Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 26:17 (CSB)

17 Today you have affirmed that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, keep his statutes, commands, and ordinances, and obey him.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope is a summation of the preceding chapters conveyance of the laws and commands that God has given his people. Beyond that, it shows an interesting relationship between Israel, and us, and God.

This is, as the CSB translation notes in the pericope title, a “covenant summary”. It starts with the statement of the covenant in vv16-17: follow the statutes and ordinances he has given, and do so “with all your heart and all your soul.” I find v17 especially interesting with the reference to “heart and soul”. Moses certainly could have made a reference to simply being obedient, or some sort of physical satisfaction of the commands of God, like controlling our hands and feet or something like that. But instead, as translated here, to me, it harkens forward to Matthew 22:37, where Jesus tells us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind.” In other words, it seems to me that God, via Moses, is conveying the sense that we should be pointed at God, and moving consistently towards him, desiring to do all he commands, not that we are expected to be perfect from this point on.

The passage then establishes the covenant from the side of the Israelites, or our side. In v17, Moses confirms the apparent affirmation, whatever that looked like, of the Israelites that God is God, their Lord, and their intention to be obedient and follow his commands. I think this is the equivalent to the person who, today, surrenders to Christ, and professes him as their Lord and Savior… to one who has been saved. That act is our affirmation described here by Moses. And although it is in the context of a different covenant, I think there is a similar underlying purpose.

Finally, in vv18-19, the pericope concludes with God’s part of the covenant, and his affirmation of it. This section covers two points: who Israel was in relation to God, and what God will do for Israel. Israel was God’s possession, and therefore expected to be obedient. And God promised to raise them above the rest of his created nations, and they would be “a holy people”. Note that the Israelites would not be holy through their obedience to the commands of God, they would holy due to God’s keeping his part of the covenant… they would be holy due to God’s doing.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the example of the covenant between you and Israel. I pray that it would teach us how to enter our relationship with you, to seek to be obedient, not because of anything we can achieve through our obedience, but out of love for you, with all our heart and soul. And we can be assured that you will elevate us, make us holy, and keep us eternally, because of who you are. Amen.

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Deuteronomy 26:12-15

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 26:12 (CSB)

12 “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Reflection/Application:

I have a bad habit of letting my relationship with God end with him. In other words, I read his word, I pray to him, I seek his reply (sometimes), and try my best to be aware of, and open to the reception of, his working in and around me. And those are, I think, all good things. But when my relationship with God ends there: that’s the bad habit.

I think this passage is a good reminder for us that being a child of God does not end with our interaction with him alone, but flows outside of it, spilling over into our relationships with God’s people, and his creation.

This passage is clear that the act of giving the tithe of the third year to the poor and needy remains exactly that: a tithe. It is still an act of obedience to God (v13, 14). It is still out of remembrance of what God has done (v15). And the tithe is still “given” to God (v12, 13). Our relationship with God should permeate and define all of our relationships: it should be the primary relationship in our life.

But as a part of that primary relationship, we should see our relationships with others grow as well. What would it mean if we were so pious that we spent so much time in commune with God, but then turned our backs to the least of society, to those in dire need? Would we be much different than Satan standing insolently before God? It would seem that our turning to, and caring for, the needy and helpless, rather than diminishing the import of the offering to God, rather reinforces the offering, and stands equivalent to it. If not, would the tither stand “in the presence of God” and make the claim recited in Deut. 26:13-15?

It should be noted that the tithe given to the needy, to the widow, alien, orphan, and Levite, is equivalent to the tithe given to God in every way. It is consecrated and clean. It is brought and offered in accordance with the command of God. It is worthy of blessing by God. I like how one commentary puts it: “Thus the offering of firstfruits to the Lord (26:1–11) could not be separated from the beneficence to be shown to fellow kingdom citizens (vv. 12–15).” 1

 

1 Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 335.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for reminding us that loving you necessarily means loving your children. I forget that, and I need that reminder. I am sorry for turning my back on those in need, and I pray for the compassion and grace to reach out to them moving forward, just as you reached for me. Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 26:11 (CSB)

11 You, the Levites, and the resident aliens among you will rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given you and your household.

Reflection/Application:

This passage shifts the focus on the commands for the Israelites upon entering Canaan, to what they are to do that is directed at God. The passage summarizes the when, what, and why of the command, and ends with the result of obedience.

  • When: The command states that once the Israelites “enter”, “take possession of”, and “live in it,” then they are to proceed with following this command. Further, since they are told to bring the first of the fruits of the land, it seems obvious this means they will have been settled enough to begin farming, and have reached a first harvest. So this is not a pre-emptive offering, but one made in response, following the work of God in bringing the Israelites to, and into, Canaan, and then giving them the land as their inheritance.
  • What: It may be surprising that the offering here is not an animal sacrifice. But, it seems to me, that this offering is not one of atonement, meant to cover the sins of the Israelites, but instead is one of thanksgiving, and even more, of recognition of who and what God has done. It seems fitting that the offering is the produce that comes from a seed in the dust, a miracle of God.
  • Why: The central part of the passage records the recitation that the offerer is to make upon the offering being presented before the altar. It is a condensed summary of the relationship between Israel and God: from Abraham to the time when the offering will be occurring. It is a reminder of the roles of each within this special relationship, and of God’s grace and mercy, as well as his awesome power. It is interesting that this passage which is written prior to the actual taking of Canaan, records this recitation that refers to the event in the past tense, assured of what is to come.
  • Result: The final verse of the passage conveys the results of Israel’s obedience in this command. We see that there will be rejoicing, presumably both spiritually and physically, since it is in “all the good things the Lord your God has given.” Further, we can see that this result is not limited to just the one who presents the offering in obedience and thankfulness, nor is it limited just to his household, or family. Instead we see that in addition to one’s household, both the Levite and the alien will also join in the rejoicing. God’s blessings far surpass our own needs, they spill out for those around us as well!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for blessing us even though we do not deserve it. And thank you for blessing us again, in abundance, when we recognize your love, grace, and mercy. I am sorry for not always bringing to you the first of the harvest you’ve given me, I pray for the thankful heart to do so from now on. Amen.

Deuteronomy 25:17-19

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:19 (CSB)

19 When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven. Do not forget.

Reflection/Application:

It seems a stretch to include this passage in the same theme of relational commands preceding it. Instead, it seems to be a mixture of a look to the past, back to where the Israelites came from, and a look forward to the future, and who they should be.

Here, prior to the Israelites taking Canaan, God reminds them to not forget what the Amalekites did to them during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. The attack by the Amalekites is equated to a lack of “fear of God”. In other words, they are enemies of God, and their stance against God should not be forgotten. This is the look backwards, a view of where the Israelites were, and how the Amalekites stood against them, and God.

In v19 God gives the Israelites a glimpse forward. The promise of rest in the land to be given to them is made. It is not a question of if, but when they will have rest. This seems to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelites. And what is it they are to do then? They are to execute the judgement that God has previously pronounced upon the Amalekites in Exodus 17:14. This is the look forward for the Israelites, where now they will be joining God in achieving his purposes.

The last sentence, the final three words: “Do not forget,” strike me in both ways: do not forget to follow through in the future, as God’s children, and do not forget the past, and who has brought you out of Egypt. Should this not be our position? Should we not constantly be in that middle ground where we continually remember and thank God for saving us, and at the same time work with God, remembering to join him in his plans for his glory?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for saving us out of our sin, just as you saved the Israelites out of Egypt. And thank you for having great plans for us to join you on your mission. I am sorry for not always remembering where I came from, nor where I should be going. Help me to remember, and continue forward with you. Amen.

Deuteronomy 25:13-16

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:15 (CSB)

15 You must have a full and honest weight, a full and honest dry measure, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Reflection/Application:

This is a pretty straightforward passage, but it deals with a difficult topic.

It would seem odd to think that God’s command here is literally concerned with the ownership of differing weights and measures. It seems obvious, considering the tie to “acting unfairly” in Deut. 25:16, that the real issue is an attitude of the heart: and issue of honesty. After all, the weights and measures themselves are not “sin”, and simply having them does not constitute sin. It is the use of such items, in a way that is dishonest, that is in fact sin.

So it seems logical that the ownership of such items, with the intent to use them dishonestly, is what God is addressing here. And, it is not a far stretch to then arrive at the conclusion that such items should, in fact, not be owned! It seems quite intuitive that if we have such devices of dishonesty, we have nefarious intentions. We do not, intuitively, think that one who possesses drug paraphernalia possesses it without intention to use it!

Conversely, in Deut. 25:15, it seems absurd to think that the literal ownership of a “full and honest” weight and measure is mandatory to enjoy God’s gift of the promised land for any length of time. Again, the message here is the application of honest dealings. This seems a quite useful “guardrail” of sorts in our lives today. If we acquire items, skills, and acquaintances that enable us to behave and act deceptively, we put ourselves in a position to exercise those things and do just that. But if we acquire honest tools, skills, and acquaintances, we place ourselves in a position to pursue, follow through, and exercise those values, just as God commands.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for providing us simple, intuitive, guidelines to live by. The pressures of the world constantly batter us, and tempt us, to join in those sinful activities, and I am sorry for joining in those activities and attitudes. I pray that you would embolden us to remain in you, and live lives that honor and glorify you. Amen.

Deuteronomy 25:5-12

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:6 (CSB)

6 The first son she bears will carry on the name of the dead brother, so his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

Reflection/Application:

This passage appears to be concerned primarily with the preservation of the family line of God’s people. Perhaps it is a related extension of the previous passage, continuing the idea of fairness, but in the context of continuing and protecting the family line.

It must be said that the commands here seem completely foreign to a modern western mind. But, if taken in the context of the time, it would seem the command is a provision for the well-being of the widow, and a retention of the family estate.

Additionally, there may be an aspect here that helps the brother not be consumed by greed. After all, taking his brother’s wife would cost him something. And then to have a child, and raise that child, would also cost him something. And in the end, his brothers estate would not be his, but be passed to his brother’s son, who would have actually been his own blood son. Greed would have him simply absorb his brothers estate, cast out the widow, and never take on the responsibility of children to carry on his brother’s name. But God’s command expects otherwise, and urges us to stand against that sin of greed.

Finally, Deut. 25:11-12 seem very out of place here, and flat out odd. One possible way to tie this back into the rest of the pericope could be the idea that when the woman “grabs his genitals,” she could do some sort of real damage which prevents the man from continuing his own family line, in which case the penalty would be quite severe, as is in line with the penalty stated of cutting off the hand.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for preserving your people, for putting in place protections not just to continue on the family lines of your children, but for putting in place commands that would help us to turn from sins like greed and selfishness, and towards grace and mercy. I am sorry for the many times I’ve put myself first, with no regard for your children. I pray for the compassion, the heart, to put others first, and to have a servant heart like you do. Amen.

Deuteronomy 25:1-4

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 25:4 (CSB)

4 “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain.

Reflection/Application:

I like this passage. We see here both sides of justice, and we have much to learn from it.

On one hand we see that punishment is, at a minimum, condoned by God, but seemingly commanded by God due to the notion of a flogging being “deserved” (v2). It is easy to forget, due to the mercy of God, that he is also perfectly just and demands and exacts punishment for sin. Therefore we should not be surprised to read this description of a man found guilty enduring some form of punishment.

But on the other hand it is perfectly clear that there is a fairness and mercy that comes into play. We should note a few things concerning the doling out of punishment:

  1. The case itself is heard by a court. The guilt of the man is to be determined based upon evidence in court. This is an absolute protection from false accusations.
  2. The punishment is relative to the crime. Deut. 25:2 says the punishment is “the number of lashes appropriate for his crime.” There is a protection from wanton revenge and abuse for the guilty party.
  3. There is an absolute maximum to the penalty. There is a threshold, apparently, when a penalty exceeds what should be exacted due to the integrity and innate honor of a child of God. Duet. 25:3 notes that a greater punishment would cause the person to be “degraded in your sight.” They would be less than what they are in our sight, yet they have not lost their status of a being created in the image of God, thus the punishment must be tempered.

Finally, the last verse of the passage, seemingly a very odd shift, completes the thought. I don’t think we should focus so much on the literal meaning of not muzzling a working ox, instead we should recognize that the protection of one of the beasts, the ox, a creature not created in God’s image, means we should expect even more concern and protection for man, God’s treasured creation.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for protecting and having mercy on us! We may not escape punishment, and although it is hard to accept, I pray we learn and grow closer to you through such reprimands. But no matter what you show your grace and mercy through tempering our punishment, and it culminates in your acceptance of our ultimate punishment by going to the cross on our behalf… thank you! Amen.