Saturday, November 2, 2013

From the Heart

            I am part of a Bible study group on Facebook called Digging Deep in God’s Word. This year’s theme is Knowing God, and each month has a different “sub-theme” or “main idea” to study (for instance, September’s theme was “The Father Preserves and Protects His Household.”). Discussions and monthly podcast are led by Cindy Colley, and she posts instructions each month to guide the study. There are study suggestions and objectives, but the whole idea is to encourage ladies to search out Scripture for themselves and learn how to do deeper, more meaningful personal Bible study on their own.

I have been amazed at how much more in-depth, self-guided study I have begun to do since following along with this group. It truly has been a blessing and just the boost I needed to grow my Bible study habits. In light of that, at the end of each month I would like to post a summary of the things I have learned and hopefully encourage some of you to dive into God’s Word more as well.

Perhaps I’ll catch up someday and post a review of September’s study but, for now, here are a few things I learned this last month. October’s theme was “The Father Instructs and Warns His Children.” The main passages of study were Deuteronomy chapters 4-18, Psalm 51, Psalm 119, and the entire book of Proverbs. In each passage we were to underline or make note of each time the word “heart” was used. This simple exercise revealed some humbling lessons.

1)      God has always been concerned first and foremost with the condition of your heart. Sometimes when we look at the Old Testament, we think of all the sacrifices they had to make and the rituals they had to follow in order to remain clean and we forget that God made these physical laws so that Israel would have pure and clean hearts and remain undefiled by the nations around them. That is what He has always desired and demanded of His people. When Moses gave his speech in Deuteronomy 4-18 and reminded the people that they had been delivered from Egyptian bondage, he repeatedly warned them that they must follow God from the heart, lest they be drawn back into slavery to serve other gods. The word “heart” is mentioned 26 times in Deuteronomy 4-18, 3 times in Psalm 51, 15 times in Psalm 119, and a whopping 74 times in the book of Proverbs. These are passages that emphasize following God’s Law, and it is fascinating that following God’s Law is so often spoken of in conjunction with having a proper attitude in your heart. You cannot fulfill the Law without loving Him from a pure heart.

2)      Deuteronomy 4-18 focuses not only on following God’s law with a clean heart but on carefully following His commands. I noticed right away that the following phrases occur over and over in these chapters:

“Take care…”
“Be careful to do…”
“Be sure…”
“Strictly obey…”
“Inquire diligently…”

It takes careful diligence to study and know the ways of the Lord. He demands wholehearted obedience of His every command. In order to know those commands, we must take care to know the letter of His law under the New Covenant. No half-hearted, lazy followers of Christ who will bend His Words to suit their personal preference. We must STRICTLY follow each instruction He has given us.

3)      Moses’ speech in Deuteronomy (chapters 4-11) is similar to Joshua’s speech in Joshua chapter 24 – inspiring and encouraging. I never noticed before how motivational the first part of Moses’ speech is in these chapters. Just as Joshua later tells the Israelites to, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve,” Moses here warns them to remember from where they came and to hold tight to God’s promises. These chapters are filled with both warnings to flee from evil, encouragement to love God from a pure heart, and promises of God’s faithfulness and blessings if they honor Him.

4)      The LORD is the One Who decides where and how He will be worshipped. Multiple times in Deuteronomy 14 it mentions that they are to worship God, “In the place that He will choose” (Deuteronomy 14:23). God has specific requirements for how He wants to be worshipped and we must study diligently in order to know His desires.

5)      And lastly, I was reminded of a favorite passage:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

It is not because of our might, or because of how perfectly we can serve God, that He chose to deliver us. He chose to redeem us and bring us out of the bondage of sin because He loves us and because He promised to save those who will turn to Him. He will keep His oath to save those who accept His love by obeying His command to repent from the heart and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). And that is a beautiful promise!

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