At the end of yesterday’s reading, Moses reminds Israel that “the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow…shall eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” The LORD’s blessing is listed as a consequence of their care for these groups.
Our reading today launches along that same refrain. We’ve seen before that the LORD sees each seventh year as a “year of release” of both debts and slaves. This is the theme of chapter 15, but nested within is a challenge: “There will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you…if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.”
When you turn to chapter 16, listen to how this theme of blessing now permeates the commands regarding Feasts and Festivals. As they celebrate the Passover, their care for the sojourner, widow, and orphan, is directly connected to remembering that they were slaves in Egypt. So with the Feast of Booths – a reminder of how the LORD provided for them in the wilderness.
Moses turns now to the courts, where judges “shall not pervert justice,” nor “show partiality,” These instructions regarding civil justice bookend another warning about worshipping other gods – and the penalties that offense carries. If proximity is an indicator of connection, then it’s possible that perversion of justice and perversion of worship have something in common.
These three chapters have been building to the crescendo at the end of chapter 17: instructions regarding Israel’s future kings. Notice throughout that the focus is not on whether or not a king is a good idea, but on the LORD’s vision for that king, which is distinctive among the nations. The king shall neither amass wealth through many marriages nor build military power with an overwhelming cavalry. The king is not the lawmaker, but is to be a student of God’s law. In this his blessing – and that of his dynasty – will be found.
Our verse for this week is Matthew 22:39: And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Deuteronomy chapters 15 through 17. Now let’s read it!
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.