Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 27 June 2022:
Deuteronomy 23:2 — “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.”
A few points for consideration from this verse:
The Old Testament Commands give us specific requirements/restrictions from God as well as enduring principles from God that reflect His character. Some of the commands are “Old Covenant,” meaning that, if one is in the New Covenant of Christ, they are fulfilled in Christ (not abolished but fulfilled). By the Law, a person born of an unholy union is not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord, nor are his descendants. However, the New Testament tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus did not abolish the Law for us, He fulfilled it. (Matthew 5:17) Through Jesus, we can now enter the most holy place, into the presence of God. (Hebrews 10:19) However, God’s commands also give us enduring principles that reflect God’s holiness and remain relevant to the church today:
Here is a principle that remains relevant which we can draw from this law which applied to a specific people at a specific time in God’s redemptive history: Respect for God’s holiness take precedence over respect for the desires of people. For example, throughout the Bible, God places restrictions on who can serve in certain positions of leadership, and He also establishes restrictions and requirements on how they should serve. For example, God sets clear, exclusionary prerequisites for church elders and deacons (https://www.gotquestions.org/qualifications-elders-deacons.html). God also establishes His standards for worship. Exclusion from a position or from certain ways of doing things does not imply a lack of love from God or individual worth in God’s eyes. Many people take exception to these principled restrictions and reject them, often calling them obsolete or case specific. Those who reject God’s enduring standards create complex arguments explaining why those canons don’t apply to them, but a close examination of their motives will reveal that, ultimately, they want to do what they want to do and want to approach God on their own terms – deny self is not part of the calculus. Ultimately, God will not honor a misrepresentation of His character. If you don’t meet the biblical standard for becoming a deacon, for example, don’t let that hinder your relationship with God, your relationship with others, or your willingness to serve God in other capacities within the church body. Serve with humble thankfulness within your capacity. Churches today debate on which commands in the Bible are enduring ethical laws, civil laws (obsolete or still relevant), or obsolete ceremonial laws. However, the Bible is very clear, if we must deny ourselves certain freedoms in order to keep others from stumbling, we should.
As we continue to study the Laws of the Old Testament, it might be valuable to consider the thoughts of the late R.C. Sproul concerning which laws apply:
“To this day, the question of the role of the law of God in the Christian life provokes much debate and discussion….
The law, in its first use, reveals the character of God, and that’s valuable to any believer at any time. But as the law reveals the character of God, it provides a mirror to reflect to us our unholiness against the ultimate standard of righteousness. In that regard, the law serves as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ…. The law remain[s] valuable to the Christian… because the law constantly drives us to the gospel….
Second, the law functions as a restraint against sin…. Paul says in Romans 7 that in a sense the law prompts people to sin—the more of the law unregenerate people see, the more inclined they are to want to break it. Yet despite that tendency of the law, there still is a general salutary benefit for the world to have the restraints upon us that the law gives. Its warnings and threats restrain people from being as bad as they could be, and so civil order is preserved.
Third, and most important, is that the law reveals to us what is pleasing to God. Technically speaking, Christians are not under the old covenant and its stipulations. Yet, at the same time, we are called to imitate Christ and to live as people who seek to please the living God (Eph. 5:10; Col. 1:9–12). So, although in one sense I’m not covenantally obligated to the law or under the curse of the law, I put that out the front door and I go around the back door and I say, “Oh Lord, I want to live a life that is pleasing to You, and like the Old Testament psalmist, I can say, ‘Oh how I love Thy law.’” I can meditate on the law day and night because it reveals to me what is pleasing to God.
Let me give you a personal example. Several years ago, I was speaking in Rye, N.Y., at a conference on the holiness of God. After one of the sessions, the sponsors of the conference invited me to someone’s house afterward for prayer and refreshments. When I arrived at the house, there were about twenty-five people in the parlor praying to their dead relatives. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I said, “Wait a minute. What is this? We’re not allowed to do this. Don’t you know that God prohibits this, and that it’s an abomination in His sight and it pollutes the whole land and provokes His judgment?” And what was their immediate response? “That’s the Old Testament.” I said, “Yes, but what has changed to make a practice that God regarded as a capital offense during one economy of redemptive history now something He delights in?” And they didn’t have a whole lot to say because from the New Testament it is evident that God is as against idolatry now as He was then.
Of course, as we read Scripture, we see that there are some parts of the law that no longer apply to new covenant believers, at least not in the same way that they did to old covenant believers. We make a distinction between moral laws, civil laws, and ceremonial laws such as the dietary laws and physical circumcision. That’s helpful because there’s a certain sense in which practicing some of the laws from the Old Testament as Christians would actually be blasphemy. Paul stresses in Galatians, for example, that if we were to require circumcision, we would be sinning. Now, the distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial laws is helpful, but for the old covenant Jew, it was somewhat artificial. That’s because it was a matter of the utmost moral consequences whether they kept the ceremonial laws. It was a moral issue for Daniel and his friends not to eat as the Babylonians did (Dan. 1). But the distinction between the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws means that there’s a bedrock body of righteous laws that God gives to His covenant people that have abiding significance and relevance before and after the coming of Christ.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, theologians said that God legislates to Israel and to the new covenant church on two distinct bases: on the basis of divine natural law and on the basis of divine purpose. In this case, the theologians did not mean the lex naturalis, the law that is revealed in nature and in the conscience. By “natural law,” they meant those laws that are rooted and grounded in God’s own character. For God to abrogate these laws would be to do violence to His own person. For example, if God in the old covenant said, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” but now He says, “It’s OK for you to have other gods and to be involved in idolatry,” God would be doing violence to His own holy character. Statutes legislated on the basis of this natural law will be enforced at all times.
On the other hand, there is legislation made on the basis of the divine purpose in redemption, such as the dietary laws, that when their purpose is fulfilled, God can abrogate without doing violence to His own character. I think that’s a helpful distinction. It doesn’t answer every question, but it helps us discern which laws continue so that we can know what is pleasing to God.” (Ligonier Ministries)
Deuteronomy 23:5, 6 – “But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.”
People may try to curse you, but God can turn curses into blessings. You don’t depend on the favor of people, you depend in the favor of God – never forget that.
When God says, “You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever,” the principle here is that we must be very careful not to allow false religion and false worship into our congregation.
Deuteronomy 23:7 – “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land.”
God expects His people to be leaders in reconciliation, to be kind and conciliatory in difficult relationships. The Israelites were continually treated harshly by both the Egyptians and the Edomites, but God called His people to seek reconciliation.
Deuteronomy 23:9 — “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.”
Your holiness impacts your outcomes.
Deuteronomy 23:12-14 — “You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.”
Many are quick to point out that the adage, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” is not found in the Bible; however, the principles of cleanliness and order have practical value and also show deference to the holiness of God. God desires His people to be clean and organized, demonstrating godly order and holiness in all that we do. You can learn a lot about someone’s character by looking at how they live, how they keep their things, and how they take care of themselves. God is a God of order.
Deuteronomy 23:19 — “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest.”
Christians don’t lend money to other Christians with interest, period. Christians are called to give openly to other Christians, taking care of their every need. You might be withdrawing inside as you read this because it defies common sense. Check your heart and your faith in God’s provision.
Deuteronomy 23:24 — “If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag.”
God expects Christians to show generosity to others and also to not take advantage of another’s hospitality. Today, many people have so much stuff, not only can they not easily fit it all in their garages and basements, they are renting storage sheds to hold the rest. This is not godly behavior.
Ephesians 3:3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 16, 19, 20, 21 – “The mystery was made known to me by revelation…. revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit…. I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power…. this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…. we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him…. that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being…. to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God…. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”
Paul was equally emphatic that his faith, love, knowledge, preaching ability, boldness, and strength were all gifts from God rather than the product of his abilities. In fact, he emphasized that the gifts he had obtained from God and shared with others were “unsearchable,” surpassing human knowledge or understanding, and beyond what anyone could ever imagine or ask from God; and his prayer was that others would experience the same fullness of God, being filled up by God. Paul relentlessly gave God all the glory. Do you?
Don’t make the mistake Moses made at Meribath: “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10) Don’t attempt to share the glory with God as He works through you with His power — It is never “we;” it is only “He.” Watch out for that personal pronoun, “I” when celebrating accomplishments. To God be the glory.
Ephesians 3:20 — Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The primary theme throughout today’s readings is the Sovereignty of God and our total dependence on His grace, guidance, and provision in our lives. Apart from Him, we are nothing and can accomplish nothing of value. (Review John 15) We must be continually reminded of this fact since we are so tempted to grow prideful, self-reliant and self-promoting, which is celebrated by the world with its philosophies of humanism and rationalism. When we return to the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (when we presume we don’t need God to decide what is good and bad or right and wrong, and when we begin to follow our own desires rather than His will – Genesis 2) we walk away from the Tree of Life, Jesus, and we no longer bear the good fruit we were intended to produce. We are created to live by God’s grace, rejoice in God’s grace, proclaim God’s grace (in word and deed), and glorify God as evidence of God’s grace.
Note from today’s readings, whenever David sought the Lord’s counsel and obeyed God, he was successful. However, when he didn’t seek the Lord’s will and follow it, he failed, despite surrounding himself with many experienced advisors. “David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader,” before deciding to fetch the ark of God, but he apparently didn’t consult with God (1 Chronicles 13:1) — this didn’t work out so well for Uzzah. However, against the Philistines, “David inquired of God,” (1 Chronicles 14:10, 14) and God brought him great victories.
“And the Lord said to him, ‘Go up, and I will give them into your hand.’ …David struck them down there. And David said, ‘God has broken through my enemies by my hand….” (1 Chronicles 14:10, 11) David understood and was sure to proclaim that, though God worked through him, God and God alone brought the victory. To whom do you give the credit for your talents, skills, abilities, accomplishments and successes? Do people praise you or your God in Heaven?
“At times we feel as if we could impress God with all we are trying to do for Him and His church. Yet God has yet to be impressed with even the most grandiose human aspirations (Ps. 8:3-4). You will never set a goal so big or attempt a task so significant that God does not have something far greater that He could do in and through your life. Saul of Tarsus worked harder than anyone else to impress God with his efforts, only to discover that his greatest achievements were but rubbish compared to God’s will for his life (Phil. 3:7-8).
Our problem is that we become too easily enamored with our own plans. If we are attempting to do noble or difficult things, we assume that we must be experiencing the maximum potential for our lives and that God must, therefore, be pleased with us. Until we have heard from God, we cannot even imagine all that our lives could become or all that God could accomplish through us.
We need to remind ourselves that the Father sees the “big picture,” that His power far exceeds our limited imagination. We must set aside our own agenda, however lofty. We must never become satisfied with our own dreams, for they are finite at best. When we follow God’s direction we will witness things happening in our lives that can only be explained by His powerful presence. How could we be satisfied with anything less?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 27 June 22: Celebrated God’s grace and provision in your life. Go out of your way to give God all the glory today. In all that you say and do, point others to Jesus – don’t allow yourself to be a distraction to others from Him.