This section of Deuteronomy can understandably be difficult to read. Chapters 19 through 26 consist of various laws that often do not correlate to what comes before or after them. It truly is simply the law book of Israel. I don’t want to comment on every law, or this would be a several-thousand-word post. But there are a few passages that warrant some closer examination.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 is important because it explains why the religious leaders demanded that Jesus be removed from the cross immediately after he died. They truly believed Jesus to be cursed for dying the way he did. This passage is quoted by the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:13. Paul writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
At the cross, there was a double imputation, meaning a transfer of qualities. Our sin was imputed, or transferred, to Christ. He truly bore the curse that was rightfully ours. And his righteousness was imputed to us, righteousness that was not rightfully ours. By dying for all those chosen before the foundation of the world, the promises of God would be made available to everyone, Jew and Gentile, who believed.
Laws concerning who can wear what clothes might seem odd, but they are about upholding the original purposes of creation (22:5). We should not try to blur the lines between male and female by what we wear. While this does outright condemn practices such as crossdressing, we should not culturally overextend the law to say things like women can’t wear pants. Every culture has customs that identify menswear and womenswear. Cultures that campaign to intentionally blur those lines do so in order to displace the good order of creation.
All I want to say about the other laws through chapter 26 is that each of them is given in order to uphold the good order of creation and to identify the boundaries between God’s people and those who are outside of Israel.
In chapter 27, Moses and the elders tell the people to build an altar on Mount Ebal across the Jordan. They will write the words of the law on those stones. Moses then has the priests tell the people the series of curses that will come upon them for breaking the law. These curses summarize all the punishments of breaking the law. Each curse follows the pattern of beginning with “Cursed be the man/anyone…” One one side of the mountain, the priests shout the curse. From the other side of the mountain, the people respond with, “Amen.” These are curses for individual sins, not for the nation as a whole. That will come in the next chapter.
Chapter 28 confirms both the blessings and the curses on the entire nation for obedience and disobedience. Sin has both individual and cultural consequences. But keep in mind that these specific blessings and curses are in the context of a very specific covenant with God’s people, not all nations everywhere.
The blessings are generally about protection from surrounding nations and God supplying all the needs of the people. The nations will fear the Israelites and will know that God is the one, true God of all people.
The curses essentially undo the blessings. They have corollaries to being removed from Eden. God will frustrate their work. Instead of blessing from the ground, work will produce thorns and thistles. And ultimately, disobedience will result in expulsion from the land, just like it did in Eden. They will go into exile, and a foreign king will rule over them. Not only will the Israelites in Israel have a foreign power over them, but God will scatter many of them to faraway places around the world.
As they affirm that they will do all that the law commands, Moses renews the covenant in Moab. Moses tells the people that “to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear” (29:4). The law does not bring about repentance or a new nature. Only the Spirit of God can do that. Never has the law been intended to redeem mankind. The law is intended to shine a light on our sin and God’s righteousness. Again, Moses recounts the years of journeying through the wilderness. As they are approaching the end of these forty years of wandering, the people need consistent reminders of their past behavior and God’s provision.
Ultimately, Moses tells the people that they will choose either life, through obedience, or death, through disobedience. It will be their choice. The law will not bring life, but they do have the choice to obey this law or not. Moses urges the people to choose life and obedience.
As they approach the promised land, Moses has been told that his time is short. He is going to appoint Joshua as his successor, as God has told him to do. If the people follow Joshua as they have followed Moses, they will have success in their taking of the land. But if they follow Joshuas as they have actually followed Moses, they will struggle and bear the curses.
Luke constantly reminds us of exactly who Jesus is. Jesus heals a Gentile’s son, showing that he is the Savior of all those who turn to him in faith. Jesus raises a dead man, showing that Jesus is God incarnate. When he raises the dead man, Luke interprets the event by using the same language as when Elijah raised another widow’s son, showing Jesus to be the true and better prophet. When John the Baptist questions the identity of Jesus, Jesus responds by saying that he is the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah, shown that he is the mediator of God’s eternal plan of redemption. Later, Jesus’ miracles of calming the storm, raising Jairus’ daughter, and stopping the woman’s 12-years of bleeding prove his authority over nature.
Jesus then contrasts himself with John. John practiced abstinence from most of life’s pleasures, while Jesus had no issue with enjoying the simple pleasures of life (7:33). John was a strong man who lived outdoors and spent his life prophesying all around the area. John called sinners to repentance, and many people were therefore prepared for the hard truths that Jesus taught. But the religious leaders of the day did not want to believe John, because he didn’t preach the same message that they did. Both of them couldn’t be right. It was when the people heard John and Jesus teach that they believed the words of God, not the Pharisees. And when Jesus forgives sins, which cements his divinity, the Pharisees know that Jesus is going to be a threat to their authority.
Parables are Jesus’ primary public teaching devices. The parable of the sower teaches that people will respond to the gospel in a variety of ways, but there is one response to that leads to life. Essentially, it teaches the same truth as James: faith without works is dead. Living faith produces a hundredfold. Living faith produces endurance and perseverance regardless of life’s circumstances.
Jesus gives the twelve disciples a chance to put his teaching into practice. He sends them out with authority to cast our demons and heal the sick. But the point of this time was to preach the kingdom of God; the miraculous serve to confirm the message. This activity will also teach them to depend on God’s provision in a way that an apostle will be be required to do, in a way that exceeds even those of an ordinary believer. Mark’s gospel records Jesus permitting the disciples to take a staff while Luke’s does not. But in the same way that Jesus tells them not to take two tunics (9:3), he is probably just prohibiting taking an extra or doubles. Divine dependence is the game. Because of the disciples did what Jesus sent them to do, they caught the attention of Herod. He is now interested in hearing more about Jesus’ teaching. Again, the miraculous serve to confirm or draw attention to the message, not the miracles themselves. This is a kind of a test-run; later Jesus will send out seventy-two disciples instead of twelve.
One of Jesus’ most famous miracles is that of feeding the five thousand. Though Jesus wanted to debrief the twelve disciples in private, he never neglected teaching in public. Even in a desolate area (9:12), Jesus is able to miraculously bring forth provision. This harkens back to God providing manna, quail, and water in the wilderness for the wandering Israelites. Luke uses every opportunity to provide confirmation of who Jesus is: God in the flesh.
But if Jesus is God, then it has consequences for this life and the hereafter. That fact requires that we deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow Jesus. There is no via media when it comes to Christ. We deny ourselves by practicing self-control and prioritizing the lives of others, we take up our own cross by such faithfulness that dying for Christ is never off the table, and we follow Jesus by obeying his commandments and joining other Christians in the same pursuit. Later in chapter 9, Jesus will confirm that following him comes at a great cost. Everyone and everything else must become irrelevant in comparison to obedience to him.
Before Jesus continues healing and exorcising demons, the transfiguration takes place. Luke’s account is remarkably similar to Matthew and Mark. As Luke continues to tell us who Jesus is, he see that Jesus is accompanied by Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the true and better prophet. As at his baptism, the very voice of God the Father speaks and confirms Jesus’ sonship.
Psalm 66: The works of God should lead us to rejoicing.
Psalm 67: May everyone everywhere see the goodness of God.
Psalm 68: God will strike down his enemies but uphold the righteous.
Psalm 69: Lord, save the righteous from evil (v.9 is quoted in John 2:17).
Psalm 70: May God’s deliverance come soon.