Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 15
In today’s world, some suggest the Laws of the Old Testament were cold, oppressive, and lacking in grace. They are wrong! In their historical context, and understanding their application, you will find the Law and Commandments of the LORD not only just, but fair and judicious. For example, consider the guidelines for the borrower and lender (15:1-11).
Debtors, Lenders, and the Sabbatical Year (15:1-6)
The Sabbath Year, occurred every seven years, and was the year the LORD commanded the land to rest. Fields were not worked, seeds were not planted, and any vegetation that volunteered and gave fruit, were committed to poor, and the grazing animals.
What about a man’s debt, in the seventh year when they were not permitted to plant seed, harvest crops, and use a surplus to pay one’s debt? Because there was no harvest in the seventh year, lenders were not to press the poor for payment. The lender, in the Sabbath Year, was to suspend payment of a debt for the year (a non-Hebrew was not released of his obligation to pay his debt in the seventh year, 15:3).
If Hebrew lenders would show grace to their debtors, God promised He would bless the nation (15:4), and Israel would become a lender, not a borrower to other nations (15:5-6).
Lending to the Poor (15:7-11)
The poor are ever among us (15:11), and the LORD required His people to be charitable to them, especially those who were “one of the brethren,” meaning a Hebrew (15:7). God’s people were commanded to open their hand, and their heart when they looked upon those who were poor and needy (15:7). The lender was not to be miserly in giving to those in need, and was to “lend him sufficient for his need” (15:8).
In the matter of lending in the proximity of the Sabbath Year, it was probable some lenders might refuse to lend to the poor, knowing the seventh year might suspend repayment of a debt (15:9). Such reasoning was a sin in the eyes of the LORD (15:9b), and lenders were exhorted to give, and trust “the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (15:10).
Slavery, and the Release of Slaves (15:12-18)
Slavery was a cultural reality in the ancient world, and poverty was often the catalyst for one to become a slave. A Hebrew man or woman, unable to pay their debts, would become slaves to the lender (15:12). Unlike the abuses afflicted by the heathen upon their slaves, the LORD provided that His people would not become perpetual slaves (15:12). A Hebrew might serve six years, but on the seventh year they were to be released of their debt, and “go free” (15:12b).
When a slave was set free, a master was to ensure the slave would not “go away empty” (15:13). It was required that a master honor the one being set free, giving to “him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (15:14).
Some masters were so kind, and gracious, that some slaves would elect to continue as a slave for life, and have a hole pierced through their ear, marking them as such (15:17).
Dedication and Consecration of the Firstborn (15:19-23)
Remembering the tenth plague in Egypt, and how the LORD had spared the firstborn of Israel where the blood had been applied to the doorposts; that deliverance was forever memorialized by dedicating the firstborn male in Israel to the LORD (Exodus 13:2, 15).
The firstborn of cattle, and sheep, were to be unblemished, and offered as a sacrificial meal (15:19-20). Firstborn oxen were not to be worked in the fields, nor were firstborn sheep to be sheared, for they were the LORD’S. Should the firstborn be blemished, it was not a worthy sacrifice, and would therefore be eaten like ordinary meat (15:21-23; 12:15).
I close inviting you to consider how the Law of the LORD was gracious, and it protected the poor from harsh lenders, slaves from cruel taskmasters, and extended seasons of hope, and relief to the people.
Remember, all offerings were a type of God’s final, and perfect offering for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the firstborn of Mary, was the perfect, sinless, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith