Deuteronomy 13

Idolatry Not to Be Tolerated — continued

Chapter 12 dealt with places that might tempt Israel to serve other gods. Chapter 13 deals with people who might tempt Israel to follow after other gods. The enemies in chapter 12 were the Canaanites. The enemies in chapter 13 are trusted people within the congregation of Israel. Chapter 13 deals with the matter of resisting enticement to apostasy. The central thrust of the chapter is to impress upon the people the importance of being totally committed to the Lord. Moses used three cases to illustrate the possible ways the people might be enticed to follow and worship other gods. Each case contains the phrase “Let us go after other gods … ” (13:2, 6, 13).

First, Moses cautioned the people against being seduced to apostasy by a prophet or a dreamer of dreams (13:1-5). Moses said that even if such a prophet authenticated his ministry by the performance of miracles (13:2), they should not allow such a one to entice them to follow after and serve other gods (13:3). Instead, they should remain faithful to the Lord (13:4) and put the prophet to death and so purge the evil from among them (13:5). Any prophet who suggests that the people follow after other gods is a false prophet. The content of a prophet’s message will betray its origin. A true prophet would never tempt the people to violate the first (5:7) and greatest commandment (6:5).

Second, Moses tightened the circle by cautioning the people against being seduced to apostasy by a member of their own family or by a close and cherished friend (13:6-11). James Wolfendale comments, “Strongest temptations are often from nearest friends.” Moses knew and understood the powerful influence of relatives and friends. In a survey of ten thousand people who were asked the question, “What was responsible for your coming to the church?” 79% responded that they came to church because of the influence of a friend or relative. Even in cases where the seducer was a relative or friend, he or she was to be decisively dealt with. The tempter was to be put to death by stoning (13:9-10). Such decisive punishment would serve as an example to others against committing the same crime (13:11).

Third, Moses told the people that the enticement to apostasy was to be dealt with even if it meant the destruction of an entire city (13:12-18). He told the people that if it was heard (13:12-14) and confirmed (13:14) that the inhabitants of a city were involved in enticing others to follow after other gods, the entire city and everything in it was to be destroyed and burned (13:15-17). Samuel J. Shultz notes regarding the total destruction of such a city and the prohibition against confiscating any property, “This prevented the Israelites from such action for the purpose of material gain.” Verse 16 states that such a city was to “be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.” Certainly such a sight would serve as a visual and constant reminder of the high price of idolatry to both present and future generations.

Practical Consideration: We must take evil seriously. Moses understood the danger the Israelites would face both from without and within the congregation. He cautioned the people to not be led astray by religious people, friends and family, or people in the community. He outlined the serious steps to be followed in order to hold accountable those individuals guilty of leading others astray. The consequences of leading others astray illustrate the fact that Moses took evil seriously. We too, must take evil seriously. We must be willing to remove from our lives anything that seeks to destroy our love and devotion to God. John Maxwell comments, “Anything within our lives that turns us away from serving God must be dealt with quickly and severely.”

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