Law and Grace: Deuteronomy 19:14-20:8

Deuteronomy 19:14‑20:8  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Deuteronomy 19:14-20:814Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it. 15One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. 16If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; 17Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. 20And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. 21And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. 1When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 2And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, 3And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. 5And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. 6And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. 7And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her. 8And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart. (Deuteronomy 19:14‑20:8)
The children of Israel were taught to respect the property of others, and not remove the neighbors’ landmarks. Boy and girls, and older ones too, can learn from this to be careful with what is not their own. We should always take special care of anything that is loaned to us, so that it does not get spoiled or broken. Nor should we spoil our neighbors’ lawns or gardens, since they do not belong to us. These are little things that boys and girls often forget about, and yet thoughtlessness in these very things often hinders one’s testimony to Christ a great deal.
If anyone was accused of doing wrong, one witness was not sufficient to prove it. There must be two or three witnesses before the man was charged with guilt, and they were also to be careful lest any of the witnesses were false witnesses. They were to make careful inquiry to be sure that the man was really guilty before he was punished. God is just, and He taught the people these things that they might be just in their dealings, too. How solemn it is, when we stop to think of it, that the very people who were given these laws once took the Lord of glory to prison to judge Him. He came in humiliation, sent by God His Father in love, and they hated Him without a cause (John 15:2525But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. (John 15:25)). When they could not find anything against Him, they sought false witnesses (Matt. 26:5959Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; (Matthew 26:59)), and even their false witnesses did not agree among themselves — yet still they condemned Him to die. What injustice! And now, knowing that they treated our blessed Lord in this way, can we expect anything different ourselves? Let us not expect righteousness from this “present evil world,” and then we will not be disappointed.
The Difference Between Law and Grace
In the end of the nineteenth chapter we can plainly see the difference between law and grace. Under law it was “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but grace has taught us to love our enemies. We, as Christians, are not to “pay back,” but to show the kindness of God even to those who wrong us (Matthew 5:3838Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: (Matthew 5:38), Romans 12:19-2019Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (Romans 12:19‑20)).
The children of Israel were an earthly people, looking for an inheritance on the earth. It was therefore right for them to fight for the possession of their land — the land of Canaan. Our conflict as Christians is a spiritual one. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)). We are not to fear the spiritual enemies in the way, but to do as the children of Israel were told, and go boldly forward, counting on the Lord to undertake for us.
Moreover, the Lord did not want His people to go forward with faint or divided hearts. If they had their hearts set upon a home, a vineyard or a young lady whom they had promised to marry, they were not to go into the battle line. Or if they were afraid, and would discourage others by their faintheartedness, they were told to turn back before they faced the enemy. These instructions have a lesson for us, showing that God wants our whole-hearted service to Him. How often someone who is earthly-minded, or afraid to endure any hardships for Christ’s sake, has been the means of discouraging others, or causing them to turn back to earthly things, too.
Further Meditations
1. What was necessary before a man was charged with guilt?
2. Whole-hearted service for the Lord can be a real encouragement to others. Describe how Jonathan brought a great victory to Israel by his personal devotedness to the Lord’s cause.
3. Eric Smith in the Audio CD Lovest Thou Me More Than These? presents a very touching message to your heart. The aged missionary encourages you to follow Christ with a full heart.