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The first portion of Deuteronomy 23 gives laws dealing with foreigners—people that might be potential enemies. Moses understood how human nature often caused people to treat foreigners unjustly, simply because the love of God is not sufficiently rooted in men to reflect the mind of Christ. When a foreign nation has certain undesirable characteristics, or when they cannot be trusted, men tend to lump all of those foreigners into a single camp and fail to distinguish the individuals who may be righteous.
And so Moses speaks of this in verse 9, saying,
9 When you go out as an army against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing [dabar, “word”].
The law of God forbids “evil words” (propaganda) against the enemy when going to war. Most nations justify such propaganda and indulge in it regularly in order to motivate their troops to fight and kill without question. Such practices are often done because the political leaders are actually the ones who have perpetrated injustice upon the nation they are fighting, and so in order to give their troops the sense that they are fighting for a just and worthy cause, they spread lies.
When the truth cannot be admitted, men turn to lies to justify themselves. Politicians justify such actions on the grounds that it is in the interest of their own nation. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said it well: “Every nation acts in its own self-interest.” He said that to justify America’s actions. However, Kingdom-minded believers act in God’s best interest, rather than their own. They stand above self-interest, establishing equal justice among the nations.
Those who preach the gospel of Christ are engaged in a type of warfare. For this reason, Deut. 23:9 applies to Christian believers in their warfare. Their warfare is not carnal, of course, for Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:4 and 5,
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying the speculations [logismos, “thoughts, imagina-tions, presumptions”] and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
How does one destroy such carnal viewpoints apart from the truth? Shall we convert men through lies and deception? I recall many years ago a preacher that I knew made a special trip to talk to a radio preacher who had been teaching a series on the pre-tribulation “rapture.” When they sat down to talk, the rapture preacher immediately agreed and even brought up Matt. 24:29 and 30, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days… they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky.”
My preacher friend was dumbfounded. He came expecting to inform the preacher of something that he did not know, but found him to be fully aware of the truth.
“Why do you teach something that you yourself do not believe?” he asked.
“Well, it gets people thinking about the second coming of Christ, and so they get saved.”
In my view, he had a lawless way of preaching the gospel.
No doubt some did come to Christ through his preaching, but all things are begotten “after its kind” (Genesis 1:24). I suspect that there is a hidden curse of blindness that is passed on to such converts without their knowledge, much like genetic defects and mutations are passed down to our physical children.
I know of a number of well-known preachers who believe some form of the Restoration of All Things, but they continue to teach doctrines they themselves do not believe. They justify their actions on the grounds that if they taught the truth, the people’s financial support would vanish. They would be bankrupt within a month. They have committed themselves to a large budget of television shows, orphanages, and employees who would be out of a job if they were to teach the truth.
Moses tells us that this is a violation of the mind of God, for when we engage the enemy, we are to keep ourselves from every evil word (lie). Why should we overthrow “every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God,” and then deliberately replace it with another lie? It is bad enough that we all have our blind spots, but to justify lies and propaganda as being “for the greater good” is a violation of biblical law.
The government’s Department of Propaganda seems to have set the example of disinformation that some Christian ministers follow today.
Moses continues by giving us a law that seems strange, but it actually expresses the heart of this very problem. Deut. 23:10 and 11 says,
10 If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp. 11 But it shall be when evening approaches, he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp.
This is one of those laws that few people understand, because they view it carnally through the eyes of the Old Covenant. Indeed, under the Old Covenant the law was applied in a very physical way. But why would God be so concerned about a nocturnal emission? Like many laws, earthly applications were meant to teach and illustrate a spiritual principle. We learn best when we can visualize something through a real-life illustration.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 4:15 (quoting from The Emphatic Diaglott),
15 For though you may have myriads of leaders in Christ, yet not many fathers; for in Christ I begot you through the glad tidings.
Paul thus claims to have fathered the Corinthian church, not by the seed of men but by the gospel, or “glad tidings.” His preaching established this church in Corinth (Acts 18). His efforts were not in vain.
How does this, then, relate to the law regarding nocturnal emissions in Deuteronomy 23? A nocturnal emission pictures ineffective preaching, which does not beget anything. The word of truth ought to have a positive effect upon the hearers, whereby they are begotten by the seed of the word.
That which is begotten in us is Christ (Col. 1:27). John also speaks of this holy seed within us, saying in 1 John 3:9 (The Emphatic Diaglott),
9 No one who has been begotten by God practices sin; because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten by God.
While most translators assume that John was speaking of the Christian himself, John was actually speaking of that which has been begotten in the believer—that is, Christ in the believer. The seed of God abides in that “embryo,” even as the Holy Spirit conceived Christ in Mary. The result is that the Christ in us “cannot sin, because he has been begotten by God.”
And so, when genuine believers sin, it is not the Christ in them who sins, but rather their flesh—that which was begotten by the first Adam. Paul makes this clear in Rom. 7:17, saying,
17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me.
We have within ourselves, an “old man” and a “new man.” The old man is Adam, which we inherited by natural birth; the new man is Christ who has been begotten in us by the word of truth.
The point is that as we are faithful to preach the word, we are begetting Christ, so that the seed of God may be in everyone who responds by faith. This word is powerful—but only if the Holy Spirit is involved. Apart from the Holy Spirit, preaching is just another nocturnal emission, which falls to the ground and begets nothing.
The law of Moses teaches us that a nocturnal emission renders a man unclean for a day. This shows us the importance of being led by the Spirit and preaching or teaching the word by the power of the Holy Spirit. If this law makes us dissatisfied with the effectiveness of our preaching, the solution is not to cast aside the law but to press in to the heart of God, seeking His face to know how to be more effective.