Moses' fourth speech, Part 1
Oct 29, 2012
According to Ferrar Fenton, the fourth speech of Moses begins with Deuteronomy 14:1 and ends with 16:17. He entitles it, “Laws against Sins and Self-degradation.”
With this speech, Moses begins to give commentary on the particular statutes that define the Ten Commandments given in Deuteronomy 5. He begins his speech in Deuteronomy 14:1 and 2 with an introduction about Sonship:
1 You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead [ban ayin, “between eyes”] for the sake of the dead. 2 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Moses usually refers to the Israelites as “the children of Israel,” but this time he opens his speech with the unusual statement that they are “the sons of the Lord your God.” In fact, this is the first and only time that this exact phrase is used in the entire Bible. It is based upon one of the original revelations that God had given to Moses in Exodus 4:22,
22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My son, My first-born’.”
Moses spoke of this relationship sparingly, for its meaning and significance remained yet unclear until more time had passed. Given Israel’s history, it is clear that God’s children were yet unruly, undisciplined, and spiritually immature. Only time would reveal how God would deal with such rebellious children.
Another phrase comparable to this is “the sons of God,” which is used of the counterfeits in Genesis 6:2 and later to the “sons of God” who presented themselves to God along with Satan in Job 1:6 and 2:1. It is also a poetic reference to the star constellations in Job 38:7.
Beyond that, Hosea 1:10 speaks of the day when “the sons of Israel” will be called “the sons of the living God.” Later, in Hosea 11:1 we find that the prophet was very familiar with the Mosaic revelation of Sonship, for he prophesies,
1 When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.
Hosea’s prophecy of Sonship is based upon Moses’ statement in Exodus 4:22 and again in Deuteronomy 14:1, stating that the Israelites were “sons of the Lord your God.” It was the privilege of this particular prophet to tell us how God would divorce His wife (Israel) in 2:2 and disinherit His children (the Israelites) in 2:4 “because they are the children of harlotry.”
Hosea prophesies that these Israelites would become Lo-ammi, “not My people,” but in the end they would again become Ammi, “My people,” at which time they would again be called “sons of the living God.” In other words, they were no longer sons of God as long as they were in rebellion against God and His law.
Hosea says that at that time, they would “appoint for themselves one leader” (1:11), whom John interprets to be Jesus Christ. In order to become the sons of God, one would have to receive Him and believe in Him. John 1:12 says,
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood(line), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John makes it clear that these sons of God will not qualify apart from faith in Jesus Christ. They are deluded if they think that this promise of Sonship is based upon bloodline or the will of the flesh or the will of man. We also know from Isaiah 56 that many foreigners, or non-Israelites, were to be regathered with Israel in that day, for His house was to be called “a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). Eunuchs, too, were to be given “a name better than that of sons and daughters” (Isaiah 56:5).
We see, then, that Moses’ simple revelation of Sonship was to be expanded by the prophets and fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The sons of God were not limited to a particular bloodline or genealogy, but was to be obtained by faith, according to the will of God.
In Deuteronomy 14:2 Moses calls Israel “a holy people.” The term does not refer to personal perfection, but to the fact that they were separated and called to divine service. They were “His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth,” because He had redeemed them from the house of slavery in Egypt. God had purchased a slave from Pharaoh, and therefore Israel was “His own possession.”
This statement primarily reflected Israel’s responsibility, rather than privilege. While their relationship with God gave them an increased level of authority in the earth, they were not privileged to sin with immunity. They were responsible to be obedient to God as good slaves, because as long as they were spiritually immature, they did not differ from slaves, even though they were sons. Paul makes this clear in Galatians 4:1.
Hence, under Moses, the Israelites were sons being trained and educated in the laws and ways of God so that they could take on their responsibilities as sons of God. History shows, however, that only a few actually qualified and passed the tests. The rest would have to go back for further training and discipline after the Great White Throne judgment in the age to come. Scripture tells us that such will again be subjected to the fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2) in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14).
In other words, they will be treated as slaves, because even though “every knee will bow” (Philippians 2:10) at the Great White Throne, they will still be spiritually immature and in need of tutors and governors (Galatians 4:2). Hence, according to the law, they will be held accountable for their sins done while they lived on earth. Because they will have no way to pay the restitution for their sins, they will be “sold” as slaves to the overcomers. (See Exodus 22:3). God always “sold” Israel into the hands of others when they fell into sin and refused to repent (Judges 3:8; 4:2; 10:7).
This is the judgment of the law. Such a sale is never permanent, of course, for the law of Jubilee always limits the time of slavery, unless a man becomes a voluntary bondslave (Exodus 21:5, 6). Paul considered himself to be such a slave (Romans 1:1), because this was the legal equivalent to Sonship. In other words, Sonship is not about being free from the law, but about being in agreement with the law to the point where a person desires to become a permanent bondslave of Jesus Christ.
So Moses tells Israel that they have been called out of Egypt as sons of God. They were separated from their familiar surroundings and sent to God’s boarding school in order to learn how to minister to other nations as a priestly nation. In learning the laws and ways of God, they could then teach all nations and bring them all into the same relationship as sons of God. As a nation, they were to embody the small beginning of the divine plan that was to end only when the whole earth was filled with His glory (Numbers 14:21).
Israel’s call, then, was never meant to imply exclusivity. As believers, they were certainly the exclusive recipients of the divine inheritance at the time, but even a large “mixed multitude” left Egypt with them and became citizens of the nation of Israel.
God did not begin by calling everyone. He started with one man, Abraham, and later with one nation, Israel. To them were added people of other nations, a few in Old Testament times, and in greater numbers after the day of Pentecost. Yet God had no double standards, one for Israel and one for other nations. So when they fell into idolatry, they were judged and treated as the idolaters of other nations, for they did not have the privilege of sinning with immunity.
Nonetheless, God had a will and plan that could not be thwarted, so He made a way for all men to attain or regain citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. The path is the same for all men—faith in Jesus Christ.
Shaving and Cutting as a Ritual for the Dead
Deuteronomy 14:1 says, “you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead [Ferrar Fenton says “eyebrows”] for the sake of the dead.”
In those days the people did such things to mourn the deaths of their fathers. Slaves were expected to cut themselves or shave to mourn the death of their masters. But because the Israelites were the sons of God as well as His slaves, they were to change this cultural practice. In effect, they were testifying to all nations that their Father and Master was an immortal God. They were testifying that their earthly fathers were not their real fathers, nor were their earthly masters their real masters. Hence, they could never mourn the loss of their Heavenly Father and Master.
This law stood as a testimony to all nations of their relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
This is the first part of a series titled "Moses' Fourth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones