February 25

Deuteronomy 10-12, Psalm 56

A number of years ago, my wife and I visited Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. You can't miss the splendor of the courtyard with the numerous statues forming a semi-circle watching down. Then you get to the building itself which is truly a masterpiece in design. Once inside it is a literal art museum with sculptures, one more detailed from the next, from wall to wall, the masterpiece being Michaelangelo's Pieta. One thing also noteworthy was the absence of any emotion. People respectfully move from site to site with somber faces out of respect for being in a "religious" building. We then went down to the crypts, where the supposed site of Peter's burial site is. To our surprise, when we descended we saw an area where people were wailing, kneeling, tossing papers behind a gated area. There was a large crowd present and they were not moving, they were emotional and visibly moved by the site. It was the crypt of the deceased former Pope, John Paul II (who died years earlier in 2005). We notice later in this book, when Moses dies, that in Deuteronomy 34:6, God buried Moses in an unmarked area, "And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day." The only worship in that place which brought out emotion was to the man John Paul II, not Jesus. God knew the danger of erecting monuments to any man and how that could drive people to worship the wrong thing.

We read in Deuteronomy 12:3-4, "And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things." God wants the worship of Him to be pure. A nice building, fancy artwork, the pageantry of the service only distracts from the main event, God. Jesus said in John 4:24, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." We read in Deuteronomy 12:12, "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and your female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates,...". For years in church, this is the opposite of what I experienced. Those who deemed themselves, "religious and spiritual" tended to look like they spent their whole lives sucking on a lemon. They parade around in pious fashion with somber faces, to look "religious". But this exemplifies what they are missing. When we realize all that Jesus has done for us on the cross, we should be rejoicing. Often the problem lies in the fact that most are going through the religious motions rather than allowing their heart to embrace the relationship that God desires from all of us. Notice in 10:10, "As at the first time, I stayed in the mountain forty days and forty nights;". So consumed with God was Moses, that he remained in His presence for 40 days without eating. How often in our church do people get up after the last part of the message and during the last worship song to blow out of the sanctuary and beat traffic, completely missing fellowship.

The problem often is, and the question we must all face is, "Is this relationship we have with God real?" Though much of Deuteronomy is a recanting of the nation's history over the preceding forty years, the events were real. When we read in 10:4, "And He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the Lord had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me." That was God's real handwriting on those tablets. That was God's actual spoken words from that mountain which they heard. So many years later, we must never forget that Jesus is not our mascot to represent the Christian faith. He is a real Person who walked the earth 2000 years ago, who is God, who loved us so much that He willingly went to the brutal death of the cross because of His love for us. We would have no hope of heaven without the reality of this event. May we avoid treating the things of God in a heartless and dutiful manner and realize the real gift that He has offered each and every one of us. We read in Jeremiah 31:33, the New Covenant of God, "...I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Solomon writes in Proverbs 7:3, "Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart." God initially wrote His Commandments on tablets of stone. For this relationship to be real we must allow Him to write His Words on the tablet of our heart.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster