Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | November 12, 2014

“So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”

Today’s devotion comes from Deuteronomy 21:1-9.

“1 “If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one.  3 It shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and which has not pulled in a yoke;  4 and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley.  5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the Lord your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the Lord;  and every dispute and every assault shall be settled by them.  6 All the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley;  7 and they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it.  8 Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O Lord, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’  And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them.  9 So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Deuteronomy 21:1-9.

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I expected that this Scripture would provide an animal whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sin.  With that expectation, I was tempted to ignore what this Scripture states and rush into talking about only Christ and “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” as in Hebrews 9:22:  “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

But, this Scripture does not talk about the shedding of blood.  It only provides a heifer whose neck was broken.  It only provides a requirement that the elders of the city wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken.  And, it only concludes:  “So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Verse 9.

When I write daily devotions, I have been convicted that I should not have my own expectations of what Scripture will provide.  I should not have my own agenda.  I should not be in a rush to write the first thing that pops in my head even if it is true and other Scripture leads to that subject matter.  I need to write about what the Scripture for today provides.  I think that duty, whatever the theological term for it, is meant by “accurately handling the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15:  “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

And so, through God’s grace, trying to be diligent and “accurately handling the word of truth” for what it states, and not for what I expect it will state or want it to state, today’s Scripture reminds me of the Book of James.

“14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?  15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works;  show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  19 You believe that God is one. You do well;  the demons also believe, and shudder.  20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;  23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”  James 2:14-26.

Who can do these works?!  Who can do “what is right in the eyes of the Lord”?!

But, there is hope!

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:12-13.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10.

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  Ezekiel 36:27.

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”  Romans 6:17.

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