Posts Tagged ‘horizontal view’

Deuteronomy 33:6-25

The Blessings for Each Tribe

Sibling rivalries. Unless you are an only child, you know about this topic. My brother and I were no different than any other set of siblings when it comes to this subject. We fought over everything. My brother is two weeks shy of being one and a half years older than me. My mother was only unpregnant for about nine months between the birth of my brother and when she got pregnant with me. Because of the way our birthdays fell, my brother and I were one grade apart in school. Competition between us was fierce, academic, athletic, you name it.


There are memories of our sibling rivalry that stick in your mind, random pictures of the subject that stick in your memory banks. One that sticks in my mind was like when I was 6 years old. My brother was in the second grade and I was in the first. It was the morning of his 8th birthday. Mom was making over him because it was his birthday and he was soaking it in. It was early in the morning on a school day. I remember (and honestly I don’t why I remember this) asking mom what time of day 8 years earlier that my brother was born. She said like it was like in the afternoon or something. I blurted it out that it wasn’t his birthday yet because that was like 6 or so hours away til the time he was born. I didn’t want him to have his birthday glory before it was time, ya know. I was jealous. Sibling rivalry. You don’t want any positive spotlights on your sibling that you can’t have yourself. A birthday was one of those exclusive things that is unique to each child. One of those days where the positive spotlight is squarely on them and not you and there is nothing you can do to change it.


Other sibling rivalries were our backyard basketball games at whatever parsonage we were living at over the years. Our basketball games grew less and less as we grew up. But there were years though where basketball games were a daily thing and particularly once we got done with our weekend chores on Saturday morning. Yes, we had chores, weekday ones and weekend ones. Weekend ones involved vacuuming, dusting, among other things. All those things that seemingly to us that your parents dreamed up to keep you from going to play on Saturday mornings. But once we got to play, our basketball games were quit fierce. My brother was always taller than me (and still is, by about 4 or 5 inches), so I developed and outside shot over the years so I would not have to go inside on him. However, sometimes, you just have to go inside (if your outside shot is not going well). I learned over the years to bump and bang with my brother on the inside game so I could create space for a shot with him rejecting it. Same thing on defense. I would bump him hard so that he couldn’t easily get his inside shots off. After a while, all the bumping and banging would get the better of us and we would degenerate into arguments. Sometimes the arguments would degenerate into football on the basketball court – tackling and fighting. Ah sibling rivalries!


It continued as teenagers when I started going steady with the girl who became my first wife. On weekends we would date and back in those days you would go find a secluded place in the late evening to go “park”. “Parking” would involve getting in the back seat of the car with your girlfriend and doing what teenage girls and boys do when alone. You would have music playing on the radio low. My brother was socially awkward at the time and rarely if ever had a date. So, on Fridays and Saturdays, he would hang out with one of his equally socially awkward friends. One of the games they would play was to find our where my girlfriend and I were “parking”. One place that we would park was in any of the cul-de-sacs of an, as yet, unfinished subdivision called Hampshire Hills. In Phase 2 of this subdivision, they had built the roads for it long before they started building the first house so it was a great place for TR kids to park. My brother one time with his friend found us and started throwing tennis balls at my car. Another time, he and friend pulled a log into the middle of the entrance to the cul-de-sec. Sibling rivalry was full on during our teenage years. And we won’t even talk about all the snide remarks, the arguments. As the years went by, I just didn’t like my brother very much at all. It took him leaving home to go off to college before our relationship started getting better. But oh back when we were at home, it was on!


My sibling rivalry with my brother was the first thing that popped into my mind this morning when I read through this passage, Deuteronomy 33:6-23. Let’s find out why after we read through this passage together now:


6 “Let Reuben live and not die,

    nor[a] his people be few.”


7 And this he said about Judah:


“Hear, Lord, the cry of Judah;

    bring him to his people.

With his own hands he defends his cause.

    Oh, be his help against his foes!”


8 About Levi he said:


“Your Thummim and Urim belong

    to your faithful servant.

You tested him at Massah;

    you contended with him at the waters of Meribah.


He said of his father and mother,

    ‘I have no regard for them.’

He did not recognize his brothers

    or acknowledge his own children,

but he watched over your word

    and guarded your covenant.


He teaches your precepts to Jacob

    and your law to Israel.

He offers incense before you

    and whole burnt offerings on your altar.


Bless all his skills, Lord,

    and be pleased with the work of his hands.

Strike down those who rise against him,

    his foes till they rise no more.”


12 About Benjamin he said:


“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,

    for he shields him all day long,

    and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”


13 About Joseph he said:


“May the Lord bless his land

    with the precious dew from heaven above

    and with the deep waters that lie below;


with the best the sun brings forth

    and the finest the moon can yield;


with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains

    and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills;


with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness

    and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush.

Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,

    on the brow of the prince among[b] his brothers.


In majesty he is like a firstborn bull;

    his horns are the horns of a wild ox.

With them he will gore the nations,

    even those at the ends of the earth.

Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim;

    such are the thousands of Manasseh.”


18 About Zebulun he said:


“Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,

    and you, Issachar, in your tents.


They will summon peoples to the mountain

    and there offer the sacrifices of the righteous;

they will feast on the abundance of the seas,

    on the treasures hidden in the sand.”


20 About Gad he said:


“Blessed is he who enlarges Gad’s domain!

    Gad lives there like a lion,

    tearing at arm or head.


He chose the best land for himself;

    the leader’s portion was kept for him.

When the heads of the people assembled,

    he carried out the Lord’s righteous will,

    and his judgments concerning Israel.”


22 About Dan he said:


“Dan is a lion’s cub,

    springing out of Bashan.”


23 About Naphtali he said:


“Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the Lord

    and is full of his blessing;

    he will inherit southward to the lake.”

24“Most blessed of sons is Asher;
    let him be favored by his brothers,
    and let him bathe his feet in oil.
25 The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze,
    and your strength will equal your days.


As a person who grew up with a heated sibling rivalry always operating in the background of my family’s life, the thing that I noticed here was the different blessing given to each of the tribes of Israel. They were all different and not the same. Man, at my house when I was growing up, my brother and I would pick up on anything that was not equal between us. If my brother got X, if I got something that was perceived less than X was cause for family discontent. My parents had to tread softly when it came to gift giving, compliments, things that they would let us do and not do. But were times they had to fjord that river without caring what the results would be. Because my brother and I were totally different people with totally different issues growing up, they had to parent us differently. It caused jealousies, arguments, seething anger in us back then. But it was not until I became a parent myself that I understood how different your kids can be and how each requires a different approach, and sometimes a completely different parenting style.


That’s what you notice here is the different blessings. To one, God gave the best land. To another, strength. To another, safety. Too often in the church, like with our sibling rivalries growing up, we see someone with a particular blessing and think that God must love that person more than us. However, we should be looking at this thing from the perspective that God makes each one of us unique and that He has to “parent” each of us in the way that is right for us based on the talents that He gave us, the strengths that He has given us and the weaknesses He has given us. All of our combined gifts, strengths and weaknesses are all a necessary part of the body of Christ completing the commission it was given long ago by Jesus.


Let us not be envious of the blessings that God has given others. Instead, let us celebrate the diversity of gifts among His people and celebrate how God has brought all these different talents together at this one place at this one time in history to accomplish what God has for this particular body to accomplish in this place in this time. Let us resolve to quit looking horizontally and developing jealousies of what God is doing for this person over here and that person over there. Let us look vertically to the Lord and thank Him for the gifts that He has given us personally and resolve to serve Him in the ways that He has uniquely ordained us to serve Him. Let us not have rivalries with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us celebrate rather what God is doing through us collectively and be amazed him, the Mighty Conductor who orchestrates the symphony of the body of Christ.


Amen and Amen.

Luke 6:24-26 — Today, we come to the end of this “woeful” passage. The first thing that comes to mind when I read this passage is the old saying, “Even a dead dog can swim with the tide.” Today’s verse, v. 26, is about being part of the in-crowd and selling your soul in the process. There is trouble ahead for those who live for the approval of others rather than for the approval of the One who made us.

If I was in the crowd at the Sermon on the Plain here in this passage, I would have felt like this statement Jesus made was preached right at me right between my eyes. Have you ever heard a sermon where you thought the preacher was preaching right at you. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I was constantly moving. Living in a new town every couple of years. I had to learn to adapt and fit in so that I would not be singled out as the new kid for very long. I became a chameleon at an early age. I did whatever it took to win the approval of the in-crowd. I was good at. I was so good at that it affected my entire life. Seeking and looking for the approval of others.

As I grew into adulthood, it became about seeking bedroom approval, as I will call it, from every woman that I was in a relationship with. Bedroom approval was everything. I lived my life for it. I compromised my principles for it. I sold my soul for it. Keeping access to the pleasures of the bedroom ruled my life no matter who I was married to but particularly in my second marriage. As a classic second marriage, it was ruled by my kids vs. your kids issue. So, my second marriage set up the ultimate battle of my life – my kids/your kids vs. keeping bedroom approval.

I regret to say that I failed in this battle. My relationship with my kids ended up being only what I had to do legally rather than being a real dad to them. I would compromise being a dad to them rather give up access to bedroom approval. Thus my second wife became my god. Her feelings about me ruled how I felt about myself. I do not blame my second wife for this, anymore. I blame myself. I could see what was happening but was not man enough to stand up and say that I am going to be a real dad to my girls. I allowed this whole thing to happen. My second wife was taking the ground that I gave to her just like anyone does in a relationship. I could have changed things early on but never did just to keep approval. That has been the story of my life from the beginning. Approval seeking. Making gods of approval in whatever form it may take.

Thank God and my salvation and two very loving daughters that I still have a relationship with them. As a matter of fact, our relationship now is a deep and abiding relationship that has survived and flourished. My girls are. It reminds me of how God sees us. We disappoint Him mightily each day but He still loves us and accepts us into His arms daily even when we have just blatantly all out said I think this thing is god and not you, Lord. He loved me anyway.

Whenever you make something other than God to be your god, you will make compromises on things that really matter like integrity, responsibility, and doing what is right. When you make something other than God your god, it or he/she will disappoint. When we make something that was created by God a god, it will fail us in some way. It is only when we find our value, our intrinsic value in God through Jesus Christ that we can get off the approval meter. It is when we find our value in Jesus Christ that we finally see that compromise is not the answer. Fitting in by compromising that which is right is only temporary. As humans, we change the rules about what is right and wrong as time marches on, but the principles of Jesus Christ stand forever. When we get to our judgment, are we going to say, “Lord, I did the best I could to fit in with the crowd?”

Each one of us has a judgment day coming. It is inevitable. It will be either at our own death or when Jesus Christ returns with the sound of trumpets in the eastern sky. We will be judged by our Creator. Why then do act as though our judgment is not coming by living lives of compromise just to fit in. We all recognize that there is an end to this life and some form of judgment awaits regardless of whether we believe in any god at all. Our Father in Heaven wired us that way. It is in Jesus Christ, who knows what lousy scoundrels that we are, that we find forgiveness and being made right with God. Even when we have flaunted our nose up at him for years and years. He is ready and waiting for you to see that man-made gods are not the answer. He wired you to worship Him, recognize Him. He gave you free will and you used it to worship other things just like me. I worshiped approval from others, from women, from things, from security, from fitting in until I was age 39. It was then I found that all of that was meaningless. Again, I come to Matthew 6:33, seek the kingdom of heaven first. Seek the approval of the one who really matters in eternity first. Everything else is temporary. Seek Jesus first. Please Him. All this other stuff is all secondary to that.

It is funny that when you quit the rat race of approval seeking from others and begin seeking His approval, that God will bring you the man or woman that He designed for you. When you quit chasing anything else beside Him, He will fulfill you and give you different eyes. It was only when I laid down my need for approval from women and what they offer a man that I finally found true relationship in that area. God had Elena finding her way to me but God would only allow me to see her when my eyes were focused on Him. We make mistakes in life that we regret, but through Jesus’ grace, our Father says welcome home, I am glad that you can finally see me.

Final thought – live your life with a vertical approach (seeking approval from the Father in Heaven) instead of a horizontal approach (seeking approval from other people or things that are here on earth).