Bodily Fluids & Skin Diseases: How is Deuteronomy relevant to you?

Bodily Fluids & Skin Diseases: How is Deuteronomy relevant to you?

Devotional time in Deuteronomy is not a staple in most Christians’ devo diets. But perhaps that should change. A professor in seminary recommended Deuteronomy be the first OT book we preach when taking a pastorate at a new church. He said the entire gospel of God’s grand redemptive plan resides in Deuteronomy in germinating form. Call me myopic, but I didn’t see it. I couldn’t get past the minutia of Mosaic legislation, all of which seemed redundant in light of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law.

Even more formidable was the challenge of preaching on certain verses without blushing.

Moses, as relevant as ever.

There is a surprising amount of airtime given to bodily fluids, embarrassing diseases, and exactly what to with excrement. But I figured that I would never digest on this chewy book unless I committed to passage by passage peristalsis.

After biting off the challenge, it was a case of chew or choke. I soon learned to mesh in my understanding these two, seemingly contradictory truths:

1. Since all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, correction, and instruction, the book does apply to me as a Christian. 

2. Since Jesus fulfilled the Law, it is no longer binding on me as a Christian.

What that means is that none of the Laws in Deuteronomy are binding on the NT believer, and so I must not try to obey them all, nor should I expect others to obey them.

In practice this means I can’t tell a teenager that Lev 19:28 forbids them to get a tattoo. I also don’t  have to stone naughty kids for rebellion. I you may be thinking: “None. Really? What about Thou shalt not murder?” Here’s the key: the reason I as a believer may not kill, is not because Deut 5:17 tells me that, but because the injunction was given to me by Jesus in the NT.

If I tell my child to obey me because of Deut 5:16, they could respond if they were theologically astute enough (and cheeky enough): “Dad, why is that verse binding on me, but not Deut 14:10, the verse about eating shellfish?” And they’d be right.

(Footnote: I do not subscribe to the arbitrary splicing up of the Law into ceremonial, civil, and moral. This is not taught in Scripture. The Jews saw all the Law as moral. Every point was binding, and the Christ’s life and death did not fulfill only the civil and ceremonial parts, He fulfilled the whole Law).

So why must my child obey me? Because Ephesians 6:1 tells them to. And that is in the NT. Yes, it’s based on the OT principle, as much of the NT is. But though Deut 5:16 is not binding, Eph 6:1 is. Sorry kid; now go take out the trash.

We aren’t surprised many laws of the OT Law are repeated in the NT. The NT regulations will all be consistent with the nature of God and his Laws in the OT. The only laws that are not repeated, are those that were specific to the nation of Israel and their dispensation.

Hence, I can enjoy lobster soufflé, and bearded vulture burger if I so choose. And I can cut my hair any way  my wife likes. And I get to wear blended materials, like polyester (not an enviable privilege, but at least I have the choice). The Jews could not do this. Why? Because the Law was binding on them. For me it is no longer binding, but it does apply.

So when you study Deuteronomy, remember that it is not about keeping rules or breaking rules.

You are learning about God from the commands he gave Israel. And you are applying them to your relationship with him.

I hope this makes some sort of sense.

Please feel free to ask clarifying questions in the comment space below.

I’m off to try some cloven-hoofed soup.

If you are curious as to how this works out in each chapter of Deuteronomy, the entire sermon series is available in PDF on this site, under “Free SWAG” menu. Or click here for a shortcut.

A great book on this topic I used in my doctoral studies on expository preaching is Walter Kaiser’s Preaching the Old Testament [affiliate link].

  • kevin

    congrats for tacking Deuteronomy…great place to teach God’s love, His covenant faithfulness, and yes, the Gospel. however, a few questions/comments:

    so, it sounds like the old is essential to establish the new which is essential to abolish the old…got it.

    bestiality is now ok…got it.

    eating blood is forbidden in both the old and the new…do you teach that?

    your use of fulfill simply means “abolish.” to clarify that point, if Jesus had come and said Matt 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have *not* come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I *certainly have* come to abolish them, by fulfilling them,” would your life look any different? if it would not, then perhaps you’re not drawing the proper distinction between abolish/fulfill. are there any other commandments where Jesus could say the exact opposite of what He actually did say, and it would make no difference in the life of His followers? “don’t turn the other cheek, don’t take up your cross and follow me, don’t go and make disciples…”

    lastly, what do you do with the next two verses, given that you seem to entering the process of relaxing the commandments and teaching others to do the same?

    btw, i agree 100% with not arbitrarily splicing the law into three divisions, however i don’t see your approach being any less arbitrary, seeing that it is nowhere taught in the NT, where instead the authors repeatedly establish their authority *because* of their appeals to the Hebrew Scriptures (not by distancing themselves from them), and repeatedly establish believers’ position by placing them *within* the people of israel (not separating them from israel). the two-part division of the laws that *is* taught is that all commandments are either loving God or loving neighbor. if refraining from eating a vulture burger is not loving your neighbor (which it just might be), then it must be loving God.

    shalom.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Wow, that’s a lot to consider. Thanks for your input Kevin. Just two things I want to clear up in case there was any confusion: 1) bestiality is not ok now! Just wanted to go on record on the side of the non-bestiality camp. And 2) I take ‘fulfill’ as very different than ‘abolish.’ Blog posts are necessarily concise and don’t leave room for a lot or explanations. I think if you listened to the series I did on Deuteronomy, it would be more clear. It can be found at hbconmain.com courtesy of Hillcrest Baptist’s audio vault. Thanks again for your interest.

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  • http://twitter.com/azekveld Andrew Zekveld

    … as I am preparing my intro sermon for a series on Deut! thx Clint!

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Use the PDF sermons as a commentary to help. Let me know if you have any questions. It’s all yours. Plunder away.