Reprinted from Blogedonia:
Recently, I was mediating on this passage from Deuteronomy 25:
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’
There is debate about the significance of “sandal removal”. Did it signify a legal declaration? Or did it signify disgrace?
Was this a command of the LORD? It was called the “duty of the brother”, so, yes, it was. A brother in this situation who was able to marry, but did not, his brother’s son less widow disobeyed the command of the LORD.
After pulling off the man’s sandal, the widow was to spit in his face. This is not open to debate; this made the man unclean (Numbers 12:14).
Finally, Israel was to call the man’s house “The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.” This further denotes disgrace, in perpetuity.
Without discussing edge case exceptions, a brother who disobeyed this command of the LORD was, from head to toe, covered in disgrace. I shared this reflection with my family, and my son asked a very good question. “What significance does this have today?”
The brother who obeyed this command and took to himself a bride whose hope had been blotted out brought an increase of life and righteousness. He did for the widow what she was helpless to do. Sounds like the gospel, does it not? The dead man’s line of descent (children) and their inheritance (land, etc.) were preserved. Sounds something like the covenant, does it not?
The full revelation of the gospel reveals that obedience to the Law does not bring life and justification; the Law brings knowledge of our sin (Romans 3:20). Our sandal has been removed and our face has been spit upon. We are covered, head to toe, in disgrace.
A Brother from the tribe of Judah stood up and took to Himself a bride without hope and covered her disgrace with His righteousness. The firstborn of God bears our names to Him.
Peter asked what will happen to those who do not obey the gospel of God (1 Peter 4:17). For an objection lesson, look what happened to the man who would not take his brother’s son less widow to himself. For a concrete answer, look what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.