OT: Deut. 23:1-25:19
Three areas of thought today:
1) God is all in His people's business, isn't He? Deut. 23:1, 9-14, 25:11-12 give examples of what I'm talking about. The idea of every little part of my life being regulated is so foreign to me, and frankly, it doesn't sound fun at all. The Israelites, however, had to get used to it. So far, God has given extensive regulations about the most intimate parts of people's lives and bodies. It is a little off-putting sometimes, from a Western perspective that cherishes personal privacy and freedom. But the extensiveness of these regulations tell me that God wants to be God over every part of our lives. There is no compartmentalizing; He wants it all.
2) I was very intrigued by all the marriage laws today. The "Family of the Unsandaled" was a trip (25:5-10). What was even more intriguing, however, was Deut. 24:1-4's discussion of certificates of divorce. See, the Law permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce for his wife if she displeased him (1, 3). If I were reading this Law with no knowledge of the NT, I would probably talk about how this was unfair and sexist, and how it was hard for me to see what it said about God's nature (see yesterday's commentary for an example of this practice). But with this particular law, I have Jesus' direct explanation of it to help me understand. In Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:5, Jesus explains two important things: 1) that Moses wrote this law (Mark 10:5), and 2) that he did it because the people's hearts were hard. Jesus goes on to say that "it was not this way from the beginning" (Matt. 19:8). Isn't that fascinating? Jesus seems to clearly insinuate that this law was Moses' call, not God's. It doesn't seem like God was opposed to it, of course, but it was a concession b/c the people were too sinful to do any better. That is so interesting. I would have never known that had Jesus not said it. I would have just figured that this law was directly from God and that it reflected something eternal about His character and even His view of women. I wonder how many other laws fit into this category, how many other laws are concessions or are from Moses...
3) It's funny how some of the laws seem to be such "hard heart" laws (i.e. they seem to be concessions to humanity's corruption) and how some laws are so idealistic. There were a ton of those today, and I loved them. There were laws about giving refuge to slaves (23:15-16), about not charging interest to your brothers (23:19-20), about sharing grapes and grain with your neighbors (23:24-25), about being human with pledges for loans (24:10-13), about paying the poor and alien in a timely manner (24:14-15), about granting justice to the disenfranchised (24: 17-18), and about leaving food in your fields and vineyard for the poor (24: 19-22). Those were all great laws, full of mercy and compassion. (Along those lines, I also loved the law about the recently married man getting a whole year to "stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married" (24:5). See, that's reflective of God to me.) Underlying many of these laws about generosity was the reminder that the Israelites were once slaves. In fact, that fact was given as an explanation for many of these laws on kindness. I think that the reminder that they were nothing before God showed them kindness and mercy was supposed to spur them on to show kindness and mercy to others. That idea is very much continued in the NT.
Oh, and lastly, did Moses get some bad intel on Balaam or what? Poor guy. He had such a great experience, what with the talking donkey and all, and yet, he ended up with such a bad rap (23:4-5).
Wow. You know, you read a story hundreds of times, and yet, it still seems to hit you right where you need to be hit.
That's how the good Samaritan was for me today.
You think you know the story, you know? You think that the priest and the Levite had to be such monsters, such absolute jerks to pass a poor, half-dead man lying on the road. I mean, who would do that? I know I wouldn't. Right?
And yeah, I can honestly say that if this literally happened, if I saw a half-dead man on the side of the road, I would call 9-1-1. I mean, for pete sakes, what am I going to do, just leave him lying there? But today, this story convicted me that I do have some half-dead people lying beside my road. And I am soooo tempted to pass by on the other side. One is a soon-to-be mother of two who is unmarried and living in inner city Nashville. I see her facebook statuses all the time, and never respond, even though I used to be very involved in her life. Another is a teen whose dad walked out on them recently. Still another is a teen who recently confessed to Greg that she struggles with depression and cutting.
I know these people need help, just like that half-dead man did. But...honestly, I can see where the priest and the Levite are coming from. To go with the metaphor, I walk up and see the half dead man and think, "What, am I a doctor? Am I qualified to help this person? No. He needs so much--much more than I can give right now. I don't even know where to start. He needs medical treatment, he needs housing and clothes. This is a huge time commitment, not to mention a financial and emotional commitment. And I have obligations, lots of them. To be honest, I just don't have time for this!" With the girls, I just feel so overwhelmed by all that they need, and I don't even have the relationship currently in place with any of them to make it an easy or natural ministry. But...does anyone have that relationship with them? If not me, then who? How many other people are crossing on the other side of the road right now?
I didn't get as into this one, though I will note that "Do Not Destroy" is making a comeback with Asaph! As Becky pointed out in one of her comments, David loved this tune. Glad to see that someone is carrying on the torch!:)
Verses 12-13 are more righteous v. wicked comparisons. Verse 14, though, is unique: "From the fruit of his lips a man filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him." This verse is a little confusing at first glance, but to me, it seems to be addressing the power of words. It equates the results of speech with the results of physical labor, of actions. Jesus and James definitely agree with the thought that our words are extremely powerful tools.