Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 5, Dt 17-20

Today's readings are Dt 17-20.

God continues to review and embellish the guidelines for His children. Much of this was covered in Exodus and Leviticus but this time we see more detail. God is establishing tenets of judicial & social order, worship, and cultural identity. A system of judges is prescribed (Dt 17:8-13). A method to appoint a king is detailed albeit for a time in the future. (Dt 17:14-20). Israel’s king will follow God’s law rather than go the way of worldly kings who enforce their own, man-made laws.

With the judicial/governmental/religious structure in place, Deuteronomy turns to practical living and how God’s people will navigate the pitfalls of daily life. The priests and Levites will be provided for by the communities in which they live (Dt 18:1-7). All ungodly or anti-godly behavior will be most severely punished by the entire community (Dt 18:9-14). No one will be allowed to speak for God but Himself and those He clearly appoints (Dt 18:15-22). Cities of refuge will be provided so that murderers and manslayers may get a fair hearing (Dt 19:1-13). All land is given by God; no one may alter the boundaries of the land they’re given (Dt:19:14). The courts will function based on the words of more than one witness with the judges accountable for a fair hearing. Liars will be dealt with harshly (Dt 19:15-21).

There are guidelines for warfare put in place. They include the promise that God will give the victory regardless of the odds or size of the opposing army (Dt 20:1-4). This is so guaranteed, that a list of reasons some warriors are allowed to remain behind is given, making Israel’s army even smaller (Dt 20:5-9) -- making it clear that God is the one who wins the battle, not the size or strategy of the army. The people living in the conquered cities are to be either subdued or executed (Dt 20:10-18). Israel is not to destroy trees that are sources of food as they are a provision from the Lord (Dt 20:19-20), their fruit a reminder that God has given them the land.

All of these guidelines will be important to Israel as they settle into their new home and begin lives as a royal priesthood, serving as examples to the entire world of what holy living should be like. All the while, God is revealing His character and nature, rolling out the templates He will use in redeeming lost souls, structuring His Church and its ministry in a fallen world.

We have the advantage of hindsight. The Jews are unaware of the bigger picture. They're hearing these things for the first time, absorbing the parts they are given, embracing - in faith - the promise of things yet to come. Like children, they will do well at times, and stumble and fall at others. God has not yet revealed the full plan of redemptive history. It is sufficient, at this time, that His people are obedient. It is not necessary for them to know why only that God "is" and has called them to do some very specific things.

We would do well to learn from them. They are faithful for no other reason than He is God. Yet sometimes they demonstrate imperfection and at others, breath-taking disobedience. Through it all, God remains a constant presence, a consistent discipline, a fount of grace and mercy, bringing His children, step by step, into the fullness of His promise.

He asks the same of us -- not our perfection, but our desire to come closer, to know Him better. He asks us to repent when we stumble but never expects us to walk perfectly without stumbling. The Law is there to show us the same thing it showed to the Jews; we are unable to avoid stumbling. We all need a savior.  With the benefit and blessing of the full counsel of Scripture, it is easy for us to see that Christ is our only savior. He is the only acceptable perfection for God's holy standards. In Him, we are being perfected...but, like the Jews, each of us has a way to go.

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