ancient Greek courthouse March 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 15, 16, 17, 18

Preventing Corruption

Immorality, injustice in courts of law, inhumane treatment of people, greed, and tyranny; how do we prevent corruption in our lives and that of our society? In addition to their personal relationship with God (which we also need, more...), God gave several stipulations to the Israelites to prevent corruption from expelling them from their new land. We might apply some of the same principles to our lives so that we might prevent corruption.

There are many things God had the Israelites do before he brought them into the Promised Land (specific stipulations patterned after the Suzerain Treaty; more...). Careful steps were taken to prevent corruption by the ungodly nations they were to dispossess. If they did not follow God's directions, then they would develop a deadly spiritual cancer that would force God to expel them out of the land, as he would soon do to the current inhabitants of Canaan. What could Israel do to prevent this? What can we do to prevent ourselves from losing God's blessings?

The Israelites would soon cross the Jordan River and receive their inheritance in the land of Canaan, their Promised Land. Some of them would become wealthy, while others would not fair so well. To prevent wealthy business men and land owners from becoming greedy, they were instructed to care for their fellow Israelites. In a land of “milk and honey” (an expression of agricultural prosperity), it would be tempting to use or even abuse their fellow Israelites for profit. They were not to make slaves of disadvantaged Israelites, but they could use them as indentured servants for a period of six years. The seventh year their debts were cancelled and they were allowed to go free. This is different from the year of Jubilee, where people and property that were sold were returned to each family every fifty years. Every seventh year not only were debts forgiven, but the wealthy were to give their former servants enough for a new start. Furthermore, the Israelites were to give the first of their grain, herds and flocks to the LORD's tabernacle servants, the Levites, for their sustenance. To prevent us from being greedy in today's culture, we should also give generously to those in need, and give to the LORD's service.

Second, to prevent the Israelites from adopting the idolatrous culture of the nations they were to dispossess, feasts were re-instituted. They were first detailed at Mt. Horeb in Sinai to the first generation of Israelites out of Egypt (Leviticus 23), and now Moses reminded the second generation the necessity of their continuance. These were times of celebration and rejoicing. Three times a year the Israelite males were to go to Jerusalem for feasts. The purpose of the feasts was to celebrate and remember what God had done for them. On the 14th day of the first month they gathered to remember their deliverance from Egypt (the Passover Feast and Feast of the Unleavened (yeastless) Bread). Fifty days later the men regathered to bring a grain offering of the firstfruits of their harvest, called the Feast of Firstfruits or Feast of Weeks. On the seventh month they gathered once again for a Thanksgiving harvest celebration, The Feast of Tabernacles. It began with a day of national repentance and restoration (the Day of Atonement) and a few days of rest. It was followed by a week in which the Israelites gave thanks for their crops and gathered in small tents made of palm branches to remember the care God gave them during their forty years of wilderness wanderings.

Though we are not a theocratic society, national expressions of thankfulness and devotion to God are as important today as they were to Israel. Christians would do well to begin their year by remembering what Christ did for them, delivering them from their sins and giving them eternal life, and by recommitting themselves to the LORD. Providentially, the timing of Thanksgiving and Easter correspond to the Israelite fall and spring celebrations. The Christian celebration of Easter is meant to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ from the dead to give us spiritual life. Although we are not commanded to observe a particular day of Thanksgiving (Romans 14:5-6), it is a good practice (Psalm 100). If we do observe Easter and Thanksgiving, then we need to properly remember the meaning of these celebrations to prevent us from adopting the customs of our ungodly culture. Christians must give special care to set the example for our children and give a testimony to our society so that God's blessings and his gift of eternal life may not be forgotten.

Third, to prevent Israel's expulsion, capital punishment was executed on anyone who was found to be worshipping any other god than the God of heaven or influencing others to do the same. God was jealous for the relationship between the Israelites and himself. God was also offended that he, the Almighty creator and provider, should be replaced by a fashioned block of wood or stone or precious metal that cannot see, hear, or help in any way. The offending Israelite would be killed to purge the evil from among them, Deuteronomy 17:7, 12. Not only was it an affront to God to worship idols, but the worship of these “gods” was connected with prostitution, child sacrifice, and other vile practices for which God was going to destroy the Canaanite nations. We, today, are not instructed to kill anyone for not worshipping God. And, we are not engaged in any Holy War. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We must, however, fear the LORD and not arouse his anger by discouraging people from trusting in him. At times we may fail or fall in our faith, but we are not to take others down with us.

Fourth, a system of justice was instituted so that court cases that could not be decided by the leaders of the people would go to the priests in Jerusalem. They were to judge according to the law and with equity. They were considered the Supreme Court of the land. They were to be especially sensitive to justice for the orphans, widows, and aliens living among them. A system of justice is a prevention of chaos and lawlessness. Just verdicts give peace. God instructs his people of every age to act with justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8).

Fifth, foresight prevents problems. God knew that eventually the people would want a king to lead them (1Samuel 8), although the LORD was their king. God was displeased by this, but he set out rules and regulations for the choosing of a king so that the king would not lead the nation to turn aside from following the LORD. God did this so that the people would have the best chance to receive his blessings. As we will see later, some kings did follow the regulations but most did not.

Sixth, to prevent their ejection from the land, capital punishment would be carried out on Israelites who practiced sorcery like the nations in the land of Canaan. Israel's reliance was not to be on demons and false prophets but on the LORD. The LORD promised to send them prophets like Moses upon whom they could rely (Deuteronomy 18:15). In the immediate context this probably referred to Joshua. Ultimately, the future prophet would be the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3:18-26). How could they tell who was a prophet of the LORD? The test of a true prophet of the LORD was his accuracy. Everything he prophesied had to be fulfilled exactly as he said and in accordance with the Word of the LORD. This test is helpful for us today. Those who proclaim to have a word from the LORD must prove consistency with the written Word of God. If not, we are not to listen to them no matter how knowledgeable, charismatic or likable they may be. They will disillusion us and spoil our inheritance. God's Word prevents us from being led astray.

Lessons to live by: To prevent corruption in your Christian life

• Have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and maintain it (more...)

• Give generously to those in need and to the LORD.

• Remember the good things the LORD has done for you. Observe Thanksgiving and Easter properly and give testimony to God's works on a regular basis.

• Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We must, however, fear the LORD and not arouse his anger by discouraging people from trusting in him.

•  Exercise some foresight to prevent future problems.

•  Act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8b).

•  God's Word prevents us from being led astray.

Today's Bible memory verse:

Colossians 3:5 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (NIV)

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