christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

deuteronomy 14:22-29, the fear of the Lord

Read Deuteronomy 41:22-29 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: deuteronomy 31:1-14:21, distinct and unique

(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic. The paragraph divisions reveal the chiastic structures: narratives which zero in on the main point of the narrative at its center, like a bull’s eye at the center of a target. The main point is revealed, because the narrative elements before the main point (or central axis) are repeated after the central axis, in reverse order, while the central axis itself is not repeated.)

This section, Deu 14:22-29, is the third section explaining the second commandment, Do not make idols. (The second commandment is explained in Deu 11:26-14:29, and this is my summary of it.) These are the Hebrew paragraph divisions:

Deu 14:22-27 {s} The annual tithe is YHVH’s
Deu 14:28-29 {s} The tithe of the third year is YHVH’s

Hmmm … what does tithing have to do with not making idols and not falling into idolatry? The first paragraph, Deu 14:22-27, forms a chiastic structure which I think gives us a clue:

Deu 14:22-27 s
1a) Deu 14:22, You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year;
1b) Deu 14:23a, Eat before the Lord in the place of His name, tithe of corn + wine + oil + firstfruits of herds/ flocks;
central axis) Deu 14:23b, So that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always;
2b) Deu 14:24-26, If the Lord’s place is too far, convert the tithe to money, go to His place, eat + rejoice before the Lord;
2a) Deu 14:27 s, Do not forsake the Levite within your gates as he has no part nor inheritance with you.

First of all, I consider the A pairs to be repeating elements, because it is from the tithe portion that the Levite received his material provision. So the command to set aside the tithe, and the command to not forsake the Levite, is of a piece.

But look at the central axis, the main point of this paragraph: that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. Setting aside the tithe, then taking it to the place where He has caused His name to dwell, and feasting and rejoicing before the Lord for all the goodness and blessing He has bestowed on us, teaches us to fear the Lord. Learning to fear the Lord is a good thing, not a bad thing. There are some things I did not do as a child, not because I did not want to do them or did not have the means to do them, but because the thought of my Dad’s likely reaction when he found out, instilled fear in my heart. I did not want to disappoint him or make him angry. That was healthy for me, because while I was too young to understand the wisdom of my Dad’s instructions, the fear of going against him preserved me from getting embroiled into folly that would cause harm to myself or others.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; Psa 19:9

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. Psa 111:10

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments. Psa 112:1

Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. Psa 128:1

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Pro 1:7

The fear of the Lord is a blessing and a gift. It is clean, and the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. It opens the door to understanding and opens a window of blessing above the head. All of these things are good and precious.

But what does it have to do with idolatry? I believe it is this. The thing you fear, is the thing you obey. The thing you obey is that which is your god, because that is the thing that rules your life. The children of Israel did not go into the land of promise the first time, in Num 13-14, because they feared (or trusted in and believed) the giants more than they feared (or trusted in and believed) God. By fearing God’s enemies rather than God, they elevated God’s enemies above Him by their trust in and obedience to them instead of to God.

This is why the most often repeated commandment in the Bible, is not, Do not make idols or some variation, but Fear not. Do not be afraid. Another way of saying it would be, Fear the right thing. If you fear God, if you place your trust in Him and obey Him out of that trust, then nothing else can terrify you, because you have made God your God, and He is in covenant with you now. When you cry out to Him, He answers. Since nothing can stand before Him, those who are His have no reason to fear anything else.

Now as to how tithing teaches the fear of God, I am not sure. It might be that it is a discipline which reinforces our reliance on Him on the most basic level, and trains us in praise and thanksgiving, in gratitude, which was saw was an integral part of having the Lord alone as our God. Whatever the reason, I have come to this Scripture as I come to all the Scripture, knowing that God is smarter than we are, His words are true and trustworthy, and if He says, Do this thing, because it will teach you the fear of the Lord, then I will do it, whether I understand how or not.

Continued: deuteronomy 11:26-14:29, second commandment chiastic structure


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