There is no holiness, but social holiness….’we’re all in this together’

18 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR : Deuteronomy 21 v. 1 – 22 v. 30; Luke 16 v. 1 – 18;

DEUTERONOMY
Atoning an unsolved murder – if a mysterious dead body is found in the land, the judges and elders measure to the nearest town, and the elders of that town sacrifice a heifer in an untouched valley. The priest will step forward, and lead the townsfolk through a washing of hands over the heifer, as an atoning sacrifice.

Marrying a captive woman – it is permitted to marry a ‘beautiful woman’ from amongst the people taken captive, after she has lived within the household and cut herself off from her own family. She is protected from being treated as a slave, whatever happens – even if the man takes a dislike to her (that would be dishonourable).

Rights of the Firstborn – protection for the rights of the firstborn son, even if the man fathers a son by a wife he loves much more. The firstborn son receives a double portion of the inheritance, with all others (including wives) receiving one share each. Sometimes it’s necessary to protect the rights of a child from its unrighteous parents.

Rebellious Son – Oh dear – a warning to all rebellious sons (who do not obey their father and mother, who are layabouts or drunkards). There was a time when the solution was to have the elders of the community stone them to death !! ‘You must purge the evil from among you.’

Various laws – ah ha : ‘anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse’, and once dead, must be removed on the same day. Can’t help but see the link to the crucifixion of Jesus ‘on a tree’, the irony of God’s chosen seen to be under God’s curse, and the need to deal with the body immediately, so as not to desecrate the land.
Don’t ignore lost property (ox, sheep, donkey, cloak, anything) – look after it until its owner comes looking for it, then give it back.
Don’t ignore a wonky donkey, or a fallen ox (even if it isn’t yours) – help it to its feet.
Cross dressing displeases God.
Strange law then, about being permitted to take the eggs or the young from a nest you find, but not the mother bird (let the mother bird go).
Protect the builders of your new home by putting up a parapet around the roof, so they will not fall to their death, and their blood be on your house(hold).
Keep different types of seed separate for different plots of land. Don’t put an ox and a donkey together for ploughing. Don’t mix fabrics (wool and linen, for example).
Make cloaks which always have four tassels on their corners…

It is striking to me that there is a community responsibility across all Israel – if one of their number is murdered, and no-one is found guilty – a whole town ‘pays the price’. We share a responsibility to care for one another’s possessions (even livestock), even if the owner is unknown to us (he is still my ‘brother’).

Marriage Violations – oh my ! A man cannot divorce a wife because he takes a dislike to he (some protection for wives in this); if he is found guilty of slandering his wife by telling the world she’d slept with others before him, he is to be fined a heavy fine of silver (paid to the girl’s father); if she is found guilty of having slept with others, she will be stoned to death. ‘Purge the evil from among you’.
Being caught in the act of adultery will result in both being put to death. ‘Purge the evil from Israel’ (the punishment of the man seems to have been forgotten in the NT story of the woman caught in the act of adultery).
If a man sleeps with a woman who is pledged to another for marriage, but are to be put to death.
If, however a man rapes a woman (who is pledged to another), he, alone, is put to death, she is innocent. (I just wasn’t sure how ‘provable’ this ever was, since it will rarely have attracted even one witness, never mind the two or more required for a conviction!).
If a man rapes an un-pledged woman, he pays a fine of fifty shekels to the girl’s father, and then he must marry the girl and can never divorce her. I know this is designed to be a protection of provision for the woman, who in that culture / society would be unlikely to find a husband after such a crime, but how cruel for the woman, to be linked to her rapist for ever ! Must have seemed like living out the painful reminder of that attack daily….

It’s clear that the intention here is to ‘purge Israel from all evil’, to attain to a purity in relationships, in ethics and morality. The ‘how to’, though, is so extreme here, and needs to be seen through the NT perspective of a deeper personal purging of sin, made possible only through surrender of all aspects of life to Jesus Christ, our prophet, priest and king. I am reminded of Jesus’ writing in the sand whilst the elders are ready to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery. His words, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, are the words of life for the woman. Of course, she is still instructed to ‘go and leave her life of sin’, but how exciting to be set free to live a renewed, reborn life, in Jesus.

LUKE
Parable of the Shrewd Manager – following on from the stories of ‘lost and found’ yesterday, here’s a story about a rich man and his manager, who is accused of wasting his master’s possessions. He is called to account and told he will be stripped of his duties.
He hatches a cunning plan, unable to think of another line of work. He speaks to each person who owes money to his master, and vastly reduces their bill (half of what is owed for olive oil, a fifth off a bill for wheat).
The manager is commended…why?
For his shrewdness (not his dishonesty) in preparing favour from the debtors to provide some future for himself when he is jobless.
How much more are we encouraged to invest what we have now for our eternity…..(store up riches in heaven).
Jesus is noting how even those who do not live ‘in the light’, commend others for their brave acts of cunning, but then goes on to talk about using our worldly wealth to gain friends and affect people’s eternal destiny, and about being trustworthy in what God has given to us.
You cannot serve two masters – in particular you cannot serve God and money! Loving one means you will be showing some level of hatred to the other.

Additional Teachings – Jesus points out that up to the time of John (the Baptist), people had only the Law and the Prophets to guide them; now they have the ‘good news of the kingdom of God’, and people previously ‘not included’ are ‘forcing their way in’….exciting stuff, but not for the Pharisees…..

I hear sarcasm in the voice of Jesus : ‘it’s easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the law….’ (it’s harder to talk of the kingdom of life and love breaking in, than it is to talk about laws and rules). However, my study bible suggests that Jesus is underlining the fact that He is fulfilling ALL law – not a drop, or a spot will disappear.

The laws about remarriage and adultery are underlined by Jesus…. 

PROVERBS
a warning about the dangers of ‘FOLLY’ – can seem attractive, but is loud and undisciplined, and positions itself in high places to be heard, drawing to itself ‘the simple….who lack judgment’.
‘Stolen water is sweet, food eaten in secret is delicious’, but it leads to death and destruction – the grave, rather than fulness of life…..

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