The More You Know

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I’m taking a bird’s eye view of several chapters from Deuteronomy that I have read over the past few days. I was interested to note several verses that often get skipped over by the Bible’s critics. And, just as often, those of us who trust the Scriptures are left floundering for answers to those criticisms. Mind you, many questions and complaints are deliberately left unanswered—we have to leave something to faith! We also have to acknowledge that God doesn’t owe us an explanation for everything He says and does.

But here are a couple of items that stand out.

We know Solomon had many wives and even more concubines and critics enjoy waving his example around. If God didn’t stop Solomon from enjoying the pleasures of much female company then why should anyone make a fuss when others enjoy the same? In Deuteronomy 17, God speaks through Moses to give instructions to the people on the eve of their entrance into Canaan. He knows that one day His leadership will be rejected and Israel will demand a king just like all the pagan nations around her. He’s already got that contingency covered in verses 14-20. There are a number of interesting items mentioned relative to the character and rule of a king, but here’s the one that pertains to wives: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (vs. 17).

It’s just a few words, but it was an issue that was addressed—and subsequently ignored. Ignoring God's clear instructions would result in a mess for men like Solomon.

Has anyone ever asked you about horoscopes or tealeaves and communicating with the dead (we often try that on a personal level by praying to our dearly departed)? There are several prohibitions in Scriptures but here in Deuteronomy 18 is a strong one: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…” (10-12). So much for the Long Island Medium and her kind.

The principles for meting out justice are scattered throughout the Scriptures, but one basic statement covers them all. In Deuteronomy 19:21, after describing the cities of refuge where those who committed unintentional crime were allowed to go for their own safety, and after describing how trials are to be conducted to ensure fairness, Moses says: “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” The idea is summed up in our idiom: “Let the punishment fit the crime.”

Later this week, many will remember the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II. Rules of war are also covered in the Scriptures and many critics of the Bible are quick to accuse God of being a bloodthirsty warmonger. But in Deuteronomy 20 we find a few of the interesting details that Moses passed on to God’s people. In the first part of the chapter we learn that warriors were not just conscripted and sent off to war. There was a whole list of reasons (vss. 5-9) that would allow men to be excused from service. My father was excused from World War II because of flat feet, and though that doesn’t appear on God’s list, there was incredible compassion shown by Him toward those who might otherwise have been sent off to die without have enjoyed some of the blessings of life. As I read through this chapter I was reminded of the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. God whittled down his army to 300 just to prove that the battle is not won by human strength and ingenuity but belongs to the Lord.

In verse 10 we discovery this: “When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.” Even in the midst of conquest, there was mercy extended and it was the choice of those to whom peace was offered to decide whether or not they would continue the fight. But for those upon whom God was raining judgment for evils committed, there were no options (16-18). The critics often forget that this judgment was not just an arbitrary thing. We often assume that just because Israel was God’s nation of mission, that He had not been working in all the other nations as well. That would be as incorrect as saying that God only works in the lives of Christians and has nothing to do with those who don’t yet know Him. These pagan nations had ignored God’s activity in their lives and would prove to be stumbling stones in the path of God’s people (18:12, 20:16-18) so, mercy having reached its limit, God would now deliver justice.

In this potpourri of examples, we discover that God is not as silent on things as some people accuse Him of being. It is in the little spaces of the Scriptures, in the short phrases tucked away in the middle of big issues and in the subtle nuances that we often find elements of His character that we could easily miss otherwise.

It continues to amaze me that, no matter how many times we read through the Bible, there continue to be treasures that we have never seen before that pop to the surface as we dig. The important thing is to continue to dig. As we do, we discover more about the God in whose hands we once entrusted our lives and our souls. And the more we know, the more we trust.

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