We Do Not Labor in Vain

This past Sunday I preached on Hebrews 11:6 and the great truth that we must not only believe that God is, but we must also believe that he rewards those who seek him. Here is a quote from Calvin where he makes the point that God does not disappoint. Rewards are part of what we strive for as Christians.

The prophet Isaiah would have us to fight against this temptation. [To believe that there is no reward for the righteous.] Even though the whole world should laugh the godly to scorn, and the wicked triumph over them, yet for all that the faithful should not be astonished, but say to themselves, “No, no, the righteous man shall not lose his labor; he shall not be deceived of his expectation when he depends wholly upon the promises of God. (John Calvin, Sermon on Deuteronomy 27:11-15)

Your Eye Shall Not Pity Them

Moses Angry

Can you imagine killing one of your family members, maybe your brother or sister? I know we all fight with our siblings and parents from time to time. But can you imagine actually raising your hand to kill someone close to you? For Christians this is a horrible thought. We know all the commands to love our family members. We know that he who does not care for his own household is worse than an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8).  We know that the Bible tells us that part of the gospel is to turn fathers to children and children to fathers (Malachi 4:6).  And yet despite all of this Biblical teaching we have these verses in Deuteronomy 13:

If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you (Deu 13:6-11).

An Israelite who led another Israelite away from God was not to be spared. It did not matter how close the relationship was.  They could be your closest friend. They could be a sibling or a spouse. They could be a parent or grandparent. Notice the phrase, “You shall kill him.” Not only was that false teacher and apostate to be killed, the family member was to initiate the stoning. There are several things worth noting in this passage.

Our loyalty to God trumps all other loyalties. It does not matter how close they to you. It does not matter how thick your bloodlines are. Love for God is supreme. This is part of the reason the family member had to cast the first stone. Jesus said the same thing.

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Mat 10:35-37).

In addition to loyalty to God, the passage also indicates that the purity of God’s people trumps our feelings about someone. No matter how much we love someone, we should not allow them to draw people away from God and hurt his covenant people.

It shows the seriousness of idolatry. The family member in our passage is not just encouraging sin. He is encouraging a particular type of sin: idol worship. Idol worship is rarely the rejection of God. It is usually the idea that we can worship God alongside someone or something else. The most obvious offender today is a professing Christian who believes that all religions led to heaven. Also a professing Christian who believes that sexual sins are not really sins at all. But there are more subtle forms of idolatry where Jesus is mixed with money or power or America or family. Idol worship was a capital offense in Israel.

When idol worship is dealt with God’s people learn to fear Him. Our temptation is to treat false teaching with kid gloves. We do not want to come off as unloving. We do not want to overreact. Yet God is clear. When sin of this magnitude is dealt with swiftly by God’s people, it draws his people nearer to him.

But How Does this Work Today? Continue reading

Day in Deuteronomy

This is the continuation of a study on the word “day” in the Pentateuch. For introductory remarks please refer to the initial post on Genesis.

I have divided these up into four (there is an extra one for Deuteronomy) categories: All the uses of day with a number, all the uses of “this day,” all the uses of day which in context mean a typical day, and any uses of day which could mean a long period of time.  

One additional note on Deuteronomy. The ESV translates the word “yom” as “today” 58 times in Deuteronomy. So you can add to this list 58 other places in Deuteronomy where the word “yom” means a typical, 24 hour day.  Where the ESV has “today” the KJV often has “this day” or “that day” or just “day.”
Uses of Day with the Number (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.)
(Deu 1:3)  In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them,
(Deu 5:14)  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
(Deu 16:3)  You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.
(Deu 16:4)  No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning.
(Deu 16:8)  For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God. You shall do no work on it.
Use of “This Day” in Deuteronomy
I have decided to create a category I did not have for the other books of Moses. The frequent use of this phrase stuck out to me as I studied.  “This day” in Deuteronomy can refer to different days, but it always refers to a specific point in time, not to a long period of time.
(Deu 2:22)  as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day.
(Deu 2:25)  This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
(Deu 2:30)  But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.
(Deu 3:14)  Jair the Manassite took all the region of Argob, that is, Bashan, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and called the villages after his own name, Havvoth-jair, as it is to this day.)
(Deu 4:20)  But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.
(Deu 4:38)  driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day,
(Deu 5:24)  And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live.
(Deu 6:24)  And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.
(Deu 8:18)  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

(Deu 10:8)  At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.
(Deu 10:15)  Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
(Deu 11:4)  and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day,
(Deu 26:16)  “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deu 29:4)  But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
(Deu 29:28)  and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.
(Deu 34:6)  and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.
Uses of Day Which Are in Context, Typical 24 Hour Days
Just a reminder that Sabbath Day is defined in Exodus as the Saturday at the end of a seven 24 hour day week. There is no reason to interpret it any differently in Deuteronomy. 

(Deu 1:33)  who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
(Deu 4:10)  how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’
(Deu 4:15)  “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire,
(Deu 5:12)  “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.
(Deu 5:15)  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
(Deu 9:7)  Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.
(Deu 9:10)  And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly.
(Deu 9:24)  You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you. [The “I” here is Moses, not God.]
(Deu 10:4)  And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me.
(Deu 18:16)  just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’
(Deu 21:16)  then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn,
(Deu 21:23)  his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
(Deu 24:15)  You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.
(Deu 27:2)  And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster.
(Deu 27:9)  Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the LORD your God.
(Deu 27:11)  That day Moses charged the people, saying,
(Deu 28:32)  Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless.
(Deu 28:66)  Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life.
(Deu 31:22)  So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.
(Deu 32:48)  That very day the LORD spoke to Moses,
Uses of Day That Could Mean a Long Period of Time
(Deu 4:32)  “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.
Of course, how you translate the word “day” here depends a lot on what you think of the creation account.  It could very easily refer to the sixth day of creation when God made Adam. 
(Deu 31:17)  Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’
(Deu 31:18)  And I will surely hide my face in that daybecause of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.
This is referring to a future time when Israel rebels against the Lord and the Lord brings his wrath against them for their sins. (Deuteronomy 31:16-21) Therefore this could mean a period of time in the future when Israel is judged by God. But it could also mean a specific day when God pours out his wrath on Israel. Looking at II Kings 25 where this prophecy was fulfilled, one finds numerous specific days mentioned (II Kings 25:1, 3, 8, 27). Any of those days would literally fulfill this prophecy. It could mean a period of several years while Israel was judged, but does not have to. If it does mean many years, that “day” is limited to a few decades at most.
(Deu 32:35)  Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’
Of all the verses, this one is the most difficult to interpret. What “day” is Moses talking about? It is similar to the previous verses in that Moses is talking about judgment coming upon Israel for her sins. However, a plain reading of the text is that this is referring to some future time when God will judge -Israel. Like 31:17-18 it could refer to a period of time, but that time period would not be long. 
(Deu 33:12)  Of Benjamin he said, “The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.”
This use of the word “day” is governed by the “all” prior to it.  A paraphrase could be translated “surrounds him all the time.” The idea is one of protection for the tribe of Benjamin. So here “day” does mean a longer period of time, but the reason we know this is the words that surround “day,” the context.

So unlike the first four books of  Moses, Deuteronomy has a couple of more difficult passages, but in the end there is nothing in those passages that indicate “day” could mean a long period of time. 

The research shows the following:
Every time the word day is used in Deuteronomy with a number it means a 24 hour day.
When it is not used with the number it usually  points to a specific day in the past, present, or future. 
There are a couple of spots where Deuteronomy uses “day” to mean a time period longer than 24 hours. However, we know these mean longer periods of time by the context. In these instances “day” does not mean millions or even hundreds of years. It means at most a a few decades. 

Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion

We often think about the differences between Mt. Sinai and our current worship. Hebrews 12:18-29 points out many of these differences. But how is the assembly at Mt. Sinai like our Lord’s Day worship services where we go up to Mt. Zion? Christopher Ash mentions four ways as he compares Exodus 19 to Hebrews 12. On the Lord’s Day

– We still assemble together.  
– We still assemble in the presence of God. (Hebrews 12:23)
 The God in whose presence we assemble is still a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)
– We still assemble to hear God’s Word. (Hebrews 12:25)

Biblical Justice Primer: Bearing False Witness

I have already discussed the need for Biblical law and Biblical judges. Now I want to turn to some specific changes that should be made to the American judicial system based on the Scriptures. The first change may seem odd, but I think it is essential.

Listen to the words of Deuteronomy 19:18-20
“And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you.”

One problem with the American justice system is the failure to punish false witnesses. I would put those who bring frivolous lawsuits in the category of false witness. A man can bring a charge, ruin someone’s reputation, spend thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, and get away free, even if he loses the case and is shown to have lied. I know their are perjury laws, but these do not compare with the Scriptures required punishment for  bearing false witness. The Scriptures place bearing false witness on par with adultery and idol worship. It is not a minor issue to lie about someone’s character or about what they did. Therefore if a case is brought and someone is found to be lying or purposely trying to destroy a company or individually by deceit then whatever they wanted to happen to that company or person should happen to them.

Adopting this policy would do two things. First, it would greatly reduce someone’s desire to bring frivolous lawsuits or to press charges when they are unsure of the other person’s guilt. You are not going to testify against someone unless you are sure of what you are saying.  Two, it would give innocent defendant greater confidence that they will hear a not guilty verdict. When the incentive to lie is taken away the innocent are usually set free.

Gathering Our Wits

“It is intolerable presumption for us to put our trust in creatures and to ground ourselves upon them, and yet there is no fault more common in all the world.  We can say well enough that it is not lawful, and that we ought not to do it, but meanwhile everyone does it.  Now, let us remember ourselves, for there is nothing that God holds more dear or whereof he makes greater account than His honor.  Neither is it sufficient for us to leave Him the mere title and name of God. He must be known as He is; that is to say, that all power lies in Him; that He is the fountain of all manner of grace and goodness; that it is His proper office to maintain and preserve us; that our life is in His hand along with all things that pertain thereto.  When we have thought well upon this, let us take order to gather our wits about us, so that we are not grounded upon creatures.” (John Calvin, Sermon on Deuteronomy 28:49-58)

Witnesses to Grace, Heralds of Damnation


“And indeed, does it lie within us [preachers] to promise men life everlasting or to denouce against them the vengeance of God? And yet we do it nevertheless, but we go no further than the Word of God, as it is put into our mouths. We have His testimony that we are his witness and heralds. By His “witnessess” I mean we assure the faithful of the grace and salvation promised to them and as His “heralds” we pronounce and publish His sentence against all the unbelieving and against all rebels.” (John Calvin, Sermon on Deuteronomy 28:1-2)