November 20, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday after the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 71, Leviticus 20:1-8, Philippians 1:27-2:18
Evening - Ps. 72, Dt. 15:1-15, Mt. 27:45-56

Commentary, Deuteronomy 15:1-15

Chapter 14 reminds Israel that she is intentionally different from other people.  Her values, culture, and life-style are different. She dresses differently.  She even eats differently.  She is so different others will think her "peculiar" (14:2).  Israel is different because she is holy (14:21).  She belongs to the Lord, and intends to set herself apart in outward appearances and practices, as well as in inward thoughts and intentions.  She purposely does not identify with the pagans around her.

In our time it often seems the Church is intentionally identifying with the world.  It seems Christians are eager to show how much we can be like the world, yet still be Christians.  Perhaps we should try to show how different we are yet still be in the world.

Chapter 15 turns to the treatment of fellow Israelites by the guiding principle of love.  Just as commandments 5-10 of the Ten Commandments deal with loving their neighbors as they love themselves, this part of Deuteronomy shows how love applies to real life.  Moses calls on the people to act on behalf of those in need, and to refrain from taking advantage of another person's misfortune.  Most of these laws are about dealing with someone who has fallen into poverty through no fault of his own.  Perhaps drought or flood has ruined his crops.  Maybe fire has destroyed his home, or disease has killed his sheep and cattle.  Perhaps he has become disabled. He is not poor because he has refused to work.  He is poor because something beyond his control has caused his poverty.

Moses reminds the people of an important point as they ponder the needs of others.  They did not earn their land and prosperity through their own efforts.  It was given to them as the gift of God.  Even the ability to make the farms and businesses prosper are gifts of God.  Therefore, as God had mercy upon them, they must also have mercy upon one another.

Verses 1-11 refer to money loaned to the poor to relieve their need.  It does not refer to loans on business ventures, only to those given to help the poor.  The attitude commanded is generosity and forgiveness.  If the man is unable, because of circumstances beyond his control, to repay the loan, it is to be forgiven.

Verses 12-15 begin the topic of releasing slaves.  A person's misfortune could become so complete and hopeless he may sell himself into slavery.  His bond service is to last only seven years, and he is to be paid handsomely for his work when he is released.

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