We are seeing that Israel had a choice. They could come where God put his name or use other places and altars, wherever they chose. Deut 12 deals with how to worship Yehovah. You were to come where he put his name, and God chose Jerusalem and the Temple, and he still does today. Unbelievers always fail to recognize Jerusalem, but Messiah comes to Jerusalem, he worshiped in Jerusalem’s Temple and the capital is Jerusalem. The place to worship and keep the festivals is not Salt Lake City; Rome; Wheaton, Il; Springfield, Mo; Washington; Moscow; London or some lake in Oklahoma. In the Atid Lavo (Messianic Kingdom) we will all go to one place, Jerusalem and the Temple there (Zech 14.16-21; Isa 2.2-4; Mic 4.1-5).
In Deut 12.26 we learn that the holy things and votive offerings shall be brought to the place the Lord chooses. Regular slaughter of meat for food can be done anywhere now that they are in the land. Deut 12.29-31 tells us that Yehovah is warning Israel not to follow the gods of the destroyed nations once they take the land. They were not to ask, “How do these nations serve their gods that I also may do this likewise.” They were not to act that way toward God. They were to be careful to do what he has told them and not to add to or take away from it. This is not what Judaism and Christianity ended up doing. Judaism and Christianity have not followed Moses for 2000 years.
Now, what does all idolatry have in common? The rejection of God’s influence. If we lose sight of what God has said and put too much emphasis on our own words, we are going in the wrong direction. If we lose sight of what God has said and put too much emphasis on what others have said, we are going in the wrong direction. Here is an application.
Let’s say you have a child with a special skill and there are special schools. Is this a good idea? It depends on the skill. If it is music, they can get a lifetime of enjoyment out of that. But what if all the training is to perfect the body for a few days of competition. All the training does not develop the true potential of that child, but to show their superiority over others (John 6.63; 1 Tim 4.8). What if all that work causes injury and beyond in order to win? It’s not the child’s fault, it’s the system or the coaches, parents or others. There was an Olympic gymnastic performer a few years ago who vaulted on a severely injured leg. The vault gave the United States a gold medal, further damaging her leg. What she did was selfless, but there is something wrong with a system that called upon her to do that. The world said, “Be tough, don’t give up, give it your all.” But are those the voices she should have listened to? What would she be “worth” if she failed? What kind of system drives a person to use performance enhancing drugs in order to play football or baseball?
Deut 12.32 is a verse we should remember. It says, Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. This very similar to what the Lord said earlier in Deut 4.2. This is a major mistake in Judaism. They read Deut 12.32 with their implied addition, “except for those cases where the rabbis must make a special ruling.” Why didn’t the nation of Israel as a whole recognize Yeshua when he came in the First Century? It is because they added to or deleted from Moses. Yeshua quotes Isa 29.13 on this error in Mark 7.6-9.
Replacement Theology Christianity has done the same thing. They are “free from the law” (meaning they “deleted Moses”) and added on with their own church traditions. That is why the Torah is so new to people. They have never been taught Moses. Oh, they have been taught nice little bible stories growing up like David and Goliath, Noah and the Ark and Daniel in the lion’s den, but they have never been taught the Torah. They don’t know that the Lord had something to say on all subjects. We must learn the commandments. So, Choice #1 is, “Are we going to serve other gods or worship the Lord in a Torah-based faith?”
That brings us to Choice #2, “Who are we going to listen to?” This chapter deals with false prophets (v 1-5). What if a great teacher or prophet comes along and impresses us with “signs and wonders?” So, the question is, “What is the purpose of a sign or wonder (miracle?” What if this prophet decides we should do things contrary to the Torah commands that Yehovah gave, should we follow that prophet because there were signs? In fact, the Lord is saying that he can cause a false prophet to have signs and wonders (v 1-3). The purpose of the sign or wonder is to test or examine us, to draw our attention to what that person is teaching. A true prophet will never lead the people to rebel against the Lord and the Torah (Tanak, Gospels, Epistles). We are to check out what that person is teaching or saying by the Torah and the Prophets. If it is not according to the Torah and Prophets, then they are not from God (Isa 8.20; Matt 7.15-20; Acts 17.10-11).
This concept will be true for family and friends as well (Deut 13.6-11). What if that teacher is your brother, mother, wife, son, daughter or friend? Now the choice gets a little tougher. These are “false relatives” and we have five admonitions to deal with this in Deut 13.8. We are not to yield to them, listen to them, pity them nor spare or conceal them by saying nothing. False teachers, no matter who they were, were to be killed by stoning (v 10). Now, we can’t do that today. This was to be done when Israel lived in the land and there were Torah-based courts, but, we can cut them off in other ways. These five admonitions apply to the family (v 8), but there is only one that applies to a false prophet (“do not listen”-v 3). But why?
God through the Torah understands the connection one has for family. Only a few words are used for a false prophet who comes with miracles. But with family, there is more said on how to deal with them because we tend to excuse and cover for them. We don’t have the heart to refute them.
We have talked about false prophets (v 1-5), false relatives (6-11), but now we are going to talk about false countrymen. Deut 13.12-87 is called “The Law of the Wayward City.” What if we lived in the land and a whole town doesn’t follow the Torah? What if the people decided to go after other gods? Idolatry was not to be tolerated by false countrymen. Idolatry involved perverted sexual practices, the sacrifice of children and idols. What if the whole town doesn’t keep the Sabbath or celebrates pagan rituals? What do we do? What choice do we make now around all these false countrymen? Of course we don’t live in the land of Israel so we can’t “strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword and utterly destroy it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword.” However, we can choose to not participate in or associate ourselves with these practices.
In Part 13 we will pick up with Choice #3, “Are we going to eat like them?”