Being Enticed to Follow Other Gods

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.” Deuteronomy 13:6-11.

Stoning is a barbaric punishment. It is part of the covenant God established for His people in the land He gave them. This was land taken from the last idolators who had it.

We don’t do this today. We have a different covenant and an entirely different ministry model. We go as heralds, declaring that God is no longer holding our sins against us because of what Jesus did for us. But was this punishment too much back then? And is capital punishment wrong today?

The short answers are no and no. Those who await execution have the luxury of knowing when they will die, and being aware of their need for repentance. If we are horrified by a brutal execution, we should be far more horrified by eternal separation from God. Today there is a separation of powers. The church is God’s ministry of Mercy. The government is God’s ministry of judgment. (Romans 13).

God’s Habitation

“These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:1-7.

It is God’s long term plan to expose and destroy false gods. Heaven will be filled with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. But He will be the only God. In the short term, we are not to share space with idols. We are not to exalt anything above the knowledge of God.

As social creatures, we all want to fit in, be liked. We love getting good public relations. But Jesus said that we would be hated for His name’s sake. Refusal to go along with social conventions has been one of the marks of the righteous throughout the Bible. To live godly in Christ Jesus is to open yourself to persecution.

You don’t have to be obnoxious to be faithful. But your faithfulness to God will be seen as obnoxious.

Our Devotion to the Word of God

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21.

After Jesus be was raised from the dead, all his disciples had seen him except Thomas, who would not believe them. When Jesus showed Himself again, He singled out Thomas, inviting him to feel His wounds. Finally, Thomas believed. That’s when Jesus told him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:28.

I tell this in conjunction with today’s verses because the report of what God has done is ours to believe or reject. Rejecting that word is tantamount to rejecting God. We are not to worship the God of our imaginings, but the God who has revealed Himself through His word.

Our Relationship with a Sinful World

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” Deuteronomy 10:12-22.

The the Hebrew slavery is something that God never stops referencing. It is a seminal event in the history of this people. They had come to Egypt in peace at the invitation of pharaoh. There they prospered and multiplied so much it came to the place where the Egyptians feared the Hebrews.

Eventually what was freedom to the Hebrews became slavery. It was not just a guest-worker program. The people were exploited systematically and enslaved.

Then God sent Moses as a deliver. And God has given them rules to live by. He expects their Pious devotion and their kind generosity to people who sojourn among them. He expects both. Not one or the other. Their hearts not just their bodies are to be circumcised. They are to love him with all their hearts Souls minds and strength, and not just their provisions.

If we were of the same mind today, we would see our current immigration problems as an opportunity to obey God, but we would be inviting them to be part of God’s kingdom, not just US citizens.

No Claim on Righteousness

“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Deuteronomy 9:1-5.

In the heavenly realms we who believe are sons of God, joint heirs with Jesus. We have been made righteous, and can come boldly before the throne of Grace. But on this Earth we are unworthy servants, needing to frequently wash our robes and repent of our sins.

So, what about those who appear more righteous? Are they truly the wicked? Yes, if they refuse to submit to God, who gave himself to take their punishment. Yes, if they reject His righteousness in favor of their own. If they believe they are good without God, without God they shall remain.

When Jesus came to earth, He humbled Himself, became a servant, and then a bloody sacrifice. We are to do no less. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).