God's Standards: Deuteronomy 16:22-17:16

Deuteronomy 16:22‑17:16  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Deuteronomy 16:22-17:1622Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth. 1Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavoredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God. 2If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, 3And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; 4And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: 5Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. 6At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. 7The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you. 8If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose; 9And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment: 10And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall show thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: 11According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. 12And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. 13And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously. 14When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; 15Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. 16But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. (Deuteronomy 16:22‑17:16)
If the children of Israel planted groves near their altars, this would lead to idolatry itself, and so they are warned against this as well. How careful we have to be to watch against the small beginnings of evil, for one thing leads to another. A grove of trees might not appear to be anything, but it was just copying the heathen, and God could not allow an imitation of idolatry to be mixed with worship to Him. This is a warning, surely, to Christendom with all its observances.
Again the children of Israel were told not to offer the lame and blemished animals to the Lord. These sacrifices figured Christ, and they must therefore be without blemish, for He is the holy, harmless, and undefiled Lamb of God. Then, too, it would not be fitting to offer blemished animals to the Lord, for He should have our best. It would be like men and women saying they want to enjoy the world while they have their health and strength, and then when they get old, after Satan has had their best, then they would like to be saved. It is indeed a sad decision.
Sin Measured by God’s Standards
The people are warned here against any among them who offered their sacrifices to the sun, the moon, or the stars. Any who did these things were to be put to death. Some people think very lightly about such things, but God measures sin by the standard of His own glory, and not by the thoughts of men. If a man were to murder someone, or steal, they would consider it an awful sin (and it is) but it is far worse to turn one’s back on God. You may be a respectable boy or girl, or man or woman, but remember this: if you are a Christ-rejecter, there is death and judgment before you, just as surely as death was the penalty for the one who forsook the true God in Israel. If there were any doubt of a man’s guilt, witnesses must be brought to prove it. There was to be no indifference to evil.
If a matter came up which was too hard for them to decide in one of their cities, they could take it to the place where the Lord’s name was to be placed, and then, when decided, they were to act upon the decision. This is an important consideration for us today, for the Lord has put authority in to the hands of those who are gathered to His precious name (Matthew 18:1818Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)) and we are responsible to recognize it even in a day of ruin. Authority does not mean infallibility — though needless to say no assembly has the authority to set aside the Word of God, but rather to act upon it. There is, however, the possibility of an assembly’s being mistaken in its judgment, and in this case we are to bow to their decision, while waiting upon God, as long as the truth of God is not given up.
Instructions for a King
Although the Lord Himself was Israel’s king, He knew beforehand that the people would want a man to be their king, so as to be like the nations around them. He therefore told them what the king was to do, and what he was not to do. He was not to have many horses. Horses were primarily used in battle in those days, and the nations were confident of victory if they had many horses, but God did not want His people to trust in horses, but in Him. These horses came from Egypt, and so we know there is much that comes from this world in which we might put our confidence, but the Lord would have us trust in Him. His Word says, “Some trust in chanots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:77Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)).
Further Meditations
1. Why were the children of Israel not to offer lame or blemished animals to the Lord?
2. What did Solomon do with horses? How does this show what was happening in his heart and his trust in God?
3. You might be refreshed by reading the simple and encouraging poem The Peace of a Perfect Trust.