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 Before we denounce this rule as outdated and ridiculous to begin with, we had better give it close scrutiny.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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why he was taken down

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why he was taken down

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

Deuteronomy 21:22 “If anyone is found guilty of a mistake deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree,
Deuteronomy 21:23 you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s affliction. You must not defile the land Yahveh your God is giving you as an inheritance.

why he was taken down

The Romans had no such rule. That is why Jesus’ body had to be quickly removed from the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb. After his sacrificial death, everything necessary to purchase our redemption had been accomplished. Christ was no longer under God’s affliction curse. He was raised triumphant from the grave, forever blessed and the means of our blessing.

Thank you Lord, for taking the curse of death upon yourself in order to rescue us.

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staying compliant and connected

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staying compliant and connected

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 21:18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father or mother and doesn’t listen to them even after they discipline him,
Deuteronomy 21:19 his father and mother are to take hold of him and bring him to the elders of his city, to the gate of his hometown.
Deuteronomy 21:20 They will say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he doesn’t obey us. He’s a glutton and a drunkard.’
Deuteronomy 21:21 Then all the men of his city will stone him to death. You must purge the evil from you, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.

staying compliant and connected

The situation here is an adult son who brings shame to his parents by refusing their direction, and wastes his life with alcohol and gluttony — substance abuse. This rule was intended to deter this practice. As a last resort, the parents of the stubborn and rebellious son can hand him over to the city elders. But the elders would not put him in rehab. They would stone him to death. Such behavior is an affront not only to God and the man’s parents, it defiles the community.

I’m not advocating this practice today — particularly since it was designed for the Mosaic covenant community and not the mixed communities we belong to. But I would like to point out that it shows remarkable insight. Societies crumble when their young men refuse to follow their parents instruction, or when parents neglect them. Either way, it produces wasted lives.

Lord, show us how to be compliant and connected to our families, to bring honor to our parents and to you.

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bypassing preferences

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bypassing preferences

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 21:15 “If a man has two wives, one cared about and the other not cared about, and both the cared about and the not cared about bear him sons, and if the wife not cared about has the firstborn son,
Deuteronomy 21:16 when that man gives what he has to his sons as an inheritance, he is not to show favoritism to the son of the wife cared about as his firstborn over the firstborn of the not cared about wife.
Deuteronomy 21:17 He must acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the wife not cared about, by giving him two shares of his estate, because he is the first of his virility; he legally deserves the firstborn’s share.

bypassing preferences

This instruction is about fairness. It is about looking beyond your personal preference and doing what is right. There were even examples in the ancestry of the Israelites where fathers acted prejudicially against on child in favor of another, so if a person was inclined to do that, he could use that history to justify it. So, God had to set the record straight. Such prejudice is wrong.

Everyone has preferences. It is so easy as a parent, or a leader in an organization or a church — to let your preferences determine your actions. But fair parents and leaders train themselves to bypass their preferences and make decisions based on principles.

Lord, guide us in the fair exercise of our authority in every situation.

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from captive to family

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from captive to family

Deuteronomy 21:10-14 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 21:10 “When you go to war against your enemies and Yahveh your God hands them over to you and you take some of them prisoner, and
Deuteronomy 21:11 if you see a beautiful woman among the captives, desire her, and want to take her as your wife,
Deuteronomy 21:12 you are to bring her into your house. She is to shave her head, trim her nails,
Deuteronomy 21:13 remove the clothes she was wearing when she was taken prisoner, live in your house, and mourn for her father and mother a full month. After that, you may have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife.
Deuteronomy 21:14 But if you do not treasure her, you are to let her go as her personality prefers, and you must not sell her or treat her as merchandise, because you have humiliated her.

from captive to family

At first glance, it seems barbaric. But this passage treats a reality that needed to be addressed by the covenant law. There would be many captives during the possession of the land, and they were not all to be executed or enslaved. This practice actually served to assimilate people into the community.

This was an opportunity for the Israelite man to show his allegiance to God and to pass on that covenant loyalty by inviting a captive woman to become part of his family. The alternative for the captive woman was destitution and possibly death as she tried to go to distant lands in search of a new life. But, because God respects the dignity of everyone, it would be her choice. By the end of that month of waiting, the Israelite man would also know if his desire for the captive woman was merely physical. If he did not treasure her, she would be free to go. She was not to be sold or bartered as merchandise.

Barbaric or not, there are some timeless principles from God’s word in this text. Respect for other people’s choice is one. Expanding the covenant community through marriage is another. Treasuring your life partner is also essential.

Lord, show those of us who are married how to respect and treasure one another, passing on our covenant relationship with you through marriage.

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hand washing cow

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hand washing cow

Deuteronomy 21:1-9 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 21:1 “If a murder victim is found lying in a field in the land Yahveh your God is giving you to take possession of, and it is not known who killed him,
Deuteronomy 21:2 your elders and judges are to come out and measure the distance from the victim to the nearby cities.
Deuteronomy 21:3 The elders of the city nearest to the victim are to get a young cow that has not been yoked or used for work.
Deuteronomy 21:4 The elders of that city will bring the cow down to a continually flowing stream, to a place not tilled or planted, and they will break its neck there by the stream.
Deuteronomy 21:5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, will come forward, because Yahveh your God has chosen them to assist him and pronounce empowerments in his name, and they are to give a ruling in every dispute and case of assault.
Deuteronomy 21:6 All the elders of the city nearest to the victim will wash their hands by the stream over the young cow whose neck has been broken.
Deuteronomy 21:7 They will answer, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood; our eyes did not see it.
Deuteronomy 21:8 Yahveh, provide reconciliation for the guilt of your people Israel whom you redeemed, and do not hold the shedding of innocent blood against them.’ Then the responsibility for bloodshed will be wiped away from them.
Deuteronomy 21:9 You must purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, because you will be doing what is right in Yahveh’s sight.

hand washing cow

Ironically, this very ritual became the basis for the washing of one’s hands as a way of distancing oneself. The ritual was part of a process of discovering the perpetrator of a crime. But when no suspects have been revealed, the community could ask God to spare them from judgment because due process had been followed.

You should not wash your hands of a matter just to avoid complications. If you are aware of wrong that is happening, you need expose that wrong and get justice for those being wronged.

Lord, show us how to extend our love for each other by seeking justice.

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leaving the fruitful trees

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leaving the fruitful trees

Deuteronomy 20:19-20 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 20:19 “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it in order to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can get food from them. Do not fell them. Are trees of the field human, to come under siege by you?
Deuteronomy 20:20 But you may destroy the trees that you know do not produce food. You may fell them to build siege works against the city that is waging war against you, until it falls.

leaving the fruitful trees

Behind this instruction is the assumption that all of the cities the Israelites will encounter will soon be theirs, thus they are told not to destroy any of the fruit-bearing trees in order to lay siege to a city.

The mission for the Israelites was to take possession of the land God was giving them, making them a part of his kingdom. Our mission under Christ is to take possession of the hearts and minds of those who need him, making them a part of Christ’s kingdom.

By analogy then, we should be careful about how we destroy the strongholds with the gospel. People are not just individuals. They live in relationships. Those relationships are like the trees surrounding the city. We should try as best as we can not to force people to choose between their social relationships and the kingdom. For many, those relationships will be their means of bringing others with them when they come to Christ.

The Jewish missionaries in Acts decided not to add a long list of “how to be Jewish” to the requirements of coming to Christ. This left room for the fruitful trees of Gentile believers to reach their communities for Christ as well.

Lord, give us wisdom to reach people for you without destroying their connections with their own communities.

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destroying the defiled

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destroying the defiled

Deuteronomy 20:15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are far away from you and are not among the cities of these nations.
Deuteronomy 20:16 However, you must not let any breathing thing stay alive among the cities of these people Yahveh your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 20:17 You must completely destroy them– the Hethite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite – as Yahveh your God has commanded you,
Deuteronomy 20:18 so that they won’t teach you to do all the repulsive acts they do for their gods, and you make mistakes against Yahveh your God.

destroying the defiled

God’s solution for the defilement of the land was to eliminate any breathing thing (neshemah) in it, and replace it with only his people, undefiled by idolatry and repulsive acts. If he had wanted the Israelites to round up the Canaanites and subject them to perpetual torture, he would have demanded it. But that is not God’s solution to the sin problem. What is true on the micro level is also true on the macro level. The wages of sin are the same. Our loving God will not subject humanity to an eternity of potential defilement by keeping those who have not been cleansed around to reinfect those he has cleansed.. His solution is to destroy them — soul and body in hell.

Those who argue for eternal conscious torment often claim that if we only knew how holy God is, we would not object to that perpetual punishment. But this passage and many others show how God intends to demonstrate his holiness. The command “You must completely destroy them” makes it clear that God shows his purity by purifying, and that purifying is accomplished by death.

Lord, teach us to respect your holiness by being honest with people about hell.

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first seek peace

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first seek peace

Deuteronomy 20:10-14 (JDV)

Deuteronomy 20:10 “When you approach a city to fight against it, make an offer of peace.
Deuteronomy 20:11 If it answers your offer of peace and opens its gates to you, all the people found in it will become forced laborers for you and serve you.
Deuteronomy 20:12 However, if it does not make peace with you but wages war against you, lay siege to it.
Deuteronomy 20:13 When Yahveh your God hands it over to you, strike down all its males with the sword.
Deuteronomy 20:14 But you may take the women, dependents, animals, and whatever else is in the city — all its spoil — as plunder. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies that Yahveh your God has given you.

first seek peace

The Israelite army was to invite peace of its surrounding cities, but to be prepared for war if those cities refused their offer. The next verses will make it clear that the invitation to peace only applied to those cities outside the perimeter of the land that was being given to Israel by God. The cities inside the perimeter were devoted to destruction already.

All kinds of comparisons come to mind, but at least one possibility for applying this text today has to do with how Christians should treat our benevolent neighbor religions. We should seek peace with everyone, even those who follow other faiths. How else will we gain an audience with those of other faiths?

But, if people of other faiths seek to destroy us, what then? Our covenant with Christ does not allow for our seeking personal revenge (Matthew 5:39), but the lines are a little grayer about the role of our governments (Romans 13:1-7). It is the role of government to protect its people, and that includes their religious freedom.

Matthew 5:39 But I tell you, do not retaliate when evil happens. Instead, when someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well.

Romans 13:1 Each soul is subject to the higher authorities. Because there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been put in place by God.
Romans 13:2 So the opponent of such authority opposes the direction of God, and those who resist will invite judgment
Romans 13:3 (because rulers cause no fear for good achievements but for bad). Do you want not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its approval,
Romans 13:4 because it is God’s servant for your good. But if you are doing wrong, fear, because it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:5 For this reason it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the punishment the authorities can mete out, but also because of your conscience.
Romans 13:6 For this reason you also pay taxes, because the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing.
Romans 13:7 Pay everyone what you owe them: taxes to the ones you owe taxes, revenue to the ones you owe revenue, respect t
Lord, show us how to live at peace in multicultural and multi-faith nations.

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