April 12, 2015

God is Practical and Wise

Deuteronomy 23:1–25:19; 2 Corinthians 6:1–13; Psalm 39

Those who read the Old Testament laws and think “how restricting” might be surprised to see how practical they are. This morning, I notice a few, and am thinking that if Christians obeyed these laws (they were given to ancient Israel and most no longer apply except in principle), what a difference it would make in our modern world. Here are the ones that caught my attention . . .

“You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” (Deuteronomy 23:19–20) Any greed or tendency toward self-interest would be curbed if I had zero desire to make money on every financial transaction and on every loan made to others. (Jesus made it plain that these laws were not about curbing actions as much as they were about having a righteousness in my heart.”

“If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.” (Deuteronomy 23:24–25) The principle again is about generosity. This law does not allow others to take advantage of my kindness, but at the same time, it means I cannot be stingy.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.” (Deuteronomy 24:5) This one doesn’t fit me, but it certainly applies to many couples. God is more concerned about strong marriages than he is about ‘work’ related obligations.

“You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. 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.” (Deuteronomy 24:14–15) The horror of hold-backs happens. How many employees are in dire straits because their employers cannot or will not pay them what they have earned?

“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” (Deuteronomy 25:4) This one again shows that God’s laws are about my attitude just as much as they are about being fair and treating others with respect. What is an ox? They were used like a threshing machine or combine to separate the grain from the rest of the plant. If they were muzzled, they could not eat the grain. But they were doing all the work, and God wanted them to have a share in the profits. This verse says much about God too.

The NT reading adds to the reasoning behind thinking and acting in ways that God approves. It enhances our testimony to the world that we serve an amazing God whose heart is wide open to all . . .

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:3–13)

The psalmist understood the brevity of life and the importance of focusing on what has eternal value. I could withhold all I have, build up a truckload of cash, hoard rather than be generous, but I know the brevity of life too. These words echo in my heart. I need to pay attention to God concerning what I do and how I think about my possessions and about the value of others. When people, even fools, look at me, God wants them to see His wisdom and glorify Him.

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! (Psalm 39:5–8)

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