“A person of illegitimate birth may not enter the assembly of the Lord; to the tenth generation no one related to him may do so. An Ammonite or Moabite may not enter the assembly of the Lord; to the tenth generation none of their descendants shall ever do so…You must not hate an Edomite, for he is your relative; you must not hate an Egyptian, for you lived as a foreigner in his land. Children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1-8 NET).
It seems strange to those of us living in the twenty-first century that there were people whom God would not accept. Some Bibles put a title over this section of Deuteronomy: “Those excluded from the assembly.” Others have something like: “Purity in public worship.” Why would God exclude anyone from assembling with his people to worship him?
There are two ideas that come from these verses. The first, as reflected in the first verse, is that God wants purity among his followers. Just as the animals that were offered in sacrifice had to be without blemish, so did people who came to worship him.
God still wants purity amongst his people, although not a physical perfection but a spiritual purity. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We are thankful that Jesus’ blood now washes us and cleanses us from all sin and impurity so that we can be acceptable to God.
The second group that we find excluded from the assembly were those who actively worked against God and his people. The Ammonites and Moabites were excluded for ten generations. Those of Edom and Egypt were excluded to the third generation.
From the list in 1 Corinthians 6, we find there are still people who cannot come into God’s kingdom. It is no longer due to national sins but due to personal sins. The advantage we have today is that if we give up the sinful lifestyle and cease working against God, we can be washed, sanctified and justified on the basis of Jesus. We don’t have to wait for generations – Jesus’ blood can save us now.
We can take encouragement from this statement that Paul wrote: “Some of you once lived this way. But…” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Some of the Christians in Corinth had been involved in some terrible sins. Don’t you just love that three letter word “but”? But…they had changed. They had given up their life of sin, were cleansed of that sin when they were united with Jesus (Acts 22:16), and were now living as Christians.
God still requires purity of those who would follow him. But…he has now provided the way we can be cleansed of our sin through Jesus. Jesus died so that we could be a glorious people in God’s service.
“Husbands, love your wives just as Messiah also loved His community and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, having cleansed her by immersion in the word. Messiah did this so that He might present to Himself His glorious community—not having stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27 TLV).
Readings for next week:
8 May – Deuteronomy 23
9 May – Deuteronomy 24
10 May – Deuteronomy 25-26
11 May – Deuteronomy 27
12 May – Deuteronomy 28:1-35