Moses' fourth speech, Part 10
Nov 14, 2012
Moses continues his discussion of poverty in the land in Deuteronomy 15:7-10,
7 If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. 9 Beware, lest there is a base thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of remission is near,” and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin in you. 10 You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.
This entire passage presumes that the need is genuine and that the lender has sufficient resources to lend the poor brother. It also presumes that the borrower is not simply taking advantage of the lender. It is often difficult to apply this law of generosity in a proper manner. In past years the Lord has placed me on both sides of this problem in order to acquire the necessary experience to deal with various types of borrowers and creditors.
Moses presents this law to us to reveal the mind of Christ in our dealings with the poor. It comes in the context of the law of the Sabbatic year, when payments on debt are delayed for a full year. This principle of generosity is also applicable for the Year of Jubilee, when all debts are cancelled fully and completely. But in most cases, lenders would set up a long-term payment schedule so that the debts were paid by the Jubilee year. In the case before us, the focus is on delayed payment on short-term debts.
It should be noted that if the need is genuine and the creditor is hard hearted and stingy, the needy brother has the right to appeal to the Divine Court of heaven for justice. He has no recourse in the earthly court, for thought crimes cannot be judged even by godly judges on earth. Earthly courts are limited to judging men's actions, even though thought crimes are sin in the Divine Court of heaven. In an earthly court of biblical law, a judge must have tangible evidence to condemn the guilty, and in fact he is restricted by the law of two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15).
Yet this passage reveals that God Himself may act as a poor man’s advocate and adjudicate his case when injustice has been perpetrated upon him. We see the same right of appeal given to foreigners, widows, and orphans in Exodus 22:21-24,
21 And you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 21 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
The government of God was established upon the family relationship, where the father or brother served as the guardian, known in the law as “the avenger of blood.” His responsibility was to protect those under his authority from injustice, and if injustice occurred, he presented the case to the judges. But there were many who had no such guardian, such as widows and orphans and strangers—and even the beasts of the field (Exodus 23:11). God’s law places all of them under His direct covering when they have no covering among men.
Hence, we see in the law the existence of the Divine Court and God’s active participation in the affairs of men. This Court is available to the poor who have been denied loans in an unjust manner. By this law also, Moses reveals the mind of Christ, setting forth the basic human right of appeal to pray to the Divine Court for provision, for justice, and also for mercy. The law of victims’ rights must also be taken into consideration, for when any man is treated unjustly and has no way of obtaining justice in an earthly court, he is given the right to forgive or to appeal for justice, according to his discernment and discretion.
Moses then continues in Deuteronomy 15:11,
11 For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.”
We discussed this verse earlier to contrast it with verses 4 and 5, which say, “there shall be no poor among you…if you listen obediently….” In an ideal nation, where all the people have learned to hear God’s voice and to be led by the Spirit in obedience to the law, mind, and will of God, there would be no poor. However, such conditions on earth have been delayed in the divine plan, except for a minority of individuals who actually have faith in Christ and have learned to walk in obedience to the Spirit.
During this delay, God has blinded the eyes of the people in general, even as He blinded Israel as a nation, for Deuteronomy 29:4 says,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
In this time of blindness, men will continue to be disobedient, for they lack insight and cannot hear the voice of God. Hence, they lack faith to bring about the conditions necessary to have no poor in the land. Knowing this, God said, “the poor will never cease to be in the land.” More literally, it reads, “the poor will NOT cease to be in the land.” It does not imply a never-ending situation, but the fact that God in His sovereignty has ordained that there would be poor people during this time of blindness. The poor are among those called to give opportunity to others to show kindness and manifest the love of God.
The hearts of men are thus trained and tested occasionally, that they may learn the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is kindness (Galatians 5:22). Kindness is the root of generosity, and this law of generosity, as revealed to Moses, is one of the laws that Spirit-filled Christians follow as they manifest the fruit of the Spirit.
This is the tenth part of a series titled "Moses' Fourth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones