Guarding Purity: Deuteronomy 13, 14 (1)
Opening Prayer: Psalm 115.1-3
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, "Where is their God on high?"
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!
Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 13.1-5
1. What does God forbid in worship?
2. How should the people of God avoid this practice?
It seems clear that worshiping things other than God was going to be a persistent temptation to the people of God. It’s only what we might expect. Their hearts were not yet remade for the fear and love of God (cf. Deut. 30.1-10). They were in continuous interaction with pagan peoples. And the reminders of pagan worship centers – high places and groves, mostly – would be part of their familiar landscape. So Moses called the people, over and over, to maintain their purity as the people of God by guarding against whatever might entice them to turn from Him to idols.
In this case, it would be prophets – false prophets. Moses warned the people that impressive teachers and workers of wonders might arise among them from time to time (vv. 1, 2). Their powers of persuasion and signs might be considerable. And some of them would seek to lead the people away from God to the false worship of man-made idols (v. 2). When this happens, the people should realize that God has allowed it to test the mettle of their souls: Do they love God supremely? (v. 3) When they recognize this test for what it is, an opportunity to refortify their commitment to the Lord, then they must refuse to follow the false prophet and continue to walk in all the ways God has commanded them (v. 4).
But the false prophet is a corrupting presence, and must not be tolerated (v. 5). The judges and priests in Israel wielded both civil and spiritual power. Leading people into idolatry was a capital offense, because all idolatry is an abomination to God. The priests had the power to convict, and the judges had power to execute judgment. In the case of those promoting idolatry, that judgment was severe. It was necessary for maintaining the purity of the people that corrupters of the people be removed.
Note that phrase “put away the evil from your midst” (v. 5). Paul quoted this verse to instruct the believers in Corinth to excommunicate one guilty of heinous sin. He was to be put out of the church and turned over to the world and Satan “for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5.5). The Church does not wield civil authority. Government is God’s servant for good in the civil arena (Rom. 13.1-4). Paul believed that this man’s offense required the taking of his life, but it was not in the Church’s power to do so. Still, the Church had to remove the corrupting influence of this man from the fellowship of believers. Cut off from the Lord’s Presence, he would be subject to the destruction of his flesh, either from the state or the devil. Happily, he came to repentance and was restored to the Church in Corinth (2 Cor. 2.3-11).
Instructed by the example of ancient Israel, the Corinthians were serious about maintaining purity. They passed the test, and so did the offending man, to the praise of God’s grace.
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
When we are tested, part of the remedy is to “hold fast to Him” (Deut. 13.4). Paul agrees: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15.1, 2). Jesus concurs: “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent” (Rev. 3.3). More than anything, we want the Triune God to know that we love Him with all our heart and with all our soul. Therefore, we must be mindful, at all times, of anything that might entice us away “from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk” (Deut. 13.5).
1. How would you explain what it means to “hold fast” to the Lord and His Word?
2. How would you expect to experience the Lord testing your faith in Him?
3. How can you know whether any false teaching has found a home in your soul?
“The Lord your God puts you to the test that he might know if you love him.” Now this manner of speaking does not mean that God does not know; rather, [it was said] in order that people might know how far they have progressed in the love of God—a thing which is not fully recognized by them except by way of the testings which come about. Augustine (254-430) On Eighty-Three Varied Questions, 60
Thank You, Lord, for showing us how we must worship You. Help me to worship You truly today as I…
Closing Prayer: Psalm 115.4-18
Listen in silence for the Spirit to search your heart, mind, and conscience. If He discovers any idols, or anything beginning to become an idol, confess and repent of it, and recommit yourself to the Lord.
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Idols made by men's own hand – ever to Your Name be glory –
see nor hear nor understand – ever to Your Name be glory!
They neither feel nor walk, nor can they speak or talk;
all those who serve them fall, but unto Your Name be glory!
All who trust in Jesus yield – ever to His Name be glory! –
find in Him their help and shield – ever to Your Name be glory!
O Israel, trust the Lord! He helps us evermore!
Fear Him obey His Word: Ever to Your Name be glory!
Blessings from our gracious Lord – ever to Your Name be glory –
will attend us evermore – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless all who fear You, Lord, all who obey Your Word,
all who Your Name adore: Ever to Your Name be glory!
Grant us, Savior, great increase – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless us with eternal peace – ever to Your Name be glory!
Heaven and earth are Yours; let every soul adore
and bless You evermore: Ever to Your Name be glory!
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).