“Love Liberates” – Deuteronomy 15:1-18

October 8th,  2017

Dt. 15:1-18

“Love Liberates”

Aux text: John 8:31-36

Call to Worship: Psa 146

 

Service Orientation:  God designed and created humans in His image and likeness:  to be free moral agents.  Sin has perverted our ability to be free.  God loved us, so He sent Jesus to empower us to be free so we could free others.

 

Bible Memory Verses for the Week:  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  — John 8:32

 

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. — John 8:36

 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  — 2 Corinthians 3:17

 

Background Information:

  • This chapter continues the appeal for soft hearts and open hands begun in 14:22 by appealing for generosity toward the poor in one’s own family (vv. 1-11) and toward those enslaved (vv. 12-18). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 364)
  • Deuteronomy 15 teaches that God is openhanded and generous toward his people. He also desires them to be generous in return and to reflect his holy character.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 188)
  • Hebrew gives weight to an imperative or a promise by a double verb form: infinitive plus imperfect (e.g., “giving you shall give,” i.e., “you must surely/freely/generously give.”) there is a greater density of this emphatic construction in Deuteronomy 15 than in any other chapter in the book.  English translations have to use adverbs–e.g., richly (v. 4), fully (v. 5), freely (v. 8), generously (v. 10)–but the Hebrew, with its repetitive verb forms, has a kind of stereophonic double resonance that gives great weight and depth to the central theme of the chapter.  This is further doubled by the opening pairs of verbs in verses 7-8.  The required response to the needy was, (a) negatively (v. 7b), “Do not harden your heart” (the phrase, reminiscent of Sihon, 2:30, has ominous overtones of inevitable judgment), and Do not shut your hand”; and (b) positively (v. 8), “open your hand,” and “lend as much as he needs.”  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 190)
  • There is thus a double “push-pull” effect on the hearer. Generosity is commanded on the positive basis of God’s authority, blessing, and gift, and on the negative basis of God’s moral judgment against one who is hostile and grudging to the needy.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 190)
  • (v. 1) This law states that creditors, in the seventh year, must cancel all debts of fellow Israelites; they must not press for repayment, which under normal circumstances they would do. Creditors will also be obliged to return any pledges taken as security.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 487)
  • (v. 1) There is much debate over whether a debt was to be terminated permanently or suspended for one year, meaning the repayment could not be demanded during the course of the seventh year. The latter alternative seems probable.  At the end of seven years all debts that had been contracted were forgiven in the Year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 194)
  • (v. 1) God instructed Israel to issue a general cancellation of personal debt at the end of every seven years. The debts in question would range from minor to substantial and required the people of Israel to decide whether money was their primary standard of value in life.  Only those who recognized that financial success was secondary to other kinds of success would be likely to participate in such a cancellation.  Whether this ever happened on a large scale in Israel is open to question.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 190)
  • (v. 3) Foreigner: Hebrew, to be distinguished from the sojourner, whose residence is within the Israelite community; i.e., the law of remission does not extend to the foreigner who visits Israel for the purposes of trade.  The law is not intended to regulate the commercial life of Israel with the outside world.  It is solely for the relief of poverty within Israel and for the governing of relations between members of that community.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 428)
  • (v. 3) Why would God let Israelites demand repayment from a foreigner but tell them not to require repayment from a fellow Israelite? The foreigner was usually someone merely passing through the land, often a traveling merchant.  He wasn’t a citizen of the land and wasn’t bound by this or any other of God’s Sinai laws.  Even if he was staying temporarily in the land, he wasn’t subject to the command to allow his fields to lie fallow during the seventh year, so he was probably financially able to pay his debts.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 136)
  • (v. 7) On the surface the opening clause of verse 7 appears to contradict verse 4. However, the contradiction evaporates when we recognize that the earlier statement represents an ideal, whereas this statement recognizes the realities of life.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 368)
  • (v. 7) “Brother” often has broader meaning in the OT than blood brother, sometimes meaning “fellow-Israelite.” (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 488)
  • (v. 7ff) The passage is very much concerned with Israel as a family; that is why foreigners are not included, and why international debts are prohibited (v. 6). Rich Israelites are to recognize and treat poor Israelites as brothers (v. 7), and treat them with generosity and kindness.  The year of release must have been a fixed year, known to all, otherwise the exhortation of verse 9 would make no sense.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 93)
  • (v. 9) and your eye be evil. (NIV – harbor wicked thought) This expression is unique to Deuteronomy (15:9; 28:54, 56) among the books of the Pentateuch and means being envious or grudging towards someone (Prv 23:6; 28:22; Tob 4:6; Sir 14:3-10).  One of Jesus’ parables highlights a grudging attitude toward a generous owner who overpaid hired laborers (Mt 20:15).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 491)
  • (v. 9) There is some uncertainty about whether the debt cancellation was permanent or simply was to be deferred during the sabbatical year when crops were not grown (cp. Lv 25:1-7; Ex 23:10-11). Verse 9, however, strongly suggests that the temptation would be strong to withhold a loan to the needy just before the sabbatical year, a prohibition that has more bite if the debt cancellation was to be a permanent one.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 190)
  • (v. 12) Failure to repay a loan, if it occurred before the year of remission, could result in the debtor being forced to serve his creditor or be sold as a slave to someone else. His wife and children could be sold, or all of them could be sold together.  In Nehemiah’s time, a major crisis developed first because of a famine, then when people had to mortgage property and borrow money at (high) interest from fellow-Israelites, and then when some debtors could not repay the loans and had to sell their sons and daughters into slavery (Neh 5:1-13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 494)
  • (v. 12) If a person’s debt problems became extreme, the consequence might well be that the debtor himself and/or members of his family had to enter the service of the creditor (Lv 25:39 [cf. 2 Kgs 4:1-2]; Neh 5:4-5 [cf. Isa 50:1]). Slavery, or, better, slave release, is the subject of two separate Pentateuchal laws besides this one (Ex 21:2-6; Lv 25:39-46), all three having distinct features.  The subject of all three is debt slaves, as opposed to “chattel slaves,” that is, those who had the status of slave permanently.  There is a clear distinction between these two types in Mesopotamian law, the debt slave having greater rights than the chattel slave.  The OT also knows both types, the law in Leviticus (25:44-46) making a sharp distinction between the two, allowing only foreigners to be enslaved permanently.  Deuteronomy (15:17) allows debt slaves to become permanent slaves by their own choice.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 261)
  • (v. 14) Supply him liberally is literally “you shall garland him!” The master was to fashion a rich “necklace” for his departing slave, hanging flocks and grain and wine around his neck in abundance.  This would enable the one who now entered the still perilous status of a “freedman” to have some chance of economic viability.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 192-3)
  • (v. 18) The text seems to say only that such a servant was worth twice as much as a hired hand (double the hire). Perhaps what is meant is that through the years the servant’s labor was equivalent to that of a hired hand yet he had not received the daily wage of a hired hand.  He had, however, worked off his debt.  Thus the servant was worth double because the owner not only had the service of the servant, but he did not have to pay out anything for that service as he would have for a hired hand.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 106)
  • No evidence exists that the Mosaic economy in its details was ever fully implemented with its sabbatical years and years of Jubilee. Fulfillment would have brought a considerable redistribution of assets and nullification of indebtedness.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 104)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . How are we in bondage or slavery?   How can we be free?

 

Answers:  We are in bondage or slavery to the degree that we look for our salvation in anything or anyone other than Jesus.   Jesus alone can set us free so we can free others.

 

Sartre argues that God’s existence and man’s freedom are mutually exclusive categories.  If God exists, man cannot be free.  That is, if God creates man’s essence and governs his existence, man cannot really be free.  Freedom is not true freedom unless it is absolute.  Anything less than autonomy is not true freedom.  The idea of “limited freedom” is contradictory.  (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 182)

 

One of the greatest privations imposed by civilization, according to Freud, is the loss of free sexual expression.  Society imposes customs and laws that function as taboos.  As a result, man’s erotic life is dramatically mutilated.  The sexually mature individual must restrict himself to the opposite sex.  Extra-genital satisfactions are called perversions and forbidden.  Civilization requires a single kind of sexual life, ignoring dissimilarities and cutting off many persons from sexual enjoyment.  Civilization’s insistence on monogamous sex is sanctioned by religion, which exacerbates the individual’s sense of alienation.  All of this, says Freud, becomes a source of serious injustice.

Freud essentially called for and predicted the sexual revolution, which he did not live to see.  (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 195-6)

 

The motto on the New Hampshire license plate, “Live free or die,” is the ragamuffin motto.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, xv)

 

The chief result of the Fall is that we now determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.  But in this self-determination we are far less free and independent than the serpent’s lie convinces us we are.  In fact, to our natural, impulse-driven compulsions we are slaves and do not know it, comfortable in a state of bewitchment.  In modern language, we are in denial.

Into this cold, Luciferian illusion of freedom from sin, freedom from the consequences of choice, and darkness masquerading as illumination, God shone on ancient Israel the true searchlight of a law above, outside of and prior to fallen nature.  (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 163)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Free

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were. (Richard Bach, Jess Lair, Sting, Peter Max, Chantel Sicile, an anonymous high school student from whom everyone else stole this quote)

 

What does Deuteronomy 15 teach us about freedom?:

I-  God created and designed mankind to be free but we live in a world that promotes bondage and slavery. (Dt 15:1-11; see also: Gn 1-2; 2 Kgs 4:1-4; Neh 5:1-5; Jer 34:8-22; Ezek 13:20; Jn 8:31-36; Rom 6:6-22; 1 Cor 2:12; Gal 4:1-31; Jam 2:12; 2 Pt 2:19; 1 Jn 5:19)

 

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.  —French social philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self. — Albert Einstein

 

This call to deny the self is surely the very denial we have been seeking to put a stop to.  Doesn’t it mean that when we deny ourselves at a certain point, we are not in touch with our own humanity?  If we do not do what we want to do, are we really free?  And worse still, are we psychologically healthy?

That’s a natural response, but to deny the self is not the same as denial.  To say no to self does not mean we are not listening to our desires.  To deny self, when self is in conflict with God, is to save and protect our humanity.  What we are saying no to is the lie, the deception, the flaw, that, left unchecked, will destroy our humanity.  Far from deceiving ourselves by denying self when self wants to sin, we are at last seeing clearly.  When it contradicts the will of God, it’s self that is deceived.  God always wills our best.  (Rebecca Manley Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons, 161-2)

 

“Wherever the Biblical world view has been prevailed, there has been freedom.  Where it has been taken away, freedom has been lost.” (Chuck Colson; Wide Angle, Session 6:  What Do I Do Now?)

 

While some would call themselves free of the restraints of Christianity, Law saw it another way.  “They may live a while free from the restraints and directions of religion, but instead thereof they must be under the absurd government of their passions.”  And our passions, as any thoughtful Christian knows, are harder taskmasters than is our God of mercy and grace.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 66)

 

Pursuing what we want is possible.  It is easy.  It is a pleasant kind of freedom.  But the only freedom that lasts is pursuing what we want when we want what we ought.  And it is devastating to discover we don’t, and we can’t.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 14)

 

Nothing is as hard to suppress as the will to be a slave to one’s own pettiness.  Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty.  Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people.  There are many who have acquired a high degree of political and social liberty, but only very few are not enslaved to things.  This is our constant problem–how to live with people and remain free, how to live with things and remain independent.

In a moment of eternity, while the taste of redemption was still fresh to the former slaves, the people of Israel were given the Ten Words, the Ten Commandments.  In its beginning and end, the Decalogue deals with the liberty of man.  The first Word–I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage–reminds him that his outer liberty was given to him by God, and the tenth Word–Thou shalt not covet!–reminds him that he himself must achieve his inner liberty.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 89-90)

 

What we have received is a gift of grace, unearned in any way.  We need to understand that man’s free will is free only in that God never compels anybody to sin.  The sinner is not free to do either good or evil because his corrupt heart, formed by Satan’s dominion, always inclines him to sin.  Man is enslaved by that heart, a bondage that can be broken only by God’s merciful intervention.  (Emailed from Carole Jacobus 8/17/10)

 

The formula is simple:  when relativism holds sway long enough, everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes without any regard for submission to truth.  In this atmosphere, a society begins to break down.  Virtually every structure in a free society depends on a measure of integrity–that is, submission to the truth.  When the chaos of relativism reaches a certain point, the people will welcome any ruler who can bring some semblance of order and security.  So a dictator steps forward and crushes the chaos with absolute control.  Ironically relativism–the great lover of unfettered freedom–destroys freedom in the end.  (John Piper, Think, 114)

 

Bertrand Russell once said, “It is preoccupation with possession more than anything else that prevents man from living freely and nobly.”  If the object of your life is a great getting–of prestige, wealth, power–you are the victim of an ever-increasing appetite which can never be satisfied.  (Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Communicator’s Commentary: Luke, 275)

 

The institution of slavery was widespread in the ancient world.  Although Israelites would gain possession of non-Israelite slaves who were captives of war (Nm 31:7-12; Dt 21:10-14) or through purchase in the slave trade, Israelite indentured servants usually landed in this state through indebtedness or destitution.  Having sold their property to pay off a debt or having given it as security for a loan, they became a part of a creditor’s household, as a debt-servant or hireling.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 370)

 

The enemy does not appear with fierce countenance; he does not threaten us with retaliation if we begin to seek God.  Satan is far more subtle.  He manipulates the good things of God’s blessings to keep us from the best gift:  God’s Presence.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 121)

 

Any nation which for an extended period puts pleasure before liberty is likely to lose the liberty it misused.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 159)

 

Over time, the choices we make fall into ever more predictable patterns because the pattern of choices tends to be self-reinforcing.  As we practice certain behaviors, they become easier and easier and we become “better and better” at them.  As they become easier, we also tend to choose them.  The more we choose them, the more deeply embedded they become, and so on.  What starts out relatively free becomes less so as time goes on.  (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 144)

 

You are free to choose.  But, you are not free from the consequences of your choice.   (E-mail from Lacey Keef  9-4-16)

 

In modern western society, “the Market” is granted virtually idolatrous status:  it is “believed in”; it is personified; it is the alleged source of manifold blessings; its “forces” must be allowed to “reign.”  But it is also a mechanism for human greed and the relentless forces that drive some people into deeper spirals of debt, dependence, and bondage.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 195)

 

All that the creature could possess in itself favorable to its security, they had; God created them in perfect uprightness and holiness; they were bound by a law implanted in their nature,–the same as the law of nature inscribed on Adam’s heart, and which in substance corresponds with the moral law,–they were bound, we say, by this law to love God supremely, to obey him implicitly, to serve him devotedly and everlastingly.  No power could release them from this obligation; nor did they want the moral capacity to obey it.  The bent of their wills, the bias of their minds, the desire of their affections, were all towards it.  And yet they fell!  Why?  Because God left them to the freedom of their wills, which were mutable; and that instant they were left to themselves, they fell as lightning from heaven.  “I beheld,” said Christ, “Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”  If it had been possible for created power to have sustained itself, here was the glorious theatre for the display of that power.  Their natures were holy, the God whom they served was holy, the place they inhabited was holy, their companions were holy, their employments were holy, and yet they fell!  Again we ask why?–because no creature ever has or ever can, by any innate, inherent strength or power of his own, keep himself; that moment God leaves him to himself, that moment he falls.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 190)

 

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.  (Thomas Jefferson)

 

I said that every Discipline has its corresponding freedom.  What freedom corresponds to submission?  It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.  The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today.  People will spend weeks, months, even years in a perpetual stew because some little thing did not go as they wished.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 111)

 

The ending of verse 9 describes the consequences of such stinginess; it will force the impoverished to take their appeal directly to Yahweh and rouse him to declare a verdict on mean-spirited and tightfisted creditors (cf. Ps 69:33[34]).  As Moses declared in 10:18-19, Yahweh executes justice on behalf of the fatherless, the widow, and the alien (10:18-19), and in so doing he provides a model for human conduct.  The verdict, “you will be found guilty of sin,” contrasts with 6:25, where Moses announces the effect of wholehearted obedience: “That will be our righteousness” (cf. 24:10-15).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 369)

 

We are capable of being in bondage to:  lies/speech, finances/money, work, guilt,  relationships, gambling/games, sex, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, chemicals, government, religion/false gods, suffering/sickness, death.

 

A man is absent from church Sunday morning.  Where is he?  If he is in a hospital having his appendix removed his absence tells us nothing about him except that he is ill; but if he is out on the golf course, that tells us a lot.  To go to the hospital is compulsory; to go to the golf course, voluntary.  The man is free to choose and he chooses to play instead of to pray.  His choice reveals what kind of man he is.  Choices always do.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 158-9)

 

If advertisers thought that human beings were rational actors, self-consistent and centered, they would attempt to prove the superiority of their product in rational, perhaps functional terms.  Advertisers don’t, and this shows that they believe human beings are clusters of desires, particularly desires for novelty, for membership in a “cool” group, for envious looks from neighbors and friends, for a taste of the American dream.  Advertisers also clearly believe that human beings are susceptible to the influence of images, jingles, and slogans.  Selves are not fixed, and their desires can be manipulated.  Human beings can be brainwashed.  So not only does advertising shape desire, but every time an ad goes out that assumes human beings are decentered, changeable selves, it reinforces the postmodern view of the self.  (Peter J. Leithart, Solomon Among the Postmoderns, 145)

 

We also need to be redeemed and liberated from what the Bible would call false masters.

If , and we all do, if you feel the need to prove yourself, because we have this sense (as Kaufka said, of being a sinner) we turn to our job, we turn to academia, some of us were good students, some of us were going to try and be professors, we’re going to be scholars, some of us are going to go into career and we’re going to make money, or have professional success.  Some of us go into relationships, and if this person loves me and I have a family.  But, if we are looking to those things as our significance and security; they are not just a job, not just a school, they are not just a family; then they become a master.

Here is what a slave master is.  A slave master is someone who has no boundaries and someone who beats you up if you fail.  You see we often say, “O my boss who is here in New York City is a slave master.  Well, you don’t know what a slave master is.  A slave master has no boundaries and they can do anything they want to and they do.  And when you fail a little bit, they beat you.

And how do you know whether your family, how do you know whether your career, how do you know whether your school, is a slave master or just a family, a career or a school?  The answer is . . .  You can’t say no to them.  They are slave masters.  You work too hard.  You can’t stop them.  If you are enslaved in a relationship that means you can’t say no.  You can’t walk away.   You’ve got to have them.  They are your significance, your self, your security.  Same thing with making money.  Same thing with your career.

This isn’t just a job, not just money, this isn’t just school, this isn’t just a relationship; they are slave masters.  And if you don’t live up . . .  They beat you.  (Tim Keller sermon, “By the Blood of Jesus” )

 

II-  We should strive to be free and free others.  (Dt 15:1-4, 7-11; see also: Ex 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36; 23; Dt 14:29; 24:19; Jer 34:8-22; Mt 25:31-46;  Lk 12:33-34; 2 Cor 9:6-15; Gal 6:2, 10; Jam 1:27; 1 Jn 3:17-18)

 

Regular cancellations of debt would go a long way toward insuring that there would be no poor among the tribes of Israel.  The lost income to the wealthy would be replenished by the generosity of Israel’s benefactor, Yahweh.  The disappearance of debt would ensure that individual family farms would remain in those families and that poverty in Israel would be virtually unknown.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 191)

 

The interest-free loans anticipated here were not to be for business purposes or other commercial ventures, but for the relief of poor and insolvent people who might be victims of poverty due to war, famine, pestilence, a death in the family (2 Kgs 4:1), or some other adversity over which they had no control (Ex 22:24[25]; Lv 25:35-37).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 488)

 

Although we recognize the social and economic problems of the world outside the church to be symptomatic of a deeper spiritual problem that can be resolved only through the miraculous and gracious redemption wrought through Christ, God’s people will support all efforts to break down walls of alienation and oppression.  In so doing, they will also be declaring to the world how exceptionally righteous are his ways (Dt 4:7-8).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 377)

 

The law requires the master to provide generously for the impoverished person on releasing him or her (13-14), whereas Exodus merely regulated the release.  This element, in fact, is the heart of the Deuteronomic law.  It is expressed in terms that stress the dignity of the person being released.  “Provide” (14) is based on a word meaning “garland” or “necklace,” a rare term that expressed honor and even extravagance.  There is perhaps a memory of the jewelry that was part of the right provision of the Israelites by the Egyptians when they released them at last from slavery to go into the bounty of their own land (Ex 12:35-36).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 263)

 

Debtors would naturally feel the release of pressure if the creditor renounced all claims to the property given as pledge, and even more so if he suspended the payment for the loan that was due in the seventh year.  Just as allowing land a year to lie fallow (Ex 23:10-11) provided it with an opportunity to rejuvenate itself, so by suspending his rights to the loan and the pledge for one year, the creditor would offer the debtor an opportunity to catch his breath and hopefully get back on his feet economically.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 365)

 

Moses’ declaration of the ideal in Dt 15:4 points to a future when all wrongs will be righted.  The NIV renders the verse, “There should be no poor among you,” but it could just as well be rendered indicatively as a promise:  “There will be no poor among you” (ESV, NRSV), for when Yahweh lavishes his blessing on his people in the ultimate grant that he gives them, the utopian ideal will be reality.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 375)

 

Although we are not bound by this law at present, and it would not be even expedient that it should be in use, still the object to which it tended ought still to be maintained, i.e., that we should not be too rigid in exacting our debts, especially if we have to do with the needy, who are bowed down by the burden of poverty.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 154)

 

If a loan were requested in the latter part of Israel’s sixth year, the loan could not be recalled during the seventh and, in essence, the loan would be a gift.  Because the poor always had needs, it would be inevitable that some would need financial assistance just before the year of release.  Therefore, a loan to the poor during the sixth year meant the creditor would not be able to collect it.  To avoid an unwillingness by the wealthy to lend money at that time, Moses appeals for a generous attitude.  By acting generously, the people will experience God’s blessing and will prosper (v. 10).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 196)

 

Although faithfulness to the covenant would have made Israel free from poverty, God allowed for the possibility that some people in the land would be impoverished.  If this should happen in any of the towns of the land, people were not to pass moral judgment on the causes of such poverty.  They were not to avoid contributing to the financial betterment of a poor brother.  Rather, they were to be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needed.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 191)

 

God’s mercy comes to us without conditions, but does not proceed without our cooperation.  So too our aid must begin freely, regardless of the recipient’s merits.  But our mercy must increasingly demand change or it is not really love.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 93)

 

Too often, when a person has a hard heart, he or she thinks, “All of my wealth belongs to me.”  Actually, all the world’s wealth belongs to God, and he calls on us to manage it.  A person with a hard heart may also think, “The poor deserve to be poor.”  The Proverb says, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (10:4), and, “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (12:11).  The way the Lord often blesses people is through hard work.  But the Proverbs also say, “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy” (14:21), and, “Rich and poor have this in common:  The Lord is the Maker of them all” (22:2).  One of the ways God blesses the poor is through the generosity of the rich.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 138)

 

Cancel (vv. 2f.) is lit. “release the hand,” i.e. renounce one’s claim to, or power over, the pledge and thus the debtor.  Similarly, in verses 7, 8 and 11, opening or closing the hand (openhanded, tightfisted) speaks of the power that the creditor wields over the debtor.  The text is thus addressed, significantly, to those who have economic power.  The social response to poverty is put squarely in the hands of those who have hands–i.e., the power to do something effective about it.  It is not left to the self-effort of the unaided poor alone.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 190-1)

 

The relational language is seen in two ways.  On the one hand, the repeated description of the needy person as neighbor and brother draws on the covenant solidarity that made all Israelites “neighbors” and on the kinship solidarity that made them all likewise “family.”  And on the other hand, in verse 7 and in verse 11 there is a repetitive, rhyming, piling up of the second person singular possessive suffix, “your.”  Thus (lit.) “If there is among you a needy person, one of your brothers, in one of your towns, in your land. . .” (v. 7).  “Therefore I command you to open your hand to your brother, to your poor person, to your needy person, in your land” (v. 11).  The effect is missed in English translations when the people concerned are simply categorized as “the poor and needy.”  Deuteronomy insists on relating, not just classifying.  Poor and needy people belong, they are not just social statistics.  They are part of “your” community and are not to be marginalized, excluded, and victimized as an underclass.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 191-2)

 

Remarkably Moses permits Israelites to keep the pressure on the foreigner (v. 3a).  At the moment Moses is not concerned about foreigners’ well-being or about Israelites who make business loans.  The focus is on Israelites, who for whatever reason have fallen into debt (e.g., perhaps because of crop failure, accident).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 366)

 

Whenever there shall be any poor among your brethren, an opportunity of doing them good is presented to you.  Therefore the poverty of your brethren is to be relieved by you, in order that God may bless you.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 156)

 

Matthew Henry aptly comments that what we might call simple prudence can be sin.  In our world the structures and laws regarding debts and relating to poverty are very different, and a year of release would not be practical; but the principle expressed in verse 11 is of permanent validity.  Within the Christian family, the national family and the world family, our obligations have not changed in the sight of God.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 94)

 

The “needy (person)” is usually someone poor in material goods (15:7-9, 11; 24:14), although he can also be one who is oppressed and powerless (Amos 2:6-7; 5:12; Jer 20:13).  The Psalms speak often about the plight of the poor and needy and the help they should receive (Ps 9:19[18]; 12:6[5]; 35:10; 37:14; 40:18[17], and passim).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 490-1)

 

The original law (Ex 23:10f.) prescribed a sabbatical fallow year on the land.  The similarity of the two laws is not easy to see in the NIV, but the Hebrew phrase translated you must cancel debts in Dt 15:1 uses the same word as that translated “let the land lie unplowed” in Ex 23:11.  It is the root meaning “to release.”  So, in Exodus, the law prescribes, “For six years you are to [work the land], but in the seventh year you shall release it.”  In Deuteronomy, the law says, “At the end of every seven years, you shall make a release.”  The Deuteronomic law thus expands the scope of the fallow year from release of land from the “burden” of plowing, to the release of human beings from the burden of debt.  It thus picks up the humanitarian dimension of the original law, which was for the benefit of the poor (Ex 23:11b), and consolidates it through a specific measure aimed at alleviating the prime component of poverty–debt.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 187-8)

 

One of the remarkable features of Israelite law, especially emphasized by Deuteronomy, is the deep concern for the welfare of all individuals within the community.  Since much of the common law of Israel was simply adapted from the common law of the ancient Near East, this concern is the more remarkable.  Justice was not to be administered solely in accordance with the importance of a man’s stake in the community, i.e., with regard for class, power, and wealth, as was the custom elsewhere.  The principle behind the law was not “to every man his due according to his importance.” but rather, “to every man his due, according to his need.”  This meant that in law every effort was made to protect the poor, the weak, and the defenseless.  The whole purpose of the institutions of government and of the economy was to insure the welfare of all, and especially of the weak.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 427)

 

David Ramsey in his Town Hall for Hope 9/19/09 symol-cast said something to the effect:  Capitalism is necessary for economic Freedom.  But, not a capitalism that we have seen in the late 20th century.   Capitalism operates on a 3-legged stool.  It must have all three to be effective and stable:

*   Political freedom

*   Economic freedom

*   moral restraint

Thus far in the late 20th and early 21st century we have not shown proper attention to moral restraint for capitalism to work long term.

 

A second reason for this command to release Hebrew slaves after six years of servitude:  Israel was herself a slave in Egypt, and Yahweh ransomed her.  People are to emulate the kindness and generosity of Yahweh.  Let Israel never forget Yahweh’s most gracious act, upon which the entire law is based.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 496)

 

The transition from vv. 1-3 to vv. 4-5 is a move from the real to the ideal, the two passages linked by the intention to prevent poverty among the weak.  The contrast between real and ideal is even sharper when v. 11 is drawn into the picture:  “For there will always be poor in the midst of the land.”  The command in v. 4, however, becomes no less urgent because of the recognition that, in the world of contrary interests and mixed motives, the ideal state will not be attained.  The ideal is nevertheless strongly held out, the picture of absence of poverty being closely related to the familiar command to keep the whole commandment (5).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 260)

 

After presenting a law giving debt-relief to the poor, Moses now tells the people that there should be no need for such a law, since Yahweh promises to bless Israel with abundant harvests and economic success if it obeys Yahweh’s commands.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 489)

 

In this paragraph, Moses teaches that helping the poor is a heart issue because it is a financial one.  Three times he speaks of an open heart’s resulting in an open hand (vv. 7-8, 10, 11).  Matthew Henry said, “If the hand is shut it is a sign that the heart is hardened.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 195)

 

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness, which mankind now enjoys…Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government–and all blessings which flow from them–must fall with them.  (Jedediah Morse: Patriot and Educator, called “The Father of American Geography)

 

Aristides, a Christian in the early second century A.D., commented on the charity of believers:

They walk in all humility and kindness, and there is no falsehood found among them, and they love one another.  They do not despise the widow, nor do they grieve the orphan.  Whoever has, distributes generously to whoever does not have.  If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him, as if he were their own brother; for they call themselves brothers, not after the flesh but after the Spirit and in God. . . If they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for that name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him.  And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they don’t have an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days to supply the needy one with the food he needs.  (Aristides, Eerdman’s Handbook to Christian Belief, 267)

 

III-  True freedom can only come by being a devoted slave of Christ. (Dt 15:12-17; see also: Ex 23:10-11; 21:2-6; Ps 37:25-26; 40:4-8; 41:1; 112:5; Prv 14:21, 31; 19:17; 22:9; 28:27; Isa 42:7; 58:6; 61:1; Amos 5:11; Mt 20:27; Mk 10:44; Lk 4:18; Jn 8:31-36; Acts 20:35; 1 Tm 6:17-19; Jam 2:12)

 

In making Jesus Master and Lord of your life He begins the process of changing the object of the desires of your heart from those that enslave you to those that liberate. — Pastor Keith (Ps 37:4)

 

Because the servant fared so well in the household of his creditor, he developed a genuine love for those whom he served.  Therefore he rejects the offer of freedom, preferring to cast his lot with the creditor and his family for the rest of his life.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 372)

 

The pierced ear served as a badge declaring the slave’s commitment to his master and presumably the master’s commitment to him; he was his slave for life.  Whether the master could or would ever have negotiated a separation is unknown, but hereafter neither party could legally break this contract without the consent of the other.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 373)

 

The degree to which you die on the altar is the degree to which you will experience true joy in reality.  As the altar burns away the selfishness and ego and the self-protection, you will find you are free of the fear, of the necessity to defend yourself, and the necessity to be anything but His.  (Steve Brown message on Romans Vol 2, # 15 side B)

 

The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master.  —Peter T. Forsythe  (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, 22)

 

The permanence of this status was double-edged; it not only bound the slave to his master, but equally prevented the master from throwing the slave out once he became old or incapacitated.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 96)

 

The slave would bear in his own body a visible testimony to the goodness and generosity of his master.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 192)

 

God intended man to live by trusting Him instead of making his own choices.  Thus, when man acquired freedom of choice he acquired a curse.  True freedom is serving God and trusting in Him.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths” (Prv 3:5, 6).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Discipline, 119)

 

The Bible says that the rich young ruler went away feeling sorrowful.  But Jesus was even more sorrowful because he knew what divine joy and divine purpose the young man was forfeiting.

His ultimate problem was not that he had riches.  His problem was that he trusted in his riches.  That affected what he did with his money.  Because he put his faith in money instead of in God to see him through, he was not able to use his gifts the way Jesus called him to use them.  And he missed out on the security and satisfaction and freedom that come from putting his faith where it really belongs.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 104-5)

 

Here a solution is offered for one of the most vexing problems of history.  Poverty makes for class struggles, ideological and political conflicts, even revolutions.  Deuteronomy’s religiously-based solution is simple and practical.  The key to the problem of poverty lies in unreserved service to God.  To acknowledge that all are children of one Father, and to act accordingly in mercy, is to leave no room for poverty, special privilege, or injustice.  Human need is not a matter just for systems and laws, but for mercy and loving kindness.  Therefore fundamentally Deuteronomy’s can be the only permanent solution.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 428-9)

 

Three things mark this servant for life (v. 16):  his determination, “I will not go away from you”; his motive, “because he loves you and your house”; and his reason, “since he prospers with you.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 198)

 

Christians are supposed to be generous, since they serve a God of incredible liberality.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 189)

 

A grudging heart should not be found in a people so blessed as Israel had been, especially since God was promising still further blessings for obedience:  Because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 191)

 

Goldingay coins the phrase “Deuteronomy’s pastoral strategy” for this combination of upholding the highest possible agenda, to point to the ultimate goal of a perfect confluence of divine blessing and human obedience.  Such a vision also functions eschatologically (as all the sabbatical institutions do), pointing to a future hope of a people living in blessing and obedience and without needs.  It cannot be accidental that Luke, in his portrayal of the beginnings of the eschatological community of the Holy Spirit, chose to describe them in words taken almost directly from the LXX translation of verse 4, simply changing its future tense to the past (“There were no needy persons among them,” Acts 4:34).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 189)

 

“Death is the supreme festival on the path (way) to freedom” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer shortly before his execution in a German Concentration camp).

 

If we are poor in spirit it means we have been liberated from looking to find our blessedness in anything fickle, transient, or perishing; but instead, we look to find it in God alone.  — Pastor Keith

 

Freedom isn’t doing whatever we want; freedom is fulfilling what we were created to become.  I can drive from Chicago to Nashville because there are highways, stoplights, traffic signs, and rules of the road.  These aren’t there to hinder my freedom; they facilitate freedom of travel.  And because they come from the One who created us, God’s commandments give us freedom by developing an environment in which we can flourish.  (Lee Stroble; God’s OUTrageous Claims, 203)

 

The Psalms praise righteous souls who are liberal in giving and ever willing to lend (Ps 37:25-26; 112:5).  Such people are known for their sense of justice, will not suffer want themselves, and their children will become a blessing.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 491)

 

The master is given a threefold reason for treating his servant well:  (1) He himself has been generously treated by the Lord (v. 14); (2) his forefathers were slaves “in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you” (v. 15); (3) he has already received more than his money’s worth–now, God will bless him because of his generosity toward his servant (v. 18).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 198)

 

Giving a tithe to the needy will not lead to economic hardship; rather, it will bring greater prosperity because Yahweh’s blessing will rest upon the worshiper.  Deuteronomy stresses the point that Yahweh’s future blessing will come from charitable acts in the present (15:10; 23:21]20]; 24:19).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 486)

 

The release of the Hebrew slave shall be like Yahweh’s release of Israel from slavery, when he saw to it that people received gifts from the Egyptians upon their departure (Ex 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36; Ps 105:37).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 495)

 

Israel would realize the ideal situation only if the people would fully obey (infinitive absolute construction indicating intensity) the Lord.  Obedience would not only bring rich blessings so that no poor would be among them, but they would also have monetary superiority over the nations around them.  They would lend to many nations but borrow from none and would rule over nations but not be ruled by them.  This rule over nations is either by economic control or is a military and political extension of their economic advantage.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 104)

 

The historian Will Durant observed that it is customs which keep men sane.  As he put it:  “Without grooves along which our minds can move with unconscious ease, we become perpetually hesitant and gripped with insecurity.”  Just as railroad tracks may restrict a train’s freedom to move about, but without them the train would go nowhere.  Neither is man truly free to live in this world without the restrictions that God has placed upon him.  The very constraints which confine man set him free to be what he was created to be.  If a train tried to leave its tracks and take off across the countryside it would quickly become mired and unable to function.  Since man decided to jump his “tracks,” he has become increasingly mired in instability.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 39)

 

It is in the midst of this great societal prosperity and a multitude of distractions that the Lord wants us to walk with a single mind toward His glory.  Can we do it?  Yes, but we may need to rid ourselves of our televisions, or at least fast from them for a month.  If that is too much, deny it entrance into your mind for a week.  The degree of difficulty in turning the television off is the measure of our bondage.  If we cannot let it go, it is because we are its captive.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 122-3)

 

Worship Point:  Worship Jesus Who came to set us free.  And if Jesus sets us free we are free indeed.  (Jn 8:31-36)

 

It is the primary reason why God sets his people free:  to worship him.  The primary of worship in a believer’s life is, thus, set forth.  We are saved to worship!  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 29)

 

Generosity, if not lavishness, was to be the order of the day.  The memories of days in Egypt were to inform and strengthen the entire process:  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.  The contrast between their present prosperity and their former misery ought to impel the Israelites toward love and generosity.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 192)

 

Gospel Application:  The more committed you are to any other means of salvation other than Jesus, the more it enslaves you.  With Jesus it is the complete opposite.  The more you make Jesus Lord of your heart the more free you become.  (Ps 37:4; Mt 10:8; Lk 4:18; Jn 8:31-36; Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 20:35; Rom 3:24; 6:6-7, 16-22; 2 Cor 3:17; 8:3-4; 9:6-15; Gal 5:1, 13; 6:2, 10; Phil 2:1-10; 1 Jn 4:19)

 

Love God and do what you want.  — Martin Luther

 

Obedience flows from Freedom, not Freedom from Obedience (Gal 2:19; 2 Cor 5:14).

 

If what you love to do is what you ought to do then you will be free. —John Piper

 

If you long to be cut free from the world, if you long to be free to love and to do what you ought to do then give yourself to the renewing of your mind.  —John Piper

 

Our pleasure and our duty, though opposite before,

Since we have seen His beauty, are joined to part no more

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, and hear His pardon voice,

Transforms a slave into a child and duty into choice.       — John Newton

 

Remarkably enough, at the end of the day it might not matter very much how we classify the damaging behaviors of addicts.  Whether these behaviors amount to sin or symptom, the prescription for dealing with them may turn out to be just about the same.  Nobody is more insistent than A.A. that alcoholism is a disease; nobody is more insistent than A.A. on the need for the alcoholic to take full responsibility for his disease and to deal with it in brutal candor.  Moreover, nobody is more insistent that the addict must admit helplessness and therefore surrender his life to God or a “higher power.”  This idea is that those who surrender shall be free–or, at least, free for today.   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 141)

 

If you cannot bear to really look at all the stupidity of your life, if you cannot bear to see what is wrong with you, if you cannot bear to really see your flaws, if you can’t just take criticism, you just go to pieces, cause you know it is true; it is because you really do not have the strength from knowing the grace of God.  It is the grace of God that helps me not feel Oh I must be OK but gives me the freedom to admit what is wrong with me without being devastated.  And therefore, Jesus Christ is saying, “Do you know that unless you know the depth of your sin and the height of God’s grace; when things go well you are going to be smug instead of happy and grateful or when things go poorly your are going to be devastated instead of hopeful and enduring.”  Unless you see both of those you are going to move back and forth from being a proud Pharisee or being a cynical sceptic and you’re going to not be able to handle the suffering and troubles of life.  (Tim Keller message, The Falling Tower)

 

The way in which the Christian worldview assures liberty was expressed well by the historian Lord Acton, who wrote:  “Liberty…is itself the highest political end.”  He later said, “No country can be free without religion.  It creates and strengthens the notion of duty.  If men are not kept straight by duty, they must be by fear.  The more they are kept by fear, the less they are free.  The greater the strength of duty, the greater the liberty.”  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 328)

 

No man in this world attains to freedom from any slavery except by entrance into some higher servitude.  There is no such thing as an entirely free man conceivable.  (Phillips Brooks, Perennials)

 

Besides providing a hope that transforms individuals and cultures, and assuring individual liberty and dignity, Christianity offers the surest foundation for happiness, when that word is correctly understood.  You’ll remember earlier we discussed the ancients’ understanding of happiness.  The Greek word eudaimonia refers to a life well lived, a life of virtue, and it implies a life rooted in the truth.  The American Founders were referring to this conception of happiness, of the good life, when they declared liberty and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable rights.  They were not thinking of happiness as a life of hedonistic pleasure; they understood that hedonism–the party life–is destructive of humans and freedom.  The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake results finally in misery.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 329)

 

Consider, for example:  by what power did Moses break free from the “fleeting pleasures of sin” in the courts of Egypt?  The answer of Heb 11:24-26 is that he was set free by the power of faith in future grace.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 13)

 

How one looks at another reveals the attitude inside.  Wrong attitudes are bound up with wrong actions, just as a wrong mind and will are.  Thus, to show ill will (v. 9) and to consider it a hardship (v. 18) are both translations of Hebrew “eye” metaphors (lit. “give an evil eye” and “it must not be hard in your eyes” ).  The usage here, and later rabbinic use of the “eye,” make it clear that Jesus’ reference to the good or bad eye in Mt 6:22f. also has to do with attitudes of generosity or meanness, as the context indicates (cf. 6:1-4, 19-24).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 191)

 

The brother refused a loan will have only Yahweh to cry to, and when he does so, the refusal will be reckoned in you as a sin.  The same will happen if you afflict the widow or the orphan (Ex 22:21-22[22-23]), if you fail to restore the pledge of a poor man before sundown (Ex 22:25-26]26-27]), or if you fail to pay the poor man his wages on the day he earns it (Dt 24:15).  Why are all of these a sin?  Because Yahweh hears the cry of the poor, and unlike the hard-hearted and tight-fisted person, he is gracious.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 491-2)

 

What is more, you shall not give when your heart is not in it (heart=will).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 492)

 

They must exercise care not to harbor a base thought that would limit generosity, such as “the year for canceling debts, is near” (v. 9).  This being the case, giving generously to a brother would limit the possibility of getting a beneficial return on a loan.  They must give generously without a grudging heart (v. 10; the Hebrew figure, an evil [?] heart, may be rendered variously to give the English equivalent of a sad or unfriendly or grudging heart).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 104-5)

 

Moses addresses both the interior and the exterior dimension of ethics.  When he speaks of the “heart”/”mind” of the rich, his concern is their disposition toward the poor; when he speaks of the “hand,” concern is their action.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 367)

 

Moses concretizes the “mean-spirited” notion with a hypothetical quotation by this Scrooge:  “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near.”  The thinking is, the closer the year of release, the less the creditor has to gain from the debtor’s indebtedness.  The antidote to such twisted thinking is a generous heart concerned about the well-being of the poor rather than one’s own advantage.  Loans were to be granted freely for the benefit of the poor, not the creditor, who has no need to capitalize on the plight of his brother.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 368)

 

There is no better opportunity for Christians to distinguish themselves from the self-indulgent Canaanites of this land than through their generosity and charity toward the poor.  To paraphrase 1 Jn 4:19, “We are covenantally committed to others and seek their well-being through concrete acts of ‘love,’ because the Lord was first covenantally committed to us and sought our well-being through concrete acts of ‘love.’”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 376)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Seek to become free by becoming more and more a slave to Jesus.  And we are to love our neighbor by helping others to be liberated as well.  (Rom 6:6-7, 16-22; 8:2, 15; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1, 13)

 

When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week?  When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear.  As long as you are running, you are safe.  But running is exhausting – if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear.  (Or if we haven’t run in a while.)  However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free – just as we are called to be.  As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural.  As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him.  It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.   (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

 

Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself.  (Ps 63:3).  Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s.  All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 9-10)

 

God wants his people to rejoice in his generosity and let it be the basis for our own.  He longs to produce generous hearts that reflect his faithfulness.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 189)

 

The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. — Ben Patterson

 

The good news of the Gospel is founded upon Who Christ is and what He has done.  Not upon who we are and what we have done.  If you find yourself depressed or discouraged because you do not feel you can keep up this Christian life, then this is an indication that you are a slave to self-righteousness and you are counting on what you are and what you have done instead of Christ.  Cheer up.  You are a whole lot more sinful than you think.  But cheer up!   God is much more forgiving, gracious, merciful, and loving than we ever dreamed or imagined.  — Pastor Keith

 

Self-control is self-possession.  We do not own ourselves as long as it is possible for any weakness in flesh, sense, or spirit to gain dominion over us and hinder us from doing what we know to be right.  We are not our own masters then.  “Whilst they promise them liberty, they themselves are the bond-slaves of corruption.”  It is only when we have the bit well into the jaws of the brutes, and the reins tight in our hands, so that a finger-touch can check or divert the course, that we are truly lords of the chariot in which we ride and of the animals that impel it.

And such self-control which is the winning of ourselves is, as I believe, thoroughly realized only when, by self-surrender of ourselves to Jesus Christ, we get His help to govern ourselves and so become lords of ourselves.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 155)

 

When we allow others’ perceptions of us (or even our perceptions of their perceptions!) to control how we live, we are enslaved.  We become entrenched in the ways of this world and do not live as citizens of heaven, which is another kind of kingdom altogether.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 53-4)

 

God continues to bless us by putting us in a world that can support all its population if the pipeline of blessings from one to another is preserved.  But if greed and hard-heartedness obstruct the pipeline, there will be poor people.  It won’t be because God has failed, but because people have.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 139)

 

Here the life of faith in future grace is pictured as a light burden and an easy yoke.  Can it be both hard and easy?

Yes.  Faith in future grace is intrinsically easy.  What could be easier than trusting God to work of you (Isa 64:4), and take care of you (1 Pt 5:7), and give you all you need (Phil 4:19; Heb 13:6), and strengthen you for every challenge (Isa 41:10).  In one sense, faith is the opposite of straining.  It is ceasing from the effort to earn God’s approval or demonstrate your worth or merit.  It is resting in the gracious promises of God to pursue us with goodness and mercy all our days.  Faith is intrinsically easy.

But this ease of faith assumes that our hearts are humble enough to renounce all self-reliance and self-direction and self-exaltation.  It assumes a heart that is spiritual enough to taste and delight in the beauty and worth of God.  It assumes that the world and the devil have lost their power to lure us away from satisfaction in God.  If these assumptions are not true, then living by faith in future grace will not be as easy as we might have thought, but will involve a lifetime of struggle.

It’s like the monkey with his hand caught in the jar.  It would be easy for him to slip his hand out of the opening except that he has his fist clenched around a nut.  If he loves the nut more than he loves freedom from the jar, then getting his hand out of the jar will be hard, even impossible (as Jesus said in Mk 10:27 about the young man who had his fist clenched around his wealth).  But what could be easier than dropping a nut?  The battle that Paul and Jesus are talking about is the battle to love the freedom of faith more than the nut of sin.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 313)

 

What the Lord seeks goes beyond the immediate comfort of His people.  In fact, as He gives us greater liberty, He expects greater obedience.  At the very same moment that God removes our burdens, He removes our excuses as well.

The Lord does not free us so we can return to the type of behavior that caused our misery in the first place!  Even as you are being blessed, refreshed, and healed, remember: “from everyone who has been given much shall much be required” (Lk 12:48).  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 86-7)

 

So What?:  You can only love something by setting it free.  And you will never know you are loved until your beloved is free to love you or not.  (Jer 34:8-22; Jn 8:31-36; Rom 6:6-7, 16-22; 8:2, 15; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1, 13)

 

Of all the mysteries of God’s plans and purposes, none is more remarkable to me than his radical commitment to our freedom.  In the midst of all we do that is counter to God’s will, God does not strip us of the burden and challenge of freedom itself.  Why?  Because freedom is central to love.  And that means it is central to why and how we are created to live.

Love has been so sentimentalized in our culture that putting love and justice into the same sentence sounds as dissonant as joining worship and justice.  Yet all these things are intertwined in the character of God, none separable from the others.  They are qualities intrinsic to God’s being, and each one names God’s life in different ways.  None is to be present without the other.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 180-1)

 

And there must perhaps always be just enough lack of demonstrative certainty to make free choice possible:  for what could we do but accept if the faith were like the multiplication table? ”  (Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, 99)

 

If the Bible is true, then God has provided each of us with the opportunity to make an eternal choice to either accept him or reject him.  And in order to ensure that our choice is truly free, he puts us in an environment that is filled with evidence of his existence, but without his direct presence–a presence so powerful that it could overwhelm our freedom and thus negate our ability to reject him.  In other words, God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 31)

 

I remembered Pascal arguing that God has given us just enough light so that we can understand and just enough darkness or obscurity to deny the truth, if we wish.  That was it.  Of course, God cannot reveal Himself in a rationally irrefutable manner.  If God were plain to us as the tree outside our window, as one great theologian once wrote, we would have no need for faith.  If we saw God in His true character, in His glory, in anything like the way we see the world around us, our free will would be meaningless.  We could not help but believe in God.  It would be impossible to deny Him.  This would destroy the possibility of choosing to believe–of faith–and with it the possibility of love, because love cannot be compelled.  We cannot love God if we are not given the option of rejecting Him.  Remember, God has given us just enough light to see by, but not enough to eliminate the need to see with eyes of faith.  Our pride has to get out of the way, and we have to recognize that faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by doubt–or at least, as Catholic piety would say, difficulties.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 380)

 

On the tombstone of Martin Luther King Jr.  “Free at Last, Free at last.  Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.”

 

Steve Brown in a sermon entitled The Providence of God – The Odds are Against Us – Esther – shares this thought from someone who e-mailed him:

Jesus wants you to be free NOW, living the reality of the future in the present fallen world we live in.  Jesus wants us RIGHT NOW to:

 

• Work like you don’t need the money

• Love like you’ve never been hurt

• Dance like nobody’s watching, for this is worship

 

JESUS:

THE LIBERATOR

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