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28th February

Deuteronomy 17-20; Psalm 59

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
28th February

Deuteronomy 17-20; Psalm 59

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Deuteronomy, we’ve read through the beginning of Moses’ sermons to the new generation of Israelites. We noted how the perspective shifts, so now it seems like the narrator is looking back at this time in Israel’s history from their future and from the other side of the river.

We read as Moses recapped how the Israelites got here from Egypt, reminding the people where they've come from and what God has done.

He then moved on to his sermons, challenging the Israelites to avoid idolatry and to follow the Lord's command. He reminded the people that they are a chosen people. Not because of their might or righteousness but because of his faithfulness and goodness. They were to be obedient if they wanted to experience his blessings.

And so Moses moved on to recap and restating the laws, starting with Israel’s worship. They were to avoid idolatry, dealing harshly with those who suggested otherwise. They were to continue in ritual purity, and in practices like the tithe.

Then yesterday, we read how justice was to be a key part of their worship. They were to look after the poor and to judge rightly.

Deuteronomy 17-20

This next section of the law from Moses picks up on this theme of justice by going through the laws that guide those who judge.

But before Moses gets there, he has one last topic about worship he wants to discuss. Those who worship other gods.

We’ve already covered those that lead others to worship other gods, but Moses wants to make sure that even those who do it in quiet and don’t tell others need to be punished. It is a corruption that should not be allowed to spread.

And so we move to the instructions on Israel’s leaders. When an issue is too important or too complex for the people to judge themselves, they can come to the priests and appointed judges.

Whatever the priests and judges decree is then the answer. The people were not to take justice into their own hands and decide to go against the priests' and judges’ answers. A functioning society needs order.

Moses then moves on to kings, knowing that eventually the people will seek to appoint a king over themselves.

In other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, the king was almost all powerful. Whatever they was law. They could do whatever they want and everyone had to obey them.

But here the king isn't actually given any particular authority or power. The people are not told to obey him or that he should be the one to judge their conflicts.

Really there are only two main instructions for the kings. Firstly, to not be greedy and acquire a lot of stuff for themselves; horses, wives, gold and silver.

Secondly, they must make his own copy of the law and he should keep it with him always and read it regularly.

Basically, the most important thing about a king is their heart. These rules are to encourage the future kings to be men after God's heart, caring about the things he cares about.

We then come back to the Levites and priest, with instructions for their provision which we’ve seen multiple times before.

The next type of leader Moses covers is the prophet. At first he lists the kinds of behaviours that would claim prophecy but are forbidden.

These abominable practices include trying to hear from other gods, speak to dead people, or discover the future. In each of these cases, the people are trying to get supernatural information outside of their relationship with God.

But Moses encourages the people they don't need to use these abominable practices, because God will rise up prophets who will speak to him for them and reveal what God is saying.

This comes with a warning that some might pretend to be prophets and are not. The simple litmus test is, have they prophesied something that didn’t end up happening? Then they are a false prophet.

A whole study could be done just on this, but it’s worth noting that Old Testament prophecy and New Testament prophecy are not the same.

The Old Testament prophet was an individual called out from many to speak on behalf of God. It was essential that they hear and speak accurately as the whole nation depended on them.

In the New Testament, prophecy is given to many in the church. We all get to hear from God and can share what we’ve heard him say. But in this, as Paul says, “we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9).

In modern prophecy, we sometimes make mistakes. The test then is not, did it come true and if not they are a false prophet. The test is really, if it did not come true does the person who said it acknowledge and own up to their mistake.

This brings us to the last section of rules in Deuteronomy, focusing on civil and judicial laws, including the military and elements of social justice.

The rules on cities are much of what we've heard before. They people are to set up Cities of Refuge for people who killed by accident so they could flee and not be killed in retaliation.

The laws on war are also fairly familiar to us. When they wage war with cities that are not part of the land promised to them, they are to offer peace first, and then failing that go in and kill everyone.

But when waging war against cities within the land promised to them they are to just go in and destroy everything.

When we looked at Deuteronomy 2, I explained that I believe this is because the people are to purge all traces of the descendants of nephilim from the land.

Psalm 59

This psalm is attributed to king David and refers to 1 Samuel 19:11-12 when Saul sent men to David’s house to kill him. The psalm falls into the category of lament psalm.

A) Psalm 59:1-2 - Prayer to God

B) Psalm 59:3-8 - Complaint against the wicked

C) Psalm 59:9-10 - Trust in God

B) Psalm 59:11-15 - Curses on the wicked

A) Psalm 59:16-17 - Praise to God

The psalmist opens with his request to God. Deliver and protect me, O God. Their enemies are rising up against them, pursuing evil and seeking their blood.

Next comes the core of the psalmist’s complaint. Their enemies are chasing them to take their life, despite the fact the psalmist has done nothing wrong.

The psalmist then uses this as a parallel for all of Israel’s enemies that might tear Israel down. The psalmist asks that God punish these other nations for their wickedness.

Then the psalmist turns back to their problems. Their enemies are like howling dogs, shouting lies and abuse. They think they can do what they like.

But God is above and sees all. He mocks the attempts of the psalmist’s enemies and Israel’s enemies.

And so the psalmist declares their trust in God. God is their strength and their fortress, because he is a faithful and loving God.

From there, we move back to requests. The psalmist asks that God doesn’t do away with their enemies quickly. If so the people will forget and will slip back into wickedness quickly.

Instead, they ask that God make an example of their enemies weakening them and trapping them in their own wickedness.

Let all the people see that it was their own curses, lies, wrath, and wickedness that led to their own destruction so that other might learn to avoid these.

This finally leads the psalmist to praise. They will sing praises of their God, who is their strength and their fortress, because he is a faithful and loving God.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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