These regulations and ordinances detailed in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are not just to help the Israelites live better together; they also affect the condition of the nation. Even more importantly, they reflect on the Lord. What the people do or fail to do affects the reputation of God, and that has more far-reaching implications than the people can imagine. God uses the people of His kingdom to demonstrate to the surrounding nations what it means to live in obedience and according to the will of God. It also impacts the purity of the worship made to the Lord and the environment of His holy tent and later the temple. His program in general that is being accomplished through the nation is colored by the moral behavior of the people.
36 The heads of the extended families traced back to Joseph through Gilead (son of Machir, son of Manasseh) approached Moses, the community’s leaders, and the heads of Israel’s extended families to share their concerns.
One critical issue related to Zelophehad (the man whose daughters claimed his inheritance because he didn’t have any sons) remains to be cleared up.
Zelophehad’s Family: 2 We appreciate and accept that the Eternal One told Moses, my lord, that among the land given by lot to the Israelites, whatever would have gone to Zelophehad (our kinsman) as an inheritance should be passed down to his daughters. 3 The trouble is, if they marry outside of our tribe into another Israelite tribe, their land will go with them. That will reduce the territory designated to our family and increase the other tribe’s inheritance. 4 And in the great 50th year, the Sabbath of Sabbath years called the Jubilee of the Israelites, whatever land used to be ours through their connection to our family will certainly revert to whichever tribe they married into.[a] In other words, their inheritance will be forever taken away from the territory that belongs to our extended family.
Moses (to all the Israelites): 5 The Eternal has said that these descendants of Joseph are right. 6-9 In light of it, He has determined that Zelophehad’s daughters should marry whomever they think is best, but they should do so within the clan of their extended family so that their land stays in the family. The same goes for any future Israelite daughters in a similar situation. Let them marry whomever they will, but only within the clan of their father’s extended family. There shouldn’t be any permanent transfer of land from one tribe to another because the territories should be fixed as each tribe’s inheritance for all time.
10-11 The daughters of Zelophehad didn’t argue or dissent. They obeyed the command of the Eternal One as articulated by Moses. Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah each married one of their cousins 12 from a clan of Manesseh (Joseph’s son). Thus, they and their land stayed within the Manasseh clan.
13 These are the directions and instructions the Eternal One gave through Moses to the Israelites before they entered Canaan, as they stood on the Moabite flatlands next to the Jordan River, east of Jericho.
1 These are the words Moses spoke to all the people of Israel who were gathered in the wilderness in the Arabah Valley east of the Jordan River, across from Suph. They’d traveled through many places on their way here, from Paran through Tophel and on to Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
These places serve as various destinations along Israel’s wilderness route before they reach the plains of Moab, facing the Jordan River, just outside the land of Canaan.
2 It’s only an 11-day journey by the Mount Seir road from Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), where God made a covenant with Israel, to Kadesh-barnea, where the people first tried to enter the promised land. 3-4 Now on the first day of the 11th month, 40 years after the nation left Egypt and sometime after Moses had defeated Sihon (king of the Amorites who ruled in Heshbon) and Og (king of Bashan who ruled in Ashtaroth and Edrei), Moses began to give to a new generation of the Israelites each word the Eternal had commanded him to tell them. 5 Beyond the Jordan River in the land of Moab, Moses tried to explain this law and its outworking for the people.
Moses now explains to the current generation of Israelites what the Lord has done for them, so the Israelites can confidently give their full allegiance to this One God, who has already proven Himself as their protector and guide. Even today it’s helpful for us to remember God’s faithfulness to earlier generations in our own families and nations. Our confidence in God is strengthened most when we recall how He has worked directly in our own lives to protect, provide for, and guide us.
Moses: 6 The Eternal, our True God, spoke to us back at Horeb. He told us, “You’ve stayed long enough at this mountain! 7 Break camp, and head up into the Amorite highlands, into the territories of all their neighbors—into the arid valley,[b] the hills, the lowlands, the southern desert,[c] and the Mediterranean seacoast. Go into the land of the Canaanites, as far north as Lebanon and all the way east to the great Euphrates River. 8 Look! I’ve brought you right to the edge of the land that I, the Eternal, swore I’d give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their descendants after them. Go in, and take possession of it!”
9 I had to tell you at the time, “I can’t bear you as a people and deal with all of your cases by myself anymore. 10 The Eternal your God has kept increasing your numbers, and just look at you today! There are as many of you as there are stars in the sky! 11 I hope the Eternal, the God of your ancestors, makes you a thousand times more numerous and blesses you just as He said He would. 12 But how can I alone handle your problems and burdens and cases? 13 Choose some wise, perceptive, knowledgeable men from your tribes, and I’ll put them in authority over you.” 14 You told me you thought it was a great plan, 15 so I took some leaders from your tribes who were wise and well respected; I chose them as authorities over you all—of groups of thousands or hundreds or fifties or tens, and I appointed some as tribal representatives. 16 Then I gave your judges careful instructions: “Listen to the disputes between your neighbors that are brought to you, and judge them fairly regardless of who is involved—two Israelites or an Israelite and a foreigner. 17 Don’t show any favoritism when you judge; whether a person is important or unimportant, hear him out. Don’t be intimidated by anybody because it’s really God who is the judge; you are just His agents. If any case is too difficult for you, bring it to me, and I’ll handle it.” 18 At that time, I told you everything you needed to do.
19 Then we left Horeb, as the Eternal, our True God, commanded us; and we went through that awful, vast wilderness—none of us will ever forget the sight! We headed toward the Amorite highlands until we got to Kadesh-barnea. 20 I told you, “You’ve reached the Amorite highlands, and the Eternal our God is going to give them to us soon. 21 Look! The Eternal, your True God, has put this land within your grasp! Go up into these highlands, and take possession of them as the Eternal, the God of your ancestors, promised you would. Go! Don’t be afraid, and don’t be intimidated!”
The Book of Deuteronomy, even as it follows a covenant-treaty form, has almost a cinematic quality to it. Much of the action takes place in flashbacks as Moses recalls events and describes them to the Israelites in a drama. As we’ve been seeing in this opening historical section of the book, sometimes there are even layers of voices. At one point, Moses speaks in the voice of the people as they speak in the voice of the spies. Shortly we’ll see Moses speaking in the voice of the Lord as He speaks in Moses’ own voice! It begins by showing a storyteller and then shifts locations repeatedly in space and time to depict the various episodes he’s describing, with his voice providing continuity throughout. Deuteronomy has a timeless, ancient-modern feel because the story of God’s work on earth really is written and told by people as they struggle, with varying degrees of success, to understand God’s purposes and to join with those people of God who have gone before us.
22 But you approached me with ideas of your own: “Couldn’t we send a few people in to investigate first? They could explore the land, come back, and tell us what route we should take and what cities we’d come to along the way.” 23 I agreed this was a good idea, so I chose 12 of you to go, one from each tribe. 24 They went up into the highlands. They explored the Eshcol Valley 25 and picked some of the enormous fruit growing there. Then they came back down to us with the fruit and a report: “This is a wonderful land that the Eternal our God is going to give to us!”
26 But even after all this encouragement, you still weren’t willing to go up and fight. You rebelled against what the Eternal your God told you to do. 27 In your homes, you complained to each other, “The Eternal hates us! That’s why He brought us out of the land of Egypt—so He could hand us over to the Amorites. They’re going to destroy us! 28 He tells us, ‘Go up,’ but go up where? The report of the rest of those we sent out was terrifying: ‘The people there are bigger and taller than we are. Their cities are huge, with walls as high as the sky! We even saw giants there—descendants of the Anakim.’”
29 So I told you, “Don’t be scared! Don’t be afraid of them! 30 You won’t have to fight this battle yourselves; the Eternal your God, who always goes ahead of you, will fight for you just as He did in Egypt—you saw Him do it! 31 And here in this wilderness, all along the route you’ve traveled until you reached this place, haven’t you seen the Eternal, your True God, carrying you the way a parent carries a child? 32 But you still don’t trust the Eternal your God, 33 even though He always goes ahead of you as you travel and finds places for you to camp. In a pillar of fire by night and in a cloud by day, He always shows you the right way to go.”
34 When the Eternal heard your untrusting words, He angrily swore an oath: 35 “Not a single person in this wicked generation will see the good land I swore to give to your ancestors! 36 There’ll be only one exception: Caleb (Jephunneh’s son). He will see it. I’ll give the very land he walked through when he spied it out to him and his descendants because he remained completely loyal to the Eternal.” 37 And He was angry with me, too, because of the way you acted. He told me, “Not even you will go into the land! 38 It will be Joshua (Nun’s son), a man you’ve already entrusted with important responsibilities, who will enter it instead. Encourage him, because he will lead the people into the land and give it to Israel as their possession. 39 You said that if you fought, all your soldiers would be killed and your little ones would become plunder for your enemies. But it will be those children under age 20, who don’t know right from wrong yet, who will enter the land. I’ll give it to them, and it will belong to them. 40 But as for you, head back into the wilderness, toward the Red Sea.”[d]
41 After God’s judgment you responded, “We’ve sinned against the Eternal! We’ll go up and fight now, just as the Eternal, our True God, commanded us.” So each of you strapped on your weapons and prepared to fight. You thought it would be easy to get up into the highlands. 42 The Eternal tried to warn you that it was too late by telling me, “Tell them not to go up and not to fight! I am not with them. They’ll be crushed by their enemies.” 43 I told you everything, but you wouldn’t listen. You rebelled against the Eternal’s command, and you went up arrogantly into the highlands. 44 The Amorites who lived there came out and attacked you, and you ran away from them as if they were a swarm of bees! They crushed more and more of your soldiers all the way from Seir to Hormah, until they gave up the chase. 45 You came back and wept before the Eternal. But He wouldn’t listen to a word you said. 46 So you just stayed in Kadesh and didn’t leave for a long time.
6 1-2 One Sabbath Day,[a] some Pharisees confronted Jesus again. This time, they saw the disciples picking some grain as they walked through the fields. The disciples would dehusk the grain by rubbing the kernels in their hands, and then they would eat it raw.
Jesus certainly has His detractors. They watch Him closely and voice their opposition to His words and actions. Sometimes they even try to stump Him with questions or publicly humiliate Him. But Jesus refuses to be intimidated. For every charge they level, He has an answer. To the charge of blasphemy, He responds, “I have the authority to forgive sins.” To the charge that He befriends sinners and parties too much, He answers, “These are My people; I’ve come for them.” To the accusation that He breaks Sabbath law, He quips, “The Sabbath is a great servant, but it’s not your master. I am Lord of the Sabbath.” The crowds are amazed at the tense give-and-take between Jesus and His opponents. They seem to respect the Pharisees for their strict observance of God’s law, or perhaps they fear them because they don’t want to become targets of Pharisaic criticism. Yet the people are attracted to Jesus because of the peculiar moral authority He exhibits. As time goes on, Jesus crosses more and more lines drawn in the sand. The tension between Jesus and the Pharisees now becomes a major plotline of Luke’s story.
Pharisees: Don’t You know the sacred law says You can’t harvest and mill grain on the Sabbath Day—the day on which all work is forbidden? Why do You think You can ignore the sacred law?
The Pharisees think they have God all figured out. They claim to be experts in the sacred writings—the Hebrew Scriptures. But Jesus doesn’t fit in with their assumptions and expectations, and He doesn’t submit to their presumed expertise. So they are constantly criticizing Him and trying to trap Him in some obvious wrongdoing or unorthodoxy. But Jesus responds with questions instead of answers. He seems to decide that the best way to help them is by challenging them to think, to question their assumptions, to see things from a higher or deeper perspective. For example, they argue about what is permissible on the Sabbath Day (the seventh day, the day of rest); this is how Jesus gets them thinking about the deeper purpose of the Sabbath Day.
Jesus: 3 Speaking of the sacred law, haven’t you ever read about the time when David and his companions were hungry? 4 Don’t you remember how he went into the house of God and took the sacred bread of the presence—which, you may recall, only the priests were lawfully permitted to eat? Remember that he not only ate it, but he also gave it to his companions?[b] 5 Likewise, the Son of Man has authority over the Sabbath.
6 On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught there. In the congregation was a man who had a deformed right hand. 7 The religious scholars and Pharisees watched Jesus; they suspected that He might try to perform a healing on that day, which they would use as evidence to convict Him of Sabbath-breaking.
8 Jesus knew about their plan, and He told the man with the deformed hand to come and stand in front of everyone. The man did so. 9 Then Jesus spoke directly to the religious scholars and Pharisees.
Jesus: Here’s a question for you: On the Sabbath Day, is it lawful to do good or to do harm? Is it lawful to save life or to destroy it?
10 He turned His gaze to each of them, one at a time. Then He spoke to the man.
Jesus: Stretch your hand out.
As the man did, his deformed hand was made normal again. 11 This made the Pharisees and religious scholars furious. They began discussing together what they would do to Jesus.
1 Shout out to God, all the earth.
Erupt with joy to the one True God!
2 Sing of the glory due His name!
Offer Him the most magnificent praises!
3 Say to God, “All You have done is wondrous and causes fear!
Your power is mighty, and Your enemies pretend to submit to You.
4 The entire earth will bow down to worship You
and will sing glory-songs to You;
they will sing praises to Your name!
5 Come and witness the True God’s endless works.
His miraculous deeds done on behalf of humanity inspire fear.
6 He transformed the sea into dry land;
our people passed through the river on foot!
Rejoice in Him; celebrate what He did there!
7 By His great might, He rules forever;
His eyes watch over all the nations,
so no one should go up against Him.
8 Everyone, bless our True God!
Let praise-filled voices be heard near and far—at home and on foreign soil!
9 Praise the One who gives us life and keeps us safe,
who does not allow us to stumble in the darkness.
10 For You have put us to the test, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
11 You trapped us with a snare;
You have laid upon our backs a heavy burden.
12 You allowed us to be conquered and let our enemies run over us.
We journeyed through dangers, through fire and flood,
But You led us finally to a safe place, a land rich and abundant.
13 I will come into Your temple with burnt offerings;
I will fulfill my promises to You—
14 The oaths that parted my lips
and were promises my mouth freely made when I was suffering and in anguish.
15 I will bring You my sacrifices—plump beasts
and the sweet smoke of consecrated rams—
I will also offer You bulls and goats.
16 Come and listen, everyone who reveres the True God,
and I will tell you what He has done for me.
17 I cried out to Him with my mouth,
and I praised Him with my tongue.
18 If I entertain evil in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me.
19 But surely God has heard me;
He has paid attention to the urgency of my request.
20 May the True God be blessed,
for He did not turn away from my prayer
nor did He hold back His loyal love from me.
24 One shares liberally and yet gains even more,
while another hoards more than is right and still has need.
25 A giving person will receive much in return,
and someone who gives water will also receive the water he needs.
Generosity places God’s gifts and blessings into circulation. The principle is simply stated: by giving we receive. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is how God’s economy works. As Jesus said, “Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give” (Luke 6:38).
26 Curses fall upon those who hoard food,
but blessings come to those who sell food.