Welcome to Expound, our verse-by-verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Deuteronomy 24. How many of you are married? Raise your hand. OK, how many of you are happily married?
Why did more hands go up?
I'm worried about this group. OK, so you're happily married. Now, how many of you that are happily married ever struggled in your marriage? Ever? OK, so all of you have, right? If you're married? At some point? Did anybody here never have a trial, or a struggle, ever, once in their marriage? OK. OK.
You never did? I think we have to arrest these people--
--because they may be from another planet. I'm not sure.
OK. So most everyone that I know has some sort of issue, some sort of struggle. Even some to the point where they second-guessed if their decision was the correct decision, or what they should do now that they're having these severe struggles in their relationship. And for this reason, at a marriage ceremony the pastor will ask if he will take her, and she will take him, in a lawfully wedded relationship. The wording is, as long as you both shall live. I've never heard a pastor say, as long as you both shall love, or have feelings of love. But will you make a commitment as long as you both shall live.
Now, those vows are said all the time in the affirmative, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. And yet, divorce is a reality. It's such a reality that it has gone up, it has increased, in this century, in the last century, in the last 100 years, it has increased 700%. The increase is so pronounced that it has gone up in the last century, in modern times, 700%.
When Jesus was on the earth, the Pharisees came to him one day and they said, master, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? What kind of a question is that? Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? And then Jesus said, well, have you never read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and then He said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two, but they are one flesh.
And then, Jesus said, therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. Well, the Pharisees heard that, and that didn't set very well with them, because they asked the question, can a man divorce his wife for just any reason.
And so they said, why then-- now listen to what they say-- why then, did Moses command, saying, that a man shall give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?
And Jesus said, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And then he said something that floored even the apostles, even his own 12. He said, and I say unto you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced causes her to commit adultery.
When the disciples heard that, he said, if such be the case of a man with his wife, it's better not to marry. They realized the gravity of the covenant of marriage at that point. And that was really Jesus' point. He was going back to the beginning when God established the relationship, the covenant of marriage, when He brought man and woman together.
But the question, and then they said, why did Moses give the command? What they are referring to, the Pharisees, is the passage we are about to read in Deuteronomy 24. Why did Moses give a command for a man to divorce his wife and send her away?
They're referring to the first few verses of Deuteronomy 24. It is sort of a problem passage for interpreters, and it's the only Old Testament scripture written, given to us, of the proceedings of a divorce, that we have. So it becomes a primary passage of primary importance.
But the reason that the Pharisees said, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason, is because there were two main schools of interpretation 2000 years ago, at the time of Jesus in the New Testament, among the Jewish leaders.
Because of the wording, and you'll read it in just a moment, of Deuteronomy 24, where it says, if a man finds some uncleanness in his wife and sends her away for a divorce. And so the idea is, well what could that unclean possibly refer to?
And one very, very conservative rabbi, Rabbi Shammai, believed that it was sexual immorality only. But there was a very liberal interpreter named Hillel, a rabbi Hillel, who believed that the term uncleanness should be widened in its interpretation, to mean just about any reason at all. If she speaks to another man in public, reason for divorce. If she spoils his supper, grounds for divorce. If she speaks negatively about his parents, grounds for divorce. If she spins around in public, or wears her hair down rather than up, cause for divorce. Crazy stuff, right?
As time went on, another rabbi of that school of Hillel, named Akiba, even extended it further, to mean if a man finds a woman more beautiful than his wife that he's married to, that's grounds for divorce. That's an uncleanness that he's discovered in his wife. She's lost her beauty.
Now, which do you think was the more popular interpretation among the guys?
Yeah, it was that second one, right? You can guess that. And it was. So the question, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason? So Jesus took them back to the very beginning when God made man and woman.
So here's God's intention. So, Deuteronomy 24. And we'll look at this, and we'll eventually, again, bring it around to Matthew 19, because in Matthew chapter 19, what I just quoted, that little interaction of Jesus with the Pharisees, Jesus interprets Deuteronomy 24 perfectly. Completely. So to understand this passage, because it is problematic and there's questions as to what it means to, we have to interpret it through the light of what Jesus said concerning it in Matthew chapter 19. So let's look at it.
It says, "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house. When she has departed from his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled. For that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance."
So the question that the rabbis and interpreters have struggled with is, what exactly in verse one does this mean? Some uncleanness in her? Well, with all that has been written on it, the answer is we don't know. We don't know, because it's not said, but I can tell you this. It can't be, either what Shammai or Hillel said. And here's why.
It can't refer to sexual immorality, because what is the punishment for adultery sexual immorality if it's discovered in a woman or a guy? Death, the death penalty. Not right her a certificate of divorce. The death penalty. So whatever it was, it was something short of adultery. But here's the deal, and people get swallowed up by this, whatever it was that caused it isn't the issue of the text. It's not the primary intent of the text. It's not to discover what it was. It's an if-then situation.
For whatever reason, a man lets his wife go, short of her committing adultery, if he then marries somebody else, and if later on he goes, I'm tired of her too, if it doesn't work out I'll always go back to my first wife. He can't do that because she has become defiled. So the point of the passage is, if you got some dude out there who's going to treat his wife poorly enough to send her away by writing her a certificate of divorce, and, again, the issue isn't the certificate, it's just that if that happens, then he can't do thus and such. And, by the way, just because a certificate of divorce, a legal certificate, is arranged, imposed, and put in place, it doesn't make it right.
(MIMICKING TONE) Well, it's legal.
There's a lot of things that are legal that aren't right, aren't righteous. So the certificate in and of itself, again, isn't the issue. The issue is that he has let her go, he has married somebody else, and he doesn't want her either. So he thinks, I'm going to go back to number one. And God is saying that can't happen. So it's to protect the woman who was ill-treated by her husband.
So verse three, "If the latter husband detests her, writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, sends her out--" so she's been let go by two-- "or if the latter husband dies who took her as wife, then her former husband who divorced her, must not take her back to be his wife. For after she has been, or after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord."
The question becomes, how did she get defiled? What does that mean? Now, listen carefully, because it's interpreted by Jesus. She became defiled by her first husband divorcing her for an unbiblical, unscriptural reason. An ungodly reason. Something short of adultery. He let her go, he found some form of uncleanness that caused him to put her away. She became defiled by him divorcing her and her marrying a second husband.
Now, with that in mind, turn with me to two passages of scripture. Matthew chapter five, first of all. Matthew chapter five. Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:31.
"Furthermore--" verse 31, Matthew 5-- Jesus said, "Furthermore, it has been said, whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce."
That's what they taught, that's what they said. The rabbis said if you want to divorce your wife, just make it legal, give her a certificate. And at the time of Jesus, it was a no-fault divorce, for any reason.
"But I say to you," Jesus said, "but I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason, except sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."
That's what Jesus said. It's plain, it's clear, it's simple. Now, go with me to Matthew 19. Just turn to the right, keep going a few blocks down the street to Matthew chapter 19, verse 3.
"The Pharisees also came to him, testing him, saying, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? He said to them, have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
So that's God's view from the beginning. He makes them a unit. That intimacy of sexual union, under a covenant promise, made legal and witnessed to by friends and relatives, that's intimate. And that is, according to God, unbreakable.
"So, then, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. And they said to him, why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?"
You see, here the problem. As time went on, they took a scripture, Deuteronomy 24, and they turned it into a command. The early targums. Have you ever heard of the term targums? Targums are Jewish paraphrases, commentaries, expansions of the verse so that people could understand it. By the time of Jesus, the Palestinian targums widened Deuteronomy 24 to make it a command, even though there is no command in the original text in the Hebrew, whatsoever.
They have now turned it into a commandment that if a man finds and uncleanness, and you pick your school of interpretation, whether you want it to mean she's salted or peppered his supper, or put too much Tabasco sauce on his chicken, whatever it would be. All he has to do is write a certificate of divorce, get rid of her, because that's a commandment of Moses. Jesus knew that's what they were thinking. So he wanted to take them back to the beginning.
Then they asked the question, "He said to them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."
In other words, Deuteronomy 24 is a divine concession to human weakness. He's just saying, if that happens then don't do that. Doesn't tell you the circumstances of why divorce is lawful or not.
"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. His disciples said to him, if such is the case of a man with his wife, it's better not to marry."
The only thing Jesus says in response to that is, not everybody can accept that. Some people will stay single because God has called them to that, other people aren't able to stay single. And so they will have a marriage, as long as it's a biblical marriage. He's not saying that because you can't stay single, go ahead and marry anybody you want, as many times as you want. So that is the passage of Deuteronomy 24, as interpreted by Jesus. It's an if-then statement.
Back to Deuteronomy 24, then, verse five.
"When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, or be charged with any business. He shall be free at home for one year."
You don't go to war, you stay home.
"And bring--" listen to this. I love this. "--and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken."
Don't you love that? Don't you love the emphasis? Your commandment when you get married, is just make your wife really happy. So don't go to war. When you get married, you don't have to go out to war. You'll be in a war for the first year.
You're going to be adjusting, and getting used to one another, and dealing with all sorts of issues. Everybody married knows exactly what I'm talking about. As you discover, oh that's who that guy really is. Wow! He's got that bad breath early in the morning. Man! He snorts when he eats, or she says this, or does that. There's just those quirks, that adjustment period.
So for the first year, don't go to war. It's a really great law. It's great because the idea, really, is that in staying home, he can start his family. And if he doesn't start his family, his name could be blotted out. He wouldn't have a genealogy in Israel. And so he can stay home, think of his wife's happiness. In those days people had children pretty early on after they got married. And so you can start a family, and you can devote yourself to her happiness.
And I would just say to any young man, when you get married, let that be your priority. For the first year, just think about making her happy. If you do that in the first year, if you're thinking of, how can I make my bride happy. The rest of your life, almost a guarantee, you'll have a happy relation.
Now, if you're thinking, how can she make me happy? How can she meet my needs? You're already defeated before you started. How can I meet her needs? How can I make her happy?
Verse six, "No man shall take the lower, or the upper, millstone in a pledge, for he takes one's living in a pledge."
A millstone was indispensable. That's how you would grind your wheat to make your bread. So can you imagine taking the upper part of the millstone, or the lower part of the millstone, it renders a millstone inoperable. It's like taking away somebody's upper or lower dentures. They can't do anything with half. They need the whole mouth to grind. You need both upper and lower millstone to grind the wheat. So that's how you get your daily bread. You're taking away his sustenance.
"If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die. And you shall put away evil from among you."
Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers and sold as a slave. And he was taken by the Midianites down to Egypt, and placed under the care of Potiphar of Egypt, and eventually worked for Pharaoh. God says this is deadly, serious business when you do that.
Now, most Americans kind of look back to the 18th century, into the 1800s, when slavery was completely abolished. I wish I could say that's true, but it's not true. In our world, presently, though slavery is illegal-- it's not legal anywhere-- but it's present everywhere. Human trafficking is still a huge issue.
You know how many people are slaves right now? Right now in our world? 20 million to 30 million. 20 to 30 million. It's $150 billion per year industry worldwide. Slavery, human trafficking, is rampant. Every country has some form of it, unfortunately, even developed countries. And the statistics are that 78% of those involved who are victims of human trafficking, 78% are labor slaves. 22% are sex slaves.
And thank goodness there are good groups, and people, and law enforcement, that is out to abolish it, put it to an end. But we like to say it's gone, but it's not. It's still a problem. Notice what God says the punishment ought to be. It's deadly serious.
Verse eight, "Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you, just as I commanded them. So you shall be careful to do."
So all He's doing is recapping what He said in Leviticus 13 and 14. He already has talked about that to a previous generation. He's just saying, look, they already know. It's written down, it's recorded. Just make sure that with leprosy you do everything that I've commanded you, from the Lord, to do.
Now, leprosy was generally a term that was a broad term for a number of different skin diseases. And the problem is, back then, back there in the wilderness, when a person had a skin disease, you didn't know what kind of a disease it was at first, or how severe it would become. So you had to watch it. So a person would be quarantined, and brought in seven days later, examined by the priest, And if it was red, or grew a hair, or it was isolated, has a patch. There's all sorts of different ways to determine the severity of it.
Sometimes it was a skin disease that cleared up. Other times, it was the dreadly form of what is known as Mycobacterium Leprae. It was the most dreaded disease of the ancient world. It began imperceptibly, it grew slowly, but surely, it ended miserably. The person couldn't feel it, couldn't see it, but eventually it would grow and take over. And a person may lose a limb, a limb might fall off, and you wouldn't even feel that it fell off.
It was dreaded because you were ostracized from society. If you saw somebody coming, and you knew you had this loathsome disease, you would have to cry out unclean! Unclean! Can you imagine how lonely it would be to live a life of a leper? You can't be around your family, you can't hug your children, you can't kiss your wife good night. Your ostracized. You have to live out and apart.
You say, oh, but I want to come to church, I want to come to the synagogue. Well there was a room in the synagogue known as the mesquite Sa, which was a separate chamber just for those infected with leprosy. And so you could hear the service, but you couldn't really be in with the people. So one can only imagine what it would have been like for that leper, who, in Mark chapter two, goes up to Jesus. And as he came into the crowd, people knew that leper and they all kind of dispersed.
But he said to Jesus, if you are willing, you can make me clean. And it says Jesus turned to him, reached out his hand, and touched him. That was unlawful. But no matter. When Jesus touches a person, that touch cures a person. So he's no longer a leper. So he reached out and touched him, and said I am willing. And immediately he was made clean. There is a man who hadn't felt a human hand on his face probably for years. And a man says to him, I am willing. And he touches him and heals him. So Moses said, you keep those laws. You do those things.
"Remember," verse 9, "what the Lord your God did to Miriam, on the way when you came out of Egypt."
She contested Moses' leadership, she was part of that little gang that was against Moses, and she became leprous as a consequence.
"When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get a pledge."
So it's a variety of laws. These things are coming to Moses' heart, he's reiterating them to this new group of young people before they cross into the Promised Land. And he says, you know, if somebody owes you something and you want to take collateral for it, you don't have the right to invade that person's house, his privacy, her privacy, and say, I want that, or I want this for my collateral. You can't do that. You let that person decide what he wants, or she wants, to give you as collateral for that. As a pledge.
"You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge to you. And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight."
A poor person would give, usually, as a pledge, his garment, his cloak. And that cloak was like a blanket at night. And if you don't give him his pledge back at the end of the day, he won't have anything to keep him warm at night. And you might be thinking, well, you know what, I don't like that guy anyway. And he may never pay me back, so I'm not going to give him that cloak back for the night. Let him freeze a couple nights. It'll do him good. Serves him right. Notice what the Lord says.
"You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you. And it shall be righteousness to you before the Lord your God. You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren, or one of the aliens who is in your land, within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages and not let the sun go down on it. For he is poor and he has set his heart on it. Lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you."
A good question for you to ask yourself, in the privacy of your own thoughts, your own hearts, is what is your feeling toward foreigners? People who aren't like you, people who aren't from where you're from. They don't look like you look, they have different culture, different custom. Do you think privately, in your heart, they should just go back to their own. Own place, own kin, own language, own culture, they should speak my language or get out of here.
What is the thought of your heart toward someone who is a brother, or also somebody who is a foreigner? Because here's the deal. All of us are foreigners. This world is not our home. We're passing through. We belong to another kingdom. We belong to the Father. We're in this world, but we're certainly not to be of this world. And just like the children of Israel, we're to always remember they were once slaves, they were once captive.
I think you and I should keep that in our hearts. We were once slaves to sin. We were once captives. And we're all foreigners in this world because Jesus saved us out of this world. And that should make us have a tender heart. And you know that great passage in Hebrews 13. Make sure that you entertain strangers. Let brotherly love continue, and don't forget to entertain strangers, for some thereby have entertained angels unawares. So we should have a tender heart toward them.
Verse 16, "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers. A person shall be put to death for his own sin."
OK. Do you remember, last week I mentioned the Code of Hammurabi? And I didn't explain that. Again, I want to explain that because you need to know a little bit. The Code of Hammurabi were 282 laws. It was a compendium of 282 laws during the ancient kingdom preceding this, and sort of contemporaneous with this in the land of Babylon. In Mesopotamia. 282 laws, that compendium, that governed life in Mesopotamia.
It was a very famous set of laws. And there are similarities from the Mosaic law, the laws of Moses, and the Code of Hammurabi. In the Code of Hammurabi, the Babylonian Mesopotamian laws, it was lawful in certain cases for a son to be killed in lieu of his father. God is saying, not in My book. Everybody is responsible for their own stuff, their own junk, their own sin.
And, we don't have time to do it now, but write down, and look up later on, Ezekiel chapter 18. It's a beautiful expose because people were saying, our fathers have sinned, and now their Father's children, their teeth are set on edge. We're suffering for what our fathers did. And God kind of explains and unpacks. Listen, you're all responsible. You can't blame your parents, nor should you be held accountable for what your parents did.
I think our country needs to learn that law because some of our forefathers did some bad things. We're not our forefathers. Days have gone, people have moved on, and it's time for each generation to be responsible for its own stuff. And so God makes that a law, and Moses reminds them of that law.
"You shall not," verse 17, "pervert justice, do the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow's garment as a pledge." You'd be a scoundrel to do that.
"But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt. That the Lord your God redeemed you from there. Therefore I command you to do this thing. When you reap your harvest in your field and you forget a sheaf," So you grab some grain, or stuff, and you bind up a sheaf and you leave it there.
"You shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you and all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees," So you get angry and you want to go beat something up, you go out and beat your olive tree up. No, it's when you're getting olives off of it.
"You shall not go over the boughs again. It shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. And when you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterwards. You shall leave it, or it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I command you to do this thing."
This is God's welfare program. God's welfare program was, when you pick up your crops, it's harvest time, you leave a little bit. Now Boaz took this a little further with Ruth. He said to his reapers, leave some of the sheaves and handfuls on purpose. Leave them down there. And let her glean, and do not reproach her. Let her glean. That is how God solved the problem of need. And, by the way, Jesus used that law. In the Gospel of Mark, in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. Matthew 12, Mark 2, Luke chapter 6, Jesus was out in the grain fields on the Sabbath picking heads of grain. Reaping them.
So what this did, in doing it this way and leaving some of this stuff out in the field, some of the fruit, some of the grain, it brought dignity to the poor. Because they could do it when nobody is seeing. Nobody's watching, so it didn't put them on the spot. They could do it in their own leisure. But, number two, it brought dignity because though they could go out and get it, they had to go out and get it. They had to do a little work. They couldn't just sit there and put their hand out. If you want it, go get it. So it brought dignity because they had to do some labor.
And I think you do a disservice to just give something to someone without them getting involved in some degree of the process, in working for it. To just give a food stamp out or something, without any kind of cooperation, I think is wrong. And it hasn't served this country well. So God cared for the poor, that was the welfare system, but that person had to be involved in the labor in order to get it. It wasn't free.
"If there is a dispute," verse 1, chapter 25, "between men, and they come to court that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked," please notice that.
Those who are righteous should be justified. Those who are wicked should be punished. Make it simple, do it quickly. Let what is right be right, let what is wrong be wrong. One thing about God's Word, rather than being politically correct, it's not PC, it's PR. Instead of Politically Correct, it's Practically Righteous. Keep it simple. Find out what is right and what is wrong, and say that's wrong, and that shall be judged. That's right, and that shall be rewarded.
And you'll find that over and over again in the Bible. Just keep it simple, keep it right. Discern between right and wrong. And justice should take place immediately, not years and years down the line. You'll see that.
"Then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows."
Fascinating. In those days, the judge was part of the process. He had to watch it happen. Now, why I think this is good, instead of just rendering a verdict and then take him off and do your thing, is it will keep the judge tender in his conscience if he sees somebody beaten in front of him.
Now, you'll see mentioned 40 stripes, that are mentioned. The Code of Hammurabi, those 282 laws, the compendium of laws from Mesopotamia, in their law it said 60 beats with a whip or a rod. The Assyrian laws gave 50 lashes, or beats, with a rod, whereas the law of Moses gave 40. And by the New Testament time, the rabbis kept it at 39. Some people think 39 to show mercy, just one less than the 40. But, really, it's so that just in case, you wouldn't go over 40. So you keep it at 39, you'll be safe.
"40 blows," verse three, "he may give him, and no more. Lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight."
Now, here's something to keep in mind. Because you may read this and go, this is horrible. This is brutal. I think it's healing. In those days, in the Old Testament times, they didn't have a prison system. And they certainly didn't have an overcrowded prison condition. They didn't lock people away for years. If you deserved something worthy of death, capital punishment. Take away the life. Something less heinous than that, corporal punishment. You get beaten with a rod, or with stripes.
Now, that's healing. That's healthy for a nation. It's done immediately and it's over. And it brings healing. You can heal up after that. Just like, for us in a spiritual sense, by Christ, by His stripes, we are healed, I believe that a nation can be healed in giving the appropriate and immediate punishment. Because, clearly, our system, once again, isn't working very well. Everybody who studies our system will say that. It's not working. Something's wrong.
God says-- (MOCKINGLY) Well it's so brutal, corporal punishment.
You know what? A deterrent indeed. Death, or you get beaten, then it's over, and the nation can heal.
Verse 4. A single verse used by Paul in the New Testament.
"You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain."
OK, picture this. You go out, and you get grain, right? You get the wheat and you put it on your threshing floor. But it's hard, so you have to separate the wheat from the chaff. So what they would do sometimes is bring in an animal. They would bring in an ox who would walk on it. And the weight and the heels would separate the grains and the chaff so that they could winnow it.
But because the ox is working around food, it would be very cruel to keep some of that food from him eating it. He's working around the food, and he's naturally going to want to eat some of it. And so don't put a muzzle on that ox. Let him eat. Since he's working in the food industry,
Let him enjoy some of the food. He's working for you. Don't muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain. So as time went on, Jewish law applied this not just to oxen, but for people working in the food industry. And it's a law, by the way, that some restaurants follow today. If you work for us, you can have food, certain amount of meals per day, or you get it at a discount, or whatever. So you don't muzzle the ox the treads the grain.
Now Paul uses this in Corinthians to speak of those in the ministry. And he says, quoting this verse, If we have sown for you in spiritual things, what is the big deal if we reap some of your material things? For those who work in the gospel should live from the gospel. And he quotes this, don't muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain. So it becomes a very seminal and important verse.
Verse five, "If brothers dwell together and one of them dies, and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family. Her husband's brother shall go into her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of her husband's brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son, which she bears, will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out in Israel.
But if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go to the elders at the gate and say, my husband's brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel. He will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of the city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and he says, I don't want to take her, then his brother's wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face--"
"--and answer and say, so shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house, and his name shall be called in Israel, the house of him who had his sandal removed."
This is a tough law. I'm so glad this is not in effect. Because I know a lot of guys that would opt for the loogie in the face, and the slap. It's just like, go ahead get it over with. Call me by that name. I love my brothers, but this is a tough law.
So the idea, as you can see, by the way, this is called the law of levirate marriage. Your bibles may say that, levirate marriage. I've seen that for years, some of you have seen it, but you don't know what it means. Levirate, L-E-V-I-R-A-T-E, levirate marriage. It comes from the Latin word, levir, L-E-V-I-R, which means husband's brother. This is the law of the husband's brother.
So if a man married a wife, had no son, so that genealogy that is male-dominated won't be carried on for the land allotment in Israel, his name could be blotted out. So the brother would do the service, providing he's with him in his home and unmarried, and can perform that function. And then his name would be perpetuated in Israel. That's the idea of it.
So that is what the story of the book of Ruth is about. The husband's brother is called, in Hebrew, the goel. The goel is the kinsman redeemer. The one who will redeem, but is related. So, in Ruth's case, there was no brother, but he was a relative of Elimelech. Do you remember Elimelech? And Elimelech went with his two sons and wife, and crossed into Moab because there was a famine in the land. And then they came back because the two boys and the husband died, and so Mom came back with Ruth. And Orpah, not Oprah, Orpah, stayed over in Moab. Ruth came back.
And so there was this plot of land from Elimelech. And Boaz fell in love with Ruth, and Ruth proposed to Boaz. And Boaz said, listen, I'd love to marry you, but that means taking the land and providing this kinsman redeemer role. However, listen to what he said, there is a relative closer than I am. If he doesn't want it then I'll do it.
So he goes to the man and says, hey, listen, there's a plot of land from a Elimelech. You're the closest relative, do you want to redeem it? And he goes, yeah, I want to redeem it. And he goes, OK, but there's one catch. In the day that you redeem the land, you also have take Ruth as your wife. Well, evidently he was married, because he goes, I'm not going to do that. So he went to the elders of the city. They took off the sandal off his feet, it's written in the book of Ruth, and then Boaz got the land, paid the money to redeem it, and got the bride as well. So all of that is based upon this.
OK, fast forward to Matthew 22. Don't turn to it, just let me tell you the story. So one day the Sadducees came to Jesus. Now, remember, the Sadducees were the liberals. They didn't believe in spirits, angels, miracles, they didn't believe in resurrection. So they came to Jesus, and say, Jesus, master, Moses said that if a man dies, having married a wife, but he has no child, no son, that his brother is to marry her and raise up offspring to his dead brother.
And then they continued. So, there were seven brothers with us, and the eldest brother married a wife. But he died, leaving no children. And so brother number two married her, but he died, having no children. So likewise the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, and the sixth, and the seventh. They all died. Of course, it's a kooky story, because, listen, if I'm brother number three, or four, I'm thinking, I'm not going to marry her. I don't know what she's doing, but she's killing off her husbands. She's putting something in their food. I'd be an idiot to do this.
But they come up with this stupid story, so then they said, so, they all died, and then finally she died. So, Lord, in the resurrection of the dead, whose wife will she be? See, they didn't believe in the resurrection. They knew of the law of levirate marriage, so they pose this as a straw man argument against the resurrection. See, the resurrection is fallacious, because if this happened, whose wife will she be in the resurrection?
And Jesus said, you're ignorant, or you err. You are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels. And then he said, now, back to the resurrection of the dead, God didn't say I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but I am the God of Abraham. In the present tense. Therefore, He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He's making a very important, linguistic point. And they walked away going, wow, that was profound. Silenced them. But they based the argument on this text.
I'm glad we're toward the end because you'll see why. "If two men fight together--" and, by the way, how many of you read in advance these scriptures? OK, so you know why I'm saying what I just said.
"If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals--"
We have a lot of fun in Bible study, don't we? You never know what's in this book, right?
"--then you shall cut off her hand. Your eyes shall not pity her. This is the only instance in the law of Moses where such a graphic mutilation act is given. The principle behind it is, women, when your husband has a fight with another man, a spat, an argument, disagreement, don't take away his honor by getting in, fighting for him, fighting dirty, hitting below the belt, quite literally.
And it says, "your eyes shall not pity her." We're running out of time, let's move on.
"You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small." One to buy, one to sell. "You shall have a perfect and a just weight, a perfect and a just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God has given you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God."
It's like having two sets of books. Be clean. Be above reproach. Our business dealings should be that way. Should be fair, equitable. And that's why, even we as a Church, every year, I've made it a practice all the way back to have an independent auditing firm, every year, audit the books on the church, just to keep everything squeaky clean. So the business practices are always above reproach. So in all of your dealings, be fair, be equitable.
Don't-- yeah, I really worked a deal and got that guy down so bad, he's going to hurt for months. Be fair, be equitable, because you're doing it in God's sight.
"Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks. All the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary. And he did not fear God."
This happened at a place called Refadim. The Amalekites mounted an unprovoked attack against the children of Israel. You'll remember the battle because Moses was raising his hands up in prayer, and as long as his hands were raised, the children of Israel prevailed. When he put them down they started losing. So Aaron and Hur lifted up his hands, and he prevailed during that time.
So the Lord said, you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from the face of the earth. Now they didn't do this until 400 years later, when Saul was fighting the Amalekites, but he spared the King, and spared some of the court, and spared the best of the animals. His name was Agag, the king Agag. And Samuel came in and got very brutal with Agag, and the king lost his head.
But, evidently, there were still Amalekites around, because when David gets to fighting later on, he comes from a battle against the Amalekites. So they were still around. In fact, it wasn't until King Hezekiah's day when they were obliterated. And they caused problems for the children of Israel in every generation.
Now, the Amalekites, Amalek, represents, for us, the flesh. In Exodus 17, God said that you will struggle and be at war with the Amalekites from generation to generation. So when it comes to our flesh, our old man, who we are in Adam, once you come to Christ and you are a new creation in Christ, you are a new man, you have new appetites, you have a whole new orientation, at the same time, the old man, as the old you, the old adamic nature is still a part of you, and so you struggle with that. The book of Romans is largely based on the flesh against the spirit, and part of Galatians as well.
So you and I are always struggling with the flesh, the Amalekites, from generation to generation. So you and I can have no pact, no covenant, with the flesh. You can't say, OK, so I'm not going to feed you now, but later on tonight, when nobody's looking, I'll indulge in this, or in that. You can't make any covenant. The only edict for your flesh is to crucify it, to kill it, to not feed it, and to walk in the spirit.
"Therefore the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around in the land which the Lord your God has given you to possess, as an inheritance. That you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget."
OK, so in the original attack, the Amalekites came against the children of Israel. They attacked the rear ranks. Listen, they attacked the pack at the back. That always is the case. Those believers who kind of move away, and aren't in fellowship, and kind of straggle and struggle, and they're off on the edge in the periphery, they're the ones that get picked off the first.
People say, oh boy, in ministry, you know, you're on the front lines, and it's always dangerous to be on the front lines. No it's not. It's the best place to be. In a battle, get on the front lines, because you're there with God's people and you march forward. It's those who are in the back. I don't mean those sitting in the back of the church.
I mean in the walk forward with the Lord, they're the stragglers. They kind of drift away in their quiet time, and drift away in their fellowship, and it's very sporadic. And they kind of withdraw from fellowship. Those are the ones the enemy-- and I can tell you story after story over the years of this church, where that has been the case.
Move toward the front lines. Get involved. Be very, very present. It's the safest place to be.
Father, thank you for your words, your wisdom. Much of this was immediate to the children of Israel at the time, but, Lord, principles still linger. I pray, Father, that you would just help us to appropriate what is to be taken to heart for us and apply that. We pray, Father, for everyone. All of us struggle with some aspect of our old nature. For some it's anger, for others it's lust, for others it's greed, for some it's all of it. But we struggle in some area. And I pray that we wouldn't make a covenant with the flesh, but that we would walk in the Spirit, so as not to fulfill the desires, the lust, the longings, of the old nature, our flesh.
And, Father, bring victory to your people. Bring strength to them. Each one that is here, Father, that's asking for something in particular, some need, bless, add, direct, strengthen, by your Spirit in the inner man. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
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