Practices of A Peculiar People
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 15. We have been studying the book of Deuteronomy, as you know, for a number of weeks. At the present time, we are discussing the second discourse which Moses delivered on this side of Jordan. This was a rather long discourse, beginning with chapter 5 and going all the way through chapter 26. It falls into three natural divisions: Chapters 5-11 deal with what Moses had to say about the moral law of God, or what we know as the Ten Commandments ; chapter 12 through the major portion of chapter 16 has to do with the ceremonial law or regulations related to religious worship; the latter part of chapter 16 and going through chapter 23 is the third part of this second discourse which might be related to judicial observations and regulations, recognizing that most of the jurisprudence with which we are familiar today is based upon that which we find in that particular portion of the Word of God.

For the past two or three weeks, we have been looking at the ceremonial law. We discovered that God expected continual and constant obedience on the part of the children of Israel after they went into the Land of Promise. We found as well that there would be enticements away from that continual obedience provided by the archenemy of all of us—namely Satan—who goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We found that God expected His people to obey, not simply for the sake of obedience, but because they were a peculiar people.

We have been noticing in chapter 14 how they were peculiar. They were not peculiar in the sense that they were odd or that they were mentally disturbed or that they acted in a fanatical manner. They were God's own possession, for that was the meaning of the word peculiar . We noticed some of the signs of that peculiarity, which were related to things which they were to avoid as the people of God. Those things were listed for us in chapter 14 of the book of Deuteronomy.

Practices to Which We Should Adhere

We are going to consider the positive side of the question and notice together practices to which these people should adhere because they were the peculiar people of God. I trust that we are making our point. Up to this time, we have looked at practices which they were to avoid because they were the peculiar people of God. We are now going to look at practices to which they should adhere because they are the peculiar people of God.

You will remember that we asked you to turn to Paul's letter to Titus where we discovered that we as believers, we the Body of Christ, are a peculiar people, for we found there in Titus, chapter 2, verses 11-12:

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;

Now notice verse 14, where we read:

Titus 2:

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

A people for His own possession. As we looked at the practices which Israel was to avoid because they were God's peculiar people, we found certain lessons that indicated to us things we should avoid as Christians because we are God's peculiar people. By the same principle, we are going to find in chapter 15 practices to which we should adhere because we are God's peculiar people

I believe it would be well for us to read chapter 15 in its entirety before we look into it at all and then we will go back and notice some of the things that should be emphasized. I think it would be well to begin our reading with verse 21 of chapter 14 in order to get the full subject matter of the paragraph before us. We read:

Deuteronomy 14:

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, 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,

Deuteronomy 15:

1At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release.
3Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
4Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
5Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
6For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.
7If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
12And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
15And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
16And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;
17Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.
18It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.
19All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.
20Thou shalt eat it before the Lord thy God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household.
21And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be Lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God.
22Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.
23Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.

The Practice of Tithing

We will stop our reading there, making some general observations. You will notice a familiarity between this chapter and what we learned in the book of Exodus and in the book of Leviticus—a reference to the tithe and a reference to the year of release. In the book of Exodus, it was the Year of Jubilee . Instead of it being every seven years, it was every seventieth year.

When we think about what he said about the tithe in this particular portion of the Word, we are reminded once again how foolish it is to take things in the Old Testament that were related particularly to the nation of Israel and try to apply them literally to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone may say, “Isn't this exactly what you have been doing for the past several weeks?” No, it isn't what we have been doing. We have been interpreting the book of Deuteronomy in the light of I Corinthians, chapter 10, which reminds us that these things were written for examples and for types. Only as we find a comparative fact in the New Testament dare we use anything in the Old Testament to apply to Christians. Then only should it apply by the way of illustration and by way of application. Someone may say, “Well, if that is what you are going to do, why don't you just study the New Testament and take the same truth out of the New Testament and study it instead of studying the Old Testament?”

The answer is twofold: One is that the way God teaches us is line upon line and precept upon precept; he other is that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul and Peter and the other New Testament writers set the example for us. They were constantly drawing on Old Testament illustrations to emphasize New Testament truths. For example: The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up.” You will recall that the children of Israel, while they were yet in the wilderness were murmuring and complaining against God for His provisions. God sent fiery serpents among them. They were bitten; they were dying; there was no cure for them until Moses interceded unto God in their behalf. Then God instructed Moses to take a serpent made out of brass, put it upon a pole, put it up in the middle of the camp where everybody might be able to see it, and then tell the people that if they looked, they would live.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not suggest that a brazen serpent be made that all men might bow down and worship it, but He did say that that incident in the life of Moses was a perfect illustration of what would occur when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was lifted up upon the Cross. So we have good precedent and good example, but we are emphasizing this fact because it is so well illustrated in the chapter before us that these Old Testament truths for the most part can be used only by way of application.

Most of what we have read in your hearing has to do with the tithe and this is a familiar word to most of you—a tithe, a tenth. It has been hammered into you. You have been told again and again that the Christian in this New Testament age is expected to tithe, and Old Testament passages of Scripture are given as a basis for demanding the tithe from the child of God in this age of grace. Someone may say, “But the tithe is mentioned in the New Testament.” Yes, it is, but in every passage of Scripture, it is mentioned that it is relating a historical event from the Old Testament. It is not even mentioned by way of application in those passages of Scripture; it is simply the repeating of an historical event.

Someone may say, “Don't you believe in tithing?” My answer is: I do not believe that tithing is obligatory on the part of the child of God. I do suggest that until a better method is found for apportioning gifts, the tithe is a good measuring stick, but I do not feel, on the basis of the Word of God, that it is obligatory on the part of the child of God. I believe that the emphasis in the New Testament on Christian giving is found in I Corinthians, chapter 16 and II Corinthians, chapters 8-9

.

We are suggesting to you that the basis of New Testament giving is grace, and grace will make possible the giving of more than a tithe in most instances in the lives of believers. If it does not make possible the giving of more than a tithe and permits less than a tithe, the grace of giving will bring rich liberality into the hearts and the lives of believers.

The reason I am calling attention to the tithe in the manner in which I have is to illustrate to you that if we are consistent in literally applying the Scriptures related to the tithe—those which are found in the Old Testament—then we would have to eat our tithes, for that is exactly what these people did as you noticed if you were paying attention when we were reading the Word of God

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These individuals we were told in Deuteronomy, chapter 14, were to set aside a tithe of all of their production. That tithe they were to eat at the place where God had set His name, and if for some reason that was not a practical thing to do (Maybe the place where God had set His name was too far away or the tithe was too great.), then they could convert that tithe into money. They could take the money to the appointed place. Then they could spend that money for whatever their heart lusted after. Keep in mind that the word lust in the Word of God does not always refer to something that is evil. They could spend that money for something their heart desired, and they could enjoy their tithes before the Lord. So you see, if we were to take these passages of Scripture related to tithing and insist that they be literally applied, then we would have some problems, would we not?

I would like to ask you by what principle do you take what is found in the book of Malachi and tell people that if they give a tenth, God will open the windows of Heaven and cause their businesses to prosper; and if they don't give a tenth, God will shut up the windows of Heaven and cause them to go broke? By what principle do you take that portion from the book of Malachi and apply it to individuals and don't take this portion from the book of Deuteronomy and apply it to individuals?

What I am pleading for is consistency in our interpretation of God's Word. Usually when I say something like this, folk become alarmed and they feel that we are going to discourage giving and the results will soon show up in the manner in which the money comes in for the Lord's work. I would like to emphasize that what I have been placing the emphasis upon at the moment, I have been doing for over thirty years, and God's work has never suffered under this kind of preaching. As a matter of fact, people have marveled at what a so-called little group of people are able to do when tithing and particularly if storehouse tithing is not taught—even taught against.

What are the lessons we are to learn from the passage which we have read, keeping in mind what I said at the very beginning of our discussion, mainly—that as we have been thinking about things which the Israelites were to avoid, because they were God's peculiar people, we were going to think about practices to which they were to adhere because they were God's peculiar people.

Of course we have already emphasized one of them—namely, the setting aside the tithe in recognition of God's supply. They were to set aside a tenth to recognize the fact that God met every need. I wonder what possible lesson this could have for us today

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I would like to suggest one and that is that God has given us all things richly to enjoy, and we should recognize that every good gift and every perfect gift cometh from above from the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Recognition of God's Goodness

The Israelites emphasized their belief in this by eating the tithe in the appointed place. Since we are not literally going to do the same thing, we should recognize before men that what we have has come from God, and certainly we should recognize it before our children. We should instill into the lives and thinking of our children the fact that what we have is not ours because we have been good workmen or because we have been skilled craftsmen or because we have been well educated. All of those things may enter into it, but we should instill into the lives of our children the fact that what we have, we have because of the goodness of God.

Public Thanks for God's Provision

One of the ways that we can do this is through what we call the blessing , or grace or the returning of thanks at the eating of meals—whatever phrase you want to use. This is one manner in which you can manifest this same principle that the Israelites manifested in the setting aside of the tithe. Before they did anything else with the produce of their fields, they took the tithe and ate it in the presence of the Lord to give public recognition of the fact that what they had, God had provided. We, it seems to me, should give the same kind of recognition.

This matter of returning thanks, this matter of saying the blessing, this matter of saying grace, is a controversial matter. We are often asked if thanks ought to be returned in public. We will say without fear of contradiction there is nothing wrong with doing it. The Lord Jesus Christ did it before five thousand people. We do recognize that it is good to use the wisdom from above in the matter of returning thanks in public so that the testimony of the Lord will be enhanced and not hindered, but there is reason for anybody to give thanks in public if they care to. The Lord Jesus Christ did.

Giving Thanks in Private

Of course, there ought to be the matter of giving thanks in private. The Lord Jesus Christ set that example, too. You remember only two people were with Him and they sat down to eat. These two people, the disciples whom He met on the way to Emmaus, recognized Him when He gave thanks for the bread of which they were about to partake. It has always been an interesting thing to me that they were able to recognize Him when they heard Him pray.

Thanks in Times of Dire Stress and Perplexity

The Apostle Paul gave us an example of giving thanks even in times of dire stress and perplexity. How often have you felt that you didn't have time to give thanks before you ate? Maybe you were ready to go to work and you were late or maybe there was so much commotion and so much going on that you said, “Oh, well, let's just don't bother with thanks today.” Could you ever be in a situation any more serious than a shipwreck, a ship that was being torn apart by a stormy sea? The Apostle Paul was in that situation and the men involved were so frightened that they weren't even going to eat anything and the Apostle Paul broke out the food, so to speak, and said, “We need to eat. God has told me that nobody is going to be lost. Let's thank God for His provision and eat.” They thanked God in the midst of a storm at sea. I suggest to you that we begin to examine our lives a little and see if perchance more of us could not be more thankful systematically and publicly than we are.

Provision for the Poor

Still thinking of the matter of the tithe, we noticed as we read in chapter 14, verses 28-29, that the tithe was to be set aside once every three years for the purpose of meeting the needs of the poor. The tithe was not to be eaten at this particular time. It was to be set aside, put in a common treasury, in order to meet the needs of the poor. In relation to such a procedure, there was called into practice as we noticed from reading chapter 15, what was to be referred to as the year of release . Every seventh year every debt was to be forgiven. Every seventh year every slave was to be set free. This was God's provision for the poor and another illustration of the marvelous grace of God which is emphasized throughout the Word of God by statement and by illustration.

In chapter 15 of the book of Deuteronomy, verses 7-11, emphasis is placed upon the poor themselves and God's generous provision for them on the part of the master who had them under control. It was to be a very liberal provision in verses 12-15. God said:

Deuteronomy 15:

12And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
15And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.

Liberality which was enjoined upon the Israelites, a practice to which they were to adhere because they were God's peculiar people, was not at all an unusual thing in the light of the fact that they were bondsmen in the land of Egypt and God set them free. The same principle is emphasized in the New Testament in the matter of the forgiveness of sin. We are told that we should forgive one another even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us. If we place our forgiveness on the basis of the manner in which God has forgiven us, then there isn't anything we can't forgive. If we, as God's peculiar people, base our meeting of needs upon the manner in which God has met our need and will meet our need, then we give testimony to the fact that we are God's peculiar people, a people for God's own possession.

Turn in your Bibles to I John, chapter 3, beginning with verse 14:

I John 3:

14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
16Herebynotice carefully now perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Israel was God's peculiar people. They showed it by adhering to the practice of providing for the poor. We are God's peculiar people as believers, and we should show it by adhering to the practice of not shutting up our bowels of compassion against needs which are presented to us. I am well aware of the fact that we have all kinds of benevolent funds and United Funds and what have you, but the individual Christian should be the person who lays before the Lord which rightfully belongs to Him that he might meet the needs of individuals who have less than he has. God will bless your ministry to the poor, emphasizing that not even a cup of cold water given in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be forgotten.

This is something that will be a lasting ministry because we are reminded in this passage in Deuteronomy that the poor will always be with us. All the great society programs to the contray, they will be with us with one exception and that is the thing that interests me about chapter 15 that I want to emphasize.

A Picture of Israel as Head of the Nations

There is a lovely picture of the Millennium in this particular portion of God's Word. You understand that when I speak of the Millennium, I am speaking of that period of time when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to this earth and reign for one thousand years. During that time, the nation of Israel will be abundently blessed so that she will be the head of the nations instead of the tail. God had said here in chapter 15 that the poor should be cared for in the manner we have described:

Deuteronomy 15:

4Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
5Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
6For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

That time has not come, but it will come when God will so arrange the matter of the affairs of the world that Christ will reign supreme and Israel will the head of the nations and not the tail.

The Bondslave's Choice

There is another lovely picture in this chapter to which we have often referred and we just make mention of it. That is the picture of the bondslave. When the year of release came, the bondslave was to be set free; but if he preferred, he could tell the master he would rather stay with him than have his liberty. Then his ear was pierced with an awl and he became a bondslave forever.

The Lord Jesus Christ used this fact as an illustration in His relationship to the Father. The Apostle Paul used it as an illustration of his relationship to Christ. That is the reason he began each one of his epistles with the words, “Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion

I would like to suggest to you that this is the secret of relationship to Christ—to be completely His, to say, as we have said to you so often, an eternal “no” to self and a final “yes” to God.


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