Monday, March 22, 2010


Deuteronomy 14-16

Chapter 14 of Deuteronomy includes a repeat of the dietary laws from Leviticus chapter 11, which explain that the Israelites "may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud." It also tells them not to "cook a young goat in its mother's milk." Moses also tells them to "set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year" as a tithe for the LORD. He tells them, if the place set aside for the making of offerings is too far away, to convert the offerings to silver and carry that, then convert it again at the other end of the journey. And they are told to bring all of the tithe's and "store it in your towns" every three years, to provide for the Levites "(who have no allotment or inheritance of their own)" and also for the "aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns."

In chapter fifteen, there is a reminder of the obligation to "cancel debts" among fellow Israelites every seven years (Lv 25), as well as admonitions not to abuse that. They are told that a Hebrew who "sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free." And they are reminded to set apart for the LORD "every firstborn male of your herds and flocks."

Deuteronomy 16 reminds the Israelites of the instructions to celebrate the Passover, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles, as they were told in Leviticus 23. They are also told to appoint judges "for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you," and warned, again, not to worship other Gods.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • If I'm not mistaken, Deuteronomy 14:21, "do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk," is the source of the kosher requirements for two sets of dishes, one for meat and another for dairy.
  • Three of the Gospels tell the story of Jesus cleaning the money-changers and merchants out of the temple.

    "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.' " (Mt 21:13)

    And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: " 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations' ? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " (Mk 11:17)

    "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be a house of prayer' ; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " (Lk 19:46)

    Many of us, first encountering Jesus' anger in the temple, assume that there's no reason for the "moneychangers" and "those selling doves" to be there in the first place, and therefore, Jesus' anger is prima facie justified. After reading Deuteronomy 14, however, the story makes more sense culturally, but the anger is harder to explain. There must be something behavioral going on beyond the mere fact of the existence and presence of money changers and dove sellers in the temple. That presence is, if not demanded, at least explained and justified in Deuteronomy 14:24-26.

    If that place [that the LORD orders for the sacrifices] is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish...

    So those merchants are necessary for Jews traveling too far to bring their sacrifices. Their mere presence should not cause the kind of reaction that Jesus had - there is more going on than that.
  • They were certainly told often enough, or more than often enough, not to worship idols and other Gods. It didn't work.

Psalms 42

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." A wonderful image, and deep down, I believe it's true. But up on top, it's hard. Do we really " the deer pants for streams of water?" Many of us, I fear, are scared of the commitment that comes from desiring God that way. What if we commit ourselves, our souls "thirst[ing] for God," and then "men say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'" We fear having to ask, ""Why have you forgotten me?"

Jesus said that "blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled." May it please God to have that be us, all the time, hungering and thirsting for righteousness and for God.

Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

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