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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17
Laws Governing Annual Feasts (Deuteronomy 16:1-17)
With the urgency of a leader who knew his days were waning, Moses continued his challenge to Israel and prepared the nation to go forward without him. Because worship was principal to that nation’s heritage, it was essential for the people to have a central place to revere and offer sacrifices to the LORD. Unlike the heathen, whose towns and villages had their deities, and places of worship, Israel’s worship was to be where the LORD had chosen “to place His name in” (16:6). The Lord would eventually choose Jerusalem to place His name.
The Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-8)
“Three times in a year,” the men of Israel were required to “appear before the LORD” (16:16). The first was the “Feast of the Passover,” which occurred in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, “the month of Abib” (later identified as “Nisan” in the post-captivity era, and occurring during our months of March-April, 16:1). We have considered the Passover in the past, and are reminded this feast day was observed by the sacrifice of a lamb; thus, commemorating the LORD sparing the Hebrews because they had applied the blood of a lamb to their doorposts in Egypt (Exodus 12:22).
The Paschal Lamb was a pre-figure of Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Also, commemorating Israel’s hasty exodus from Egypt, leaven was purged from the households and not eaten during the Passover (16:3-4). The Old and New Testaments used the nature of leaven as a type or picture for sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9).
The Feast of Weeks (i.e., Pentecost) (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)
The “Feast of Weeks” (also identified as Pentecost) was the occasion of the second gathering of the men of Israel and was observed for seven weeks after the Passover (16:9; Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 34:32; Acts 2:1). It marked the time of harvest, and giving the LORD the first fruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). It was memorialized with freewill offerings.
The Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13-15)
The third feast to be observed annually by Israel was the “Feast of Tabernacles” (16:13-15; Numbers 29:12). Also described as the “Feast of Ingathering,” it was celebrated by dwelling in booths (temporary shelters) and marked the end of the harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:42).
Civil Order and Justice (Deuteronomy 16:18-22)
Because the tribes of Israel would be geographically distant from one another in the new land, it was important for one system of law and justice to govern the people and the nation (16:18). Prejudice in matters of judgment was condemned. The bribery of a judge was considered an act of wickedness (16:18-19).
Deuteronomy 16 concluded by reminding the people that it was forbidden to establish an altar apart from the Tabernacle (16:21), and the LORD hated the worship of idols (16:22).
Sacrifices and Justice (Deuteronomy 17:1-7)
After reminding Israel that the LORD accepted only pure, unblemished sacrifices (17:1), judgment and justice were addressed (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
We noted in an earlier devotion how the law required two or more witnesses for crimes that demanded capital punishment (17:4-6). Moreover, witnesses to a capital offense (for instance, idolatry, 17:3-4) were required to bear the gravity of the death sentence, laying their hands upon one condemned (17:7).
The Sanhedrin and a Court of Appeal (Deuteronomy 17:8-14)
In “matters of controversy” (17:8), where there was some uncertainty, judgments would be taken before the priests who served as judges (17:8-10). The Law of the LORD, not the law or rule of a king, served as Israel’s authority (17:14).
Justice and the Character of a King (Deuteronomy 17:15-20)
What manner of man would the LORD have to rule Israel? Knowing Israel would aspire to be like other nations and have a king rule over them (17:14), Moses established the character of the man whom God would choose (17:15-20). He was to be a man of God’s choosing and a Hebrew (not a “stranger,” or non-Hebrew, 17:15). He was to be a man of humility and not set his heart upon many horses, wives or riches (17:16-17). He was to have a copy of the Law of the LORD written by his hand and kept beside his throne. The king was to not only be a student but a keeper of “all the words” of the law and statutes (17:18-19).
The Law of the LORD would remind the king that he was not above the law or the people (lest “his heart be lifted up above his brethren,” 17:20).
Take a moment and ponder the character of the man whom the LORD would have to rule His people: Humble, selfless, and law-abiding. Tragically, world leaders in our day fall short of God’s standard for leadership. Leaders in our day have forgotten that no one is above the law. Tragically, they have led our nations down the path that inevitably leads to God’s judgment and destruction.
While 2 Chronicles 7:14 was a conditional promise made to Israel, it is my prayer for my nation.
2 Chronicles 7:14 – 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Questions to consider:
1) What bread was Israel forbidden to eat during the Passover? (Deuteronomy 16:2-4)
2) Where was the Passover to be sacrificed? (Deuteronomy 16:5-6)
3) What historical event did the Feast of Tabernacles commemorate? (Deuteronomy 16:12-13)
4) What was Israel not to sacrifice to the LORD? (Deuteronomy 17:1)
5) How many witnesses were required to put a guilty sinner to death? (Deuteronomy 17:6)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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