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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)

Reading this so many centuries after it was written, it is tempting to skip over such an instruction thinking it has no relevance for us today. Perhaps that is true to an extent but, in Moses’ day, it would have been very important to remind Israel not to do the things they expected to see in the land of Canaan. Specific to this command is what not to do when mourning the dead. Commentators note that the Canaanites would often disfigure their bodies, or shave bald spots into their hair as an offering to a god on behalf of the deceased. Sometimes, the hair was buried with corpse as an “offering” to a particular god. As Moses said, a “kingdom of priests” should not do such things because we are His “special treasure.”

Now let us consider that there might be more to this than what meets the eye. In fact, one Jewish commentary suggests that the prohibition against cutting yourself hints at division within the community. In other words, as a kingdom of priests, we should not divide up into factions and become a fragmented people. To the contrary, as a “holy nation” we are to be a united nation and thus stand against division, strife and all that undermines the peace and harmony of a community. Division — “cutting our ourselves” — is something God’s hates because He knows that it renders death. In regard to those who participate in such, Paul said:

“You are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Put frankly, the activity that leads to division is not Spirit led but carnally driven. If we are behaving carnally then we are not being led by the Spirit, which means that we are acting just like everyone else and not behaving as the “sons of God.” Our point today is not something new to any of us but is just as important as it has always been — quit cutting ourselves. Let’s cease from disfiguring His Body through untamed tongues and all that stirs up strife and division. Let’s quit acting like “mere men” and start acting like what is expected of a Kingdom of priests.

Blessings and Shalom,  




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