Build Day 15 Building Community: Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper Days

Finding the original intent of Scripture and making good application to our everyday lives as we become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

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The Questions

1) What is the Law? (verses 9 and 11-12)

2) What is the significance of the Festival of Shelters? (verse 10)

3) How does this passage connect with Nehemiah’s narrative? (Nehemiah 12:27-13:31)

Deuteronomy 31:9-13

9 Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the Lord’s covenant, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of debt cancellation, during the Festival of Shelters,11 when all Israel assembles in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he chooses, you are to read this law aloud before all Israel.12 Gather the people—men, women, dependents, and the resident aliens within your city gates—so that they may listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law. 13 Then their children who do not know the law will listen and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Original Intent

1) What is the Law? (verses 9 and 11-12)
The Law mentioned in verse 9 was “The Book of Moses” or “Torah”. This included the first five Old Testament books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), which detail specific commands to Israel. Bible scholars break the Laws into different categories. These include ceremonial laws on worshiping in the tabernacle/temple, civil laws on right living within community and settling disputes, dietary laws on describing what was clean or unclean to eat, and moral laws describing God’s standard of holy living (Ten Commandments). The Old Testament Law can feel cumbersome to modern readers, but ancient Israelites likely felt the same way as they strove to carry out the commands in daily life. God knew this and used their struggle as a real-life illustration that we cannot reconcile ourselves to God in our own strength. Paul describes our human inability to be holy as “spiritually dead.” (Ephesians 2:1-5) Furthermore, God used these laws as “an invitation to trust God in His wisdom.” (check out this video from The Bible Project!) God’s Law demonstrated His tender care for His people in practical ways. One may think they would never encounter some situations described in the Law, either due to modern culture or the absurdity of thinking we don’t need those instructions. The moral and civil laws reflect the sinful condition of our human hearts, and speak of our need for a Savior. God already knew the depths of our sin and had already planned for our redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus. The dietary and ceremonial laws also emphasized our spiritual uncleanliness and need for repentance when compared to the pure holiness of Almighty God. Because of the Law, every Israelite understood their need for an intercessor to die on their behalf for their crime of sin against God.

2) What is the significance of the Festival of Shelters? (verse 10)
Jewish festival descriptions are found in Leviticus 23; verses 33-44 specifically address the Festival of Shelters. In English, multiple titles like Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, represent the same Feast. This week-long festival was initiated by God so Israel wouldn’t forget His goodness. It began as Israel prepared to enter Canaan after wandering in the desert for 40 years and being freed from slavery. Each year, Israel was again to live in “booths” as they had during their desert years. God Himself “dwelt” among His people in a tabernacle as a visual of His presence. (Exodus 25:8-9) The first and last days were set apart for rest, reminding the people to rest in God’s presence and His sovereign ability to lead and care for them without their help! Every seven years, they celebrated the year of debt cancellation. (verse 10) There aren’t many details regarding this “year of debt cancellation”, however, God did appoint various points of debt cancellations in the Jewish calendar like the Year of Jubilee which occurred every 50 years and not only cancelled debt, but also freed all slaves and returned all property. All debts due one another were zeroed out and completely forgiven. Every detail, written by God, was to emphasize God’s good character and His plan to One Day cancel all spiritual debts and offer forgiveness to those who trusted in Him alone. This offer of freedom from sin for all people is foreshadowed in verses 12-13 which tells of God’s instruction for all, from children to foreigner, to be gathered and taught regularly from His law. Everyone was to have an opportunity to know the One True God who cares for His people.

3) How does this passage connect with Nehemiah’s narrative? (Nehemiah 12:27-13:31)
While God used Moses to lead His people to freedom from slavery, onward through desert wanderings, and into the promised land of Canaan, He was also teaching His people to trust His plans and provisions. (read the whole story in Exodus and Deuteronomy!) The Israelites had learned many sweet lessons through difficulty and were instructed to teach their children to remember to trust God’s ways over their own. Generations later, Nehemiah was living as a cup-bearer in a scattered season when he recalled these words from Moses’ Law, “If you are unfaithful I will scatter you….But if you return to Me and keep My commandments….from there I will gather you…” (Nehemiah 1:7-9) In addition to debt cancellation (verses 10-11), the land was also to rest every seventh year, remaining fallow. (Leviticus 25:1-7) By Nehemiah’s time, over 490 years since the Law’s original institution, Israel had missed 70 opportunities to follow and trust God in this command of resting, amongst several others. Therefore, God was faithful to His promise to scatter Israel for those 70 years as their just consequence for disobedience. In reading God’s Words, Nehemiah knew that in order for restoration and rebuilding to occur, it could only be accomplished in God’s timing and in God’s way. Later, Nehemiah gathered the people who would work on rebuilding the wall to hear God’s word. Through the collective hearing of God’s word in the Law of Moses, the people were convicted of their sinful disobedience and that of the generations before them. The hearers of the law grew repentant and vowed to put away disobedience. The people collectively chose to turn and trust God by doing things God’s way so God would be glorified in them and their work.

Everyday Application

1) What is the Law? (verses 9 and 11-12)
When Christ came, He fulfilled the Old Testament Law which pointed toward His work of redemption. (Matthew 5:17) While most Mosaic Laws are no longer performed in our society, we can still learn God’s heart by studying them through the lens of Old Testament culture. Though the way God led His people is different between the before and after of Christ’s coming, God Himself and His purposes remain constant. (Psalm 33:11) Christ perfectly fulfilled the ceremonial laws that are no longer needed today, still we see God’s character and plan for salvation beautifully reflected in the principle of these laws. True, the civil laws were originally instituted for a very different culture, we see God’s heart of reconciliation and justice woven through them. Later, the Lord uses dietary laws in a vision to Peter as a clear visual pointing towards inclusion of all people in Christ. (Acts 11:7-18) Christ-followers still teach adherence to the moral law of Moses because it not only mirrors the spiritual brokenness of all people while pointing us toward our need for a God who is perfectly moral for us, but also provides a distinguishing line for holiness and sin. Regarding Moses’ moral laws, R. C. Sproul explains, “There are laws that God gives in the Old Testament (and in the New) that are an expression of His own character that is immutable. So that if He set them aside, He would be doing violence to His own character.” Regardless of which portions of Moses’ Law are followed today, prayerfully reading them still points us to God’s purposes. His law reminds us He is constantly present with us, guiding us, and offering Himself as the reconciliation between sinful humanity and Holy God, which has always been His plan from before time began. (Revelation 13:8)

2) What is the significance of the Festival of Shelters? (verse 10)
The LORD is very aware how our hearts lean toward forgetfulness, which leads us to doubt God’s sovereignty and goodness. Are we aware of our forgetfulness? His laws for the rhythms of sacrifice, worship, and feasts were intended to bring people back to Himself for their benefit. Following the tabernacle/temple years, God dwelt among His people in human form (Christ). Today, all who have confessed Christ as Savior, enjoy His constant presence through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. (1 Corinthians 3:16) God continues to be faithful in His provisions and drawing close to us, for the God of the Old Testament is the same God today. (Hebrews 13:8) He did not change from a God of sacrifices and laws to one of grace; He was always about grace and restoration. Because we are forgetful and unable to restore ourselves, God began His restoration mission from the beginning of our sin. (Genesis 3:15) Though we are not “under Law”, we are just as forgetful as ancient Israel, so how can we train ourselves to remember? This requires intentionality! We remember God’s greatness at home when we daily read Scripture and each Sunday as we gather to worship with other believers and hear His Word taught just as Israel did in Nehemiah’s day. We celebrate Christmas and Easter to remember God dwelling among us and providing the ultimate sacrifice of reconciliation. We gather so we don’t forget the Lord when that buzzing alarm goes off on Monday. We gather so our children hear of God’s goodness. We gather to celebrate that Jesus took on the gruesome work of blood sacrifices for us. God remains with us to provide strength to follow Him. Let’s commit to resting together weekly, canceling our debts towards one another, gathering to remember our Lord!

3) How does this passage connect with Nehemiah’s narrative? (Nehemiah 12:27-13:31)
As Christ-followers today, we are still called to move through life in God’s way and in God’s timing. This can be very confusing in a time and culture where everyone prioritizes life goals differently. What if God doesn’t speak directly to us as He did Moses? We may notice that Nehemiah’s circumstances in following the Lord (God’s way) wasn’t much different than our experiences today. Nehemiah didn’t receive a burning bush or visiting angel, he simply listened intently to the Scripture he had available at the time and pondered it prayerfully. (Nehemiah 1:7-9) At each step of his journey, Nehemiah turned to Scripture for firm footing on how to prioritize his life (and the lives of those he led) in order to reflect God’s ways. Let this be our first practice of daily energy, to know God’s Word, to thoroughly ponder it prayerfully, and to prioritize everyday choices of obedience to God’s ways. As we make this our daily rhythm, we are building a strong foundation of readiness for God’s call on our lives. God takes great pleasure in our quiet daily lives lived unto Him. (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12) Nehemiah only acted when God opened the door for forward movement. (Nehemiah 2) In every step, Nehemiah committed himself to regular, fervent prayer (Nehemiah 1:11, 2:4, 4:4-5, 5:19) Waiting on God’s timing before we move ahead requires a different kind of boldness and strength, but Scripture teaches we will experience deep growth as Christ-followers while we learn to wait on the Lord. (James 1:4) We learn much of God’s sovereignty, of trusting God, of growing in Godly character by waiting on His timing and committing to following His way. When He moves and builds, we learn much of HIS glory!

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Digging Deeper is for Everyone!

1) Take this passage (or any other passage).
2) Read it, and the verses around it,
several times
3) Write down your questions
as you think of them.
4) Ask specific culture related questions and be ready to dig around for your answers. Google them, use www.studylight.org, or look them up in a study Bible and read the footnotes (click on the little letters next to a word and it will show you
other related verses!). (www.esvbible.org)
5) Check your applications with other trusted Christians that you are in community with and embrace the fullness of God
in your everyday!

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Why Dig Deeper?

Finding the original meaning is a huge deal when we study Scripture and can make all the difference in our understanding as we apply God’s truths to our everyday lives.

In our modern-day relationships, we want people to understand our original intention as we communicate; how much more so between God and humanity?!

Here’s a little bit more on why we take Digging Deeper so seriously.

Study Tools

We love getting help while we study and www.studylight.org is one of many excellent resources, providing the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) with an English translation.

Want to know more about a specific word in a verse? Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Discover “origin”, “definition” and hear the original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!

Want more background? Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))

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