Deuteronomy, chapters 32-34

“Moses was 120 years old at his death. His eyes had not grown dim, and his strength had not departed.”

~Deuteronomy 34:7

I had the opportunity to share this passage with an elderly woman in the ministry last week.

She is in her late 70s and has been undergoing cancer treatment for the last three years.

She still has two more years of treatment before she can go back to her “normal” life.

The medication she takes has very painful side effects.

She cannot usually sleep at night and her bones hurt constantly.

I’ve known her for a little over a year and every time I visit her, she complains about the pain and wishes she could just let herself die.

Our initial visits were all about why God allows pain and suffering, whether life is ruled by karma or random chance.

In later visits we focused on God’s kingdom, the hope that one day earth will be without any pain, suffering or even death.

As we talked last week about Moses’s end-of-life, we noted that Moses did not start his life’s major work until he was about 80 (Acts 7:20-36).

So, even in old age, we should not face life with an attitude of giving up, as if the best is already behind us.

In my friend’s case,  she does not have the strength she had 15 or 30 years ago.

But she contributes so much to her family’s and neighbor’s quality of life just by being there, enduring, joking around with them.

Now she has finally learned God’s reasons for allowing pain and suffering, understanding that he is not the one to blame for our lamentable state.

Through that understanding she no longer feels angry at God, so whatever the future holds for her, she can be at peace, knowing he has her best interests in mind (Jer. 29:11).

Moses knew Jehovah “face-to-face,” and perhaps none of us will ever enjoy that privilege (De. 34:10).

But we can imitate the faithful attitude Moses demonstrated up until his last breath, even as he looked at the entirety of the promised land, conscious that he was not to enter it (De. 34:4,5).

‘For God is not unrighteous so as to forget our work and the love we show for his name,’ ‘therefore, do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day,’ (Heb. 6:10; 2 Cor. 4:16).

 

Deuteronomy, chapters 28-31

“But if you will not listen to the voice of Jehovah your God […] Jehovah will cause the disease to cling to you…”

~Deuteronomy 28:15,21

Did God punish Israel’s unfaithfulness by striking them with disease?

In isolated cases, God did intervene and directly punished some people with health problems in order to get them to change their course of action.

Examples of this are the story of Pharaoh in Abraham and Sara’s day, or the case of Miriam, Moses’s sister (Ge. 12:17; Nu. 12:9,10).

In most cases, however, the diseases the Israelites suffered were not a direct blow from God, but rather a result of bad decision-making and straying away from God’s high moral and hygienic standards (Pr. 7:21,27; Rom. 1:26,27; Gal. 6:7,8).

Another factor contributing to Israel’s physical ailments came to be the constant wars that were waged against it.

Jerusalem was besieged for several years before being burnt down by the Babylonians in 607 b.C.E. and then again by the Romans in 70 C.E.

The attacks Judea suffered fulfilled God’s warning that if his People constantly disobeyed him, he would not protect them from their enemies.

As a result, they suffered terrible famine and pestilence, just as Jehovah had warned them through Moses (De. 28:25-44).

Jesus foretold of future world-spread disease when asked about the Last Days:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences…” (Luke 21:10,11).

Although we cannot avoid the fulfillment of these prophecies, we can be sure they point to a time when Christ does away with physical suffering, for he promised “your deliverance is getting near,” (Luke 21:28).

In the mean time, we can protect ourselves from many avoidable diseases by simply following God’s high moral and hygienic standards and living a healthy lifestyle.

Deuteronomy, chapters 23-27

“You must not bring the price paid to a female prostitute or the price paid to a male prostitute into the house of Jehovah your God to fulfill a vow, for both of them are something detestable to Jehovah your God.”

~Deuteronomy 23:18

This is essentially a law against money laundering.

The principle that God doesn’t want dirty money calls to mind the story of Judas and the 30 silver coins he got from betraying Christ (Matt. 27:5).

After committing a grave sin, a person might feel compelled to right a wrong through financial methods.

But serious wrongdoing can only be erased before God if there is a turning of the heart (Eze. 18:31).

More important than the amount a person or entity donates to a charity are the spirit and means that were used to acquire that money.

Was it whole-hearted honest labor? Was it through the sale of something dear and valuable?

If we are living morally unclean lives, we cannot just buy a seat in the house of God’s true worship. Salvation would be a mere illusion (Eze. 7:19).

Religions hold a great deal of the blame, as they habitually accept considerable donations from organized crime members, a sin for which they will be held accountable (Rev. 18:4,5,8,24).

Deuteronomy, chapters 19-22

“If someone is found slain in a field of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess and it is not known who killed him, […] the elders of that city should lead the young cow down to a valley running with water where no tilling or sowing of seed has been done, and they should break the neck of the young cow there in the valley.”

~Deuteronomy 21:1, 4

To be honest, this passage shook my faith.

Why did the young cow have to suffer punishment if it had nothing to do with the murder?

Under the law, if the community did nothing about the murder, the elders of that community could be held accountable by God as having blood on their hands (De. 21:8; De. 22:8).

The ceremony with the heifer provided a concrete way of demonstrating to everyone in the surrounding areas that the murder had been officially investigated and remained unsolved.

The passage explains:

“Then all the elders of the city who are nearest to the dead body should wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken in the valley, and they should declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. “‘Do not hold this against your people Israel, whom you redeemed, O Jehovah, and do not let guilt for innocent blood remain among your people Israel.'”Then the bloodguilt will not be held against them.”In this way you will remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst by doing what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.”(De. 21:6-9)

If the murderer was later identified, he (or she) would still have to die on account of his (or her) actions (Nu. 35:30-33).

After discussing this bygone law with a brother in my congregation, he reminded me that sacrifices under Mosaic Law foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).

And like the innocent heifer whose life was taken as a result of human-spun injustice, so was Christ’s life taken as a result of humanity’s wrongdoings (Heb. 9:12-14).

The principle involved in this law is that human life is precious and its loss needs to be atoned.

We see the modern-day application of this principle when a congregation forms a committee to investigate the cause of death that was a result of one of its member’s actions.

For example, if the death was a result of a traffic accident, was the congregation member speeding? Was he (or she) distracted?

In such a case, the body of elders holds a judicial case in which they may decide to limit the member’s privilege to participate in certain activities (Matt. 18:15, 16; Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:16; 5:3).

Deuteronomy, chapters 14-18

You may then convert [the offering] into money, and with your money in hand, travel to the place that Jehovah your God will choose.

~Deuteronomy 14:25

God’s commandments are not so burdensome that they are practically impossible to carry out (1 John 5:3).

His main purpose behind having the Israelites congregate was that he wanted them to rejoice and show hospitality toward others (De. 14:26,27).

Even though the semi-annual trips to the assembly place carried expenses, physical effort, travel time, and business losses, God personally promised “Jehovah your God will bless you,” (De. 14:24).

Today we have many ways of contributing to the fulfillment of God’s will.

Although regular monetary contributions are useful, many of God’s commandments imply personal sacrifices in both time and effort.

We cannot exchange these acts of obedience for something more convenient, but God’s blessing will rejoice each one of his servants on a personal level.

Deuteronomy, chapters 11-13

“You must not worship Jehovah your God in that way. […]”You must not do as we are doing here today, with everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes,”

~Deuteronomy 12:4,8

Many people take on the philosophy that God accepts all forms of worship as long as they’re sincere, that ‘all paths lead to the same destination.’
That idea is not taught in God’s Word.
While sincerity is an important aspect of true worship, it is not the only one (John 4:24).
Those wishing to serve and worship God have always had to meet a certain level of requirements.
We can see this since the story of Cain and Abel all the way up to prophecies pointing toward a coordinated worldwide preaching work in the book of Revelation (Ge. 4:3-7; Re. 14:6,7).
Since these “preaching” prophecies pertain to the last days and are currently being fulfilled, it is more urgent than ever to “seek Jehovah your God wherever he chooses to establish his name and his place of residence and go there,” (De. 12:5).
This implies regularly attending Christian meetings and heeding the Scriptural advice learned there (He. 10:24,25).

Deuteronomy, chapters 7-10

“You must now cleanse your hearts and stop being so stubborn.”

~Deuteronomy 10:16

A more literal translation from the original Hebrew is: “And you must circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and not harden your necks any longer,” (De. 10:16, Reference Bible, 1984 revision).

Under Mosaic Law, Israelites were obligated to remove the foreskin of a baby boy’s penis eight days after birth (Le. 12:2,3).

It was a “sign of the covenant” Jehovah had formed with their ancestor, Abraham (Gen. 17:9-11).

However, physical circumcision was not the key to salvation.

They needed to be sincere in their dealings toward one another and accept God’s direction.

To “circumcise” the heart means to ‘love Jehovah with all your heart and all your soul,’ (De. 30:6).

This implies getting rid of immoral or arrogant attitudes which could keep God’s spirit from tapping into our thinking and motivating good deeds (Acts 7:51).

The aforementioned passage continues:
“Jehovah your God […] executes justice for the fatherless child and the widow and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. You too must love the foreign resident […]”(De. 10:17-19).

That is why the covenant Christ made with his followers did not call for a physical mark such as circumcision (John 13:35).

Rather, Christians are obligated “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world,” (Jam. 1:27).

In effect, “real” circumcision means to render sacred service with a clean heart by God’s spirit (Php. 3:3).