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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 3

A commentary on the third speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 9-13. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 11

Leadership under God

In Deuteronomy 11:1, Moses continues his third speech, saying,

1 You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.

God’s Charge to the Watchmen

The word translated “charge” is mishmereth, which means “guard, custody.” It is also a place where guards, or watchmen, are set. In other words, Moses was telling Israel that they were to act as watchmen to guard the words of the Lord so that they would not be perverted, discarded, or lost. The word mishmereth is used also in 1 Kings 11:5 and 6, where it is translated “keep watch” (NASB).

5 And he commanded them, saying, “This is the thing that you shall do; one third of you who come in on the sabbath and keep watch over the king's house 6 . . . shall keep watch over the house for defense.”

Hence, when we guard, or “keep watch” over the law (word) of God, we are fulfilling this command in Deuteronomy 11:1. We are not to allow the law to be discarded, as so many in the Church today have done. Likewise, Jesus Himself kept watch over the law when He fought against the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus told them in Mark 7:9, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” The result, Jesus said, was that “in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

Moses told Israel that they were to be watchmen and always take their responsibility seriously in guarding every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Statutes, Ordinances, and Commandments

Moses also speaks of “statutes,” or chuqqah. This means “that which is established or defined” (Gesenius). The statutes give greater definition to the commandments, so that we understand specifically how to fulfill the law in our own lives.

The “ordinances” (mishpat) are the procedures in the court, its litigation, and the act of deciding the case, including the penalties the court imposes. Mishpat is designed to restore the lawful order, correct the sinner, and pay restitution to the victims of injustice. The death penalty is imposed when the earthly court cannot restore what was lost (as in the case of premeditated murder). Hence, if the victim’s guardian or advocate does not forgive the crime, it must be settled later at the Great White Throne.

The “commandments” (mitzvah) are commands or prohibitions in general, but often used specifically of the Ten Commandments.

As usual, Moses equates loving God with hearing and obeying His word. If one loves God, he will keep His commandments.

Israel Bore Witness to God’s Acts

Moses continues in Deut. 11:2-4,

2 And know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the Lord your God—His greatness, His mighty hand, and His outstretched arm, 3 and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; 4 and what He did to Egypt's army, to its horses and its chariots, when He made the water of the Red Sea to engulf them while they were pursuing you, and the Lord completely destroyed them;

Most of the Israelites had seen these things, except for those under forty years of age who were born in the wilderness. Yet certainly, the story had been passed down to those children by their parents who had seen God's dealings with Pharaoh and his army.

5 and what He did to you in the wilderness until you came to this place; 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, among all Israel— 7 but your own eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord which He did.

Moses was referring to the Korah rebellion that is recorded in Numbers 16. Korah himself was a Levite who conspired with certain Reubenites (Dathan, Abiram, and On) to bring Democracy to Israel. Their hidden motive was that they wanted to replace Moses and Aaron, but their appeal to the people was that “all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly (kahal, “church”) of the Lord?”

God's disapproval was shown when an earthquake occurred, splitting the ground open, and swallowing up the offenders.

Two Governmental Extremes

There were two main problems in Israel when it came to government. The first was seen at Mount Horeb itself, when the people insisted that Moses should be the one to hear God's word and then relate that word to the people. This sowed the seeds of denominationalism, whereby men depend upon their leaders to tell them what God has said, instead of desiring to learn from God directly.

The second problem was the opposite extreme. Korah and his friends rejected the idea that God would call certain ones and give them authority in the church. Yet under both the Old and New Covenants, we see people given specific callings.

The five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11, for instance, was established to build up the church and to bring it to a place of spiritual maturity. Another example is parental authority, which was established to bring children to maturity. In both cases, the authority was not designed to be perpetual but to bring children to the place where they could, in turn, be entrusted with authority of their own.

Spiritual authority is not given to children, even if they are destined to be heirs of all things (Gal. 4:1). The Korah rebellion gained support among some Israelites who thought they were spiritually mature. In their pride, they thought they could govern themselves, because they claimed to hear God’s voice as well.

In fact, they were discontented with the moral restrictions placed upon them, not by Moses or Aaron, but by the laws of God Himself. In other words, they wished to cast off the restraints of the law of God and to decide for themselves what moral code to follow.

Democracy

The leaders of the rebellion tried to use truth as a tool to overthrow Moses and Aaron and to gain power over the people. The truth that they tried to use to their advantage was that God speaks to all men. On those grounds, they said, the people should be self-governing and did not need Moses or Aaron to lead them. The problem, of course, was that at Mount Sinai the people had already rejected hearing God’s voice. They had already worshiped the golden calf. As a whole, the nation had proven that it was yet incapable of leaderless self-rule.

In Scripture, mankind is only capable of self-rule when the law is written on their hearts, for then they do the will of God instinctively. But at that time, Israel was not ready for this. Like children, they needed leadership, and God had chosen Moses to lead them. The very fact that Korah questioned Moses’ calling to lead Israel showed that he really was not hearing God at all.

Korah’s underlying motives were rebellious and lawless. He really had no desire to do the will of God, but to rule in place of Moses. Korah knew that Democracy would appeal to the people, but he also knew that there is no such thing as pure Democracy. No Democracy makes everyone equal in authority. There will always be leadership, even in a Democracy. The more equal the people are, the more power the leaders have, and because they are imperfect, they tend to become dictators. We have seen this clearly in the past century in the Communist movement. In the name of equality, such governments produce slaves who are all equal in their slavery.

Korah Wanted the Priesthood

And so Moses told Korah in Numbers 16:10, “are you seeking for the priesthood also?” Korah was a Levite, or civil magistrate, so he was related to Moses, who was also of Levi. But Korah was not called to be a priest, much less the high priest. The priesthood was given to Aaron and his sons.

Likewise, it seems that the three Reubenites who backed Korah wanted to replace Moses, perhaps motivated by the fact that their forefather, Reuben, was the oldest son of Israel who had lost his position of leadership because of moral sin (1 Chron. 5:1).

To some people, the divine judgment upon this rebellion may seem like an over-reaction. Was it so bad to desire Democracy? Was it not good to desire equality? First, Korah was not looking for equality for himself, but only for the other Israelites. He wished to subject them equally to his own authority. He was the forerunner of today's politicians. The system of government that he tried to establish is what we have today in various forms.

The result of such thinking is now clear. The appeal for Democracy is due to men's lawless desire to cast off moral restraints and to obtain full sexual “freedom,” as a natural right. Those leaders who promise them such things are increasingly popular as the moral condition of the nation is debased and man becomes more animalistic.

The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, recognizes Jesus Christ as the Heir of the Kingdom, the One whose right it is to hold the Scepter, the One divinely appointed to rule that which He has created. The King is not appointed by men in a Democratic process. Neither are the callings of God given by men or taken by their own will. Instead, men are responsible to discern and to recognize the gifts and callings that God has placed upon men and women. In the personal absence of King Jesus, it is necessary for the leader(s) to know the law of God and to ask themselves at every step: “What would Jesus do?”

God is the only Legislator. Men's representatives are called only to pray, seek the will of God, and to enforce or interpret the laws that God has already legislated. In the Kingdom of God, no law is valid if it conflicts with the word of God. Neither should men support those who are not called to rule.

Our forefathers established a Republic. We now live in a Democracy. I advocate a Monarchy in the Kingdom of God.