Call to Worship March 1 2020
Thoughts on Deuteronomy 22
Chapter 22 repeats the importance of the holiness of God, the purity of His people and indicates God’s care for creation and humanity. Furthermore, the readers are reminded of the display God desired to show through the nation Israel. Israel was to be set apart. Their separateness was revealed in their obedience to God’s commands. The applications of these verses further explain how to love your neighbor and love God first.
The Israelites were not to murder, steal, lie, or covet in dealing with their neighbors (vv. 1-4 & 8). These verses provide specific ways to follow God’s moral law inside the old covenant community. First, take in and hopefully return your countryman’s livestock when necessary. They were to pay attention and help their neighbor if they noticed a wandering animal. Don’t possess it unlawfully, but care for it. Don’t hide it or lie about its location. They must return it to its rightful owner in the best shape possible. This was a positive implication of not coveting or stealing the animal. Also, in the same understanding fellow Israelites were to help one another and not look the other way when problems were noticed. If you saw your countryman with “an ox in the ditch”, do not pass them by without helping (McConville, 337). Remember to protect the life of your neighbor by building a wall around the roof of your house. Robert Brown stated, “In the eastern world, the flat roof of the house was regarded as another room” (Brown, 214). People often went on the roof to gather and railing would keep people from falling, especially children (Ibid.). Notice the practical measures of God’s directive in goodness and kindness toward your neighbor we may understand even in the new covenant context.
Animals are neither merely for zoos, nor are they to be misused. So protect the creation for future use (vv. 6-7&10), which goes along with proper use of trees even in war (20:19-20). Take what you need to eat, but do not take the mother bird so that she may lay eggs again. Be careful not to place a weaker and stronger animal together on the plow. This will weaken the smaller animal further over time or cause greater strain on the larger animal. God gave great consideration for the proper use of animals not the non-use of animals. Some people today think that animals should not be used for work or food. God’s word does not proclaim this and he created everything for proper use not misuse.
To love God was to be separate from the rest of the world. So God gave commands that were different in dealing with the non-mixture of seed, plowing animals, and clothing materials. God instructed Israel to be different in a multiplicity of ways to extol the idea of purity even in these odd instructions (vv. 9-12). “As such,” stated Edward Woods, “they may be seen within the context as serving as a prelude to the following laws on chastity, which deal with the unlawful mixing at the sexual level.” (Woods, 238) These are laws furthering the ideas of Leviticus 19 and perpetuating the importance of the holiness of God, especially in light of Deut. 22:13-30 (Ibid.). As Moses rerecorded in Exodus, “And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. (Exod. 24:17 NAU) God is not to be trifled with, He takes holiness and purity seriously even in the strangest of laws.
In addition, the Israelites were to live with one another faithfully to glorify God among the nations. This included gender issues, sexual relationships, marriage, and divorce. God so well defined gender in creation that he commanded men and women to dress in such a way that their gender identity was protected and pronounced, not reduced or renounced. Furthermore, “…there is a section dealing with the undertaking and dissolving of marriage (vv. 13-21),” according to E. H. Merrill, “followed by statutes concerning improper sexual relations with a married woman (v.22), one who is betrothed (vv. 23-27), and a virgin who is neither married nor betrothed (vv. 28-29). The unit closes with a prohibition against marrying ones stepmother.” (Merrill, 302) These commands are for the protection of the community, men and women. They are protection from the sins of surrounding communities. They are a protection in the ideals of future eternal community.
These sins are more than exterior matters according to the words of Christ, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28 NAU) When we stray from God’s order it is a soul issue even more than a skin issue. Once more we are drawn to our need for Christ. What one of us could stand righteous before the Holy Triune God? Thankfully the new covenant does not require the immediate penalty of death for breaking laws concerning marital and sexual sin, but it does require a sacrificial death. Forgiveness may be found in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as it was for the woman at the well. (John 4) Yet our forgiveness should not encourage us to sin, but to understand our union with Christ and fight against sin. As we are in Christ we have been changed and should strive to grow in that change. Let us not tinker with temptation to invite sin, but ask for grace to fight against it in all its forms. (I John 1 & 2:1-16) Remember through Christ we are heirs of an unshakable kingdom, therefore, “let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:28-13:1 NAU)
Brown, Raymond, The Message of Deuteronomy, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993).
McConville, J.G., Deuteronomy, ed. David W. Baker and Gordon Wenham, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, (Downers Grove, IL. Inter-Varsity Press, England, Apollos, 2002).
Merrill, Eugene H., Deuteronomy: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture NIV Text, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary, ( Broadman & Holman, 1994).
Woods, Edward J., Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary, ed. David G. Firth and Tremper Longman III, Tyndale Old Testament, Commentary Series, vol. 5, (Downers-Grove, IL, Inter-Varsity Press, 2011).