“Honoring the Beloved Part 3” – Deuteronomy 23:1-14, 21-23

January 14th,  2018

Dt. 23:1-14, 21-23

“Honoring the Beloved Pt 3”

Aux Text: Acts 5:1-11

Call to Worship: Psa 15


Service Orientation: We have the potential of honoring or dishonoring God by every thought, word and action.   Often times we offend and dishonor God out of ignorance.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  The LORD declares: . . . Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. — 1 Samuel 2:30b


Background Information on “Assembly”:

  • The “assembly of the Lord” was not a local congregation, but the national gathering of the people of Israel for special purposes including worship and warfare, so it is not surprising that the rules for membership of it are partly secular, partly sacred. One can readily see why Ammonites and Moabites were excluded (vv. 3-6); the reason was not religious bigotry or racism, but what we should call national security, in view of the persistent hostility these two states had shown to Israel.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 129)
  • “The assembly of the LORD” (or “assembly of Israel”) “is a technical term for all those adult males who are enfranchised to make decisions, participate in cultic activities and serve in the military of Israel (Mic 2:5).” The exclusion of some from this assembly had to do with the fact that Israel was a covenant people, called to be “to [God] a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6).  Maintaining ritual purity was an important aspect of this unique identity.  So when they met at certain crucial times, people viewed as ritually unclean were excluded from the gatherings.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 524)
  • While much of the book addresses Israel as a known entity, the first section of ch. 23 asks who may belong to Israel, or, strictly, to the assembly of Yahweh. The answer given is surprising in view of the rigorous opposition to the nations other than Israel, and their gods.  Membership of the assembly, it turns out, is not restricted to those descended from Israel, but is, with qualifications, open to others.  The potential inclusion of Egyptians and Edomites is very significant.  It establishes that the “assembly” of the covenant people is ultimately a spiritual community.  By the same token, the first category of those who are excluded may well be Israelites who have adopted foreign religious practices (14:1-2 [2-3]).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 353)
  • The assembly in (Dt.) 31:30 appears to be limited to leaders, according to 31:28. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 142)
  • It is important to recognize that the nature and function of the assembly of Israel were political. The Christian Church is quite different, and it is fully appropriate that its membership tests are purely those of faith and of moral conduct.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 130)
  • The assembly of the LORD means the assembly of those who belong fully to the covenant community and gather for worship, for the reading of the law, or for festivals. This body is not quite coextensive with the whole nation, which includes various people who are not full members of the worshiping community.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 247)
  • The term denotes an assembly of all free adult males in Israel, convening when necessary to hear Yahweh’s word (Dt 5:22; 9:10), decide and fight wars (Jdg 20:2, 1 Sm 17:47), choose a king (1 Kgs 12:3), distribute land (Mic 2:5), and participate in feasts, fasts, and worship (Lam 1:10; Joel 2:15-16; Ps 107:32; 1 Kgs 8:65; 2 Chr 30:13, 25). The “assembly of Yahweh” appears to be synonymous with “assembly of the people of God” (Jdg 20:2), “assembly of Israel” (31:30; Josh 8:35), or simply “all Israel” (1 Chr 28:8).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 646)
  • In Deuteronomy the assembly is usually the Israelite community gathered at Sinai (5:22; 9:10; 10:4; 18:16); but in 31:30 those assembled were all the elders and officials (v. 28)–and possibly others; but the specific mention of elders and officials would seem not to include the whole populace. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 140)


General Background Information:

  • (v. 2) Traditionally it has been thought to refer to a child born out of wedlock. However, it’s possible the term refers to the child of an incestuous relationship or the child of a cult prostitute.  It could also mean the child of a mixed marriage (such as an Israelite married to an Ammonite).  This harsh punishment would help deter Israelites from entering this kind of marriage.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 248)
  • (v. 3) Israel as a nation was never to seek peace or good relations with these two nations (v. 6)–a statement prohibiting any treaty of friendship or mutual assistance. The prophets also denounced the Ammonites and Moabites (Isa 15:1-16:13; Jer 48:1-49:6; Ez 21:28-32; 25:3-4; Zeph 2:8-9).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 141)
  • (v. 7) The period in view is the immediate aftermath of the settlement in the time of Joseph, rather than the enslavement that came later (Gn 46-50; cf. Van Houten 1991, 101). The present text takes the longer and generous view, therefore.  Egypt’s hospitality is in sharp contrast to the portrayals of the prohibited nations, and in conformity to the demand made of Israel itself that it show kindness to the sojourner (14:29; cf. 10:19 for the same logic).  Edomites and Egyptians have a real prospect of entering the assembly of Yahweh, after only three generations.  The time lapse presumably allows for demonstrable assimilation.  But the permission shows that belonging to Israel depends ultimately on faith, not on bloodline.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 349-50)
  • (v. 7) Hostility characterized the relationship between Jacob’s descendants and Esau’s tribes throughout OT history (Nm 20:14-21; Amos 1:11; Ob 8-14). (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 211)
  • (v. 9) This is the sixth of seven war texts in Deuteronomy.  Whereas the others tend to highlight humanitarian (20:4-9, 10-15; 21:10-14; 24:5) or environmental issues (20:19-20), this text is concerned with theological and spiritual realities:  the integrity of the military camp when Israelites go out to battle.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 537)
  • (v. 10) The words translated “nocturnal emission” are literally “what happens at night” in Hebrew. It could refer to what we usually call a nocturnal emission of semen, or it could refer to urinating inside the camp at night without going outside the camp.  Whatever its exact meaning may be, it brought about ceremonial uncleanness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 531)
  • (vss. 10-13) The Torah has little to say about human excrement, but the present association with nocturnal emissions suggests its impurity derives from its source inside the human body rather than the repulsive nature of feces. When the army sets up camp, they (presumably the commanders) are to mark a place outside the camp where the men could relieve themselves.  When warriors go out there, they must carry a tool from their kits to dig a hole and bury their feces.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 537-8)


The questions to be answered are . . . How does God (through Moses) say we offend or dishonor God?


Answer: We offend or dishonor God by not seriously embracing the security He promotes; by asking Him to join us in an offensive or repulsive environment; and by not regarding Him as God but as Someone less.


The Word for the Day is . . . Revere


How can we love and honor God?:

I-  Embrace the agenda He promotes for peace, security and prosperity.  (Dt 23:1-8; see also: Ex 33:1-4; 34:10-16, 24; Lv 18:24; 20:22-23; 33:51-56; Dt 4:35-39; 7:16-26; 11:22-28; 18:9-14; 33:27; Josh 3:10; 23:6-13; Dt 18:9-12; Neh 13:1-3; Ez 25:12-14; Bk of Ob; Lk 19:42; 1 Cor 5:1-13; 2 Cor 6:14-15; Gal 5:10-12; 2 Thess 3:6, 14-15; Ti 3:10-11; 2 Jn 10-11)


Verse 6 seems to contradict later revelation concerning forgiveness, since it insists, “Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.”  How does this relate to Jesus’ teaching about loving one’s enemies (Mt 5:44)?

For one thing, the two commands do not operate in the same realm.  Moses’ command to Israel applied to national foreign policy, and it was implicitly directed at national leaders.

When Israelites found themselves in a relationship with Moabites, they were not required to behave boorishly or hatefully in order to fulfill Dt 23:6.  They could have behaved lovingly toward their Ammonite acquaintances.

Their national leaders, however, were not permitted to formalize treaties with Moabite or Ammonite national leaders.  As idolatrous peoples, those nations had endangered Israel in the past and would again in the future.  Subsequent events showed the wisdom of this restriction (cp. Jdg 10:7-11:33; 2 Sm 10:1-9; 2 Kgs 1:1; 3:4-27).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 277-8)


The NT hails the destruction of race, caste, and class barriers as a major result of the work of Christ (e.g., 2 Cor 5:14-17; Gal 3:28; Eph 2:11-22).  But it never extends that to the breaking of the religious divide between believers and unbelievers.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 526)


Because the Egyptians hosted them during a precarious phase of their history, they are rewarded by being granted admission to the assembly of Yahweh.  Verse 8 qualifies the openness of Israelites toward Edomites and Egyptians.  In three generations, presumably once those who were alive at the time of Israel’s exodus and desert sojourn have died, their descendants may be welcomed into Yahweh’s assembly, provided they, like genuinely pious Israelites, were devoted exclusively to Yahweh (cf. 6:4-5) and lived in keeping with the covenant.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 536)


Just as the sacrifices offered by priests were to be without defect, so the men who offered them were to have no physical imperfections.  This all typified Christ, who as our high priest was “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” (Heb 7:26).  Mutilating the physical body God created was incompatible with the holiness he wanted priests to represent.  The Lord may also have placed this restriction on Israel because Baal priests sometimes castrated themselves.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 208)


These eunuchs became so because of a ritual of dedication to a god or because they had a special official position in the king’s service or because of deliberate mutilation.  These practices were abhorrent to God.  This terrible practice had to be stopped by severe action, and this would act as a deterrent to others trying to do it.  It would also save future sons of Israel from being subjected to this painful and inhumane treatment, thus making this a compassionate law in the long run.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 524-5)


I found seven places in the OT where there is a prohibition against marrying people of other nations because the foreign spouse will turn the heart of the Israelite’s spouse from the Lord.  Today that would translate to the act of marrying an unbeliever–one who does not belong to the new-covenant community, the body of Christ.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 525)


Allusions to Dt 23:1-5 are clearer in Neh 13:1-3, where the public reading of this very text results in the exclusion of all foreigners from Israel, the expulsion of Tobiah the Ammonite from his temple apartment (vv. 4-9), and apparently the annulment of the Jews’ marriages to Ashdodites, Ammonites, and Moabites (vv. 23-26).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 538-9)


Moses erects three barriers to the assembly, each of which is intended to protect the sanctity of the community.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 534)


As a spiritual body, the true Israel recognizes the boundaries that separate this community from the world at large.  The assembly of Yahweh welcomes those of genuine faith, but it maintains the highest standards of holiness.  Those who stand in opposition to covenantal standards by personal conduct, religious compromise, or indifference and opposition to the work of God are not at home in the church.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 542)


The prohibition on eunuchs belonging to the worshiping assembly is not explained here, but it may have had the same motivation as the rules that barred from the priesthood men suffering from genital damage (Lv 21:17-20; cf. Lv 22:24), namely, a concern for wholeness and a rejection of that which appeared to mutilate nature and God’s design for creation (as cf. 14:1).  Or it may have been because self-inflicted castration was a feature of certain religious rites that Israel so utterly rejected.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 247)


The tradition of Gn 19:30-38 may have influenced the permanent exclusion of Moabites and Ammonites from the sacred assembly, but this reason is not explicitly stated.  Instead, Deuteronomy draws on the more recent historical experience of the Israelites and pinpoints the Ammonites’ failure to help the needy (Dt 2:26-30) and the Moabites’ hostility in the attempt to curse Israel (Nm 22-24).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 248)


The Moabites were punished because they had attempted in Balaam to bring down the curse of God on Israel (Nm 22-24).  God turned their attempted curse into a blessing for Israel, and now the curse is having a boomerang effect on the Moabites.  Also, the Moabites and Ammonites were descendants of the incestuous unions of Lot and his daughters (Gn 19:30-38).  Perhaps that would be another reason for the severe exclusion of these two groups from the congregation of Israel.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 248)


Such persons were banned from the assembly to the tenth generation, which verse 3 clarifies as “forever.”  Since children are not responsible for the circumstances of their conception, the ban seems harsh.  However, viewed from God’s perspective, they are products of abominable unions, and to admit them violates the righteousness that governed Israel as a holy people belonging to Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 535)


The motive clause at the end of verse 5 reminds Israel of the motif that drives the entire book of Deuteronomy:  “because the LORD your God loves you.”  Previously Moses had noted Yahweh’s love as the motivating force behind his election and rescue of Israel from Egypt (4:37; 7:8) and his lavish blessing (7:12), but here it underlies Yahweh’s protection from hostile military and spiritual forces.  Because the Moabites and Ammonites had opposed Yahweh and his agenda regarding the Israelites, the Israelites are never to seek their peace or their welfare.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 536)


When the NT uses “holiness” in connection with the church, it is referring primarily to moral purity.  So when there is exclusion from the church today it should be when people violate their identity by unholy living.  Paul said that the one committing incest in Corinth and Alexander and Hymenaeus (probably in Ephesus), who blasphemed through rejecting the faith, must be delivered to Satan (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tm 1:20), that is, excluded from the fellowship.  This does not mean there will be no contact with them.  It means they cannot come under the protection of the assembly with all its privileges and responsibilities.  In both these cases the context shows that one reason for exclusion is that the pain of it would cause them to repent and return to holiness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 528-9)


Moses does not explain why men with deformed genitalia should be excluded.  In ancient times prisoners of war, slaves, and men who had committed adultery or engaged in homosexual acts were often castrated, but this prohibition seems to have been influenced by pagan religious rites of self-castration, perhaps as an ascetic act of self-torment or in pious imitation of the gods.  The reference to males only reflects the exclusively male character of Israel’s priestly classes.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 534-5)


The rejection of Moab and Ammon is explained, however, not by the associative link based on illicit offspring, but by their refusal to help Israel on its journey.  This is an offence against nature and the hospitality ethic that was and is strong in the East.  It goes deeper, however, implying a resistance to Yahweh’s purpose to bring his people to their land.  Yahweh’s defeat of the magic of Balaam is based on his covenantal commitment to Israel (“the LORD YOUR God loves you”, 5[6]; see on 7:8), which in turn rules out any such commitment between Israel and Moab and Ammon (6[7]; cf. 7:2).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 349)


The Deuteronomic prohibitions, often if not always, relate in some way to the religious differences between Israelites under the covenant stipulations of the Lord and the pagan nations of Canaan.  Consequently, this regulation might well be aimed at the offspring of cult prostitutes or of other promiscuous sexual practices related to the fertility religions of Canaan.  It seems possible, however, that the law covers, as the NIV translates, the offspring of all “forbidden marriages.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 141)


To be holy carries with it the obligation to leave off all commerce with whatever may be foreign to one’s God.  If a religion draws its devotees together, it also and inevitably draws a line between the faithful and the unfaithful which our author was bound to interpret in physical terms.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 468)


II-  Maintain a holy environment in harmony with His values. (Dt 23:9-14; see also: Lv 15:16-18, 31; 20:22-27; Dt 12:31; Josh 3:5; Amos 5:23-24; Bk of Hag; Bk of Mal; Mk 7:14-23; 1 Cor 5:1-5; 6:13-20; 1 Tm 1:20; Jam 2:1-7; 1 Pt 1:15-16; 2:5-9)   


The Lord himself would always be present in the camp of his people.  While he was there to protect and deliver their enemies to them, he expected his people to acknowledge his presence in their midst, even by paying attention to such mundane functions.  Failure to do so would be offensive to him, and soldiers soon to do battle would want to avoid the possibility that the Lord might turn away from his people because of the condition of their camp.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 274)


When a man out in the field away from his wife becomes unclean through a nocturnal emission of semen, he must leave the camp and remain outside until evening.  As evening approaches he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun is setting he may reenter the camp.  This policy would obviously exclude those in this state of impurity from military action.  However, concern for holiness superseded concern for military efficiency.  Impurity itself is perceived as an active malevolent force whose power can only be checked by ablutions.  Even in battle the holy people of Yahweh were to be represented by holy troops.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 537)


Yahweh’s presence within the camp is the precondition to military victory.  These clauses portray him as a divine commander inspecting his troops; if he finds any cause of defilement as he walks about the camp, he will abandon them, forcing them to fight their own battles with their own resources.  The expression “anything indecent” expands these instructions to anything that causes contamination:  corpses, other bodily excretions, unclean animals, and so on.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 538)


Places indwelt by God should not have things that are unbecoming of God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 532)


The moment we begin to compromise and entertain things that displease God in our lives, we dishonor our relationship with God with a halfhearted commitment that is very dangerous.  Yet all around us we may see others succumbing to the lure of these things that could drag us away from God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 464)


There are many countries where the routine burial of excrement would have a marked effect on the health of millions of the world’s population where, without adequate latrines, people defecate in the open and insect borne diseases spread easily.  Since God was aware of the effects of germs long before humans knew of their existence, we may be impressed yet again with the correlation between holiness and health.  Physical cleanliness, ritual cleanness, and moral holiness were interrelated.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 249)


The people of God are to be holy in everything, from public worship to practices of hygiene, but especially in their core values.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 272)


We should seek to have nothing in our possession that will make God turn away.  How sad that sometimes we will hide things in our computers, drawers, and under our beds so others will not see them even while we claim that the all-seeing God lives with us.  Talismans and charms, statues, items belonging to our workplace, income tax returns that are not quite accurate, unwashed bodies and unclean homes. . . these are all incompatible with the holiness of God who lives in us and with us.  May this cause us to have only possessions that honor God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 532)


Sometimes God is dishonored by the presence of corporate unholiness in the church.  God says, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23, 24).  If the poor are given a less significant place than the rich in contradiction to what is taught in Jam 2:1-7, we dishonor God through injustice.  Even greater injustice is done when people from a certain race, caste, or class are made to feel unwelcome in a church.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 180)


Although the NT frequently speaks of the agenda of the church in military terms (esp. Eph 6:10-20), in 1 Cor 3:16-17 Paul refers to the church as “God’s temple,” in which “God’s Spirit lives.”  Therefore, just as the camp of Israel was to be kept pure from defilements (vv. 9-14), so the church must be kept pure and free from sin.  Again, the danger does not come from outside; it lurks within.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 542)


So if worship is going to be in accordance with his nature, and his nature is transcendent, infinite, and incomprehensible, then how else can we worship other than by the direction of his word?  Once again, our doctrine of God impinges upon our doctrine of worship.  Given the distance between Creator and creature (a point of emphasis in Calvin, the Scholastics, Westminster, Van Til, and even Barth!), given the undeniable biblical reality that God’s ways and thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth (Is 55:8-9), what makes us think we can possibly fathom what would please God, apart from his telling us what to do in his word?  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 54)


When they go out on campaigns, they are to guard against anything “impure” (lit. “every evil/bad thing/event”).  The expression could refer to a threatening military situation, but in this context the danger is internal and theological; the Israelites are to guard themselves against every spiritual danger.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 537)


From God’s point of view, holiness is the partner of joy, not sorrow.  The closer we are to God, the more consistently we exhibit the joy of his character.  To be at his right hand is to know the eternal pleasures that he supplies (cp. Ps 16:11).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 276)


This legislation deals with matters of personal hygiene, emphasizing the close relationship between cleanliness and godliness, or God’s presence.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 249)


We should consider the law of verses 12-13 a matter of simple hygiene, but to the Israelite lawgiver, not only was “cleanliness next to godliness,” cleanliness was part of “godliness.”  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 131)


23:9-14 These two laws show that the old saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is more biblical than some may have imagined!  The requirement that soldiers on campaign maintain ritual purity and keep away from everything impure is part of the rules of “Yahweh warfare” (cf. 1 Sm 21:1-6).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 249)


There was nothing shameful in the excrement itself; but the want of reverence, which the people would display through not removing it, would offend the Lord and drive Him out of the camp of Israel.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 415)


We know how greatly laws are disregarded during war, when all things are under the control of violence rather than reason; and we know that much license is wont to be given to soldiers, which would be by no means tolerated in peace.  God would remedy this evil by requiring the Israelites to aim at the same purity in war as in peace; for this is a special law which forbids their being dissolute and unruly in war-time, as He had said, that under no pretext would they be excusable, if they neglect the duty of cultivating habits of purity.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 45)


Whence we gather that it is vain to catch at empty excuses for the violation of God’s commands in any respect; for, however difficult the performance of duty may be, still God never resigns His rights.  Now, if war, which seems to dispense with laws, does not excuse crime, much greater, as I have said, shall their guilt be accounted, who in a tranquil condition of life are licentiously carried away by sin.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 45-6)


The word “evil” does not necessarily mean moral evil, but evil more in a ceremonial sense as the war is God’s war, and the presence of God in the camp requires that the camp be a ceremonially holy place.  This is stated in verse 14:  “Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.”  The indecent things, which would not be in keeping with a place where God’s presence dwelt, are mentioned in verses 10-13.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 531)


The refusal of Uriah the Hittite to go home to his wife Bathsheba for the night when David summoned him to Jerusalem from the battlefield could be because he did not want to become ceremonially unclean during wartime and disqualify himself from going back to the battle.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 531-2)


III-  Revere God as God:  Not as Someone less(Dt 23:21-23; see also: Lv 27; Nm 6:2-5;  30; Jdg 11:29-40;  Ps 50:14; 56:12f; 61:5, 8; 65:1; 66:13-15; 76:11; 116:12-14; Prv 20:25; Eccl 5:4-5; Mal 1:6-2:16; Mt 5:33-37; Acts 5:1-10; 13:6-11; Jam 5:12)



We have been made for relationship with God.  Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God.  But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is.  We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it.  We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-6)


Bargaining with God is an extremely questionable activity, generally one to be avoided.  But if you do put yourself on the line, don’t even think about not making good, for God is not mocked.  What is vowed before Him is binding, just as He is bound by His many promises in the Scriptures.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 112)


Beloved in Christ, if we truly understand who God is, and who God the Son is, our hair will stand on end at the very thought of abusing His name!  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 61)


When we make a vow and do not fulfill it, we make a mockery of truth and insult God.  We contribute to the creation of a culture in which faithfulness is not an important value.  In fact, in a culture in which people do not take their vows seriously, faithfulness will become an alien concept, and people will find it difficult even to trust God to look after them.  That is a major catastrophe.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 539)


We will regard all promises as sacred, if we remember that all promises are made in the presence of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 160)


23:21-23 Though entirely voluntary (v. 22, cf. Nm 30), once a vow to the Lord is made it is a serious matter and must be fulfilled (cf. Ps 56:12f.; 61:5, 8; 66:13-15; 116:12-14).  Wisdom warns against hasty promises (Prv 20:25; Eccl 5:4-6).  The abiding relevance of the law is that commitments have great value and significance.  Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do (v. 23), is a principle that applies to many areas of life, not just promises made to God in moments of great stress or relief.  Casual carelessness regarding commitments, especially among Christians, flouts both the third and the ninth commandments.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 252-3)


Right now a hundred million angels are praising God’s name; He certainly doesn’t need to beg or plead with us.  We should be the ones begging to worship in His presence.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 109)


Many a young heart touched by the truth has resolved to live a Christian life, and has gone out from the house of God and put off and put off till days have thickened into months and years, and the intention has remained unfulfilled forever.  Nothing hardens hearts, stiffens wills, and sears consciences so much as to be brought to the point of melting, and then to cool down into the old shape.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 355)


The Jews divided oaths into two classes, those which were absolutely binding and those which were not.  Any oath which contained the name of God was absolutely binding; any oath which succeeded in evading the name of God was held not to be binding.  The result was that if a man swore by the name of God in any form, he would rigidly keep that oath; but if he swore by heaven, or by earth, or by Jerusalem, or by his head, he felt quite free to break that oath.  The result was that evasion had been brought to a fine art.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 159)


The principle which Jesus lays down is quite clear.  In effect Jesus is saying that, so far from having to make God a partner in any transaction, no man can keep God out of any transaction.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 159)


When we trust in stars, sorcery, or spirits to give us answers God has chosen not to reveal, we are turning our backs on our Creator.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 217)


Pagan magic is an abomination to God.  His will cannot be learned, forced, or coerced by it.  He cannot be tricked into revelation.  He will make himself known when and by the means that he himself chooses; i.e., by his herald, the prophet, whose word shall be clearly spoken and clearly understood in contrast to the devious and mysterious world of the occult.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 447)


Any oath in which the name of God was directly used was considered to be definitely binding; but any oath in which direct mention of the name of God was not made was held not to be binding.  The idea was that, once God’s name was definitely used, he became an active partner in the transaction, but he did not become a partner unless his name was so introduced.  The result of this was that it became a matter of skill and sharp practice to find an oath which was not binding.  This made a mockery of the whole practice of confirming anything by an oath.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 126)


God does not take broken vows lightly.  A broken vow may incur his judgment upon our endeavors.  One who ‘swears to his own hurt and does not change’ pleases God (Ps 15:4).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 99)


To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)


So often the comment our lives make on our promises is, “I didn’t really mean it.”  That, says Koheleth, like the other things to which he has drawn our attention in this section, is the mark of a “fool.”   (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 36)


Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves.  His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him.  Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 31)


To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us.  God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship. — James Montgomery Boice


Like failing to keep an oath, failing to fulfill a vow is sin and renders one guilty of theft (cf. Mt 5:33); technically what has been vowed belongs to another person.  It is eminently better not to vow at all than to vow and not keep one’s promise.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 548-9)


It is a fact that the way we verbally reference another person has a profound effect on how we regard and treat that person.  For example, if I consistently tell my wife that I love her–“Barbara, I love you.  My dear, I love you with all my heart”–I will love her better!  The reason is, of course, that verbalizing my love for her elevates and substantiates my love.  Conversely, if I never verbally say, “I love you” and in fact verbally deride her, my love will be further crippled.  It is similarly true that just imagining I love my wife, even concentrating on thoughts of love, will not elevate my love as much as verbalizing it will.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 61)


God is not only bigger than you think; God is bigger than you can think.   And if you’ve never stood before God and been totally confused, then you’re worshiping an idol.  — Steve Brown


There is no subtler perversion of the Christian Faith than to treat it as a mere means to a worldly end, however admirable that end in itself may be.  The Christian Faith is important because it is true.  What it happens to achieve, in ourselves or in others, is another and, strictly speaking, secondary matter.  From the Christian Faith will remain true whether we who profess it turn into heroic saints or into even more miserable sinners.  We must insist that we worship God because he is God, not because we want something out of him.  What a mean blasphemy it would be, to go through magnificent acts of public worship always with the dominant intention at the back of the mind—“This is really going to make a better chap of me!”  What arrogance and presumption, to treat eternal God, throned in glory, as a visual aid to moral self-improvement. (Harry Blamires; The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?, 110)


This kind of commitment to absolute truthfulness is going to become more and more difficult in the Western world because it is rejecting the idea that there is a supreme God to whom we are accountable.  This was the base upon which the Western emphasis on trustworthiness and honesty was built.  Now the criteria for determining right and wrong are becoming anthropocentric (human-centered) rather than theocentric (God-centered).  The issue often is not whether an action violates God’s Law but whether it hurts someone else or society.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 540)


If a vow is made, the person must “not delay in fulfilling it” (v. 21).  To delay would be to insult God by saying that our relationship with him is not a priority.  The fact that we make vows to God makes it all the more serious:  “You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth” (23:23).  If one cannot fulfill a vow, it would be better not to have made it at all.  Sadly, we are sometimes afraid to break a promise made to a powerful person and unafraid to break the promises we make to God.  This passage challenges us to take our relationship with God more seriously.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 539)


Underlying God’s command concerning vows is the covenant He made with His people.  God spoke His promise audibly to the people.  His words were reliable and would be fulfilled.  They were not spoken to manipulate the people; neither were they withdrawn under the heat of anger.  God’s people were to follow His example.  For the Israelites to make a vow and not follow through on it would be contrary to the whole spirit of the covenant.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 252)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who loves to honor us but does so when we choose to honor Him.  We need to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  (Ex 20:24; Lv 10:3; Nm 20:12; ch 25; Dt 7:9-10;1 Sm 2:30; 15:23; Jn 12:26)


Jesus warns us that it is possible to engage in what we call worship, only for God to reject it as worship “in vain.”  How is it that we can worship the true God in vain?  Jesus gives two causes.  First, God turns away from worship when the worshiper’s “heart is far away” from him.  Second, he refuses worship when the teaching or doctrines about worship are “the precepts of men,” not the precepts of God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 309)


No worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. (A. W. Tozer; Whatever Happened to Worship?, 125)


I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 13)


It is a mark of spiritual barrenness in the church when people come to worship to fulfill a duty or keep a habit rather than satisfy an appetite.  (Eric Alexander)


Gospel ApplicationNaturally there is nothing in us that can do anything that would properly, honestly and lovingly honor God.  But through our faith in Jesus (the true Israel), God in Christ can make us a new creation so that we can bring proper honor to God by being “In Christ” and enjoy God’s abundant life.  (Ruth; Isa 25:6-7; 56:3-8; Jn 3:1-16; Acts 8:26-40; Rom 2:28-29; 2 Cor 5:15-17; Rv 21:5)


Incorporation to the church–the body of Christ–also became something that took place primarily through an inner change brought about by the Holy Spirit, resulting in one’s being born again (Jn 3:1-15).  In this new community the past is no longer significant as people are new creations, with the passing away of the old and the coming of the new (2 Cor 5:15-17).  Now God’s kingdom incorporates eunuchs (Acts 8:29-39) and repentant people who once committed sins that should disqualify them from entrance into the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-11).  This great multitude that no one could number consists of the redeemed from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rv 7:9).  As a prelude to this trend, when Jesus was on earth he hung around with tax collectors and sinners, to the horror of the religious establishment of the day.  But these formerly sinful people, including Zacchaeus, Matthew, the woman caught in adultery, and the thief on the cross, gave up their sin and became righteous followers of Jesus.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 528)


When we consider the holiness of God and compare it with our own unholy worship, it is a wonder that any of us is still alive.  Thank God for Jesus!  It is not only his sufferings that save us but also his obedience, including the perfect worship he offered to his Father.  Jesus died for all our sins, including all the sins we have committed in the very act of worshiping God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 121-22)


By faith in Christ, that perfect worship now belongs to us, as if we ourselves had offered it to God.  This is part of what it means for us to know Christ:  our imperfect worship is accepted by the Father because of the perfect worship offered by the Son.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 122)


Perhaps this book [Ruth] illustrates what has been true from the beginning:  there have always been two Israels.  One Israel is defined by blood and consists of all who are physical descendants of Jacob, while the other is defined by faith and includes all who share the faith of Abraham and Moses as laid out in Deuteronomy.  Those in the former category are also excluded from the assembly of Yahweh because they are spiritual eunuchs.  Those in the latter are invited because they live by the commitments expressed in Isa 56:3-8 and, like Ruth, have declared, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16-17).  Just as Rahab repudiated her spiritual Canaanite identity in Josh 2:8-13, so Ruth repudiated her Moabite spiritual allegiances and found shelter under the wings of Yahweh (Ruth 2:12).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 540-1)


What about Ruth, a Moabite whose status is reiterated seven times in the short book that goes by her name?  Interpreted literally, according to Dt 23:1-5, David, the king of Israel and principal organizer of temple worship, should have been refused admission to the assembly of Yahweh, as should Jesus the Messiah himself (Mt 1:1-17).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 540)


But those who do have the Holy Spirit and are now capable of worshiping in spirit do not worship in spirit if they do not worship in holiness.  “Worship the LORD in holy array,” says Ps 29:2.  The holy array that God required of the OT priests was that they dress in a very particular way and prepare themselves in minute detail before presenting their sacrifices.  Likewise the priests who come before the Lord today–that is, all believers in Christ (1 Pt 2:9)–must also come in holy array.  First and foremost, our holy array is the holiness of Christ.  God receives our worship based upon Jesus’ having already offered to him the perfect sacrifice–himself–on our behalf.  And all our subsequent worship of the Lord is received, not because we are now so sincere, but because the blood of the high priest Jesus has made it acceptable to God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 310)


Much like Isaiah in Isa 6:5 . . .

“The more we encounter the holy God in our worship, the more we will recognize our utter sinfulness and be driven to repentance.  This, too, is an essential part of our praise.”    (Marva Dawn; Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 90)


With the coming of Christ, a new age of grace has dawned with the mandate to the church to take the gospel to the whole world.  We need to develop strategies of leaving behind past hurts in forgiveness.  This way nations and peoples can live as a global family in which each helps the other and secures a peaceful and prosperous world.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 531)


Certainly, awareness of the former disability is the point of the eunuch’s despair in Isa 56:3b, and it is answered by the promise that God would grant blessings “better than sons and daughters” to eunuchs who would choose to bind themselves to God.  A corresponding promise is made to foreigners.  These promises in Isa 56:3-8 apparently repeal the exclusion laws of Dt 23 (though some scholars question whether the prophetic text does refer to Dt 23) and look forward to an Israel redefined and extended by the ingathering of hitherto excluded people.  This was an important factor in the missionary theology and practice of the early church (cf. Eph 2:11-19).  There is, perhaps, a touch of divine humor in the fact that among the earliest notable converts was one who was both a eunuch and a foreigner–and was reading Isaiah! (Acts 8:26-40).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 248)


Isaiah envisions an eschatological day when these old barriers will be torn down.  Why then should Moses ban eunuchs and Moabites and Ammonites permanently from the assembly of Yahweh?  Apparently for him “eunuchs” serves as a cipher for all who oppose wholeness and order in creation and who oppose God’s redemptive plan.  Isa 25:6-7 raises similar questions regarding the categorical and eternal rejection of Moabites and Ammonites.  Whereas Isa 56:7 predicts a future in which Yahweh’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples, 25:6-7 envisions Yahweh hosting a lavish banquet on his mountain to which all peoples are invited.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 540)


Where would we be if Jesus Christ had taken the attitude that self-preservation was the goal of living?  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 271)


Spiritual Challenge:  Know God’s heart by knowing His Law.   Know God by knowing Jesus.  By means of a transformed life “In Christ” endeavor to live like Jesus and thus honor God.  (Prv 3:9; 14:31; Isa 29:13; Mt 15:8)


When you acknowledge the holiness of God, it is impossible to be casual!  When you come to see Him for who He is and what He has done, there is no way in the world you could ever treat Him casually again, and you couldn’t treat His name casually.  Why?  Because you acknowledge the great price that He paid and the great work that He’s done.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 95)


Throw away the excuses and face reality!  The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.”  It means your old sinful nature is in control.  Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind.  It means that you are not abiding in Christ.  Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse.  It means you have a weak connection to Jesus.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)


How little people know who think that holiness is dull.  When one meets the real thing. . . it is irresistible.  If even ten percent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?  –C.S. Lewis


So What?:  How do you want to live your life?:  with God for you because you honor God or have Him against you because you offend Him and drive Him away?  You can only truly honor God by being “In Christ”.  (Ex 20:24; Lv 10:3; Nm 20:12; 25:13; Dt 7:9-10; Jn 12:26)





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