This chapter of Scripture is demanding. It shows the commandment of God that we should follow His ways and not allow ourselves to be swayed by false prophets and their stupidities. Here are the first five verses:
1: If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder,
2: and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,”
3: you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
4: It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.
5: That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
Now, when we read the Old Testament, many fall foul of its meaning. Nobody likes judgement. Much less do they understand it. But when a believer reads, say, Revelation 21, they see a place which has been kept for a people who are completely without corruption. This must be so, for God will have nothing that defiles in His new temple. A full reading of Revelation 21 and 22 will reveal that to us.
Look how this passage of Scripture starts out: first of all, the people are drawn to the fact that God commands perfection. We are to test what we hear. Scripture says test the spirits and test all things. To hear a false prophet and follow after him would bring disaster. God spells it out. He tells a dream or gives an account of a miraculous sign. That part isn’t in question. What is, is if he then fools the people by telling them to follow after other gods. When Moses went up the mountain to get the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments the first time, the people below did a dreadful thing. They made a golden calf, gave Aaron their gold jewellery and told him to produce something for them to worship. Their patience with Moses had run out as in their eyes, and hearts, he was taking far too long on the mountain. God alerted Moses as to what was happening and threatened destruction of the people as He was so enraged with their behaviour. Moses had to beg the Lord to be patient and withhold His anger from them all. It was Moses’s petition that saved the people, but judgement fell in part. (Read Exodus 32). God will not share His glory with anyone else. We have been told again and again about this throughout Scripture.
Back to Deuteronomy 13 and verses 6-11 where the theme continues about false worship:
6: If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known,
7: gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other),
8: do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him.
9: You must put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.
10: Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
11: Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.
That is astonishing and should make us fear the Lord! If you don’t like this passage of Scripture, may I ask you a question? What makes you think the Lord has changed? People see the God of the New Testament as a completely different Person than the God of the Old Testament. I need to disabuse you of that kind of thinking. I only have to remind you of Peter’s rebuke to two people; a man and his wife who Peter said had lied to the Holy Spirit and to God. The reason? It was over a freewill offering. Those who were able, sold land and gave the proceeds to the church. These two people, Annanias and Sapphira, his wife, deceived the church and only gave part of their takings from the sale of their land when it becomes obvious they had promised to give their all. In the teachings of the early church, when the Holy Spirit led the people, He brought fear into their midst several times. I doubt any passage of Scripture is more terrifying than that of Acts 5 where the whole story of Annanias and Sapphira is told. They both died for lying to God. Read it for yourselves and then decide; has God changed? Does He still demand the same respect from His people as He did in Old Testament days? You’d better believe that He does!
Now, let’s just take the rest of this chaper of Deuteronomy. Verses 12-18.
12: If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in
13: that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known),
14: then you must enquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you,
15: you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock.
16: Gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt.
17: None of these condemned things shall be found in your hands, so that the LORD will turn from His fierce anger; He will show you mercy, have compassion on you, and increase your numbers, as He promised on oath to your forefathers,
18: because you obey the LORD your God, keeping all His commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in His eyes.
Do you want to know why God demanded holiness among the people in those days in that way? Well, let’s have a quick look at God’s holiness as described in Isaiah 6 and the prophet’s response to it. We’ll take the first 7 verses:
1: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.
2: Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
3: And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory,
4: At the sound of their voices the door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
6: Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7: With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
A prophet was taken somehow to see the Lord God in His holiness. He saw things like Paul and John saw, more than likely! He could never have seen the Lord without the atonement he was given. Since corruption cannot inherit incorruption, (1 Corinthians 15:50), Isaiah needed to be atoned for, even though God knew he was a prophet! To be able to stand in God’s holy Presence, we have to be given the atonement to be able to do so. Since God is so holy and sin cannot stand in His Presence, He needs to give us His commandments as to how to obey Him so that His wrath doesn’t fall upon us. In the days before Christ, people lived under the Law. After Christ’s Sacrifice, we live under His Covenant of Grace, but we must not DARE to imagine we can live as we want while calling ourselves by His holy name. We must not dare to think we won’t stand in judgement if we don’t repent of this thinking. All corruption will be blotted out when Christ returns, just as surely as it was blotted out in part by the Old Testament Law.
Please take warning.