God and called to a life of obedient faith and sacrificial love, nowhere suggests that life is simple or even “natural.” We need a lot of help.

We need organizational help. When people live together in community, jobs have to be assigned, leaders appointed, inventories kept. Counting and list-making and rosters are as much a part of being a community of God as prayer and instruction and justice. Accurate arithmetic is an aspect of becoming a people of God.

And we need relational help. The people who find themselves called and led and commanded by God find themselves in the company of men and women who sin a lot— quarrel, bicker, grumble, rebel, fornicate, steal—you name it, we do it. We need help in getting along with each other. Wise discipline is required in becoming a people of God.

It follows that counting and quarreling take up considerable space in the book of Numbers. Because they also continue to be unavoidable aspects of our becoming the people of God, this book is essential in training our imaginations to take in some of these less-than-romantic details by which we are formed into the people of God.

The Message: Reading Leviticus

Leviticus is difficult to read.  However, I found that if I begin my reading with the introduction from THE MESSAGE BIBLE, things go a bit easier.  Here is the introduction to the book of Leviticus:

One of the stubbornly enduring habits of the human race is to insist on domesticating God. We are determined to tame him. We figure out ways to harness God to our projects. We try to reduce God to a size that conveniently fits our plans and ambitions and tastes.

But our Scriptures are even more stubborn in telling us that we can’t do it. God cannot be fit into our plans, we must fit into his. We can’t use God—God is not a tool or appliance or credit card.

“Holy” is the word that sets God apart and above our attempts to enlist him in our wish-fulfillment fantasies or our utopian schemes for making our mark in the world. Holy means that God is alive on God’s terms, alive in a way that exceeds our experience and imagination. Holy refers to life burning with an intense purity that transforms everything it touches into itself.

Because the core of all living is God, and God is a holy God, we require much teaching and long training for living in response to God as he is and not as we want him to be. The book of Leviticus is a narrative pause in the story of our ancestors as they are on their way, saved out of Egypt, to settle in the land of Canaan. It is a kind of extended time-out of instruction, a detailed and meticulous preparation for living “holy” in a culture that doesn’t have the faintest idea what “holy” is. The moment these people enter Canaan they will be picking their way through a lethal minefield of gods and goddesses that are designed to appeal to our god-fantasies: “Give us what we want when we want it on our own terms.” What these god-fantasies in fact do is cripple or kill us. Leviticus is a start at the “much teaching and long training” that continues to be adapted and reworked in every country and culture where God is forming a saved people to live as he created them to live—holy as God is holy.

The first thing that strikes us as we read Leviticus in this light is that this holy God is actually present with us and virtually every detail of our lives is affected by the presence of this holy God; nothing in us, our relationships, or environment is left out. The second thing is that God provides a way (the sacrifices and feasts and Sabbaths) to bring everything in and about us into his holy presence, transformed in the fiery blaze of the holy. It is an awesome thing to come into his presence and we, like ancient Israel, stand in his presence at every moment (Psalm 139). Our Lord is not dwelling in a tent or house in our neighborhood. But he makes his habitation in us and among us as believers and says, “I am holy; you be holy” (1 Peter 1:16, citing Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7).Once we realize this, the seemingly endless details and instructions of Leviticus become signposts of good news to us: God cares that much about the details of our lives, willing everything in and about us into the transformation that St. Paul later commended:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2)

The Message Bible

Eugene H. Peterson



I’m updating the blog via iPhone tonight.

As I plow through Leviticus, I’m pondering the old saying. You’ve probably heard it – the Old Testament is law and the New Testament is love. Tough to think otherwise about that statement when you are in the midst of Leviticus. So, I’m reading now searching for the love in Leviticus. Why? I’m of the belief that the book is teaching the Hebrew people how to be holy in the wilderness.

As said in Exodus, “they are a stff-necked people.” So, how and why does a God love these people who constantly turn away from him?

I think I’ll read on and fund out why. After all, that will tell me why he continues to love me when I turn away from him. My neck doesn’t move that easy most days.

Have you found it there . . . love in Leviticus? Are you hopeful?

Completed the First Bible in 90 Days

We had 11 people begin with us for our first Bible in 90 Days blog.  They were able to contribute from the comfort of their own home.  We were a little shaky at the beginning but I think we got going.

Post below any things that you weren’t able to express tonight.


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