Deuteronomy 13 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him… If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them… If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly… Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors— because you obey the LORD your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes.
Today’s chapter winded me when I read Moses’ instructions to the Israelites to destroy anyone and any place that preached another God or faith. Was this in error and what is God speaking to us about it?
Non-Christians for generations have expressed their disapproval of the God of the Old Testament based on texts such as today’s chapter in Deuteronomy. The God of the Christian faith is referred to as no different from the gods of other faiths who preach by the threat of the sword.
On my first read of the chapter, I wanted to hide myself in a closet and hope never to be found again but then on a second read and after some cursory research, I found light at the end of my tunnel of fear!
Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter into the promised land and these instructions along with many others were to protect his people from falling away from their faith in God who had so powerfully led them from the beginning. God’s faithfulness could not be doubted, yet the Israelites did time and time again and suffered bitterly for their faithlessness.
Mysticism has always had an appeal to us and is still evident today proved by our interest in watching horror movies or indulging in the occult, astrology, numerology, etc. We are easily misled by signs and wonders and Moses’ warning to the Israelites was because of the same fear. The lure of wonders, the pressure of loved ones who delve in this realm or the belief of a nation mired in these beliefs could affect the faith of one whose faith is weak.
The expectation of the Israelites to completely destroy the people or nations that misled them is understood from the context of their present warring path as they were approaching the promised land but it still seems pretty heinous. However, we must recognize that these people were not just random people but God’s own and nothing was to affect the way of their lives because they were chosen and set apart for God.
The best way to understand this is through the lens Jesus offered when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world” in John 18:36 while the kingdom of Israel was very much of this world. In David Guzik’s words, ‘Never before or since has God appointed such a kingdom as Israel to be His nation in this world as He appointed ancient Israel, so it would be wrong for us to execute heretics today.’
The Israelites destroyed cities and Peoples in their quest for the promised land but in the same spirit killed the very Son of God, Jesus Christ. They lived by the law alone and did not understand God’s heart for a spiritual promised land where He is going to take all those who believe in His son Jesus Christ and accept Him as their only and true Lord and Saviour.
The crucifixion of Jesus was a terrible act but one that had to come to pass and therefore provided the world a means to enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus’ mission was to die on the cross for us to offer us a bridge back to His Father in heaven.
The real question we need to ask ourselves is what our faith is like in these times when sin abounds all around us in different shapes and forms. Are we easily enticed by the lure of this world or do we have our hope set on the promised land Jesus is alluding to?
In His Loving Service,