Getting back into our study of the book of Deuteronomy, we turn to a section centered on issues of truth and faithfulness found in the 13th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, which is comprised of a set of scenarios meant to test the loyalty of the people of God.
Scripture and Summary
What are people to do in the face of new claims of revelation? Given that there was no Bible, how were the people of Israel to deal with those making claims of new revelation, especially if there was a sign of some kind tied to it? This passage establishes a test for such claims: someone comes forward and foretells of something or does something that demonstrates unearthly knowledge or power, and it happens, but they are called to abandon Yahweh, they are not to even consider it, but to put the person to death.
Even familial ties are not to get in the way of one’s loyalty to Yahweh.
And if a rumor happens to begin that a city has apostatized, careful investigation is to be made and, if true, dealt with accordingly.
Our first reaction to these commands, from a New Testament perspective, may be one of horror and shock. Having us wonder how the same God who commanded his people to “reason together frankly” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” could come down so harshly. It is only our modern softness that sees this as a problem, we must realize that, fundamentally,
[…] God dealt with people where they lived—according to their level of moral development. Moreover [Yahweh]’s relationship toward Israel was not only that of God but also of King. Hence the suggestion [to worship another god] was an invitation to treason; and those who acted upon it were guilty of rebellion. (Ackland, p.75)
Modern people, with some kind of concept of “religious freedom”, often see this as harmless. However, the people of Canaan, in their religious rites, were sexually debauched and often engaged in human sacrifice. These are things that God had judged them for and for which they were being divested of their land. God wanted a secure entry for his messiah into the world, such an entry point had to be deliberately secured and protected.
Christians, like the ancient Israelites, of ten fail to recognize that Christ has an absolute claim upon the life of every person as their creator. This claim will suffer no obstacle put in its way. We see such instances of this idea in the letters of Paul, such as in 1 Corinthians, when the man who in a sexual relationship with his step mother is cast out of the church, with warnings here and here. Believers need to take such admonition seriously less we wind up with a shipwrecked faith.
Ackland, Donald F. Studies in Deuteronomy. Convention Press. Nashville, TN. 1964.