As we’ve read through the book of Deuteronomy, have you gotten a picture of what a society completely under God’s rule be like? Just, holy, fair, righteous, are a few words that come to my mind. Granted, punishment for some sins (that modern culture thinks of as being minor or not a sin at all) are swift and severe, but have you ever thought that possibly those sins are actually more serious than we give them credit for being? But that’s not really part of our reading today, I just I’d encourage you to look back over our readings for more of a macro picture.
I know that it’s only a minor principle, but it’s one that we ought to take note of: 25:4, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” Masters, employers, and other bargain hunters are often looking to get work or goods at as small a price as possible. In some respects, of course, this is a fundamental principle of business or trade — you can’t make money by paying too much for things. But on the other hand, if you oppress or starve the source of your production, you’re doing yourself no favor either. The ox, in real life and in metaphor, is the source of the farmer’s (business man’s) ability to gain; if you starve him, he won’t be able to produce anymore. Give the workman, the salesman, the store what they’re due — it’s the cost of doing business. Paul, by the way, uses it as a foundational principle later for paying those in full-time ministry.
In 25:16-19 and 26:1-15 there is some interesting stuff, but maybe not for the reason that you may initially think. There are liberal theologians who teach that the book of Deuteronomy was really written in the days of King Josiah — that Deuteronomy was really a product of the priests of Josiah’s day (2 Kings 22), and deceptively “found” by over-zealous priests eager to see the Mosaic Law restored. But 25:16-19 and 26:1-15 are passages that would have had absolutely no purpose for an 8th century priest to include in his “pseudepigraphal” forgery — king Saul had already taken vengeance on the Amalekites 200 years before Josiah’s day, and a command to bring in an offering of the very first crop after Israel came into Canaan (as well as the second tithe) would have no purpose at all. Liberal attempts to discredit the Bible fall short once again.
Almost everyone is familiar with the command to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, and strength, but did you notice the different in 26:16? “You shall therefore be careful to do them (the commands of the Lord) with all your heart and with all your soul.” Did you realize that our attitudes in obedience make a difference to the Lord. We ought to have realized it, because we all know that it makes a difference to us, when we issue our own commands to children, employers, etc. Nobody wants eye-rolling, heavy-sighing, drag-your-feet, minimal-effort obedience, right? Such attitudes are what you’d expect of a slave; if you’re a Christian, you’re a child of God — act like it!
Lastly, we get into the beginnings of the blessings of Mt. Gerizim and curses of Mt. Ebal. It’s interesting what the people are commanded to do, when they actually execute this command later in Canaan — answer with an “Amen” (I agree, so be it). It’s the first example of a responsive reading / sermon. It was the Lord’s effort to make sure that Israel really understood how important obedience was by making them answer after each line of the blessings and curses. It might be an interesting exercise to read through the Sermon on the Mount and after each verse, ask the congregation to say the “Amen”(I agree, so be it).
Hope you have a great week ahead. See you tomorrow, Lord willing.