A Holy Nation (2): Deuteronomy 19-21 (7)
Opening Prayer: Psalm 132.13-18
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His dwelling place:
“This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation,
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
There I will make the horn of David grow;
I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
But upon Himself His crown shall flourish.”
(Finlandia: Be Still, My Soul)
God dwells among us, and He will forever, to meet our needs and clothe us with His grace.
He has to us sent Jesus Christ, our Savior, and made us His eternal resting-place.
His foes are banished from His Presence ever, but we shall reign with Him before His face.
Review Deuteronomy 19-21; meditate on Deuteronomy 19.14
1. What was the function of the cities of refuge?
2. How did God reinforce the centrality of the family in Israel?
In many ways, life is a matter of recognizing, accepting, and honoring landmarks. In the book of Joshua, once the land had been largely reduced, the people set about establishing their tribal territories. Each territory was delineated by natural landmarks, such as rivers or the sea or mountains, and the imaginary lines drawn to connect these. Each tribe was to occupy its territory and bring the land within its boundaries to full fruition.
Within those territories, people owned parcels of land. They were to work the land, to care for themselves and their families; and they were to honor the fields and vineyards, and the herds and flocks of their neighbors. Landmarks, in other words, not only ensured each tribe had its proper place; they also served to secure the families of Israel within boundaries and properties that were to be brought to fruitfulness before the Lord.
Marriages were another “landmark” to be honored. Adultery was regarded as a very serious crime, because it violated two “landmarks” and threatened that institution – the family – which was the foundation stone of society.
Truth itself was a landmark that must not be moved. Lawsuits and disputes were surrounded by the “landmark” of truth, so that false witnesses – who violated that landmark – were treated harshly, according to the pain they falsely sought to inflict on another.
Cities of refuge provided boundaries of safety. Criteria for going to war and conducting war also hedged the people of Israel within the bounds of divine mercy and justice.
People cannot live without boundaries, and those boundaries – social, ethical, and physical – mark the important landmarks that make for a stable society. God’s Law clearly identifies the most important landmarks to be honored, first among them being exclusive worship of God alone, followed hard by love for our neighbors and respect for their various boundaries. Jesus fulfilled all the Law of God, and He has become the landmark God has set for us to honor, respect, love, and follow in our day (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
In horticulture, a hedge is a fence or boundary formed by closely-growing bushes or shrubs. Spiritually speaking, it is the boundary God sets around us by His Law to protect us, and others from us. Satan challenged God concerning Job, “Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (Job 1.10). In frustration after his trials began, Job complained, “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in?” And again, “He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; and He has set darkness in my paths” (Job 3.23, 19.8). How like Job we are at times, to find God’s loving hedge as a frustrating constraint. But we, like Job, realize our mistake and say to God with the psalmist, “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Ps. 139.5, 6). We must observe and keep God’s boundaries and landmarks, for His glory and His merciful good toward us, His people. “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him” (Ps. 32.10).
1. Why is God’s Law like a “landmark” or “hedge”? How does it serve us?
2. How can we learn to derive abiding principles from the various civil laws of ancient Israel?
3. Can we expect to know God’s blessing and care if we neglect or violate His landmarks? Explain.
He who fraudulently removes a landmark is already convicted by this very act, because he disturbs the lawful owner in his quiet possession of the land; whilst he who advances further the boundaries of his own land to his neighbor's loss, doubles the crime by the deceptive concealment of his theft. Whence also we gather that not only are those thieves, who actually carry away their neighbor's property, who take his money out of his chest, or who pillage his cellars and granaries, but also those who unjustly possess themselves of his land. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 19.14
Thank You, Lord, for the boundaries and landmarks You have set for us. Help me to honor them today as I…
Closing Prayer: Psalm 132.1-12
We are heirs of a Kingdom that is without end, embracing all of life and advancing to make all things new. Thank the Lord for the boundaries and landmarks He has set up for you, and pray that He will help you to seek to bring His Kingdom to light within them all.
(Finlandia: Be Still, My Soul)
Remember, Lord, we pray, in David’s favor, the hardships he endured, the oath he swore,
the vow he made to Jacob’s mighty Savior: “I shall not enter through my palace door;
I shall not sleep, nor slumber my eyes favor, until I make a dwelling for the Lord!”
The word throughout the chosen nation spread, to Ephrata, and in the fields of Jaar:
“Now let us go,” the faithful people said, “and worship where our Savior’s dwellings are!
Around His footstool let our worship spread; come, gather to Him, all from near and far!”
Arise, O Lord, come to Your resting place; Your holy Presence meet with us in might.
Clothe us with righteousness in Jesus’ grace, and we will shout to Your divine delight!
For David’s sake, turn not away Your face, but look upon us in Your holy light.
Remember, Lord, the oath You swore to David; do not turn back, do not deny Your Word:
“One of your sons, with your throne I will favor, and He shall keep My cov’nant evermore, and walk within My testimonies ever, thus He shall ever rule as Israel’s Lord.”
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).