Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Sixteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verses 1-4: "Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 You shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name. 3 You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning." In these verses Moses shared with Israel what might be called his "last will and testament," reciting to a new generation the commands and promises he had heard from the Lord. He wasn't giving them an inheritance of money or anything like it, though he was assuring them that God had much in store, both spiritually and in the gift of a land promised to their forefathers. This was a younger generation not yet born during the nation's slavery under the Egyptians and it was important for them to remember the Lord's deliverance. You may or may not celebrate Passover, occurring in the month of Abib ("ear of corn"), the first month of the Jewish calendar. After the Babylonian captivity, "Abib" was renamed "Nisan," which means "their flight" or "beginning" (Nehemiah 2:1), falling within the months of March and April in much of today's world. The people left Egypt in haste by night, with no time to add leavening (yeast) to baked goods. Leaven came to be associated with the sin we hopefully leave behind when we trust in the Lord, as glimpsed in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. In those verses we see the true nature of the prophetic Passover Feast of the Jews: "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."
Verses 5-8: "You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the Lord your God is giving you; 6 but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. 7 You shall cook and eat it in the place which the Lord your God chooses. In the morning you are to return to your tents. 8 Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God; you shall do no work on it." God not only has a purpose that is specific for you, but also a timetable for the unfolding of His will in your life. Additionally, His will is to be revealed in the PLACE of His choosing. It was true for Israel and it's true for you: He has a will, a time and a place just for you. God knew precisely that Jerusalem was to house a temple that was not yet even thought of by the people—they had God's tabernacle, which later would be taken to a Jerusalem largely unknown to Israel at the moment. He has a future for you also. Right now is the time to place your faith in the Lord, who intends great things for each of His loved ones, including rest from work. If your future contains the Passover Feast of the Jews, enjoy His choice for you, but if not, don't feel left out. Rest in the Lord when He tells you to rest and work when He tells you to work, and don't worry about how others worship, remembering: "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls... one person esteems one day above another, another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it..." (Romans 14:4-6). God will lead you as He wants, but know this: "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you WILL be saved" (Romans 10:9)." Pleasing God is trusting in the Son He sent as the "Sacrifice" that saves you and me.
Verses 9-11: "You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10 Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you; 11 and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name." The "Feast of Weeks" got its name from the "seven weeks" of these verses. Seven weeks contain forty-nine days. The count began at the offering of the sheaf of the first fruits on Abib 16, the second day of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:10-12). Until that sheaf was offered, no Israelite could eat the new grain (Leviticus 23:14). When it was the fiftieth day, the harvest was presumed ended and the Feast of Weeks (later called Pentecost) began, as baked loaves with leaven were presented to the Lord (Leviticus 23:16-18). And remember—what God gives you is to be shared with others.
Verse 12: "You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes" and there was a good reason for this festival of remembrance. The Passover looked backward to the deliverance of Israel by the Lord from slavery in Egypt. The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) at the moment looked ahead to Israel's conquest of Canaan and Israel's future harvests in that land. Those feasts also looked even further ahead in time. Here's what was later revealed to the nation and the world: "It shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 3:28-29). The context in Joel 3 includes the blessed words of Verse 32: "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." This chapter in Deuteronomy is a glimpse into the future. The prophet Joel spoke about the same future event, later revealed on the Day of Pentecost after the Lord's resurrection: "They were all with one accord in one place," tongues of fire were on them, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." The disciples spoke in "other tongues" they did not know, which were understood by spectators from many nations, who each heard the disciples speak in THEIR language (Acts 2). The Apostle Peter spoke, quoting the words of Joel 3, and "three thousand" came to the Lord (Acts 2:41). The harvest had begun.
Verses 13-17: "You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; 14 and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. 15 Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. 16 Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you." The Feast of Tabernacles, or as it was also called, the "Feast of Booths" was the third great festival of the Jews, to be celebrated each year. They were to remember the decades when their predecessors resided within rude tents and shacks made from local vegetation in the midst of a seemingly endless desert. Now they would enter a country in which they would receive homes and cities they did not build, and occupy land that historically did not belong to them. Even our bodies are on loan to us, created and given by Almighty God for His purposes and His intentions. And our discovery about His place in our lives is to be "altogether joyful," as we discover faith in the Lord. He has given us everything, for many—people who help us along the way; leaders, religious and secular, and those who need our help in life. Each of us is to "give (as we are enabled), according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you." Generosity, as led by the Lord, leads to joy.
Verses 18-22: "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you. 21 You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22 You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates." It's obvious that the countries of the world need established organizations set up to protect and benefit its citizens. Without order we would have chaos. However, being human is a problem because we make mistakes that lead to corrupt government. The decisions of judges and other officials can be influenced by the right bribe at the wrong time. And success in wrongdoing leads to prideful idolatry, "which the Lord your God hates." We are to receive and give as the Lord leads and pray fervently when life and people tempt us to do what is wrong.
Jesus would later call out within the Jerusalem Temple, which did not exist at the time of Deuteronomy: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). He is our Passover, the Giver of Pentecost, the One who rescues us and fills the empty place inside we didn't even know we had. Let's pray:
Father, we so easily forget and misunderstand the benefits, the blessings You provide for us. We confess our sin and trust in You. Thank You, Lord, our Passover, for the miracle of forgiveness and the gift of faith. In Jesus Name. Amen.