In this week’s corporate pursuit of Deuteronomy we continue with the rehearsal of the law. Message 16 covers the worship of God and messages 17 and 18 touch on the divine government among God’s people.
Concerning worship, John 4:23 says “But an hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truthfulness, for the Father also seeks such to worship Him”. God is seeking man’s worship, and to worship God is to care for His need. As those pursuing the Lord it is our longing and aspiration to meet His need and be well pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9).
In week 4 we covered the place of God’s worship. There we saw four specific principles from Deuteronomy 12 that apply to us today. The place of God’s worship must be: (1) the place of oneness among His people, (2) the place where He has put His name, (3) the place of His habitation, and (4) a place where there is an altar, signifying the cross of Christ. There are seven additional points related to the worship of God embedded within the book Deuteronomy (chapters 14-17, 23 and 26). Through our study of these points we can learn valuable principles for our worship of the Lord that we may care for His need.
One of these principles is found 23:21-22, which says “When you vow a vow to Jehovah your God, you shall not delay in paying it; for Jehovah your God would certainly require it of you, and it will become sin in you. But if you refrain from vowing, it will not become sin in you”. At certain points in our lives our heart may be touched to make a particular vow to the Lord. However, with time, we may become occupied and forget what we had promised Him. We may even say to ourselves “Since the Lord is so great, He probably doesn’t really need what I had offered to Him anyway”. Yet, these verses show that our vows are precious to the Lord! God respects our free will (v. 22), but at the same time, He desires that we would remember and care for Him by fulfilling the vows we have made.
Regarding the matter of God’s divine government among the children of Israel, it is critical that we see from the scriptures that this government was a theocracy. Deuteronomy 16:18 shows that judges and officers were to be appointed over the children of Israel. Then chapter 17 presents how a complicated civil suit was to be settled by these officials, providing an illustration of how they governed by the way of theocracy. Verse 9 says “And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is presiding in those days and investigate the matter; and they shall declare to you the sentence of judgment”. Verse 12 goes on to say “And the man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands to minister there before Jehovah your God, or to the judge, that man shall die. Thus you shall utterly remove the evil from Israel”. While verse 9 shows that the judgment was to be spoken by the priest and the judge, it is verse 12 which indicates that the judgment actually came from God Himself through the priests ministering before Him. To minister to the Lord is to come to His presence and focus on Him alone (see Ministering to the House or to God by Watchman Nee, free online version here). The priests and the judges did not administer justice based on their opinions or by a vote among the assembly. Rather, they received God’s speaking by spending time in His presence! Hence, God’s people were governed by Him, that is by way of theocracy. For the details concerning God’s way of speaking to the priests, please see the Life-study of Exodus Message 26, God’s Speaking Through the Urim and the Thummim (free online version here).
As New Testament believers we all are priests (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6)! However, God has established the elders to take the lead in the church (Acts 20:28; 14:23; Titus 1:5; Heb. 13:17). By spending time in His presence to minister to Him, they receive His instant word to lead the church according to His direction. When the elders take this way, the church life is also governed by means of theocracy. May each of us function as today’s priests, spending time in God’s presence focusing on Him alone!
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 say “And if in a man there is a sin, a cause worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree; His corpse shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you must bury him on that day. For he who is hanged is accursed of God, and you shall not defile your land, which Jehovah your God gives you as an inheritance”. These verses present a type of Christ as the One Who was hanged on a tree, becoming a curse on our behalf (Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24). Deuteronomy may seem to be a book for the children of Israel. Yet, the primary purpose of Deuteronomy, as with the entire Old Testament, is to reveal the wonderful Person of Christ! Luke 24:44 says “And He said to them, These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms concerning Me must be fulfilled”.
Chapters 22 and 24 of Deuteronomy go on to cover several aspects of God’s government related to marriage life. The judgments spoken of here are severe in many instances. This severity helps us to see how serious marriage is before God that we would view it with fear and reverence. He desires that His people would be pure and decent in every way. May we be preserved to have a marriage life in honor for His testimony (Heb. 13:4).