Moses' seventh speech (Final), Law of public welfare
May 01, 2013
Moses finishes his seventh speech with a short comment on the law of public welfare. We read in Deuteronomy 23:24 and 25,
24 When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, then you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied, but you shall not put any in your basket. 25 When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain.
By today’s standards, many would consider this to be theft, but in the sight of God, it is not theft. When Jesus’ disciples were hungry, they did this, as Matthew 12:1 says,
1 At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath through the grain fields, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.
In verse 2 the Pharisees were upset, not because they were stealing grain, but because they considered this to be harvesting on the Sabbath. Moses said nothing to support their conclusion, of course, but this was one of their Sabbath traditions that Jesus broke.
This law is one of many laws of public welfare that are designed to prevent hunger. The laws of gleaning are similar in their design to feed the poor. In time of harvest, they were supposed to leave the corners of their fields unharvested, because they were given to the poor, the widows, orphans, and foreigners (Leviticus 19:9).
In vineyards, where there were no “corners” as such, they were supposed to leave some of the grapes for the poor of the land to harvest (Leviticus 19:10). The same was said about harvesting their olive trees. They were to beat the tree once and leave the rest for the poor (Deuteronomy 24:20).
The main difference between gleaning and taking some grain before the harvest (as specified in Deuteronomy 23:24, 25) is timing. When Jesus’ disciples took grain in Matthew 12:1, they were simply gleaning early. For this reason they were not allowed to take more than they could eat immediately. Later, those who gleaned during harvest were allowed to put grain into their baskets and take home what they had gleaned.
All of these laws are based upon loving God and your neighbor as yourself. Kingdom government is not responsible to give to the poor. That is left to the people themselves. In fact, the owner of the field apparently was given the authority to determine if a gleaner was genuinely qualified or not, for when Ruth desired to glean in the field of Boaz, she asked his permission (Ruth 2:7). She qualified as a foreigner, for she was a Moabite.
All of the laws of public welfare show that where God’s sovereignty over the nation is recognized, the people will not go hungry. Even Jesus’ beatitude in Matthew 5:6 is based upon these laws:
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
The same law that feeds the hungry also feeds those who have a hunger to know God. In fact, this law governs the teaching ministry. If it works as it should, God should give an abundant harvest of revelation to the teacher, which first benefits himself; but in turn he is to allow others to share in the harvest, if they are willing to put forth some effort.
This is the end of Moses’ seventh speech, as outlined by Ferrar Fenton.
This is the final part of a series titled "Moses' seventh speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones