Friday, 14 March 2014

(74) March 15: Deuteronomy 23-25 & Mark 14:51-72

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what each law taught the people.

To ponder:
The laws continue. To “enter the assembly of the LORD” was to gather for worship at the tabernacle or temple. So those intentionally emasculated (probably in false worship) are excluded, as are ten generations born from “illegitimate marriages” (with prostitutes or close relatives), or born to Ammonites or Moabites, with whom Israel mustn’t make a treaty (because of their hostility). However, only two generations born to Edomites or Egyptians are excluded, due to their prior relationship with Israel. Such laws assumed foreigners would live amongst God’s people, and did not prohibit them from faith in the LORD. At the least, they stress that our response to the Lord now has implications for our posterity. Nevertheless, due to the full cleansing we have in Christ, all who repent immediately join the great assembly, no matter their history (Heb 12v22-24).
            Amongst Israelites, those with “nocturnal emissions” are temporarily excluded from the camp for a day, and the people are to go to the toilet outside the camp, covering any excrement. This is so the LORD moving about the camp doesn’t see anything “indecent” - confirming that uncleanness refers to what is inappropriate or unfitting for God’s holy presence.
            Countering the assumption that the Bible promotes slavery, 23v15-16 commands that escaped slaves be given sanctuary within Israel, living wherever they like and not being oppressed. One considers asylum seekers and slaves today. Israelites are then forbidden from becoming shrine prostitutes or using their earnings to pay for vows made to God. This reveals the hypocrisy of giving dishonest money to the church. Charging interest of fellow Israelites is also forbidden, the speedy keeping of vows commended, and the harvesting of other’s crops banned too.
            It seems divorce was permitted on the broad grounds of “indecency.” But remarrying a first husband having been divorced by them and then married and divorced by a second, is “detestable” (a very strong word), because the woman is “defiled.” Jesus suggests this may be because, although permitted, the second marriage was equivalent to adultery against the first husband (Matt 19v8-9).
            God’s care is seen in what follows: Newly-weds are not to be too busy for a year so they can enjoy their marriages! Security is not to be taken for debt that ruins someone’s means of earning. Those who kidnap and enslave an Israelite must die. Lepers are to follow levitical instruction. Assets given against debt aren’t to be forcefully taken, nor kept if the person is poor and needs them for basic living. Likewise, poor hired workers are to be paid daily so they don’t go without, or else cry to the LORD against their employer (Jam 5v4-6). And family members are not to be held to account for each others’ sin.
Because Israel had nothing as slaves and had to rely on God for redemption, the alien, fatherless and widowed in particular are to be ensured justice, not impoverished, and left the remains after harvest for themselves. We should consider the equivalent today (Jam 1v27). Disputes are to be brought to the judges at court, the punishment to be proportional, and no-one lashed more than forty times to preserve their dignity (perhaps as one in God’s image). Animals are to be allowed to eat from the grain they work, which Paul applies to ministers being paid (1 Cor 9v9-10).
If a man dies, his brother must marry his widow to maintain his name. Not to is shameful and to be acknowledged before the elders and wider community. A wife who grabs someone’s privates to stop him fighting her husband is to have the hand cut off. This is the only instance of such a punishment, providing a strong deterrent. It also stresses the seriousness of attacking someone’s ability to have children, because this was the means by which God’s promises were to be fulfilled.
Finally, business is to be conducted honestly (25v13-16). And after Israel settle, they are to blot out the Amalekites because of what they did in Exodus 17v8-14.

Praying it home:
Thank God that all with faith in Christ are full and equal members of his great assembly. Pray for wisdom on how these principles might be applied to your situation.

Thinking further:
As mentioned, Paul applies the fact that oxen are to be allowed to eat from the grain they work, to the right for ministers to receive pay from those they minister to (1 Cor 9v9-10). Once more this helps us apply the rest of the laws. It teaches that we are to look for the principle of love behind them, and relate it to parallel situations in which that same principle stands. So, the concern that the alien, fatherless and widow receive justice and are provided for, reflect the principle that those with none to stand up for or care for them should be particularly looked out for. We might therefore consider other categories today, such as the pensioner with no relatives or the unborn child; or the need for legal aid to be given to those unable to pay for it.

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