Deuteronomy 13

A Crime Worthy of Death

“Stone the guilty ones to death because they have tried to draw you away from the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery.” – Deuteronomy 13:10 NLT

So just how serious was God about His people keeping the first commandment? It seems that when He said that they were not to have any other gods in place of or besides Him, He meant it. Deuteronomy 13 is an explanation of what was to happen to anyone who tried to tempt the people of God to worship idols. Whether it was a prophet, brother, son or daughter, wife, or even a best friend who tried to entice the worship of false gods, the penalty was the same: death by stoning. In God’s eyes, these individuals were counseling rebellion against Him. God had called the people of Israel to follow Him, fear Him, keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him (Deuteronomy 13:4). God required faithfulness and fidelity from His people, and unfaithfulness was not to be tolerated. God saw idolatry as spiritual sedition. It was rebellion against His rule and authority in their lives, and it was a serious crime that carried a serious punishment.

But today we have softened our stance on idolatry. We seem to believe that we are safe and secure because we don’t have any idols in our lives. After all, we don’t worship totems or golden statues on the mantel of our homes. We don’t pray to other gods or offer sacrifices in pagan temples. But are we idol-free? Have we kept the first commandment fully and completely? In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller helps us see that idol worship is a lot more evident in our lives than we might like to admit.

“The Bible often speaks of idols using the religious metaphor. God should be our true Savior, but we look to personal achievement or financial prosperity to give us the peace and security we need. Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares. What do we fear the most? What, if we lost it, would make life not worth living? We make ‘sacrifices’ to appease and please our gods, who we believe will protect us. We look to our idols to provide us with a sense of confidence and safety. The Bible also speaks of idols using a political metaphor. God should be our Lord and Master, but whatever we love and trust we also serve. Anything that becomes more important and non-negotiable to us than God becomes an enslaving idol. In this paradigm, we can locate idols by looking at our most unyielding emotions. What makes us uncontrollably angry, anxious, or despondent? What racks us with a guilt we can’t shake? Idols control us, since we feel we must have them or life is meaningless.”

So you see, idols are more prevalent in our lives than we might like to admit. And when you couple that fact with God’s hatred for them, we have to take this as a wake-up call. We must see our tendency to seek other source of satisfaction and fulfillment as a serious crime against God. It is nothing less than spiritual sedition. God is to be our sole source of comfort, security, safety, strength, hope, satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment. Any time we seek for those in something or somebody else, we have made that thing or individual an idol in our lives. And God will not tolerate it. Is He asking us to stone one another today for our acts of idolatry? Probably not, but He is testing us. “The LORD your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3 NLT). He wants to see if we will worship Him and Him alone. Will we remain faithful. Are we willing confess our love affair with other things and return to Him? If we do, He promises to bless us. Because He is faithful even when we are not.

Father, I have so many idols in my life and I ask Your forgiveness for allowing myself to turn to them in place of You. The sad thing is that they never really deliver what they promise. They disappoint all the time, but I keep going back to them. But You are always faithful and true and never let me down. Help me see the seriousness of my sin. Help me to take idolatry seriously and see it as rebellion against Your rule and authority in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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