What does it say?
The applications and implications of the fifth commandment as applies to all those in authority continues (Deu 17). Instructions for executing capital punishment for blasphemers, appeal to higher authority in difficult cases and the future installation of kings are all discussed.
The Levites receive no landed inheritance, so provision is made for their support from the other tribes (Deu 18). King and priests in Israel come through bloodlines; God calls prophets at his will. God-sent prophets are distinguished by a supernaturally high standard of 100% accuracy. Moses promises a prophet like himself to come, ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Moses reviews instructions for dealing with manslaughter and the provision of cities of refuge (Deu 19) as he begins to expound the sixth commandment that forbids murder. He also gives clear standards for admissible evidence of eyewitnesses.
Next Moses addresses the conquest of the land (Deu 20). Israel has no standing army, so this discussion is included in the section on civil authority. This, too, expands on the sixth commandment to teach when taking human life is justified in war.
What does it mean?
One of the salient features of this entire passage is the authority of God’s word. Even though it is a stretch to understand many of the specific elements of the Law in their unique cultural settings, it is impressive to see how Moses expands the Ten Commandments to cover the entire spectrum of society. Seeing a single truth expanded into a wide range of application is a wonderful example of how to approach God’s truth.
Contemporary Western culture where most readers of this devotional probably live, is far removed from Old Testament culture. It stretches us to see guidelines for issues like capital punishment and war within that ancient cultural context. The basis for all we see here is love for God and neighbor as expressed in the Ten Commandments. Context is key to understanding and applying God’s truth, not a forced, unthinking application. This is also why God’s truth applies to any culture, anywhere, anytime.
How will I respond?
I may not understand everything, nor even understand how to apply universal truth to some specific situations in my life. But, is God’s word my absolute authority? Am I submissive to scriptural authority even when I struggle to understand? Just as the Ten Commandments expand to cover the range of Israeli society, am I willing to allow God’s word to encompass every aspect of my life? The more I learn God’s word, the more I can correctly apply its truth. What one step can I take this week to deepen my understanding of the Bible?