ancient Greek courthouse March 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Deuteronomy 15, 16, 17, 18

Preventing Corruption

Immorality, injustice in the courts, inhumane treatment of people, greed, and tyranny—how do we prevent corruption in our lives and that of our society? In addition to their personal relationship with God (which we also need, more...), in today's Bible reading the LORD gives several directives to the Israelites to prevent corruption from expelling them from their new land. We might apply some of the same principles to our lives to prevent corruption.

There are many things God directs the Israelites to do before he brings them into the Promised Land of Canaan (specific stipulations patterned after the Suzerain Treaty; more...). Careful steps are taken to prevent evil influences by the ungodly nations they are to dispossess. If they do not follow God's requirements, then they will develop a deadly spiritual cancer which will compel the LORD to expel them out of the land, as he will soon do to the current inhabitants in Canaan. What could Israel do to prevent this? What can we do to prevent ourselves from losing God's blessings?

After the Israelites come into their inheritance, most will prosper and some will become wealthy. A few, however, may become poor. To prevent wealthy businessmen and landowners from becoming greedy, they are instructed to care for their fellow Israelites. In a land of “milk and honey” (an expression of agricultural prosperity), it will be tempting to use or even abuse poor Israelites for profit. They are not to make slaves of them, however, but they can use them as indentured servants for a period of six years. The seventh year their debts are cancelled and they are allowed to go free. This is different from the year of Jubilee, which we learned about in the book of Leviticus. In that book, instructions were given that people and property, which were sold to pay off debts, were returned to each family every fifty years. In the present directive, not only are the debts forgiven every seventh year, but the wealthy are to give their former servants enough for a new start.

Furthermore, the Israelites are to give the first of their grain, herds and flocks to the LORD's tabernacle servants, the Levites, for their sustenance. To prevent us from being greedy in today's culture, we should also give generously to those in need, and give to the LORD's service.

Second, to prevent the Israelites from adopting the idolatrous culture of the nations they dispossess, feasts are re-instituted. They were first detailed at Mt. Horeb in Sinai to the first generation of Israelites out of Egypt (Leviticus 23), and now Moses reminds the second generation of the necessity of their continuance. These feasts are times of celebration and rejoicing. Three times a year the Israelite males are to go to God's appointed place for feasts. The purpose of the feasts is to celebrate and remember what the LORD has done for them. On the fourteenth day of the first month they gather to remember their deliverance from Egypt, the Passover Feast and the Feast of Unleavened (yeastless) Bread. Fifty days later the men re-gather to bring a grain offering of the firstfruits of their harvest, called the Feast of Firstfruits or Feast of Weeks. On the seventh month they gather once more for a Thanksgiving harvest celebration, The Feast of Tabernacles. It begins with a day of national repentance and restoration (the Day of Atonement) and a few days of rest. It is followed by a week in which the Israelites give thanks for their crops and gather in small tents made of palm branches. They do the latter to remember the care God gave them during their forty years of wilderness wanderings.

Although we are not a theocratic society, national expressions of thankfulness and devotion to God are as important today as they were to Israel. Christians would do well to begin their year by remembering what Christ did for them, delivering them from their sins and giving them eternal life, and by recommitting themselves to the LORD. Providentially, the timing of Easter and Thanksgiving correspond to the Israelite spring and fall celebrations. The Christian celebration of Easter is meant to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ from the dead to give us spiritual life (more...). Although we are not commanded to observe a particular day of Thanksgiving (Romans 14:5-6), it is a good practice (Psalm 100). If we do observe Easter and Thanksgiving, then we need to properly remember the meaning of these celebrations to prevent us from adopting the customs of our ungodly culture. Christians must give special care to set the example for our children and leave a testimony with our society so God's blessings and his gift of eternal life may not be forgotten.

Third, to prevent Israel's expulsion, capital punishment is executed on anyone found to be worshipping any other god than the true God of heaven or influencing others to do the same. The LORD is jealous for the relationship between the Israelites and himself. God is also offended that he, the Almighty Creator and Provider, should be replaced by a fashioned block of wood or stone or precious metal which cannot see, hear, or help in any way! The offending Israelite is killed to purge the evil from among them (Deuteronomy 17:7, 12). Not only is it offensive to the LORD when people worship idols, but the worship of these “gods” is connected with prostitution, child sacrifice, and other vile practices for which God will soon destroy the Canaanite nations.

We, today, are not instructed to kill anyone for not worshipping God—we are not engaged in a holy war. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We must, however, fear the LORD and not arouse his anger by discouraging people from trusting in him. At times we may fall in our faith, but we are not to take others down with us.

Fourth, a system of justice is instituted so court cases, which cannot be decided by the leaders of the people, will be decided by the priests. They are to judge according to the Mosaic Law and with equity. They are considered the Supreme Court of the land. The priests are to be especially sensitive to justice for the orphans, widows, and aliens living among them. A system of justice prevents chaos and lawlessness. Just verdicts give peace. God instructs his people of every age of history to act with justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8).

Fifth, foresight prevents problems. God knows eventually the people will want a king to lead them (1Samuel 8), although the LORD is their king. God is displeased by this, but he sets out rules and regulations for the choosing of a king so he will not lead the nation to turn aside from following the LORD. God does this so the people will have the best chance to receive his blessings. As we will see later, some kings do follow the regulations but most do not.

Sixth, to prevent their ejection from the land, capital punishment is carried out on Israelites who practice sorcery. Israel's reliance is not to be on demons and false prophets but on the LORD. God promises to send them prophets like Moses upon whom they can rely (Deuteronomy 18:15). In the immediate context this may refer to Joshua. Ultimately, the future prophet will be the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3:18-26). How can the people tell who is a prophet of the LORD? The test of a true prophet of the LORD is accuracy. Everything he predicts must be fulfilled exactly as he says and in accordance with the Word of the LORD.

This test is helpful for us today. Those who proclaim to have a word from the LORD must prove its consistency with the written Word of God. If not, we are not to listen to him, no matter how knowledgeable, charismatic or likable he may be. False prophets mislead us and spoil our inheritance. God's Word prevents us from being led astray.

The Mosaic Law is the law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It includes moral and social laws.

Lessons to Live By

To prevent corruption in your Christian life

• Have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and maintain it (more...)

• Give generously to those in need and to the LORD.

• Remember the good things the LORD has done for you. Observe Easter and Thanksgiving properly and give testimony to God's works on a regular basis.

• Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

• We must fear the LORD and not arouse his anger by discouraging people from trusting in him.

•  Exercise some foresight to prevent future problems.

•  Act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8b).

•  God's Word prevents us from being led astray.

Focus Verse

Colossians 3:5 (NIV) “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

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A Look Ahead: The Israelites are warned about preventing corruption, so how do they (or we) Remove Evil? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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