TODAY’S READING: Deuteronomy 21–23
The anguished cry for help of a woman being sexually assaulted is the same word used to describe the anguished cry of the Israelites in bondage in Egypt (Deut. 22:24, 27; Exo. 2:23). It was a cry of pain, terror, and desperation, and it is the cry of the unreached peoples of the world. An isolated woman under attack becomes panicked as no one is nearby to help and rescue seems a forlorn hope. This kind of cry is more a lament than appeal, for deliverance seems impossible. So, it is for the unreached. At least the lost in lands filled with Christians have some hope that their cries will be heard. But who will hear the cries of 11 million Arab Syrians?
In ancient Israel, there were specific provisions for a murdered body found in a field (21:1–9). In that communal society, if no one was known to be responsible, the whole nation was guilty and a sacrificial cow had to be offered by whatever community was closest. In essence, the “we don’t know who did it” defense will not hold up before the penetrating gaze of the Judge of all nations. Jehovah gave a communal responsibility to preserve life, so when life is lost, we are all responsible. So, who is responsible for the 11 million Arab Syrians who lie dead and dying in our global fields? Who is closest? We all are.
Moses thundered along in his sermon reminding God’s people, reminding us, that God’s ambassadors to the nations must have a collective conscience and responsibility (vv. 1–9), must take care of women and the vulnerable (vv. 10–14), must maintain justice (vv. 15–17), must model obedience and deal quickly with rebellion (vv. 18–20), must avoid communal defilement by dealing sternly with gross sin (vv. 21–23), must be proactively kind, for we are our brother’s keeper (22:1–4), must save life (vv. 6–12), and must be pure (vv. 13–30). All these “musts” would have the beautiful result of a holy God dwelling among a sanctified people. This blessed cohabitation would have the direct intention of modeling a family that all peoples of the world would admire and pursue.
Holiness and missions in the Bible also cohabitate (23:1–7). God relinquishes neither His demand for purity in His family and house nor His desire that representatives of all peoples be included. This was why some were excluded (vv. 1–3) and Egyptians were allowed, even up to the third generation (v. 8). What seemed inconsistent was, in fact, divine balance. God was not capriciously denying the Ammonites and Moabites to favor the Edomites and Egyptians based on race (for Ruth from Moab will soon enter and steal the scene). God was saying that all are welcome, but they had to come on His terms.
Those that come in and those sent out must all come and go on God’s terms. When we are sent out on mission (v. 9), we must keep ourselves from every wicked thing, for the Lord our God walks in our midst to deliver our enemies to us. Thus, our camp must be holy (v. 14). Missions is holy, it is sacred to God. Missions is God’s passion and the organizing theme to the Bible. Missions—the intentional inclusion of every people on earth in the camp of the redeemed—will only go forth when a holy people follow a holy God—a holy God that calmly insists on only allowing the holy into His assembly.
If we love the God of missions then, our first steps must be towards the altar that will burn all that is unholy out of us.