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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

No Mediums

July 29, 2012

Leviticus 19.31

Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

Isaiah 8.19, 20; Acts 16.16-18

Leviticus 20.6

If a person turns to mediums and wizards, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”

Exodus 22.18

You shall not permit a sorceress to live.”

Leviticus 20.27

A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”

A medium was a person or object that allowed the living to make contact with the dead, or with the spirit world, as a means of gaining enlightenment or direction. This was a common practice in pagan religions. Mediums could consult animal entrails, tossed sticks or bones, or even the stars on behalf of those willing to pay for their services. They could conjure dead spirits, as we see in the case of the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28).

A “medium” is simply a “means” or an “avenue” by which the living connect with the dead. I find it interesting to reflect on today’s “media” – television and pop culture, especially – in the light of such a definition. For certainly these can be means through which the living are put into contact with dead worldviews, harmful values and practices, and sinful ways, and be encouraged to believe that such are normal and acceptable.

We must be continually on guard against any such medium drawing us away from love for God.

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Not like the Pagans

July 28, 2012

Deuteronomy 23.17-18

None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.”

The use of prostitutes in conjunction with rituals of worship was not uncommon among pagan religions. God is here forbidding any such practice, and, in so doing, reinforcing the idea that Israel must not allow pagan preferences or protocols to infect the pure worship of the living God. Just because the pagans do it, it’s part of the culture with which they are familiar, and it might be a way of wooing them into the community of God’s people – none of these are good reasons to compromise the worship of God.

Here are words of warning we would do well to reflect on in our day, when so many contemporary forms and elements have found their way into the worship of God in virtually every church.

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Deuteronomy 17.2-7

If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

Breaking the first commandment is serious enough to warrant such drastic punishments because, if one will not hold to the first commandment, he cannot be expected to hold to any of the others. And, since the Law of God marks out the path to life, rebellion against that Law destroys social order, upsets established institutions, and sows the seeds of misery and death in every place. This must be avoided, even if it means separating the offending ones from the community.

But notice that even accused offenders have legal protections. Justice requires that evidence be produced and witnesses be heard, and these must all agree before any act of judgment or retribution is pronounced. Notice also that those who stood as witnesses were to participate in carrying out the judgment.

In ancient Israel the death penalty was the only way effectively to purge such an evil from among the people. We must not consider that either the form of the death penalty or the frequency of it, as seen in ancient Israel, should be employed in this age of grace and the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 5). At the same time, we must not consider that so severe a penalty has been altogether revoked (Rom. 13:1-4).

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God and God Only

July 26, 2012

Exodus 23.13

Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.”

Exodus 22.20

Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.”

God declares His determination that He alone shall be God to Israel, and He does it with unmistakable and uncompromised clarity.

God’s people are to “pay attention” to His Law, to read and study it, meditate on it, and carry it out in practice. If they do, they will quickly learn the blessings that come from obedience and be reinforced in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. Thus love for Him will encourage them to cling only to the Lord.

Second, they must not even so much as mention the names of foreign gods. Here, undoubtedly, the kind of “mention” around which conversations are built is probably what is in view. It is not necessary to study every kind of evil and become thoroughly versed in it in order to know that it’s evil. God’s judgment and command should be enough for us. How much misery would we be spared if we simply took His Word to heart and refused even to dally in anything contrary to His Law?

Finally, those who actually do take up practices of devotion toward other gods are to be cut off from the congregation of Israel. Here the death penalty is in view. We’ll have more to say about the death penalty later on in this series. For now, let us think merely in terms of those who violate the first commandment as being separated from the community of God’s people, lest their rebellion infect others and lead to community-wide disaster.

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Deuteronomy 6.13-15

It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.”

The first commandment requires that Israel worship only God. We might expect to see this commandment reinforced in various ways throughout the Law of God, as it is here. God alone is to be feared. His name alone is to be a focal point for oaths and other forms of truthful speech. Israel is to “go after” God only and to stay away from all foreign deities, no matter how they may be pressed upon them by the surrounding nations. God is “jealous” toward Israel because He knows that only His love can suffice to meet their needs and give them full and abundant life. When God’s people reject His freely-offered counsel and promises, they are left to their own fate (Prov. 14.12).

God is adamant about obeying Him, so much so that He will discipline His people in order to restore them to Him and to His way of righteousness and life. In this, as in all things, God has not changed (Heb. 12.1-11).

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Keep it Clean

July 24, 2012

Deuteronomy 23.12-14

You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.”

Exodus 22.31

You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.”

These two statutes are something of a prelude to more comprehensive regulations concerning cleanness and uncleanness which are explained in Leviticus. Israel’s property must be kept clean and decent, and the people of God must not befoul themselves with unsafe food.

The regulation concerning excrement suggests an aspect of life which, while normal, is nonetheless considered not appropriate for honoring God. This statute, besides the obvious requirement of cleanliness in personal hygiene, suggests other applications that might curtail conduct dishonoring to God: how we use our language, for example, and the kinds of stories we share with one another.

Here again are everyday reminders yet again of the call to holiness and the promise of blessing and prosperity.

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Leviticus 19.23-25

When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.”

Here is another “everyday reminder,” this one intended to reinforce the idea that Israel was totally dependent on the Lord for all her needs.

Upon planting a new tree, an Israelite must resist the temptation, for four years, to consume the fruit of the tree upon himself. The tree must be allowed three years to take root and flourish. Then, in the fourth year, the entire crop of the tree was devoted to the Lord – a “firstfruits” offering of praise to God for His faithfulness in providing all their needs. Then, in the fifth year – only after four years of specific self-denial and obedience – was the new tree’s fruit available to be eaten.

We can imagine that, with many orchards and many new trees, Israelites would have been faced with this reminder nearly every day of their lives. God uses His creation to keep us mindful of Him, but we have to look to His Law and Word to teach us how to learn the lessons creation is telling.

It’s also possible that refraining from eating the fruit of these trees for a period of time may have had another benefit: It may have reminded the people of Israel that it was through disobedience in this specific area that transgression first entered human life and creation (Gen. 3.1-6). Thus, this prohibition served as a reminder of God’s original call to obey Him, and, at the same time, offered the promise which obedience to God’s Law always brings.

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Challenge every Christian man you know to get serious about prayer. (Read on.)

The Mind of Christ

July 18, 2012

Help us start a movement of men praying! (See on.)

Stir the Soul

July 16, 2012

Things last that penetrate to the very depths of another’s soul.

Teachers All

July 16, 2012

God has called you to learn Jesus. He also calls each of us to teach.

Everyday Reminders

July 22, 2012

Leviticus 19.19

You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.”

Deuteronomy 22.9-11

You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.”

From time to time God gave Israel “everyday tokens” to remind them of His calling, their place among the nations, and the Law which He has given to make them holy, give them life, and lead them into glory and greatness.

There are, of course, practical reasons for the instructions given in these two statutes. Interbreeding of cattle leads to sterility (think: mules). Sowing fields with two different kinds of seeds complicates care and harvesting. Clothes made of different garments may wear out unevenly. And so forth.

But the primary reason for these instructions seems to be to reinforce the idea of Israel’s separateness from the world around them. By keeping these items distinct and separate, the people of Israel would have practical, everyday reminders of how they must regard themselves, and of the Law which could enable them to fulfill this calling.

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