Today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 21-22:30; Luke 9:51-10:12; Psalm 74:1-23; Proverbs 12:11
God gives Israel more laws today in Deuteronomy 21. Note that all the law God is giving to Israel are “case law”. Not every possible situation is covered. What God is doing is giving Israel examples of things that may happen and the principles that apply to these hypothetical (but possible) situations. These would become the basis for dealing with similar cases in the future.
For example, it is possible that a man may fall in love with a woman taken captive from one of Israel’s battles. In this case the man must bring her into his home (he would have been living with his parents) and wait one month before marrying her. This was to make sure that his feelings were true love. Once the month was up he could marry her, but didn’t have to. If he chose not to then he was required to send her away with dignity. This was certainly a new way of looking at things back then. God’s way of doing things is never the same as man’s.
In Deuteronomy 21:21 tells us that a rebellious son was to be brought before the town elders by the parents for judgement. If he was found guilty he was to be stoned to death. This seems harsh. But God wants us to keep order in our society. We can’t have a society where those without knowledge are dismissing the wisdom of those who are older. If someone isn’t going to play by God’s rules, then God was willing to eliminate that person for the sake of the rest of society. Today we have the opposite attitude in the United States. Individual rights are more important than the rights of a group. No society can last very long when they live like that.
In ancient Israel being executed for a crime was bad enough but having your body exposed to shame and humiliation was worse. Any such person was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). As a way to temper the degradation God orders that the body cannot hang on a tree overnight. In the original Hebrew this is not talking about hanging by the neck with a rope. This is referring to being affixed to a tree. One of the goals of crucifixion besides the physical torture was the mental torture of being exposed and humiliated in front of all the people to see. When Jesus was crucified He received the curse of God that was meant for all sin so that anyone who believes in Him does not have to receive God’s curse himself.
More case law is given in Deuteronomy 22:1-4. We see that doing nothing is a sin. We should not walk away from a situation that could use our help.
God also wants us to keep males and females distinct (Deuteronomy 22:5). In our culture we try to pretend that there are no inherent differences between men and women. But there are. And God wants us to recognize that. Men are men. Women are women. Certainly there are people in our culture who are confused about that. We need to remember that God loves these people. But love is not a license to sin. Its interesting that this passage follows the previous one where we are told to help in a situation that we think has nothing to do with us. We should not stand idly by while some people lose themselves in the sin of androgynistic behavior.
Deuteronomy 22:6 commands that we be kind to animals. Notice that this command has a promise: “so that you may prosper and enjoy long life”. When we are kind to other creatures who are less intelligent and powerful than us, God will bless us. We are the stewards of this earth. It is our responsibility to take care of it and to treat everything with respect.
In these days houses had flat roofs and people used the roof as living space. In Deuteronomy 22:8 God warns us against being negligent. It is easy to imagine someone being too cheap to install a railing. But that could lead to someone dying. God tells us not to be so cheap or negligent that someone else could suffer.
It may be hard to understand now, but in ancient Israel virginity was valued. It would have been an honor to be the “first”. For a husband to find out that his wife was not a virgin would have been a great disappointment. For that reason God provides some rules for dealing with this issue in Deuteronomy 22:13-21. By the way, God still values sexual purity.
In Luke 9:51 Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. We see Jesus being both brave and obedient as He knows He is going to be tortured and die a horrible death in Jerusalem. Yet He is going anyway.
We see that there is a cost to following Jesus in the remainder of Luke 9. Jesus had no permanent home while on earth for three years. This was a tough life. Following Him would mean making a similar commitment of giving up life’s comforts. One man wants to “bury” his parents first. His parents were not dead – else he would not be hanging around Jesus at this moment. He would have been home mourning. No, this man didn’t want to follow Jesus until after his parents had died and he received his inheritance. Otherwise he would miss out on receiving it. There is a cost to following Christ. And the time to follow is now. Not later.
With time running out Jesus sends 72 other disciples out to spread His message. There were too many people to reach and not enough time or workers to reach them. How much more true is this today? So many people have not heard about Jesus and how they can be saved. People are dying everyday without having this information. It is our job to make sure they get it.
I often think the same thing as Psalm 74. I wonder why God does not punish or destroy those people who mock him or those people who lead others away from Him with false teachings. I wonder why God lets leaders make decisions that are an insult to God and go against the things He wants for us. Its easy to look around this world, see the sin and what it is doing to people God created, and sometimes feel discouraged. But God is in control. He is very patient and is not quick to react to injustice as we are. He loves everyone, even those who hate and ridicule Him, and wants them to come into a relationship with Him. That’s why He’s God and I’m not.
Proverbs 12:11 makes it very clear that the harder you work the more you get. Lazy people should gain nothing. Its okay to help someone who temporarily needs help. We’ve seen this before in our readings this year. But someone who is habitually lazy and whose plan is to live off the hard work of others should not be tolerated.
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