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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Communal Laws and Communal Life

Living in close proximity to other people reveals the sin and selfishness that reside in the hearts of individualsthat which destroys community.  As Israel prepares to enter the land of Canaan, Moses elaborates on a few areas of social engagement (Deuteronomy 19-21):

False accusations
Two or more witnesses provide protection from false accusation. One witness is not enough to convict anyone of a crime.

Accidental deaths
Accidents that take the life of another happen. To prevent retaliation and the escalation of violence, God establishes cities of refuge as safe places for those involved. 
Military strength and strategy
War is not for the faint-hearted, newly married, or preoccupied. Enemies far away are to be subjugated and plundered, but enemies nearby must be destroyed completely. Finally, resources for laying siege must be used wisely.  
Cold cases
When a body is found dead and the cause of death remains unknown, the tribe closest to where the body is found is responsible for atoning the person’s death.
Beautiful slaves and unloved women
Women disadvantaged by slavery, appearance, and love are not to be dishonored. 
Teenage Rebellion
Extreme teenage rebellion may require extreme measures. Out-of-control teenagers not only hurt themselves, but they hurt others in community. 
Neighborly conduct
Good neighbors care for the lost property of others until it can be restored. 
Gender identity
Women must embrace their femininity and men their masculinity. 
Promiscuity negatively affects individuals, marriages and families.
Sometimes men take advantage of women sexually; women who cry out when raped are not responsible for the violation. Only the man must die for his abuse.  
Laws are like property fencesthey create barriers against most intrusions but mere challenges for climbers. Those intent on abusing others ignore those laws and hurt others in the process. Communal life without communal laws isn’t community at all. 

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"When you go to war against you enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours do not be afraid of them because the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt will be with you . . . to give you victory" (Deuteronomy 20:1-40.

The reality of Christianity is that war occupies a significant place. We are at war against the flesh, the world, and the devil. Their forces are arrayed against us and in the natural it looks overwhelming . . . because it really is overwhelming! The enemies' resources are greater than ours; their financial pockets are deeper than ours; and their willing allies are more numerous than ours.

The truth, however, is that we don't look at the battle in the natural; we look at the battle through the eyes of faith. The Israelites were outnumbered by armies who are better equipped with superior armaments. Yet, the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan and drove out their foes. How? By faith. They believed the promise of God and they relied on the presence of God. God, in turn, acted by His power to fight for His people. God gave them the victory.

In the same way God desires to give you the victory today. He invites you to take your eyes off of your circumstances and to listen to His promises. Those who look at their circumstances never see the true picture because they only see in the natural. Like Elisha's servant they only count the Syrian army; they cannot see the hills filled with horses and chariots of fire of God.

Fighting by faith takes hold of God's promise, believes that what God has said is more true than circumstances reveal and marches forth to victory. What are you facing today? Is it so big that it has blotted out the promises of God? Or will you embrace the promises of God and see the victory?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Deuteronomy 19:1-22:30
  • How does this passage differentiate between intentional murder and unintentional? What provision does the Lord make to protect the person who kills someone unintentionally?
  • What are the basic rules for the testimony of witnesses?
  • What are the four exemptions for going to war?
  • How does the Lord protect the rights of the firstborn of the unloved wife?
  • What special penalty is attached to being hanged from a tree and how does this relate to Galatians 3:13?
  • Why does God prohibit unequal matches in nature?
  • What is the protection used for the girl falsely accused of pre-marital sex? What is the punishment for the girl guilty of premarital sex?
  • How does the Lord distinguish between the girl who is raped and the girl who willingly consents?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to look through the eyes of faith and the promises of God.