There are so many rules and regulations in today’s reading.
From Festival guidelines
to rules for appointing a king
to recognizing a true prophet
to dealing with people involved in occult practices.
Like a father sending his child off to college,
God goes over every possible thing He can think of before releasing His children into the Promised Land.
I can almost see the Israelites inching toward the Jordan as they hear God saying,
“And one more thing……”
I wonder if they took notes or just hoped someone else was recording all the details……..
there was so much to remember.
Or I wonder if God supernaturally brought things back to their minds as needed.
I read Deuteronomy 19:14 and envision an Israelite farmer
walking the edge of his field in the cool of the evening and noticing the stone separating his land from his neighbor’s.
Did he hear these words as he gazes down at the rock and considers moving it slightly towards his neighbor’s field?
Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone
set up by your predecessors
in the inheritance you receive
in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
Was the grass greener on the other side of these stones just as it is our fences today?
Did the farmer or shepherd ever think,
“If I just had a few more feet of land,
I would be happy.”
Did he ever glance to the right or left
and find himself tempted to pick up the stone
and stretch his property line just a little to the east or west?
God must have seen it coming.
He must have known human nature always wants a little more.
This must have continued to be a problem.
The same law is mentioned several times in Scripture.
“Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.
Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.
According to commentaries on the subject, most property lines were drawn by one simple stone.
It would have been so easy to take what wasn’t rightfully yours.
Without anyone noticing.
And isn’t that the way the enemy works?
Sin usually starts small.
The inching into someone else’s marriage through little conversations that slowly become longer ones.
Moving the stone a little further with each encounter.
The use of drugs that begins with “just once” but slowly becomes an unstoppable addiction.
Moving the stone a little further with each decision to use….one more time.
The deceptive record keeping that leads to embezzlement.
Moving the stone a little further with each incorrectly recorded balance sheet.
We’re no different today.
Lack of contentment still pushes us down dark roads.
Roads marked by out-of-place stones.
God knew then what He knows now.
The ancient stones were set in place for a purpose.
And the purpose was a pleasant one.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
Boundaries keep us safe.
Boundaries bring joy.
So when I read this morning of the moving of stones leading to a curse,
I take note of my own life.
Where have the boundary lines fallen for me?
And how can I know when I cross them?
I think the answer is simple.
When I begin to feel uncomfortable with my decisions,
I know I’m moving stones that aren’t mine to move.
So I flip to the New Testament.
Who can help me when I become a stone mover?
Who can remind me of where I’m supposed to be?
I remember Paul,
writing from a prison cell.
If anyone had a reason to move a stone,
it was him.
Hungry, cold, alone……
this surely didn’t feel like part of God’s plan.
But Paul knew what I want to remember today.
He says it in the very next verse,
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
His boundary stone was in place,
and he could handle it with the help of God.
Because of this,
he was content.
Even when moving the stone would have been tempting.
I don’t think it ever crossed his mind.
So today, I want to remember the Israelites.
And I also want to be like Paul.
My boundary stones were set in place long ago.
And it’s not my job to move them.
I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.