DEUTERONOMY 25:1 – 27:26 and MARK 15:1–47
The importance of enforcing proper judgment is the focus of the first three verses. The purpose of distinguishing between the righteous and guilty parties was carried out by judges. When true justice is in the land it serves as a deterrent to others who may have inclinations towards evil. A lack of confidence in the justice system opens the door for men of evil hearts to carry out their impulses. This is one of the differences you see in a country like Singapore as opposed to the USA. A country that has well defined laws, like Singapore which is backed by a competent justice system will go a long way in setting a healthy standard. This was essential as Israel was about to become established in Canaan.
In verse 4 we have the familiar verse about not muzzling the ox. What does this mean? There is a natural application regarding the ploughing animals. They were the beasts of burden carrying out the heavy plodding work for the benefit of the landowners. They were to be well fed and cared for recognizing their contribution to the work. This would also apply to the Levites, the priests who stood on the frontlines between God and Israel. The Lord has consistently reminded Israel regarding the affection and interest that He has for the priesthood. They were to be given land within the confines of each tribe. You may recall that the Lord gave specific boundaries as to their allotment. The priests had the responsibility of being faithful to their office. We shall see some of the consequences of priests who are not worthy of their office a bit later on.
There were laws that looked after widows who lost their husbands and who had no children. The brother of the deceased was to be responsible for the raising up of seed so that the deceased brother’s name would not be put out of Israel. Jesus refers to this law when answering the Sadducees their question regarding the resurrection (Math 22:24). There were warnings given about using false balances as a means of economy (vs 11-15). I also feel there are other applications that can be made as well. The Bible speaks quite a bit about a false balance. What is a false balance? It is weighing a commodity or perhaps a Truth on an uneven scale. The Bible makes clear that such a balance is an abomination to the Lord (Pro 11:1). The Bible also emphasizes the blessing of a “just weight” or measure.
Pro 16:11 A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work.
We must seek the Lord for the appropriate measure or weight that pertains to us. What “measure” that may be needed to bring balance into one person’s life may not be the same for another. We are His workmanship (Eph 2:10). We must balance the Word of God in much the same way. One can take a certain Truth and bring it to a place of imbalance. Let’s take the example of God’s desire to bless. We can find many verses that would back up that Truth. There are times when the Lord may require a “counterweight” due to a purpose or work He is looking to accomplish. God allowed Paul to experience tribulation in a prison (Rom 5:3). That is not a pleasant verse nonetheless Paul saw the bigger picture. He was able to rejoice in God’s “measure” of tribulation because it was to produce the fruit of patience. It is not only the economic measures that need to be balanced but also our doctrine. It is important to remember that it is the Lord who has the appropriate measures in His bag. May we allow Him to dispense as he sees fit. We need to be men and women of balance.
There is one particular enemy that God continues to focus in on. It is the Amalekites. The Lord mentioned that a memorial was to be written concerning what He was going to do to Amalek (Exo 17:14). Amalek came into being through the mixed marriages of Esau’s lineage (Gen 36:12). They were a people who opposed Israel at every turn. Joshua fought against Amalek soon after the Exodus. It was the arms of leadership (Moses) being undergirded by Aaron and Hur that helped Joshua to prevail against them (Exo 17:12-13). Amalek as an enemy speaks of the works of the flesh. Their cup of iniquity became ripe during the reign of King Saul and it was the time that the Lord had set for their total destruction.
1Sa 15:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
1Sa 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
This is one of the reasons why God did not want to have a king over Israel at this time. He knew that Saul, as king, would not execute His will, which he decreed to do back to the time of Moses. In the end it was a priest (Samuel) who put the final touches to God’s judgment upon Agag, king of Amalek. The Amalekites existed up until the time of King Hezekiah because of Saul’s disobedience and rebellion against God. In the end, it was an Amalekite that put Saul to death. The works of the flesh is a stronghold we do battle against today. It is one of the fiercest enemies of the Cross. It is the embracing of the Cross and the message of Truth that can render the “spiritual Amalekite” powerless in our life. There must be a death to the works of the flesh.
Mar 14:38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak
We see another offering that the children of Israel were to bring to the Lord. (This is separate from the Feast of First Fruits.) It was an offering to be brought to the Lord based on the respective fruit of their land or territory. It was to serve as a reminder of the Lord’s goodness of how He had provided for them and how He had brought them from a land of bondage and captivity. It would be a token to remind them that God has been the reason for their fruitfulness. You find many people today who choose to make a first fruit offering to the Lord when they start a new job. They may choose to tithe their first pay check to God as an acknowledgement of His blessing in providing a job. God honours such acts and it is a means of helping to ensure humility in knowing where the blessings come from.
We later find another law of tithing (Tithing of the third year) which was to be given to the Levite, the fatherless and widow which was to be partaken within the gates of the cities (vs 12-15). It sounds like a lot of tithing but it enriches the kingdom of God. All the people are provided for, the commandments of God are kept and there is great rejoicing. The Lord puts His mark upon Israel as being peculiar and above all other nations. It is an example of what true kingdom living is all about. Truly, it is far better to give than to receive. The laws of tithing in this chapter serve as the key to fulfilling the New Testament mandate given by the Apostle Peter.
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
The Lord again reinforces the importance of the Law and Commandments of God. They are instructed to place great stones of plaster on the other side Jordan soon after their crossing of the Jordan (vs 2). It appears the Lord wants His Law to serve as a foundation for the establishing of Israel’s inheritance throughout Canaan. In addition they were instructed to build an altar of “whole” stones around the Mount of Ebal (vs 4-6). This was actually accomplished by Joshua after Israel’s defeat and then victory over Ai (Jos 8:31). Personally, I feel we have a picture of the New Covenant in this decree. The New Covenant is when the Law of God is written upon the foundation of our being (our heart). The crossing of the Jordan represents an inner circumcision, the cutting away of the flesh. It is worth noting that the waters of Jordan were rolled back to a city called Adam, when they crossed over (Jos 3:16). It is a picture of what this act represents; dealing with the reproach of sin that has its origin in the garden with Adam. These stones were to be whole, meaning that they were in their natural state without any chiseling or works of man’s hands. It is also interesting to note the two primary offerings that were to be given. There was the burnt offering which represents an offering of our strength. Secondly there was the peace offering which represents our relationship with God and with man. How does one fulfill the law and all that it means? The words of Jesus are given below:
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
This is a beautiful picture of New Covenant reality that is being presented here. The law is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing to those who uphold and keep the commandments and it is a curse because it gives life to sin.
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
The Law is holy and to be embraced but in so doing we see the strength and power of the sin nature. In verses 11-26 we see Moses putting the tribes into two groups. There is one group who will speak forth the blessings of the Law upon Mt. Gerizim. There will be a second group that will stand upon Mt. Ebal to speak forth the curses and judgments of not keeping the law. Moses puts emphasis on the curses as they are conveyed by the Levites in verses 15-26. I feel we have a New Testament equivalent of this in Romans 7. It is here where the Apostle Paul gives a very clear definition of the power and reality of sin and the law.
Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Rom 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Remember how Amalek was addressed in Deuteronomy 25? The battle that Paul is experiencing at a personal level reflects much of what was covered in these past few chapters of Deuteronomy.
This is a fast paced chapter that begins with Jesus being brought before Pilate. It is now a matter of going through the formalities in order to bring Jesus to the Cross. The scribes and priests have His words of being “The Son of God” to use as a charge of blasphemy against Him. There are other things of note taking place around this event. There was a “custom”, probably Roman in nature where a prisoner was released on the Feast of Passover. This custom was used to help placate the people. Pilate used this opportunity to try and get the people to choose Jesus. He understood that Christ was innocent of the charges and was only delivered up to him due to envy (vs 10). This event also puts people into one of two categories. Remember, in the last days it will be likewise. This to me is a clear picture of what the days of antichrist will look like. We have said on other occasions that there will be two streams flowing in the last days. One will either be on fire for the Lord or cold against Him (Rev 3:16). One will either be flowing in the stream of righteousness to holiness or the stream of filthiness to greater uncleanness (Rev 22:11). Here people will either choose Jesus or Barabbas. There is no middle ground. What does the name Barabbas mean? It translates to “son of the father”. So, which “son of the father” will be chosen? Will it be Christ, the Son of God or will it be antichrist, son of the father of lies?
From the very beginning God gave man the ability to choose. It was man’s choice to sin, not God’s. We will one day give an account for the choices we make in life. From where do our choices derive? We make choices based on what is in our heart.
Pro 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
There are defining moments that come into a person’s life. It is a time, often without notice, where we are put into a position of having to make a choice. That day when the Lord cried out “Who is on the Lord’s side” was an event that was unannounced and it required an immediate choice. It was only the tribe of Levi that responded but look at the consequence of that choice. The day that Noah was found drunk and naked by his sons was not a planned event. It put the sons into a position as to how they would respond. They responded according to what was in their heart. In the case of Ham he saw opportunity to exploit the vulnerability of his father. He did that because of what was in his heart. Shem and Japheth had a heart that sought to cover their father. This defining moment had eternal consequences for these sons. The people in this account are now being presented with a choice. Is it Jesus or Barabbas? Who was Barabbas? He was a murderer and rebellious thug. Surely, common sense would prevail among the sentiments of the people in choosing Jesus to be released right? Well, we know what happened. Think about the culture we live in today. Who are those that are celebrated? The list goes on and on but one certain former president comes to mind who was an adulterer, liar and woman abuser. Still, even today this person is celebrated and sought after. There are modern day Barabbas’s everywhere. We must bear in mind that Barabbas’s exist due to what is in the heart of people. The signs of the Lord’s return can be seen in many places yet it is the spirit of Barabbas that the world is calling out for. May the Lord, have mercy upon us.
The momentum is now increasing and we see the priests and scribes now very much behind the inciting of the masses for Barabbas (vs 11). One must wonder what these priests must now think in the midst of their eternity. These few moments of inflamed passions where it looked like they were prevailing is now but a blip in their recorded lives. Yet, what they did not only set them up for their eternal torment it set others up as well. The horrors of such an eternity cannot be imagined but it should give us pause when considering choices that we make today. There are such defining moments coming to the church of the last days. These moments will put us in positions of having to make choices; the kind of choices that will put us in one of two streams. The stream of the Lord’s where we choose Jesus and His reproach; the reproach of the Cross that leads from righteousness to holiness or the stream of the evil one where we choose Barabbas, the god of this world, the antichrist who is the son of perdition that flows from uncleanness to full iniquity. This is a vivid picture in what we are about to see in the last days. This is the reason why we want to give our heart to the Lord.
Pro 23:26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Why do you think King David was able to be both a king and priest in his day? Why do you think David will be a leading prince in the millennium? It can all be summed up with his heart.
1Sa 13:14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.
Psa 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The whole of our Christian experience can all be summed up as a matter of the heart. This is why the New Covenant is so important. It brings God’s holy law to the heart; where it can be written and established. It will ensure that we fully align with Jesus in the days to come.