God’s Renewing Word of Peace and Justice
Deuteronomy 15:1-18: Today’s reading is part of a section in the book of Deuteronomy that contains a code of laws. This section continues through 26:19. In today’s reading, all debts owed by Israelites to one another are to be cancelled every seven years and slaves are to be set free.
The Seventh Year
15 “At the end of every seventh year you are to cancel the debts of those who owe you money. 2 This is how it is to be done. Each of you who has lent money to any Israelite is to cancel the debt; you must not try to collect the money; the Lord himself has declared the debt canceled. 3 You may collect what a foreigner owes you, but you must not collect what any of your own people owe you.
4 “The Lord your God will bless you in the land that he is giving you. Not one of your people will be poor 5 if you obey him and carefully observe everything that I command you today. 6 The Lord will bless you, as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations, but you will not have to borrow from any; you will have control over many nations, but no nation will have control over you.
7 “If in any of the towns in the land that the Lord your God is giving you there are Israelites in need, then do not be selfish and refuse to help them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them as much as they need. 9 Do not refuse to lend them something, just because the year when debts are canceled is near. Do not let such an evil thought enter your mind. If you refuse to make the loan, they will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will be held guilty. 10 Give to them freely and unselfishly, and the Lord will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some Israelites who are poor and in need, and so I command you to be generous to them.
The Treatment of Slaves
12 “If any Israelites, male or female, sell themselves to you as slaves, you are to release them after they have served you for six years. When the seventh year comes, you must let them go free. 13 When you set them free, do not send them away empty-handed. 14 Give to them generously from what the Lord has blessed you with—sheep, grain, and wine. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God set you free; that is why I am now giving you this command.
16 “But your slave may not want to leave; he may love you and your family and be content to stay. 17 Then take him to the door of your house and there pierce his ear; he will then be your slave for life. Treat your female slave in the same way. 18 Do not be resentful when you set slaves free; after all, they have served you for six years at half the cost of hired servants. Do this, and the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.
Today’s Key Verse: Deuteronomy 15:4a
[Moses said:] “The LORD your God will bless you in the land that he is giving you.”
In the Bible, seven is a number symbolizing completeness or perfection. Canceling debts at the end of six years was designed to ensure that people would not become trapped in poverty. The people are warned not to let the upcoming seventh-year law keep them from lending money to the poor (verse 9). How do the laws outlined in today’s reading demonstrate life in a compassionate community? Are such laws relevant for today? Why or why not?
Lord God, I worship you. Teach me to obey faithfully everything that you command and to do what is right. May all I do and say reflect your love and compassion and be pleasing to you. Amen.
Deuteronomy 16:1-22: Three major festivals in Israel’s calendar are celebrated.