DEUTERONOMY 1:1 – 3:29 and MARK 10:1–22
The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses final instruction to Israel before they go forth to the land of Canaan. We must realize that there is considerable wisdom and experience that will project from these 34 chapters. There will be considerable reflection regarding God’s dealings with Israel to serve as a reminder and encouragement as they embark on their next step towards Zion. It is helpful to call to mind that the journey of Israel is symbolic of the walk of a believer. Israel experienced their Passover while in Egypt and afterward was led forth out of their captivity into the wilderness. The final destination for the people of God will be Zion. Why Zion? The actual journey from Egypt to Zion took a total of about 500 years so none of the people lived through its duration. Why Zion? It is where the Ark of the Covenant found its place of Rest. The Ark, which was positioned in the Holy of Holies of Moses Tabernacle finally found its place of Rest in David’s Tabernacle upon the Holy hill of Zion (Psa 15, Psa 24). The Bible also speaks of Zion being God’s resting place in Psa 87:1-2 and Psa 132:12-14. We have looked at the subject of the Sabbath and Rest in some detail in previous commentaries. Look at what is said concerning Rest in Heb 4:7-9.
“Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God”.
We are about to see Israel come under the leadership of Joshua as he represents a new generation of believers in Canaan. Yet we see that Joshua does not bring Israel into God’s ordained position of Rest. They are on a journey and this next step represents a significant shift in the spiritual maturity of the people. This shift has an application for us today. What is that shift? It is circumcision of heart; it is an appropriation of the New Covenant in the heart of each believer (Jer 31:33). It is allowing the sword (Word of God) to work within the heart of each believer (Heb 4:12).
This is a work that is resisted by many believers. It is easy to settle into a comfort zone and seek to live Christianity on our terms. God leads us through experiences in life while presenting opportunities where our hearts get tested. This was the purpose of the wilderness (Deu 8:2). How do we respond when tested? How do we respond when we experience dry wells or when things do not go our way? We should be able to make an honest appraisal as to how we would fare in Israel’s journey by asking ourselves some honest questions. We should be able to see where we are in our own personal journey.
The key in the whole of this journey is the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark speaks of the presence of God. There is a well-known song sung today entitled “I just want to be where you are”. It is a worthy desire and one to be adopted. The Ark will now journey into new territory into its continued approach towards Zion. This is a key in studying the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st Samuel and 2nd Samuel. These Old Testament Books need to come alive in a relative manner for us. This journey that Israel is on is our journey.
Chapter 1, 2 and 3 are a rehearsal of some of the events of their journey to date. Moses refers back to the time of Abraham when God first spoke concerning the land He would one day give them. Moses gives a brief yet emphatic summary of what took place. It was to serve as a warning to not disobey the word of the Lord. Moses also warns about presuming to take decisions on their own terms (vs 43-44). In short, chapter 1 is a brief history lesson that has meaning for them and for us.
The rehearsing of Israel’s history continues. The first chapter covered the two years from Egypt up to the time of Kadesh Barnea. This was the time when God spoke to go in and possess their inheritance. In chapter 2 we have the next 38 year period reviewed from the time of Kadesh Barnea to the present.
The Lord instructed them to not meddle with Edom as they passed by their territory. This was a test for Israel because they were feared by the Edomite’s. They asked for passage through Edom but were refused. This resulted in Israel having to take a long and difficult alternative path in their journey. God gave this land to Esau as a possession. We must have a keen ear in knowing God’s instruction. We will find that Israel was to go to war with some enemies and not others. This particular case is covered in verses 4-8. The Lord told them not to “distress” the Moabites since He had given this possession to the children of Lot for a possession. We later find the nation of the Ammonites was to be spared because God gave them to the children of Lot for a possession. Ammon and Moab resulted from the incestual relationship between Lot and his daughters nonetheless they were of Abraham’s kin.
We do find later that Saul will wage war against the Ammonites and defeat them (1 Sam 11). In the accounts regarding the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites you find mention of how the Lord drove out the giants before them. The Horim’s contended with Esau. (vs 12) The Emims contended with Moab. (vs 10) The Zamzummim’s contended with Ammon (vs 20-21). Who were these giants and why is there mention made of them here? It is difficult to trace their origin but one could surmise that they would be the offshoot of Ham. In just a few generations we see the influential and destructive force of his lineage. Remember, it was Ham that uncovered his father’s nakedness. A curse was pronounced upon his lineage through Canaan (Gen 9:25). It is through Ham where his grandson Nimrod came to prominence. He was certainly a giant in the arena of influence. He established the city of Babel and became so powerful that it required God to break his power through the dispersal of languages. Nimrod was clearly influenced by Satan in coming against God and HIs people. In fact, Nimrod gives a powerful portrait of Satan in his seeking to build the tower (Compare Gen 11:4 with Isa 14:13-14). He gives a powerful portrayal of what will be seen in the last days as well.
We also see from the line of Ham many nations like the Hittites, Hivites, Amorites and Jebusites (Gen 10:16-17). Another reason why these giants are mentioned is for the purpose of encouraging Israel that God was able to destroy these other giants in times past. It was the report of the 10 spies as to how big and intimidating the giants were in the land that prohibited Israel from entering in (Num 13:28-33). God, through Moses is taking particular care to refresh the account of their 40 year journey; to learn its lessons and not be fearful as they move into Canaan. These are very real enemies. We will find the nation of the Jebusites to be a particular difficult foe to dispossess. In fact, they are never removed during Joshua’s reign.
Jos 15:63As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.
They were only subdued when David took Zion. Do you recall that Joshua, though a mighty warrior for God did not bring the people of God into the true Rest?
Heb 4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
They (Jebusites) were the last enemy, the last bastion to be defeated. The Jebusites refer to those who are “discord sowers.” They were very prominent in helping to persuade Israel to not enter the land at the time of Kadesh Barnea. The Jebusites are an enemy that works within the church. They are mountain dwellers (Jos 11:3) which refers to their ability to lurk in high places. They are a powerful force in working against “true unity” which is needed amongst the brethren. In this account Israel was dealing with physical enemies of great stature. In these last days they represent spiritual giants which are real and powerful. The weapons required to deal with these forces are not natural or carnal (2 Cor 10:4). The instruction that God is giving to Israel is notable for us. We too need to rehearse and reflect upon God’s leading in our lives. We need to rehearse and confess the promises He has given; take note of His track record and by faith “Go Forward” (Exo 14:15) wherever He Leads.
The history lesson continues as the Lord calls to mind the victories against some of the other enemies of Israel. Earlier we saw that Israel was not to contend with Edom, Moab and the Ammonites. Israel learned to fight in taking Bashan and the Amorites (vs 2, Num 21:34-35). Some of these cities were well fortified nonetheless God wrought a mighty victory through them (vs 4-6). Some of the land taken in this battle became the inheritance of Gad, Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh (vs 13). Moses is seeking to encourage the people by citing how God worked through them in these former battles. We find in our own lives a certain strength come into our spirit when we reflect upon past victories and areas of overcoming. The promises to the church of the last days are to the “overcomers” (Rev 2 and 3).
The Lord gives the specific instructions to these 2 1/2 tribes regarding their inheritance. They had to first go over and fight alongside their brethren until they were settled and at Rest. The men could then return to the other side of Jordan unto their possession. The Lord reiterates that he will fight on their behalf. Can we catch a picture of that? The Lord Himself waging war as we go forth. The key is that we be in alignment with His will and purpose. We must not go ahead of the Lord or become settled in to the point we cannot move forward when the Spirit prompts.
One of the plagues in today’s Christianity is “presumption”. A leader’s presumption can be blatant and obvious but there is a more subtle brand where we need to be cautious. God has given the church great authority and privilege but it is not to be abused. We must be able to ascertain God’s will in various situations. God may not desire to move in the way we think yet we may presume to press forward and claim our rights as believers. We need to be so very careful. We may be praying and seeking to claim something that is contrary to God’s will. It is always wisdom to ask God in how He sees a situation. In these last days we must be very careful on this point. God is faithful to make clear His intent provided we seek Him in humility. One of the more tragic presumptions seen in Christianity is concerning the right marriage partner. It’s easy to presume that he or she may be the right one but what does God say? Do we have the courage to ask God’s opinion? Is there enough humility to openly these matters to God? In this case God was saying that He would go forth and fight for them (vs 22).
As Moses is conveying these exhortations to the people he asks the Lord one more time if there was any chance he could go over to Canaan. He is almost 120 years old. He had been waiting for this moment for so many years. His violation and disobedience at Meribah disqualified him and God made clear that he was to ask no more on this matter. When one is in leadership the required standard of conduct is much higher. This helps us to appreciate the microscope that the Lord lived under during His ministry. One little slip-up could have undermined everything. A venting of a moments frustration can result in untold damage. A moment’s yielding to a passion of lust can do so much harm to the affected parties as well as to churches and organizations. Think about it! A miniscule moment of time is all it takes. The ramifications of such yielding could even have eternal consequences. May God help grant for us to see the big picture. Moses paid a high price for his venting of anger. A few seconds of yielded pleasure to sin can result in an eternal consequence of separation from God; as well as hell fire. In the case of Moses it prohibited his ability to enter into the land of promise.
Moses is told to get to the top of Pisgah and view the land with his eyes. That is as close as he will get. He then is told to prepare Joshua to be the leader who will bring them in. A whole new generation of leader is about to emerge.
The Lord is about to be challenged on an issue of doctrine. The motive of the Pharisees was to try and demonstrate that Jesus was an inconsistent teacher. They bring up the subject of divorce and ask if a man can put away his wife for any cause. Anticipating His answer they then reference an example from Moses himself who gave a provision for divorce in the Old Testament (Deu 24:1). Jesus was still one step ahead of the Pharisees by making two points:
1) Moses made an allowance due to the hardness of heart. One finds in the Old Testament many examples where the Lord answered people according to what was in their heart. This does not make it right. Historians record that many of the Jewish men were hard hearted and cruel which put affected women in potential danger. This was one of the primary reasons why Moses gave such a directive. Even today no one should ever subject a spouse to an abusive and dangerous situation. Going back to this matter of God answering what is in the heart let’s consider another Old Testament verse:
Eze 20:25 Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;
God after a season would answer the people according to the uncircumcised areas in their heart. We saw this when they cried out for meat to satisfy their lusts (Psa 106:13-15). This is a very dangerous precedent. God oftentimes answers people according to what is in their heart if they persist in a matter. The people can then claim that God has spoken to them and feel validated in their position. God gave them a King (Saul) that was not His choice (1 Sam 8). This will be especially true in the last days. God is looking for a purified church that flows in His ways and precepts. The Book of Revelation makes clear that there will be two streams flowing. One stream that leads unto holiness and another stream that leads onto uncleanness (Rev 22:11). We should always be those who seek for God’s best in every situation. The standards of the Law are high but achievable if we seek the Lord for His grace and guidance. The subject of Divorce is one of the supreme testing areas and it is a subject that is not only dividing homes, it is dividing churches. It is a subject that is also leading to the redefining of Doctrine. We must seek God’s mind on these matters. Jesus addresses their question by first giving the reason why Moses made allowance. It was because of hardness of heart.
Psa 95:7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
Psa 95:8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
2) Jesus goes back to the beginning. The Lord then establishes His doctrine on this subject by going back to the beginning (vs 6-9). God made them male and female; that which God has joined together, let not man put asunder (Gen 1:27). This is a key point and one that often gets lost in many doctrinal debates. The establishment of marriage was defined by God Himself and He did it for a reason and with purpose. The reason is that it is an institution that portrays the eternal truth of God the Son being married to a bride (The Church).
In the many complexities that plague marriages today we often lose that sense of awe and reverence for the institution of marriage. We fail to go back to the beginning and grasp the beauty and eternal significance of what marriage represents. The focus of our doctrine deals with the very real problems and challenges that people have with their marriages. The church needs wisdom and compassion in dealing in such cases but it must always be anchored in what God has established from the beginning.
In the epistle of 1 John 2:13 we see 3 levels of believers. We see Fathers, young men and little children. There is only one quality that distinguishes the little children from fathers. It is said of father’s that they have known Him that is from the beginning. In other words, father’s in the church are those who know the heavenly Father from the beginning, from Genesis. If you understand Genesis and its origins you will have a firm grasp on Truth. This is how Jesus handled this delicate matter. He first made clear that Moses gave them an allowance because of their heart condition. Secondly, He established His position by going back to the beginning and making clear the true definition of marriage. Sadly, this is a subject that is not only separating homes but it also separating churches. In the Book of Malachi you have two extremes. On one hand you have the statement that God hates divorce (Mal 2:16). You then have the promise of great restoration for the last days when the Spirit of Elijah begins to move (Mal 4:4-6). The Book of Malachi is a precursor for these last days.
Jesus further elaborates on this subject privately with His disciples. He adds the warning as to what happens if a divorce person were to remarry. It is interesting that these remarks are made to His leadership and not for the public’s consumption (vs 10-12).
There is the account of the man who came running to Jesus asking what shall I do to inherit eternal life (vs 17-22). This man felt comfortable asking the Lord knowing that he was one who kept many of the commandments of the Lord. The Lord mentioned several of the commandments in verse 19 and this young man was able to say that he observed them from his youth. Jesus had admiration for this young man but was able to discern his true need. “One thing thou lackest”. He treasured his possessions and was not able to let them go. He could observe all of the other areas of the Law but there was “this one thing” that gripped his heart.
That “one thing” that may lack in our lives can be covered up by many positive and strong points in our life. We can place emphasis on our strengths at the expense of a “hidden covered” issue within. This is a very important truth. There can be a tendency within us to rely on our strengths while at the same time “covering up” a needed area of that needs addressing. The more the Lord tries to put a finger on a hidden issue the more we may project and amplify our strength as a means of avoiding or not having to face the truth of our area of “One thing thou lackest.” May God help us to be honest about ourselves and be willing for Truth to confront us. In doing so our hearts will not be hardened and we shall know the Truth and be liberated by it (John 8:32).
The Lord continues to minister to His disciples after the account of the rich young ruler. He will bring forth “teachable moments” that will benefit His disciples. Have you noticed how the Lord oftentimes uses examples from His public ministry to be the means of establishing deeper truths to those who are closest to Him? Jesus had an ability to minister amongst publicans and sinners, take little children in His arms and then teach and expound on revelation truths to His inner circle.
The Lord provokes conversation by noting the difficulty of a rich man in being able to enter the kingdom of God (vs 25). His response indicates that there is nothing people can do themselves to earn eternal life. His illustration of a camel and a needle gives a picture of impossibility. Many feel they can buy or earn their way into the kingdom of God but Jesus makes it clear that it is only through God (vs 27). Good works and being generous with money are all good things but they do not have any bearing on our being born again. They are by-products and fruits of a person whose have come to accept Jesus into their hearts as Lord and Saviour.
Peter then speaks on behalf of the others in saying that they have left all in seeking to follow after Jesus. Peter was following up on the discussion that Jesus was speaking to the rich young ruler. What the rich young ruler could not do, Peter and the others did do. In Mathew’s account Peter adds the following words “What shall we have therefore?” The Lord makes clear the reward for those who sell all for him. They will receive a hundred-fold in this life but they will also experience persecutions, and then eternal life (vs 30). This all sounds good but the Lord is now about to get to a root issue that needs to be addressed in the lives of His disciples. It is summarized thusly:
Mar 10:31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
This is a concept that had not yet sunk in amongst the brethren. We find a bit later on that James and John, along with their mother makes a special request to Jesus. They wanted to be granted a position of prestige by sitting on the right hand of the Father (vs 35). This is a lesson that will play out right up to the time of the last supper. The Lord further develops the keys to true greatness by saying that he who is greatest is the one who is servant of all (vs 44). This is the purpose for which He came. This thought will be developed more extensively as the Lord draws closer to Jerusalem. It is amazing to consider how this message is still so relevant 2000 years plus later.
The final account is the healing of blind Bartimaeus. Here is a beggar man who heard of the reputation of Jesus. As Jesus was passing by he cried out, to the chagrin of many, that the Son of David would have mercy upon him. Apparently, this man’s loud cry for mercy attracted the attention of Jesus. He stopped and commanded that he brought to Him (vs 49). Jesus asked, what shall I do for you?
There is something about the desperate cry of a person in need. Bartimaeus, like the woman who had the issue of blood, knew of the Lord’s reputation. They were provoked to reach out in any way possible, to seek the attention of the Lord so as to receive their healing. They both had a measure of faith that he could heal them. They acted on that measure of faith and it captured the attention of the Lord (vs 52). Faith is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is something that the Lord hungers for and looks for. Do we have a dedicated prayer and devotional life that helps stir the living Word within us? Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). May our churches and individual lives be an atmosphere filled with the faith of God; a faith that captures His attention enabling Him to move mightily in our midst for His glory.