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It is not often that we refer to the book of Deuteronomy, the second giving of the Law of Moses before the great man's death. Moses warned the people of God that if they disobeyed the Law, they were going to be punished with, among other things, invasion and re-enslavement to a nation from afar. It is the character of this hypothetical, prophetic nation that interests us today.


I. The Text

A. Deuteronomy

1. Deuteronomy is the final volume in the history/biography of Moses, containing his last three sermons and two prophetic poems about Israel's future

2. at its essence, the old man is concerned with warning Israel not to repeat the mistakes of her past, especially the weakness and doubt that led to forty years of wilderness wandering

3. by definition, Deuteronomy is a second giving of the law, but with comment borne from experience and wisdom

4. as Moses prepares to depart, the people are made to understand that if they fall into idolatry or away from the divine Law, they will suffer exile and enslavement on par with what they had escaped in Egypt

B. Cursed Disobedience

1. Moses predicted a dystopian future for Israel in the event that she lost the motivation of faithfulness -- not just disobedience, but a departure from the spirit of identifying with God and his will

2. what he told them is true of us as well -- God has done so much for us that there is no justification for apostasy

3. if they did fall away, they would learn that serving God was much more pleasant than the alternative (Deuteronomy 28:45-50)

a. Moses feared not only disobedience, but a departure from obeying with joyfulness and gladness of heart

b. that creeping hardheartedness would be answered with the arrival of a hard-faced nation, lacking compassion for those who deserve it

c. hundreds of years later, this was accomplished when Judah's idolatry brought Babylonian invaders and Nebuchadnezzar:

Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand. (Second Chronicles 36:17)

C. Respect and Compassion

1. later, Isaiah would prophesy of the same result, explaining God's anger toward his people because of their idolatry, but that Babylon acted willfully in spoiling the people so thoroughly (see Isaiah 47:6)

2. our text has brought us to an uncomfortable place -- where hard-faced, willful people are responsible for things that demonstrate a lack of respect for the aged or a lack of mercy for the young

II. Application

A. Respect the Old

1. long ago, the aged were treated with greater respect than appears common today, at least in our impatient culture

2. even in the Law of Moses, the people were commanded to "stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man" (Leviticus 19:32).

3. truly, we are to be respectful of all people, but we should recognize two things about respect for the old

a. unlike the young, the old have earned a special measure of consideration

b. we do not always have to see things exactly as they do to be respectful

4. when older people are behaving according to the will of the Holy Spirit, they earn even more respect (Titus 2:1-5)

5. yet sometimes we do not have or exhibit proper respect for older people (Proverbs 30:11-14)

a. impatience, apathy, disregard, dismissiveness, mockery, disuse

b. every generation finds its influence declines once it is well past its prime and another generation wants its say; respect requires careful consideration and regard for wisdom gleaned, not from theory, but from experience

c. it is important to recognize how large a role pride plays in this problem (First Peter 5:5)

B. Show Mercy to the Young

1. the prophesied hard-faced nation, however, would no have more regard for the young, probably with reference to abuse and murder of the innocent and feeble

2. our concern today involves another form of impatience and lack of compassion -- with the old, it was impatience for them to get out of the way, but with the young, it is often impatience for them to grow up and act like us

3. these young may be young in body or young in the faith -- true children or babes in Christ, both of whom often exhibit behavior and describe things in ways that are awkward or unpolished

4. in such cases, the modern variant of that hard-faced nation discourages and belittles both the best efforts and occasional stumbles of the young; "Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children" (Isaiah 13:18).

5. when the pride of the mature is confronted with the unpolished zeal of the young, the result can be tyranny and discouragement sufficient to silence that zeal forever

a. the role of the mature should be to nurture the knowledge and ability of the young, bringing it along with words of encouragement and expressions of patience, mercy, and understanding

b. we were all once young and some of us lack in zeal now because we were oppressed back then and made to feel as if our contributions were unwelcome, that we could only learn by observation and not participation

6. the truth is if we show confidence in our young people, they will yearn to reward it and surprise us with their faithfulness, but if we relegate them to the playpen, they will have nothing to live up to (First John 2:12-14)

a. give the young a chance, encourage them to try, compliment their best efforts, reprove their stumbles with humility and understanding, give them an example to live up to

b. if we fail with the generation coming along now, we will never get another chance


My concern is for my own generation, in its prime and assuming its place in the pulpit, the presbytery, and other places of influence. How will we treat those who have gone before us, even as they try to advise us now, and how do we relate to those who may follow us?

Questions for Review

  1. With what kind of spirit did God want the Jews to worship?

  2. Why didn’t they persist in that spirit?

  3. How would the Chaldeans treat the old?

  4. How would the Chaldeans treat the young?

  5. How are people today sometimes hard-faced to the old?

  6. How are people today sometimes hard-faced to the young?

  7. What is often the common reason for mistreating both groups?

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