God is faithful to keep His promises and ensures that He performs the things that need to be done in order that His promises be fulfilled. Since the Lord desires for His people to participate in the fulfillment of His promises as tools and vessels of His righteousness, God’s commands are important to consider in this light. God not only provided commands that enabled His people as participants in the fulfillment of His promises, but also gave commands that were intended to protect His people from doing things that opposed His commands. While there are many facets to God’s laws and commands that seem harsh and unmerciful, one must consider God’s intentions. God wanted to bless His people and increase them. Therefore, He gave commands that would motivate His people to worship and serve Him in order that they would be blessed and increased; and likewise gave commands that would scare and intimidate His people to keep them from committing wickedness that hinders God’s promises.
The command found in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 happens to be one of those commands that appears to be strange, but was intended to intimidate the children of Israel so that they would refrain from doing things that hindered the fulfillment of His promises. Recall that the major basis God’s promises to Abraham were based on God’s desire to make Israel a great nation while dwelling safely in the Promised Land. Therefore, God gave commands that would enable the children of Israel to multiply and maintain a social, political, and cultural status that would be universally considered “great” in the eyes of other nations. As the children of Israel focused their worship on God and increased spiritually while following the commands of God, the Lord promised to increase the people physically so as to be the great nation that He promised they would become. One of the chief facets of being a great nation was the size of the nation. God promised Abraham that he would have many sons, referring to many descendants. Therefore, part of God’s obligation was to ensure the successful procreation of the children of Israel. God gave many commands that allowed the children of Israel to successfully procreate in order to become the great nation that God promised.
In Deuteronomy 25:11-12 the scriptures show that God gave a command to cut off the hand of the woman that sought to attack a man by “seizing” his genitals. To many, this command seems to be odd, out of place, and random. However, examining the context of God’s previous command compared to this command, one can make sense of God’s purpose. The Lord command a woman’s hand to be cut off in circumstances that were motivated by malice and that might also result in the inability of a man to fulfill his duty as a father to increase the nation of Israel. The scriptures specifically state that, if two men were fighting, and the woman in question stepped in to save her husband from getting beat up by “seizing” the man by the genitals, then the woman was to have her hand cut off as a form of punishment. Hence, examining the context, one can see that the “seizing” of the man was not in a sexual nature since the woman is described as trying to save her husband from being beat up. Additionally, the original language explains that the “seizing” of the woman was considered a “strong” and “growing firm” grip. The idea is that the woman would be trying to seriously damage the man by grabbing him this way in order to get him to stop beating up her husband.
When examining this strange set of circumstances, one must place this idea in with the context of God’s command found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. In that portion of scripture, the Lord gave commands that would facilitate the procreation of Israel by explaining that the brother of a deceased husband was to take on the widowed wife to be his own wife in order that she could bear children and sustain the name of he that died. God’s motivation in these commands was to promote and increase the children of Israel. Examining the command of Deuteronomy 25:11-12, one must not think God unmerciful as if He would not want a man’s wife to help in physical confrontation to end the fight. Rather, the woman was not permitted to take malicious action against a man that would restrict him from being able to procreate. If a woman were to “seize” a man with enough force, she could cause severe damage that might prohibit him from being able to reproduce, thus, working against the will of God to be a great nation.
When examining the command of God compared to the promises of God, one can see that God’s concern was the fulfillment of His promises. The Lord did not want His people putting themselves in positions that would hinder their ability to participate in the fulfillment of God’s promises. According to the scriptures, it is one thing to receive the benefits of God’s promises, but the Lord allows additional benefits by allowing His people to participate in the fulfillment of those promises, being a part of God’s work! A man that is accidentally injured in the sort of physical confrontation described in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 would be unable to participate in an important facet of God’s promises. Hence, the injury would be the manner by which a man could be robbed of a blessing from God, which explains why the consequence was so severe. God’s heart was not to seize the hands of those who committed offenses, but to intimidate and scare people so that they would keep from doing things that prohibited the fulfillment of His promises and one’s ability to participate in God’s work according to God’s will.
The promises that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 are some of the most important promises in the entire Bible. When one has a good understanding and basis for these promises, the works of the Lord make more sense – especially concerning Israel. When one understands God’s promises to Abraham, one can better understand God’s motives in how He engages with people, especially Israel. Likewise, when one has an understanding of God’s promises to Abraham, one can better interpret God’s Law and see why the Lord reveals His righteousness in certain ways. God’s Law can be confusing to many simply because they don’t have a grasp on the eternally unconditional promises that God made to Abraham. God is motivated to do three key things specifically for the children of Israel, but those three things have a tremendous impact on how the children of Israel were to deal with each other, also having an impact on the rest of the world.
One of the promises that God made to Abraham was that he would be a great nation. This promise means that God was going to increase the number of descendants that came from Abraham. The Bible testifies that Abraham only had two children, and only one of those children was according to God’s desire. This would not constitute as a “great nation.” Additionally, Abraham’s son Isaac only had two sons. This also would not constitute as a “great nation.” However, the numbers really started to increase through Isaac’s son Jacob, whose name was changed by God to “Israel,” as he was the father of 12 sons. The Bible explains that this was God’s plan all along, which is why He repeated the promises He made to Abraham also to Isaac and Jacob, proclaiming them as the heirs to the first promises. God was determined to make Israel a great nation, and while He didn’t do it right away, the time and providential care He took to fulfill His promise shows that God is faithful and determined to do that which He said.
Since God is an eternal God, the nature of His promises is eternal as well. God’s promise to make Israel a great nation was not a temporary promise. It was not as if God was content with keeping Israel great for a short season, then being content with them being completely obliterated. One must consider that as God’s promises were eternal in nature, they were also made to Abraham who didn’t even get the benefits of God’s promises while on this earth. This is not God’s ultimate desire. God’s promise was to increase Abraham’s family with Abraham also as a beneficiary. This will happen in due time according to the scriptures, but taking this into consideration, one must realize that God is equally interested in sustaining Israel as a great nation as He is building them into a great nation.
In the Book of Deuteronomy the children of Israel were making preparations to enter into the Promised Land – the second part of God’s promises to Abraham. Though Israel had grown in size, they were not yet recognized as a great nation. Their conquest of the native inhabitants of the Promised Land would facilitate that promise, but the children of Israel were still developing into God’s promises. As Moses taught the people God’s laws and commands, he sought to do so in order to enable the people to be in agreement with God’s promises so that their daily lives would consist of conduct that was conducive to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Moses taught the people to live in ways that would promote the fulfillment of God’s promises rather than live in ways that would oppose them. Since God wanted the children of Israel to be a great nation, the population of Israel was very important. The size of Israel was important; and if the size of the nation was important, then the size of each individual family that made up Israel was important.
The scriptures show that God was equally as interested in the size and integrity of each family as much as He was the whole nation. God knew perfectly well that the greatness of Israel would be made manifest by the greatness of each individual family. Hence, God addressed this matter in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. In this portion of scripture, God gave unique commands to His people regarding how the death of a husband should be handled. God said that if a married man died and had a brother, the brother was to take on the widow as his own wife. This practice is seen as the basis of the Book of Ruth and is important to understand. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 also explains why God wanted the brother of a dead husband to marry his brother’s widowed wife. God wanted the name of the family to be carried on in Israel.
The scriptures teach that God did not want the name of any family from the congregation of Israel to be blotted out. Thus, the purpose of the brother taking on his dead brother’s wife as his own wife was simply for the purpose of procreation. The wife was not to be treated spitefully and as an object, but God’s motive was primarily focused on extending the bloodline so that His promises could be fulfilled. God wanted the wife to remain within the same family so that the name of that family could continue on. God wanted to ensure that the woman was able to have a male child so that he could carry on the name of his family, that family name continue on as a part of the congregation of Israel, and Israel remain a great nation according to God’s promises. The plan of God was unique, but simple in purpose. The purpose of this practice was to build up the homes of God’s people and ensure their integrity so that Israel would remain a great nation.
Unfortunately there were some men that were not up to the task of performing this duty according to God’s will. The Lord gave commands for such circumstances. If a brother of a dead husband was unwilling to perform his duty according to the commands of Deuteronomy 25:5-10, then the widow was supposed to go report the news to the elders of Israel. Upon learning of this situation, the elders were to then speak to the brother and confirm whether or not he was willing to perform his duty. If it was confirmed that he was unwilling to perform his duty according to the Law, he was to be shamed before the elders. The Bible explains that the widowed woman was supposed to take the sandal of the brother that was unwilling to marry her, then spit in his face before the elders and say, “So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.” Though this type of shame seems extreme, the statement of the widow should provide good reason for God’s command. The whole purpose of the brother taking his dead brother’s wife as his own was to build up the homes of Israel to collectively form a great nation. Those who were unwilling to do so were reflective of those that were in disagreement with God’s manner of making Israel great. The Bible teaches that those who are in disagreement with God’s promises and work will be shamed no matter what. It is a good thing to desire the promises of God, and a good thing to follow the commands that He gives in order to participate in God’s work to fulfill those promises. God desires to increase and sustain His people to the point of “greatness.” One must then simply trust in His commands as being “right” and “good” to accomplish those things, putting aside one’s selfish ambitions and desires in order that God’s will be done.
The Bible teaches that God is in favor of His children. God did not send His Son into the world to die for the sins of the world in order to connect His children to Himself just so that He could abuse and destroy them. Though the circumstances of life can bring difficulty, God is in favor of His people. Though the life of a believer requires suffering, it is only for the purpose of purging sin and revealing the nature of Christ in the lives of His people. As the church is considered the bride of Christ, it is important to remember that God is not an abusive husband. The Bible teaches that, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The Bible also teaches that it is impossible for to please God unless one trusts in God’s identity as a rewarder. God’s heart is to increase His people. While that increase primarily takes place in the kingdom of heaven, God’s purpose is good nonetheless. Therefore, the people of God must seek to maintain proper perspective regarding the difficulties of life that inevitably come compared to the identity and purpose of God as Father and Savior.
The Law is sometimes a helpful place to look in order to understand the heart and motives of God concerning His people. Since the Law is the testimony of God’s own righteousness, one can look at the Law and trust that it’s commands are righteous and good. Even though it is impossible for God’s people to fully keep the Law, the commands that God gave in the Law are impeccably good and beneficial. Looking at the good nature of God’s commands, one can grasp the overall nature and goodness of God and discern how God desires to share that goodness with His people. For example, in Deuteronomy 25:4 the Bible gives a simple command that reveals a lot about the nature of God and His desires for His people. The command simply says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Basically, the command states that a person should not restrict resources or starve a working ox.
This command is telling of the goodness and fairness of God. The command explains that if an ox is working, it should be allowed to eat in order that it can be well nourished and equipped to continue in its work. Thus, as God gave this command that facilitates the work and service of the ox through fairness, one can extrapolate that God desires fair treatment for these types of animals. This idea is further supported in Proverbs 12:10, which specifically calls for the children of Israel to treat work animals fairly. When examining God’s treatment of Israel concerning their liberty in Him, it is clear to see that God does not desire bondage for His people. Looking at the command of Deuteronomy 25:4 one can see that God does not desire bondage for animals either. Animals are good for service, but should be treated in a manner that promotes their health and service rather than abusively so that they are unable to perform their duty and achieve their purpose. God made oxen with the purpose to be service animals. Thus, God wanted His people to treat those animals in such a way that they could achieve that purpose.
This command shows that God has purpose for all of His creation and is determined to see that His creation fulfills that purpose. This would include His people as well. Consider this: If God gave a command to treat animals fairly so that they could do their job, how much more does God desire His people to be treated fairly so that they can do theirs? Jesus expressed this same point in a different way. In Matthew 6:26 Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
If God takes care of simple, small, and seemingly insignificant birds, how much more is God willing to do to ensure the health and functionality of His people? It is true that the circumstances of the children of Israel were difficulty while they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years. However, God’s desire was not to abuse His people. Even though a generation was disobedient, rebellious, and unfaithful to God during that time so that they could not enter into the Promised Land, God’s motives were to bless His people, provide for them, and reveal Himself to them as the essence of the blessing. It might have appeared from the perspective of Israel that God was against them. While He might have been against a particular generation, God promised the children of Israel that He would never leave them nor forsake them. If God cares for the oxen and commands His people to enable their functionality, wouldn’t the holy, righteous and just God be obligated to fulfill the same command for those He values much more than oxen?
The command of Deuteronomy 25:4 is exceptionally encouraging. It reveals the fairness, justice, and goodness of God. Those that work and serve according to His propose should be treated fairly. Since God is focused on how service animals are to be treated, He is most certainly focused on the provision for His people. Though circumstances might look bleak, He has promised to provide for His people so that they are equipped to do that which He has appointed them to do. He has given His people His Holy Spirit. He has promised to meet the basic physical needs of His people. He has promised to settle the minds of His people. He has promised to change the hearts of His people. The death and resurrection of Jesus prove the promises of God to be true. Therefore, it is critical that the people of God follow the commands of God as written. However, in order for the people of God to be encouraged, it is critical that the people of God examine the righteousness, justice, fairness, and goodness of God in His commands. Life may be hard, but He will do that which is necessary to enable His people to accomplish their purpose in Him! Praise God!
The Lord God is a just and righteous God. He is the Author of fairness. His Word expresses His justice so that when His people follow His laws, commands, statutes, and cling to His testimonies, the people of God are able to see and administrate the justice of God. The world has become an increasingly unjust world because the world has departed from the scriptures where righteousness and justice are defined. Thus, if one desires to see and know justice, one must look to the Word and commands of the God who is righteous and just. God’s justice accounts for blessings and penalties for disobedience. However, God’s penalties are perfect and authored with restraint. The consequences for disobedience that are swift and severe are due to the nature of the transgression that is committed. However, while God is sure to mention that some transgressions are worthy of death, the perfect Law of God explains that God’s justice is not always administered through such severe penalties.
The heart of the Lord is expressed in His mercy and grace. The Book of Deuteronomy is the testimony of Moses’ reiteration of God’s Law as he prepared them to move into the Promised Land. God’s desire was to bless the children of Israel while in the Land. God did not desire to take His people into the Land only to place oppressive statutes against them and slaughter them for not upholding them. God’s purpose and motive to move His people into the Promised Land was to testify of His grace and providence. Thus, the scriptures show that God’s Law was a facilitator of this work.
In Deuteronomy 25:1-3 the Bible explains how God wanted the judges appointed in Israel to administrate punishment amongst those that were offenders of His Law. This portion of scripture shows first that God expected due process. The testimony of Deuteronomy 25:1-3 shows that, when disputes arose, God’s people were to pursue the righteousness of God through the judges that God appointed. The disputing parties were to approach the judges, give their testimonies according to their witnesses, and submit to the decisions of the judges, trusting that they would seek the righteousness of God in their verdicts. The scriptures explain that the courts were expected to exercise the wisdom of God to justify the righteous and condemn the wicked. When they did so, God had specific plans in mind for how the wicked were to be treated.
The Bible teaches that the wicked were to be punished. Those found guilty in a court of law according to the standards of God’s wisdom were to be punished. Not every verdict called for the death of God’s people. Deuteronomy 25:1-3 explains that the guilty wicked man was to be beaten. Since the person was to be physically punished in this way, God gave very specific commands for the manner in which the person was to be beaten so that His righteousness and justice was displayed – not the violent fleshly affections of mankind.
First, God commanded the judge that declared the verdict to be present for the beating. God wanted the judge to see the affects of his decision. God didn’t want the judges to grow cold in their judgments as if their verdicts had no impact. God wanted the judges to see the pain inflicted upon those who were declared guilty so that they could understand the magnitude of consequence in their judgments. The guilty man was to be beaten in the presence of the judge in order that the judge could see the manner in which justice was served according to God’s commands, as well as oversee the administration of consequence.
Deuteronomy 25:1-3 also explains that the guilty were to be beaten, but could not take no more than 40 stripes. God’s purpose was punish the guilty fairly, not beat them to death if they were not guilty of offenses worthy of death. God’s punishments showed restraint. The beatings that God commanded were enough to teach the guilty people a severe lesson, but not kill them. They were enough to express God’s anger and put a scare into the rest of the congregation of Israel, but God did not want to overly shame His people. In fact, Deuteronomy 25:1-3 explains that God did not want His people to be excessively punished on account of their integrity. The command states that the guilty should not be beaten to the point of humiliation. God’s purposes were to teach a lesson and restore His people back into His promises when the transgression was not deserving of death. Again, God’s desire was to increase His people for His own glory; not to shame them thereby showing Himself to be an oppressive God. Therefore, the consequence of transgression was to express the same restraint that God showed overall for His people in order that His will to bless His people could be facilitated, and His grace magnified.
The Bible teaches that the Lord doesn’t want His people dwelling on the past in such a manner that is cripples one’s progress towards Him in salvation. In Philippians 3:12-13 the apostle Paul wrote that he sought to forget certain things that were behind and press on towards the goal of his calling. However, at the same time, the Bible teaches that one that is in salvation as a child of God should be sure to remember where one came from. The people of God are always to remember that one was original destitute in sin and deserving of death as an enemy of God, and it is only by the grace of God that one is able to receive forgiveness and live. While one is not to dwell on thoughts that would stunt one’s spiritual growth, one is to remember one’s previously depraved nature. One is also to remember that without Christ, one cannot please God. One is to remember that without the Holy Spirit, one cannot have the approval of God. The Bible teaches that God’s people are to keep these thoughts in mind in order that one remains dependent on Him, thereby receiving the blessings that God desires to give to those who remain humble this way, abiding in Him.
This truth is communicated in Deuteronomy 24:17-22. In this portion of scripture the Lord explains how He wanted His people to treat “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” As the children of Israel prepared to move into the Promised Land, Moses sought remind the people about how they were to treat others based on the ways that they were previously treated by God. First, Moses told the children of Israel that they should not pervert justice concerning strangers, the fatherless, and widows. The children of Israel were not to treat these types of people any differently than anyone else. God did not want the children of Israel taking advantage of these types of people simply because of their social or cultural position. God did not want His people setting up different standards and rules for those that could not protect themselves or take care of themselves. God did not want His people to take advantage of others in lesser positions of opportunity.
As God gave this command, He reminded the children of Israel that they were once slaves in the land of Egypt. The children of Israel were once a people group that didn’t have rights and was under-privileged. The children of Israel were once a people group that was unable to help themselves and protect themselves. The children of Israel were once a group of people having fewer opportunities, having no strength. The Lord reminded the children of Israel about these truths in order that they would remember what it was like to be taken advantage of. God wanted His people to remember the pain and misery associated with their pervious position so that they would not respond towards others with the same injustice that they were once treated with. God did not want His people responding against evil with evil, but responding against evil injustices with His own mercy. As God showed the children of Israel mercy by redeeming them with great power and authority while they were in a pitiful position, God wanted His people to demonstrate His grace and kindness by treating “lesser people” in the same manner as God.
Moses explained this truth in greater depth as well. Deuteronomy 24:17-22 also explains that the children of Israel were to deal with their farming and crops in certain ways that demonstrated affection for fairness and justice towards those in need. When the children of Israel were harvesting their crops and beating their olive trees to gather food, they were not to go back and try to gather all of the available food to horde to themselves. If the children of Israel forgot to sheaf their fields, they were to leave the remaining crops behind for the stranger, fatherless, and widows to gather for themselves in order that their needs would be met as well. When the children of Israel were gathering from their olive trees, they were not to continuously go back to clean it to strip the produce bare. They were to leave some of the olives behind in order that the stranger, the fatherless, and the widows could share in the crops and have their needs met as well.
As Moses taught the children of Israel these simple issues of built-in social welfare, he continually reminded them of their previous position in Egypt. The children of Israel cried out to the Lord for 400 years while in Egypt because of the extent of difficulty they suffered while enslaved. According to Deuteronomy 24:17-22 the Lord considered the difficulty of circumstances of Israel’s bondage in Egypt to be similar to the difficulty of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Hence, the children of Israel were to remember their previous position in difficulty and suffering, remember the favor that God showed, and look to share that sort of favor with others that also are in difficult positions, using the increase that God provides. God showed Himself to be merciful and gracious to those who suffered. God wanted His people to demonstrate the same sort of mercy and grace to people who were also in position of difficulty and suffering. The amount of fruit that God provided to Israel was an excessive amount so that their excess could meet the needs of those God desired His people to help. Thus, as Moses continually told the children of Israel to remember where they came from compared to where God had brought them, it was this remembrance that was intended to cause the people to appreciate the mercy and grace of God, thereby desiring to share it!
The Bible teaches that each person is responsible for their own salvation and accountable to the Lord as individuals. This is not to suggest that each individual must “work” or “earn” their salvation. Instead, this means that every individual must come to faith on their own and cannot leverage the faith of someone else in order to be saved. God is fair and just. He created each individual with the same opportunity to choose. Every person has the God-given right to receive His grace in salvation through faith, or reject His gift and suffer the consequences. The Bible shows that God does a lot of work to put people in situations and circumstances to receive His gift of grace, be declared righteous, and become a child of God. At the same time, the Bible shows that God does quite a lot to prove Himself as blameless. God makes sure that it is clear that He is not at fault for one’s rejection of salvation. Since everyone has equal opportunity to receive forgiveness of sins, then each and every person is individually responsible for going to Jesus in order to receive that which the Father freely offers.
When the children of Israel prepared to move into the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of this truth. The Bible shows that in Deuteronomy 24:16 Moses taught the people that each person was individually accountable to the Lord. He simply taught that a father could not be put to death for the sins of his son, and a son could not be put to death for the sins of his father. Here it is important to consider that which is being said, as well as that which is not being said. The scriptures are not stating that the consequences of sin won’t affect others. Moses’ teaching did not suggest that the sins of the father would not affect the son, or that the sins of the son would not affect the father. The Bible candidly teaches that sin affects everyone! Rather, the scriptures deal with matters of guilt. One person cannot be judged as guilty for the sins of another person. Each person is either individually guilty or individually righteous.
The point that Moses sought to make was that guilt was not transferrable to another person based on bloodline. According to Deuteronomy 24:16, if a father was guilty of sin that was to be judged by death, one could not seek to kill the son in place of the father for whatever reason. For example, if a father was guilty of adultery but ran away after being caught, the woman’s father or husband could not seek to kill the son of the adulterous father as if to make things square and even. According to God’s righteousness, this would not have been fair or just. According to the standards of God’s Law, the guilty were to be punished according to their guilt. The innocent were not to be punished as though they were guilty.
This concept is important to understand. If the guilt cannot be assumed or transferred due to relationship, then neither can righteousness. In John Chapter 7, the brothers of Jesus made fun of Jesus and gave Him a hard time based on the claims He was making about being the Son of God and Messiah. John 7:1-6 shows that Jesus’ brothers had a hard time accepting this truth. When Jesus responded to His brothers for their ridicule, the Bible explains that the brothers of Jesus were equally accountable to have faith as individuals as anyone else. Jesus told His brothers that “their time was always at hand.” Jesus sought to warn His brothers about their position in unbelief at the time that they spoke. Jesus knew when the time of His death was and knew the manner in which He would die as a righteous man. The brothers of Jesus did not know when they were going to die, so their position in righteousness was a critical matter at all times! The point of this testimony in connection to Deuteronomy 24:16 is that even the brothers of Jesus were not exempt from faith. Though they were blood related to the Son of God, they could not leverage Jesus’ righteousness according to bloodline in order to be saved. The only way they could leverage Jesus’ righteousness to be saved was the same way as everyone else – individually believe in His identity as the Son of God and Messiah.
This is a big deal. The Apostle Paul had to address this sort of issue with the church at Galatia. Many felt that their heritage as Jews was sufficient to entitle them to God’s promises. Many felt that they could deny the identity of Jesus and still be saved from the wrath of God if their relatives were Jewish. Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 24:16 explain that this is not true. A person cannot leverage the salvation of a loved one in order to be saved. As much as a relative of a guilty person cannot inherit the guilt of that relative, a guilty person cannot inherit the righteousness of the righteous. Since God revealed Himself to the world in a variety of ways, each individual is individually accountable to God and is individually responsible for either receiving or rejecting His offer of life. Thus, each person will be judged based on their own decision in how they dealt with the identity and work of Jesus, not the faith or unfaithfulness of another.
The Bible explains that God is fair and just. The scriptures show that God’s manner of provision is always according to need so that His people have their basic necessities accounted for, enabling them to do the things that God asks of them. History has shown that people have perverted the provision of God so that some people hoard God’s provision, thereby increasing their own wealth at the expense of others, leaving others in need. There have always been poor people, but the scriptures show that this was not the will of God. In fact, the Law shows that God often accounted for the poor to ensure that their needs were met. Since the Law serves to testify of God’s righteousness, then the commands of the Law that called for the children of Israel to treat the poor fairly and provide for them shows that such care and affection for the poor is righteous. This does not mean that one’s efforts to feed the poor will make one righteous before the eyes of God. Rather, one’s desire to meet the needs of the poor and treat them fairly is reflective of God’s own righteous nature, granted one’s motives are pure and unselfish.
As the children of Israel prepared to advance into the Promised Land, Moses reminded the children of Israel about God’s attention and affection for the poor. In Deuteronomy 24:14-15 the Bible explains how the children of Israel were to treat the poor as employees. God wanted to make sure that the poor people were being treated just the same as those who were not poor. God did not want His people taking advantage of the poor because they lacked in resources. Remembering that the children of Israel were once slaves and were destitute of resources while in Egypt, Moses taught the people to treat others as they desired to be treated during that time of bondage. God was about to increase Israel beyond their imagination. The land that they were going to inherit was indeed good land. The resources that they would assume from enemy nations would make them extremely wealthy. God did not want the circumstantial benefits of His grace to cause the children of Israel to respond in pride, self-righteousness, and selfishness. God didn’t want His people to look at the increase that He gave and grow greedy over it at the expense of others, knowing that His people had been in the same position of poverty.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 explains that the children of Israel were to ensure that poor employees were treated like everyone else – receiving their wages every day. God commanded the children of Israel to make sure that if they had employees or servants that were poor, not to withhold their wages. The people were to be paid on a daily basis for their work or service, and God taught that the poor were not to be an exception. The command specifically says that the people were not to “oppress” poor hired servants. This means that the children of Israel were not to add extra burdens unto those that were already carrying heavy burdens of stress and need. The children of Israel were not to cheat the poor so that they left their work unsatisfied and lacking. God explained that this command applied to servants amongst Israel and foreigners. No matter where they came from, God did not want the children of Israel oppressing others in any sort of way – especially in this manner.
Moses taught that the children of Israel were to give daily wages to the poor in the manner that God provides daily bread to His people. God took care of the children of Israel by providing manna bread every day for 40 years while the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness. Hence, God’s command in Deuteronomy 24:14-15 is actually an opportunity for the children of Israel to demonstrate the righteousness and fairness that God did as Provider, thereby glorifying His name. Once again, the command of God is seen to be an opportunity for the people, not a burden. The scriptures reveal that God does not desire for His people to carry heavy burdens. He provides in a manner that the needs of all of His people should be met. Thus, while the poor might have a lacking in resources due to the selfishness of some, God didn’t want the general population getting comfortable with “the poor being poor” and just letting the circumstances be. God pointed out that the poor carry a heavy burden. The Bible specifically explains that the poor “have their heart set” on their wages. The poor need what little they get so that when such minimal provision is withheld, it is a big deal and has a big impact. Money is already a burden to the poor. God did not want His people to make that burden heavier when the poor were willing to work, performed their service, and fairly earned a wage. According to the Bible, a worker is always worthy of their fair wage – even the poor ones.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 also provides warning to the children of Israel. God warned that if the poor were treated unfairly in these types of circumstances, worked, earned their wage, and had their wage withheld, the complaints and cries to God from the poor would account sin unto the offender. The command of God is not only a simple matter of social welfare, but has spiritual implications. Again, one must consider that the essence of God’s command provided opportunity for the children of Israel to reflect the righteousness of God as Provider. One’s rejection of this opportunity is offensive to God. One’s refusal to obey God’s command is reflective of one’s denial of God’s own righteousness. Thus, when the poor are unfairly afflicted, and treated unjustly, and cry out to the Lord against those who mistreated them, God takes offense. The Bible shows that the cries of mistreatment from God’s people identify sin from those who mistreat. God is sure to take care of these situations.
Lastly, since the command deals with one’s opportunity to demonstrate the righteousness of God, one must pay careful attention to the circumstances of the command. The command does not instruct the children of Israel to generally provide for the poor. The scriptures specifically reference those who are hired as servants to do a job and are also poor. This particular command does not account for those who are unable to work. There are other scriptures that address that. This scripture also does not account for those that are unwilling to work. The Bible shows that the needs of the poor are to be met when the poor are willing to work as servants just like those who are not poor. Understand that the Law testifies of the righteousness and fairness of God. It would not be fair for those who do not labor to be treated in the same manner as those that do labor concerning wages. Therefore, the scriptures are clear to show that “hired servants” should not be oppressed. This is important to recognize since the Lord also references the “burden” that the poor carry with them. The context of the passage shows that the burden is not self-inflicted from an unwillingness to work. Rather, the burden exists in spite of the person’s willingness to work. Therefore, God’s people should honor those difficulties and treat them fairly according to the righteousness of God.
The Bible teaches that God desires mercy rather than sacrifice. While the wages of sin is death, and the Lord promised to provide Himself as a sacrifice in order that His people can live instead of die, this promise was only made because God is merciful. Mercy must come before sacrifice. According to the promises of God, He would not give Himself up for sacrifice if He was not first merciful in nature. It is His merciful nature that inspires His desire and willingness to give Himself as a sacrifice. God’s mercy is defined in His willingness to forgive the sins of all who desire forgiveness. Though His creation has historically rebelled against Him and offended Him, even denying Him as Creator, God is willing to forgive. Though God’s creation has amassed a great deal of “debt” through sin, God is willing to show mercy to forgive such a debt so that God’s people are not forced to pay up on the wages through death (eternal separation from God).
God’s merciful nature is communicated in the Law. Though the Law in it of itself is not merciful – requiring immediate and swift judgment for a number of offenses – God’s merciful nature is seen in the Law nonetheless. When the children of Israel prepared to move into the Promised Land, Moses taught the children of Israel how to treat one another concerning debts. In Deuteronomy 24:10-13 the scriptures explain that the children of Israel were not to hold debts against one another. The scriptures show that the children of Israel were to treat one another mercifully and in the spirit of forgiveness concerning debts and loans. The Bible explains that when two people made pledges to one another that involved the exchange of goods or money, that the person loaning was not to be a burden to the one that was borrowing. When the borrower went into his or her home to go get their collateral for their loan, the loaner was not to follow the borrower inside of their home, lurching over their shoulder, creating stress and burden to pile onto the loan. Rather, the loaner was supposed to allow the borrower to go inside their home peacefully and responsibly, get the collateral on their own, and give it up without additional stress or burden.
Deuteronomy 24:10-13 also teaches that those who lent to others were not to keep the borrower’s collateral over night. It was often customary for a borrower to give up their robe or cloak as collateral because they were valuable to daily life and basic need in Israel at that time. A person’s robe or cloak served as a jacket to keep a person warm, served to keep a person cool, and also served as a blanket/sleeping bag, and/or pillow at night time. In some cases, a person’s cloak or robe might have been the most practical or valuable thing that they owed. The scriptures commanded that the children of Israel were not to keep these types of things over night in order that the borrower would not be lacking their basic needs. Though a person might be in a position that required them to borrow from another, the Law kept the children of Israel from burying one another with debt.
This command shows that God’s focus is the well-being of His people. God wanted to ensure that the basic needs of His people were being met at all times. God did not want the children of Israel doing things that would put them back in positions of bondage and debt since God had already paid a great price to liberate them from the bondage of Egypt. God wanted the children of Israel to take care of one another. If a person was to borrow something from another, and unable to pay it back, the lender was to consider his or her loan as a gift at that point. The lender was supposed to give the borrower back their collateral (specifically their robe), in order to allow the borrower an opportunity to have their basic needs met. It was more important to God that the basic needs of His people be met rather than people be paid back on loans. Since God freely forgives debt, God wanted His people to model His character and be willing to forgive others of their debt – especially brothers and sisters within the family of the Lord.
In fact, Deuteronomy 24:10-13 specifically references the poor and His desire for them to have the things that they need. God’s heart is for the humble, the poor in spirit, the destitute, the depraved, and the needy. The reason for this is because these types of people (which actually includes all people, but God is specifically affectionate towards those who would confess their needy and depraved position) allow God the opportunity to reveal His nature and characteristics as Provider, Comforter, Healer, Restorer, and Savior! Those who would confess a position of need express the humility God requires to reveal His merciful nature as Savior in their lives in very real and experiential ways! Moses’ teaching in Deuteronomy 24:10-13 expresses God’s heart to give mercy to those in need – especially the poor. Since God is Provider, Comforter, Healer, Restorer, and Savior, God desires to express His mercy by providing for the needs of His people in a manner of spiritual comfort to restore them back to a righteous spiritual condition as Savior.
The scriptures explain that obedience to this command would be counted as righteousness towards God’s people. When God’s people are willing to express the mercy of God through forgiveness, God sees such conduct as righteous. The reason for this is because such conduct is representative of His own righteous nature. Since God is merciful, He offers forgiveness. Since God is righteous, His forgiveness is righteous. Thus, those who express the mercy of God through forgiveness are those who are considered righteous in the eyes of God since they’re acting like Him. While the commands of Deuteronomy 24:10-13 might seem burdensome to some people, the scriptures actually reveal the command as an opportunity to please God and glorify Him. The commands of Deuteronomy 24:10-13 provide an opportunity for the people of God to practice a specific form of conduct that expresses the righteousness of God for the glory of God. The commands of Deuteronomy 24:10-13 are as practical as can be. Those who are willing to take care of a brother or sister to help meet their needs, and then willfully forgive any debt incurred as a form of mercy, sacrificing one’s own possessions for the well being of another, are those who express the character and nature of God according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This is what pleases God!
The Lord knows the weaknesses of His people. He knows and understand that, while He desires holy living and repentance, His people will inevitably fail and fall. In fact, He even wrote in Proverbs 24:16 that a righteous man or a just man will fall seven times a day. The creation account in the Book of Genesis shows that God accounted for the sins of His people even before He created them. When God created the sun, moon, and stars, the scriptures explain that He made them in order for His people to know the times of the “seasons” referring to the Jewish feast days. The Jewish feast days were days that God instituted to the children of Israel, predicated on worship, praise, and sacrifice. God created the sun, moon, and stars days before He created people in order that they would be able to tell the time to worship God as Savior and Redeemer – traits of God that deal with His work against the sins of His people! God knows that His people sin, and with such knowledge, has provided adequate provision to cleanse and heal His people from the affects and consequences of it.
In Deuteronomy 24:8-9 the scriptures explain that Moses reminded the children of Israel about the laws God gave concerning leprosy. This is important to consider. Moses reminded the people to “take heed” in case of a leprosy outbreak. Here, it is important to understand that the scriptures strongly suggest that leprosy was a consequence of spiritual infirmities. In fact, Deuteronomy 24:8-9 even references the testimony of Miriam from Numbers 12:10 as an example of what might happen if one ignores God’s Word concerning leprosy. In Numbers 12:10, the Bible explains that God inflicted Miriam with leprosy on account of her rebellion against God. Hence, leprosy is often used as a form of judgment that God brings against those who deny and rebel against Him.
Understanding this, one must take note that Moses referenced “an outbreak” of leprosy. If leprosy is often used as a form of judgment from God, considered uncleanness that separates people from the congregation, and considered unclean, then an “outbreak” of such a condition would refer to an influx of sin. An outbreak of leprosy might signify an influx of spiritual infirmity in the form of rebellion against God and spiritual uncleanness. Knowing that His people have a natural tendency to rebel and live in uncleanness, God provided good commands to bring His people back unto Himself. Deuteronomy 24:8-9 explains that when the children of Israel recognized such an outbreak, they were to “take heed” to the commands that God gave to the Levites. This is a reference to the commands and instructions God gave to the priests to deal with leprosy in Leviticus chapter 13. In other words, when evidence of a tainted spiritual condition arose, the children of Israel were to turn to the Words and commands of God that were already communicated!
The truth of the matter is, sin is very real in the lives of ALL people – not just non-believers. God knew this to be true. While God commanded His people to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh, God knew that the flesh would still overcome His people from time to time. God’s knowledge of this truth does not excuse one’s sin. Rather, God’s knowledge of this truth put Him in a position to address these issues before hand so that the people of God would have the means to address these issues when they arose. God provided the commands of Leviticus chapter 13 and Deuteronomy 24:8-9 long before the children of Israel experienced the circumstances that those commands covered. God provided the means to deal with leprosy before leprosy was a widespread issue so that when it inevitably became an issue, the solution was simply to turn to the Word and commands of God.
There would not be a need for the people to strategize on their own or leverage their flawed human reasoning to deal with the consequences of sin. Rather, the people were simply required to trust in God’s Word as sufficient to deal with the affects of their sin. The people simply had to know that God is above sin and gave holy commands to deal with sin and its affects. The people had to trust that God was holy and as holy, He is Healer. The people had to trust that God’s healing and cleansing was not found in manmade efforts but in the righteous commands of His Word. Hence, when God’s people inevitably fail, they are not to turn to programs, worldly wisdom, or self efforts, but instead to the Word of God, trusting that God’s righteous commands are sufficient to bring healing, cleansing, and connection to the one, true, sovereign, and holy God!
The promises of God are critical to understand. One of the chief promises in the entire Bible is the 3-fold promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. There God told Abraham that He would make Abraham into a great nation, give Abraham a great land inheritance, and that He would bring a “blessing” through Abraham to “bless” all of the families of the earth, referring to Messiah. Additionally, God promised Abraham that He would bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham and also curse those who curse the descendants of Abraham. God makes is clear in scripture that the children of Israel are very important to God and His work and He will not let people affect His chosen people. God swore to make the children of Israel His own people and states that they will be a primary tool that He uses to reveal Himself and His salvation to the rest of the world. Consequently, God is very interested in how others treat the children of Israel.
In Deuteronomy 24:7 the Bible reveals God’s heart towards those that would seek to cause harm against His people. When Moses taught the children of Israel as they made preparations to enter the Promised Land, he reminded the children of Israel about how important the safety and well being of Israel was to God. Deuteronomy 24:7 explains the consequences associated with kidnapping. While it might seem like an odd thing to cover in the context of the items that Moses had discussed so far, the issue has less to do with kidnapping, and more to do with the promises of God. The reason that God discusses kidnapping in the Law is because He wanted to send a message about the extent of His faithfulness concerning the promises He made to Abraham.
The Bible teaches that those who are found kidnapping any of “the brethren of the children of Israel” should be put to death. The scripture also elaborate on this set of circumstances stating that if the kidnapper mistreats the Israelite and sells them, they should be immediately put to death. God repeated the phrase, “you shall put away the evil from among you” in this context. This means that God considers a kidnapper as equal to one committing spiritual adultery, physical adultery, sorcery, and other “abominations” in the eyes of the Lord. Those who mistreat God’s people are those who align themselves against God’s promises to bless Israel. God swore that He would curse those who curse Israel. Those who mistreat Israel will be mistreated just the same. If Israel is one of God’s primary tools to reveal Himself to the world, those who seek to damage His tool will suffer severe consequence. God will not tolerate such treatment.
One must also consider that God does not want His people back in bondage. The Bible teaches that when God took the children of Israel out of Egypt, He “redeemed” them. This is a financial term. God bought the children of Israel with currency. The Bible teaches that God took the lives of all the first born of Egypt and required sacrifice from the children of Israel in exchange for the lives of all of Israel. The cost of redemption of Israel was expensive! Though Egypt was wicked, they were still God’s creation. Though the animals sacrificed unto God on the first Passover were simply animals, the blood that was shed was still life that God gave. God did not spend so much to free His people in order for them to be taken back into bondage again. God was willing to pay the price of redemption for Israel because His desire for His people to be free was that great! Hence, those who respond contrary to God’s will for Israel to be free, kidnap His people and put them back in bondage, are people who are in opposition of God’s will. It is for this reason that the consequence for kidnapping is so severe.
The reason that God communicated this command so powerfully is because He wanted to remind the children of Israel about the integrity of His promises. God would not tolerate people opposing His will concerning the promises that He made to Abraham. God promised Abraham that his descendants would dwell in the land, not be removed from it in bondage. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be a great nation, not a weak and mistreated nation. God promised that the children of Israel would be a blessing to the world, not in subjection to it. While the Lord did enable the enemies of Israel to destroy and enslave Israel later, He did so as a form of discipline. The scriptures show that historically, God did not allow people to go into the land and bully His people. When the children of Israel sought the Lord, He responded according to His promises. It was only when the children of Israel departed from the Lord that they were kidnapped and taken into foreign places.
God’s promises are God’s promises. He is faithful to fulfill them. God will certainly respond against those that oppose God, His people, and His promises. At the same time, the Law commanded the people of God to swiftly and severely punish those that opposed God’s Word and promises. God wanted His people to demonstrate the same affection for His promises that God had for His promises. God wanted His people to see past the circumstance and understand certain actions were considered great evils because of how they opposed God’s Word and promises. Though God’s people shouldn’t seek to put others to death as stated in the Law, this is how the people of God should look at the promises of God and the Word of God today – as seriously as God does!