DEUTERONOMY 19:1 – 21:23 and MARK 14:1–31
There is instruction given regarding the preparing of cities of refuge for those who are involved in accidental murder. It is understood that an affected party may have a close relative who would seek immediate vengeance so a place was needed for an accidental slayer to be able to flee too. This was also seen in Num 35. There is a clear distinction made between those who are involved in an accidental murder from one who kills with intent (vs 11-14). The Bible on many occasions addresses sins of intent. It is something that festers in the heart until it cannot help but find a moment of expression. We can have battles at times with specific areas in our lives. These battles can turn into sin when we fail to yield to grace. If you were to harbour hatred for a man and you do not allow God to temper that rage it will affect the heart. We saw this with Cain when he murdered his brother. He was angry at God and his brother in having his offering rejected (Gen 4:5). That anger resulted in intent which expressed itself in murder (Gen 4:8).
Once again this leads us to an understanding of the power of the New Covenant. This is what Jesus was speaking to when he elevated the standards of the law (Math 5:22). It gets to the root, the intent of where sin originates. This is why Judas in the end could betray the Lord. Though he concealed it well, he was in reality a thief at heart. He did not seek to implement the fruits of what the Lord was teaching thus making him easy prey for Satan to sow the seeds of betrayal to be placed within his heart (Joh 13:2). Deuteronomy helps to make a distinction between sins of omission and commission.
In verse 14 the matter of boundaries and landmarks is addressed. We have seen how God honours the demarcation of property and nations. He is being very specific with each tribe as to where their boundaries would be. This is a principle of God we must understand and appreciate. It is actually for our benefit that God does establish boundaries. This verse is very meaningful to my wife and I having lived in India for a number of years. We were constantly contending over land demarcations. It is more than a flesh and blood issue. One has to research land documents to try and ascertain the truth. Once the truth of the land is established you then have authority to stand and contest. There are now land disputes galore in India as well as other nations. In America, land is being taken away from legal owners due to new legislation being enacted. Many of these laws are unjust resulting in heightened spiritual activity and lawlessness. All one has to do today is to see the worldwide conflict over land. The most heavily contended piece of property is the city of Jerusalem; specifically that of Mt. Zion. God was instructing His people to honor boundaries of their neighbours so as to keep the peace.
The balance of the chapter addresses the subject of judging righteously. If a matter could not be resolved peaceably it would then be brought to the attention of the priests and judges. The role of a judge and priest was to make a diligent search of a matter so as to ascertain the truth. This is another primary function of a priest. He is to judge a situation and the resultant judgment was to be honored. God had made clear that this was how it was to be done. This required priests of integrity. It is a vulnerable position due to its potential for abuse. A person of influence and wealth can help affect a priest or judge’s ruling if such a person had a covetous heart. A proper functioning of a priest or judge will help instil fear so that the people would not be inclined towards wrongdoing. This is one of the treasures of the Fear of the Lord.
Israel is being instructed in how to approach a territory that they were about to conquer. There were going to be times when the enemy would be imposing and difficult to come against. The Lord reminds them that He would fight alongside and not to fear. This is being emphasized again due to the fear of the enemy which paralyzed Israel some 40 years earlier. We also see another role of the priest brought out. They were to encourage and help instil courage amongst the armies prior to battle (vs 3-4). In the succeeding generations to come we will see the priests alongside warriors like David in many of the battles.
In verses 5-9 there are some conditions by which men may be excused from the going forth into battle. It is clear that those who would go forth to battle would need to be clear in their focus for the task at hand. In one case if a man was fainthearted or fearful it would be better for them to return to his house so as to not affect the others. I wonder if we could link this portion of scripture with Luke 14:12-24. This is where the invitation to the supper is given but there are many who give different excuses. When you look at their reasons they can seem to have some legitimacy to them but it rather indicates what is really in the heart of the person. What is more important; to be able to participate in this great supper or to make an excuse to not attend? Is this invitation a priority in light of personalized pursuits? Personally, I think the parallels are quite strong here. God is about to bring Israel into a new land, a new inheritance and it will require a battle to order to obtain it. In these last days there is the marriage supper of the lamb. There are qualifications to attend but are we willing to pay the price? Will we make every excuse to attend or make every excuse to do otherwise? There will be battles to fight, particularly in the Spirit. We will have to war against the flesh which represent the physical enemies that Israel had to come against in Canaan. I feel we can read Deuteronomy 20 as preparation for physical battles that Israel would fight with the spiritual battles against the flesh we have to deal with today. These are strongholds that must be pulled down from within the heart. As we gain victories in the heart we gain victories over spiritual foes.
2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
2Co 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
As Israel makes an approach to a city they were to first proclaim peace to it. This is how they approached enemies like Edom, Moab and others. If they were peaceable then Israel would spare their lives and make them tributaries unto them (verse 11). If they were not interested in peace then they were to besiege the cities and make war against them (verse 12). The Lord had special disdain for the enemies listed in verse 17. These enemies were especially dangerous and unless annihilated could pose significant problems for Israel. There is the potential for idolatry if these nations were not destroyed. We will see that not all of these nations were destroyed under Joshua’s leadership. (The Jebusites) They were a continual thorn and problem to Israel up until the time David took Zion. There is an interesting verse in the Proverbs that helps to give understanding as to why the Lord hates these nations.
Pro 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
Pro 6:17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
Pro 6:18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
Pro 6:19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
This is why the Jebusites have the reputation of those who are discord sowers. This enemy exists in the church, which is why they are so difficult to dislodge. It was the last foe David had to contend with before taking Zion (2 Sam 5:8). Remember it was King David who talked about the beauty of true unity (Psa 133). This is a unity that cuts beyond the superficial relationships in the body of Christ. True unity is costly, very costly; it cuts deep and tests the true motives of relationships.
We can say we have love for one another however that love will be tested for those who have a vision for Zion and desire to dwell on God’s holy hill. We could see the motive of Christ’s own disciples on display at the time of the Last Supper. They were missing the big picture of what was about to take place due to their own self-interest. Jesus had to intercede and pray on their behalf (John 17) just before He went to the Cross. We see the fruits of His intercessory prayer at the upper room in Acts 2 when they were gathered together in true unity. It was then when the Holy Spirit was able to come upon them resulting in the birth of the early church. It serves as the precedent for the outpouring we look for in these last days. This is why the Lord is very direct about destroying these enemies. What were physical foes in the Old Testament are inner foes that lurk within the human heart. We get a sense of their identity by looking at the things the Lord hates in Proverbs 6. Deuteronomy 20 is a blueprint for the warfare we are called to wage today.
We see the power of innocent blood emphasized in the first 9 verses. There was a process involving the priests if a body of a slain person was found that could not be accounted for. Jesus referred to the blood of Abel and the priest Zacharias that spoke from the ground (Luk 11:51). There is something about the blood of a person who has been murdered that cries out; it one day will be accounted for. There was particular attention that had to be given to such a case so that the slain person’s blood would not be held against a particular tribe. This begs the question of the blood that will be required in these last days for generations of genocide. What about the blood of innocent babies by way of abortions? We also know that that Israel will be held to account for the blood of Jesus that was spilt (Zech 10:12-13, Math 24:16-21).We also know that Israel will be restored in the end as they look upon the hands of the One who died for them. There is something about the power that resides in the shedding of innocent blood that speaks and cries out. In the case of our Lord, we can experience its power to cleanse and heal when appropriated by Faith. There is life and power in the blood.
In verses 10-14 we have an interesting case regarding the taking of a captive who happens to be a beautiful woman. In the customs of wars such a woman would become an immediate slave with no consideration given to her loss of identity and family that would result from war. Moses instituted a more humane means of handling such situations. A month was allowed for such a woman to mourn the loss of family. She would shave her head (a custom still prevalent in many cultures) and allow her nails to grow. This would give her an opportunity to come to terms with her new environment. This one month was the period that was extended to the Jews when they suffered the loss of a loved one. If after a month the master would rather not have her to wife he was to let her go without any hindrance. This one month period was an opportunity for a master to temper his expectations and allow for a more deliberate decision to be taken with regard to a marriage. This helped to eliminate marriages as a result of immediate passion. There is a principal here that serves us well today. There are many important decisions that are undertaken in haste, without an element of time to evaluate if such a decision is prudent. This is oftentimes true with marriage but it is seen in other pursuits as well such as occupation and major purchases like a home or automobile. It would be wisdom if we could learn to bring God into such matters. A period of time coupled with prayer often results in a right decision being taken. Moses exercised wisdom in this area because it was something that was very commonplace in times of war. It was a humane way to deal with a consequence of war.
There are some other important laws given in this chapter. One of the fruits of divided households or multiple marriages are cases involving children from the differing marriages. There had to be protocols in place to deal fairly in such matters. Clearly, multiple marriages was never to be seen as an ideal arrangement but it was allowed due to their hardness of heart (Deut 24). This is not allowed under the New Covenant nonetheless we see similar issues today.
In such cases the mind of the Lord must be sought as to do what is best, even after a violation of the marriage covenant. There must be a compassionate approach given to these situations as well. We also see the consequences of a rebellious son against his father and mother. If he were to continue in his rebellion he was to be brought to the elders of the city to be stoned. This would naturally result in great fear upon the people thus minimizing such cases. This would be an extreme measure by the parent’s but it speaks to the level of potential evil that can result. The parents and elders would also recognize the potential damage this rebellious son could pose for Israel. It is a severe sentence but once again as the Lord is establishing a new order for Israel the standards are high. If allowed to fester it could do great damage to the taking of Canaan.
It also speaks of the importance of honouring our fathers and mothers. It is the 5th commandment and it has with it the promise of a long life. It is one of the areas of Satan’s greatest attacks. The seeds of rebellion being sown in the young through music, entertainment and other avenues have reaped untold damage upon families. This is why there was such harsh judgment in the establishment of Israel throughout Canaan. This is also why there is the promise of the hearts of the fathers being restored to the sons as seen at the end of the Book of Malachi. One of the things that is beginning to be seen is the coming together of the generations in the church. May God continue to break down these walls of separation. If the church takes the lead in this initiative it will be reflected in society. This is one way that the church can become the head and no longer the tail (Deu 28:13).
Iniquity is now about to become ripe on many fronts. The priests and scribes have determined that the only way to silence Jesus was by putting Him to death. Up until this time they sought to openly discredit Him and marginalize Him from among the people. It was all for naught as His popularity and influence continued to grow. With each failure in trying to undermine Jesus the more hardened their hearts became. This is the danger of a heart that does not allow God to deal with issues. There may be a time when things in the heart can be kept under wraps but there will come a time when events will force us to have to answer to what is within our heart. We will see this a bit later on with Judas. We also see this in Romans 1. When a person is unthankful it begins a process within the heart whereby it becomes indifferent and desensitized. It then gravitates towards other things. The truth of God soon becomes redefined into a lie. It is a gradual process that at first begins subtly but over time a noticeable change begins to take place. If unchecked it can result in a reprobate spirit. Paul then summarizes such a condition by making the following statement in Romans 1.
Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
This is the kind of knowledge that God wants us to grow in. It is one of the seven spirits of the Lord as seen in Isa 11:2-3. It is also one of the “graces” that Peter says we are to add to our faith (2 Pet 1:5). The problem is many people opt for the “knowledge” that Satan offered in the garden (Gen 3:6). It is a counterfeit and one that circumvents the true message. It is a knowledge that allows for shortcuts and an easier way. The Bible makes clear that God is looking for a people who desire the knowledge of God. This requires a people who can acknowledge and appropriate Truth.
Hos 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
We have the account of Mary breaking the alabaster bottle at Jesus feet. (We looked at this in Math 26) You may recall that spikenard speaks of peace; one of the fruits of the Spirit. This incident served as a catalyst for bringing certain heart issues to the surface. Judas and others were upset because they understood the value of the contents of the jar. They used the example of the feeding of the poor as an excuse to voice their displeasure. The Lord upbraided Judas and those who were likeminded while citing Mary’s act as a memorial that will be recorded. This event further fuelled the “coveting” nature within Judas resulting in his conspiring to betray Him.
The “little foxes” eventually grow into something strong that cannot be tamed; we need to be very careful in undealt issues of the heart. The Lord then instructs His disciples to prepare a room where they can celebrate the Passover. He gives them exact instructions on what to do and what to expect. Jesus, at the Last Supper declares that one of the brethren was going to betray Him (vs 18). Can you imagine what must have been going through their minds? They had walked together for a few years with Jesus and now one of them is going to turn on Him. It is interesting that many are saying, Lord is it I? In reading Mathew’s account of the breaking of the alabaster jar we find that there was more than one of the disciples that were upset (Math 26:8). We also need to remember that the disciples were striving with one another at the time of the upper room (Luk 22:24). There may have been some of the disciples who struggled at times with some of the Lord’s teaching as did Judas. This could be the reason why some of them would say Lord, is it I. The heart of Judas was not to be compared with the others. We all have struggles and challenges with people and leaders we esteem and look up to. We know that offenses will come but it is how we respond to such challenges that make the difference. There is grace available. If our heart becomes bitter and hardened we forfeit opportunities to grow in His grace.
Heb 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
After the time of the Passover in the upper room Jesus went forth into the garden to pray. He makes the statement that the shepherd will be smitten and the sheep will be scattered. Peter asserts himself ill advisedly by saying he would never be offended (vs 29-31). This is another account where Peter had a good heart but contradicted God’s eternal plan. He spoke against the Words of Jesus when He shared about going to Jerusalem to die (Math 16:21-22). He is doing it again. Peter will soon pay a very heavy price. We will later see a remarkable work of grace that will be established through the life of Peter. The man who was zealous and at times unstable in the end becomes a standard that we all can seek to emulate.
Jesus now comes to Gethsemane where the ultimate battle is about to take place (vs 32). The name “Gethsemane” means olive press. Jesus is about to come under intense pressure as He prepares to become the sin offering. Jesus is with Peter, James and John who were also with Him at the Mt. of Transfiguration. He is now coming face to face with destiny as the Son of Man and is now very heavy and sorrowful in Spirit. The Lord exhorts the three to remain watchful in prayer but they were caught sleeping. It seems they had little awareness of the dynamics playing out around them.
It is interesting to think of the unique exposure that Peter, James and John had in these recent days. These three were with Jesus when He was ministered to by Moses and Elijah. We now find them in the garden where the Lamb of God is about to fulfil the Father’s plan that was established before the foundation of the world. They are in the place where Satan and his armies were gathered in seeking to move Jesus outside the will of His Father. This is the same scenario where Satan fell when he sinned in the area of the will.
We now see the humanity of Christ crying out to the Father for an alternative; another way in which this could be accomplished. It is so difficult to grasp what is transpiring but it is here where the sin of all mankind is now being placed upon the innocent Son of God. What took place figuratively in Egypt some 1500 years earlier is now being fulfilled by the Lamb of God. What is being accomplished is an eternal benchmark of God’s provision for our sin. Jesus also makes the statement that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. What is the link between the weakness of the flesh and the willingness of the spirit? It is grace; it is God’s enabling Spirit that brought Jesus through (Heb 9:14). It is that same Spirit that works in us that can see us through (Rom 8:11).
This is also the ultimate fulfilment of the portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. (Math 6:10) It is here, at Gethsemane, where God is establishing His kingdom by fulfilling something that was ordained in heaven before the foundations of the world (Rev 13:8). It is here where perhaps the greatest spiritual battle of all time is taking place. This is the essence of true spiritual warfare. The greatest battles take place where God seeks to establish His will and pleasure on earth. We will see this in the last days; especially when the man-child company goes up to heaven. Satan will be there to resist because this company will dethrone him from his heavenly perch (Rev 12:3-5). This man-child company will have many of the characteristics that we see here in Christ.
Peter, James and John were privy to the events at both Transfiguration and Gethsemane. What is the connection? At Transfiguration you had Moses, Elijah and the Lord. Jesus was about to die, be risen from the dead and then soon ascend into heaven. Moses and Elijah who passed on long before the earthly ministry of Jesus will again come on the scene during the 7 year tribulation period. Like Jesus they will have a priestly message coupled with a prophetic power, particularly in the area of restoration. Like Jesus, Elijah and Moses will be slain (by the antichrist), be raised from the dead after 3 days then ascend into heaven (Rev 11:7-12). This will be around the time of the man-child ascending to heaven and the subsequent dethroning of the dragon (Satan). Are there keys in understanding the composition of the man-child through Peter, James and John? Do their lives provide insights along this line? It is clear that these two events were well beyond these men yet the Lord allowed them to witness them. Among the qualities that are seen during this period is that of being watchful. The need to be watchful and vigilant is critical in these days. There are so many distractions that can lull us into a slumber of spirit.
Jesus was able to come to the place where His spirit man prevailed. “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt” (vs 36). It is here, where I feel the ultimate battle was won. Immediately after this we see Judas and a multitude come to take Jesus away. Here we have a picture of mob rule. You see this today in a kind of “rent a mob” mobilization for the purpose of causing chaos and disruption. Leaders who are in position of power intentionally seek opportunities to exploit vulnerable situations. In the USA there was a city that had been under siege due to a heavily publicized murder. Long before the facts of the case came out judgment was rendered which served the interests of stoking racial tensions. The actual leaders of these groups would not be involved in the violence and rioting but their actions stirred up the passions and sentiments of the masses. I feel this may be an indicator as to how this situation at Gethsemane may have played out. The scribes and Pharisees were seeking ways to get the sentiments of the people to be against Jesus. It truly is a picture of the media circus often seen today. They trumpet their voice; oftentimes a minority voice yet done in a way that paralyzes the majority. This was a manufactured mob scene in the garden. It has its parallels today. They now go about the process of trying to find a way to convict Him. Jesus gives them the perfect ammunition for them to be able to do so. It is seen in this exchange.
Mar 14:61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
Mar 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Whoa! The high priest and others could hardly contain themselves. There is no reason now for Jesus to hold back. He had won the battle over His will in the garden and now the Cross is what is before Him. By clearly declaring Himself openly that He is indeed the Son of God it gives His accusers all they need to follow through with their plans. It is at this time when Peter is now being tested. The one who declared that he would never forsake the Lord is challenged on three occasions as one of those who was with Jesus (vs 66-72). Peter opened himself up to this challenge by reason of contesting the Lord’s words about Satan desiring to have him. We as believers will go through trials and periods of sufferings but there are many that can be avoided. We must walk humbly and circumspectly in these last days.