The Signs of A Peculiar People
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, the portion of the Word of God we are studying together at this time. Because I think it is good to know whereof we speak, we are going to read the entire chapter before we try to talk about it. As we do this, you will recognize that there are a number of sentences, a number of verses, that in themselves have no particular spiritual meaning or blessing for you; but if we read the whole chapter and get the setting clear in our minds, then we will share the Word in such a fashion that I trust the spiritual lesson can be made. We are not interested in just knowing how much is in the Bible and what is in the Bible.

We are interpreting this Old Testament portion of Scripture in the light of I Corinthians, chapter 10, where we are told that all of these things were written for our examples, for our types, which suggests that these things in the Old Testament were written as pictures to teach us spiritual truths.

What I would like for you to do is to see what spiritual pictures you can find in this chapter as I read it. I am not going to do this, but if I were to say, after we were through reading the chapter, “Now, stand up here and give us the spiritual application of part of this chapter,” what could you say? I endeavor to be as well prepared as I can be, humanly speaking, when I try to teach the Word because I am fearful to step into the pulpit without that preparation. I certainly want to be in a spiritual condition that the Lord could use the ministry of the Word, and I should be able to share these truths with you because I have more time to study than you. I have given my life to this, but I want you to learn to see these things yourself as well as just have them handed out to you.

I have suggested to you at other times that the procedure that I use in studying the Word of God is to take whatever passage of Scripture that is under consideration and read it as many times as I need to read it in the English text to get the picture, understand what is there, because that is important in understanding it—just knowing what is there. Many of us read our Bibles so hurriedly we don't even know what is there. Then I examine the passage of Scripture in the original languages to see what can be learned from that standpoint, asking the Holy Spirit to open my eyes that I might behold wondrous things out of His law as I study. I make notes of these things that the Holy Spirit brings to my mind, and then I read whatever I may have access to which others have written.

I do that for two reasons: One, I do it because it is very possible that the Holy Spirit has revealed something to them that He hasn't revealed to me because He has given pastors and teachers to the body of Christ that we might all profit. Then I read what others have written as somewhat of a safeguard. If something that I have discovered in the Word is too far out, then I want to know the reason for it. I want you to listen very carefully right now. If I find something in the Word that no one else has taught, and I believe that the Word of God bears it out, then I am going to teach it, whether anybody else does or not. I want that clearly understood. But because we are all human, it is good to have this safeguard of what others have taught.

This is the thing that I am building up to. The really thrilling thing is to read in a book maybe not in the exact words a truth that the Holy Spirit has already taught you. If you had picked up that book and read that truth, as far as its effect in your life is concerned, you might be just as well off because truth is truth, but you would have to say, “I learned this from Dr. So-and-so or I learned this from Mr. So-and-so;” but when you have it already down in your notes, then you know that no human instrument had anything to do with that. The Holy Spirit taught it to you and it is a thrilling thing.

So I want you to see as we read this chapter what spiritual lessons you would glean from the chapter and then we will share with you some of those things God has given us, we trust, for you. Notice, chapter 14, beginning with verse 1:

Deuteronomy 14:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
2For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
3Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.
4These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,
5The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.
6And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.
7Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you.
8And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.
9These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:
10And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.
11Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
12But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
13And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
14And every raven after his kind,
15And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
16The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
17And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
18And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
19And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.
20But of all clean fowls ye may eat.
21Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
22Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
23And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.
24And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:
25Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose:
26And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, [Let me pause long enough to say that the word lusteth here is not used in an evil sense. Usually when we see the word lust, we think of something evil in relation to sex, but the word really could be translated by the word desire, by the word want—just whatever you want. It doesn't have an evil sense here.] for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
27And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
28At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
29And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

We have come to the end of chapter 14 and actually the last two verses should be included with chapter 15, but I don't think that we are going to be able to get that far in our discussion, so we won't weary you with the reading of a lot of words that may not have a spiritual connotation for you at the moment.

Review

In order that we might all start off on the same footing, let's review just a bit about the book of Deuteronomy. Keep in mind that the book of Deuteronomy is the record of what Moses proclaimed over a period of forty days while he and the children of Israel were waiting to go into the land of Canaan. It was just as though Moses was saying, “We are going to go into the land of Canaan in a few days and there are some things that you will need to keep in mind after you get into the land.”

We learned that in the first four chapters of the book, he reviewed everything that had happened to them in the wilderness. He reviewed God's faithfulness and their failures. He reminded them that God was faithful to them even in the midst of their failures.

Then he began his second speech. Just how long it was between speeches, I don't know, but keep in mind that this lasted for a period of forty days. This isn't to suggest that he spoke as a marathon speaker who speaks day after day. It was sort of a protracted meeting. The second speech, the second discourse, began with chapter 5 of the book of Deuteronomy and it goes all the way through to chapter 26. You can see, if you are thinking, that we are right here in the middle of his second speech.

In chapters 5-11, he discussed with the Israelites what we refer to as the moral law or the Ten Commandments. He repeated the Ten Commandments and said in so many words, “Remember when you get into the land that God has laid down a moral law.”

We noticed something that we said was significant and that was that there was no change in the Ten Commandments as they were given in Exodus, chapter 19, and as they are repeated here in the book of Deuteronomy, except for amplifications or exhortations, because God's moral law never changes. God's moral law is the same now as it was in the first century. It doesn't change.

Ceremonial Laws

We are in the part of the second discourse that deals with the ceremonial law. It began with chapter 12, and it is going to continue through chapter 16, verse 17. The ceremonial law was different from the moral law in that the ceremonial law represented certain regulations which God laid down in relation to worship. We have discovered and will discover that these ceremonial laws are changed somewhat in the manner in which Moses presents them here in the book of Deuteronomy. The reasons are practical. While they were in the wilderness, there were certain ways of observing the sacrifices, but when they got into the land, there would be no need for observing them in that way. For example, when they were in the wilderness, they worshiped wherever they put down the tabernacle; but God said, “When I get you all into the land of Canaan, I am going to set aside one certain place and I am going to put My name there, and I will expect everybody to come there to worship.”

When we get into chapter 15, we will learn that the men of all the families had to go three times a year to this one certain place. It isn't named in the book of Deuteronomy, but because we have the Bible complete, we know that the place where He chose to put His name was the city of Jerusalem. So ceremonial changes were made because of the situation, which indicates to us that God does not always make the same requirements in relation to method. He permits methods to be adapted to situations. For example, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, their place of worship was a tent that could be moved about easily; but when they were settled in the land, their place of worship was a building that was well built on a good foundation that lasted a long time.

The reason that we want to emphasize this is so that you will keep in mind when the so-called higher critics begin to suggest to you that the Bible isn't inspired because the things that God said in Exodus and Leviticus about the ceremonial regulations are not the same as when He said in the book of Deuteronomy, you remind them that God was adapting these ceremonial regulations to the needs of the people in the locations where they were.

In chapter 12, we learned that there was one thing God was going to demand of His people when they got into the land and that was continual obedience—not spasmodic obedience, but continual obedience. You and I know something about spasmodic obedience, don't we? We are “off again, on again Willie,” if we can use that term. One day we are on the mountain top; the next day we are in the valley. One day we are obedient; the next day we are disobedient. One day we are in fellowship; the next day we are out of fellowship. Of course, we are using those terms figuratively. That isn't the way it ought to be, but we might as well be honest, and admit that that is the way it is with most of us, but God wants continual obedience.

The reason that this continual obedience was not forthcoming with the Israelites, and the reason it is not forthcoming with us is that the Devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour; and as the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, “We are not ignorant of his devices. We know of all of the enticements that he uses to get us to not obey the Lord.” We learned in chapter 13 of the enticements which the Devil used to keep the children of Israel from obeying the Lord. We found in those enticements the same enticements the Devil uses in this century in which we live to keep us from continual obedience

God's Own Peculiar People

That brings us here to chapter 14, at which we are going to look. If I were going to label this chapter, I would call it The Signs of a Peculiar People . The reason that I would give it that name is in verse 2. If you notice in verse 1, he said:

Deuteronomy 14:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
2For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

In the Old Testament, Israel was God's peculiar people. In the New Testament, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is God's peculiar people. An interesting thing to recognize is that the Hebrew word for peculiar used in the Old Testament, and the Greek word for peculiar used in the New Testament mean exactly the same thing. They do not mean that the individuals concerned are odd. It doesn't mean that they are the opposite of square. It means, rather, that they are God's own special possession.

Turn with me to the book of Titus, just to establish the fact that we are God's peculiar people, just as certainly as was Israel God's peculiar people. The reason that we want to establish that fact is that we want to see if the sign of Israel's being a peculiar people given in Deuteronomy, chapter 14, has any lessons for us. Notice verse 11:

Titus 2:

11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself [notice now] a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
15These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Look again at verse 14 as I read it, substituting for the word peculiar what the word in the original actually means. Notice:

Titus 2:

14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a [people for His own possession], zealous of good works.

You see, we are God's peculiar people in this age, just as the nation of Israel was God's peculiar people in the Old Testament age.

Going back to Deuteronomy, chapter 14, God said to Israel, “Because you are My peculiar people, there are certain things which you may do and there are certain things which you should not do.” Here we are going to have to tread carefully, aren't we, because the very moment that we begin to talk about shalt nots we are accused of legalism. Did you notice in Titus, chapter 2, what it said that the grace of God is supposed to do? The grace of God is supposed to teach us. The word teach there means “discipline.” The grace of God is supposed to discipline us. That sounds a bit legalistic, doesn't it? We deny ourselves something—denying ungodliness and worldly desires. The grace of God teaches us that we lay aside ungodly activities because we are God's peculiar people.

The grace of God teaches us that we lay aside worldly desires, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly (That has no reference to intoxicating beverages. It has a reference to a serious outlook on life.), righteously and godly in this present evil world. So you see, God's peculiar people are to be different. They are to be marked as God's own special possession.

Illustrations of Peculiarity

We could spend our time in the New Testament noticing all of the things which are related to God's peculiar people, but we are studying the book of Deuteronomy, so we are going to notice the illustrations which are given in this chapter which are signs of peculiarity, signs of the fact that we are God's own special possession.

Defacing the Body

The first one comes to my mind from verse 1 of chapter 14. I wonder if you thought of it:

Deuteronomy 14:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God: therefore ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.

Perhaps you would say, “Who in the world would want to do that anyway?” The heathen. The heathen did it all the time. They shaved their heads and they cut off their eyebrows and they made marks on the forehead every time anybody died. God said, “You are My people and I don't want you to do that,” so the first thing that this verse of Scripture suggests to me as a sign that we are God's peculiar people, are certain (listen carefully) practices we should avoid. There are some things that it is all right for the world to do. I am using the word world in relation to the unsaved. There are some things it is all right for the unsaved to do that it is not all right for the child of God to do, for no reason in the world other than the fact that he is the child of God.

To aid your memory, we will use a little alliteration and suggest to you that the child of God ought not to deface his body as the unsaved man does. I am just going to be treading on such thin ice that I will fall through and drown before we are through, but this brings to mind so many things. If I mention makeup, am I going to be legalistic? Some folk will say that I am, but do you know that there are Christian ladies who try to keep up with the styles of the world to such an extent that looking at them you wouldn't know that they were the children of God.

I believe that the very glory of God can shine in the face of Christians, but for some Christians it has to go through so many layers of makeup that you never see it. You have heard me say before, and I am going to re-emphasize it, that Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., a dear man of God who meant much to my wife and me in our youth, used to say this: “Ladies, if the barn needs painting, paint it.” That was his position on makeup. That is putting it pretty simply and I think that it is pretty good advice, but some women are not satisfied with that. They are so afraid of being out of the mainstream that they deface themselves, figuratively speaking at least.

Did you notice what Titus, chapter 2, said? “The grace of God teaches us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.”

Do you know what Paul wrote to Timothy? He said, “Timothy, you are a young man, and I am an old man. I am almost to the end of my road, but I want you, Timothy, as a young man, to advise women to dress in all modesty.” You see, if he had said that the skirt should be a certain number of inches below or above the knee, then we would have had a problem. But, he didn't. He said, “Dress in all modesty,” and any Christian woman that follows that principle won't have any problem.

I am saying to you, Beloved, that Israel was God's peculiar people and God said, “Because you are My peculiar people, I don't want you living like the heathen. I don't want you making marks on your face like the heathen do. I don't want you looking like the heathen.” That is what He is saying.

I am perfectly aware that you can't tell the condition of a man's heart by his outward appearance, but I am going to say this and I defy anybody to contradict it successfully. You can contradict it if you want to, but you can't do it successfully. If a person is changed on the inside, eventually it is going to show on the outside. Sooner or later, it will get to the outside if he is changed on the inside.

Look at verse 1 again:

Deuteronomy 14:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.

Despair Without Hope

Here is a second thing in this verse to avoid because they were God's peculiar people. For the sake of alliteration, I refer to it as Despair Without Hope. You see, the first thing I gave you was defacing the body in a manner that would relate you to the world. I am telling you to avoid despairing without hope because the reason these people cut themselves in the manner that is described here and disfigured themselves was that when they laid their dead on the funeral pyre (Only Christians bury their dead.) and cremated them, they had no hope. They were full of despair, and they cut themselves as an indication that all hope was gone.

Remember what you are instructed in I Thessalonians, chapter 4, beginning with 13 and going all the way through to the end of the chapter:

I Thessalonians 4:

13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

Beloved, we are God's peculiar people and because we are His peculiar people we should not sorrow at the time of death as those who have no hope, and yet I think that I am about as sympathetic as anybody can be. I never hold a funeral service without it taking a toll on me. I ask God to teach me to weep with those that weep and He has taught me to do it; but Beloved, emphasizing my own tender heart so that you won't misjudge what I am going to say next, I am concerned that some Christians at a funeral service seem to be absolutely inconsolable. I have had Christians wail so loudly while I was trying to speak that they couldn't have heard a thing I said. They wailed and cried as those who had no hope. I have stood by caskets after the congregation has left the funeral chapel and have had to literally, bodily hold people on their feet because they were so overcome with grief.

Why am I saying this? To suggest to you that we have a testimony to maintain before the world. If you lose a loved one, don't be ashamed of your tears. God made your tears. They are precious to Him. The Bible says that He catches your tears in a bottle. That is a figurative way of telling you how precious your tears are to Him. Don't be ashamed of your tears. Don't be ashamed of weeping, but Beloved, give a testimony to a godless world. Let them know that even though your heart is aching because your loved one is gone, you do have an inner peace because you have a hope, and that hope is that this parting is but for a brief period of time. It will not be forever.

Are you thinking with me? Do you see what it is to show that you are a peculiar people? It is to emphasize to the world that you have got something that they need and something they would want if they just knew it. So when I talk to you about being peculiar, I am not talking to you about being odd and fanatical to the extent that people are going to run the other way when they see you, but I am talking to you about avoiding those practices which would indicate that you are not God's own special possession. So avoid defacing your body in a manner which would indicate that you belong to the world. Avoid despair without hope.

Avoid Feeding Upon the Unclean

Let me suggest to you the third thing: Avoid dieting on that which is predominantly unclean. Avoid dieting on that which is predominantly unclean. Do you have trouble with your diet? I am not thinking about the physical diet at the moment. Most of us do at some time or other. We have to fight the battle of the bulge in some fashion. We have trouble with our physical diet, but I am not talking about a physical diet now. I am talking about the spiritual diet. Did you notice the long list of animals which we read when we read this entire chapter? God said to the Israelites, “Some of them you may eat and some of them you may not eat. Some of them you may eat because they are good for you health-wise.” That is proven by our discussion of the book of Leviticus. “Some of them you may not eat because they are bad for you health-wise.” That, too, is proven by discussion we have had at other times. “Some of them you may not eat because they are related to heathen worship.” For example, down here in verse 21, the last statement:

Deuteronomy 14:

21…Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk…

That is the offspring of a goat. You don't boil it in the milk of the goat. The reason for that was that that was one of the prime practices of the Canaanites as a sacrifice to their gods. So some of these regulations God gave in relation to health and in relation to idolatrous worship.

Let me establish something now. None of these regulations in chapter 14 have any connection to us literally now. We can eat any of these things that we want to eat. I can't imagine wanting to eat a bat, but if you want to eat a bat, go ahead and eat a bat. It won't displease the Lord because in Colossians, chapter 2, verse 16, we are told that we are free from all of these regulations, so nobody can tell you that you can't eat an oyster. I am going to have to leave you with this: All of these verses present a marvelous illustration of how careful the child of God, who is one of God's own peculiar people, must be with his spiritual diet, how careful the child of God must be in relation to the things upon which he feeds.

Conclusion

Let me ask you just this question to provoke your thinking. What do you feed on? Nothing? What do occupy your mind with? How much time is given to the Word? How much time is given to the newspaper? How much time is given to the television, to the radio, to the movies, to magazines? How much time? You know; I don't. That is the kind of diet I am speaking about, and this chapter has a lot to say about it. We will talk about it the next time we meet together.


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