December 7, 2015.
Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 13-15.
Background: Deuteronomy 10-12.
Concepts and Connections.
Serving the Lord only: As part of the core of the Deuteromic core, the main teaching of this chapter is never to listen to anyone who suggests to go and serve other gods. This has a close connection to the first (and second) of the Ten Commandments, that the children of Israel have no other gods before the Lord (see Exodus 20:3-4). Here, we see that this was a grievous evil and was punishable by death. Moses gives three groups of people that the children of Israel were not to listen to if they suggested to go after other gods. Though this rule applied to anyone, some of these groups are probably put forth here because the nature of their relationship with Israel might confuse the people of God if they heard them say these things. The first group is a prophet, dreamer or one who gives wonders and signs. Even if a prophet came to the people and suggested that they turn from the Lord, they people were not to listen to him, but rather sentence him to death. Paul makes a similar statement to the Galatians (see Galatians 1:6-9). Here, it says that this might even be a test from the Lord, to show their love for Him. The next group is close family. Even if a sibling, parent or spouse secretly implored them to serve other gods, they were not to listen to them, but again, sentence them to death. Finally, if they heard of the talk of any worthless fellows in the land whose words drew away cities to serve other gods and it proved true that the city had gone astray, they were even to put the inhabitants of the city to death and burn the city. This was not a minor thing in the sigh of the Lord God. The children of Israel were to serve God, and God only. Let us take lesson here.
Food laws and tithes: In this chapter, the children of Israel are set apart from the other nations, not cutting themselves or making their foreheads bald for the dead (perhaps this was a custom of the nations around them). The food laws detailing what the children of Israel could and couldn’t eat are given here (for notes on these food laws, see Leviticus 11). Then Moses talks about tithing, showing how it supplies for the people. The tithe was for the people to learn to fear the Lord God always. Notice how it seems that nearly everything was tithed and was to be eaten in the place where the Lord chose to put His name. If that place was too far for them and they could no longer carry the tithe because the Lord had blessed them, they were allowed to sell the tithe and buy anything their appetite craved in the place where the Lord chose, including wine and strong drink. They were to eat and rejoice, but not to neglect the Levites within their towns, for they were given no physical inheritance. Every three years, all the tithe of their produce was to be laid up within the towns for the Levite, sojourner, fatherless and widows to eat and be filled. This way, the less fortunate and those who were not given a physical blessing would be provided for by the tithe. This was from the Lord their God.
The Sabbatical year: This chapter essentially embodies that command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Leviticus 19:9-18). Here, Moses talks about the sabbatical year (see Leviticus 25:1-7), explaining how there was to be a release of everything that was lent in the past six years to any brother. This was specific to the Israelites here, allowing the children of Israel to exact what they lent to a foreigner, but not their brethren. Moses tells the people that they may lend to other nations, but they should never borrow from them. Then we see the command to love the poor, not looking grudgingly at them, but rather to give freely to them, even near the sabbatical year. The ear of the Lord was open to the poor and oppressed, and He would hear them if they cried out after being afflicted by their brethren. They were to help the poor of the land, for they would always have the poor with them. Jesus echoes this when He is talking to His disciples (see Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7 and John 12:8). The children of Israel were commanded to open their hands wide to their brethren who were needy and poor. Then Moses talks about a Hebrew man or woman that was sold into slavery (rather, probably one who sold themselves as a bond servant out of a debt they couldn’t pay), that they should be set free, with liberal furnishings from the flock, threshing floor and winepress, in the sabbatical year. The children of Israel were to remember their time as slaves in the land of Egypt and look upon their brethren with love, and it was not to be a burden for them to release their Hebrew bondservants in the sabbatical year. If the bond servant chose to stay with his master on his own free will because of the close relationship that he had with his master, he could do so, and he would be a bondservant forever. Finally, Moses talks about consecrating the firstborn of the flock and heard, eating it as a special meal in the place that the Lord would choose. They were to be dedicated to the Lord. However, if the firstborn had any blemish or deformity, it was not to be sacrificed to the Lord, but eaten as a common meal. They were not to eat the blood of the animal regardless of blemish (see Leviticus 3:17).
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezra 1-5.
Lean on the Lord.