Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 21:1-23, Deuteronomy 22:1-30, Hebrews 13:1-4
It’s a crime to put an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Alabama. That doesn’t make any sense, but it used to. The story goes that horse thieves would hide ice cream cones in their pockets to lure horses out of sight. Today, even though horse rustling rates are at an all-time low, the law remains.
Some of the laws in Deuteronomy can feel the same way. Sometimes it’s easier to clearly see a connection: how building a rail around your roof to protect people is rooted in love and hospitality (Deuteronomy 22:8). Or why an unloved child is not permitted to be neglected (Deuteronomy 21:15–17). It can be harder to see why instructions about tassels on clothing are important (Deuteronomy 22:12). Even beyond the laws we don’t quite understand, more than one command can be downright troubling to read from our current context.
These laws, whether we see a clear connection or find them confusing and troubling, are all addressed to a people who would break them. They are written to a people who would struggle to love each other, who would break marriage covenants, who would make war, enslave others, and disobey. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way out. But the more I learn about God, the more I understand how His character, redemption, and plan for us to return to Him even after disobedience are present in His entire Law.
We see one example in the first verses of this section, where God’s provision is present in providing a way to cleanse the people and the land of an unsolved murder. After sacrificing a cow, they are to ask the Lord to “wipe away the guilt of your people Israel whom you redeemed, and do not hold the shedding of innocent blood against them.” And the instruction contains a promise, that “then the responsibility for bloodshed will be wiped away from them” and they will be “doing what is right in the LORD’s sight” (Deuteronomy 21:8–9).
The God who offered redemption and atonement to the generation in Deuteronomy before they had yet to break these rules in the promised land is the same God who offers us atonement in Christ. Even when I’m troubled or don’t understand His laws, I can continue to read in light of what I know to be true of Him and His character. His law shows us everyone is on the same guilty footing, falling short before God. We know He offers us the same redemption in Christ. In light of this redemption, we can all find forgiveness through Christ. Through faith, I believe that it is this love that sums up the entirety of the Law.
Written by David Chaniott