1 – Numbers 35:32-34 (ESV) 32 And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. 33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”
RAF: Once a nation can suspend this most basic concept, other corruptions must inevitably follow. It is at this point that the value of human life is first devalued in society. To let a murderer live, and not maintain that human life is so precious that it cannot be rightly punished apart from the death of the murderer, is to make man less than the image bearer of God. First, it says the innocent victim’s life is worth less than the life of the one motivated by hate. Second, it says society has deemed man is not really that special at all. His death is now put on par with other material and petty crimes.
No one can argue that the way the death penalty in our own country is carried out (i.e. its inordinately long process and racially imbalanced application) is horrifically distorted. Yet the more we abandon it altogether, the more fundamentally flawed we are in the way we view humankind, and what that means to God Himself.
2 – Deuteronomy 1:13 (ESV) 13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’
RAF: Note how similar this process for choosing elders is to the process adopted in Acts 7 when looking for those who could administrate the Church’s care for widows. Even though Moses was appointed directly by God, his administration was to end. As was his hand-picked successor’s – Joshua. From then out, this process of the congregation choosing out “wise, understanding and experienced men” seems to take the fore. Even in the New Testament era, the Apostles were appointed directly by Christ. They set the next generation in place. From there, there is no direct appointment – the Congregation is to be involved in the process. This is wisdom. But how we ought to be careful to follow these simple guidelines: Wise, Understanding, and Experienced. These three things perhaps in contradistinction to talented, popular and possessed of a charismatic personality.
3 – Deuteronomy 4:1-2 (ESV) “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
RAF: These twin temptations are ever before us. We find that when men will not obey what God has laid down, our tendency it to make more laws of our own invention. When in fact, the need is repentance and reconciliation to God, not more laws. And then too, we are tempted to relax God’s commandments when we fail to understand their wisdom or the necessity of them. We prove ourselves to want to be gods. To obey only what we fully understand and appreciate. In this, we throw off our perpetual status as children before God, and seek to be His peer. Father, save us from these tendencies. We fall into them so easily, so quickly. Help our hearts to always let you be God in every way. The illusion that have a better idea is always just that – an illusion. One that ends in destruction. Deliver us from ourselves. From thinking we can be wiser than You.
4 – Deuteronomy 4:13 (ESV) 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.
RAF: This then is God’s covenant. One which they completely misunderstood. From God’s side, God was promising:
1 – They would be free from the tyranny of false gods.
2 – They would be preserved from the darkness that idolatry brings in distorting the glories of the true and transcendent God.
3 – They would never be those who bore God’s name and image in the vanity of those who do not know their Creator.
4 – They would rest always in His provision.
5 – They would be a people who lived in the light of God’s aim to bring men into familial relationship with Himself.
6 – They would not be bound in hatred one for another – hatred that leads to murder, nor in the fear of the murderer.
7 – They would not be violators of their marriage covenants, but would live in glory of exclusive and inviolable intimacy as a picture of that which God desires to enjoy with His people. They would be faithful.
8 – They would not be robbers of what was not theirs like their father Adam – nor live in fear of being robbed by others.
9 – They would live in truth toward one another, leading men to know the reality of God and mankind’s relationship to Him and His eternal purposes.
10 – They would live in utter and complete satisfaction in God and His bounty – and have no desire unmet, as nothing could be as desirable as He whom they would inherit.
When they saw the covenant as one-sided, as their labor to earn, or at least keep God’s favor, rather than seeing that this was His promise and they were merely to be about living in the fullness of His promise to them of freedom and joy – they failed. And so will we.
5 – Deuteronomy 4:16 (ESV) 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
RAF: How timely for us today, when the church has once again fallen into practices of visualizing God and making Him into the likeness of both male and female. Look at modern Christian literature in this regard. Father, forgive us.
6 – Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
RAF: Oh, if they had truly HEARD this! If WE would “hear” it. Herein will all of God’s commands be met – love. Failure in keeping God’s commands must always be traced back to a defect in love. And until the love issue is remedied, modification of behavior, rote obedience – yields nothing. One can beat a child into blind obedience. And it is absolutely abhorrent. How transcendently wonderful when a child does what pleases the parent because the child loves the parent so that to please them is not a burden, but a delight. This alone is the obedience which our Father delights in. Changed hearts are what we need. Hearts that serve out of genuine, all consumming love that translates into action which is not considered in terms of keeping the rules, but pleasing the One our hearts delight in most.
7 – Deuteronomy 9:4-5 (ESV) 4 “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
RAF: We must not forget that God did not dispossess innocent peoples in Israel’s conquest. He was dealing with these nations in judgment. It is due to their wickedness before God that they are destroyed. We do not know how He dealt with them in the intervening years. We do not need to know. God cannot be unjust. Nor are we to imagine that God just takes something from one to give it to His favorites. He shows the Israelites they do not deserve what they are about to receive, and that God is not only dealing with them, but with these 7 nations as well. This serves too to warn them. If God will deal with those nations in this way, He will deal with the Israelites similarly under the similar conditions. Indeed, history proves He does that very thing.