Deuteronomy 24:5-7 (Part 1) – Back Stories, Leadership, & God’s Desire for Liberty

Posted: March 30, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 24:5-7 (Part 1 of 4)

Miscellaneous Regulations

In this passage, Deuteronomy 24:5-7, we have what seems like a group of unrelated regulations. However, upon closer inspection, you can see that there is a common theme. It is about stealing property or liberty. God is concerned with our liberty.

 

This passage is a reminder that we, too, as Christians should be concerned about the people that we lead not just as people to get to do things for the church, but rather as real people with real stories to their lives. How often do we get frustrated with people in our ministries about the fact that they do not seem to care, that they are ambivalent about their opportunities to serve. Maybe, they have some real issues going on. What if they are just newly married? Maybe they need some time to figure out their new situation. What if they are oppressed by their debt and they are having to work two part time jobs in addition to the regular job and they just don’t have time to serve. Maybe, they are in an abusive relationship where their every move is scrutinized and controlled. Maybe, they are….

 

Do we know our people’s “maybe, they are…” Leading is more than just getting people to do what you want them to for you. Leading, particularly in church settings, is getting to know the people that you are charged with leading. Leading is understanding their problems. Leading is making sure that people do not have their liberty stolen away from them. Leading is fighting for their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have often heard as ministry leaders that you cannot share the gospel with a hungry man until you feed him. We cannot expect to help people grow in Christ unless we get to know their back story. That was a point that we made in this blog yesterday. Everybody has a back story that we must get to know. Without knowing someone’s back story, we may jump to conclusions about what motivates a person that we lead. Just as we want people to understand our motivations so, too, we should attempt to understand what motivates each person that we lead. Yeah, that’s hard. But, that’s why leaders are few and the workers are many.

 

We are going to break this passage down into three other blogs after this one, but this morning, the overall sense that I got this morning was from a leadership perspective. Sometimes, we claim as leaders that people just don’t care. We complain about their apathy toward the church they attend when it comes to giving, serving, leading or whatever. Let’s read the passage, Deuteronomy 24:5-7, this morning from that perspective:

 

5 If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

 

6 Do not take a pair of millstones—not even the upper one—as security for a debt, because that would be taking a person’s livelihood as security.

 

7 If someone is caught kidnapping a fellow Israelite and treating or selling them as a slave, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you.

 

As most of the detailed laws in Deuteronomy are expansions upon the general principles expressed in the Ten Commandments, this passage is no different. This trio of laws is an expansion upon the Eighth Commandment (You shall not steal). Verse 5 speaks to the fact that the military draft should not steal away a husband from his newly wedded wife and thus should not have that first year of wedding bliss stolen from her. Verse 6 states that collateral for loans must never affect a person’s means of sustaining life. Therefore, taking of a millstone used from grinding grain away from a person as collateral was far worse than taking the shirt off their back. Verse 7 speaks to stealing a person and making them slaves against their will (human trafficking). It is a particularly offensive crime and worthy of capital punishment. It is the only time that the Bible requires death as a punishment for theft.

 

A one-year exemption for the newly married would not only strengthen the marriage relationship and benefit the home, but would also help the morale of the army. God’s concern for full expression of liberty is shown through is concern for the tender time that there is when a couple first marries. It is a tender time where a husband and wife must learn the nuances of the one they married. It is essential time that must be nurtured and not stolen away.

 

Because loans were typically given to relieve the economic hardship of the borrower (23:19 note), the material given “in pledge” was likely not collateral property of value equal to the amount of the loan, but a personal possession given as a token of the promise to pay. In keeping with the purpose of the loan, the lender was not to cause further hardship to the borrower by confiscating essential items. God’s concern for full expression of liberty in our lives is shown here by ensuring that we are capable of earning a living even when we are in debt. Our debts should not be so oppressive that it steals our ability to live a normal life, that it does not steal our liberty away.

 

The chief purpose of kidnapping was the enslavement of others for profit. To sell fellow Israelites into slavery in other countries was forbidden on pain of death, probably because such slaves were cut off from the life of the covenant community (itself a form of “death,” Ex. 12:19 and Lev. 7:20 notes). Indentured slavery was allowed within Israel, but was tempered in several important ways. Paul condemns slave traders (“enslavers”) together with other violators of the Ten Commandments (1 Tim. 1:10). God’s concern for our liberty is shown here because He created us to be free and to have free will. God wants us to be free and not enslaved by others whether it be from racial slavery, sexual slavery, emotional or physical enslavement or domination by others. We are all created in God’s image and have dignity as a result. Although we may voluntarily place ourselves in service to others, we are never to be forced into a life of servitude. God’s concern for our liberty is on full display here.

 

We are, as Christians, to be concerned about the liberty of others, whether it be among the people we lead within the church or people outside our walls. We are to defend liberty of others. When we see wrong we are to try to right it. However, the only way that we come to care about the salient issues of people in our church or in the world at large is to get to know them. How do you think people come to fight the major issues of the day. It is usually because we have gotten to know someone who has been affected by that issue. As Christ followers, we should realize that Christianity is all about relationships and getting to know people’s back stories. We need to know more than a face that we see on Sunday morning. We need to know more than a face we see at a meeting. We need to know more about our neighbors, co-workers, and acquaitances. Some of them may be experiencing a personal hell and we not even know it. How did we come to Christ? Usually, it is because someone got to know us in our messed up life and shared the gospel with us. We must do the same with the people that we encounter. We cannot judge their apathy toward the church (for a believer) or toward Christ himself (for a non-believer) without knowing their back story. You may never know that this sinful world is stealing someone’s liberty away from them without getting to know that person. Everybody’s got a backstory. Everybody’s got something that weighs them down and prevents the full expression of the liberty that God intends for us.

 

Lord, help us to be like Jesus sitting at the well that day when He was tired and thirsty. However, even though he had His own problems and issues that day, He spoke to the woman at the well. Although as God in the flesh, he knew her back story, He took the time to get her to freely talk about it. Through that conversation, she became a Christ follower and affected a whole community for Christ. Jesus could have just asked her to perform a task for Him – get Him some water, but He engaged her. Got her talking. Led her to a relationship with Him.

 

Let us be like Christ. Let us care about people’s back stories. Let us learn about their problems and the things that oppress them. Let us be champions of their liberty. Let us be ones who care about what is behind the face we see. Let us really lead. Let us really care. Let us get our hands dirty in the messy lives of our people. For it is God’s intention to free them from their oppression and give them liberty that cannot be stolen.

 

Amen and Amen.

 

 

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