Deuteronomy 16:1-8

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 16:6 (CSB)

6 Sacrifice the Passover animal only at the place where the Lord your God chooses to have his name dwell. Do this in the evening as the sun sets at the same time of day you departed from Egypt.

Reflection/Application:

This passage contains very high level instructions for the Passover celebration and observance. The overall point is remembrance, not forgetting who the Israelites were, who they belong to, and what he did for them.

It immediately becomes apparent that the Passover is a very important observance, as an entire month is reserved for the event. It does not appear that the entire month is spent observing Passover, but that the week of Passover is held in this specific month, which of course is not a random month, but the month that God brought his people out of Egypt.

There is some sort of communal gathering that was to take place for Passover. Presumably there will be some spreading of the population in Canaan, and Deut. 16:5 even mentions the “towns the Lord your God is giving you.” But for Passover, the people come together, just like they would have been together during the exodus from Egypt, and during their journey through the wilderness.

There was to be a sacrifice, just as there was at Passover. Other than the animal coming from the herd or flock, there is not much detail given here about the animal. The focus here seems to be more on where the sacrifice is being made rather than what it is.

No bread was to have yeast either, likely a reminder of the hasty departure from Egypt. There was not time to await for bread to rise, just as the sacrifice was to be eaten the same evening, because it was not to be a sign that the Israelites would have been sticking around.

The passage closes with the command to “not do any work.” Perhaps this is a reminder that God was the one working, and this would eliminate any chance that the Israelites might claim their being saved was due to their own doing. But certainly it conforms to the commandment to have a sabbath day, and devote that day to God.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for saving us! Just as you brought the Israelites out of Egypt, you break us out of the chains of sin. I am sorry for not always, actually, hardly ever, taking the time to thank you for just that. I pray that we, as your people, will take the time to recognize and worship you for saving us out of slavery and into life. Amen.

Deuteronomy 15:19-23

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 15:19 (CSB)

19 “Consecrate to the Lord your God every firstborn male produced by your herd and flock. You are not to put the firstborn of your oxen to work or shear the firstborn of your flock.

Reflection/Application:

This passage, although seemingly a big shift from the previous one, continues a theme of redemption and freedom.

  1. The firstborn of the flock represent giving back to God immediately from what He has provided. It is not the last of the flock, it is not the skinniest, smallest, weakest, of the flock. It is a step out in faith to give the first, because after all, who knows if there even will be a second? This should be our attitude: putting God first in our lives, and placing our faith in Him.
  2. Consecrating the animal is an offering to God. Unlike the offering of the first born sons, which was to service, the animal is a sacrifice, a foreshadow of Jesus’ sacrifice. Again, a reminder for us of the sacrifice of the One for us.
  3. The animal should be unblemished, without defect. I think this is less an issue of those qualities reducing the inherent value of the animal, and more to do with the image it represents: the perfect Christ. Further, it would seem that the offering would mean something more if the sacrifice meant more to the offerer.
  4. Although it certainly should not be a dogmatic point, but it seems to me that Deut. 15:22 suggests that the benefits of the sacrifice are available to all, and those partaking are part of the city.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for the sacrificial system, for the picture of what was to come: Jesus Christ, the perfect and everlasting sacrifice for us. I am sorry for keeping not just the best, but often all, of what You give me for myself. I pray for the sacrificial, generous, and worshipping attitude to give back to You what is Yours. Amen.

Deuteronomy 15:12-18

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 15:12 (CSB)

12 “If your fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, you must set him free in the seventh year.

Reflection/Application:

Evidently, voluntary slavery was practiced in ancient Israel during times of extreme hardship. If one were destitute, they would indenture themselves to another until they were able to pay off their debt, or when six years were up.

When the six year term was up, not only was the slave free again, but the one whom he was indentured to was to send him off with provisions and supplies to get him started in his new freedom. And this was to be a willing giving, not begrudgingly. In fact, Deut. 15:14 says to “give generously.” It was to be seen not as a “hardship” when an indentured servant was set free, because the benefactor would have received much more from the slave than had he employed hired hands.

But, on the occasion that the slave desires to remain indentured, they were to be marked via a piercing. It seems foreign to us to think of a situation where one would chose this, but the circumstances in ancient Israel were obviously different than what we envision with the word “slave”. Apparently there was a familial band at times, as Deut. 15:16 uses the term “love” when describing the possible relationship between slave and benefactor.

The theme here is that the Israelites themselves were slaves, in Egypt, but were set free by God. And when they left Egypt, they were sent with generous supplies to start their new lives. So who should we be striving to be like: Pharaoh who desired to keep the Israelites enslaved, or God who freed His people, desiring to bless them?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for freeing us from our chains, from our slavery to sin. Help me to free others that may be in my debt, and not to be like Pharaoh, but like You. I pray for the freedom of all Your children, that they may come to know You, the source of life. Amen.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 15:11 (CSB)

11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘Open your hand willingly to your poor and needy brother in your land.’

Reflection/Application:

This is a tough passage for the modern Western church. God is pretty clear here: if there are poor among God’s people, the “church” for us today, then those with the means are commanded to lend to them, not encouraged, but commanded. A lot for us to learn here.

  1. It is a loan. Deut. 15:8 says to “freely loan him enough.” But we are to loan not what we want, or what we think we can realistically recoup, but we are to loan “enough for whatever need he has.” And further, Deut. 15:9 warns us to not loan based upon the proximity of the year of debt cancellation. If it is the 6th year, our loan should be the same as if it was year 1.
  2. This passage is not concerned with why someone might be in poverty, but it is concerned with our reaction. There is no mention of only loaning to someone who just lost their job, but doesn’t have a struggle with drugs. There are no conditions mentioned, nor any command for us to determine the “worthiness” of our poor brother. In fact, notice how that “undeserving” poor person will be the one calling out to God, and we are the ones found guilty! (Deut. 15:9b)
  3. Is our generosity a reflection of God’s? Obviously something is wrong when in the previous passage God says, “There will be no poor among you,” (Deut. 15:4) yet 7 verses later He says, “For there will never cease to be poor people in the land.” (Deut. 15:11) Way too often, the church is failing here. Way too often, our money trumps God. The poor will always remain with us because we fail to follow God’s commands… that’s the deal.

It is a sad statement that people turn to government for support rather than the church. And it’s a statement about the church, not some political ideology. When we let a brother go without, we are telling God that our money is more important than another human, bearing His image, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. We can find the means to buy our daily $4 coffee, pay for our unlimited data plans to the tune of $80/month, and buy, and then throw away, more food than we can eat, that would have been a feast for our brothers and sisters. But when presented with the idea of giving money, without the guarantee of being paid back, and do so cheerfully, we shrink. We turn the poor into villains, drug addicts, free-loaders, lazy, manipulators of the system, and any other thing we can think of to justify our own sin. We should strive to use what God has blessed us with for the good of His kingdom, and that includes those that do not have as well. Our real blessing is not the resources we’ve been given, but the open hand, soft heart, and the blessing we will receive from sharing God’s gifts.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for blessing us. Thank You for making it so that Your people can help Your people! I am sorry for being greedy, for demonizing those that need help in order to continue in my own sin. I pray for a softened heart for all believers, so that Your church would rise up and provide for those in need, and look like the land You intended for Israel: where there will be no poor among us. Amen.

Deuteronomy 15:1-6

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 15:2 (CSB)

2 This is how to cancel debt: Every creditor is to cancel what he has lent his neighbor. He is not to collect anything from his neighbor or brother, because the Lord’s release of debts has been proclaimed.

Reflection/Application:

This passage is about the cancelling of debts after seven years. There are a few things to think about concerning this command.

  1. The command only applies to Israelites. Deuteronomy 15:3 confirms that collection of debts may continue when the debtor is a foreigner. Additionally, Deuteronomy 15:2 specifies that the cancellation applies to one’s “neighbor or brother.”
  2. Elimination of the poor seems to be, at least partially, the goal here. Deuteronomy 15:4 states specifically that “there will be no poor among you.” Certainly the elimination of debt every seven years would go some way towards that goal, and of course the obedience, and subsequent blessing of God, would likewise make it possible.
  3. Deuteronomy 15:6 suggests that debt allows the lender to “rule” over the debtor. Perhaps the cancellation of debts, at God’s command, is a reminder that He is our ruler, our King. It is a reminder to both the lender and debtor: the lender is reminded that they are not God, and the debtor is reminded of Who they truly belong.
  4. Perhaps this command is a way to practice generosity. Giving without the promise of a return.
  5. Maybe this command is a metaphor for God’s forgiveness of our debt. God is the ultimate “lender”, and all of us are in His debt, we owe Him. Yet He forgives our debt, and He does it immediately upon our becoming His child in Christ.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for blessing us. Especially in the west we are blessed greatly. Yet too often I am ruled by money, rather than You. I pray for a return to the principles You gave us here: altruism, and, most importantly, obedience of You. Amen.

Deuteronomy 14:22-29

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 14:23 (CSB)

23 You are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and fresh oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, in the presence of the Lord your God at the place where he chooses to have his name dwell, so that you will always learn to fear the Lord your God.

Reflection/Application:

This passage is obviously descriptive of a tithe for the Israelite people. There are a few themes here though, not just a “gimme your money” command, which unfortunately can be the view of the tithe for so many.

  1. The tithe was to be eaten “in the presence of the Lord.” Man was to dedicate what God has provided him to God, and then partake of it in fellowship with God. The tithe as described here is not a “give to God then go do my own thing” arrangement, it is participatory. In fact, even if the sanctuary was too far to bring an offering, the command was to sell the offering and bring the money to spend upon a feast and “rejoice with your family” in the presence of God!
  2. It is the job of the church, in this case the nation of Israel, and specifically each family of that church/nation, to support the church establishment, in this case the Levite clan. The bi-vocational trend of pastors now is understandable. There is a push for pastors, the church, to appear less like they are profiting from tithes. There is a trend towards lower tithes in general, whether due to economic pressures or a cultural shift. But one has to wonder if we as the church are sacrificing what God intended for us to gain through dedicated clergy. Perhaps if we looked at tithing less like losing money and more like investing in God’s design, things would be different.
  3. People, especially Christians, at least in the US, have a fear of the word “social”. It’s understandable, and in general is a valid concern. But when we read Deut. 14:28-29 what else do we call that other than a social tithing program? It’s the people who have all giving to God so that He may provide for those without. How quickly could we do away with government programs if only the church would step up and give like it was designed to do?
  4. The biggest point to take away from this passage is the end of Deut. 14:23: “so that you will always learn to fear the Lord your God.” The tithe should remind us that everything is God’s, and we are giving back to Him His own stuff! It should draw us closer to Him as we celebrate His grace through provision. It should increase our reverence through submission. And it should increase our charity, compassion, and grace through giving. It should make us more like Jesus when we give.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for the tithe! The words sound odd, seem backwards, in the frame of reference of the world. But in Your economy, in Your design, it makes perfect sense, and is designed to grow us. I am sorry for my greed, for stealing from You, and from robbing myself of opportunities to join You and grow. I pray for charity on the part of the church, including myself… a cheerful and willing charity. Amen.

Deuteronomy 14:3-21

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 14:3 (CSB)

3 “You must not eat any detestable thing.

Reflection/Application:

This passage is about food laws: the listing of clean and unclean animals that the Israelites could eat or not eat.

I’ve heard plenty about the provision of God through commanding His people not to eat unclean animals and how it protected them from certain disease. Pork that is not prepared thoroughly can cause disease, many (all?) of the birds that are listed are either scavengers that would eat carrion, or predatory and would eat flesh and blood. The only fish without scales that I know of is the catfish, and that’s a bottom feeding fish… I have no idea if it would have posed a health risk or not during the time of the writing of Deuteronomy. There may certainly have been an aspect of practicality to these food laws.

But, what I find more interesting, and more in line with the recurring theme of the Israelites being set apart, a holy people for God, is the idea that the food laws contributed to that. In other words, the food laws reinforced the Israelites being different. It made them look unlike the rest of the people around them. And they were not just different, but they were “clean” because of God, and now because they only consumed what God declared as clean. It is certainly interesting that the Israelites are commanded to “not eat any detestable thing,” yet they are free to sell a carcass, a detestable thing, to an alien, a non-Israelite (Deut. 14:21). So does this mean, if the food laws are strictly practical and health-minded, that God is not concerned about the health and well-being of non-Israelites? Of course not! God is for all of His creation. So it would seem that the main point of the food laws is to mark the Israelites as separate, “a holy people belonging to the Lord.”

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for setting us apart as Yours! We are no longer under the food laws outlined here, but we are still called to be different, to be set apart, to be Your holy people. I am sorry for the times that I do consume the unclean things of this world. Help me to stick to Your “diet”. Amen.