When we left off in chapter twelve, Moses was warning the people not to inquire after false gods, nor to imitate the ways that the Canaanites served them.
Here is a section of Scripture that should change nearly every Christian's doctrine. Notice what it says: not everyone who has accurate prophecy has an accurate message. In other words, false prophets are able to show signs and wonders!
Saints, keep this in mind at all times: There are people who seem to be genuine miracle workers, or who certainly seem psychic. But that is not the true test: we can't look to the miracles, we have to listen to their message! Too many believers today believe the wrong messengers because of miraculous occurrences. They practice no discernment, and just follow whoever seems to have the power of God.
It's an understandable mistake. When Nicodemus approached Jesus in John 3, he made the same statement. He said,
John 3:2 ..."we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
But we have to remember that God allows the evil to perform signs and wonders too. When Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, the staff was thrown down and became a serpent.
Ex. 7:11-12 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, DID THE SAME with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents...
When Moses and Aaron turned all of the Nile River into blood,
Ex. 7:22 ...the magicians of Egypt DID THE SAME with their secret arts...
Again, Moses and Aaron brought frogs up on the land.
Ex. 8:7 The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
God allowed the use of satan's power to perform the same miracles, and Pharaoh's heart was hardened when he thought that Moses' God was no more powerful than his own gods. No wonder people can be deceived by signs and wonders.
A lot of times, we rely on the old Deuteronomy 18, "one false prophesy equals one false prophet." But we don't have to wait for them to be wrong in their prediction. All we have to do is look at their message. If they are steering us away from the one true God, they are a false prophet even if all of their predictions come true!
Unfortunately, the day is coming when the whole world will be deceived by signs and wonders. In fact, the antichrist's coming will be...
2Th. 2:9-10 ...in accord with the activity of satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish...
His false prophet will also deceive the world with signs and wonders:
Rev. 13:13-14 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast..
So, even if someone lays hands on your critically ill loved one, and they are instantaneously healed, that is not God's stamp of approval on their message! Even if someone makes uncannily accurate predictions about the future, or has amazing knowledge of the past, don't automatically assume that their message is godly. As Moses says here, God allows false miracles to happen in order to test people, to see if they truly love and fear Him.
Verse five tells us to purge the evil from among us. This is a common thread all through chapter thirteen. This is a command which is frequently ignored by Christians. No matter how much the Bible says it, we find excuses not to do it. Paul told Titus that divisive people needed to be removed. Jesus told us in Matthew 18 to have no interaction with someone who refuses to repent of their sin after proper confrontation. Paul wrote that we must not...
1Cor. 5:11 ...associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one.
Keeping people in our lives who are trying to lead us down an ungodly path will almost always wipe us out.
Moses continues the point, reminding us that even the closest relationships, family members or the best of friends can lead us astray.
Once again, the command is that we are to be the first ones to remove them. We are not to give them a say, we're not to yield in compromise, and we're not even to pity them. But how many countless times I've heard the excuse, "But I can't just cut off that relationship, it's my MOM, my BEST FRIEND, it's my..."
You can say that about cancer, too. "But it's part of me. I can't just have it cut off!" Cancer unremoved will kill you. So too, if there is someone in your life that's trying to lead you down an ungodly path, why refuse to deal with it? God has saved you out of slavery in the world, and you're going to allow someone to seduce you away from Him? May it never be!
Why is God so dogmatic on this point? Because it's one thing to be a sinner. Being in sin and rebellion to the Lord is bad. But it's so much worse to be a sinner that drags others into your sin. The judgment for doing such a thing is extreme. Jesus warned,
Mark 9:42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea."
And so a man in sin is to be rebuked and then restored gently (Gal 6:1). But a man who is causing others to stumble into his sin is to be driven out.
Now the Law was saying not just removal, but death. The reason?
Deut. 13:11 "Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you."
Many Christians have bought into the idea that the death penalty is wrong. But God ordained it the day that Noah got off the ark (Gen. 9:5-6), and repeated it frequently in His Word.
It's interesting to hear psychologists and liberal thinkers get on TV and say that the death penalty is so brutal and wrong, and how it doesn't even keep people from committing crimes. Statistically, you can disprove their assertions, but in addition to God commanding it, He also gives the result of it: "they will be afraid, and won't do this wicked thing among you." So, God's Word says very clearly that the death penalty is a deterrent to sin.
Upon first reading, this section of Scripture sounds really brutal. Destroy a whole city because of a couple of guys were encouraging others to go after false gods? But that is a misunderstanding of this passage - look at it again. The destruction of the city is to be done if, after "investigating and searching out the matter thoroughly" it is found that these men were successful in seducing all the inhabitants of a city in Israel to worship false gods.
Total destruction was to occur only if there had been total apostasy. This same principle was applied by the Lord even in the case of Sodom.
When the Lord told Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom for their sin...
Gen. 18:23 Abraham came near and said, "Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?"
The Lord explained that for the righteous would not be destroyed with the wicked. He would spare the city for even ten righteous inhabitants. Since there weren't ten, the Lord had the only righteous ones removed and then the city was destroyed.
And so we see that the old addage, "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" is not a biblical perspective. It was the Israelites' responsibility to...
Deut. 13:14 ...investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly...
The righteous must not be destroyed with the wicked. Even in the parable of the tares and the wheat, Jesus taught about this concept:
When a man's field was seeded by his enemy with weeds among his wheat, his servants said,
Matt. 13:28-29 ..."Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?" But he *said, "No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them."
The Associated Press reported this morning (07/10/2003) that in Phoenix, AZ, the house across the street from Jenny Lopez's house was scheduled to be torn down. But because the mailboxes are all on one side of the street, demolition man David Gomez mistook Lopez's house for the one to be demo'ed. Neighbors called the family, but by the time they arrived, the house was nothing but a pile of rubble. Gomez was quoted as saying he would probably lose his job over the incident.
When we set out to remove sin and defilement, we have to be oh-so-careful that we don't end up hurting an innocent party. We need to be careful that in our dealing with sin that the neighbor isn't uprooted as well.
Now, with a law like this on the books, it would certainly be a temptation to the less-than-scrupulous to accuse a city simply to gain financially from their destruction. And so it is specified that everything was "under the ban," not to be taken, but burned in their entirety.
This is a reminder of the Law which was given in Leviticus 19:
Lev. 19:26-28 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD."
A lot of Christians use these as proof-texts to explain why they believe tattoos are sinful. It's funny that no one ever quotes the other part of this command, saying that haircuts are sinful!
While I'm not a big fan of Christians getting tattoos, it's certainly not because of this verse. Notice that the haircuts and tattoos forbidden had to do with occultic practices for the dead. Like the prophets of BAH-al in 1Kings 18, the pagan nations would cut their skin, chop off their hair and offer it in sacrifice, and make permanent marks on themselves to get their gods' attention, often on behalf of the dead.
Now the law of clean and unclean animals is reviewed. The Israelites were not to eat any "detestable thing." In Hebrew, "to-ay-BAW" means "detestable, loathsome, disgusting, or abominable." I would also discourage the eating of disgusting foods, but who's to say what is disgusting and what isn't? Certain people in my family eat sushi. I would never dream of it. So who gets to decide what is loathsome? God does.
Among the clean animals listed are some which are probably unfamiliar to most of us:
The roebuck is a deer native to Europe, widespread throughout Scotland and England.
The ibex is a wild goat whose long horns form a curved "V" shape extending over the back. It is a popular animal to hunt in Northern Africa and Central Asia.
The unclean animals also have some strange names in their list:
"Shaw-FAWN" is the Hebrew word for the hyrax, or rock badger.
Kites are light hawks, while the cormorant, heron, and hoopoe are coastal seabirds.
These lists are much shorter, cursory reviews than we find when the Law was originally given in Leviticus 11.
On what basis did God decide clean and unclean? I have no idea. But I do know that since we have been freed from the bondage of the Law, we are also freed from the dietary requirements of the Law. Jesus said,
Mark 7:18-19 ..."Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
This was clarified to Simon Peter as well, who was told,
Acts 10:15 ..."What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy."
We discussed some aspects of the tithe in our study of chapter thirteen. Now, we are given additional details about the what's and how's...
The tithe is to be given from all the fruits of our labor. We are not to say, "I will only tithe on the money from my main income, but not from my second job."
The fear of the Lord is necessary for wisdom and holiness. But how can we learn to fear the Lord? Hear the Word of God (Deut. 4:10), be taught the Word of God (Psalm 86:11), read the Word of God (Deut. 17:9), do what is written in the Word of God (Prov. 34:11; Deut 17:9), and tithe (Deut 14:23).
If transportation is a problem, don't withhold the tithe - solve the problem. We have a great postal system in place in the USA, and many Christians have learned to use it to send their tithes when they're not able to make it to church for whatever reason.
Notice too that it is to be bound in the hand - don't set aside money as tithes and then spend it on something else.
Thirdly, it doesn't matter what form the tithe is in so much as the form of the heart that gives it. Regardless of whether it was sheep or wine, it was to be joyful. Remember that
2Cor. 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Again, the people were reminded to support the full-time ministers who'd devoted their lives to God.
But notice the final words: when we do so, God blesses all the work of our hands. We are not to give in order to receive the blessing, but when we give with right hearts, we can know that God will bless.