March 13 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it.” ~Deuteronomy 20:6

What is most striking about today’s reading is the earthiness of Scripture. Love for God is expressed in the most practical ways and through the most mundane of tasks. Even war, which is the antithesis of love in the modern perception, is undertaken to honor God. The people prayed before battle and trusted Him to deliver victory. To care for one another, they implemented common-sense policies on who would go to war and who would stay home. Engaged men, the newly married, and those who had recently made improvement to their property (a new house or vineyard, for example) remained behind to enjoy the blessings of God’s provision. They would risk their lives in future campaigns. The fearful were sent home too (probably in shame) so that they did not discourage others. God’s love extended to captives as well. Women taken in battle were treated respectfully.

In the community, rules are in place to protect both human rights and lawful rights so that love is demonstrated neighbor to neighbor. Bloodshed is taken seriously and unsolved murders are not to be ignored. The rights of a firstborn son are maintained even if the father favors another son. Private property rights are to be respected too.   Even lost items were protected. Quite the opposite of the old adage “finders keepers, losers weepers” is the biblical command to retrieve a lost item when found and return it to the owner. Other guidelines are in place simply to protect people and land. For example, a rooftop patio requires a handrail so family and friends are safe from harm. And environmentally conscious practices (e.g. preserving fruit trees, sparing a mother bird) ensure the land’s continued fruitfulness.

Some habits and practices are strictly forbidden because they undermine God’s beautiful design. Sexual perversions (like cross dressing) are forbidden, and the distinction between the sexes is maintained and celebrated as a reflection of God’s original design. Rebellious children are judged severely because rebellion is offensive to God!

Much has changed since the Israelites stood on the border of the land of promise and reviewed God’s Law. These policies were written for them in their unique culture and times. The New Testament makes it clear that today’s Christians are not bound by all the particularities of the law written for the first worshipping community. However, the principles upon which the Israelite’s policies were based are of continuing value to modern Christ-followers. The principles themselves are what we uphold in our churches and communities. For example, “God owns everything,” the basis for Israel’s environmental care laws, still applies. As does “love your neighbor,” the principle that underpins returning lost items and adding handrails. May God give us wisdom to discern the principles behind the policies found in this passage so that we might weave those values into the fabric of our lives.

A Note on Seeds, Plow Teams, and Fabric: Some of the commands are difficult for modern interpreters to fully understand. Most suspect that these obscure practices were forbidden because they were associated with pagan worship. The practices may not have been sinful per se, but they were too intertwined with pagan superstition and idolatry to be useful or sensible for a godly community. (This is a good time to consult the recommended commentaries about why planting various kinds of seeds, plowing with different animals, or wearing clothing with a particular weave were restricted.)

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.