Idolatry Not to Be Tolerated — continued
God’s people were a holy people and were expected to act accordingly. They were to live their lives distinctively different from their heathen neighbors. As a holy people they were not to participate in any of the practices of their heathen neighbors. Moses cited as an example a superstitious heathen practice that involved shaving away a portion of hair as a symbol of mourning a death.
Laws About Food
These verses contain a specific listing of clean and unclean animals. The Israelites were prohibited from eating any of the unclean animals. Some believe that health was the underlying reason behind the prohibition. The problem with the health or hygiene argument is that God still permitted the Israelites to give or sell unclean food to aliens (see for example verse 21). In addition, John Maxwell points out, “No hygienic reasons are given in the Old Testament texts as motives for observing the law of the clean and the unclean; nowhere does the Old Testament state that the Israelites considered the unclean animals dangerous to their health.” Maxwell argues that because God’s people were to be distinctive in every area of life, the dietary laws helped fulfill this purpose. What was permissible for others to eat was not permissible for the Israelites to eat. The dietary laws served to remind Israel of her status before God. In addition, Maxwell notes that “the food laws provided an opportunity to exercise faith and obedience … God had assured them that this is His will concerning their dietary habits, and whether the regulations seemed reasonable or not, they were to obey … From a human standpoint, God’s rules made no sense. Therefore, according to this explanation, this was a higher test of obedience.”
Laws About Tithes and Release
Deuteronomy 14:22 – 15:18
John Maxwell suggests that these verses contain seven truths about tithing which are still valid today.
First, “tithing is to be a regular exercise (14:22).” Tithing would serve as a reminder to the people that their prosperity was the result of God’s provision.
Second, “tithing is a spiritual exercise (14:23).” The Israelites were to take the tithe and “eat in the presence of the Lord.” By placing our tithes before the Lord we are humbly reminded of His blessings. An unwillingness to tithe is the result of a deeper problem: God does not have us. “God wants us before He wants the tithe,” comments Maxwell.
Third, “tithing is a learning exercise (14:23).” By bringing their tithes the people would “learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
Fourth, “tithing is a flexible exercise (14:24-26).” God made provision for how those who lived too great a distance from the place of worship were to bring their tithes. Maxwell notes, “This practice was the reason for the money-changers’ presence in the temple during the time of Jesus (John 2:14-16).”
Fifth, “tithing is to be a joyful exercise (14:26).”
Sixth, “tithing is a beneficent exercise (14:27-29a).”
Seventh, “tithing is a blessed exercise (14:29b).”
Practical Consideration: Giving to God should remind us of what He has given to us. God gave the Israelites specific instructions concerning the giving of their tithes. These instructions were designed to remind the Israelites of the gracious provision of God. Every time we give to God it should serve as a reminder that He has first given to us. Tithing should remind us of God’s presence and provision for our needs. God is not unreasonable in what He asks of us.