Set Apart

Melissa Jurik   -  

I often joke that I get the worst passages to blog about…except that I’m not joking. I FOR SURE get the worst passages (Deuteronomy chapter 23…’nuff said).
When we first started going through the book of Deuteronomy as a church we included the video for the Bible Project’s Overview – and it is super helpful, especially as we look at chapters 23-26.
As you read through these passages this week it is good to remember that these laws are ancient, and given to a specific group of people at a specific time.
It is unhelpful to compare them to the laws of today, in the culture we live in.

Secondly, these laws are best understood in contrast to the laws found of other neighbouring nations/cultures in that time.
We aren’t going to study those (because, frankly, I have no idea where I would begin with something like that) but the video points out that God’s laws actually hold His people to a standard of justice the world hadn’t yet seen.

Essentially, God’s ways were setting His people apart.
And His people, living His way, painted a picture of who God was to the nations and people and cultures who interacted with them.
Fast forward a few hundred years and Jesus made it clear that we, His followers, are not set apart because we are somehow superior, or correct, better than others. No way!
But instead we are set apart in order to bless others with a picture of God’s love for them through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

So, whether it’s ancient Israel, or current day Canada I have a big question for you to hold onto as you read through these strange, ancient laws.
How is God’s love and mercy and grace and justice setting you apart from the culture around you in a way that brings others into a relationship with Him?

Day 1: Curses become blessings
Read: Deut. 23

If you’re a tween boy reading this chapter, I probably lost you after the instructions on how to bury poop while camping (I’m not kidding, check out v.12).
Believe it or not, that’s not what I think God wants us to wrestle with today.

Back up to verses 3-5.
This passage talks about Balaam – a prophet who was called upon by the King of Moab to pronounce curses on God’s people because he feared them. You can find Balaam’s story in Numbers 22 and 23. (If I were you, I would go read it. I mean, a talking donkey? You don’t want to miss out on that.)
Verse 5 says
“However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.”


How are God’s people set apart? Curses become blessings.

Why? Because He loves YOU!
Aren’t we so thankful that we serve a God who doesn’t curse, but blesses?

Something to pray about:
How are you a blessing to others? How do you share His favour and grace and mercy with others in a way that removes the curse of shame, condemnation, fear they may have experienced or associated with God?  Ask God to show you who he wants you to bless today.

Day 2: There are NO Favourites.
Read: Deut Chapter 24

We are living in a time and season where we are confronted with the injustice of racism on a daily basis.
The blatant discrimination of people of colour and the marginalization of people groups (either because of their race, socio-economic position, gender or sexual orientation) is something many of us have often chosen to ignore – maybe because we don’t feel like we contribute to the problem, or maybe because we naively believe that if we haven’t seen it or felt it, it isn’t really that prevalent.

But that isn’t God’s way…and it shouldn’t be the way of His people either.
This entire chapter shows us that regardless of a person’s race, gender or status, they are valued and deserving of justice and mercy.
God’s people shouldn’t take advantage, punish unfairly, deprive or hoard.

How are God’s people set apart? They fight injustice and dispense mercy generously.
Why? God doesn’t have favourites.
Aren’t we so thankful we serve a God who cares for the foreigner, the abandoned, the poor, the marginalized?

Something to pray about:
Do you find yourself feeling angry and defensive when you read the news and hear about the protests that are happening right now combatting systemic racism? Humbly ask God why you feel this way and listen for His answer.
Do you find yourself feeling hopeless when you think about the injustices that are rampant in the world today – human trafficking, gender inequality, racism, etc.
Ask Him to give you hope – and one small step you can take to combat favoritism in your realm of influence.

 

Day 3: Integrity matters.
Read: Deut 25

I’ve taught in our kids ministry for years – I just love it.
I think I learn more from them then they do from me sometimes.
I remember I was teaching about integrity and I was trying to explain what it meant… and I was clearly struggling.
Thankfully, one of the kids put up their hand and politely explained integrity was “doing what you say you’ll do, even when no one is looking”.

Mic drop.
That is exactly what integrity is.
It isn’t just being honest because its good, or following the law perfectly… but it is living that way even when you are by yourself.
Even when no one will see.
 Even when there is a way to cut corners, or avoid the cost, or renege on a deal.
Even when there is an out, a person of integrity does the right thing, honours the agreement, goes the extra mile.

How are God’s people set apart? They are people of integrity.
Why? Because God does what He says He’ll do, even when no one is watching. Even when we don’t deserve it.
Aren’t we so thankful that God follows through? Even when…

Something to pray about:
Ask God to call to mind ways that He has followed through for you in this season. Thank Him for his faithfulness even when…
And ask him to make you an “even when” kind of person.

Day 4: Loose Grip.
Read: Deut 26:1-15

I come from a family with three kids – a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup package was perfect for us.
1 cup each.
The challenge came when there was only one of something left – something delicious like a cookie or a piece of pie –  but multiple people wanted it.
Or worse, when there was a treat that someone laid claim to but wouldn’t eat it right away.
How does one protect said treat?
In my house, the strategy was to lick it so that no one would steal it.
That’s right…just lick it.
We can’t be the only family that did that right?

This need to protect, guard what is ours & make sure we get what we want/deserve comes from a scarcity mentality.
I mean, there was only one left, right?
And lets face it – that’s kind of the way the world works, doesn’t it?
I have to get what I can and hang on to it because who knows if I’ll have enough?
And who knows if someone will try to take it from me?

Thankfully that’s not the way it works with God.
God doesn’t hold tightly to what is His because He knows that there is plenty for everyone.
He asks us to loosen our grip…on our finances, our resources, our plans because He wants US to know where to turn for the abundance we long for.
That’s why He asks for our firstfruits and tithes – not because He needs them.
We need to release them back to the giver of all good things so that we are reminded where are gifts are from.

So we don’t cling…we release.
We don’t guard, we bless!
 We don’t hoard…we lavish.
Just as we have been lavished upon.

How are God’s people set apart? They loosen their grip!
Why? Because God is so generously openhanded with us!

Something to pray about:
How have you been living out of a scarcity mentality when it comes to your time? Your finances? Your resources? Ask God to teach you how to trust Him more…and listen for ways He may be asking you to loosen your grip.

Day 5: Beloved.
Read: Deut 26:16-19

Friends, read this short passage through slowly two times.
Do you see who you are in God’s eyes?
You are His.
You are treasured.
You belong.
You are esteemed.
You are honourable.
You unique and clean.

How are God’s people set apart? They are beloved.
Why? Because God is LOVE.

Something to pray about:
Listen to “Who you say I am” by Hillsong United.
Revel in the set apart identity you’ve been given because of Jesus’ work on the cross for you. Let this song remind you of God’s great love for you and then spend some time praising God for all He’s done. Tell Him of your love for Him…I know He’d love to hear it!