The Bible explains that when Jesus came into the world, He was not received or recognized. Though Jesus was the physical embodiment of the Living God that created the heavens and the earth, His own creation did not recognize Him. Though He was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy concerning the Messiah and the promises of God, His own people rejected Him. The testimonies of men like Peter and Paul lend insight into why these things happened. While it was the center of God’s plan to die on the cross in order to propitiate sins, it is hard to understand how Jesus’ own people were unable or unwilling to accept His identity as the Son of God and Messiah before His death. The scriptures explain that the people did not pay attention to God’s laws and statutes. While they went through the rituals of the Law, they did not seek to understand God, His identity, and His promises through the Law. The people of God had developed traditions that facilitated heartless indifference to the real emphasis of God’s commands so that they never understood the real essence of God’s promises. While this was a mistake made in the past, it is not a mistake that should be repeated.
The testimony of Jesus explains that His life was the fulfillment of many Messianic prophecies. In other words, Jesus’ life was already scripted out in the Old Testament so that when Jesus actually came into the world, it should have seemed familiar to those who read and knew the script. Had the children of Israel been paying attention to God’s Word and seeking Him by it, the course of history would be dramatically different! For example, in Deuteronomy 18:15-22 the Bible outlines one of God’s prophetic promises concerning Messiah. In this portion of scripture, Moses was reminding the children of Israel about God’s commands concerning sorcery, and other abominations. As Moses warned the people about being educated in the ways of darkness, Moses also presented a contrast to remind the children of Israel about God’s promises concerning Messiah. While the people identified as soothsayers, sorcerers, mediums, and spiritists were forms of false prophets, Moses taught the children of Israel that God’s Messiah would come in the form of a “true prophet,” much like he was a prophet.
Deuteronomy 18:15-22 explains that the Messiah would be a prophet in the likeness of Moses. Many Jewish people thought that Moses was teaching that he would come back as Messiah. This is incorrect. Instead, Moses was sure to state that the Father would send a person from amongst the children of Israel to be a prophet “like Moses.” Hence, one must look to the ministry of Moses to discern the instruction that God was giving about Messiah – Jesus Christ. First, Moses explained that God would “raise up” this prophet. The Messiah would not come by His own power or strength. He would not fulfill the promises of the Word by His own inclination. Rather, the Father the Bible teaches (and the Book of Hebrews emphasizes) that the Messiah would be one that is given authority in flesh by the Father to accomplish specific purposes that He ordained and documented in scripture. In fact, the Hebrew word “Messiach” translates into the English title “Anointed One,” which can be further interpreted “Appointed One.” The Messiah would be the Messiah because the Father made it that way.
Next Moses taught that the Messiah would come in likeness of a “prophet.” The Bible explains that a prophet is simply one that is appointed by God with authority to communicate His Word. Deuteronomy 18:15-22 states that the Messiah would be a prophet “like Moses,” which means that the Messiah would communicate God’s Word “like” Moses did. Moses communicated the Word of God specifically concerning the Law and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. The Messiah would come to do the same thing but in a fuller way. The Messiah would come to speak about the righteousness of God concerning the Law as a teacher like Moses did. Jesus taught that He came to fulfill the Law and not to destroy it. When Jesus went into the temple and read from the scriptures, He did so with authority and explained how He was the fulfillment of the Word. When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, He corrected the flawed teachings of the Jews by appropriately teaching the Law according to the Father’s purposes. Jesus certainly communicated the Word of God concerning His righteousness by the Law. Additionally, Jesus taught that He would fulfill every jot and tittle of the Law so that His sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world would be acceptable to the Father, thereby ushering in the fulfillment of God’s promises. The Book of Hebrews teaches that Jesus as Messiah is greater than Moses in this way since Moses was not able to enter into the Promised Land though he was privileged to give the people the Law.
The Bible clearly explains that Jesus met all of the qualifications that Moses prophetically stated. Jesus was Jewish. Therefore He met the qualification to be one that came “from the midst of the brethren.” Jesus taught the people that He did not come by His own authority, but by the authority of the Father. Therefore, He was One that was “raised up” by the Father to do the work of the Father according to His purposes. The life and ministry of Jesus was defined by His conduct and teaching, which was confirmed by many witnesses to be equal to the righteousness, holiness, and glory of the Father. Therefore, while Jesus was like Moses as a “prophet” speaking the Word according to the Law and God’s promises, Jesus was greater as He fulfilled the Law and God’s promises! Therefore, Jesus is Messiah! Knowing this, one must examine why God chose to do things this way. One must understand why He took the form of flesh and script the life of Jesus in the way that He did. Thankfully, Moses provided insights into these purposes in Deuteronomy 18:15-22.
The Bible explains that Moses reminded the children of Israel about the circumstances of at Horeb, when God powerfully spoke as a consuming fire at Mount Sinai. God reminded the people that, though He displayed His power, glory, and righteousness directly for the people, the people could not endure it. They asked God to stop speaking. They asked God to settle down. God’s glory, power, and righteousness were too great so that the people could not endure God’s Word at that time. When this took place, God even agreed that He should stop because His majesty was too great. Therefore, the testimony of Mount Sinai reveals that there is a problem that exists between mankind and God. Mankind cannot endure the glory, power, and righteousness of God by His Word in natural circumstances from God direct. When God spoke directly to the people, it was too much to bear. Thus, God revealed that another method of communication was needed. This is why God used prophets in time past, but according to the promise of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 God would use a better prophet to improve the communication channel between Him and His people. Deuteronomy 18:15-22 explains that God’s Prophet/Messiah would speak the words that He puts in the Prophet’s mouth. This is no different from the way God used all of the other prophets, including Moses. The difference between Messiah and the other prophets is that the other prophets were speaking about Messiah, while the words that Jesus spoke were words concerning Himself as the fulfillment. This is why God said that those who reject the words that come from Messiah will be judged. Those who reject the words of Messiah are those who reject the fulfillment of God’s promises.
According to Deuteronomy 18:15-22 the Prophet that God promised would be put in place to improve the communication between God and His people. Since the people could not endure the Word from God directly, God took on the form of a man to perform the role of a prophet from the position of a servant. Jesus came in a manner that was lowly and humble. He was average in appearance and was destitute of social and political position. This set of circumstances allowed Jesus to be clear in His communication concerning the righteousness and promises of God. While the people ultimately rejected Jesus, He was well heard. The people were without excuse. They saw Jesus and heard the words that He said. In fact, the Bible testifies that many marveled over the authority that Jesus spoke with. Thus, the plan that God instituted concerning the communication of His righteousness, and His promises by the Word was effective. The promises of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 have been fulfilled!
In contrast, Moses warned the people about the risk and danger of looking for the wrong prophet. Even Moses understood that some would seek to impersonate the Messiah and God’s Anointed One. Thus, Moses explained to the people that a false prophet can be recognized as one that speaks but such words are not fulfilled. Since God’s Word is ALWAYS fulfilled (as proven by the testimony of Jesus as Messiah), then one that speaks claiming to have God’s authority, but such words are not fulfilled is an imposter and should not be considered. The reason that Moses contrasted the false prophets to God’s Prophet is to emphasize the point that God’s Word is ALWAYS fulfilled. He is faithful. He cannot lie. He does not change. In fact, the Bible teaches that while heaven and earth will pass away, the Word of God will not pass away. God exalts His Word above all things, and since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Word, Jesus is exalted above all things. These are details that the children of Israel were expected to consider, learn, and remember so that upon seeing Jesus, they would have recognized Him as God’s Prophet – God in flesh. They did not. Therefore, it would be wise to learn from those mistakes and approach the commandments of God seeking to know Him, His righteousness, His promises, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of it all!
The Bible teaches that the people of God are to be separate from the world. This means that there is to be a whole different set of standards and motives that God’s people live by. Since the just shall live by faith, then those who believe as God’s children should be motivated by trust in God’s eternally unconditional promises and live by the standards of His righteousness according to the Word, trusting the Bible to be true and good. This means that God’s people should not look to the wisdom of men and women as the standard by which one lives. God’s people should not look to the reasoning and ideas of people as the driving force of one’s life. God’s people should not look anywhere else but the Word as the manner by which one is governed in one’s daily decision making, knowing that the wisdom of men and women is foolishness to God and wisdom and righteousness only come from God. Since wisdom and righteousness only come from God, then the efforts of men and women that don’t seek God are equal to darkness and wickedness that oppose God. The children of God should not have dealings with these things in anyway.
The Bible explains that God was very candid about this reality – especially with the children of Israel. In Deuteronomy 18:9-14 the Bible explains that God commanded His people to abstain from learning pagan culture and from seeking spiritual counsel apart from God. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 reminded the children of Israel that once they got into the Promised Land, they were to completely eradicate the pagan worship system from the land. God didn’t want any resemblance of those practices amongst His people. God plainly reminded the people that pagan culture was not for His people. They were not to associate with it in any way, shape, or form. Therefore, God commanded the people to abstain from even learning about it.
It is true that God commanded His people from participating in the ways of darkness and carnal worldliness, but God went a step further in Deuteronomy 18:9-14 and commanded the people to keep from learning about those things. One must understand that it is possible to know about certain thing, but never physically participate in them. While God was concerned about the things His people did, God was also concerned about the desires of their hearts and wanted to protect them. One must consider that when one is interested in a certain subject to the point that one begins to seek education within that subject, it is a reflection of the amount of affection and desire one has for that subject. The more time one is willing to put into a particular thing, the more likely it is that one is really interested in and likes that thing. Knowing this, God did not want His people learning about paganism. God did not want His people educating themselves about how that culture worked, knowing that they would eventually become intrigued to the point where their hearts desired those things more than Him, whether they were literal participants or not.
Thus, God’s people are not to seek out knowledge in worldliness. God’s people are not to indulge in information regarding the ways of darkness. God’s people are not pursue an understanding of human reason and thinking that is contrary to God. God’s people are to be separate from those things to the extent that God’s people are totally ignorant of those things. In fact, when Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he instructed the people to be “simple concerning evil,” meaning that the people of God should be ignorant of the things that unbelievers are doing and their manner of thinking since it easily corrupts the mind and heart.
The Lord was specific to address the types of “darkness” that the people were to abstain from. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 specifically mentioned the pagan practices of child sacrifices, soothsayers, dream interpreters, sorcerers, conjurers, mediums, spiritists, and those who call upon the dead. One must consider that, while all of these practices seem extreme in nature, all of them have fundamental similarities. It is true that God wanted the children of Israel to purge these specific types of people and these specific types of practices from their land. However, when one examines the consistency amongst these descriptions, one will find that each deals with the attempts of a person seeking to possess the power and authority of God. Those who sacrificed children sought to usurp God’s authority over life as if they were God. Soothsayers, dream interpreters, and sorcerers sought to exercise the wisdom and power of God as if they were God. Conjurers, mediums, spiritists, and those who called upon the dead sought to exercise the sovereignty of God as Judge as if they had the authority and power to control the living and the dead. In other words, these people all sought to be God while living apart from God – just like the devil.
It is important to recognize that one does not need to be a medium or sorcerer to resemble the characteristics of the devil. One does not need to participate in child sacrifice to demonstrate the characteristics of the devil. One must simply seek to do as God does and exercise the power and authority of God while living apart from God. One must simply exalt one’s self to a position that is equal or above God like the devil did. This is why Deuteronomy 18:9-14 states that God found these people and practices to be abominations. The practices of these “worship leaders” were dark in nature, but God identified that it was only because the hearts of these people were dark like the devil. These people sought to exercise human reasoning and ideas in ways that exalted their authority to heights in which they felt they could address spiritual matters and “play God.” The Lord did not want His people involved in these types of things in any way shape, or form.
Seeing this command from God, one must consider that God expected His people to be vigilant and aware of these things. The people of God had to be mindful about the things that were entering their minds. They were not to learn how to live like people that considered abominations unto the Lord. This means that God’s people were not to learn how to think like those people. The children of Israel were not to learn how to leverage human reasoning and ideas to the point that they were exalting themselves in their hearts to the position of God. This is what happened at the Tower of Babel. The Bible teaches that God resists the proud but give more grace to the humble. God desires His people to be humble and dependent on His righteousness and wisdom – not self-righteousness and foolishness disguised as wisdom. Therefore, Deuteronomy 18:9-14 explains that God desires His people to keep far away from those who would infect the minds and hearts of God’s people into thinking that people can do the work of God and have the authority of God for selfish and carnal gain, living apart from God. If God promised to destroy the devil for thinking this way, understand that those who resemble his characteristics in this way will be destroyed just the same.
The Bible refers to the people of God in two primary ways: as “children” of God and as “servants” of the Lord. While each title seems to be different than the other, it should be understood that one title refers to one’s identity in Christ (child/heir) and the other refers to one’s purpose (servant). The reason that a person is not immediately ushered into the kingdom of God in heaven upon being saved is because God desire His children to serve His needs for His glory while here on earth. In fact, when Jesus prayed to the Father before giving Himself up to the cross, He specifically stated that He did not desire for His disciples to be taken out of the world, but equipped with the Spirit to serve the will of the Father according to salvation as modeled by Jesus. Knowing this, the people of God that are saved should look to the scriptures in order to understand how one can properly undertake the opportunity to serve the Lord when saved, and the Lord organized the work of His servants to ensure His glory.
The Bible explains that, while all of God’s children are equipped with His Spirit to serve Him, God has ordained certain people for specific roles and purposes. The Apostle Paul referred to the Lord’s organization and utilization as “the body of Christ.” Each “member” has a unique responsibility that synergistically meshes with the responsibilities of others to make the movement of God manifest through His people. As the human body has various parts and members that serve different functions, so too does the body of Christ. Additionally, the human body is broken up into systems that involve many individual parts that collectively contribute to specific tasks. For example, the respiratory system involves many organs and muscle structures that collectively function to enable breathing and the distribution of oxygen throughout the body. Likewise, the Bible explains that the body of Christ is broken up into major groups/systems as well in order to enable specific types of major functions within congregation of God’s children.
The Old Testament shows that one of the major “systems” that God ordained and implemented in this way was the priest system. The scriptures reveal that God ordained the entire tribe of Levi as priests in order to facilitate the sacrifices and worship of the children of Israel. While each Levite had an individual responsibility, each Levite was involved in contributing to the overall worship and sacrifices of the people in order to administrate the Law. Though all of the children of Israel were called to serve God in some capacity, the Levites had a very specific role according to God’s special purposes. Since the scriptures identify the work of the priests as the manner in which sacrifices and worship were facilitated for the congregation of Israel, the priests become a prophetic picture of the Messiah since His duty was to do the same. The Messiah was an appointed intercessor sent in order to offer Himself as a sacrifice to facilitate the worship of God’s people in spirit and truth. Hence, the servants of God who’s roles and duties resemble the duties of the priests must examine the manner in which God commanded these servants to serve.
God reminded the children of Israel about the unique position of the priests as servants in Deuteronomy 18:1-8. In this portion of scripture, the Lord first reminded the children of Israel that the priests were not to receive a land inheritance. Though the children of Israel were making preparations to enter into the Promised Land to overtake as their own inheritance, the priests were not to share in that inheritance like everyone else. The other people from the other tribes were moving into the Promised Land to take ownership of it and cultivate it as their own according to God’s riches and grace. Though the Levites would dwell in the land with the rest of their brothers and sisters, they were not to be given a region of land as their own. The land was not to be split in such a way that the tribe of Levi was to receive an individual portion with its own set of boundaries. Rather, the Levites were to dwell within the boarders of Israel, sharing the land of their brothers and sisters as “renters” rather than “owners.” Rather than give the tribe of Levi land, God had different intentions for this unique group of servants that was to resemble the qualities of Messiah in unique ways.
Deuteronomy 18:1-8 reminded the children of Israel that the inheritance of the priests was to come from the sacrifices offered to God. The scriptures explain that the Levites weren’t to share the inheritance of land with the congregation of Israel. Instead, the Levites were to share the sacrifices and offerings that were offered to God Himself. God told the children of Israel that the inheritance of the priests was the Lord Himself! They did not get land like the others. The priests were instead privileged to share in that which was offered to the Living God instead. Their special position of service required great sacrifice in that they would not get to have a land portion to call their own like the other 11 tribes. However, their special position of service enabled them to partake in the inheritance of God in ways that no one else could, showing the fairness of God in ways that taught important Messianic lessons.
God explained that the priests were allowed to take specific portions of the sacrifices offered unto God in order to meet their needs. Since the priests did not have their own land and were consumed with the responsibilities of tabernacle service through sacrifices on behalf of the people to facilitate worship. The lives of the priests were consumed with these duties in a full-time manner. They did not have the time or opportunities to cultivate farmland, sow seeds, tend to flocks, or manage basic provision. God, understanding this reality, provided the provision of the priest through the sacrifices that were intended for Him. Since the priests were consumed with their unique service, they could not raise cattle. Therefore, Deuteronomy 18:1-8 explains that the priests were able to freely take certain parts of the sacrificial animals to feed their families. Since the priests were consumed with their unique service, they could not sow seeds of grain or reap a harvest of any kind. Therefore, Deuteronomy 18:1-8 explains that the priests were able to freely take of the firstfruits of the grain and new wine offerings and also of the oil that was offered as well. The priests were allowed to take of the fleece of the sheep that were offered, and use other parts of the sacrifices given unto God in ways to take care of their needs and the needs of their families. God would not allow the priests to profit in the ways the others had the liberty to do so. However, this did not disqualify the priests from living a life in which their needs were met and their families could flourish enjoying the benefits of God’s promises like everyone else. God was fair.
God spoke further concerning fairness. He explained that any Levite that desired to serve according to the regiments of the tabernacle was freely allowed to do so in order to fulfill their purpose and partake of their special inheritance. God also stated that no priest was to receive any more than others. The priests were to receive equal portions according to need. The Bible explains that when the land was divided and distributed amongst the tribes, it was divided and distributed by lot, but in order that the needs of each tribe could be met. In other words, the larger tribes got the larger sections of land so that the land could sustain their needs, and the smaller tribes got the smaller sections of land so that no one was living in excessive excess at the expense of others. The priests were to receive their inheritance in the same manner. Since all of the priests were individual members of a collective group ordained to exalt the Lord through their service, no priest was greater than the others. The high priest had unique responsibilities, but according to the scriptures, his inheritance was no greater according to his title.
This is an important lesson to learn. Deuteronomy 18:1-8 shows that, while God has ordained specific people to teach of the Messiah through the facilitation of worship (love) and sacrifice (sanctification through self-denial/repentance) according to His Word, the responsibilities of these people do not exalt them any higher than any others. Their inheritance is equal in magnitude, but different in the way God values it. The inheritance of the priests was reasonable according to the manner of their calling. Yet no priest was to be higher than another or receive more based on experience, age, or other arbitrary details. The priest was only to receive according to need to ensure that the needs of all of God’s people were met. Thus, so long as the people were obedient to give their offerings and sacrifices unto God, then the needs of God’s special servants would have been met. Since their needs would have been met, the priests would not have been required to compromise their time and commitment to their work while trying to figure out ways to take care of their families. The work of the priests was not only important from a daily standpoint of atonement and redemption, but also in the bigger picture, teaching the people about the coming work of Messiah. Apparently God felt this effort was worthy of full-time focus.
The Book of Acts shows this type of thinking to be the same. When the church began to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit to sell their possessions to ensure the overall provision of the entire community of believers, scripture shows that the needs of the apostles were met so that they could focus on studying the Word, thereby being well focused and equipped to teach it and distribute the Gospel. The early church understood that all of God’s children are entitled to an inheritance based on the grace of God so that none allowed selfish desire and ambition to govern their desire for possessions. The scriptures show that as the people yielded to the motivation and leadership of the Holy Spirit, no one had needs of any kind! Yet as some of God’s children have been called to serve the Lord in unique ways to facilitate the understanding of Messiah in priest-like manners, their inheritance must be taken into consideration as well so long as those servants are diligently focused on humbly doing that which God has commanded, not seeking to increase their own enterprise, but exalt the Father’s business through fruit! The Bible clearly shows that God is fair and concerned about all of the needs of all of His children. Hence, the children of God should seek to exercise their opportunity to serve God by demonstrating His desire to take care of all of God’s people.
The Bible teaches that God’s Law is an extremely important tool that God uses to work on His people. While the people of God are not saved by the Law today, one’s understanding of how God always intended the Law to be used helps one understand the appropriate place for the Law today. The Bible explains that the Law is the revelation of God’s righteousness. The Bible explains that the Law is the prescription for God’s justice concerning sin. The Bible explains that the Law makes transgressions known to transgressors. The Bible provides instructions concerning the ways that God desired the children of Israel to deal with transgressions through sacrifice, but also explains how such rituals, offerings, and sacrifices were Messianic references to the work He would later do through Jesus. Hence, the Bible teaches that the Law acts as a teacher and a school master – pointing out faults that cause destruction while pointing out, providing, and leading to God’s solution through Christ.
When God repeated the His commands, statutes, and testimonies to the children of Israel before they moved into the Promised Land, He emphasized the need of the people to be led and governed by the Law. When God ordained His leaders and called for the children of Israel to assign judges, He was sure to instruct them to ensure those men were using the Law as the standard of righteousness. When God addressed the kingship of Israel (even before there were kings in Israel), He emphasized the same point. In Deuteronomy 17:18-20 the Bible explains that the kings of Israel were not only to be governed by the Law, but be students and teachers of the Law, making the Law their personal guide to life and leadership.
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 explains that God commanded the kings in Israel to make copies of the Law for them to keep at all times. God wanted the kings in Israel to take the Law from the Levites and transcribe their own personal copies – all 613 points of the Law! The kings were to make their own personal books that contained the contents of God’s Word according to the Law and keep it with him at all times for the duration of his life. God expected the kings of Israel to learn the Word, having no excuses since they possessed their own copy of it. The Bible explains that God desired for the kings of Israel to learn the Word and commands of God in order to learn the fear of God. Hence, the only way to lead in the appropriate manner by God’s standards is to be entrenched in God’s Word, learning God’s righteousness, and fearing the Lord as a result.
The scriptures explain that God used the Law as a way to keep His people humble. Since the Law makes transgressions known to transgressors, one that studies and gains understanding of the Law is constantly being reminded of one’s depravity in sin. This is good as this keeps one humble amongst others and keeps one dependent on God for forgiveness and spiritual provision. This is God’s intent and Deuteronomy 17:18-20 explains that this was essential for the kings of Israel. Though the kings were appointed to rule and lead the people, God did not want the kings to become prideful and self-righteous. Therefore, He commanded the kings to engage deeply in His Word in order to remain humble before the people, not seeking to exalt themselves above others just because of their position or title. The Bible teaches that God resists the proud, so God prescribed the Law in order to keep His people connected to Him through humility. This way God’s people would be centered on the righteousness of God and stay away from turning away from Him. Thus, the scriptures explain that if one seeks to be governed by God, gaining His approval, one must humbly seek Him through the Word in faith, considering one’s need for God as Savior from one’s sinful nature.
As God have this simple, yet critical command, the scriptures explain that God also provided a promise. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 explains that God assured the people that, if the kings of Israel would stay focused on His righteousness through the Law in humble faith, the kings of Israel would be able to lead in righteousness, prolonging their days in success, and ensuring a good future for their children. Those who seek the righteousness of God by His Word are guaranteed the same promises! Those who seek the Lord and His righteousness will prolong their days since faith promises eternal life. Those who seek the Lord and His righteousness will find success in the eyes of the Lord, bearing fruit for His glory in spite of circumstances. Those who seek the Lord and His righteousness will ensure a good future for their children, leading by example so that one’s offspring will see functional faith, knowing that God’s Word and promises are true!
The Bible teaches that those who have authority are to exercise such authority in specific ways according to scripture. The scriptures explain that God is the one that appoints people to their positions, and when those positions include authority, God has a specific purpose for those people of authority. Consequently, it is critical that people in positions of influence or authority know and understand the Word of God in order to know and understand the manner in which one should lead. One cannot lead effectively and rightly according to God’s standards unless one knows God, trusts His Word to be true, and is a doer of the Word.
The scriptures explain that God was very careful to explain to the children of Israel how they were to manage authority. When the children of Israel prepared to move into the Promised Land, they were reminded of the laws that identified the positions of authority that the people were to acknowledge and honor. God ordained priests to lead the people in worship and sacrifice. God also called the people to appoint judges that would work in partnership with the priests in order to administrate the other portions of the Law, handling disputes and other social matters that had spiritual implications. Though God adequately accounted for positions of leadership for the people, God knew the hearts of His people would be dissatisfied still. God knew that the people would desire and require more.
In Deuteronomy 17:14-17 God predicted that Israel would have a desire for a king in addition to the priests and judges. God knew that the people would look at other nations and desire to be like them in terms of leadership structure. Though God appointed the priests and judges, God knew the children of Israel would want a man to sit in a throne to rule over Israel in the manner that the surrounding pagan nations did. Therefore, God accounted for this desire and provided the qualifications of Israel’s king long before Israel even had a king, or expressed the desire to have a king. The reason that God addressed the matter of the kingship so early on as part of the Law was because of His promises of Messiah that were made even longer before. In Genesis chapter 49 God spoke prophetic qualities of the Messiah through Jacob the patriarch. God promised that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, and would rule and reign over Israel, eternally holding “the scepter” of authority as a king, having the title of “Shiloh” (He who’s right it is), which is a reference to the authority of kingship, and would rule as a lion, which is the king of the wild. Since God had already determined the Messiah to come in the manner of a king, He used the Law (the testimony of His righteousness) to identify the characteristics of Israel’s kings according to His righteousness.
Deuteronomy 17:14-17 explains that the children of Israel did not have the liberty to choose their own king. Instead, the people were to allow God to select their king. Thus, the king of Israel was to be chosen by God, not people. This speaks both to the regular kings of Israel as well as the Messianic king of Israel. In fact, the Hebrew word “Messiach” literally means “Anointed One,” referring to one that is appointed. The Messiah is the One that is promised by God to deal with the sins of the world. The Messiah is the One that God “appointed” and “anointed” for this purpose. According to the scriptures, the Messiah would fulfill this role as a king. Thus, as the regular kings of Israel were not to be selected by the people, neither is the Messiah. The positions of authority that God created were to be filled by the people that God appointed. The history of Israel shows that when the children of Israel sought to usurp God’s authority and select their own king, that king led the people into darkness and dismay.
The scriptures explain that the main reason that the Lord reserved the exclusive right to fill the position of king was because He wanted to ensure that the kingship bloodline remained pure on account of the work He would do through Messiah in the future. In other words, because God promised that Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, God needed to ensure that the kings in Israel remained Jewish. God did not want foreigners ruling over His people. He didn’t want the children of Israel led by Gentiles since Gentiles at that time were pagan idol worshipers. God did not want His people led in that manner. God did not want foreigners leading the children of Israel because He wanted to ensure that the Messianic line was in order according to the promises He previously made. While there are Gentiles in the bloodline of the Messiah (for example, Rahab the harlot), the genealogy of Jesus shows that He is of the appropriate heritage to be qualified as king, thereby qualifying Him as Messiah in this regard. God’s plans for Israel’s kings were very important; and so God expected the children of Israel to trust God’s judgment by fully surrendering the appointment of a king over to God as His responsibility.
Deuteronomy 17:14-17 also discusses the motives and purpose of the king. God explained that the king was set in the position of authority that God gave in order to accomplish His purposes, not fulfill one’s own fleshly desires. God did not want the kingship position to be a platform for power-hungry people to desire in order to lead according to their own selfish desires. God did not want people seeking the kingship in order to become rich in resources, influence, or women. The scriptures show that God addressed those three specific things. God commanded that the kings were not to try and multiply their own horses, silver, or gold for himself. The king was put in position to lead the people as an example of God’s righteousness, in the likeness of Messiah. Since Jesus came as Messiah in the form the Father’s servant, then all of Israel’s kings were to operate in the same manner. The kings of Israel were expected to lead the people to serve their needs according to the Lord, not to build their own enterprise and wealth through money and resources.
Additionally, God commanded against the kings of Israel making deals and treaties with other nations – especially using the resources that God gave to Israel as the method by which such treaties were ratified. God did not want the kings of Israel to pay off foreign nations to buy peace. God did not want the kings of Israel to leverage the wealth in Israel to partner with other nations. God promised to take care of Israel’s needs. God promised that upon entering the land, He would be their Provider, and the quality/extent of His provision would be great in magnitude. God’s intentions in taking care of Israel in this manner was not for Israel to turn around and give God’s resources to those that didn’t believe in Him. God’s intentions in taking care of Israel to the degree that He desired was so that His provision would serve as a witness to the surrounding pagan nations to testify that God is the one true living God that has charge over all things. God’s work in Israel was to be a witness of God and a witness against the false gods the pagan nations served. Hence, God did not want the kings of Israel depleting the resources of Israel that God gave in order to make partnerships with people that didn’t worship God. Deuteronomy 17:14-17 explains that God removed the children of Israel from the land of Egypt for a purpose. He did not want His people to rekindle relationships with those people lest they end up in the same position they were before. God wanted the children of Israel to be dependent on Him for peace and provision, trusting God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promise to exalt Israel. Since Jesus Messiah would ultimately show true dependency on the Father, God desired for the kings of Israel to do the same.
Lastly, God explained that the kings of Israel were not to multiply wives for themselves. It was commonplace for kings to take on many wives in those days for two reasons: to fulfill the lusts of their flesh, and to develop strategic relationships with foreign nations. God didn’t want the kings of Israel to take on multiple wives for either of those reasons. This does not mean that God condoned polygamy as long as the kings of Israel married within Israel. When God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, He did so between Adam and Eve only. Mankind began practicing polygamy to fulfill the lusts of their flesh against the will of God. Thus, the command of God in Deuteronomy 17:14-17 must be understood in this context. God warned that the kings who sought to multiply wives for themselves, being governed by the desires of their flesh, would ultimately turn away from the Lord and lead the people to do the same. God’s wisdom is revealed as prophetic when one examines the life of king Solomon. God wanted the kings of Israel to be focused on leading the people to the Lord according to the Law as an example, not delving into the desires of the flesh. God did not want the kings of Israel leading the people by indulging in carnality, absent self-control and restraint, seeking to gratify feelings and emotions at the expense of God’s righteousness according to the Word. The kings of Israel were to be committed to God, not the flesh, because Jesus Messiah was committed to the Father, which was made evident by the denial of His flesh. Thus, the commands of God in Deuteronomy 17:14-17 explain that God desired His kings, leaders, and people of authority to exercise such positions in the manner that Jesus Christ did as the Messiah – leading people to the Father for salvation in the manner of His own righteousness.
The Bible teaches that God appoints people to certain positions for specific purposes. His plans are extensive and details, and God has selected certain roles and certain people to fill those roles in order to accomplish His purposes according to His plans and promises. The Lord is also specific to explain the manner in which He desires those roles to be filled. For example, while the Lord might put a person in position of leadership, He is also clear about the manner in which He expects that person to lead. The instruction is given in the Word through God’s laws, testimonies, and commands, and is ultimately exemplified by Jesus as the Son of God who fulfilled all of the Law and prophets, demonstrating the perfect righteousness of the Father. Thus, no matter what position one is put into, one must look to the Word of God and submit to it in order to fulfill one’s purpose.
In Deuteronomy 17:8-13 the Bible describes this situation. The scriptures outlined the protocol for the children of Israel that was to be exercised when there were matters that were too difficult to judge between individuals. Every now and then, people have disputes that are greater than the people involved so that an arbitrator of some kind is needed. God was the one that instituted this practice as documented in Deuteronomy 17:8-13. God commanded the children of Israel to seek out the appointed judges at the tabernacle when disputes arose that were too great to handle appropriately between the two disputing parties. The people would have to leave their hometowns and go to the place where God’s presence dwelt (in Shiloh) in order to inquire from the appointed judge. Then, God commanded the people that the judgment rendered from the judge should be respected and executed without further dispute.
The scriptures teach that God placed the judges in positions of authority with purpose. They were to render judgments according to His Law and standards of righteousness. Therefore, when the people inquired of these judges, they were to respect the rulings that were given, trusting that the judge was doing his job according to the Word of God. The people were to honor the position that God appointed. The people were to respect the wisdom that God was to impart to those who sought Him from the position of judge. The people were to receive the judgments of the judges without dispute, refute, and in complete obedience, whether the judgment was in favor of them or against them. In fact, the Lord went so far as to say, “You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.”
God warned the people about rejecting the judgments of the judges. God told the people that those who act “presumptuously” and would not heed the words of the priests or the judges were to be killed! This is an important warning that one must consider. God described those who rejected the rulings of the priests and judges as “presumptuous.” This means that they were arrogant, as if they knew better than the people that God appointed. Another way to describe this type of person would be prideful. The Bible teaches that God resists the proud. When one examines the fact that both the priests and judges were men that were appointed to their positions by God Himself, one’s disagreement with those men and rebellion against their work resembles one that is rebellious against God Himself. The priests and judges were to be extensions of God’s own righteousness. Thus, those that rejected the judgments of the priest and judges were those who were rejecting the very judgments of God! To reject God’s judgment of righteousness in an arrogant way – as if one’s own opinion is greater – is to think of one’s self greater than God. This type of thinking is consistent with the temperament of the devil, and so God’s death sentence towards these people is right and good.
Deuteronomy 17:8-13 reminded the people that they were to seek to put any and all evil out of Israel. Since the mindset and heart condition of one that rejects the righteousness of God from the priests and judges resembles the mindset and heart condition of the devil, God was right to call such “evil,” and call for the children of Israel to cast them out. While it might have been sufficient to simply exile such rebels from the congregation of Israel, God was interested in a more powerful lesson through the death sentence He commanded. Deuteronomy 17:8-13 explains that God also wanted the people to fear Him. God wanted the people to respect and honor His authority and dread the consequences associated with rebelling against Him. God wanted the people to know that the wages of sin are truly death! The scriptures explain that God’s plan was predicated on that, as the people would hear about the death of one that rejected the judgment of a priest or judge, the people would fear God’s judgment and ensure they were in line with God’s righteousness, subsequently keeping others from sin and the consequences of it.
Now one must also consider that the command of Deuteronomy 17:8-13 is given with the assumption that the priests and judges were in fact judging rightly according to the standard of God’ laws. The Bible shows that there were many times in which the priests and judges did not judge according to God’s laws, but instead sought to govern the people by their own wicked standards. In those cases, the Lord judged the priests and the judges. In fact, when Jesus came into the world and began His ministry, the priests were not doing their duties according to the standards of scripture and Jesus charged them for it. Even Rome had deposed some of the Jewish priests because their rule and leadership was too harsh and unjust. Thus, the scriptures show that one is not to blindly follow the evil judgments of wicked people simply because they carry a title. Even Peter told the Sanhedrin when brought before them that it is better to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Rather, Deuteronomy 17:8-13 explains that when God puts someone in position to do His work, and it is evident that the person is seeking to do it according to the standards and patterns of God’s Word, the judgments that come from that person should be honored and considered as God’s own judgments, lest one be found with a heart that is actually rebellious against God’s own righteousness.
The Bible is filled with warnings about idolatry and the worship of false gods because of the severe penalty that will be administrated against those who commit such evil without repentance. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Therefore, the Bible is filled with warnings of various kinds regarding idolatry and the consequences associated with such sin. The purpose of these warnings is to adequately inform the people of God about these dangers and the consequences thereof. God’s hope is that upon understanding these dangers, one will avoid them altogether. Likewise, upon understanding the consequences associated with idolatry, one will learn about the holiness, righteousness, and justice of the Living God. Since God responds so aggressively and powerfully against idolatry, one can see that God will not compete against other manmade ideas for the affections of His people. God is the one true living God that created the heavens and the earth and gives life to all things. The consequences associated with idolatry show that God is intolerant of anything that competes with one’s acknowledgment and submission to such truth.
When the children of Israel prepared to enter into the Promised Land, Moses found it helpful to repeat certain parts of God’s laws and commands so that the people would be well equipped to live according to God’s ways after receiving the benefits of His promises. The Bible explains that God was not only faithful to fulfill His promises, but also was diligent to ensure the people knew how to stay within the boarders of God’s favor so that they could enjoy the benefits of God’s promises continuously without interruption. Therefore, Moses repeated some of the same things over and over again to ensure that the children of Israel understood God’s expectations concerning conduct in the Promised Land. One of the major points that was addressed was idolatry.
The reason this point was addressed so often was because the people that were native to the Promised Land were idol worshipers. The children of Israel were commanded to overtake an area that was infested with darkness and wickedness in the realms of false god worship. God commanded the people many times to ensure that upon taking the land, they destroyed all of the people and their idols lest His people become infected with the same fleshly affections and practitioners of the same wickedness as the pagans. It is for this reason that Moses reminded the people about how to deal with those that sought to bring idolatry into the boarders of Israel. Deuteronomy 17:2-7 shows that Moses reminded the children of Israel that the consequence of one found to be a worshiper of idols was death; and the people were responsible for being vigilant against such practices, validating the claims of such practices, and executing judgment for those found guilty of such practices.
The contents of Deuteronomy 17:2-7 begin by stating that the children of Israel were to be on the look out for these types of sins. The children of Israel were to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises in the land, but not at the expense of keeping the land spiritually pure. The people were not to be so relaxed in their environment that they were not aware of the attempts of the devil to lead God’s people astray through idolatry. The people were continually seek the Lord and His righteousness through the daily practice of the Law and also look out for people and ideas that opposed God’s Word. The scriptures show that upon recognizing the symptoms of idolatry in a person, the people were to practice a specific set of rules in order to verify one’s identity as an idolater, and then purge such sin from amongst the people in Israel. The Bible explains that idolatry is equal to wickedness as from the devil since those who worship idols and false gods are considered transgressors of God’s covenant. This means that those who worship false gods and idols are equal to those who depart from God’s promises, seeking the affections of the world in place of God’s Word and provision. In fact, the scripture emphasize that those who were found as idolaters were those who had “gone and served other gods.” This means that one must first depart from God, the actively engage in submission and service to some other manmade idea. This is extremely offensive to God!
The Bible explains that God expected His people to carry out His judgments in the manner that He judges. God did not want the people acting presumptuously nor fearfully. God expected the people to respond against idolatry in the same calculated and deliberate way that He does in order to demonstrate His holiness, righteousness, and judgments. Hence, as God reminded the people about how to deal with idolaters, He also reminded the people to confirm any accusations against a person as an idolater. The Bible teaches that God does not judge based on His own perspective or opinion of a person as the Father. Rather, the triune God exercises the Son and the Holy Spirit as witnesses to determine whether one is guilty of sin or not. The determination of guilt is not predicated solely on the Father. Instead, the Father relies on the testimony of the Son and the Holy Spirit to determine whether a person is justified from sin or not (John 8:16, Romans 8:16). Therefore, God commanded that His people judge in the same manner – by the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses. A person was not to be considered guilty of idolatry and worthy of death unless such claims and accusations could be verified by the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. A person could not be considered guilty of death based on the claims of one person.
Deuteronomy 17:2-7 explains that upon determining a person as guilty of idolatry, the person was to be completely and totally purged from amongst the people of Israel. God commanded that the guilty person first be removed from the gates of Israel. After being removed from the boarders of Israel’s cities, the person was to be stoned to death. However, the Bible states that those who were witnesses against the idolater were to be the one’s the cast the first stones. Those who determined guilt were to be the same ones to administrate justice and judgment – just like God. The triune God will be the One that determines those who are guilty and those who are justified. The triune God will also be the One to administrate judgment against those who are found guilty. God is not slack concerning His judgment. God is not one that can easily accuse from a distance but is unwilling to execute the difficulty of judgment. God commanded His people to conduct themselves in the same manner that He does. If a person was so bold to testify of one’s guilt, them that witness must be equally as bold to administrate judgment by casting the first stone. Knowing this, such witnesses had to be totally sure they were rendering honest judgments lest they be found guilty as murderers! Nonetheless, God commanded that His people be vigilant against the corruption of idolatry, properly assess the circumstances that appeared idolatrous to ensure the true presence of sin, then purge such sin by removing the idolaters and killing them outside of the cities.
Deuteronomy 17:2-7 shows that God does not tolerate idolatry. However, God does not act hastily in His judgment against such. God’s desire is not to kill everyone that is accused of wronging Him. The Bible describes that God is the embodiment of truth. Therefore, God is interested in the revelation of truth before one is found guilty of sin in idolatry. He commanded the people be aware of their surroundings to watch out for idolatry, but then also commanded that the people conduct thorough investigations to verify guilt of sin through the presentation of several witnesses. The word of the witnesses had to be true lest they be found guilty of sin also, putting innocent people to death, even by their own hands. So while God is intolerant to idolatry, He desired His people to be equally as intolerant, but governed by His righteousness according to the Law in order to deal with idolatry in the manner that God does Himself. God is holy and commanded His people to be holy. Deuteronomy 17:2-7 explains that God wanted His people to be proactive in putting away evil from amongst them. God knew how destructive these sins were and in an effort to protect His people, commanded His people to be as He is against sin.
The integrity of the Law is very important to God. Since God sought to use the Law as a teacher of His righteousness, one’s willingness to obey the Law as God originally commanded has a heavy affect on the effectiveness of the Law as a teacher. For example, if the children of Israel were disobedient to God’s commands and perverted His Word (as they did), then the lessons that God sought to teach through the Law become corrupted, confusing, and the people ultimately become ignorant of the truths God seeks to reveal by the Law (which was true of the Jews, especially upon the arrival of Jesus). Therefore, one’s attention to the lessons that God seeks to teach through the Law is important – not to ensure one’s salvation, but instead to make one’s salvation effective to teach other what the righteousness of God looks like. This is true of God’s people today, and it was certainly true of God’s people when He first gave the Law to them.
One of the most important facets of the Law is sacrifice. While God’s people today are not required to offer sacrifices to be justified from sin (instead one must have faith in the sacrifice of Jesus as sufficient to atone for sin), God’s people today can learn a great deal about the magnitude of Jesus’ work as the Messiah by examining the sacrifices that the Father prescribed in the Law. This was how the children of Israel were supposed to learn. They were to examine the statutes of the Law, then observe the manner and rituals of the sacrifices God commanded in order to understand the future work of God’s Messiah. The sacrifices that the children of Israel gave were to be symbolic of the sacrifice that Jesus would give of Himself. Therefore, it was critical for the children of Israel, not only to perform the sacrifices, but also to perform them in the manner that God commanded in order for the lesson of Messiah within the sacrifice to be demonstrated accurately.
God emphasized the importance of this truth in Deuteronomy 17:1. In this simple verse, God communicated an important reality concerning sacrifices in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:1 simply reminded the children of Israel that the sacrifices of the people had to be pure and without blemish or defect. God reminded the people that impure sacrifices that had blemishes or defects were an abomination to Him. The children of Israel were not to offer any old bull, sheep, or goat. They were to carefully examine the animal to ensure that it was of pristine quality. The people were to ensure that they were giving the best of their flock. Once examined, the priest would re-examine the animal to ensure its integrity. This was important to God. God considered it to be an evil thing if the children of Israel gave an animal that did not meet His prescribed standards of “unblemished” or “perfect.”
The reason that God was so adamant about the quality of the sacrifices that were given was because the sacrifices were to be pictures of Messiah. While the animal sacrifices of the people were sufficient to “cover” the sins of the people in redemption, the sacrifice of Messiah was to “remove” the sins of believers in the same way. God wanted His people to become familiar with the manner in which sins were dealt with. God wanted His people to become familiar with the reality that sins’ wages is equal to death. God wanted His people to understand that there is a price to be paid in redemption concerning sin, and that cost is expensive. The children of Israel could not slouch on the quality of their sacrifices making their offerings very expensive. Since the sacrifices of the people were equal to redemption, God wanted His people to learn the lesson that redemption from sin is expensive, and since one cannot simply stop sinning, the cumulative total of one’s sin in a year can be very great. Yet the expensive price never ceases. The children of Israel were continually having to examine their flocks and give of the best that they possessed in order to deal with their sins. Since God required animals “without blemish,” God sought to teach that the manner in which sin is dealt with is very costly.
The scriptures explain (especially in Hebrews Chapter 10) that Jesus is the fulfillment of the sacrifices commanded in the Law. Since the children of Israel had to keep offering sacrifices, it proved that sins were not being fully dealt with. In that the people had to keep offering the best of their flock, it showed that even the best of their flocks were insufficient to pay the full debt of sin. No change was being made to the people from within that kept them from sin, and good, expensive animals were continually dying as a result. Jesus’ role as the Messiah took care of this challenge. However, it is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God (God in flesh) that allows Jesus’ sacrifice to be meaningful. Deuteronomy 17:1 explains that an animal with a blemish would not be accepted as a suitable sacrifice to God to redeem one from sin. Thus, if Jesus is a mere man, having a sinful nature, He would be with blemish, and His death would be insufficient to pay the penalty of sin. However, since Jesus is God in flesh as the Son of God, He retained all of the Father’s impeccable nature, which was proven through His life as He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law while on the earth. Consequently, Jesus was a man found without “spot of blemish” in terms of sin, so that His death as a sacrifice for the sins of the world is sufficient to please the Father as a suitable sacrifice.
This is the lesson that the Father sought to teach through the Law. God wanted to prepare His people for the work of Christ. God wanted to teach His people about the quality of sacrifice that is required to deal with sin, and since the people continued to offer sacrifices, God sought to teach that the blood of bulls and sheep was not good enough to deal with sin, even though it was the best that could be offered. While God sough to show the insufficiency of mankind’s efforts, God also sought to show the quality of sacrifice that He would accept – one without blemish. Hence, if one of the children of Israel were to offer a sacrifice with a blemish, it would not have been an accurate representation or symbol of Jesus’ work as the Son of God and Messiah. The lesson that God sought to teach would have been corrupted. It would have made it seem as if any old thing could be offered to God on account of sin and God would find it acceptable. This is not true, and this is why the Lord called such a sacrifice an abomination. One that sought to offer any old animal that did not meet the perfect standards of God was one that was corrupting and profaning the Messianic illustration that God sought to give of His Son. Therefore, any sacrifice of any kind that God’s people seek to give should be given in the manner of Christ in order to ensure that it is acceptable to the Father and is a good teaching tool and witnessing tool that glorifies God in the process.
Idolatry is a serious issue in the scriptures. As one goes through the Bible, one will find that idolatry is mentioned over and over again, showing that human beings have severe issues with idolatry. While the ways that people practice idolatry have become more sophisticated, the scriptures explain that idolatry will be a bigger issue in the last days than it was during the times that the Bible was written. Knowing this, the people of God must pay very close attention to the scriptures regarding God’s perspective on idolatry. One must see how God identifies and defines idolatry. One must examine how God classifies idolatry. One must study the Word to understand the symptoms and affects of idolatry. Upon knowing these things, one should do one’s best to forsake and flee from idolatry lest one suffer the terrible consequences the Bible states.
In Deuteronomy 16:18-22 the Bible talks about how God wanted His people to administrate the Law through judges. God had given the Law to the people once through Moses, repeated the Law through Moses before the children entered the Promised Land, and then taught about how He wanted the people to enforce and administrate His commands. Deuteronomy 16:18-22 explains that God wanted the people to appoint judges and officers that lived within the gates of the people in order to enforce the things that God had commanded. These people were not to be lords or masters over the people, but instead were to be reputable godly men put in charge to handle disputes according to God’s righteousness. These people were to be placed in a position to administrate judgments between the people using God’s Law as the standard of righteousness. These judges were to listen to the complaints and disputes of the people, measure the circumstances according to the Law, and then make decisions based on God’s righteousness as communicated in the Law. In other words, these men were to be appointed throughout Israel to ensure that the people were being governed by the commandments of the Living God and not according to their own standards of righteousness and justice.
The scriptures show that God expected these judges to be extensions of His own character in righteousness. God listed qualities that He expected the judges to possess in order that they would be good representatives of godliness. God stated that the judges were not to pervert justice. The original language describes “perversion” as deflecting or turning aside from something. In other words, the judges were not to turn away from God’s Law regarding the issues of the people. They were to trust in the righteousness of God according to the Law and stick to it strictly! They were not to turn aside from the Law, coming up with their own judgments and standards. Proverbs 3:5 explains that one should trust in the Lord with all of one’s heart, and not lean on one’s own understanding. The first qualification of the judges in Deuteronomy 16:18-22 explains the same principle.
The Lord also stated that the judges were not to practice partiality. The judges were not to play favorites. The original King James Version of the Bible states that the judges were not to be “respecters of persons.” The Bible teaches that God is also not a respecter of persons (Deuteronomy 10:17, Acts 10:34). God does not respect persons in the sense that He is not impressed with them. God does not look at the accomplishments or resources of people and marvel at them seeking to earn their favor. Everything comes from God. God created everything out of nothing, including people and their resources. Consequently, God does not “respect” people through admiration of their accomplishments in such a way that He is motivated by their actions. God wanted His judges to be the same way. He did not want the judges to be motivated by the accomplishments of others. God did not want His people to be impressed by the resources and position of others lest they be swayed and influenced by them rather than God’s Law.
Along the same lines, God commanded the judges to abstain from taking bribes. Once again, God did not want the judges to be motivated by anything but His laws, statutes, ordinances, judgments, and testimonies according to His Word. God did not want His people accepting money or resources from others at the expense of His righteousness. God did not want judges that sought the favor of men and women rather than the favor of God according to His righteousness. Deuteronomy 16:18-22 explains that there was tragic consequence associated with those that sought to take bribes. God said that those who took bribes would be affected with “blind eyes.” God would cause those who sought the favor of men and women through bribes to be blind to His wisdom. Thus, the judges that accepted and sought bribes would not possess the wisdom of God, be blind to His righteousness, and be ineffective as judges. When one considers that the judges were to uphold the righteousness of God by the Law, one must also consider the rippling affect that would take place amongst the people. If the judges took on bribes, they would be blind to God’s wisdom, thereby being unable to recognize righteousness, thereby being unable to administrate righteousness, thereby depriving the people of God’s righteousness. Additionally, God warned that taking bribes and seeking to leverage one’s position as a judge to increase one’s personal status and position to seek the approval of men rather than God, would also cause the words of the righteous to be twisted. This shows that the corruption of one person would lead to the corruption of many people. The judges would seek to twist the words of righteousness in order to justify their corrupted position. The righteousness of God would not be pure. This means that while God’s laws and commands are pure and good, the corruption of mankind can have a miserable affect on God’s laws and commands when His leaders seek the approval of men rather than the fear of the Lord. Thus the congregation would not be able to see the true righteousness and judgments of God if the judges were corrupt.
As God communicated these things about the judges that He desired, He did so in the context of idolatry. God warned about the corruption of justice and pointed to idolatry as the source of such corruption. While the bulk of Deuteronomy 16:18-22 speaks about the qualifications and duties of the judges, God finished this instruction with yet another warning about idolatry. This warning shows that idolatry is often the culprit and source of corruption of God’s laws and justice. The Bible explains that idolatry is often the motivation for people to seek the approval of men and women rather than the approval of God through His righteousness. People will often neglect the righteousness of God according to His commands in order to pursue lives that are impressive to other people. The Bible shows that many people departed from the righteousness of God in order to appease others, hoping to gain something in return to fulfill a dream or aspiration tied to a desire of the flesh. This is wrong according to God’s standards because this is idolatry. Deuteronomy 16:18-22 explains that God commanded the people not to build wooden images, or plant “sacred trees” around the altar of the Lord. The people were not to set up sacred pillars. The people were not to look to anything but God’s law as the motivation to do right according to God’s standard.
Though people might not worship wood and trees today, many people are provoked by “rocks” and “paper,” worshiping tings like money, technology, social and cultural status and position rather than being motivated by God’s laws. While people might not worship trees as much today, many people are seeking “likes” from men and women rather than the approval of God according to the righteous standards of the Word. God promised that the result of such pursuits would corrupt righteousness, and cause people to be blind to wisdom. The ability of God’s leaders and people to judge rightly is directly related to the fear of the Lord that God’s people possess, and their affection and dedication to God’s Word. Those who seek to please people and self more than God cannot judge correctly, which ensures that righteousness and justice will be unavailable to many people. Those who seek to trust in the Lord with all their heart according to the Word, and lean not on their own understanding, will possess the wisdom of God and thus be able to administrate and uphold the righteousness and justice of God!
The manner in which a person uses his or her possessions is important to the Lord. The Bible teaches that everything a person possesses comes from the Living God. The Bible also teaches that the Lord gives unto His people in order that those possessions that ultimately come from God would be used for His purposes and result in His glory. God gives unto His people in order that His people would be able to meet their basic needs, and then assist in the basic needs of others in His name for His glory. Additionally, God expects His people to recognize Him as Provider. God expects His people to acknowledge that He is the reason one is able to have certain possessions in either the appropriate amount or in excess. Therefore, God pays careful attention to the ways people treat their possessions. Is a person willing to give unto the Lord to demonstrate one’s faith in Him as Provider? Is a person willing to give unto others to serve one’s purpose in the Lord and to facilitate the purpose of such possessions according to God’s will?
The scriptures explain that the Lord knew about the difficulties of the human heart in regards to possessions. God knew that people are more likely to desire the accumulation of resources for one’s self rather than support the needs of others. God knew that mankind has the tendency to forget and ultimately deny God as Provider. Therefore, God instituted certain practices within the Law that were centered on teaching the children of Israel how to practice good habits in regards to their possessions. Deuteronomy 16:13-17 explains that God used the feast days as a teaching tool for the children of Israel in order that they would learn about God as Provider and how to respond to the provision He gives in a righteous manner. Deuteronomy 16:13-17 shows that God reminded the children of Israel about the manner in which the Feast of Tabernacles was to be celebrated.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a week-long feast in which the children of Israel were to migrate from their homes and dwell in the city where the main tabernacle was set up (in Shiloh until the time of Solomon). The children of Israel were to live in tents or booths for the entire week, encamped around the tabernacle like they were during the wilderness journey. The festival was to be a reenactment of the wilderness journey in a way, in order to remind the people how they lived during the wilderness journey compared to how they were living in the Promised Land. God wanted to use this time of radical contrast to remind the children of Israel that He was the reason for the blessings that Israel had received. Thus, God gave the same command in Deuteronomy 16:13-17 for the Feast of Tabernacles as He gave regarding Passover and Pentecost: all of the people were to rejoice in the Lord while recognizing His faithfulness to His promises and His power to provide out of the goodness and grace of His nature.
The emphasis of Deuteronomy 16:13-17 was not on the specifics of the Feast of Tabernacles however. The emphasis of this portion of scripture focuses on the requirement for all of Israel to honor and celebrate the three major feast days – Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. More importantly, the Lord emphasized and reminded the people that while it was a requirement for every Israelite male to attend each of these feast days, they were not to show up empty handed. As the children of Israel prepared to move into the Promised Land, God’s emphasis and reminder was about sacrifice. The scriptures show that the essence of the feast days (as well as the Law for that matter) was on the offerings of the people. The feast days were simply platforms that God created for the people to facilitate sacrifice. The sacrifices of the people were the main issue that God was focused on.
The sacrifices of the people during these feast days were founded on three major principles: faith, thanksgiving, and stewardship. God required the people to give sacrifices during the feast days as a demonstration of faith. The sacrifices given were to be on account of faith in the righteousness of God. The Law stated that when a person sinned, the sacrifices of those people were to cover over those sins. Hence, one’s sacrifice was a demonstration of one’s faith in God’s promise. One’s sacrifice was a reflection that one trust in obedience to the Law to be sufficient to please God, acknowledging that one’s transgression against God must be dealt with. One’s sacrifice was supposed to be one’s faith-filled recognition of the substitutionary act that took place within the sacrifice – recognizing that the wages of sin is death, but that God’s righteousness allows for the animal to die in place of the person. One’s sacrifice was intended to ultimately show one’s trust in God’s prescription in dealing with sin rather than relying on one’s own efforts and merits.
The Bible explains that the three major feast days were supposed to be celebratory in nature as the children of Israel leveraged opportunities to thank God through their sacrifices. The children of Israel were to recognize God as Provider. The only reason that the children of Israel were able to give offerings was because God first gave to the children of Israel. Without the Lord’s provision, the Israelites had no flocks, herds, crops, or harvest, and thus, unable to give unto the Lord. The offerings of the people were intended to be a token of recognition in gratitude for the Lord. The offerings of the people were intended to be a way that the people could show their trust in God as Provider. As one would give up the firstborn of their flocks and herds, and the best of their grains and wine, they would ultimately have less, trusting in God to replenish according to need. The presentation of the offering was proof of God as Provider. The sacrifice of the offering was a demonstration of one’s faith that that all resources and provision belong to God. The joy one was supposed to show while committing one’s sacrifice was intended to show one’s trust that God would continue to provide according to His grace, greatness, and glory!
Lastly, the offerings and sacrifices of the people were supposed to teach the people stewardship. God commanded the children of Israel to set their offerings and sacrifices aside at certain parts of each year in order that they would have the necessary resources available when they were required to give during the feast days. The people were to be thinking of their sacrifices well in advance of the sacrifice. For example, the firstborn of the flock and herd that was to be given in Passover was not to be a laboring animal, nor have its coat sheared. This means that one had to have one’s mindset on the purpose of such an animal well in advance and be focused on ensuring the integrity of one’s offering until it was given. One was to take care of one’s resources trusting that as it came from God, it is ultimately God’s resource.
As the people learned how to manage and take care of God’s possessions, the feast days were a tool that God used to teach the people to get comfortable letting go of valuable possessions to honor God. The people were to learn to have joy in giving that which God had previously given. The environment of celebration during the feast days was intended to teach the people that it is a good thing to use that which God has given for His purposes. God’s people were not to horde their belongings to themselves, especially at the expense of the commands of the feast days. Deuteronomy 16:13-17 explains that every person was to give as they were able and according to the blessings that the Lord had already given. God wasn’t asking the people to give what they didn’t have. God was asking the people to give back that which was already given to help the people understand that they were merely stewards of God’s possessions. As stewards, the people were to use God’s possessions according to His purposes; not for the affections of one’s flesh and selfish ambition.
Examining these principles, one should recognize that God was trying to teach His people about the characteristics of Messiah. All of the feast days and the rituals, sacrifices, and celebratory gestures that were practiced within them had some sort of lesson or prophetic picture concerning Jesus as the Messiah. The lessons of faith, thanksgiving, and stewardship were all lessons that were exemplary of Christ’s own conduct. Jesus as the Messiah was faithful unto the will of the Father, so that He was willing to accept the position of a man with no reputation, giving Himself as an offering and sacrifice. Jesus was a good steward of the possessions that the Father gave Him. Jesus took care of the body that the Father prepared for Him to perform His service by abstaining from sin, refusing to use His body as an instrument of unrighteousness. Jesus took care of the people that the Father prepared for Him, which was declared when Jesus prayed to the Father, confessing that He did not loose any of the disciples except the one appointed for evil purpose. The life and testimony of Jesus shows that Jesus taught His people how to give thanks, looking to the Lord for spiritual provision and not only physical provision. Thus, the habits that God sought to teach the children of Israel through the feast day offerings and sacrifices were habits that were reflective of Christ Himself! One would be wise to learn such lessons to ensure the ways one treats one’s possessions is reflective of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah for the glory of the Father!