It happened on a certain day that I came upon a familiar passage of scripture. This day I was reading from a different translation, The Message. The words rang deep within me as I read. There was an understanding that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me from God’s holy word.
Here is what He said to me.
You are to keep and live out the entire commandment that I have given you today. You are to do this so that you will live, so that you will prosper, so that you will enter and own the land that I have promised you.
You are to remember every road that I led you on; how I pushed you to your limit and tested you, so that you would know in your heart that you would keep my commandment.
I put you through hard times; I made you go hungry—then feed you supernaturally. I did this so you would learn that you do not live by your labor that produces food; rather you live by every word that comes from my mouth.
You are to remember that your clothes did not wear out and your feet were never uncovered.
You are to remember that I discipline you even as a father disciplines the child he loves.
Because of this, it is of absolute importance that you keep my commandment, that you walk down the road that I show you and you reverence me; because
I AM about to bring you into a good land.
This is my paraphrase of what the text actually stated.
This journey has resulted in many changes in my life. It has been some of the most difficult times that I have walked through. There have been countless hours of prayer, crying out to God asking why the suffering? Why my family, friends and those in my world have had to endure these things?
The questions have been many and the answers have been few. But I can say the word of God has offered insight that has both comforted me as well as encouraged me along the way.
To begin with, think about why mankind is on this planet? The Old Testament book of Genesis explains that mankind was placed here to have fellowship with God and to tend to the land the Lord God created.
A subtle adversary slithered into the picture finding a hidden desire within mankind and attempted to exploit it.
The result was catastrophic for mankind.
It was no longer possible to fellowship with God and tending the land became working the land in order to survive.
The adversary found that he could control mankind by planting thoughts and accusations into their minds. He did this at his will turning mankind into ruthless hunters, marauders and murders. He was successful in forming sects and factions who opposed each other, even hating and killing the other.
It became so intense that the Lord intervened with an unprecedented flood of waters that destroyed the known human race except for eight people.
A new beginning.
This new beginning closed the tide of unrighteous lifestyles and behaviors’; but by no means did it stop it. The adversary had an inside track into deceiving mankind and fully took advantage of it.
The Lord knew what had to be done to restore the order that he created in the beginning. It would take a plan so intense, so complete, that it would take centuries to carry out.
In fact it would take so long to accomplish, that it would embolden the adversary to think he had the upper hand.
When the plan of redemption was set in motion, it confounded the adversary because he knew something was coming, but could not figure out exactly what it was or when it would happen.
The Lord’s plan was so perfect, so complete that the scripture records that had the prince of this world known what he was doing, he would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.
However that is not the end of the story.
In a very real sense, it is only the beginning. The opportunity for mankind to step back into the place God originally created had been made available; but mankind had to walk through the door.
Even those who did, still had to deal with the DNA embedded adversarial thoughts and accusations that gave him free reign all those years.
On top of that, being the slithering adversary that he is, he saw a way to pervert the path the Lord provided to allow mankind to return to their original place; something he has done for millennia; something he continues to exploit this very day.
All of this to say that the journey—and it must be a journey; one you are willingly willing to take—is nowhere near completion.
The opening story is a simple adaption of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy chapter eight. This portion of scripture tells the story of the Old Testament Prophet, Pastor, and Deliverer, Moses speaking to the children of Israel prior to their crossing the river Jordan to begin their inheritance of the land of Promise—promised to Abraham centuries earlier.
Moses was retracing their steps and encouraging the Children of Israel to remember the things their God had spoken to them. He encourages them to hold fast to the promises that God had promised their forefathers.
This day as I read these verses, the Holy Spirit illuminated it in my heart in such a way that it became my pep-talk, encouraging me to both remember the things promised as well as instruction for things yet to come.
One thing this journey has shown me is that little in this life matters as most think. For example my comfort, position or possession in this life are of little importance to the Lord. On the other hand, my comfort, position and possession in eternity are of utmost importance to him.
This means that many—if not most—of the heartaches and hardships—some would call them trials and tribulations—we go through in this life are to position us for eternity.
It is at this point—stepping back into eternity—that the original plan of God will once again be set in motion allowing mankind to fellowship with God and tend to the land as stated in the beginning—but what land becomes the beckoning question.
As I read that day, I saw a plan of action that will take me—as well as anyone willing to take the journey—to the completion of the journey.
It is the Apostle Paul who proclaims that he ran the race, finished the course and has a crown of righteousness awaiting him.
Without getting theological, this simply means returning to the place of original design—a victorious one in right standing with God.
Here is the action plan.
I am to keep the entire commandment of the Lord.
What does that mean to me as a Christ follower in the new covenant? Am I supposed to revert back to Old Testament (covenant) practices?
Jesus addresses this matter in the Gospels. In Matthew’s account we see Jesus sitting in the temple—actually in one of the alcoves—engaging the people. It is during the time that has been called his passion, or the time of his betrayal, conviction, and crucifixion.
Jesus is telling stories in order to move the people into actively thinking about the things he has to say.
It was during this discourse that one of the religious sects poses a question to him. He does this not to find an answer, but rather as a guise to trick Jesus into saying something that will incriminate him, thus allowing them to arrest him.
He asks Jesus what the greatest commandment of the law is. Jesus replies by saying that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with everything within ones being–however he quickly adds—and the second commandment is to love your neighbor as you would love yourself.
At this point the crowd are looking at each other nodding in agreement. Everyone could agree that these two commandments would rank up there in importance.
Jesus didn’t stop there however. He continues by making a remarkably profound statement.
He states that the entire law as well as every command of the prophets is based on these two commandments.
Why would he say that? What would prompt him to add such a statement at this point in time?
I think the answer is found in the story that follows.
When Jesus is hanging on the cross, after the religious leaders have made fun of him, after his clothes have been gambled away and the prisoner has asked him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom; he cries out, “It is finished.” The temple veil is ripped in two thus signifying mankind’s ability to once again come into fellowship with the Father.
The New Living Translation states it this way, “ But now God has shown us a way to be right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.” Romans 3:21
So what commandments am I to keep? I am to have a relationship with God—to love him with everything within me—and I am to respect my neighbor as I would respect myself.
The Apostle James adds another element to this when he states that true religion is caring for widows and orphans and keeping oneself unspotted from the world.–James 1:27
Once I have established that these three things are of the utmost importance to keep then I will begin to understand why am I to keep them.
I will begin to understand that I am to love the Lord with everything within me; that I am to care for my neighbor as I would care for myself; and that I am to look out for the widow and orphan, not because I love the Lord; but because in doing so, the Lord has promised certain things will take place in my life.
You are to keep and live out the entire commandment that I am giving you so that:
You will live,
You will prosper,
You will enter and own the land that I Am promised you.
It is important to understand that if the Word of God is truly a living word, then this passage of scripture in the Old Testament is more than an historical account; it is the living word of God for everyone.
You are to do this so that you will live.
That sounds great, but what does it mean to live?
To live means that you are alive; both now and in eternity. One definition is to realize the existence of life. It means you are alive as opposed to being dead; physically as well as mentally; spiritually as well as emotionally.
Another way to state it is to say that when you develop a relationship with the godhead; that is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
When you treat humanity the way you would like to be treated, when you look after the widow and orphan, making certain to avoid the trappings of the world, you are alive.
You enjoy your surroundings; you live both the moment as well as the open expanse of eternity.
You are to develop a close personal relationship with the godhead, treat mankind the way you desire to be treated and look after the widow and orphan so that you will prosper. This means that you become great, you will increase and you will multiply in every area of your life.
As you develop this close personal relationship, you begin to see humanity in a different light, which means you begin to treat them, as you would like to be treated. This means that you have a compassion for the widow and orphan and seek ways to help them.
This, in turn, enables you to enter into the promise land—as it were—of God’s promise for you. The beauty isn’t that you are able to enter into it, but you are also empowered to stay in it—or own it.
In other words, it becomes yours. It is no longer someone else’s idea. It has left the realm of speculation and entered into the realm of reality—your reality.18
This is why you are to keep and live out the entire commandment of God. Consider how powerful that is. You set the focus of your attention upon the godhead. As you do so, you find yourself becoming alive in ways you never thought possible.
This leads to you growing, expanding and multiplying in every area of your life. The result of this is your ability to now possess the promise of God that you once only read about.
This is when you truly begin to enter into the original state of God’s purpose for mankind.
God is so incredible that he includes a caveat in this process that is designed to keep you in this promised place.
You are to keep in your short-term memory every place of heartache, hardship and humiliation that you walked through before your journey brought you to such a blessed place.
You are to remember how God took care of you then so that you never forget to thank him for taking care of you now.
You are constantly give him thanks for bringing you to such a place as a way of both reverent respect and grateful acknowledgement that it wasn’t by your hand that any of this happened.
You will see how powerful this is once you realize that this mindset is precise remedy to keep the adversary at-bay in your life. The trick he used in the garden will not be effective when you utilize this practice in your daily life.
This is important because it burns deep in your psyche that God’s word is taking care of you. It reminds you that you are a child of God and that he takes care of you just as a loving father takes care of his children.
This means that even when you are up for a scolding because of an area of immaturity in your life, you understand the love of the Father behind the actions being taken.
What comes next my quite honestly be the most difficult task for all of humanity.
The text states that you are to carefully walk down every road that the Lord directs you to.
Consider what this means and how important it is both in your personal life as well as the corporate lives of those in your world.
Think of it this way. I work at a certain location. In order to get there each day I take a certain set of roads. While traveling down these roads I see hundreds of others heading in the same direction. I pass some; some pass me. Some of them enter into the left turn lane, while others enter into the right turn lane. I am never the only one continuing straight ahead. We are all going in the same general direction. The difference is out of all the vehicles on the road on any given day, I am the only one who pulls into the turn lane that takes me to my place of employment.
What do you suppose would happen if I decided to follow someone on my way to work? Do you think I would reach my destination; or is it safe to say I would reach their destination?
This is what the passage of scripture means when it says to be careful to go down the road that the Lord takes you on. It does not mean that you are the only one on the road. I would wager to say that you are not the only one at your place of employment. The point is there is a path for you, for me, and for each of us to follow. We will do well to follow it.
Instead what often happens is we look at the other person’s path and compare it to our own path. It looks easier, or harder—rarely does it look more difficult unless we are looking down our nose at that someone else. We compare the things that happen to them compared to the things that don’t happen to us.
We shift our focus from the Lord to their path.
Jesus addresses this in several places in scripture; but the one that stands out the most is the discourse he has with his disciple Peter following his resurrection. After asking Peter the same question several times, Peter attempts to change the subject by asking about another disciple—John to be exact. Jesus replies by saying that it isn’t any of Peter’s business what John’s path is. What is important is for Peter to follow the path the Lord has laid out for him.
The Apostle Paul tells us that it isn’t wise for believers to compare themselves with others. It only creates problems for the believer.
The Psalmist David tells us not to get distracted by what may or may not happen to unrighteous people by thinking it isn’t fair that they are better off than you are.
You will do well to keep your focus on the one who called you; the one whose you are and walk down the path He places you on.
You will always get into trouble when you do otherwise.
When I AM brings you into a good land—and he will—you both understand that it is his doing because you choose to obey him and follow his commandments; to love him with everything within you, to treat mankind the way you desire to be treated and to look after the widow and orphan.
This journey—and be assured that it is indeed a journey—is uniquely individual as well as personal. I read a story that helped me understand this.
The Holy Spirit was endeavoring to show a Christ follower how love works in the dynamic of relationships. The Holy Spirit told the person to think if a relationship as an array of color. Every time you are with this individual—lets say your spouse—you exemplify a certain set of colors, say blues and purples. Then you have a relationship with your child and every time you are together you exhibit colors of red and yellow.
Each relationship is unique; each exhibits a beautiful array of colors. Now ask yourself the question, which relationship do you like the most? Can you see how difficult that question would be to answer? You like blues and purples and you like reds and yellows. You like one one way and another another way.
This makes it almost impossible to pick which one you like more because you like them both as much—only in different ways.
This is the value of having a close personal relationship with the godhead. It enables you to see clearly beyond the temporary madness that is filling this world; to embrace the true nature of the godhead by developing relationships with others in your world that impacts them for the king and his kingdom.
It does not limit you to love a certain group while hating another group because of religious beliefs. Such a close personal relationship allows you to move in and out of circles that would ensnare others; but not you because of that relationship. It was said of Jesus that he was a friend of sinners and riff-raff of society; and it was true! It was true not because he hoped to indulge in their life style for his personal pleasure; but because of the close personal relationship he had with his father, those indulges meant nothing at all to him. Jesus saw the person, not the indulgence.