night happenings

water of life

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night happenings

Deuteronomy 23:9-11 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 23:9 “When you are encamped against your enemies, be careful to avoid anything offensive.
Deuteronomy 23:10 If there is a man among you who is not pure because of a bodily emission during the night, he must go outside the camp; he may not come anywhere inside the camp.
Deuteronomy 23:11 When evening approaches, he is to wash with water, and when the sun sets he may come inside the camp.

night happenings

The Hebrews called it euphemistically a “night happening.” If any kind of bodily emission occurred during the night, it rendered a person ritually impure, and he had to be excluded from the camp the next day. This rule was to protect the warriors from defilement. To fight with honor, they needed pure hearts and undefiled consciences.

While this rule has to do with ritual defilement, not sin, the whole concept of defilement is a lesson about a person’s moral life and its effect on others.

As a soldier, I remember feeling conflicted within when my leaders encouraged vulgar talk and immoral behavior. It made me wonder whether I was really on the right side. If you are going to be a warrior, you need to walk with integrity.

Lord, I pray for the soldiers who protect our nations. Give them pure hearts and undefiled consciences.

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limited enrollment

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limited enrollment

Deuteronomy 23:3-8 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 23:3 No Ammonite or Moabite may enter Yahveh ‘s collected assembly; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter Yahveh’s collected assembly permanently.
Deuteronomy 23:4 This is because they did not meet you with food and water on the journey after you came out of Egypt, and because Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram-naharaim was hired to curse you.
Deuteronomy 23:5 Yet Yahveh your God would not listen to Balaam, but he turned the affliction into an empowerment for you because Yahveh your God cares about you.
Deuteronomy 23:6 Never pursue their welfare or prosperity all your days – permanently.
Deuteronomy 23:7 Do not despise an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you were a guest in his land.
Deuteronomy 23:8 The children born to them in the third generation may enter Yahveh’s collected assembly.

limited enrollment

People from some nations were to be excluded from joining the covenant community, because those nations had acted to destroy Israel. Others were not to be despised, but welcomed into the collected assembly after two generations had passed. Even the Edomites and Egyptians would be accepted after the limits of the exclusion were expired. The purpose of this rule was not to encourage prejudice, but to protect the covenant from those nations which had recently demonstrated hostility to Israel. The limits suggest that some within those nations would change their minds about the Israelites, and want to join them by converting.

Christ commands us to go to nations. The only ones excluded from God’s new covenant assembly are those who reject him. There is no need to protect the new covenant community because when the kingdom from the sky comes, nothing impure will enter it. God’s word today is “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

Lord, thank you for accepting us into your new covenant community.

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do not enter

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do not enter

Deuteronomy 23:1-2 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 23:1 “No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been eliminated may enter Yahveh ‘s collected assembly.
Deuteronomy 23:2 No one of illegitimate birth may enter Yahveh’s collected assembly; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter Yahveh’s collected assembly.

do not enter

So much for “just as I am.” I have read quite a few commentaries on these verses, and I have to confess that I am not sure I can defend other people’s explanation of it. Nevertheless, I trust God’s word, and I am sure there is a reason for these prohibitions. It may possibly have to do with keeping the collected assembly pure from any appearance of shame. Our communities need to reflect God’s purity and glory.

But I think this rule reflects the fact that in eternity no one will live in Christ’s kingdom who is not 100% redeemed.

It is comforting that Jesus makes no such prohibition for his covenant. He took on all our brokenness, even that which we were born into — thus could not prevent.

Thank you Lord for making us whole so that we can enter your collected assembly.

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passion and shame

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passion and shame

Deuteronomy 22:28-30 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:28 If a man encounters a young woman, a virgin who is not engaged, takes hold of her and rapes her, and they are discovered,
Deuteronomy 22:29 the man who raped her is to give the young woman’s father fifty silver shekels, and she will become his wife because he humiliated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives.
Deuteronomy 22:30 “A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not violate his father’s marriage bed.

passion and shame

Both of these prohibitions deal with sexual passion out of control. The covenant community recognized the place for sexual passion, but also understood the need for all human desires to be controlled a regard for others. A young woman violated, or a widow or divorcée violated incestuously — would bring shame upon the community. Aside from the obvious vulgar and violent act of rape itself, there would be an honor crime involved in these cases.

Lord, instill in us a discipline which respects the rights of others, and keeps our own passions under control.

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crime in the city

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crime in the city

Deuteronomy 22:23-27 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:23 If there is a young woman who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man encounters her in the city and sleeps with her,
Deuteronomy 22:24 take the two of them out to the gate of that city and stone them to death – the young woman because she did not cry out in the city and the man because he has humiliated his neighbor’s fiance. You must purge the evil from you.
Deuteronomy 22:25 But if the man encounters an engaged woman in the open country, and he holds her strongly and rapes her, only the man who raped her must die.
Deuteronomy 22:26 Do nothing to the young woman, because she is not guilty of a mistake deserving death. This case is just like one in which a man attacks his neighbor and murders him.
Deuteronomy 22:27 When he found her in the field, the engaged woman cried out, but there was no one to rescue her.

crime in the city

In the instance where the apparent rape was really consensual, both parties are considered guilty of the crime, and both are taken out of the city and executed. The nearness of others who could have prevented the act makes the city liable as well. Taking the two criminals out of the city was part of the process of dealing with the social responsibility of preventing the crime.

In many of our societies today, people engage in all kinds of illicit and criminal acts with the full awareness of the community. Purging the evil from us is our collective responsibility, and when a city looks the other way, it incurs guilt for the crimes committed. We cannot be everywhere, but when the crime is being committed in our own house or community, we need to take steps to prevent it.

Lord, instill in us a willingness to remove evil from our hearts, homes, and neighborhoods.

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consensual and criminal

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consensual and criminal

Deuteronomy 22:20-22 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:20 But if this accusation is true and no evidence of the young woman’s virginity is found,
Deuteronomy 22:21 they will bring the woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city will stone her to death. You see, she has committed an outrage in Israel by being promiscuous while living in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from you.
Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

consensual and criminal

Sexual immorality was seen as such an evil within the Israelite community precisely because it was a covenant community. The covenant of marriage was sacred because it was part of the greater covenant with the Lord. One could break the lesser covenant by having sexual relations before marriage or by having an affair with someone else during marriage. It did not matter whether it was consensual. It was evil,and it had to be purged from the nation. It reflected the casual attitude about sex that pervaded the pagan nations God had already judged. It was criminal!

Former generations understood why such restrictions were necessary. How much heartache and family dissolution must we in this present generation endure before we realize that the God who gave us sex in the first place has provided appropriate boundaries for its enjoyment?

Lord, renew our minds so that we can see the evil in transgressing the boundaries you have set for us.

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a higher standard of mutual respect

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a higher standard of mutual respect

Deuteronomy 22:13-19 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:13 “If a man marries a woman, has sexual relations with her, and comes to hate her,
Deuteronomy 22:14 and places an accusation on her of shameful conduct, and gives her a bad name, saying, ‘I married this woman and was intimate with her, but I didn’t find any evidence of her virginity,’
Deuteronomy 22:15 the young woman’s father and mother will take the evidence of her virginity and bring it to the city elders at the city gate.
Deuteronomy 22:16 The young woman’s father will say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as a wife, but he hates her.
Deuteronomy 22:17 Notice he has placed an accusation on her of shameful conduct, and this is what he said: “I didn’t find any evidence of your daughter’s virginity,” but here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ They will spread out the cloth before the city elders.
Deuteronomy 22:18 Then the elders of that city will take the man and punish him.
Deuteronomy 22:19 They will also fine him a hundred silver shekels and give them to the young woman’s father, because that man gave an Israelite virgin a bad name. She will remain his wife; he cannot divorce her as long as he lives.

a higher standard of mutual respect

In yesterday’s text we saw that the Israelites were to demonstrate that they were distinctly the people of Yahveh. Today’s text shows how that distinctiveness was to be shown by how a husband treated his wife. To turn against one’s bride and accuse her of having been promiscuous and unfaithful was to bring shame upon her and her parents. It was a violation of the covenant. Being an Israelite was more than railings on your roof and tassels on your robe. It was to be demonstrated by a marriage based on mutual care and honor. The New Testament corollary to this instruction is submission to one another, which — for husbands — means sacrificially caring for our wives (Ephesians 5:21,25). It is a higher standard of mutual respect.

Lord, give us marriages which demonstrate respect for one another, because the world is watching to see if we are different.

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a distinctive people

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a distinctive people

Deuteronomy 22:8-12 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:8 If you build a new house, make a railing around your roof, so that you don’t place blood-guilt on your house if someone falls from it.
Deuteronomy 22:9 Do not plant your vineyard with two types of seed; or else, the entire harvest, both the crop you plant and the produce of the vineyard, will become defiled.
Deuteronomy 22:10 Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together.
Deuteronomy 22:11 Do not wear clothes made of both wool and linen.
Deuteronomy 22:12 Make tassels on the four corners of the outer garment you wear.

a distinctive people

Whether it was the houses they lived in, the crops they produced, or the clothes they wore, the Israelites were to demonstrate that they were distinctly the people of Yahveh. His rules made sense in their context, because they represented a way of life that was diametrically opposed to the paganism of the nations who had previously possessed the land. Anyone rejecting these rules would be immediately recognized as a violator — not just of societal mores, but of the covenant itself. The Israelite was called to be different from others, but the same as his brothers.

Christians as well have an obligation to live distinctive lives. They should live as “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom (they should) appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

Is your light shining, or do you look too much like the lost around you?

Lord, make us a distinctive people.

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transvestites and mother bird theft

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transvestites and mother bird theft

Deuteronomy 22:5-7 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman’s garment, because everyone who does these things is repulsive to Yahveh your God.
Deuteronomy 22:6 “If you come across a bird’s nest with chicks or eggs, either in a tree or on the land along the road, and the mother is caring for the chicks or eggs, do not take the mother along with the young.
Deuteronomy 22:7 You may take the young for yourself, but be sure to let the mother go free, so that you may prosper and live long.

transvestites and mother bird theft

In the Mosaic covenant community, both transvestites and those who raided the whole nest were considered violators of the covenant. Before we denounce this rule as outdated and ridiculous to begin with, we had better give it close scrutiny. The mother bird is given to the community in order to fulfill her role as a mother of young birds. Take away the young birds for your food, and you still leave the mother bird to lay more eggs. But take away the mother and she can no longer fulfill that role.

Wearing the clothing of the opposite gender was a rejection of one’s role as defined by genetic make-up at birth. This instruction exists in the Mosaic law because the forces that influence such decisions today were around then as well.

God has already spoken to the question of whether transvestitism and related conditions should be tolerated in any society. The society that rejects that wisdom will pay the price. Anyone who hears the words of our Lord and refuses to live by them will be like a stupid man who built his house on the sand (Matthew 7:24-26). A society full of stupid men falls apart when the floods come, just as quickly as the wrongly built house.

God, teach us how to build societies that last — societies that listen to your word.

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puffy jacket story

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puffy jacket story

Deuteronomy 22:1-4 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 22:1 “If you see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother.
Deuteronomy 22:2 If your brother does not live near you or you don’t know him, you are to bring the animal to your home to remain with you until your brother comes looking for it; then you can return it to him.
Deuteronomy 22:3 Do the same for his donkey, his garment, or anything your brother has lost and you have found. You must not ignore it.
Deuteronomy 22:4 If you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen down on the road, do not ignore it; help him lift it up.

puffy jacket story

Out on the trail, we often come across an object which was lost by another hiker. If we are reasonable sure that we are going in the direction of the hiker who lost the object, we will pick it up and bring it to the next shelter. I lost a valuable puffy jacket once and was able to reclaim it because someone found it, and brought it to a hostel near me. We look out for each other on the trail.

Twice in this passage, the covenant citizen is charged to not ignore something. The ox or sheep straying, or anything that one’s brother has lost — these things should not be ignored. A covenant citizen is his brother’s keeper, but should not keep things that his brother has lost. “Finders keepers” is not a biblical principle. It sets aside relationship and responsibility for greed and more stuff.

However, ignoring the lost animal or object does not mean just walking away from it. Because it belongs to somebody, the covenant citizen is charged with protecting the lost animal or object until it can be reclaimed.

That is the way it should be for believers. Things will go wrong for those around us, but we are all responsible to look out for each other,and not to prey on each other.

Lord, make us the kind of people who are considerate of each other.

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