Judges, chapters 1-4

“They would take their daughters as wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they began serving their gods.”

~Judges 3:6

Strict as God’s commandment on inter-religious marrying may seem, the truth is the person who can most influence our worship and spirituality is our spouse, whether for good or bad.

A person who has an unbelieving spouse lives divided, always trying to find the balance between two sacred priorities.

If both partners hold strong values, this can lead to countless unnecessary arguments that can leave emotional scars on either of them or their children.

Growing up, my father was agnostic and my mother, a zealous evangelizer of God’s word.

In recent years, my father has changed his opinion of the Bible and now participates in bi-weekly Christian meetings alongside my mother.

In effect, they get along a lot better now and are overall more happy than when they each held separate belief systems.

It is as easy now as it was in ancient Israel to underestimate the degree of influence a potential spouse will play in one’s relationship with God, especially because we tend to think of spirituality as an individual soul-searching process.

Sadly, throughout my adult life I have had the experience of witnessing the exact opposite of my parents’ experience.

I have had several friends leave their God-fearing spouses for unbelieving new partners.

This course of action has led these friends to spiritual ruin, and has undone the reputation of their faithful spouses.

It is just as essential, then, to heed God’s advice and seek an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex “only in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 7:39).

Joshua, chapters 21-24

“Today we know that Jehovah is among us, because you have not committed this act of unfaithfulness against Jehovah.  […]”
Joshua 22:31

The chieftains of the tribes that had settled to the West of the Jordan River were upset at the Reubenites, Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh on account of an altar these tribes had built on the edge of the river.

Even though they received their loyal help through the entire time Israel was fighting the Canaanites, these Western tribes were ready to go to war against their brothers as soon as they heard of about the altar.

It was never the Eastern tribes’ intention to separate in worship, however, as they patiently explained.

“If we were rebellious and unfaithful to Jehovah, do not spare us this day. […] No, it was because of another concern that we did this, for we said, ‘In the future, your sons will say to our sons: “What do you have to do with Jehovah the God of Israel?”‘” (Jos. 22:22-25).

The tribes of Western Israel heard out this reasoning and then proceeded ‘to praise God, and they said nothing more about going to war,’ (Jos. 22:33).

Thus we learn that it is always better to assume the best in others.
Even when we are thrown off by certain actions they decide to take, we cannot see what reasoning or underlying motivation they have.

Hence the wise words:
“Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense lodges in the bosom of fools,”
(Ec. 7:9).

Joshua, chapters 9-11

“It was Jehovah who allowed their hearts to become stubborn so that they waged war against Israel, in order for him to devote them to destruction without any favorable consideration.”
~Joshua 11:20

Jehovah did not decide the fate of the Canaanites for them.

The previous verse clearly states: There was no city that made peace with the Israelites except the Hivites inhabiting Gibeon. They conquered all the others by war,” (Joshua 11:19).

Despite Jehovah’s instructions ‘not to make a covenant with them,’ the Israelites had unintentionally established a treaty between themselves and the people of Gibeon (Ex. 34:12; Jos. 9:6-15).

Then, when the other cities attacked Gibeon, the Israelites rightly felt a moral obligation to defend them (Jos. 10:6-8).

Gibeon was spared the peril that the rest of the country suffered because, in their own words, they were ‘plainly told that Jehovah […] commanded Moses his servant to give Israel all the land and to annihilate all its inhabitants,’ (Jos. 9:24).

Thus, instead of arrogantly waging war against God himself, they laid themselves at the mercy of Israel and were indefinitely assigned the role of temple servants (Jos. 9:25-27).

The fact that Jehovah did extend considerable mercy toward the people of Gibeon, even allowing them the privilege of performing duties directly related to sacred worship, highlights his willingness to set aside the execution of his own judgment in order to favor those who seek him out sincerely (Ps. 86:15).

It is different, though, in the case of those who ‘allow their hearts to become stubborn.’

We do not need to be Canaanites or God’s sworn enemies to fall into this trap of obstinate arrogance.

Whether or not we witness God’s saving hand does not depend on who we are or where we come from.

It depends on whether or not we individually heed his words to ‘cleanse our hearts and stop being so stubborn,’ (De. 10:16).

Deuteronomy, chapters 23-27

“You must not bring the price paid to a female prostitute or the price paid to a male prostitute into the house of Jehovah your God to fulfill a vow, for both of them are something detestable to Jehovah your God.”

~Deuteronomy 23:18

This is essentially a law against money laundering.

The principle that God doesn’t want dirty money calls to mind the story of Judas and the 30 silver coins he got from betraying Christ (Matt. 27:5).

After committing a grave sin, a person might feel compelled to right a wrong through financial methods.

But serious wrongdoing can only be erased before God if there is a turning of the heart (Eze. 18:31).

More important than the amount a person or entity donates to a charity are the spirit and means that were used to acquire that money.

Was it whole-hearted honest labor? Was it through the sale of something dear and valuable?

If we are living morally unclean lives, we cannot just buy a seat in the house of God’s true worship. Salvation would be a mere illusion (Eze. 7:19).

Religions hold a great deal of the blame, as they habitually accept considerable donations from organized crime members, a sin for which they will be held accountable (Rev. 18:4,5,8,24).

Deuteronomy, chapters 14-18

You may then convert [the offering] into money, and with your money in hand, travel to the place that Jehovah your God will choose.

~Deuteronomy 14:25

God’s commandments are not so burdensome that they are practically impossible to carry out (1 John 5:3).

His main purpose behind having the Israelites congregate was that he wanted them to rejoice and show hospitality toward others (De. 14:26,27).

Even though the semi-annual trips to the assembly place carried expenses, physical effort, travel time, and business losses, God personally promised “Jehovah your God will bless you,” (De. 14:24).

Today we have many ways of contributing to the fulfillment of God’s will.

Although regular monetary contributions are useful, many of God’s commandments imply personal sacrifices in both time and effort.

We cannot exchange these acts of obedience for something more convenient, but God’s blessing will rejoice each one of his servants on a personal level.

Deuteronomy, chapters 11-13

“You must not worship Jehovah your God in that way. […]”You must not do as we are doing here today, with everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes,”

~Deuteronomy 12:4,8

Many people take on the philosophy that God accepts all forms of worship as long as they’re sincere, that ‘all paths lead to the same destination.’
That idea is not taught in God’s Word.
While sincerity is an important aspect of true worship, it is not the only one (John 4:24).
Those wishing to serve and worship God have always had to meet a certain level of requirements.
We can see this since the story of Cain and Abel all the way up to prophecies pointing toward a coordinated worldwide preaching work in the book of Revelation (Ge. 4:3-7; Re. 14:6,7).
Since these “preaching” prophecies pertain to the last days and are currently being fulfilled, it is more urgent than ever to “seek Jehovah your God wherever he chooses to establish his name and his place of residence and go there,” (De. 12:5).
This implies regularly attending Christian meetings and heeding the Scriptural advice learned there (He. 10:24,25).

Deuteronomy, chapters 7-10

“You must now cleanse your hearts and stop being so stubborn.”

~Deuteronomy 10:16

A more literal translation from the original Hebrew is: “And you must circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and not harden your necks any longer,” (De. 10:16, Reference Bible, 1984 revision).

Under Mosaic Law, Israelites were obligated to remove the foreskin of a baby boy’s penis eight days after birth (Le. 12:2,3).

It was a “sign of the covenant” Jehovah had formed with their ancestor, Abraham (Gen. 17:9-11).

However, physical circumcision was not the key to salvation.

They needed to be sincere in their dealings toward one another and accept God’s direction.

To “circumcise” the heart means to ‘love Jehovah with all your heart and all your soul,’ (De. 30:6).

This implies getting rid of immoral or arrogant attitudes which could keep God’s spirit from tapping into our thinking and motivating good deeds (Acts 7:51).

The aforementioned passage continues:
“Jehovah your God […] executes justice for the fatherless child and the widow and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. You too must love the foreign resident […]”(De. 10:17-19).

That is why the covenant Christ made with his followers did not call for a physical mark such as circumcision (John 13:35).

Rather, Christians are obligated “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world,” (Jam. 1:27).

In effect, “real” circumcision means to render sacred service with a clean heart by God’s spirit (Php. 3:3).

Exodus, chapters 30-33

“But now if you are willing, pardon their sin; if not, please wipe me out from your book that you have written.”
~Exodus 32:32

Moses is making reference to the “book of life,” a figurative book representing God’s memory of those who have passed away and whom he will one day resurrect (Rev. 3:5).
Shortly after Israel solemnly vowed to obey God, Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions on how to institute pure worship (Exo. 24:3, 12).
Meanwhile, back at the camp, the people were growing restless.
They concluded something must have happened to Moses and asked his brother, Aaron, to make them a god- a tangible one that they could worship then and there (Exo. 32:1).
Aaron succumbed to the pressure and figured the gold idol he made was just as well a representation of Jehovah (Exo. 32:2-5).
Jehovah was furious and he explored the option of exterminating the nation in order to form a new nation stemming from Moses (Exo. 32:10).
Moses humbly appealed to God on behalf of his people, begging him to take other factors into account (Exo. 32:11-13).
Of course, Jehovah already knew he was going to give Israel the opportunity to repent time and again, but by planting the option of extermination, we can appreciate Moses’s self-sacrificing attitude and the great love he felt for those whom he led.
Moses was willing to be wiped out from existence because the extermination of his people would have signified he had failed them as a leader.
This leads me to ask myself: do I show similar concern for the welfare of those who have been commended to my spiritual tutelage?

feast to idol

Israelites deviated to idol-worship despite having solemnly sworn to vow only before Jehovah.