Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Deuteronomy 17-19

Deuteronomy 17 begins with a reminder that the offerings to the LORD must be without "any defect or flaw," and continues with instructions to stone to death "a man or woman living among you...found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD you God in violation of his covenant," specifically with regard to worshipping other Gods. The punishment is only to be imposed, however, on testimony of more than one witness - "no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness." Moses then discusses the judging of difficult cases, telling the people that if cases come to court which are "too difficult for you to judge," take them to the priests and they will give you the verdict.

He tells them that when they have taken possession of the promised land and say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," to be certain that the chosen king is the one that God chooses. He must be "from among your brothers." And then he says that the king must not "acquire great numbers of horses for himself...take many wives...[or] accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." The king must "write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law...He is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God."

In chapter 18, Moses reminds the Israelites that the Levites "are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel," and that they "shall live on the offerings made to the LORD by fire, for that is their inheritance." He emphasizes, again, that they are not to "imitate the detestable ways of the nations" whom they are driving out of the promised land. He tells them that though the Canaanite nations "listen to those who practice sorcery or divination" but that the Israelites are not to do so. But the Lord "will raise up for a prophet like me from among your own brothers" and they must listen to him. But a prophet who would speak in God's name without God's word "must be put to death." They would know the truth or falsehood because "if what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken."

Deuteronomy 19 talks about the sanctuary cities, the "cities of refuge," which were first described in Numbers 35. Three of them are on the east side of the Jordan and there are to be three more in the promised land. They exist to offer a place of refuge for one who accidentally, "without malice aforethought," kills his neigbor. If Israel obeys the Lord and prospers, such that their territory is enlarged, they are to add three more. "Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land." And he tells them again that "one witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed." And if someone perjures himself in order to injure another, the man guilty of perjury should be punished the same way that he tried to have the other man punished. They are told to "show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Over 200 years ago, our ancestors threw of the yoke of a king, and we feel that monarchy is a bad and outdated idea. The Israelites, however, lived in a time when that was considered to be an acceptable and desirable form of government. This will come up again, as the book of Judges continuously tells us that "everyone did what was right in his own eyes because there was no King." And Moses and the LORD knew that the Israelites would expect and want a king. So there were instructions left for him, and requirements for him.
  • I have always tended to think of the Old Testament prophets as ... well, I'm not sure how to say this. Outside of societal norms, I guess. Someone that the average person would look at and tend to ignore. Here, again, we see that the context for those prophets is something that we need to understand. It's actually an official title for the LORD's messengers, and the Israelites know that they'll be coming and that they need to be listened to.
  • I have always been a "well, the New Testament is where Christ is so that's the important part" Bible reader. But as I go through these Old Testament books in a more careful (and, hopefully, more thoughtful) way, it seems to me that everything here either points to Jesus or prepares the ground for his arrival. The whole of the law, it seems to me, creates a context in which Jesus can come to earth as a man and perform the act of redemption which enables us to know God, and we would be able to see and understand it. There had to be a sacrificial system for him to fit into. We had to have a context for understanding the "lamb of God." There had to be prophets for us to see that God could talk to man. The Old Testament is the history of the Israelites, but it is preparation for everyone for understanding the ministry and mission of Jesus.

Psalms 43

A psalm of supplication and praise. The psalmist is oppressed and prays God's help ("plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men") and feels cut off ("Why have you rejected me?"). But still, he has faith in God's will, and that God will help and he will praise God ("Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.")

Psalm 43

1 Vindicate me, O God,
and plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.

2 You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?

3 Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.

4 Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

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 my God.

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