Friday, August 31, 2012

Property Lines

Deuteronomy 19:14

“Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.” (Deuteronomy 19:14) 

Since the earliest of times. People have designated individual areas as belonging to an individual or group.  A tribe might claim and area from a specific river to a certain mountain as their grazing land.  Later, farmers would set large stones or plant trees to mark the corners of their property.  Today, survey stakes and markers serve the same purpose.  They marked the boundaries and thus were called landmarks.  Our modern term refers to some specific attraction and has little to do with the original meaning of the word.

Even today, it is not uncommon for people to try to cheat their neighbors by relocating the markers on their property.  Because it would be nearly impossible to get the markers back in exactly the same place, God forbid moving them for any reason.  The establishment of permanent reference points by the U.S. Geodetic survey, modern surveying equipment and GPS systems have reduced the problem but a margin of error still remains.

Witness Testimony
Deuteronomy 19:15-21

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15) 

It was specified in Deuteronomy 17:6 that a person could not be executed solely on the testimony of one person.  Here God makes it clear that no one can be convicted of any crime solely on the basis of a single witness.  It is a well known fact that even the most careful observant witness can make mistakes, or be confused by the way questions are asked.  Most of the convictions that have been overturned due to new evidence have been based on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a single witness.  Most cases involved a witness who unknowingly made and incorrect identification, often doubting it even at the time.  Others were based on testimony by criminals attempting to get a lesser sentence by implicating someone else.

“If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.  And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.  And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deuteronomy 19:16-21)

If there was reason to question the witness, investigation and interrogation was to be made to determine who was telling the truth before God, the Judges and the priests.  The purpose is much like the cross examination before our courts, except that modern court procedures often hamper discovering the truth by excluding certain evidence or lines of inquiry.

If a witness was determined to have intentionally lied, then he was to be sentenced to whatever penalty would have been laid on the accused, whether fine, imprisonment, or execution.  I can only imagine the difference such a policy would make in American courts if plaintiffs knew that they would be assessed the same judgment they would have been awarded if they were determined to have filed a bogus claim.  While there would be less plea bargains, criminals would be less likely to implicate innocent people for fear they would increase their own punishment.  Most lawsuits today are settled out of court because even if they win, the defendant will spend a huge amount of money in his own defense while still taking the chance of losing and false suits are filed to capitalize on the situation.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Penalties for Murder and Manslaughter

Deuteronomy 19:1-13

“When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses; Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.  Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.” (Deuteronomy 19:1-3)

The law dealt with the relationship to God, but part of than involves man’s relationship to man as being created in the image of God.  Conflicts arise and the law provided guidelines for resolving them.  One thing that was especially critical was when someone had been killed.

When they came into the land of Canaan, Israel was to designate three cities as places of refuge where a person who had killed someone could go and be protected until their trial.  Three cities had already been selected in the area east of the Jordan, but they did not yet own the land of Canaan.  The cities were to be located where one was readily accessible from andy part of the land, and good roads were to be provided to facilitate getting there, decreasing the chance that people seeking revenge would be able to overtake them..

“And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.” (Deuteronomy 19:4-6)

The cities were there to protect the person who had accidentally killed another person.  An axe head can come loose without the user being aware of it and fly off and hit someone, or someone can walk in front of a car.  The cities of refuge were there to protect people who had unintentionally caused someone’s death.  There had been no planning or deliberate action resulting in the death.

“Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.  And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers; If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three: That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.” (Deuteronomy 19:7-10)

At some future date, if they had obeyed God commands, he might give them additional land, and if that happened they were to give three more cities as well so that there would always be one within easy access so that innocent people were not unfairly executed, bringing God’s judgment on the nation.

“But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.  Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.” (Deuteronomy 19:11-13)

If a person had deliberately killed another, it didn’t matter what his excuse was, he was not to be protected, but was to be turned over to be executed.  Family relationships or sympathy for his reasons was not to influence the results.  Failure to do so would make Israel accountable for the murder.  Numbers 35:16-21 gives greater detail as to what constituted murder.

“And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.  But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.” (Numbers 35:16-21) 

The use of a deadly weapon implied a willingness to kill and the person was to be considered a murderer and executed.  Under this standard, a person who knowingly drove drunk and killed someone would be considered a murder for deliberately endangering the lives of another person.  

“But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.” (Numbers 35:22-25)

True accidents, on the other hand, where there was no deliberate endangerment was considered manslaughter.  Hitting a pedestrian who walked in front of a car or dropping something off a roof and accidentally hitting someone was to be considered manslaughter.  The penalty for manslaughter was life imprisonment.  Obviously, God takes human life far more seriously than most of us.

“But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood: Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.” (Numbers 35:26-28)

If at any time the manslayer went outside the city of refuge, he could be killed as a murderer.  It was not up to guards to keep him in, it was up to him to stay inside.  Only the death of the priest would obtain parole.

In II Samuel 2, Abner unintentionally killed Asahel when he ran into the haft of Abner’s spear.  When Asahel’s brother Joab asked to speak to him privately, Abner foolishly left the safety of the city of refuge to talk to him.  David could not punish Joab because Abner had knowingly put his life at risk and the law specified he could be killed for leaving the city.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Deuteronomy 18:15-21

"The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.   

And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.  I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) 

We usually think of a prophet as foretelling the future, but the Hebrew word actually means an inspired man.  Moses said that God would raise up a prophet like him from among them.  Moses spent forty years telling Israel what God said, but most of it was confined to what God wanted them to do rather than about what would happen in the future.  They had chosen not to speak to God directly, so when He needed to communicate with them, God would raise up a prophet like Moses.

This prophet would be authorized by God and was to speak exactly what God told him.  Failure to obey his instructions would be considered rebellion against God.  Though God sent many prophets over the years, this passage is especially about Jesus Christ.

“But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.” (Deuteronomy 18:20) 

Unfortunately, from time to time men claim the authority as prophets of God in an effort to accomplish their own agenda.  Prophets who claimed divine authority were to be killed either by the people or by God, as were those who claimed authority from some other God.  II Peter 2:1 tells us that nothing has changed in our day.  “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”  There are false prophets in our churches just as there were in back then.

“And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?  When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

God had already told them that if a prophet came claiming authority from another god, he was to be executed, regardless what evidence he might present to support his claims in Deuteronomy 13:1-10.  Those would be relatively easy to spot.   Unfortunately many churches today are like the Church in Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29, allowing such doctrine to be taught in their church.  They will face the same judgment.

The more insidious false prophets were those who came claiming to have authority from God.  Their false prophecies may not be immediately apparent.  Nevertheless, by paying attention to what they taught and examining the results, the truth of their teaching could be determined.  If the events they predicted didn’t happen, they were to be considered false teachers and executed.  There was no reason to fear doing so, because they were slandering of blaspheming God.

In Matthew 7:15-20 we are given a very similar way of identifying false prophets.  “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Frequently false prophets are able to make their messages sound almost exactly like what God says, but looking at what it produces in their own lives and in the lives of others we can see whether it is from God or not.

Several years ago a “missionary”(the quotes are deliberate) started a Christian school near us and convinced a number of parents to send their children to the school.  I know about thirty of the students that have attended the school over the years who have refused to attend church for several years because of things that happened in the school.  About a year ago one of the guys described going to a basket ball tournament and the next morning seeing a woman he thought was a prostitute coming out of the missionaries room.   Since that time at least three others have mentioned similar incidents, and one of the girls talked about incidents of incest while another woman was sent to live with another family after being sexually involved with the missionary.

Because none of them have dared to come forward, the man has been able to continue as a missionary, and periodically I am told what a wonderful missionary he is.   His supporting churches refuse to even check out the charges against him.

While most cases are less extreme than this, examining the lives of their hearers furnishes an indication of whether they are of God or not.  It is one reason churches are to examine the potential pastor’s family before placing him in that position.

I Corinthians 13 declares that the office of prophet would cease when direct revelation was no longer needed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Provision for the Priests and Levites

Deuteronomy 18:1-8

“The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance.  Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2) 

Because they were given to God and were to eat the offerings and sacrifices, the tribe of Levi was not to receive a land of their own,  God was their supply, and they were to depend especially on him.  Like the Levites, Christians are given to God in a special way.  I Peter 2:9-10 declares, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

Like the Levites, Christians have no permanent place here on Earth.  Hebrews 13:14 reminds us, “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”  Both Matthew 6 and Luke 12 warn not to waste our time seeking earthly belongings or prestige.  In the story of the rich fool who had accumulated great wealth “… God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”, in Luke 12:20.  Jesus went on to warn, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.  And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.  The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment,” in verses 21-23.

Like the Levites, we have a different inheritance described in I Peter 1:3-5.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  

“And this shall be the priest's due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.  The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.  For the LORD thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for ever.” (Deuteronomy 18:3-5)

While all Levites were dedicated to God, only Aaron’s descendants were chosen as priests.  A particular portion of each sacrifice was to be given to the priests.  In I Corinthians 9:13-14, Paul declares that the same principle is to apply to pastors and teachers today.  “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?  Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”  This does not exclude him from earning some part of his income if needed to set an example before the people, as Paul makes very clear by his own example.

“And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose;  Then he shall minister in the name of the LORD his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the LORD.  They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.” (Deuteronomy 18:6-8) 

Levites from other areas who moved to where the Tabernacle was and devoted their lives to service there were to receive same pay as those who had been there the entire time, but they were not required to give up the proceeds of their property.  Each Levite had a portion of land of his own and the proceeds were his, even though his primary support might be from his services at the Tabernacle.

Occult Practices
Deuteronomy 18:9-14

“When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.  There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.  For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)

When Israel came into the land, they were not to use any kind of mechanism to try to foresee or influence the future.  Many of the practices are common today, and are often treated and just an idle amusement.   Few consider the implications of reading tea leaves. palms or Tarot cards or using an Ouija board as an attempt to obtain find out the future by bypassing God.  God will never be pleased with sacrificing our children to attain our goals, but many heathen groups have physically sacrificed their children in an effort to get what they want.  Unfortunately modern Christians sometimes sacrifice their children on the altar of their own ambition.

Many modern peoples base their planting on the different phases of the moon, newspapers run horoscopes and astrological columns, and many adjust their lives to fit some preordained future such as that  of  the Chinese belief in the characteristics of different years such as the year of the horse or rat.

Ancient alchemy, was an effort to exercise godlike powers by mixing chemicals and using magic spells to accomplish a particular goal.  Modern chemistry was the result of learning that they could not change God’s laws.  Numerous potions and concoctions are used even today to make things happen or appear to happen.  Poisons and hallucinogenic drugs were often used to produce desired effects. The ancient beliefs of flying witches appears to have been the result of using witch hazel in secret ceremonies, for example.  These are the kind of things referred to with the word enchanters.

Witches or whisperers of spells are those who depend on certain combinations of words or sounds to produce a specific result.  In Navajo tradition the efficacy of a certain ceremony depends on the singer repeating the exact words at the proper pitch.  Unfortunately many supposedly Christian practices are dependent on the use of certain word,  the evangelist who advised his listeners to start saying “the blood of Jesus” over and over when the felt depressed was essentially recommending a form of witchcraft.  How many have been taught that saying “in Jesus Name” when praying forces God to give what they ask for?

The word  translated charmer means to join and  is one who fascinates, mesmerizes or attempts to control others thinking by hypnosis, manipulation and seduction.   Séances and mediums are examples of those who consult with familiar spirits.  The word wizard means one who has superior secret knowledge.  Modern druids are one example of such practices, as are many shamans of various religions.

Necromancers are those who worship or are guided by the dead.  It is the basic tenant of Scientology, but many supposed Christians believe those who have already died are guiding or protecting them.  Praying to saints is a widely accepted form of Necromancy.

Anyone who practices any of these things is an abomination to God, because they are seeking to bypass God’s power and laws.  Christians ought not be involved in these types of things.  Israel was not to allow anyone to practice them.

“Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.  For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.” (Deuteronomy 18:13-14)  

The Jews were to maintain their faith in God, and not to be influenced by outside influences such as drugs, mind control, signs in the tea leaves, fear of magical spells or external events.  As Romans 14:23 says, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Choosing a Leader

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

“When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” (Deuteronomy 17:14)

People want other people’s approval.  The most determined rebel or rugged individualist may try top shock others, but he seeks those who have a similar attitude to obtain their approval.  God knew that Israel one day would not be satisfied with being different from everyone else even to be a special people to God.  As other nations became more influential they would begin to want to be like them.

God knew the tendency for man to begin to worship power, and he deliberately did not give them a powerful leader to prevent that from happening as long as possible.  In Revelation 2, God states that he hates the both the doctrine and the practice of those who want power over people, the Nicolaitanes.  Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, and Luke 22:25-26 all forbid that philosophy among Christian leaders.

God also understood that sooner or later they would insist on their being like the other nation even though it didn’t please him and made provision that when that time came, he would bless them in spite of their rejection of his plan.   Five hundred years later, in I Samuel 8 Israel finally demanded a king so they could be like the other nations, and God instructed Samuel to give them one, but he warned of the effects such a decision would have on them.   In Chapter 10, he made it clear that this was not what God wanted, but that they would be permitted to have it their way.

Since the time of the Reformation there has been conflict over the form of government of the church, Some have held that there must be a Supreme leader such as the Pope in the Catholic Church, or the Archbishop of Canterbury in the church of England, who rules through various levels of intermediaries such as bishops and priests.  Most religious organizations use some variant of this design for the main organization, all though the titles vary, even to being called the chairman or president of the group.  While I don’t wish to deal with that subject at this point, I believe that Paul makes it clear that the entire system is contrary to God’s plan.

Most of the controversy in our day stems from disagreements about whether a local church is to be governed by a single pastor, a group of elders, or a democratic group of some kind.  Each type of administration has both positive and negative aspects, and as I Corinthians 12:4-7 points out God is capable of using any one of them to accomplish his purpose.  “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”

Knowing the danger of power being used to turn people away from God, God set down specific guidelines for choosing a ruler to minimize the danger.  They were to choose one of themselves as King.  This would minimize his feelings of superiority and enable them to know what kind of attitude he had toward God.  There were certain things they were to look for.
“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17) 

An attitude of faith would be demonstrated by a willingness to trust God rather than depending on a great military buildup, or depending on Egypt when things got tough.  A deficient moral standard would indicate weakness in his relationship to God, and a focus on accumulating wealth would indicate an idolatrous fixation.  While many recognize it was his wives that eventually led Solomon into idolatry, an examination of his life shows that he had neglected all these instructions.  He had been moving in that direction from the time he began to sacrifice in the high places contrary to God’s command.  Much of the idolatry found in the reign of the various kings of Israel and Judah had it’s roots in Solomon’s reign.

“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

Once he became king, it was crucial that he stayed focused on God’s commands.  There is and old saying that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Unless he stayed focused on what God said, the king would almost certainly begin to replace God’s commands with his own ideas and standards, leading the people away from God.

Although a monarchy was not God’s preferred form of government, he could work with it, but it was critical that the ruler chosen meet certain standards.  While God can work with different types of church government or “polity,” it is critical the leaders selected meet certain standards.  I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 Specify certain attitudes and behaviors that are to be considered in selecting a leader.

I and II Timothy and Titus all stress the need for the pastor to have a sound understanding of the scripture in order to properly lead the Church.  II Timothy 2:15 sums it all up.  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Applying the Law

Conflict Resolution
Deuteronomy 16:18-20

“Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.  Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.  That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)

The old fairy tales used to end, “and they lived happily ever after.”  They were fairy tales.  There are always going to be conflicts because even the best humans tend to want things their way.  Recognizing that, God made plans to deal with the conflicts.  They were to choose Judges and officers to judge what was right and fair in different situations.

Those judges were to be entirely fair in their Judgments.  They were not to base their decisions on some private agenda or popular idealogy according to Exodus 23:2.  “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:”  That an idea has popular support does not make it right or good.  One of the problems in the United States is that we now pick leaders and judges for their ideology rather than for their character.   The result is perversion of justice by both Liberal and Conservative.

 They were not to favor one side over the other.  Even the most innocuous of gifts tend to distort our recognition of right and wrong and those in authority should not accept any gifts to avoid being influenced or giving the appearance of having been.   It is also easy to favor a person with more prestige or popularity, in the belief that such people would not be involved or do things that are not right.  They are human and just as susceptible as anyone else.

It is also easy to feel sorry for one who has had difficulties and favor him.  Exodus 23:3 states, “Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.”  Other things that have happened to a person have no bearing on what is right in such a case.  It was argued that a young driver should be charged with causing a major accident because he had insurance that would pay for it and the first two drivers to crash did not have insurance.  It was not his fault they had no insurance, and he should not be required to pay for their carelessness.

Verse twenty states, “That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”  Any decision which is unfair to either side is unjust, and God said that their lives and inheritance in the land depended on real justice.

Maintaining a Proper Respect for God
Deuteronomy 16:21-17:5

“Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.  Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth.” (Deuteronomy 16:21-22)

No trees were to be planted near an altar to God to prevent focusing on the trees rather than God.  No kind of image, either sculpture or picture was to be set up to attract our attention.   It is easy to judge the Catholic church for their statues of Mary and various saints, but it really isn’t any different than the church with pictures of “Heroes of the Faith” hanging in their auditorium.

“Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 17:1) 

Giving God less than our best indicates disrespect to him.  If better was available it should be given.  He doesn’t demand perfection, but he does demand our respect.  Malachi 1:11-14 declares, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.  But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.  Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.  But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”

When we don’t take God’s worship seriously, it isn’t long before we don’t take God seriously either.

“If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” (Deuteronomy 17:2-5)

Accusations of idolatry and false doctrine were to be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.  If it was found to be true, they were to be taken out and executed to prevent the spread of their doctrine and practice.  In the new testament, we are not commanded to physically execute them, but to separate ourselves from them.  Titus 3:10-11 commands, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”  While we have a responsibility to make them aware of their wrong teaching, we cannot force them to change.  Romans 16:17-18 instructs, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”  

Their goal is to mislead, and we are to avoid them to make it clear that we are not associated with them.  II Thessalonians 3:14-15 advises, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”  The goal is not to destroy him but to convince him to change.

The Standard of Proof
Deuteronomy 17:6-7

“At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.  The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.” Deuteronomy 17:6-7) 

A sentence of death could not be executed on the basis of one witness.  It is too easy for a witness to make a mistake in identification or misinterpreting what they saw.  Many modern miscarriages of justice are the result of judgment based on testimony of a single witness. To further ensure that the witnesses were sure, they were to initiate the punishment,  They were not to be shielded from the effects of their testimony.

The Appeal Process
Deuteronomy 17:8-11

“If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment: And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall show thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.” (Deuteronomy 17:8-11)

No set of laws can cover every possible situation, and attempts to write such a set usually create confusion and frustration resulting in further problems.  Situations which were not readily resolved according to the law were to be brought to the priests and Levites whose Job it was to know the law fully and to maintain a personal relationship with God.  When necessary, God would also designate a judge to restore the nation and maintain a proper relationship to God.   The priest’s duties precluded his leaving the tabernacle to lead in battle or concentrate on political situations.

Habitual Offenders
Deuteronomy 17:12-13

“And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.  And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.” (Deuteronomy 17:12-13)

A person who refused to do what was right was to be executed even when the crime itself didn’t warrant such a punishment.  The goal was to prevent an attitude of disrespect for God’s law.  God gave a similar standard in Matthew 18:15-17 for the church.  “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”

As I Corinthians 5:6-8 makes clear, permissiveness encourages others to do the same thing on the presumption  nothing will be done.  “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Mandatory Feasts

Deuteronomy 16:1-17

“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.  Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.  Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction: for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. 

And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.  Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.  And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.  Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.” (Deuteronomy 16:1-8) 

Exodus 12 describes the first Passover, partaken while they were waiting for the death angel to strike the Egyptians and pass over Israel.   Each family was to partake in their own home and they were not to go to other places.  The command here describes how they were to partake in the land once they were established. There are some differences.

They were to come to the Tabernacle and sacrifice their lambs for each family, and cook it there.  They were only to make the sacrifice in that place.  Since it was a memorial of what had happened in Egypt, they were to use unleavened bread as a reminder of what it had been like.  After the Passover they could return home, but for the next six days, portraying their flight from Egypt before crossing the Red Sea, they were to eat unleavened bread.  The seventh day after Passover they were to come together again in a national memorial of God destroying the army of Egypt in the Red Sea.  They were free to return home in between.

“Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.  And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.  And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.” (Deuteronomy 16:9-12) 

Wheat harvest begins in late spring or early summer in mild climates such as found in Israel.  Seven weeks after wheat harvest began, they were to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, in midsummer, after the wheat and barley was harvested.  They were to bring a freewill offering to the Tabernacle based on how the Lord had blessed them and share it their servants and family, as well as the Levites and destitute who lived among them, celebrating their right to keep their crops for themselves rather than having to give it to Pharaoh.  Leviticus 23:10-21 gives far more detail about this feast.

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.  And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.  And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.  And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 

And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.  Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.  And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. 

Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.  And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” (Leviticus 23:10-21)

This feast does not represent their flight from Egypt, and the bread was to be leavened, rather than unleavened showing they were no longer under pressure.  They were to celebrate the blessings of their life.  Along with the thanks giving they were to offer a sin offering, as evidence of repentance, and a peace offering, showing their desire for fellowship with God.

“Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.  Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15)

The day of Atonement was to take place on the tenth day of the seventh month,  the fifteen day of the month, exactly six months after the Passover, they were to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles.  Leviticus 23:39-43 describes the celebration.  “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. 

And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.  And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.  Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

This feast was basically a national campout to remind future generations of the time Israel spent camping in the wilderness.  They were to build simple brush shelters for each family to stay in to make it real to their children.

“Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.” (Deuteronomy 16:16-17)

Every man was to make the pilgrimage to the tabernacle for each of these feasts, and they were to bring an offering, of whatever they were able to bring.  Failure to bring anything implied the Lord was not blessing as he promised.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Financial Service

Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23

“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.  And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-23)

The word tithe means a tenth.  Israel was to give a true tenth of the increase of their fields, literally of their gross profit.  It was to be taken to the tabernacle and later to the temple where it would be shared with the Levites and priests.  The tithe was to be of everything they produced, whether of grain, livestock olive oil or grape juice.  Giving it was a way of  acknowledging his provision and showing appreciation.  It also demonstrated a measure of faith, in trusting God to make the balance enough. Failure to give it would result in forgetting what God had done, decreased faith, and loss of  respect for him.

“And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.

At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.” (Deuteronomy 14:24-29)

If it was impractical to take the actual tithe to the tabernacle, they were allowed to sell it and bring the money instead.  Because of the difficulty of making the trip every time, they could  save up the tithes for three years and bring it all at once.  The money could then be used to buy whatever they chose to eat, which was then to be shared in a time of fellowship with the family and whatever priests and Levites might be present.  In addition to the Levites, it was to be shared with anyone who might have need, including the homeless, foreigners, widows or orphans.  In return God would bless them in everything they did.

Tithing accomplishes the same purpose today.  Missionaries and pastors who feel sorry for their people and don’t encourage them to tithe are hindering the spiritual growth of their people, and depriving them of God‘s blessings.   People who appreciate what God has done for them have little difficulty tithing.  On the other hand, pastors and churches which treat the money as just their own and don’t share quickly discourage people from tithing.

“At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.  And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release. 

Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day. 

For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” (Deuteronomy  15:1-6)

In Matthew 26:11, Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.”  There will always be poor people for one reason or another.  Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty was doomed to failure before he declared it. As a result there will always be people who need to sell something or borrow money.  God gave specific instructions as to how to deal with the situation to prevent taking unfair advantage of unavoidable disasters people might experience while not sacrificing one’s own success.

Every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year.  Any property that had been sold under duress was to be returned to it’s owner, and any loan was to be forgiven to any fellow Jew.  This did not apply to outsiders.  They would be able to afford this because God would bless them so richly.  If they would follow his instructions, they would be able to lend to other nations, but would not need to borrow themselves.

“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. 

Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.  Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.  For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

They were not to turn their backs on those who had need or refuse to help them, butr were to give freely.  The possibility they might not make a profit back was not to enter into their decision to help someone in need.  They were to willing pitch in to help even if sure they would lose money on the deal and not to worry about the loss.

“And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.  And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. 

And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.  It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.” (Deuteronomy 15:12-18)

Because of debts, a person could be sold as a bond servant to pay off their debt, but the maximum servitude allowed was six years.  On the seventh year, he was allowed to go free, and was to be provided with food and clothing to enable him to get a fresh start.  Only if the person made a voluntary commitment to stay could he remain in service, and he was to have his ear pierced as an indication that he chose to be a servant.  They were not to be upset at losing a servant, but to appreciate the work he had done for them, and remember that they could have still been in Egypt with no hope of freedom.

“All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.  Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household. 

And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.  Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.  Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.” (Deuteronomy 15:19-23)

All the first born males of any clean animals were to be dedicated to the Lord.  There was to be no effort to extract a profit from them by using them early or shearing them.  If the animal was of sacrificial quality, it was to be taken to the tabernacle where it was to be eaten, but if not it was to be eaten at home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An Holy People

Deuteronomy 14:1-21

“Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.  For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:1-2) 

Grief over the loss of a loved one is a powerful emotion, and often leads people to extreme behavior.  Women in some Indian tribes would cut off a joint of one of their fingers as an expression of grief, while others would make gashes in their skin or shave their heads.  In Egypt, often the wife and some of his slaves would be killed when a powerful person died to serve him in the after life.  Some people today keep the ashes or have the body stored cryogenically in hopes of restoring life at some time in the future.

Because they were a holy people who believed God’s promises and trusted him, Israel was not to involve themselves in such practices.  They were never to allow themselves to idolize any person to such a point, and they were to trust God to care for the other person’s soul.  They were created by God and self mutilation amounts to rejecting God’s authority.  Leviticus 19:28 makes it clear this included any kind of tattoo as a reminder.  “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”  Leviticus caries it even further, forbidding even changing how they cut their hair of shaped their beard.  “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.”  Death is a natural part of life and should be accepted as such.

“Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.  These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat, The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.  And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.” (Deuteronomy 14:3-6)

A distinction had been made between clean animals and unclean animals as far back as Noah’s day, as to which animals were acceptable for sacrifices.  As part of their agreement with God, as a holy people set apart for God, Israel was to avoid eating any animal which was not acceptable for sacrifice.   Animals which were acceptable for sacrifices had feet with two toes, such as the cow, sheep or deer, and chewed the cud were to be acceptable.  Such animals have a multiple stomach system in which food is taken into the first stomach for immediate storage and initial breakdown by chemical and biological processes.  It is then returned to the mouth as the cud to be chewed and mechanically masticated before going to the stomach for final digestion.

Such a digestive system enables these animals to ingest large volumes of grasses and leaves and extract the necessary nutrients from them, but creates a problem digesting foods with more concentrated nutrients.  excessive quantities of grains, Alfalfa or fruit can cause severe problems, and meat products are potentially dangerous.

The limitations on what they can safely eat prevents these animals from being infected by many diseases that are contracted by eating diseased animals.  As a result eating only such animals decreased the likelihood  of contracting these diseases.  Mad cow disease is the result of attempting to save money by feeding meat byproducts to cows whose digestive system is not designed to handle them.

“Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.  And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.” (Deuteronomy 14:7-8)

Animals which chewed the cud but had did not completely separate the hoof, and those which did not have a hoof were not to be eaten, nor were those with  a divided hoof, which did not chew the cud, such as pigs were to be avoided as unclean, and more likely to carry disease because of their diet.

“These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.” (Deuteronomy 14:9-10)

The standard for what seafood were to eaten by Israel was again dictated by their diet.  Any sea creature which had both fins and scales was to be considered safe, but any which lacked on e or the other was considered unclean.  In general sea creatures not having both fins and scales are scavengers or eat other warm blooded animals, potentially exposing them to diseases.  Under these guidelines, catfish and whale, dolphin and calamari were not acceptable because they have no scales.  Water snakes, salamanders, and eels have no fins.  Crabs, clams, lobster, jellyfish and octopus all lack both scales and fins.

“Of all clean birds ye shall eat.  But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey, And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, And every raven after his kind, And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant, And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.  And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.  But of all clean fowls ye may eat.” (Deuteronomy 14:11-20) 

Birds of prey and scavengers were excluded, apparently because their diet also exposed them to diseases.  Those which ate mostly plant material were not a problem.  They were not to eat flying insects.

“Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.” (Deuteronomy 14:21) 

Death for an unexplained reason could well be the result of some disease, and Israel was not to be contaminated with such food.  Many pathogens are destroyed by cooking, and such food could be sold to those who had no such covenant with out concern.  These guidelines did not apply to them.

The mother’s milk was specifically designed to keep the baby animal alive.  It was not to be used in his destruction.

Many today believe these same standards of diet are to be applied to Christians.  I Timothy 4:1-5 gives the following instructions. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  

Those who hold such a belief have departed from the faith and as Hebrews 13:9-10 states, they have no part with the Christian.  “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.  We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”  The Christian is to eat whatever God gives him, thanking God for it.  To refuse to do so is wrong.  As the Lord told Peter in Acts 10:15, “…What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”

The Christian covenant is not the same as the Jewish covenant.  We are not to try to force Christians to live by the Jewish covenant.  While the Jewish law focused on physical contamination, the New Testament is concerned with spiritual contamination.  They frequently overlap on moral issues.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Separation From Other Beliefs

Deuteronomy 12:29-13:18

“When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.  Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31)

Moses had just warned Israel about the danger of worshipping other gods and instructed them to not to allow any of the old religious artifacts to remain.  He also warned them not to begin to offer sacrifices in other places because it becomes so easy to begin to adopt false doctrine and practices.

Here he warns them of the danger of curiosity about other people’s religious beliefs.  Such curiosity has resulted in the revival of the ancient Druid religion in England, widespread interest in witchcraft and the Wicca religion, and efforts to return to their native religions among many American  Indian tribes.   Here on the Navajo Reservation, much of the interest was sparked by “mission” groups who wanted to help preserve the traditional dances and celebrations.  Unfortunately, they have only preserved the religion, without many of the moral and ethical standards.  Curiosity could well lead Israel into the same kind of idolatry

 “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32)

God’s commandments were not to be changed in any way.   The present day requirement that Jews eat only Kosher food, food that has been blessed by a Jewish rabbi is an example of an addition to the law, adding to Deuteronomy 12:15, “Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.”  While many perceive it as a way of reinforcing the law, it is in direct violation of the law.  God’s law was not to be changed in any way.
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

They were to stick to God and his commandments regardless what qualifications the prophet or religious leader might have, or what miraculous signs he might perform.  A doctorate, a recommendation from a famous preacher or organization,  or even a series of miraculous signs was not to be accepted as an excuse for going along with other religions, nor.  Instead they were to view it as test from God whether they would obey or not.

This is very similar to what is commanded in Galatians 1:8-9.  “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”  How many times do we allow a degree or a reputation to overshadow and set aside what God said?

“Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.  And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” (Deuteronomy 13:4-5) 

They were to put God first and obey him no matter what the other man might say.  That prophet was to be taken out and executed for trying to turn them away from God.  While the New testament does not tell us to kill such false prophets, it does direct us to separate from them. Romans 16:17-18 commands, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

In similar fashion, I Timothy 6:3-5 instructs, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 

And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.  And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:6-9)

Personal relationships were not to be allowed to influence their obedience.  If he were a friend or relative they were to be  the first to take their stand against his false teaching.

“If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; Then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.

 And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.” (Deuteronomy 13:12-16) 

Such sin was not to be ignored in other groups either.  An accusation was not to be taken lightly, but was to be thoroughly investigated, and if true, they were to execute the entire city for their failure to obey God.  Not only was the entire city to be destroyed, their belongings were to be destroyed as well.  The accusations were not to be a way of enriching themselves.

“And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and show thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 13:17-18)

When they followed God completely in these matters they could expect God to keep his promises to bless them but failure would ensure his Judgment.  The churches at Pergamos and Thyatira were condemned in Revelation 2 because they ignored  false doctrine, even allowing it to be openly taught in Thyatira.  It is a serious warning to modern churches.

While it is often believed we ought to study other religions to be better able to deal with them, it also exposes us to false doctrine and increases the probability of confusion.  It would be far better to focus on what is true.  No one will be rewarded or get to heaven for knowing what is wrong with another groups beliefs.  The rewards are for knowing and doing what is right.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Worship To Be Focused In The House Of God

Deuteronomy 12:1-28

“These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.” (Deuteronomy 12:1)

Some of the laws Israel was instructed to do would not be practical until they had their own land, but once they were in their own place they were to obey completely.  Only by complete fulfillment could they ensure they would retain the land.

“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3)

Every vestige of the false religions of the previous occupants was to be destroyed.  Any monuments, altars or images, whether statues or paintings, were to be destroyed, wherever they were.  Any plantings for religious purposes were to be burned completely, and places renamed with names that would not evoke memories of those gods.

“Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.  But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.” (Deuteronomy 12:4-7)

While Israel was to destroy every reminder of the false Gods, they were to do everything they could to promote remembrance of God and the things he had done.  Unlike the heathen who established their own shrines to their idols, Israel was to have an established central place of worship.  While they were to meditate and study God’s law at home and teach it to their children, They were to regularly go to the Tabernacle or later the temple to offer the specified sacrifices.

“Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.  For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you.  But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD: And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.” (Deuteronomy 12:8-12)

Before the land was conquered, the Tabernacle was moved fairly often, and especially for the trans-Jordan tribes, it would be difficult and dangerous to set out to worship with enemies roaming the area and no clearly designated place of worship..  Once the land was occupied, and their enemies driven out, God would designate a permanent place where thy could come and they would be expected to go to that place to offer sacrifices and worship.

“Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.” (Deuteronomy 12:13-14)

Israel was not to worship in other places, but only in the place God had designated, to prevent complacency, and error from creeping in.   Sacrificing in other places was common, and was Solomon’s first step away from God, in I Kings 3, even though he was worshipping God.  It became an increasing problem throughout the history of Israel.

Many today begin to watch some televised service or participate in some special service in conjunction with a particular activity, such as a service conducted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or Cowboy Church for Rodeo goers.  Unfortunately, while they are still worshipping God, they are also setting that activity on a level with the worship of God by spending God’s day involved with that rather than with God.  It is very easy to begin to set it above God.   Not only do they risk being drawn away themselves, as many are, they also may encourage others to put that activity before God.

“Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.  Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.” (Deuteronomy 12:15-16)

It was not necessary to take their livestock to the temple to have it blessed before they ate it.  The modern emphasis on eating only Kosher foods was never prescribed by God.  They were free to eat whatever they wanted, except that they were to avoid the things God had forbidden, and especially the blood, which was to be poured on the ground.

 “Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.

Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.  When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.” (Deuteronomy 12:17-20) 

The tithes and offerings the Jews brought were to shared by them as well as the Levites and priests who worked at the Tabernacle of Temple.  They were not to simply eat them at home and count them as a sacrifice to God.  They were to be brought to the tabernacle and shared with those involved with the ministry.

What a different attitude than what is commonly seen today where the Church accumulates the money but the people never share in it and seldom know what happens to it.  The simple sharing the results of their tithes would encourage a level of fellowship and joy that is often missing in modern giving.  Sharing with those involved in ministry strengthened the bonds between them, just as church dinners do today.

“If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.  Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike.  Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.  Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water.  Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 12:21-25) 

If the distance to the place of worship was too great, tithes and offerings of large quantities which they were to share in could be eaten at home, and the balance sold for cash to carry to the tabernacle.  The standard guidelines still applied.

“Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose.  And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the LORD thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the LORD thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh.  Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 12:26-28) 

Special commitments to God or burnt offerings such as the sin or thanks giving offerings still had to be taken to the priests to be offered according to the standard practice for that offering.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Conditions For Blessing

Deuteronomy 11:8-32

“Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it; And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 11:8-9)

Unlike God’s covenant wit Abraham, the covenant with Israel was a conditional covenant.  If they would keep all God’s commandments, they would be strong enough to possess the land God had promised their fathers and have long and productive lives.  The key was to obey all the commandments.

“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12)

In Egypt there had been a well developed irrigation system and if it didn’t rain often enough, it was no big problem,  they just diverted irrigation water to flood the field.  The land of Canaan was not practical to irrigate that way because they did not have the large flat area alongside a large river such as Egypt had.  Canaan would be dependent on the natural rainfall, which God controlled.  Their dependence on God would be more obvious than it had been in Egypt.

Our modern society has been able to build systems that isolate them from recognizing their dependence on God, and we see the result in modern society.  Like the Egyptians, faith has moved from faith in God to faith in other institutions.  Americans depend on the government to resolve economic problems, while pastors and missionaries depend on their board to resolve their needs.  People depend on the charitable and welfare organizations for financial problems and on the medical establishment for their health.  Israel would have no one but God to depend on.

“And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.  And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.” (Deuteronomy 11:13-15) 

If they would take the trouble to systematically keep God’s commands fully, he promised to make it rain when needed but to prevent the rain from interfering with their harvest.  There would always be enough grass to feed their livestock.

“Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)

Failure to keep God’s command would result in him closing up the skies so there would be no rain, with the result that their crops would fail and famine and starvation would result.  God fulfilled the promise to shut off the rain several times.  I Kings 16-18 shares one notable example which occurred during the wicked reign of Ahab and Jezebel.

“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.  And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” (De4uteronomy 11:18-21)

To prevent forgetting what God demanded, Israel needed to mot only memorize the words, but put reminders everywhere, from bracelets inscribed with the them and headbands, to plaques on their walls and beside their doors and gates.   A conscious effort was to be made to go over them repeatedly with their children morning and night so the children also learned and would be blessed in their turn.   What a difference from the attitude of many today, who don’t want to influence their children too much.

“For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him; Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.  Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.  There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.” (Deuteronomy 11:22-25)

Though the countries they were set to invade had larger armies and powerful fortifications, God promised to drive them out before Israel if they would conscientiously seek to keep his commands.  No one would be able to stand against them and fear would cause many to just flee escape.

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

Sometimes we hear that “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.”  Unfortunately, “not knowing you have cancer will not protect you from it, and ignorance of basic principles results in frequent problems that could be avoided if one knew what to do.  On the other hand, knowledge increases one’s level of responsibility.  With the information available, failure to obey would either be the result of deliberately not learning what the law said or of deliberately ignoring it, exposing them to the maximum penalty.

“And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.  Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh?  For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein.  And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.” (Deuteronomy 11:29-32)

When they crossed Jordan, they were to identify two mountains to represent the blessing for obedience and the curse for disobedience.  Centrally located, theses large mountains would be visible from most of Israel to serve as a reminder of the need to obey God’s command.