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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 13-14

Deuteronomy 13

Deuteronomy 12 concluded with Moses cautioning the people, “What 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 that is found in the closing words of the New Testament, where we read: “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).

The Punishment of Idolaters (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

Concerning the laws of idolatry, if a man supposed himself a prophet and performed signs and wonders, he was to be rejected if his prophecy was a departure from the revelations of the LORD (13:1-3). Likewise, if a man said, “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).

An Intolerance of Idolatry, Even Among One’s Kindred (Deuteronomy 13:6-11)

Not even the bonds of love and family were to obstruct the judgment of the LORD concerning the worship of idols (13:6-7). If a loved one enticed a man and said, “Let us go and serve other gods” (13:6), that man was guilty of a capital offense, and his sin was to be exposed (13:7-8). Because of the grievous sin of idolatry and its judgment, it was never to be concealed. A witness to idolatry was commanded to be the first to cast a stone (13:9). Then the congregation would “stone [the idolater] with stones, that he die” (13:10), thereby sharing in the idolater’s judgment and condemnation.

The Idolatry of a City Called for Complete Destruction (Deuteronomy 13:12-18)

Should a city turn to idolatry, its inhabitants were to be killed, its flocks and herds destroyed, and the spoils of the city burned with fire (13:12-16). Moses promised that if all were destroyed, 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 – The Children of Israel Were a Unique, Chosen People

Moses began Deuteronomy 14 with a grand 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).

Israel’s Mourning for Their Dead was Unique (Deuteronomy 14:1-2)

The first implication of Israel’s peculiar nature was how the nation mourned its dead. We read, “Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1b).

Let me explain. The heathen would 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 whom the God of heaven had chosen were not to mourn as those without hope! Paul exhorted believers concerning the same hope, writing, “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).

Israel’s Unique Diet (Deuteronomy 14:3-21)

The subject of Deuteronomy 14:3-21 was clean and unclean meats (we have considered that law in earlier devotions, Leviticus 11). The differences between clean beasts and unclean beasts (14:3-8), clean and unclean fish (14:9-10), and clean and unclean birds (14:11-19) were all identified and addressed. The people were also reminded that they were 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).

Israel’s Unique Worship and Memorials to the Lord (Deuteronomy 14:22-29)

The geographical locations of some tribes in Canaan would put them at great distances from the Tabernacle (14:22-24). Therefore, some couldn’t tithe the first fruits of the harvest and offer the firstborn (“firstlings of thy herds”). So, the matter was resolved by permitting the people to “turn it [the tithe and the firstlings] into money” (14:25). Then, by 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).

Distances would prevent the practice of tithing as observed in the wilderness. Yet, the people were warned to honor the LORD with their tithe and not forsake the care and maintenance of “the Levite that is within thy gates” and city (14:27). Every three years, one’s tithe was not taken to the Tabernacle (14:28-29). Instead, it was to 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 among them (14:29). For their faithfulness with the tithes; the LORD promised to bless the labor of his people.

Closing thoughts:

Israel was called to be a unique, peculiar, and holy people to the LORD (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). That exhortation reminds me of two similar ones recorded in the New Testament. First, the apostle Paul wrote that Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Peter exhorted believers, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9).

Paul challenged believers “be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). Solomon wrote the same when he challenged his son, “If sinners entice thee, Consent thou not” (Proverbs 1:10).

Questions to consider:

1) How does a believer prove he loves the LORD? (Deuteronomy 13:3-4)

2) What was God’s judgment if a loved one tempted another to worship idols? (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)

3) What two things identified Israel as a unique people and nation? (Deuteronomy 14:1-3)

4) Who was Israel commanded not to neglect? (Deuteronomy 14:27)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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