Bible reading for June 18.
"You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him." (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)
PURITY (vv 1-18). It seems that one key theme here is purity. Purity of congregational worship, of personal sanitation, and of sexuality (vv 1-18). Some groups were excluded from worship with Israel. God is not racist, since he created humanity, and all ethnicities will be gathered around his throne (Rev 5:9-10; 7:9). There really is only one race -- the human race. But the groups excluded from worship in Jerusalem were nearby nations who were hostile to Israel. By God's grace there were exceptions: Rahab (a Canaanite) and Ruth (a Moabite). Faith made the difference and brought them into fellowship with God's people. Nor is God against the disabled -- think of Jesus' ministry to the handicapped. This passage points us to the perfection needed to enter eternal fellowship with God, a perfection found only in the Lord Jesus himself. The personal responsibility for public sanitation (vv 9-14) is still relevant today, over three thousand years later! Even yesterday on a walk I passed a sign reminding me to "please pick up after your pet."
PROPERTY (vv 19-25). Perhaps the theme here, and in vv 15-16, has to do with how Israel was to think of property and debt. Vows and obligations were to be fulfilled. They should not charge interest from each other. Property was not an absolute possession: crops could be shared as incidental need arose (see Jesus in Matt 12:1-2). Also note: escaped slaves were not to be returned to masters. This is important. Slavery in the Bible was a concession, or sometimes a judgment, but not not an absolute right nor an institution ordained as good in itself (Gen 9:25-26; Psalm 105:17-19). Freedom was always the desired goal (1 Cor 7:21-23), and the gospel sounded the end -- or at least, the long road to the end -- of slavery as a practice in the western world (Philemon 10-18).
PROGRESS OF REVELATION. As we read of the commandments given to a pre-iron-age nomadic people in the ancient middle east, we should remember that there is a progress of revelation that is taking place through the Bible. God's will and plan is given progressively, in stages until the full revelation of Jesus. That world of Israel seems a strange place, so long-ago in history. We may be tempted to think that it is the human race itself that is progressing, or evolving, in its own goodness. Or that God himself has somehow progressed along with us and is now more enlightened as to cultural values. God has indeed granted much blessing in the advancement of knowledge and civilization in our world. But it is a progress of revelation -- in what he reveals of his plan and will -- that is progressing, not God (who is perfect), and not even us necessarily. We may think that the gritty reality and brutality of the ancient world is far from us. But even in the modern world we have seen that the human race itself has not become essentially better. The chaos and brutality of the Holocaust, of the killing fields of Cambodia, of Rwanda, Kosovo, Syria, and Nigeria -- these are not really so far from us. The despots of the ancient world are rivaled in power by the totalitarian governments of the past century: Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and North Korea, just to name a few. God's revelation, rightly understood and applied, can lift up a culture and a society, but when his ways are rejected a people can descend right back into a nightmare of evil.
"From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!" (Psalm 113:3)
THE BLESSING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (112). At the heart of righteousness is faith (v 7; Rom 5:1). The working of God's grace produces reverence, causing us to delight in his commandments (v 1; Jer 31:33-34). Righteousness is, and will be, blessed. For him or her, the "light dawns in the darkness..." (v 4; Prov 4:18). Generosity is a fruit of righteousness (v 5, 9). When we trust in Christ, his righteousness is imputed (credited) to us. We call this "justification." That is, we stand before God accepted, forgiven, and approved because of our union with Christ through faith. His righteousness has become ours. But also, we begin to walk in our experience of righteousness, as a fruit of our faith and the working of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:5-6). This is part of our "sanctification". Takeaway: go through this psalm and list the blessings of righteousness. How are these seen in Jesus himself? Are you seeing the fruit of righteousness in your life now?
HE EXALTS THE POOR. Righteousness produces generosity toward the poor (Ps 112:5, 9) and God exalts the poor (Ps 113:7-8; cf Isa 61:1-2). This does not mean that every occasion of poverty is undeserved (e.g., Prov 6:10-11), but that the righteous will look with compassion upon the poor, especially those who have been oppressed or have suffered great loss. We must remember the example of Jesus, who made himself poor that we might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).
Image credit: Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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