TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 23-25
Deuteronomy 23:2-6 says, “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord. No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But the Lord you God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace of their prosperity all your days forever.”
Jesus taught the disciples in Luke 24 where he was in all the scriptures. In the Old Testament sometimes we see certain people as a type of Jesus, doing certain works that foreshadow the work of Jesus. Other times we see shadows of Jesus in religious service, such as the tabernacle and its furniture or the offerings. But, there are also times when we see an event, a cultural practice, or a law completely reversed by Jesus.
Why do we see Jesus bringing about this reversal of fortune?
God created and everything was good, even very good. But, man sinned, went his own way, and the creation was subjected to futility. So, Jesus comes to bring a reversal of all the futility the creation has been subjected to by ushering in his own new creation. Therefore, he reverses the fruit of forbidden unions.
JESUS REVERSES CHILDREN OF FORBIDDEN UNIONS BANNED FROM ISRAEL FOR 10 GENERATIONS
Deuteronomy 23:2 says that not a single child born of a forbidden union could be a part of the people of Israel. A child of a forbidden union and his descendants would be banned from the assembly of the Lord, the people of Israel, for ten generations.
There are many unions that are forbidden in the Bible. In fact, all unions other than one man cleaving to his one wife are forbidden. But, the key forbidden union for understanding Deuteronomy 23:2 is found in Leviticus 18:15 and 20:12.
Leviticus 18:15 says, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.”
Leviticus 20:12 says, “If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them.”
Why is this forbidden union important?
We need to start in Genesis 38. Judah saw a Canaanite woman and slept with her. This relationship produced a son named Er and a second son named Onan. Judah took for his son Er and wife named Tamar.
Er died. So, Judah told his son Onan to sleep with Tamar to perform the duty of a brother-in-law and raise up offspring for his brother. It was expected that a brother would produce a child for his dead brother to keep his name and inheritance alive in Israel. But, Onan refused because the offspring would not be his.
Therefore, Judah told Tamar, his daughter-in-law, to wait as a widow in her father’s house. Then, when his son Shelah grew up, Judah would give his son to Tamar.
After a period of time, Judah had not given Shelah to Tamar as he promised. So, Tamar pretended to be a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law Judah. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, which was a forbidden union.
As a result, Judah was ashamed and disgraced. In Genesis 38:26, Judah says, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”
The fruit of this forbidden union was Perez and Zerah. This is important because Matthew especially calls out this relationship in his lineage of Jesus and Jesus’ right to the throne of Israel. Matthew 1:3 says, “And Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar.”
Matthew is acknowledging that Jesus was ultimately the fruit of a forbidden union. But, Jesus was not just the fruit of a forbidden union thousands of years later. No, Jesus was a descendant to the 10th generation that was forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord.
Perez was born of a forbidden union. Therefore, none of his descendants would be permitted to enter the assembly of the Lord for 10 generations. So, who does Matthew list as the descendants of Perez? Perez fathered
- Hezron who fathered
- Ram who fathered
- Amminadab who fathered
- Nahshon who fathered
- Salmon who fathered
- Boaz who fathered
- Obed who fathered
- Jesse who fathered
- David who fathered
It’s the son that fills the question marks in the 10th generation that would still be forbidden from the assembly of the Lord. Now, many of us would automatically assume that is Solomon. Even Matthew says that David fathered Solomon.
But, was Solomon the son of David that would sit on the throne? Was Solomon the son that David was promised?
Nathan spoke to David a vision from God in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 that says, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”
On a first reading, it’s easy to think that this prophecy is about Solomon. He was David’s son from his body. Solomon’s kingdom was established in peace. Solomon did build a temple for the Lord’s name. Solomon committed iniquity – lots of it.
But, Solomon’s throne was not established forever. He lost it by violating the three requirements of a king of Israel that Moses prophesied. God was not the father of Solomon and Solomon was not the son of God. Solomon committed iniquity, but he did not receive the stripes of men. In a sense, God’s steadfast love departed from Solomon like it did Saul, which is why Solomon lost his kingdom. Solomon did not establish David’s throne forever.
The true fulfillment of this vision from God through Nathan is Jesus. Jesus is the only one that meets all the requirements of the vision Nathan gave to David. Jesus is the son of David and the descendant of the 10th generation from Perez that was banned from the assembly of the Lord as the fruit of a forbidden union.
In Matthew 9:27, the blind men call out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
In Matthew 12:23, the people were amazed and asked, “Can this be the Son of David?”
Perhaps most amazingly, since the forbidden union was between Judah and a Canaanite woman, in Matthew 15:22 a Canaanite woman cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
There are many other references to Jesus as the Son of David. And, almost every single time, the individual crying out to the Son of David is asking for mercy. Jesus as the product of this forbidden was the Son of David that brought mercy. Therefore, he reverses the shame and disgrace that Judah felt as a result of his forbidden union with his daughter-in-law.
JESUS REVERSES THE FORBIDDEN UNION WITH PROSTITUTES
Proverbs 23:26-28 says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteress is a narrow well. She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind.
Proverbs 29:3 says, “He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.”
Prostitutes were a means for men to squander their wealth. Therefore, it is quite interesting that Matthew includes a prostitute in Jesus’ lineage. Matthew 1:5 says, “And Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab.”
Joshua 6:25 says, “But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive.” The prostitute Rahab married Salmon. This forbidden union produced Boaz.
Ruth 2:1 says, “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.” Other translations say Boaz was a man of great standing or great wealth. Boaz would not have acquired his great standing or his great wealth in just his lifetime. Certainly, he would have inherited some of it from his father Salmon. Therefore, Salmon’s forbidden union with Rahab the prostitute did not squander his wealth.
And, Jesus, as the fruit of the forbidden union with a prostitute, did not squander his fathers’ wealth. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Like Boaz, Jesus reverses the expected squandering of wealth from our forbidden prostitution with false gods and idols.
Just read Ephesians 1 and 2.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will.”
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
We “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
JESUS REVERSES THE FORBIDDING OF AMMONITES AND MOABITES IN THE ASSEMBLY OF THE LORD
Not only were the descendants of forbidden unions forbidden from the assembly of the Lord for ten generations, Moses specifically forbids an Ammonite or Moabite from entering the assembly of the Lord. While their descendants could not enter even to the 10th generation as well, Moses went even further saying that none of them could enter the assembly of the Lord forever.
We just saw that Boaz was the fruit of a forbidden union. But, Boaz also participated in a forbidden union. Boaz married Ruth, who was a Moabitess. Ruth is recorded in Jesus’ lineage as well. Matthew 1:5 says, “And Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth.”
Moses forbid the Ammonites and Moabites from entering the assembly of the Lord because they refused to meet Israel with bread and water on their way out of Egypt to the promised land. But, the Moabites, and therefore Ruth, were the fruit of a forbidden union.
In Genesis 19, after Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, Lot went to live in the hills with his two daughters. His daughters said there were no men on earth to bear them children, so they hatched a plan to sleep with their father. Genesis 19:33 says, “And the firstborn went in and lay with her father.” And, Genesis 19:35 says, “And the younger arose and lay with him.”
But, Lot’s daughters sleeping with him were forbidden unions. Leviticus 18:6-7 says, “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the Lord. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father.”
What was the fruit of these two forbidden unions?
Genesis 19:37-38 says, “The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.”
So, the Moabites were the fruit of a forbidden union. And, as I said above, Boaz’s marriage to Ruth was forbidden. Numbers 25:1-3 says, “The people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor.”
Israel entered into unions with Moabite women and began to worship false gods and idols. So, in Numbers 25:5, Moses said, “Each of you kill those men who yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.” Moses was trying to prevent the worship of false gods and idols by forbidding the unions of Israelite men and Moabite women.
But, the ultimate fruit of the forbidden union between Boaz, an Israelite man, and Ruth, a Moabite women, was Jesus. And, because no Moabite was to be allowed in the assembly of the Lord forever according to the word of Moses, Jesus should have been barred from the assembly of the Lord.
But, Jesus reverses the result, the worshiping of false gods and idols, of the forbidden unions between Israelite men and Moabite women.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, Paul says, “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.”
JESUS REVERSES FALSE GOD AND IDOL WORSHIP BY GIVING BREAD AND WATER
While Israel journeyed on the way through the wilderness to the promised land, Moab and Ammon refused to meet them with bread and water to refresh them.
Jesus was the fruit of a forbidden union between an Israelite man and a Moabite woman. But, instead of being like the Ammonites and the Moabites and refusing Israel bread and water, Jesus gave to Israel the true bread from heaven and living water. As one who had a Moabite in his lineage, Jesus reverses what the Moabites failed to do for Israel by giving himself.
In John 6:48-51, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And, the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
In John 4:13-14, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
JESUS REVERSES THE CURSING OF FORBIDDEN UNIONS INTO BLESSING
The whole reason Balaam and Balak conspired to get Israelite men to sleep with Moabite women was to bring a curse upon Israel. Balak had tried three times to pay Balaam to speak a curse over Israel, but God would not allow it. God turned the curse into blessing.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:2, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.” And, in Galatians 4:8, Paul says, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.”
Not only did Gentiles follow false gods and idols, Israel did so when they played the whore with Moabites. The Moabites had cursed Israel. In a sense, now all were cursed to worship false gods and idols.
But, in Galatians 3:13-14, Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the Spirit through faith.”
Jesus reverses the expected outcome of forbidden unions by becoming a curse for us. Thereby he fulfilled his own word to us, “Bless those who curse you.” (Luke 6:28)
JESUS REVERSES THE FINAL FORBIDDEN UNION – THE SPIRITUAL AND THE NATURAL
When God formed man, he breathed into man the breath of life, his Spirit. But, man’s heart became so wicked that in Genesis 6:3, God said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh.” It was then that the sons of God, angels, took the daughters of men. Jude 1:6 speaks to this forbidden union of angels and men, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” The angels entered into a forbidden union with women.
But, Jesus was also the fruit of a forbidden union between the spiritual and the natural. Matthew 1:16 says, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Notice carefully what Matthew says. Joseph was the husband of Mary, but Jesus was born to Mary. Even though Joseph was betrothed to Mary and she was a virgin, Joseph was not the father.
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 says, “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
Luke 1:27 says that Gabriel was sent from God “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph.” Mary, the betrothed virgin, was in the city of Galilee. The angel told Mary that she would conceive a son and that God would give to him the throne of his father David (remember what I wrote above about Jesus being the son of David) and of his kingdom there would be no end.
Mary asked the angel how this could be since she was a virgin.
In Luke 1:35, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Mary, a betrothed virgin in a city, did not cry out. And, the Holy Spirit “violated” (and I use that term very loosely) his neighbor’s wife. Not only did Mary not cry, she sang a song of praise to God.
Jesus was born of a forbidden union between spirit and man, the spiritual and the natural. Based on the first of this forbidden union, the expected outcome was threefold:
- God’s spirit would depart from men.
- The earth would be filled with violence.
- The earth would be destroyed.
But, Jesus completely reverses the expected outcome of the forbidden union of spirit and man.
When Jesus came he gave the Spirit back to man. John 20:22 says, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was recreating man as he was formed in the garden, and he reverses the previous departure of the Spirit.
What did Jesus say prior to breathing the Spirit on the disciples? In John 20:19, 21, Jesus says, “Peace be with you…Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Jesus breathed the Spirit on his disciples to restore peace to the earth. He reverses the violence that filled the whole earth from the first forbidden union between spirit and man. Indeed, at his birth, a heavenly host said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Finally, the forbidden union of spirit and man that produced Jesus began the recreation of the earth instead of the destruction of it. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We are his new creation, his bride. And, in the end, we, his bride, come down out of heaven, and he who is seated on the throne says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
Matthew 1 gives the linage of the true king of Israel. Jesus had four women listed in his lineage, which was very unusual for the day. Each of the four women represented a forbidden union for Israel. Each of the four forbidden unions would have carried an expected outcome based on the scriptures.
But, Jesus reverses all of the expected outcomes of these forbidden unions. In this way, Jesus, the true king, the Son of David, shows mercy on all. He obliterates the notion that there are any who are the product of a forbidden union that cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is open to all who believe and are born of the Spirit. All are welcome in the assembly of the Lord!
While Moses told Israel not to seek the peace or the prosperity of these forbidden unions, that is all Jesus does. He continually works for our peace and our prosperity.
What a reversal of fortune Jesus brings!