Torah Portion: Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Gospel Reading: Luke 23:1-25
Commentary by: Brian Serrano
As Torah (or “whole Bible” as I like to say) keeping Christians we try to follow Yahweh’s laws to the best of our abilities. We try to do what is right. But what does that mean? What does it look like? What do others think it looks like? To us, we can answer the first two questions easy. It means following the Bible. It looks like Messiah, because we walk His footsteps. However, I think sometimes we are so eager to please our God and King that we overlook that this walk takes some explaining to others.
From the outside people can take snippets of the Bible, or take the Bible out of it’s Hebraic context and be confused.
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. (Deut. 21:10-12)
This might raise questions. Take a wife? Are women just property? Shave her head and cut her nails…WHAT?!
Or perhaps…. “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself." (Deut. 22:12). Why in the world does God want me to have tassels dangling from my clothes?
Deuteronomy 23:24 might raise eyebrows: “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." Wait, isn’t that stealing? Or in Texas… Umm, I’ll get shot in the farmers pasture eating his produce.
A fun one an atheist has thrown at me is Deuteronomy 24:1: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house."
So guys can just say, “Eww, honey, your having a bad hair day. Let’s get divorced.”?
One of the ones that has given me the best laugh at how shocked my friend was is Deuteronomy 25:11-12: “If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity." One might look at that and say, “Whoa, wait a minute, isn’t that what Muslims do?”
All these questions and so many more arise when people read some parts of scripture for the first time. I had some of these questions myself, and I field them quite often. Of course all scripture is inspired by God, and all scripture is applicable to the believer, but sometimes it seems a little obscure on the surface level. However, we can not let that deter us from doing what is right. We need to see questions, no matter how annoying, as an opportunity to share the truth of God’s word with others. So let us not grow weary in well doing. In reality, doing right, is quite simple to explain, even using the “Old Testament”.
Three things from this portion that are great examples:
God values family, and wants us to.
When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken. (Deut. 24:5)
How much different would this world be if we still poured so much into the first year of our marriages.
God wants us to be fair and just.
You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deut. 25:13-16 )
We are not to play favorites, or have prejudice, but to simply love people and treat them all equally and justly.
God wants us to know He loves us.
Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. (Deut. 23:5)
God loves us and has our back. He can take what is intended to hurt us and turn it into a blessing.
God’s love is why we do right. Without His love we just follow the crowd and give into peer pressure.
Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. (Luke 23:20-24)
Pilate just followed the crowd. He knew what was right, but didn’t have the resolve to do it. May that never be the case for us. May we always have such a desire to please our God and King that we always do right.
Simply put God loves us and that is why we strive to do right. But God knows us and that we won’t always do right. That is where His grace and mercy come into our lives.
For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer. (Isa. 54:7-8)
We mess up, that is for sure, but His love is greater. He is our Redeemer that compassionately loves us, shines His face on us, and is gathering us to Himself. We are a truly blessed people. So while we go forth, in response to His goodness, let’s do what’s right.