January
12
2020

Movement or Momentum Deuteronomy 2:3

 In 1958 A.W. Tozer began to write editorials for a Christian publication called the Alliance Weekly. In promising to write and publish articles that will challenge readers, he wrote the following. “It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of the time rush about confusing motion with progress.” The Pursuit of God, p.125 What a great line, confusing motion with progress! Does that statement prick at your heart a bit about times in your life? Can you look back and see there were moments when you thought you had direction, and progress, but you were confusing being busy with making progress and having direction. You might even be currently in the midst of a season of your life where you are checking off a lot of boxes of what you’re doing, how your spending your time; but still having an uncomfortable sense that you’re not getting anywhere – you’re life just has a lot of motion to it. And at the start of the year don’t we often find ourselves most sensitive and reflective for how we are going to live this year, so we accomplish what really matters? I think the thought of confusing “motion with progress” is worth considering. There is a brief passage of scripture from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy that seems to share that same concern. Introduction - Background Before I read the passage consider this background the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is by the estimation of many Old Testament scholars a review of what took place under the leadership of Moses. • Some scholars would date Deuteronomy being written in some period soon after Moses had died. • They believe this based on Deut. 1:3 that tells us how “In the fortieth year of Moses leadership and journey, Moses spoke these words to the people of God.” • Also, the last chapter of Deuteronomy writes about the death of Moses. Moses couldn’t write about his own funeral, but an account of what Moses said and did could have been written soon after his death while the memories and information was fresh. • There are other O.T. scholars who would say Deuteronomy was written many years later as a review of what had taken place under Moses and how God’s people were unfaithful to God; yet God continued to work with them. What both viewpoints would agree upon is that chapters 1-2 is rehashing of how the people of God rebelled when it was time for Israel to start moving into the Promise Land and how God responded to their rebellion. Here is the classic passage of scripture that especially gets used in revival services that we’re looking at today. “You’ve been going in circles in these hills long enough, go north.” 2:3 I think a relevant question to ask is why did God have to give this instruction? • Didn’t they have God working through Moses to lead the people? • According to Exodus 13:21, God was leading them with a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. • So why were they going in circles? Here is what had happen leading up to this point. Israel had defied God about moving into the Promise Land. The first chapter of Deuteronomy and the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers describes how Moses sent 12 spies to go into the promise land and see what it was like. All twelve spies came back with a great report about the quality of the land, and how the grapes and the dates were huge. There was just one problem, the warriors who occupied the land were also huge. Ten of the twelve spies were intimidated by the opposition they would face. Ten of the twelve spies said, are you kidding us, Moses, were like grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33) compared to their warriors. You know how it goes that a little bit of pessimism and negativity can spread, and it spread quickly. • Soon, the majority of the leaders didn’t think it would be possible to defeat the people living in the promise land. • The majority of the leaders became fearful and discouraged when they heard about the size of the men they would battle. Then it went from bad to worse. • They accused God who brought the ten plagues, divided the Red Sea to set them free and provided manna and quail during the journey to the Promise Land, of bringing the people this far just to be defeated. • They accused God of setting them up to fail. God’s response was okay fine. You don’t trust me to help you take hold of the promise land, then we’ll let this fearful generation that is disobeying me wander in the wilderness and they won’t have the Promise Land I have promised. Odd thing. When God informed the Israelites that the defiant generation would not get to enter the promise land because they didn’t trust God, then the defiant ones attempted to change their tune. Then these same people decided to go up and wage war, but by this time God had withdrew his support from the fight. God even warned them the opportunity was past, and not to get into the fight. The defiant Israelites tried to fight the battle without God, but it was too late for God’s help and they lost the battle. There is an interesting statement in Deuteronomy 1:45. The statement follows after the attempt was made to go up and fight after God said, too late. Here is what is written. “When you returned and wept before the Lord, the Lord would neither heed your voice nor pay you attention.” I think it is a statement not to be interpreted that God stops caring, but God will allow us to stew in our own mess until we see what we need to see. Then the consequences of their choices set in. They were going to have to journey in the wilderness until the rebellious generation was gone, and their children were old enough and ready to move into the promise land. So, what preceded the circling around the same mountain are the following. Disobedience. Fear. Skepticism. Bitterness. Blame. Regret. God’s people were circling the same mountain to avoid going back into the wilderness to face their consequences. I wonder if as you begin 2020 you have at least that one thing that you’ve been circling? It might be problems in a relationship that you keep ruminating over and over, circling and circling; but never coming to resolution. It might be making the doctor’s appointment to get that issue that has you and maybe others concerned, checked out. It might be that step to self-improvement and growth, but you keep circling around the step or steps you need to take. And before you decide you’re not circling anything, and you may not be, but consider whether there is an issue an important problem and along with the issue are the constant presence of the following experiences. Fear. Skepticism. Bitterness. Blame. Pessimism. Dread. Are you beginning the year still circling around some issue, some challenge that you ended 2019 circling around the same issue? Is it possible this year, this season of your life warrants a closer look and evaluation whether your making progress or just movement? God finally said to Moses to say to the people, “You have circled this mountain long enough, go north!” Think what all is wrapped up in that one sentence. “You have” – meaning you’re the one who needs to make the decision. You’re the one with the responsibility, the power and accountability to decide how much longer will you settle for motion instead of progress? It’s your prayer issue. It’s your relationship with whomever. It’s your finances. It’s your setback or disappointment. “You have circled this mountain” – meaning our attention is more focused on what we dread, than following God’s direction and leading. We may not mean to but were acting like the intimidated Israelites, the problem is consuming us to the point we’re neglecting and ignoring who God is and what God can do. We’re watching our mountain of challenge instead of remembering God’s capabilities to lead you to some solution, some step of faith. Matthew’s gospel tells about the disciple Peter and how he sank as he walked on the water to Jesus because Peter began to watch the waves more than watching Jesus. It sounds to me there is a similarity in principle here, that our lives emotionally are circling the same issue instead of coming to some resolvent because we’re watching something other than God’s direction and it causes us to go in circles. “You have circled this mountain long enough” – meaning you have been missing the timing for how God can work in your life, you’re missing the urgency of moment. You’re not using time well. Your using time to stall; instead of facing the unpleasant aspects or challenging aspects of life. “You have circled this mountain long enough go north” – take a decisive step. God has moved decisively throughout the course of human history and God will call us to move decisively not merely flounder and linger through life. Go north represents God’s direction. Go north represents what is true. Go north represents God’s purpose; not just what we want. Next week, we’ll look at a quality of humility that helps us receive from God so even in the trying times we follow his leadership. “Your speed doesn’t matter forward is forward.” (source unknown

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