Messages By Ovid Need

11/03/91 AM

Wormwood and Gall - Deut. 29:18,19

    In chapter 29 Moses is giving his final exhortation to the children of Israel before he passes off the scene. He is covering the curses and blessings which are in store for the covenant people, based on their obedience to the law of God which Moses has given to them.

    In these passages in Deut, Moses is preparing the people to cross over the Jordan into the promised land. He is telling them what to do when they get there.

    In Deut. chapter 27 (v.11, 12), Moses commanded 6 tribes to stand on one mountain, 6 on another, with the Levities between them. The Levities were to speak with a loud voice all of the law with its many applications. The tribes, as they heard the law spoken, were to say, Amen.

(You think my messages are long and the seats hard. They were to stand while all the word's of Moses where read.)

    Joshua followed Moses' instructions in Joshua 8:33-35, where "he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel."

    Then, Deut. chapter 28. It is an extremely strong passage containing the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience to all the commands of Moses. Chapter 28 closes with the promise of the final destruction of the nation for disobedience.

    (It is worth mentioning that the President used to take the oath of office with the Bible open to this passage, Deut. 28.)

    Then in chapter 29, Moses recounts quickly the marvelous acts of the Lord in their deliverance from Egypt, care in the wilderness and the victory over Sihon and Og, He re-tells their history up to the day that he is talking to them. He reminds them that they are entering into covenant with the Lord their God, and into His oath. If they, and those they represent, will do the covenant law which was given, God will establish them for "a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob," v. 13.

    The thought of Deut. 29:18, starts in v. 10. The people stood before the Lord as He gave them his law. As they stood before the Lord, the Lord tells them that they represent all of His people of all time, v. 13. They entered into an agreement with Him, which said that they would abide by His every word. They agreed by the terms of the law for God's blessings and curses, which had been given in ch 28.

    God's people had been redeemed out of Egypt. But this redemption, did not deliver them from the presence of the wicked, Det. 29:16, 17. They still had to confront the ungodly. These wicked of the world would continue to serve their false gods all around them. The temptation for God's redeemed would be to see the prosperity of the wicked and follow after these false gods.

    Moses warns them of their slow death if they followed the way of the wicked. The root planted by seeing the pagans serve their false gods would create doubts about the way of the Lord concerning the necessity of following all of the law which God gave to Moses. It would grows and spread, affecting others as it does. It would lead to death.

    In 29:18-20, Moses warns them against anyone, man, woman, family member or tribe, that would, in their heart, be inclined to turn their heart away from obeying the covenant-law.

    Gall and wormwood..

    Gall.. a bitter and poisonous herb. This word is used in several places. One of the more interesting places is in Ps. 69:21, 22. In this passage we see that while Christ was suffering the terrible agony on the cross, He was offered the poisonous herb, gall, to put Him out of His misery. He refused it.

    We are hearing quite a bit about mercy killing today. Not long ago, there were two ladies who were helped in their effort of suicide. One woman desired death because she felt that life was not as full as she expected it to be.

    The other woman desired death because of the continual pain she was in.

    A Christian is forbidden to entertain either thought. The disquieting and painful things which come into our lives are there for a purpose. To fail to recognize them as such, will lead to a root that beareth gall and wormwood.

    Wormwood.. refers to a curse. It is used figuratively as a reference to bitter things. Here in Deut. 29:18 it refers to the end result of idolatry. There are derivatives of this word used several other places.

    Pro. 5:4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.

    In pronouncing His curse upon false prophets, the Lord says in Jer. 23:15, 16 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

    Therefore, the usage of the word wormwood, suggests a slow death from poisoning.

    But Moses doesn't stop with v. 18. The thought goes on into vs. 19, 20

    Bless.., v. 19. Basically means.. ingratitude. In this usage it means.. to congratulate oneself in his heart. This is the only place this exact word is used.

    Peace.., v. 19. Basically means.. completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.

    Imagination.. v. 19. Firmness. This word is always used as meaning.. Stubbornness. This is firmness which denotes hardness of heart.

    This word for imagination is only used four other times in the OT.

    PSA 81:12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

    JER 9:14 But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:

    JER 13:10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.

    JER 23:17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.


    Lust and imagination. Jeremiah 23:17 is almost identical to Deut. 29:18-20. Jer. 23 is dealing with the false prophets who tell the covenant people that everything is all right even though they are going their own way apart from God (His law).

    Both the pastors and the people of Jer. 23 (v.1), are professing to love God, yet both are living like the devil. The man of God, Jeremiah, is trying to warn them and the prophets are telling them that all is fine. The false prophets are speaking lies in the name of the Lord, while the people follow the desires of their hearts.

    Now, let me make some points about Deut. 29:18, 19.

1. Among you..

    The wording refers to one person. One person among the congregation of the Lord, the church. This in not referring to a Pagan among them, but to a Christian acting like a pagan.


2. Root.. Source or cause. This individual (family,tribe) introduces a root. Something small and insignificant, but it grows out of control if not destroyed.

    A comparison would be the root of a tree. If you allow a little Maple seed to take root and remain next to your house, it will destroy the foundation and latter the whole house, no matter how well built the house is.


3. This root isn't necessarily words spoken to another. This root is in the heart of one who is hearing the blessings and curses pronounced from the mountains in the land of Canaan.

    This point is extremely important. This root which causes this terrible damage is in the heart. It is the heart that is casting doubt upon the word of God.


    Nothing had taken place yet to influence others. Nothing is on the outside which would tip anyone off to what is happening in the heart. The individual in the congregation, and with no outward visible signs of what is in the heart. The outside is as religious as the Lord Himself.

    With this we see that it wasn't necessary to openly bow down to the heathen idols around them to be guilty of harboring this root. The Lord is warning His people about their refusal to turn from sin in the heart.

    Notice what this one person does. He stands upon one of the mountains among the millions of other members of the nation of Israel. He sees the Levites down in the valley speaking the commandments as given to Moses. He hears the blessings and the curses of chapter 28, but in his heart he blesses himself. He congratulates himself.

    He says to himself, "I don't have to worry. Although the levities are saying the law down there in the valley, I'll still have good welfare, soundness and peace. I can go ahead and do as I feel is best and everything will be alright. I don't need God's word to tell me how to act in this situation." This is the root that Moses is warning them about.

4. God gives us the results of this thought, vs. 20, 21. This is the root that leads to the judgement of God. In the parallel passage in Jer. 23, and v. 24, the Lord warns that this desire, belief or action cannot be hidden from Him. The Lord knows the heart.

5. Det. 29: 14, 15, tells us that this instruction covered far more than just the ones present at the time it was spoken. It covered all of God's people for all time.


    What is being said here by the Lord?

    The people are going over the Jordan into the land that had been promised to their fathers by the Lord. When they got there the teachers of God's word were to read all the law as given to Moses in the hearing of all the nation, with its blessings and curses.


    The warning is against anyone hearing this reading and saying in their heart, "I don't have to worry. I can prosper without doing all that is written in the law. Look at the heathens around us. They are serving their false gods and doing fine."

    The seed is planted and takes root. The individual sees no immediate results of this thought, so he pursues it and it grows. Judgment may come a little at a time or there may be no judgement evident at all. The individual presses on and influences others to follow him.

    It starts in secret and they think that God has overlooked that little bit, but He hasn't. The seed grows and spreads to others with seemingly the same prosperity and success. The results come to pass as God's anger comes against their wickedness. The root undermines the house, and the whole house collapse.


    Now, let's follow this law into the NT.

    Heb. 12:15, Paul uses the same thought almost word for word; Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

    Fail of the grace of God.. This is an important point. God has provided us which sufficient grace to confront everything that comes our way. It is for our good that Christ might be formed in us. This root will cause this grace to fail. It requires diligent observation to prevent this root to overtake us and from destroying our house.

    ROOT here is referring to a person who is inclined to fall away from the love and obedience to the Lord, and influence others to do the same.

    BITTERNESS We do not have time to trace this down, but it is the same as we have already seen in the OT. Bitter gall, referring to extreme wickedness, Acts 8:23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

    This bitter root, which produces bitter fruit here in Heb. 12:15, is taken from the passage in Deut. 29:18. Some of the fruit which this bitter root produces is:

    bitter hatred, Eph. 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

    Bitterness of speech, Ro. 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (This is a reference to Psa. 10:7, His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.)

    Notice that bitter speech is not cursing, but is associated with cursing.

    SPRINGING, speaks of root shooting forth, or spring up as in a garden

    DEFILED, to defile, pollute, contaminate, soil,.. It speaks of God's people following an ungodly path, and in doing so, effect others, Jude 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

    Here in Heb. 12:15, it speaks of God's people being defiled with sin, the sin of bitterness. Paul is contrasting with V. 14.

    The context of Hebrews 12 is the same as it was for Moses in Deut.

    Paul has been extremely clear in chapter ten (26-31).

    He warned the child of God against ignoring and departing from the law of holiness which God gave through Moses at the mount.

    This departure starts IN THE HEART.

    He is reminding us of the new and better covenant through Christ. This new covenant does not free the Christian from that law of holiness, rather, this new relationship has an even greater responsibility to guard the heart than was under Moses.

    The Spirit of God, through the new birth, has whiten the law on the heart. The Spirit of God, through the grace of God, gives the desire and power to follow through with what we are told to do.

    A root of bitterness will cause the grace of God to fail, allowing the root to grow and destroy our house.



    The warning is given by Moses against any of the covenant people thinking in the heart that they can go there own way, contrary to the law of God, and God will not mind or deal with them.

    Paul quotes Moses' warning here in Hebrews, in the same context as Moses gave the original warning.

    Therefore, all who are in Christ are warned against thinking in their heart that the word of God does not apply or that they can avoid the results of dismissing it as not important.

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