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2nd March

Deuteronomy 24-27; Psalm 61

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
2nd March

Deuteronomy 24-27; Psalm 61

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. Justice was to be a key part of their worship. They were to look after the poor and to judge rightly.

This led us to the instructions guiding Israel's leaders; judges, priests, kings, and prophets. We looked at some of the criteria and guidelines for these leaders.

We then started the final section of Deuteronomy's laws, looking at its civil laws. We read through rules on the cities of refuge and laws concerning warfare. Then yesterday was a broad collection of different rules, from handling unsolved murders, rules to protect women, dealing with lost animals and disobedient sons, and more.

Deuteronomy 24-27

Continuing on with the collection of civil laws, our first section of rules today are on divorce and remarriage.

If a man was to divorce his wife, and she was to remarry and then end up having that relationship breakdown, she could not then go back to her first husband and remarry him. Once you make this decision, you can't turn back.

The reason for this was to ensure that the people took divorce seriously. In some cultures, this practice was used for wife swapping so you could share your wives for a short period.

The next collections of laws mostly deal with protecting those who are disadvantaged. Some are protecting those who are poor, in debt and need to borrow. You aren’t to take the very things they need to make a living.

You also aren’t allowed to enter their house and start taking things to settle their debt. If it gets to that point, you are to wait outside as they bring you items. This is to protect their dignity.You shouldn’t oppress employees, but make sure you pay them fairly on time.

Others are there to protect the orphan and the widow. Together, they reinforce God's heart that everyone be supported so that everyone can survive and thrive.

We then get a weird collection of rules on what happens if a man dies without children. The expectation was that if this man had a brother, that brother was to take the dead man's wife as his own, get her pregnant, and then the son would belong to his dead brother.

The idea being that this would maintain the family line. Again, we see here a society where the individual wants and desires always came second to the community; the clan or the tribe.

In many ways, what the dead man's brother and wife wanted was unimportant. The most important thing was the family line. So much so that the brother was to be publicly shamed if he refused this responsibility.

Deuteronomy 26 is a whole section on tithes and offerings. This is a topic we’ve covered multiple times before (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Numbers 18:12–13; Deuteronomy 12:6; 14:28–29; 18:4).

What’s new here is the ritualistic process someone is to bring their tithe. We’re given the liturgy that the people are to repeat as they bring their offering.

This was to ingrain in the people the heart behind their offerings. This wasn’t something they were to do on autopilot. They were to use this as an opportunity to remember all that God has done for them, and how this in return is giving back to God and supporting others who have needs.

And that's the end of the rules and laws. Moses reminds the people that in going forward, they are committing themselves to all these rules. In return, God is committing himself to them. He will bless them and lead them.

Now that Moses has recapped all the rules and commandments, Deuteronomy 27 is the people beginning the process of recommitting themselves to this covenant, this commitment to a relationship with God.

Moses tells them that when they are established in the land promised to them, they are to make an offering committing themselves to all the laws and commandments.

They are also to go up two separate mountains. Half the nation should go up Mount Gerizim looking out the other half to speak blessings over them. Meanwhile, the other half should stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses over the first half.

These blessings and curses applied to all the nation, not just that specific half. The curses specifically applied for when the people were disobedient. The people were given a list of curses that started with “Cursed be anyone who” and then some breach of the law.

In short, if the people obey, they will be blessed. If they disobey, they will be cursed. In tomorrow’s reading, we’ll get the actual blessings and curses that will be applied to them.

Psalm 61

The psalm is attributed to king David, and while it doesn’t specify, it would fit with the period when David was on the run outside Israel.

The psalmist feels far away from God, but also wants to see the kingship of Israel sustained. Alternatively, it could be from the perspective of a king that is on a military campaign far from the Tabernacle/Temple.

The psalm falls into the category of petition psalm, where the psalmist is primarily making a request of God.

Psalm 61:1-5 - A prayer for refuge

Psalm 61:6-8 - A prayer for the king

The psalm opens with that common request, hear me O God. They are calling to God from a place that is far away. They feel both geographically and spiritually distant from God.

This psalm then gives us some interesting language and imagery. The psalmist asks they be led to the rock ‘higher than I’.

This could be a reference to God’s holy mountain. Either way, there’s two ideas conveyed through this imagery. The first is that the rock symbolises a place of security and stability.

Then secondly, the fact that it is ‘higher than I’ would also suggest that God’s presence is there and that the psalmist needs God’s help to reach it.

In short, this “rock that is higher than I” is God’s presence. The psalmist needs God’s help to get there, but once there, they know they will be safe and secure with God.

The next image is much the same. God is like a strong tower. A place of security where one could look out and see what was coming.

The third image is no different. The psalmist wants to dwell in God’s tent. Again, the tent of God was where God’s presence is and is a place where one can experience that presence and protection.

And the fourth image is also the same. The psalmist wants to be secure under God’s wings. These wings are meant to illicit the sense of God’s presence that you would find under the wings of the cherubim in the tabernacle and temple.

They are also meant to conjure up the image of a mother bird protecting their young. Why does the psalmist use four different images to say the same thing? Because images and language aid our ability to understand and communicate ideas.

You now have four new images that you can use and apply to your own life, which is something that both Israelites and Christians have done for thousands of years.

And so the psalmist turns their focus to the king. Some argue that here the psalm takes a messianic focus. As with most of the messianic psalms, the psalm likely had a meaning at the time, that could then also be applied to the messiah.

The psalmist asked that the king, or the throne, endures forever, throughout generations. Why? Because God is a loving and faithful God.

Because of this, the psalmist with sing God’s praise and perform all their vows.

This psalm is an important example to us of the power of imagery.

“The Psalms do not insist that we follow word for word and line by line, but they intend us to have great freedom to engage our imagination toward the Holy God”

Walter Brueggeman

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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