Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 13-14
Deuteronomy 13 – The Intolerance, and Punishment of Idolatry
Deuteronomy 12 concluded with Moses cautioning the people, “32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (12:32). That admonition brings to mind a similar warning to believers that is found in the closing words of the New Testament: “18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life…” (Revelation 22:18–19). Today, believers tolerate all manner of versions, and perversions of the Scriptures; however, such was not to be the case for Israel, and should not be the case for us.
Concerning the laws of idolatry, if a man deemed himself a prophet, and even performed signs and wonders, he was to be rejected, if his prophecy departed from the revelations of the LORD (13:1-2). If he should say, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” (13:2), he was to “be put to death” (13:4-5).
Not even the bonds of love, and familial ties were to obstruct the judgment of the LORD concerning the worship of idols (13:6-7). Should a loved one entice a man, and say, “Let us go and serve other gods” (13:6), that man was guilty of a capital offense, and his sin must not be concealed (13:7-8). Understanding the grievous sin of idolatry, and its judgment, the witness of the offense was to be the first to cast a stone (13:9). The congregation would then “stone him with stones, that he die” (13:10), and thereby sharing in his condemnation.
Should a city be turned to idolatry, the inhabitants of the city were to be killed, their flocks and herds destroyed, and the spoils of the city burned with fire (13:12-16). If all was destroyed, Moses promised the “Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers” (13:17).
Deuteronomy 14 – A Chosen People for the LORD
Moses begins Deuteronomy 14 with a wonderful declaration concerning Israel:
“1Ye are the children of the Lord your God…an holy people [sanctified, set apart] unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people [His treasure] unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (14:1a, 2).
That affirmation is likened to two others we read in the New Testament concerning all believers. Paul penned concerning the saints: Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [His own possession], zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Peter exhorted believers, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
What was the application of Israel’s unique relationship with the LORD?
“Ye shall not cut yourselves, not make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1b). You may be thinking, what a strange statement! Let me explain.
The heathen people were known to cut their flesh, and shave their heads as outward signs of mourning at funerals. Israel, however, was forbidden to do the same. The heathen mutilated their bodies as a sign of grief, but the people who were chosen by the God of heaven were not to mourn as those without hope! Paul exhorted believers concerning the same hope, writing to believers in Thessalonica: “13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14).
Clean and unclean meats is the subject of Deuteronomy 14:3-21, and one we have studied in depth in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 11). The differences between clean beasts, and unclean beasts (14:3-8), clean and unclean fish (14:9-10), clean and unclean birds (14:11-19), are all addressed once again. The people are also reminded that they are not to eat diseased animals (14:21a), nor cook or boil a “kid” (a baby goat), in its mother’s milk (such would be cruel to the sensitivity of nature, 14:21b).
The geographical locations of some tribes in Canaan would put them at great distances from the Tabernacle (14:22-24), and making it impossible to tithe of the first fruits of the harvest, and the first born (“firstlings of thy herds”). The matter was resolved, by permitting the people to “turn it [the tithe and the firstlings] into money.” Then taking the money, and going to the Tabernacle, a man could purchase whatever, he desired in the meat, meal, and wine as his tithe to the LORD (14:26). Though the distance would prevent the practice of tithing as it had been observed in the wilderness, the people were warned to honor the LORD with their tithe, and not forsake the Levite (14:27).
Every three years, one’s tithe would not be taken to the Tabernacle (14:28-29), but would instead be laid “up within thy gates” (14:28), and used in one’s town and village to feed the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (14:29). For their faithfulness with the tithes, the LORD promised to bless the labor of his people.
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith