This week we come to the half-way point in our corporate pursuit of Deuteronomy using the Life-Study of Deuteronomy. In previous messages we have covered general advice and warnings given by Moses to the second generation of the children of Israel (see Week 3 and Week 4). Before moving on to the section of Deuteronomy that deals with the rehearsing of the general statutes and judgments (14:1-26:19), message 13 of this Life-Study gives a further sobering word concerning division and apostasy.
In the Old Testament, the apostates (people who practice apostasy) turned away from God and followed idols (Deut. 13:1-5). That was a great insult to God who would not tolerate such practices. In the New Testament, the term for apostasy is heresy, which is a denial of the deity of Christ (2 John 7-11). This heresy damages the person of Christ. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God does not tolerate apostasy or heresy. In addition, God was equally severe with those who make divisions among His people in the Old and New Testaments (see Week 4), because division damages the Body of Christ (Rom. 16:17), which is the goal of His economy. Whereas heresy insults the person of Christ, division damages the Body of Christ. Therefore, we must heed Moses’ warning to avoid both heresy and division and those who practice them. We can do this by being careful in our contact with others. If someone who comes to speak with us is full of life, then the more they speak, the more we are filled with life. However, if they are heretical or divisive, then the more they speak, the more inwardly or spiritually deadened we become.
Some saints may feel that instead of rejecting the divisive ones, we should receive them and love them. Being kindhearted, these saints may say, “Yes, this brother is wrong, and he is divisive. But why should we reject him? Should we not cover him with love?” However, the crucial matter here is that we should not tolerate what the Lord does not tolerate. (cf. Rom. 16:17).
Because we may contract these germs of apostasy and division through our contact with people, Deuteronomy 14 turns to the matter of having a holy diet, which typifies our contact with others. Just as the children of Israel had to be careful with what kinds of animal they ate, whether they were clean or unclean, so we must be careful with what kinds of people we contact because in our contact we may receive what they are and become like them – we are what we eat. Therefore, we must learn to be discerning in our contact with others in order to be preserved from catching the germs of apostasy and division. (For details on this, please see the Life-Study of Leviticus, message 36, which covering Leviticus 11; free online version).
Deuteronomy 14:21b says, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” The mother’s milk means the milk of the word of God and the kid to a new believer (1 Pet 2:2; Heb. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 3:2). We should not use the word of God to kill the new believers, but rather to nourish them. Then Deuteronomy 14:28-15:18 and other passages (26:12-15; 23:15-16, 19-20; 24:6, 10-15, 17-22) speak concerning aid to the needy. From verses 14:28-29 we see that the children of Israel were to offer tithes for the needy ones. If we, for the sake of God, take care of the needy ones, God will surely bless our labor and undertakings. This blessing will be a return to us from God. In 15:7-11, the children of Israel were required to lend to the poor brothers and not harden their heart nor close up their hand. Today, we also should not be reluctant to give to the poor brothers and sisters among us. Rather, we should be happy knowing that God will bless us and return much more to us. We need to realize that we will never suffer loss as a result of giving to the Lord.
In message 15, we come to Deuteronomy 15:12-18 which is a particular section concerning the freeing of a Hebrew servant. The Hebrew servant was to be released in the seventh year of service. However if the servant says “I will not go forth from you, because he loves you and your household, for it goes well with him to be with you; you shall take an awl and run it through his ear and into the door, and he shall be your servant forever” (v. 16-17). This is a type of us as slaves of the Lord Jesus making a choice as a free-will offering to remain in His service forever because we love Him and His household. When we make such an offering to the Lord Jesus, He will always accept it. The “ear” represents us, and the “door” represents God. By being “awled” to the door, we become one with the Lord and have a listening ear waiting at the door for our Master’s command. Message 15 also covers taking care of an escaped slave (23:15-16), not making a brother pay interest (vv. 19-20), taking a handmill or an upper millstone as a pledge (v. 6), taking a pledge from the borrower (24:10-13), and the wages given to the poor hired servant (vv. 14-15). These all speak of the person of God and His loving and righteous ways toward His people.
Finally, in Deuteronomy 24:17-22 is a word concerning remembering the need of a sojourner, an orphan, or a widow. If when the children of Israel reaped the harvest in their fields, they forgot a small portion or amount that was left in the field, they were to leave it there for the sojourner, the orphan, and the widow. This signifies that as we are doing our business, we should remember the needy ones among God’s children and have a heart toward them. If we have a heart to care for the needy ones, spontaneously we would set aside a portion for them. God would see this and in a secret way would come in to bless our work. May we be those who contact others with discernment, who protect our spiritual children, who have a listening ear in our service to the Lord, and whose heart and hand are always open to give something to help the needy ones!