Baldheads, Charity, Generosity, and Blind Justice (Deuteronomy 14-16)

Scripture reading assignment – Deuteronomy 14-16

Today’s scripture reading covers a wide swath of rules, laws, and regulations Israel was to follow as a nation in the Promised Land.

Outward Signs of Mourning Forbidden (14:1-2)

Deuteronomy 14 opens with an unusual command: “Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1).

Shaving one’s head as an outward sign of mourning had been a practice of the Hebrews (Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10; Ezekiel 7:18) and other ancient cultures. Reminding Israel, they were “an holy…chosen…peculiar people unto [the LORD]”, Moses commanded the men to no longer follow that practice when they entered the Promised Land (14:3).

The people were to be different, set apart in their diet, distinguishing between the clean and unclean as the LORD had commanded (14:4-21). They were to remember to give the LORD His tithe, and when the distance to bring tithes of beasts or fruits was too far, they were to sell them and bring the money to the sanctuary (14:22-26).

They were to be a charitable people, supporting the Levites who ministered before the LORD and caring for the poor, widow, orphan, and foreigner (14:27-29) with the promise the LORD would bless them “in all the work of thine hand which thou doest” (14:29b).

Deuteronomy 15 reminded the nation they were to observe the Sabbath year which occurred every seven years.

The Sabbath year was the year debtors would be forgiven their debts (15:1-5) and Hebrews who had enslaved themselves due to their impoverished state were released from servitude (15:12-15).

Permit me to invite you to consider several monetary principles and spiritual truths found in this chapter. The first, a sign of the LORD’S blessing on Israel was His prohibition against that nation ever becoming a debtor nation.  While they might lend to nations, they were to never borrow from them less they become their servants (15:6). Sadly, we as citizens of the United States, now over 20 trillion dollars in debt, find ourselves debtors to our adversaries.

A second truth is the perpetual presence of the poor in the world. We read, “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (15:11). The Hebrews were to be known for their generosity to the poor and needy.

A third principle is the requirement of generosity toward those who served their master or employer faithfully (15:12-18). A Hebrew slave who was given his freedom on the Sabbath year was not to be sent away empty-handed (15:12-14).  The nation was to remember they had been slaves in Egypt and were to extend compassion to their brethren.

Some who had served out their debt, and so loved their masters that they voluntarily accepted a lifetime of servitude, were marked by a hole in their ear (15:16-17). Hired servants were generally obligated to a three-year term; however, some were “double hired,” serving six years and were to be honored with the promise “thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest” (15:18).

Three feasts are recorded in Deuteronomy 16 (Feast of the Passover, Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles) and were given to all Israel to observe. The men of Israel were commanded to observe them each year in Jerusalem (16:1-16). The standard for giving at the feasts was, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee” (16:17).

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider the justice system Israel was to implement (16:18).  Knowing the tribes of Israel would be scattered in the Promised Land, it was essential that judges be appointed by each tribe. God valued justice, and judges were to be impartial and not prejudiced by bribes (16:19-20).

The law of God requires impartiality; however, in all fairness, I fear equity has been lost in our world, and the scales of justice weigh heavily in favor of the rich and powerful.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith