You are the children of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 14:1-2)
Set Apart From The World
The greatest challenge to the faith of a Christian is the allurement of the world and desire to be like the world. This has always been a problem when the people of God have tried to separate themselves from the trappings of the carnal world. It is hard to be different from friends, family and what society deems acceptable. Peer pressure weighs heavy upon the hearts of those who seek to walk the path of righteousness. There are many commandments that condemn the actions of an unrighteous world as found in our passage for the day. The real focus is not what should not be done but the reasons the people of God must be different. Forbidding the Israelite’s from cutting themselves or shaving the front of their heads was not a flippant command allowing God to exercise authority over His people. The children of Israel were holy people and He wanted them to act in such a way to show His glory. It is easy for people to read the Bible and see all of the “Thou shall nots” and go away discouraged because the Lord is such a domineering spirit. He has that right because He is the Lord God Creator and His law is the final say on everything. However, man should not view Him as some cosmic bully who demands His way without understanding the nature of the character of God. Israel was forbidden to be like the nations around them because they were very special people and that is what God wanted them to understand.
God chose the Israelite’s – they did not choose Him. Setting the Hebrews apart was by the grace of God because of His love for them. He had promised Abraham a seed would come from him and through the lineage of Isaac and Jacob, God raised up a nation to be a people for Himself. The Law of Moses was a covenant that set them apart in every part of their lives. Food was regulated by what was clean and unclean, judicial laws were established according to the righteous judgment of God, celebration of days and weeks were instituted and a hosts of laws that impacted every part of daily living for the Jews. Central to all of the commands was a love for God. The Lord wanted the people to serve Him out of love, not duty. His commands were not burdensome. They were designed to give the people peace, safety and security in knowing God would take care of all of their needs.
Israel was a special treasure of the Lord. They were set apart for His glory and when they lived in harmony with His will, all people would see and fear the great nation of Israel. The pagans lived as a law to themselves. When they mourned for the dead they would cut themselves and shave their heads. This was against the nature of how God created man to indulge in self-inflicted mutilation. It was an unholy act. Forbidding the people of Israel to cut themselves and shave their heads was to set them apart from the carnal and immoral pleasures of those who did not believe in God as Creator. As a holy people, they lived by a higher standard walking in the ways of righteousness. Chosen by the Lord to be a special treasure, the Jews would be a symbol of God’s grace to all men. Of all the people on the face of the earth they would show the love of God in their hearts. Sadly, they failed in keeping the covenant and the Law of Moses was abolished.
Christ came to bring all men to the Father. In His death He joined all men into a special treasure of one body called His bride. The church of the Lord is where the saved are found as they are set apart from all people. Now the ones set apart for God are the ones called Christian, disciple, saint or a follower of the Way. The special treasure of the Lord is found in the church of Christ as He bought the church with His blood, redeeming it with His sacrifice. Only in Christ will the promises of eternal life be found. There are commands to keep but like the laws of old, God desires the heart to be in love with Him. He wants His people to be holy people and not live like the world. The church is filled with those who live like the world and try to serve the Lord. Being set apart is to not be like the people of the world. Christian’s are chosen people, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. If the disciples of Christ do not live apart from the world they will not show the world how treasured they are by God. Three things define the Christian: holy, chosen and treasured. Be set apart from the world.