March 28, 2015
Holy Week, March 29-April 4
The days before Easter are often called “Holy Week.” This does not mean they are any more holy than other weeks, just as Sunday is no holier than Monday. All days are holy days because we keep all days as days of worship and service to God. Yet, the things we commemorate this week are holy in the highest sense, for in them Heaven and hell, holy and profane, God and Satan meet on the cross, and the greatest and most holy transaction takes place when God the great Creator dies for man the creature’s sin.
The daily readings take us through the four Gospel accounts of the trial and crucifixion of Christ. We end appropriately with John’s account on Good Friday. Easter Eve somberly is the record of His burial. These readings both humble and sadden us as we see in Scripture the horrible sufferings Christ endured. A kind of holy stillness will probably overcome us.
Having spent Lent in self examination, confession, and repentance, we are reminded that the cross should have been ours. Worse, the eternal fire should be our fate forever. Indeed, it would have been, if not for this horrible, wonderful, terrible, beautiful crucifixion, where God took our sins upon Himself, and paid for them on the cross.
There are only two readings for each of these days. They are intended to be read together in quiet reverence, having all distractions removed in order to be still and give the Word a thoughtful and reverent “hearing.” A Collect is given for each day, to be read before the Scriptures, or in the place of the Collects for those doing full Morning or Evening Prayer.
March 29, Palm Sunday
Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 27:1-54
Almighty and everlasting God, who of Thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Matthew 27:1-54
The innocence of Christ is asserted throughout the Bible. In tonight’s reading Judas says, "I have betrayed the innocent blood.” Pilate”s wife warns him, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man." Pilate himself says, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” How different his words and intent are from those of the chief priests and elders who took council against Jesus to put him to death (vs. 1). The remorse of Judas is not true repentance. It is merely the pangs of a guilty conscience. It is easy to feel remorse for our sins. Turning away from them and replacing them with righteousness is far more difficult, yet this is our calling as Christians.
What amazing hypocrisy we see in the actions of the chief priests who paid silver for blood, but will not accept blood money. The choice between Barabbas and Christ is an opportunity to repent and honour Christ. But, once again, they choose against Christ: “Let him be crucified."
A Gentile, a Roman executioner, accustomed to the suffering and death of the crucified, has more knowledge then the religious leaders of Israel. "Truly this was the Son of God,” he cries (vs. 54). The Jews asked for signs, and seeing them, believed them not. The centurion asked for no sign, but seeing it, he believed.
March 30, Monday before Easter
Isaiah 63, Mark 14:1-72
Almighty God, whose most dear Son, went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Mark 14:1-72
Notice first, the woman’s worship. Soundly criticised by the other followers of Christ, she gives a costly ointment to anoint our Lord. In Matthew 20:2, a penny is a reasonable wage for a day’s physical labour. Three hundred penny worth, then, is almost a full year’s income. So, this ointment is truly “very precious.” Our Lord accepts this as his due worship, and says the woman is anointing his body for burial.
Notice second, the disciple’s denial. In sharp contrast, bold and brawny Peter, cowers before a servant girl and denies knowing Christ. The priests also, educated in the Scriptures and charged with the spiritual oversight of Israel, deny Christ. Their denial is in their rejection and abuse of the Saviour. Thus, Peter, after three years with Christ, and the priests with their vast education and knowledge of Scripture, should have known Christ and stood with Him. Yet, they are the very ones who deny Him. The woman, certainly had less knowledge than the priests, and probably less than Peter. Yet, she knew Christ had come to die. She grieved for His suffering, and ministered unto Him. Peter denied Him, and the priests killed Him.
March 31, Tuesday before Easter
Isaiah 50:5-11, Mark 15:1-39
Oh Lord God, whose blessed Son, our Savior, gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame; Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary Mark 15:1-39
After an illegal trial, marked by false accusations and attested by false witnesses (thou shalt not bear false witness), and after much ridicule and physical violence, the noble leaders of Israel take their God and King in bonds to their sworn enemies, the Romans.
Barabbas means, “Son of the Father.” It is almost certainly not his real name, but a self-given title and claim to be the Messiah. To him, the Messiah is a military leader who will drive the Romans out of Israel and establish Israel as a free and sovereign nation. He has already killed some Romans in an attempt to begin the war. To the Romans, Barabbas is a traitor. To the Jews he is a hero.
Two Messiahs are being offered to Israel. Barabbas is a revolutionary who wants to build a worldly kingdom. Christ is a spiritual Saviour who wants to establish the kingdom of God in the hearts of people. Barabbas’ weapon is the sword. Christ's weapons are love, peace, and the Gospel of salvation through faith in Him. Barabbas wants to kill his enemies. Christ wants to die for His.
April 1, Wednesday before Easter
Hebrews 9:16-28 Luke 22
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts whereby thou hast given unto us Life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Luke 22
Luke takes us from the Upper Room to the phony trial of Jesus. After several attempts to condemn Him on phony charges, they condemn Him for the truth.
April 2, Maundy Thursday
First Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 23:1-49
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Commentary, Luke 23:1-49
Our Lord is in Jerusalem again. He has gathered His disciples in the upper room of a house believed to belong to the family of Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark under the direction of the Apostle Peter. It is a solemn occasion. Our Lord presides over the ancient liturgy of the Passover, the disciples chant the Psalms and recite the Scriptures and prayers. Copies of the Bible are rare, so the liturgy and Scripture readings are said from memory. During the meal, our Lord reveals that His betrayal and death are at hand. After the meal, He takes the Passover bread and wine and gives His Church the Sacrament we know as the Lord’s Supper. There is great significance in this. It means He is our Passover sacrifice. He is the Lamb whose blood saves His people from spiritual death and frees us from spiritual slavery. “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast.”
Knowing well that His crucifixion is near, and that His disciples, to whom He will give the seemingly impossible task of establishing His Church, are weak and ignorant men, Christ uses the evening to teach and pray for the disciples. The Gospel of John gives the fullest account of the Lord’s words and actions in the Upper Room.
It is late when our Lord takes the disciples out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. Here He can see the city, knowing that, even on this holy night, many of the people celebrating Passover are simply going through the motions of worship; honouring God with their lips but far away from Him in their hearts.
Things have not changed much since then. Tonight millions of people will gather in churches around the world to partake of the bread and wine known variously as the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. And, like many in Jerusalem on that Passover night, many will come to the Table with hearts that are far away from God. They will receive these holy mysteries, but they will leave the Table unchanged and untouched by the reality behind the bread and cup. They will very literally honour God with their lips, but their hearts will remain far away from Him.
On the Mount, our Lord retreats into long, deep prayer in which He gives Himself completely to the task ahead. Judas arrives. The ordeal has begun.
April 3, Good Friday
Hebrews 10:1-25, John 19:1-37
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, World without end. Amen.
Commentary, John 19:1-37
The Lord endures the emotional and physical abuse of the priests and Pharisees throughout the long night before His crucifixion. At daylight, He is bound and taken to Pilate, where the same pious men who rigged His trial contrive to force Pilate to torture Him to death. Hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, He is given over to the Roman executioners. His physical suffering is unimaginable. His spiritual suffering is worse, for on the cross He bears the wrath of God for His people’s sins. Many physicians and scientists say the water is plasma that has separated from the rest of the blood due to the fact that our Lord’s heart had burst within Him. Whether this is scientifically true or not, it was the spiritual pain of the wrath of God that killed Christ. He died long before the Romans could end His life with the spear.
April 4, Easter Even
1 Peter 3:17-22, Matthew 27:57-66
Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by our continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Matthew 27:57-66
Joseph was a wealthy man from the small Judean town of Arimathea. The location of the town is lost in history, and, therefore, not known today. He and Nicodemus remove Christ’s body from the cross, anoint it with spices, and place it in a tomb carved into solid rock. Where are the disciples? We don’t know. We only know that His body is dead. It is lain in the tomb. The tomb is sealed with a large stone and an official seal. Let the stark reality of this penetrate the deep, deep recesses of your soul.
March 22, 2015
Dt. 17, Lk. 8:1-25
Dt. 18, 1 Tim. 6
Purity in worship is taught in verse 1. Just as the sacrifice must be pure and without blemish, so the heart of the worshiper is to be pure and steadfast in worship. Insincerity and half heartedness in worship are abominations to God, who deserves our very highest and best, and a blemished and feeble sacrifice expresses a blemished and feeble faith. Neither are acceptable to God.
Verses 2-7 show the perils of idolatry. The sun, moon, and host of heaven, are created entities. They are not gods, not living beings, they have no power to influence lives or events. Spiritual adultery is not permitted anymore than physical adultery. Both meet the same fate.
The system of judges, established at Sinai, allows for appeals from lower to higher courts. The highest court consists of the Levites and “the judge that shall be in those days” (vs. 9). As Moses preaches this sermon, he is that judge. During the days of conquest Joshua will be the judge, and kings will serve in this service in later days.
Old Testament Israel was a theocracy, a people ruled by God. It was a church. More correctly, it was The Church. Every part of it existed to love and serve and worship God. Israel was not a nation like other nations, whose primary organization was secular, and was overseen by a king and a bureaucracy. But in verse 14 God seems to anticipate Israel’s decline from a theocracy to a monarchy based on religion and secularism. God knows the desire for a king will stem from a desire to be like the other nations, not a desire to more efficiently conduct the business of Israel. Though God will grant Israel's request for a king, He gives sound counsel to all rulers not to allow the power of government to turn their hearts from God, or to use that power to increase their own wealth and pleasure. They shall judge and rule according to the Law of God (vs. 18) to ensure justice and Godliness in their realms.
Verse 1-8 are about the maintenance of the ministry. The tribe of Levi has been called to officiate in the sanctuary and worship of God. Rather than vast tracts of land allotted to the other tribes, they will receive only small towns, in which they will maintain altars for worship, and where they will teach and expound the Law of God. They are not to give themselves to the pursuit of wealth. They are not to engage in business, or anything we might call, “secular work.” They are to be wholly supported by the tithes and offerings of the people, just as the the Tabernacle and local sanctuaries are to be built and maintained by the free offerings of the people they serve.
Three truths are made obvious in this. First, the work of the minister is real work which contributes to the “wealth” and benefit of the community. His work is as important as that of the mother, farmer, soldier, physician and judge. Therefore, the minister earns his keep. His income is his due wage, not charity. Second, the minister is not to be allowed to exist in poverty or want. Third, the minister is to be content with his wages, not covet the riches of others, or spend his time in the pursuit of wealth.
Verses 9-14 warn against the practices of divination, sorcery, witchcraft, and astrology. Two evils are inherent in these things. First, they seek help from, and give allegiance to idols and demons instead of God. Second, they attempt to know the future and control events rather than bring prayers to God and trust Him to give what He knows is best.
Making sons and daughters pass through the fire (vs. 9) refers to burning children alive as sacrifices to the Baals. This was a common, and reprehensible practice in Baalism, especially in the worship of the idol Moloch.
God has given the Law, the Tabernacle, and the priests, and He promises to be with Israel through these things. But, beginning in verse 15, He also promises to be with His people through the continuation of the ministry of the prophet. Here He refers first to Joshua, who will lead Israel as Moses has led them. He refers also to The Prophet, who is nothing less than our Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry of the prophet is fulfilled in Christ. He has given His full and complete Word, the Holy Bible, to be our guide and voice of God. Therefore, prophets, as found in the Old and New Testaments, have been replaced by the Bible. There is a prophetic function of the New Testament ministry, but that function is to preach and apply the revelation of God in the Bible. It does not give new revelations, nor does it predict future events.
God also warns that some, who are not prophets, will pretend to be prophets. The people of God are warned to measure prophetic teaching by two standards. First, true prophecy must be true to the written Word of God. Those who call people to go against the Word are false prophets. Therefore, pronouncing God’s blessing on acts of vice, oppression, or injustice is false prophecy. Second, true prophecy must stand the test of time. In other words, what it says will happen, must happen. False prophets will predict that God will do something He has no intention of doing. Their prophecies will be proven false, and when they are, the prophets will be dealt with as criminals against God and humanity.
Note bene: the real friends of humanity are those who call sin “sin” and urge people to repent and be saved. The enemies are the people who pronounce God’s blessings on things He will actually punish.
Dt. 19, Lk. 9:1-36
Dt. 20, 2 Timothy 1
Moses turns from man’s duties toward God to man’s duties toward man. The moral Laws are incumbent upon all people, but especially to those within the Covenant Community of the Church. Our dealings with one another are to be constant in the letter and spirit of the Law. This chapter relates and applies three commandments.
“Thou shalt not kill” is expounded in verses 1-13. Cities of refuge are places, in which a person involved in an accidental death may reside in safety. A person found guilty of intentional murder cannot remain in the refuge. His crime has no pardon, plea bargain, or mercy. The guilt of innocent blood must be put away from Israel (13).
“Thou shalt not steal” is the subject of verse 14. There are many ways to steal. Paying an employee less than a fair day’s pay, or giving an employer less than a fair day’s work are both theft, as is failure to give to the Church and ministry as God has blessed you. There are subtle ways of theft, such moving the boundary markers (ancient landmarks) of a neighbor’s fields or property. A person might move the boundary markers in order to claim his neighbor’s land. This is theft as surely as entering a person’s home and stealing his money.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness” is addressed in verses 15-21. It is possible to use the courts and the government to accomplish theft or murder. False accusations, attested by false testimony through false witnesses, can cause false verdicts in court. It is also possible that judges may rule falsely due to bribes or self interest. All of these actions are in the category of bearing false witness.
If discovered, false witnesses are to have done to them what they intended to do to their victims: life for life,eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Verses 1-9 give exemptions from military service in the coming wars with the Canaanites. There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for not joining the battle. Fear disqualifies a man from serving, but we can only imagine the stigma he will bear for his cowardice.
Cites which are far off (vs. 14) are cities outside of the area promised to Israel. Treaties may be made with them. Treaties with Canaanite cities are not allowed. The reasons for this have been discussed earlier (see Dt, 7 and comments).
Dt. 21, Lk. 9:37-62
Dt. 22, 2 Tim. 2
Human life belongs to God. He values it so highly that payment for an unlawful death must be made, even if the murderer cannot be found. Directions for this payment are found in verses 1-9.
The law allowing taking captured women as wives (10-14) is puzzling because it seems to contradict God's previous directions about dealing with the Canaanites, and His intention that a man should have one wife, and a woman should have one husband. For reasons known only to God, He allows this, but only after the woman is allowed to mourn her father and mother for a full month. Some commentators believe the mourning period was also given to allow the woman to put away her Canaanite religion and ways. Thus, converting to the Hebrew religion, she becomes an eligible wife. If she is found to have not converted, or he decides to lawfully divorce her, the man is to release her into freedom. He is not allowed to treat her as a slave to be sold for profit, or as a Canaanite enemy.
More laws about marriage appear in verses 15-17. Dual marriages may come about through lawful means. A brother is required to marry the wife of a brother who dies childless. Such a union poses almost endless possibilities for conflict between the wives. Other, less altruistic motives may result in a man having more than one wife. Favouritism may cause the man to want the favourite wife’s child to be the inheriting son. God absolutely forbid this. The first born son is the inheritor. Sinful feelings in the husband, and jealousy between the wives cannot alter the law of inheritance.
Just as a son cannot be deprived of his lawful rights, a son who rejects the Covenant and ways of God, loses his rights and inheritance. Such a son, like the Prodigal, will probably leave Israel of his own accord. To remain in Israel, while in rebellion against God is to invite the highest penalty.
Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Verses 1-4 answer with a distinct, “yes.” Even your brother’s property is your responsibility. Look after it with the same care you would like to receive in a similar situation.
Verse 5 tells us to preserve the distinction between the sexes. 6 and 7 teach responsibility and respect for the animals in God’s creation. Though they are blessed to us as a food source, they are not to be treated callously or harshly, and there are rules about their treatment. Verse 8 requires us to provide for the safety of people in our homes.
Verses 9 through 12 sound odd to modern readers. They are apparently given to make a visible distinction between the Hebrews and the Gentiles. Hebrews dress differently (vs. 12). The cloth from which their clothing is made is different (vs. 11). Even the crops they sow and the way they plow their fields are different (vss. 9 and 10) such that a person can easily tell whether a field belongs to a Hebrew or to a Canaanite.
A man is to honor his wife and to preserve her good name in the community. A man who spreads lies and false accusations against his wife, and thereby attempts to divorce her, is severely punished. This is especially true if he accuses her of sexual infidelity. Such a man is to be chastised (publicly beaten), pay a heavy fine, and still provide a proper home and financial support for the wife. If the accusations are true, the penalty for adultery is death. The penalty is here applied to the woman, but the law requires the same penalty for man or woman. Verse 30 forbids marriage to, and all lewd actions toward, your father's wife.
Dt. 23:1-14, Lk. 10:1-24
Dt. 23:15-25, 2 Tim 3
The Lord knows Gentile people will see the Hebrews’ blessings, the beauty and happiness of their lives when lived according to the will of God, and the wondrous majesty of God, and will desire to join themselves to Israel. Generally they will be welcomed, but some are forbidden. Ammonites and Moabites are excluded for ten generations, as are illegitimate children and their progeny. Eunuchs are also excluded. Bible scholars are unsure whether these exclusions mean these people may convert to Judaism but are not allowed into the inner parts of the Tabernacle/Temple, or if they mean the excluded people are not allowed to become members of Israel. We do know that, in the New Testament Israel, these exclusions are no longer in force. In Christ’s Church the grace of God is for whosoever will receive it in true and Biblical faith (Jn. 3:16). In His grace there there is no more Jew or Gentile, or male or female, or any other thing to exclude or divide people (Col. 3:11).
Sanitation (vss. 9-14) is not merely a concern for health, though that may be a happy consequence of it. It is a concern for the glory of God, and a demand for physical, as well as spiritual cleanliness before God. Physical filth and squalour are as distasteful to God as the filth and squalour of an unclean soul.
Escaped servants (15-16) are slaves who have escaped from the Gentile nations around Israel. Israel herself is allowed to practice slavery, but it is comparatively gentle, especially when the servants are fellow Israelites. Gentile slavery is often very harsh, and slaves may seek refuge among the Hebrews. They are to be received and protected. The laws regarding dress, morality, and worship will apply to them, just as they do to Hebrews.
Verses 17 and 18 are sufficiently clear. Usury is lending money at interest. Commercial investment is not forbidden, but lending to the legitimate poor to enable them to obtain the necessities of life is not to be done for profit.
Promises of gifts and offerings must be fulfilled, just like all other legitimate promises. But no person is under obligation to make such promises. There is no fault in not making them, only in not keeping those made.
Dt. 24, Lk. 10:25-42
Dt. 25, 2 Tim. 4
Verses 1-5 relate laws of marriage. In our time marriage is often taken very lightly, if at all. God’s repeated references and laws regarding it show that He takes it very, very seriously. Verse 6 forbids taking a person’s means of earning in pledge for a debt. Verse 7 forbids capturing people for enslavement or for selling them to others as slaves.
10 - 22 forbid oppression of fellow servants of God. A poor man’s coat taken as security for a loan, must be returned to him at evening. Servants are to be well treated, and criminals will suffer their own punishment. Justice will not be perverted, and the poor are allowed to glean the fields and vineyards after the harvest. All of these laws show that the Law of God applies to every aspect of social interaction, up to, and including the highest level of government. No one is above or beneath it, nor is it merely a thing of private practice and choice.
Chapter 25 gives specific rules to judges regarding punishment of offenses (1-12). Justice is demanded in business as well as in the court (13-16). The attack of the Amalekites (Ex.17) is given as an example of an unjust attack on the weak and undefended civilians of Israel.
Dt. 26, Lk. 11:1-28
Dt. 27, Titus 1
It is interesting that we have both the commandment to honour God with a basket of the first fruits of the harvest, and the very words of the liturgy of presenting the fruit at the altar (1-11). Tithes are also offered and the liturgy for offering them is given in verses 13-15. These liturgies show how the Hebrew Church worshiped God in ancient times, and offer useful guides to worshiping God in the New Testament Church.
There is always great danger that future generations will devalue or completely reject the moral and theological foundations upon which their culture and people are based, and which made them what they are. So God has Moses tell the people to build pillars in Israel, and to write the words of the Law upon them. When the children see the pillars and read the Law, and the history of their deliverance from Egypt and establishment in Canaan, they will remember God, and serve Him in love and gratitude. This chapter also gives the liturgy to be read when the pillars are placed.
March 18, 2015
Dt. 4:25- 49 Lk 4
Dt. 5:1-21, 2 Thessalonians 1
The second point of Deuteronomy 4 is found in verses 23-49. It is stated in two ways. First, in verse 23 Moses says, “Take heed unto yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which He made with you.” Second, in verse 40, he writes, “Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes.” The application of this sermon to contemporary Christians is easy to see. God has done wonderful things for us in Christ. We have a fuller understanding of God’s grace and plan of salvation. The Tabernacle, priests, and sacrifices were but shadows of the ministry of Christ. Since we have more light, our obedience should be more readily and fully given.
Here begins the second sermon. Still in the plains of Moab, Moses calls the people together again. The Covenant is with you, he tells them. The Covenant is always present in tense. Did our mothers and fathers have a part in it? Yes. God grant that our children, and their children, and their, and theirs and theirs will also. And to each generation the Covenant is present tense. For, to each generation the privileges and obligations are for them. Whether their ancestors were faithful or not, whether their children will be or not, they should and must be.
The Ten Commandments are stated again as the foundation of Israel’s obligation to God. These commandments are the heart of God’s Law. In a very real sense, everything else, all the religious and civil laws found in the Pentateuch are explanations and applications of these basic Laws. This is why our Lord Himself said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; thou shalt love by neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” This is the heart of what God wants for you and from you. We could say the Commandments reveal the heart of God.
Dt. 5:22-33, Lk. 5
Dt. 6, 1 Thes. 2
If the commandments reveal God's heart, the rest of chapter 5 reveals what He would like to see in your heart. “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever” (vs. 29). God wants you to have a heart devoted to Him. He wants you to want to keep His commandments. The desire of God's heart is also our well-being. He wants us to keep His commandments that it might be well with us and with our children forever.
The famous words of Dt. 6:5 were repeated by Christ as the greatest of all Commandments. The rest of Dt. 6 is an explanation of what it means to love God: keep His commandments. The chapter makes it clear that God wants much more than mere mechanical, rote obedience. He wants willing, happy obedience. Perhaps you have worked with surly people who do only what they have to do, and cooperate only as much as they have to, but whose demeanor is rude and uncooperative. This is not what God wants from you. He wants willing and happy obedience out of love for Him.
The result of happy obedience is more happiness, more contentment in God, more fulfillment in life. Many people think the Commandments of God are shackles and chains to keep us from enjoying life. In reality they are the way to enjoy life. They are for our good (vs. 24), and the Lord preserves those who keep them.
Dt. 7, Lk. 6:1-19
Dt. 8, 2 Thes. 3
“Utterly destroy them.” “Make no covenant.” Why would God command such a thing? The answer is given in verse 4: the Canaanites “will turn away thy sons from following me.” We have already seen the results of becoming too friendly with pagan tribes (Num 25 and 31). God wants no repeat that tragedy.
There is a second reason, too. We read in Genesis 15:13 that Abrams’ descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and whose people will afflict them for four hundred years. The land is Egypt, and the affliction is slavery. Why didn’t God just give the land to Abraham then? Why did He make the Hebrew people endure slavery and affliction? Because He intended to use those four hundred years to mold and shape Israel. Thus, bitter as it was, their affliction worked for good to the Hebrew people (see Rom. 8:28). Also, when God spoke these words to Abram the iniquity of the Ammorites was not yet full (Gen. 15:16). At that time, the Ammorites dominated Canaan, and most of the Canaanite tribes were simply subdivisions of the Ammorites, just as the twelve tribes of Israel were sub groups of the Hebrew people. The Ammorites were a fierce and aggressive people who loved war. Like many others, the Ammorites were polytheistic. Their chief gods and goddesses were called Baals and Ashteroth, and their rites and rituals were intended to convince the gods to enable the crops and herds to reproduce in order that they may have food. Baalism, then, was a fertility religion, and its rites and rituals were essentially drunken orgies. Its temples employed ritual prostitutes, in the belief that sexual relations with them would induce the gods to give fertility to land, animals, and people. Many young Canaanite girls were sold to the temple for that purpose. The gods required other offerings also, and sacrifices of crops and animals were given at various festivals and rituals. One of the most tragic rituals was the offering of infants and children. The children were bound and placed inside a bronze bull. A fire was built under the idol, and the children were slowly roasted alive. For these reasons God wanted the Ammorite religion removed from the face of the earth.
The heart of chapter 8 is the exhortation to remember God when the Hebrews dwell in peace and prosperity in Canaan. They face the danger of making their new prosperity the focus of life. They face the danger of forgetting God. There is a warning in verse 5 that as a man chasteneth his son, “so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.”
Dt. 9, Lk. 6:20-49
Dt. 10, 1 Tim. 1
Verse 9 reminds Israel that they receive God’s benefits because of His grace, not their righteousness. They are, in fact, not righteous. They are a stifnecked people (vs. 6), like a horse that refuses to turn or stop, and hardens his neck against the rider. They have provoked the Lord “from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came into this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord.” There is an important point being made here. Israel deserves the same fate as the Ammorites. Israel deserves the same fate as the people they are going to overcome and drive out of the land. All people deserve that fate. The wonder is not that God punishes sinners, but that He saves sinners. The wonder is not that God has wrath; it is that God has mercy.
Moses again recalls the gracious acts of God in giving the Commandments. They are not shackles, they are life. They are not given to harm you; they are given for your good. We see another, wonderful summation of the desire and intent of God in verses 12 and 13. “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee?” He requires only good things. Fear Him in respectful knowledge of His great majesty and power, which He can use against you as well as for you. Walk in His ways by ordering your life according to the letter and spirit of His commandments. Love Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. Do this, and everything else will follow.
Dt. 11, Lk. 7:1-35
Dt. 12, 1 Tim. 3 & 4
Moses now recounts God’s punishment of Egypt and of the rebellious Hebrews in the desert. He reminds them again that “Your eyes have seen all the great acts which He did.” Many who were children in Egypt are now in adulthood. They lived through the deliverance from Egypt and the events of the desert. Let the fact that they have seen these things with their own eyes move them to fervent and grateful obedience to God.
Yet God gives another reason for obedience. Yes, He has done wondrous things for them in the past, but even more lie ahead of them. He will drive the Canaanites out of the land before them (23). “Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours” (24).
Some of the most significant words in the Bible are found in verses 26 through 28. There is a promise of blessing, and a warning of curse. The blessings are for those who love the Lord, walk in all his ways, and cleave unto him” (22). The curse is for those who obey not, turn aside out of the way, and go after other gods (28).
The chapter ends optimistically: “For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and it judgments which are set before you this day.”
It is easy to imagine people like Cain and Esau attempting to justify themselves by inventing gods of their own liking. But God demands that every remnant of Baalism be destroyed in Israel. The altars, where the children were sacrificed, the pillars of their temples, where they fornicated, even the trees under which they conducted their orgies and sacrifices, are to be completely destroyed. Why? To remove their temptation from Israel.
Especially are they not to be used as places to worship God. God will choose a place for His Name to reside (5). God knows all things, and He knows where that place will be. In His time He will reveal it to His people, but we already know it as Jerusalem. There will also be local places within each tribe’s land where they can bring their offerings and worship God (12). He directs where He will be worshiped, just as He directs how He will be worshiped. He leaves none of this up to human imagination. He counts the worship practices of Baalism, and all human innovation, as strange fire (see Lev. 10:1-3). He also directs how the Levites, who conduct the worship are cared for (18-19).
Dt. 13, Lk. 7:36-50
Dt. 14, 1 Tim. 4
People will arise, who will call themselves prophets of God, but will preach false doctrines to Israel. There will always be people who will try to entice people away from God’s clear teaching with fanciful gimmicks and smooth words. And there will always be sincere, but deceived people who think they know more about God than the Biblical people, including Christ, knew. Old Testament Israel paid dearly for listening to false prophets. New Testament Israel received the Word of God at great cost, and orthodox Christianity has been preserved at the cost of countless faithful lives. Let us not surrender this precious legacy.
The cuttings and baldness between the eyes were practiced by the pagans as part of their religious rites and as body ornamentation. Both are forbidden. The people of God are to glorify God in all things, including our bodies. Just as we do not defile ourselves by giving our bodies to people who are not our spouses, so also we do not give our bodies to those who are not our God. This principle even applies to what we eat. The laws of clean and unclean food are restated, along with the command to care for the Levites. We do not listen to false prophets. We do not dress like those who follow false prophets. We do not abuse our bodies like those who follow false prophets. We do not eat like those who follow false prophets. We do not support false prophets with our money.
We do honour God by devoting ourselves to hearing and keeping His word. We do honour God by dressing and caring for our bodies in ways that identify us as His people. We do honour God by supporting His Church and ministers.