Moses' eighth speech, Part 6, Law of pledges
May 08, 2013
We come now to one of the most profound laws of God ever written.
It is a law which sets forth the purpose of the Holy Spirit and reveals the process by which we are to receive the glorified body at the feast of Tabernacles.
Deuteronomy 24:6 and 10-13 says,
6 No one shall take a handmill or an upper millstone in pledge, for he would be taking a life in pledge…. 10 When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. 13 When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.
The practical, earthly application of this law forbids a creditor from taking a millstone as a pledge (security or collateral) for a loan, because in those days the women made bread daily, grinding the flour with the upper and lower millstone. The upper millstone was movable and concave with a hole at the top through which to pour the grain. To take an upper millstone as a pledge was synonymous with taking one’s life as a pledge. This was forbidden.
It was lawful, however, to take as pledge a man’s “cloak,” which was his rectangular shawl which he used to cover himself at night while sleeping. However, the creditor would have to return it to the debtor at night. This law is explained again in Exodus 22:26 and 27,
26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for the body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.
This law was designed to protect the poor from creditors. In that way it is related to the law of Jubilee, where all debts are cancelled at the start of every fiftieth year on the Hebrew calendar. We also see how God establishes a rest for His people, which is the basis for the Sabbath laws, for this is the stated purpose of returning the cloak (garment) to the debtor at sunset.
Yet there is much more to this law than meets the eye, for in the New Testament we find that God has given us His Spirit as a pledge. For this reason, these laws concerning pledges apply to us on a level that most never contemplate.
If we take this from the beginning, we understand that God had a divine plan for creation. That plan was to express Himself in this earthly realm or dimension. When sin entered the world through Adam, it did not take God by surprise, for being timeless, He knew the end from the beginning. And so the divine plan was written before anything was created.
The main focus of this plan was to create man in His image and likeness, and in spite of sin in the world, He has the wisdom and power to overcome the world and to fulfill His original purpose for the earth and for all of mankind.
Sin made men debtors to the law, for all sin is reckoned as a debt. But it was determined from the beginning that Jesus Christ would come to earth to pay for the sin (debt) of the world. The success of the divine plan was thus established at the cross, but each would enter into His rest at different times.
When Jesus paid the debt of mankind, God suddenly became the great Debtor, and mankind became God’s creditor. How do we know? We know because God has given us the Holy Spirit as a pledge on His debt to us. Pledges are not given by creditors, but by debtors. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:5,
5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge [arrabon].
The word Paul uses for “pledge” is arrabon, which is actually a Hebrew word borrowed by the Greek language.
It is the same word used in Genesis 38:17, 18, and 20, where Judah gives a pledge to Tamar to ensure payment of his debt to her at a later time. (There are at least three Hebrew words used to describe a pledge. They all mean the same thing.)
We are inheritors of the promises of God. Any time someone makes a promise, he becomes indebted to fulfill his word. God has given us promises; therefore, He is the great Debtor to His word. And we are the creditors, the beneficiaries of His promises. In other words, once Jesus paid our debt, we were transformed from debtors to creditors.
So what does God owe us, now that Jesus Christ has paid our debt and has made us God’s creditors? It is the glorified body, the purpose of the feast of Tabernacles. When Jesus fulfilled Passover to pay our debt, God then owed us a glorified body. But that glorified body is in heaven, not on earth. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1 and 2,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent [body] which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.
Paul went on to explain that these two “houses” are also likened to garments, for he says it is not that we want to be “unclothed” (i.e., die), but to be “clothed” with that heavenly garment, so that we might receive the glorified body. It is in that context that he tells us that God has given us the Spirit as a pledge.
In other words, our glorified body is on loan to God in heaven, and to secure that loan, He has given us the Holy Spirit as a pledge—a promise to pay. The debt that God owes us is the glorified body, and the laws regulating pledges also regulate this loan.
Now here is where Exodus 22 becomes a revelation.
26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for the body. What else shall he sleep in?
When this law is applied to our debt to God, brought about by Adam’s sin, He has taken our “cloak as a pledge.” In other words, Adam lost the glorified body when he sinned. But now that the debt has been paid, God must return it to us. However, He has not yet done so, Paul says, for that garment is yet in heaven. We are yet walking in our earthly tent, in which “we groan, being burdened” (2 Corinthians 5:4).
So the glorified body, which God originally took as a pledge on the debt for Adam’s sin, is now essentially on loan to God, for which He has given us His Spirit as a pledge. This is the metaphor that Paul uses, and it is based upon the law of pledges in Deuteronomy 24 and in Exodus 22.
Yet this loan was originally the pledge on our debt to the law. Once the debt was paid, the garment must be returned to us, for it is now rightfully ours. How soon must it be returned? The law says only, “you are to return it to him before the sun sets.” People are naturally impatient, of course, and so, as creditors, we might want to go to heaven and take back our pledge. But the law forbids this, saying in Deuteronomy 24,
10 When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you.
Hence, it is unlawful for us to “go to heaven” to obtain our glorified body. Creditors may visit debtors in their homes, but they cannot enter for the purpose of taking back a pledge. So also, we may be taken by the Spirit on a heavenly visit, but no one is allowed to do so for the purpose of obtaining the glorified body.
Likewise, when we die, our spirit returns to God for an extended visit, but we cannot obtain the glorified body at that time either. By law, we are only allowed to lay claim to it outside of God’s house—that is, on earth. This is why there is a resurrection of the dead. It is the time and place to receive the glorified body according to the law.
Hence, we read where Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me.” By law, Jesus must bring the pledge out of his house in order to give it to the creditors.
What about timing? When will He give back the pledge? The answer is “before the sun sets.” The Hebrew text reads more literally, “when the sun comes.” At sunset the sun seems to come to earth. This prophesies of Christ’s coming to earth for He is the “sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). It is therefore a prophecy of the coming of Christ.
So we conclude that we have not yet received the glorified body, even though it is rightfully ours. In other words, the feast of Tabernacles has a future fulfillment. God has given us the pledge of the Holy Spirit as a promise that we will indeed receive it when the “sun of righteousness” comes. Meanwhile, we should not try to lay claim to it in an unlawful manner.
This is the sixth part of a series titled "Moses' Eighth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones