Learning from Deuteronomy 16-21
Blessed by God, the people of Israel had much to celebrate. They had been brought out of the land of bondage. They were about to enter the land of promise. The keeping of the feasts (16:1-17) was a response to God’s love, a way of celebrating His love. Why did God bring Israel to the promised land? It was because He ‘loved them’(Psalm 44:3). The Passover was a continuing reminder of God’s mighty work of redemption. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of what God has done for us in Christ. In remembering His dying love for us, we remember what we were without Him and we give thanks for all that He has done for us. As well as ‘joy’(45), there is to be justice (16:18-17:13; Micah 6:8). Note the effect of justice: ‘And all the people shall hear, and fear, and not act presumptuously again’(17:13).
Even the king is subject to God’s ‘law’. His supreme responsibility is this: Pay careful attention to God’s Word (17:18-20). Politically, he may be in an elevated position - a ‘king over’ others (17:14-15). Spiritually, he must not allow ‘his heart’ to be ‘lifted up above his brethren’(17:20). There must be humble obedience to God’s Word. Priests speak to God for us. Prophets speak to us for God. We need both - ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’(Acts 6:4). In our worship, we must keep the Lord at the very centre. Anything or anyone who distracts our attention from the Lord is no help to true worship (9-14). ‘A prophet like Moses’(18:15): Jesus is the ultimate prophet - to see and hear Him is to see and hear God (John 5:19; 12:49; 14:9). He preaches God’s Word. He is‘the Word of God’(John 1:1).
Justice is concerned with (a) the protection of the innocent - ‘innocent blood will not be shed in your land’(10); (b) the punishment of the guilty - ‘you must purge the evil from among you’(19). Through justice, God is to be glorified among His people. We are to fight for the Lord without fear, confident of His glorious presence (20:1-4). In the service of the Lord, we must not be ‘fearful and fainthearted’(20:8). We are to be ‘good soldiers of Jesus Christ’(2 Timothy 2:3). We need to give careful attention to the Word of God: ‘When you draw near to the battle, the priest will come forward and speak to the people, and say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel...’ (20:2-3). God’s Word is not concerned only with ‘Church work’. It sends us ‘back to our house’- ‘dedicated’ to the Lord (20:5-9).
The offer of ‘peace’ is made (20:10; Romans 5:1). Some refuse to ‘make peace’. They choose to ‘make war’(20:12). When the enemies of Christ and the Gospel are raging, we must be resolute in our commitment to living ‘as the Lord our God has commanded’(20:16-18). We are to ‘do what is right in the sight of the Lord’. This will involve ‘going forth to war against our enemies’. It will involve ‘purging the evil from our midst’ (21:9-10,21; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-2, 11). Our life of holiness is grounded in the death of Christ who, on the Cross, was ‘accursed by God’ so that we might be saved by God (21:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Him, we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1,3-5,9-10).