The Scriptorium

Concerning the Assembly

We don't need to understand everything. Deuteronomy 23.1-8

A Holy Nation (3): Deuteronomy 22-24.4 (3)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 122.1-4
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together,
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the LORD,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the LORD.

Psalm 122.1-4

(Nettleton: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing)

I was glad when they said to me, “To the Lord’s house let us go!”
Holy City, let our feet be firmly planted in your soil.
Jesus builds His Church forever, where His people sing His praise!
As Your Word decrees forever, we will thank You all our days.

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 23.1-8

1. What is being protected in these verses?

2. What reasons are given for excluding some?

In some ways, the words assembly and people refer to the same entity: the people God called and assembled to Himself as His people. But the word assembly refers to a specific activity of the people of God, in which sacred ceremonies were conducted as offerings to the Lord. One could belong to the people of God, but not be included in the assembly.

Why is that? For all the instances mentioned here, the primary motive is symbolic. There is no indication of blame for the one who is mutilated (v. 1) or of illegitimate birth (v. 2). Further, those Moabites and Ammonites excluded from the assembly were not to blame either, since they would not have been among those who resisted Israel’s passage (vv. 3, 4). These symbolic acts would have reminded the people of God that they were to be holy, and to remain separate from their historic enemies and their pagan ways (vv. 5, 6).

Edomites and Egyptians were not to be “abhorred” (vv. 7, 8). They could be permitted in the sacred assembly for the reasons given in verse 7.

Do we understand what God required here? Yes we do. It’s all quite clear. Do we understand completely why He required this? No we do not; nor do we need to understand all the reasons why God says or does anything. Knowing Him, being loved by and loving Him, we trust what He determines implicitly, resting in His holy and righteous and good character to do only that which is what ought to be.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“…none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt…” (Deut. 23.3, 4). Jesus could certainly have been harking back to this passage when He spoke to His disciples on the Mount of Olives about the separation of the sheep and goats: “‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink…’” (Matt. 25.41, 42). In the Old Testament, the Ammonites and the Moabites had another option. They could have offered bread and water to God’s people and never fallen under the curse of God. Now we too have another option. We can feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, take in the strangers, and visit the prisoners. And instead of being told to depart the Presence and assembly of the LORD, we will hear these words: “‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matt. 25.40). “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world…” (Matt. 25.34) “because the LORD your God loves you” (Deut. 23.5).


1. What’s the lesson to us from the Ammonites and the Moabites?

2. God calls us to worship Him in the beauty of holiness. What does this suggest about how we should prepare for corporate worship? For our daily devotions?

3. We can understand what God expects, but not always why He expects it. Explain.

by this symbol God would admonish the seed of Abraham how exalted was its dignity, as being separate from the polluted heathen. Meanwhile, He would not altogether exclude these unhappy persons from the hope of salvation... John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 23.1, 2

Thank You, Lord, that in Jesus Christ You have made me holy, so that I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 122.5-9
Pray for your church, that God will cause His peace to prevail there, that many good works may issue from your congregation, and that all your fellow church members may increase in love for the Lord.

Psalm 122.5-9
(Nettleton: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing)
On the throne of David, Jesus sits to judge the nations all.
As our holy peace increases we are safe who on You call.
Grant us peace, Lord, by Your favor; for Your people’s sake we pray.
For the Church’s sake, O Savior, we will seek Your good today.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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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).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore