Wednesday, 12 March 2014

(72) March 13: Deuteronomy 17-19 & Mark 14:1-25

As you read note the different ways evil is to be purged from Israel.

To ponder:
Chapter 16 ends with the call to appoint impartial and incorruptible judges to ensure justice. What follows stresses this is to “purge” evil from the land, and so ensure Israel continue to possess it, rather than lose it because of sin.
            Alongside a reaffirmation that sacrifices must be without defect, the call to pure worship is stressed. And if idolatry is confirmed by “careful investigation” and the testimony of at least two or three witnesses, the culprit must be stoned. Requiring the witnesses to initiate this before the whole community is involved, ensures they take responsibility for their testimony, and not make it lightly. Patterned on this, elders oversee the discipline of the church against those who deny the faith in belief or behaviour. Jesus taught two or three witnesses should confirm the matter, before the whole church distances themselves from the individual to stress his predicament and provoke repentance, but also to ensure the sin doesn’t spread through the church (Matt 18v15-17, 1 Cor 5v5-8).
            Order within Israel is now detailed with respect to judges, kings, priests and prophets. Difficult cases are to be brought to a particular “judge” who governs Israel and to the priests at God’s “place.” Again, as with elders (Heb 13v17), their decision and teaching must be adhered to. Indeed, to hold it in contempt warranted death.
Future kings must be Israelites, and those God chooses. And they are not to accumulate horses or wealth, that would encourage them to consider themselves better than others and so exempt from Israel’s laws. Nor are they to have many wives who could lead them from the LORD. Rather they are to be scholars and scribes, who copy and study their own scroll of the law, learning how to revere God. These qualities are exemplified in Jesus, but remind all of the dangers of money, sex and power. They show Israel’s kings were to model and administer God’s law, showing the LORD is the real King.
            The provisions for the Levites are reaffirmed. And if out of a desire to serve God they come from their towns to minister at God’s place, they are to receive provision even if they have material means themselves. So the minister has a right to pay even if they don’t need it (1 Cor 9v4-12).
            Seeking guidance through the occult is condemned before the role of prophets is outlined. They are God’s means of guidance. A particular prophet like Moses is promised. He was awaited in Jesus’ day, yet fulfilled in him (Acts 3v22). But others are promised to. They are needed to mediate the awesome voice of God. They will therefore speak only what God commands and so must be listened to. And those who “presume to speak” in God’s name something not from him (such as predictions that don’t come to pass) must be put to death – and are not to be feared. This is why flippancy in those who preach or claim to have a word from God today is so serious, and why those who speak error in his name should be called to account (Tit 1v10-13).
            Having dealt with cities of refuge east of the Jordan (4v41-44), those west are now mentioned. They must be accessible; and if God grants more land, three more built so that those fleeing can find refuge nearby. However, those who killed maliciously are to be handed over without pity to any avenger, so justice is done. Honesty as well as justice is then commended in the instructions not to steal land by moving boundary stones, and to punish false witnesses with the very punishment those they accuse would have received.

Praying it home:
Thank God for the government he has established both in the nation and church. Pray the former would increasingly shape policy according to God’s ways, and the latter teach and uphold his word clearly and faithfully.

Thinking further:
Any applicable principles of government within Israel apply more directly not to any nation but to the kingdom of God and so the church. Nevertheless, as all government is established providentially to promote good, punish evil and govern society (Rom 13v1-7), the principles of “good” and “evil” found within the Mosaic law and taught by Christ and the Apostles are those we should encourage any government to adopt for the wellbeing of the nation they govern. Nevertheless, caution is needed so that we correctly understand how exactly these principles might apply to such a different and secular context, and shrewdness in how and when to promote them.

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