The Assembly of the Lord

I received a couple of questions regarding yesterday’s post, specifically Deuteronomy 23:1, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” The first person asked whether this would include accidental mutilation. The second wondered if this was for attendance in the tabernacle or if it was aimed at leaders. Furthermore, it was asked whether this would be considered Old Testament law that would be nullified by Jesus.

These questions intrigue me. They weren’t asked in a combative way, yet this Old Testament stuff certainly often are. Certainly, some commands speak of a culture we don’t recognized. Does that mean we have progressed as a society and recognize the Law as foolishness? I say we think we have, but to our detriment. Look around and see the wickedness of our society today. One can easily agree with Paul when he says, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:22)

Restrictions to Entry?

Through today’s eyes, it seems counter-intuitive to have restrictions to the assembly of the Lord. How many churches today advertise with slogans such as “Come As You Are!” or “All Are Welcome!”? It’s almost unheard of to have restrictions regarding who can and cannot come to church. Why? Are we smarter than Moses?

Let’s look at some of the restrictions in Deuteronomy 23:1-6. First was the man with crushed/cut off genitals. Next was the offspring to forbidden unions, i.e. illegitimate children. Finally, there were the Ammonites and Moabites. John MacArthur has a reasonable answer to these in “The MacArthur Bible Commentary.” Let’s look at what he has to say.

“Most likely, this law did not exclude a person from residence in the area where Israel was to live, but from public offices and honors, inter-marriage, and participation in the religious rites at the tabernacle, plus later at the temple. The emasculated (v. 1), the illegitimate (v.2), and the Ammonites and Moabites (vv. 3-6) were not allowed to worship the Lord. The general rule was that strangers and foreigners, for fear of friendship or marriage connections would lead Israel into idolatry, were not admissible until their conversion to God and the Jewish faith.”

We see that very thing happen over and over. Solomon was a classic example. “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:4) What a tragedy!

Eunuchs and such.

What about eunuchs? According to MacArthur:

“Eunuchs were forbidden because such willful mutilation…violated God’s creation of man, was associated with idolatrous practices, and was done by pagan parents to their children so they might serve as eunuchs in the homes of the great (cf. 25:11, 12).”

I think it’s fair to say that transgenderism fits into the categories of violating God’s creation of man and idolatrous practices.

MacArthur goes on:

“The illegitimate were excluded so as to place and indelible stigma as a discouragement to shameful sexual misconduct. People from Ammon and Moab were excluded, not because they were born out of incest (cf. Gen 19:30ff.), but on account of their vicious hostility toward God and His people Israel.”

Is this the last word?

Does that mean self-castration is the unforgivable sin? No. MacArthur goes on.

“Individual from all three of these outcast groups are offered grace and acceptance by Isaiah upon personal faith in the true God (cf. Is. 56:1-8). Ruth the Moabitess serves as the most notable example (cf. Ruth 1:4, 16).”

The bottom line is this: it’s a matter of the heart. God accepts all who repent and turn to him and follow his commands. It’s really as simple as that. Everyone is offered salvation, but few follow. See how Jesus laments:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Matthew 23:37

This sentiment isn’t just for Jerusalem.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Does this matter today?

I am convinced that restrictions to the assembly of the Lord as just as applicable today as they were in Moses’ time. Why? Because it is plain to me that many churches have strayed into apostasy because the full gospel was resisted by the congregation. Let’s face it, unbelievers (our churches are filled with them) will not tolerate the gospel. Before long, an apostate congregation will get rid of “inflexible” pastors.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4

I’ve seen it happen before my very eyes. Buildings, payroll, and tax breaks are not necessarily a good thing for a church. Cutting corners in the message so as to milk the offering for all you can is dangerous, dangerous. It would be far better to have a very small church with zero overhead (yes, I said zero) to feed the flock so they are full. Then, when full of the Spirit because of the Word of God, they will be eager to go out into the world to share the gospel and make disciples. Then the new Christians can be brought in and they, too, can be fed.

In my opinion, our churches are fat and lazy. We want to “attract” rather than be rejected in the streets. And we wonder why so many churches are the way they are!

Does God command us to restrict the assembly of the Lord? You bet he does.

Father, let us pay attention to the hard verses of the bible. Your truth never changes. Amen.

Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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