1 Not Sacrifice an Animal With a Blemish
1 “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish [or] any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the LORD your God.
The spiritual application of this verse is that God does not want anything from us that affects the preciousness of the Lord Jesus. That would testify to indifference (Mal 1:7-8). For example, if we say to God that the Lord Jesus could sin, but that He did not sin, it is a detestable thing for God.
Such a thought wrongs the perfection of the Lord Jesus, for He could not and cannot sin. Such a superficiality in sacrificing must not happen to God’s people. If someone says something like this in ignorance, he should be open to correction when once the error is pointed out. All sacrifices offered to God are types of the sacrifice of Christ. He is the perfectly spotless sacrifice, without defect, completely without sin, free from even the appearance of it.
2 - 7 Penalty for Idolatry
2 “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the LORD your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, [that is], the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Deuteronomy 13 is about those who want to seduce others to idolatry (Deu 13:1-18). In these verses it is about those who are seduced. If the accusation is made that someone has been tempted to engage in idolatry, inquiry must first take place. The same happens also in Matthew 18 when someone is accused of sin. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, can justice be done (Mt 18:16; Num 35:30).
If someone sees that someone else is sinning, he should not take the matter to others to talk about it, but seek first to speak about it with the person in question. If I’m the only one who knows anything bad about someone, I must not talk about it with others. There may be no case brought before the church if we have not first spoken to the brother and then we have been with him with witnesses.
If the charge is well-founded, the hand of the witnesses will be first against him. This gives the witnesses a great responsibility and urges great caution when making an accusation about evil. This rule will therefore ensure that witnesses are extremely certain of their case and of the seriousness of the crime committed.
When the hand of the witnesses turns against the culprit, the death sentence is executed. Verse 7 states that they “put him to death”. Afterward the hand of the all people must be against him. In this way they make it clear that they join the witnesses and confirm their testimony. This is how the evil must be removed from the church. Evil may not have a place in the people of God. This applies both to Israel then and to the church now.
Before the church reaches a decision on a case brought to it, the person who does so must be convinced of the case. If a case is brought before the church, it is not the same as a decision by the church. The church has yet to reach a verdict, a decision. This situation corresponds to what we read in Matthew 18: “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). This means that the individual believer progressing the matter, must view the person in question as a Gentile and a tax collector, even before the church removes him as an evil one from among themselves.
Conversely, this also applies to a brother’s or sister’s proposal to receive a believer who is unknown to others at the Lord’s Table. The brother or sister must himself be convinced of the correctness of the proposal. But only when two or three witnesses make clear to the church the correctness of this proposal, the church will receive such a person at the Table of the Lord.
8 - 13 Jurisdiction in Difficult Cases
8 “If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is [in office] in those days, and you shall inquire [of them] and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. 10 You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. 11 According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.
This section concerns a penalty imposed by a competent authority. Where one revolts against it, a spirit of rebellion, of recalcitrance becomes visible. There is a spirit of contradiction and rebellion against God. It is the evil of disobedience to God or to those who are vested with authority under Him. The occurrence of such contempt and self-will, must be dealt in the same way as with sorcery and idolatry.
The purpose of the punishment is that others will hear and fear and not fall into the same evil. Some will be wise enough to refrain from crime. Others, if they have committed a crime and are punished, will rather submit to the judgment than sin against themselves and forfeit their lives by going against it. From this law the writer of the letter to the Hebrews deduces how severe is the punishment he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God and therewith His authority (Heb 10:28-29).
If a local authority makes a decision, it is the highest authority on earth. “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven” (Mt 18:18). The scope of the decision is the whole earth. This is because the Lord Jesus connects His presence to that local church: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Mt 18:20).
In verse 9 the priest comes to the fore. Priests know God’s thoughts best because they are used to being in His presence. This determines the spiritual mind. Any brother or sister can be that priest. It is not about the gift that someone has, but about the mind that someone has through his or her dealings with God.
14 - 20 Setting a King
14 “When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, [one] from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. 16 Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ 17 He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. 18 “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.
After the laws for subjects laws for the king follow. The appointment of a king is not ordered, as is the case with judges. God foresees the demand for a king and already gives His directions for it. He rules over kings. Those who rule over others must remember that they themselves are also under the authority of a Superior.
The question God expects of the people when they are in the land is not that of 1 Samuel 8. There “all the elders of Israel” come to Samuel and say to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations” (1Sam 8:4-5; cf. Hos 8:4). God has always had a King in His mind. He expects from his people that they will come with this question, because He has spoken about it, in the words he puts in Jacob’s mouth when he blesses his sons (Gen 49:10). In 1 Samuel 8 they want a king after their own heart and not a king after the heart of God. They want a king there instead of the LORD.
The king pleasing to the heart of God is a picture of the Lord Jesus. He is one “from among your countrymen” (cf. Heb 2:14). A king is also a picture of the believers of the church, for they are made “a kingdom” (Rev 1:6). Soon we will rule as such (1Cor 6:2). What we will do openly in the future must already be done now in the interpersonal matters that may exist between believers.
However, we are not only members of the church, but also subjects in the kingdom, not rulers. Brothers with ‘royal dignity’ we recognize those who have the gift of government. They are given by the Lord and do not pretend to that position themselves. The aspiration toward being a supervisor is recommended, yet also stated are the prerequisite conditions (1Tim 3:1-7).
The king must be a countryman, or brother, and as such a servant and not a ruler. A man like Diótrefes, about whom John writes in his third letter, doesn’t care for this. He does not receive the brothers and behaves like a ruler, claiming the first place: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. … and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire [to do so] and puts [them] out of the church” (3Jn 1:9,10b).
The king is warned of three things: horses, women and riches (silver and gold).
1. ‘Horses’ speak of natural strength and violence. The king may not boast on this, but he must trust the LORD: “Some [boast] in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God” (Psa 20:7; 33:17; Hos 14:3). We can compare it to, for example, reliance on fluent speech. If we don’t master that, we can learn it. An acquired speaking ability is highly regarded in the world. Nevertheless, we should not use verbal violence in the church to manipulate the opinion of the whole.
2. “Wives” in this context speak of temptations by which a deviation from the LORD comes. To this is connected the arousal of false desires, which together with greed leads to idolatry (Col 3:5).
3. The third commandment is that he shall not “greatly increase silver and gold”. When this happens, it shows the search for the material as the true fulfillment of life. It will also lead to independence from God.
The three dangers mentioned can be summed up in the words power, pleasure and riches. For the three dangers mentioned above, the king, and we as kings, can only be preserved by constantly reading “a copy of this law”. If this is in the heart, he abides in the right track and in the right mind. He will not then rise above his brothers. Such brothers and sisters can exercise justice among the believers in the right way.
In order to preserve himself from these dangers and to be a good king for his people, the king must write out a copy of the law himself. He is expected to read it daily. It will make him aware of the fact that indeed he rules over a people, but is also ruled over himself. It will keep him humble among his people. It will keep him from deviations in his kingship, so that it will be balanced and serving. The Lord Jesus points this out to His disciples: “And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But [it is] not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines [at the table] or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines [at the table]? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk 20:25-27).