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18 Moses: The Levitical priests and the whole tribe of Levi will not have any inherited property within Israel. They will be supported by the sacrifices and other offerings that are burnt and set aside for the Eternal. 2 They won’t have any share in the land, as the other Israelites do, but the Eternal Himself will be their share as He promised.
This is a special arrangement between God and the Levites; He’ll provide for them and give them their distinct identity so they can focus on serving Him instead of serving their families.
3 Whenever someone sacrifices an ox or a sheep, the priests are entitled to these portions: one shank (a thigh and shoulder), the cheeks (those tender delicacies), and the fourth compartment of the stomach so they can have rennet to make cheese curds. 4 You must also give the priests the first grain, wine, and olive oil you produce each year, and the first wool you shear from your sheep 5 because the Eternal your God chose Levi and his descendants, out of all of your tribes, to stand in His presence and to serve in His name at all times.
6 If a Levite who’s living in one of your cities anywhere in Israel decides he really wants to go and live in the place the Eternal will choose, 7 he must be allowed to serve in the name of the Eternal his God, like all of the other Levites who are already serving there in the Eternal’s presence. 8 He must be given an equal share of the contributions to eat, apart from anything he earns for performing priestly services.[a]
9 When you’ve settled in the land the Eternal your God is giving you, don’t imitate the horrible practices of the other nations. 10 Don’t ever burn any of your sons or daughters alive as a sacrifice! And don’t ever get involved in any divining, such as predicting fortunes, interpreting omens, sorcery, 11 casting spells, or trying to contact ghosts, spirits, or the dead. 12 The Eternal is horrified when anyone does these things. It’s because of these horrible practices that the Eternal your God is driving those nations out ahead of you. 13 You shall be complete in your obedience and devotion to Him.
The pagan nations around them share the belief that absolute immanent power comes from within creation. They engage in many activities designed to tap into that power so that they can gain knowledge of the future or have influence over others. “Drawing lots” is often done by writing possibilities on pottery shards, putting them in a bag, and then drawing out an answer. Other ways of trying to predict the future or choose the best course include watching the shapes of clouds or listening for natural omens such as bird cries. It is commonly believed that spirits and the dead can also provide guidance and special information. Whatever specific practices are being described here, however, the general principle is once again that the people should trust the Lord, transcendent above creation, as their source of guidance and protection.
Moses: 14 The nations you’re going to displace seek guidance from people who practice divination and predicting. But the Eternal your God doesn’t want you to do that. 15 He will raise up from among your own people a prophet who will be like me.[b] Listen to him. 16 This is just what you asked Him for on the day you gathered at Mount Horeb: “Don’t make me listen to the voice of the Eternal my God anymore! And don’t make me look at that blazing fire! I’ll die!”[c] 17 The Eternal told me, “They’re right. 18 I’ll send them another prophet like you from among their own people. I’ll put My words in the mouth of this prophet who will tell them everything I command him to say. 19 I, Myself, will punish whoever doesn’t listen to his words[d] when the prophet speaks in My name. 20 But a prophet who dares to say anything in My name that I haven’t commanded, or who says anything in the name of another god, will die.” 21 Now you may be wondering, “How will we recognize something He hasn’t commanded a prophet to say?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the Eternal One’s name, but the words turn out not to be true or the prediction doesn’t happen, then He wasn’t actually speaking. That prophet arrogantly spoke in the Lord’s name, but he didn’t really have a message from Him. And so you don’t need to be afraid of what the prophet said.
The next group of laws in Deuteronomy is concerned with making sure people in Israel treat one another honestly and fairly. Safeguards are to be put in place to protect the lives and property of the innocent and to make sure the guilty are caught and punished. These will include the cities of refuge, property markers, and the court system. Each law in this group seeks specifically to prevent people from abusing or manipulating one these safeguards.
19 Moses: When the Eternal your God has destroyed the nations whose land He’s going to give you, when you’ve driven them out and have settled in their cities and are living in their houses, 2-3 then designate three cities of refuge for yourselves in the land He is giving you to live in. Divide your territory into three parts, locate one city centrally in each part, and measure the roads to each of them. That way a person who kills someone accidentally can escape to one of these cities and be safe from revenge.
4 This is the kind of person I’m talking about: someone who kills a friend unintentionally, when there was no grudge between them, 5 such as when two friends go into the forest together to chop wood, and one of them swings an ax to cut a tree, and the ax head slips off the handle, hits his friend, and kills him. A person such as he can flee to one of these cities and be safe from revenge. 6 Otherwise, if the distance to the nearest city of refuge is too great, one of the relatives of the friend who was killed is going to feel honor-bound to avenge the dead man’s blood, and he’ll catch up with him and kill him while he’s still furious about his relative’s death. This wouldn’t be right because the man slaughterer didn’t deserve the death sentence. There was no grudge between these friends—the death was accidental. 7 That’s why I’m commanding you to designate these three cities for yourselves. 8-9 Now if you carefully obey the command I’m giving you today, to love the Eternal your God and always do as He wishes, then He will expand your territory as He promised your ancestors; He’ll give you all the land He told your ancestors He’d give them. If that happens, then designate three more cities for yourselves, besides the first three. 10 That way no innocent blood will be shed in the land He is giving you to live in, and as a nation you won’t have any bloodguilt just because a city of refuge was too far away.
11 But someone who does hate another person, who ambushes and kills that person can’t escape revenge by fleeing to one of these cities. 12 The elders of his city must send representatives to bring the killer back and turn him over to the blood-avenger, the relative of the murder victim who will kill him. 13 Don’t show any pity! You must remove the stain of innocent blood from Israel, so that everything will go well for you.
14 Don’t steal land from your neighbor by moving the boundary marker your ancestors put in place. Each person’s property is an inheritance from the Eternal, who’s giving you this land to live in.
These potential “property disputes” are a divine reflection. When you steal land from another person, you’re taking away what God has given—that’s like stealing from the Lord Himself!
15 The testimony of a single witness is not sufficient to convict a person of a crime or to find someone guilty of doing something wrong. Every charge must be confirmed by two or three witnesses.[e] 16 If one person accuses another of some crime, and you suspect it’s being done out of malice, 17 bring the two people involved into the Eternal’s presence at the sanctuary. Present their case to the priests and the judges who are serving on the tribunal at the time. 18 The judges will conduct a careful investigation. If it turns out that the witness was lying and accused the other Israelite maliciously, 19-21 then do to the witness exactly what he wanted done to the other person. Don’t show any pity! If he wanted the other person killed, then kill him; if he wanted his eye put out or a tooth knocked out or a hand or foot cut off, then do that to him.[f] This will expel the wicked from your own community. Everyone else will hear what happens and be afraid to do the same thing themselves, so none of you will ever do such an evil thing to each other again.
20 Moses: This is how you should act during wartime: When you go to battle against your enemies, if you see their army is larger than yours and they have horses and chariots, don’t be afraid of them! The Eternal your God is with you—the same God who defeated Pharaoh and brought you out of Egypt. 2 As you are approaching the battlefield, your priest will come over to you and address you: 3 “Listen, Israel! Today you’re going to fight a battle against your enemies. Don’t be intimidated by them! Don’t be afraid! Don’t run away! Don’t let them terrify you! 4 The Eternal, your True God, has come out here with you, and He’ll fight for you against your enemies and save you.” 5 Then the officials will say to the people who are eligible for a deferment, “Has anyone just built a new house but hasn’t begun to use it yet? Go back to your house, because if you died in this battle, someone else would dedicate it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard but hasn’t enjoyed its fruit yet? Go back to your house, because if you died in this battle, someone else would be the first to enjoy its fruit. 7 Has anyone become engaged to a woman but hasn’t consummated the marriage? Go back to your house, because if you died in this battle, someone else would take her.” 8 They’ll continue, “Is anyone here afraid or intimidated? You can go back home too! We don’t want you to make everyone else as scared as you are!” 9 When the officials have finished speaking to the troops, they’ll appoint commanders to lead each section of the army.
10 When you first approach a city you’re going to fight against, shout out, “Peace!” 11 If they shout back, “Peace!” and open their gates to you, then you must let them surrender. Make everyone in the city your slaves, and put them to work for you. 12 But if the city doesn’t surrender, if it resists you instead, then lay siege to it. 13 When the Eternal your God enables you to capture the city, kill all the men who are left in it with your swords. 14 But you can take the women, children, livestock, all the other goods in the city, and all of its spoils as your plunder for your use. The Eternal your God has given you these spoils from your enemies.
15 This is what you’re to do with cities that are a great distance from you that don’t belong to the nations living here. 16 But when you conquer one of the cities the Eternal, your True God, is giving you to live in and pass on to your children, don’t spare anything that breathes! 17 If it’s a city that belongs to the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, or the Jebusites, then completely destroy the inhabitants as He has commanded you. 18 If you don’t, they’ll teach you to do all the horrible things they do for their gods, and you’ll sin against Him.
19 When you’re fighting against a city, and it hasn’t fallen to you even after a long siege, don’t chop down all the trees around it. You can eat the fruit and nuts they produce, so don’t cut them down. Are these trees humans who are resisting your siege? Of course not! 20 Only cut down the trees you know don’t produce any food. You can use them to build siege machines against the city you’re fighting with until it falls.
In this section of Luke, Jesus is working hard with the disciples. They have a lot to learn and not much time left to learn it. But their “not-getting-it factor” is quite amazing. Luke’s tone betrays him shaking his head and chuckling as he writes, thinking about how foolish the disciples can be at times. And, of course, he’s probably thinking of himself too . . . just as he hopes his readers will when they read about the stupid things the disciples say and do—one moment seeing and hearing glorious things, the next moment missing the point entirely.
28 Those words had about eight days to settle in with the disciples. Then, once again, Jesus went away to pray. This time He took along only Peter, John, and James. They climbed a mountainside and came to a place of solitude.
29-32 Jesus began to pray and the disciples tried to stay awake, but their eyes grew heavier and heavier and finally they all fell asleep. When they awakened, they looked over at Jesus and saw something inexplicable happening. Jesus was changing before their eyes, beginning with His face. It seemed to glow. The glow spread, and even His clothing took on a blinding whiteness. Then, two figures appeared in the glorious radiance emanating from Jesus. The three disciples somehow knew that these figures were Moses and Elijah. Peter, James, and John overheard the conversation that took place among Jesus, Moses, and Elijah—a conversation that centered on Jesus’ “departure”[a] and how He would accomplish this departure from the capital city, Jerusalem.
33 The glow began to fade, and it was clear that Moses and Elijah were about to disappear.
Peter (to Jesus): Please, Master, it is good for us to be here and see this. Can we make three structures—one to honor You, one to honor Moses, and one to honor Elijah, to try to capture what’s happening here?
Peter had no idea what he was saying.
34 While he spoke a cloud descended, and they were enveloped in it, and fear fell on them. 35 Then a voice came out of everywhere and nowhere at once.
36 Then the voice was silent, the cloud disappeared, and Moses and Elijah were gone. Peter, James, and John were left speechless, stunned, staring at Jesus who now stood before them alone. For a long time, they did not say a word about this whole experience.
37 They came down the mountain, and the next day yet another huge crowd gathered around Jesus. There was a man in the crowd who shouted out.
Man in Crowd: 38 Teacher! Please come and look at my son here, my only child. 39 From time to time, a demonic spirit seizes him. It makes him scream and go into convulsions. He foams at the mouth. It nearly destroys him and only leaves after causing him great distress. 40 While You were up on the mountain, I begged Your disciples to liberate him from this spirit, but they were incapable of helping us.
Jesus: 41 O generation faithless, twisted, and crooked, how long can I be with you? How much can I bear? Bring your boy here.
42 The boy had taken a few steps toward Jesus when suddenly the demon seemed to rip into the boy, throwing him into convulsions. Jesus spoke sternly to the demonic spirit, and the boy was healed. Jesus presented the boy to his father.
43 The crowd began cheering and discussing this amazing healing and the power of God, but Jesus turned to His disciples.
Jesus: 44 Listen. Listen hard. Let these words get down deep: the Son of Man is going to be turned over to the authorities and arrested.
45 They had no idea what He meant by this; they heard the words but missed the meaning, and they felt too afraid to ask Him to explain further.
46 Later the close followers of Jesus began to argue over the stupid and vain question, “Which one of us is the greatest disciple?”
47 Jesus saw what was going on—not just the argument, but the deeper heart issues—so He found a child and had the child stand beside Him.
Jesus: 48 See this little one? Whoever welcomes a little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. The smallest one among you is therefore the greatest.
John: 49 Master, we found this fellow casting out demons. He said he was doing it in Your name, but he’s not one of our group. So we told him to stop.
Jesus: 50 What? No! Don’t think like that! Whoever is not working against you is working with you.
Many of the psalms in Book Three (Psalms 73–89) are attributed to Asaph. He was a Levite musician appointed by David to lead the worship that surrounded the covenant chest in the congregation tent (1 Chronicles 16:4–6). Asaph and his descendants continued this work through much of Israel’s history, specifically when Solomon dedicated the temple (2 Chronicles 5:12), when Josiah revived the worship of the Eternal One in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35:15), and when Ezra and Nehemiah dedicated the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:35).
The psalms attributed to Asaph were liturgical, that is, they were chanted or sung as a part of the regular worship of God in the temple by the priests, Levites, and perhaps other worshipers too. Whether songs of lament, requests for guidance, or pleas for mercy, these psalms were sung in the one place God would hear them best—at His temple—the nexus between heaven and earth.
1 Truly God is good to His people, Israel,
to those with pure hearts.
2 Though I know this is true, I almost lost my footing;
yes, my steps were on slippery ground.
3 You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men
and thought, “The wicked look pretty happy to me.”
4 For they seem to live carefree lives, free of suffering;
their bodies are strong and healthy.
5 They don’t know trouble as we do;
they are not plagued with problems as the rest of us are.
6 They’ve got pearls of pride strung around their necks;
they clothe their bodies with violence.
7 They have so much more than enough.
Their eyes bulge because they are so fat with possessions.
They have more than their hearts could have ever imagined.
8 There is nothing sacred, and no one is safe.
Vicious sarcasm drips from their lips;
they bully and threaten to crush their enemies.
9 They even mock God as if He were not above;
their arrogant tongues boast throughout the earth; they feel invincible.
10 Even God’s people turn and are carried away by them;
they watch and listen, yet find no fault in them.
11 You will hear them say, “How can the True God possibly know anyway? He’s not even here.
So how can the Most High have any knowledge of what happens here?”
12 Let me tell you what I know about the wicked:
they are comfortably at rest while their wealth is growing and growing.
13 Oh, let this not be me! It seems I have scrubbed my heart to keep it clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
And for what? Nothing.
14 For all day long, I am being punished,
each day awakening to stern chastisement.
15 If I had said to others these kinds of things about the plight of God’s good people,
then I know I would have betrayed the next generation.
16 Trying to solve this mystery on my own exhausted me;
I couldn’t bear to look at it any further.
17 So I took my questions to the True God,
and in His sanctuary I realized something so chilling and final: their lives have a deadly end.
18 Because You have certainly set the wicked upon a slippery slope,
You’ve set them up to slide to their destruction.
19 And they won’t see it coming. It will happen so fast:
first, a flash of terror, and then desolation.
20 It is like a dream from which someone awakes.
You will wake up, Lord, and loathe what has become of them.
21 You see, my heart overflowed with bitterness and cynicism;
I felt as if someone stabbed me in the back.
22 But I didn’t know the truth;
I have been acting like a stupid animal toward You.
23 But look at this: You are still holding my right hand;
You have been all along.
24 Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice;
when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory.
25 For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven.
There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You.
26 I admit how broken I am in body and spirit,
but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever.
27 It will happen: whoever shuns You will be silenced forever;
You will bring an end to all who refuse to be true to You.
28 But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.
O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe—
I will tell everyone what You have done.
10 Those who are righteous treat their animals humanely,
but the compassion of the wicked is really inhumane.