March 22, 2015

Scripture and Commentary March 22 - 27

March 22

Dt. 17, Lk. 8:1-25
Dt. 18, 1 Tim. 6


Deuteronomy 17

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.

Deuteronomy 18

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.

March 23

Dt. 19,  Lk. 9:1-36
Dt. 20,  2 Timothy 1


Deuteronomy 19

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.

  Deuteronomy 20

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).

March 24

Dt. 21,  Lk. 9:37-62
Dt. 22,  2 Tim. 2


Deuteronomy 21

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.

Deuteronomy 22

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.

March 25

Dt. 23:1-14,  Lk. 10:1-24
Dt. 23:15-25,  2 Tim 3


Deuteronomy 23

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. 

March 26

Dt. 24,  Lk. 10:25-42
Dt. 25, 2 Tim. 4


Deuteronomy 24

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.

Deuteronomy 25

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.

March 27

Dt. 26,  Lk. 11:1-28
Dt. 27,  Titus 1


Deuteronomy 26

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.

Deuteronomy 27

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.