Lent Devotion for March 11, Fourth Sunday in Lent
Reader: "Keep His commands and obey Him;”
Response: “serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 13:1–11
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet 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 for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
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 ancestors 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 them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they 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.
Reader: "The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Now things get a little interesting! We know certainly and clearly Moses’ instructions to the people regarding worshiping the one true God. Remember, the people had seen God do miraculous things during the past forty years of the exodus. But the younger Israelites had been born during the desert wanderings. The promise of God was that all those over the age of twenty, when they left Egypt, would die in the desert and never see the Promised Land. Nearly every one of those people have died at this point and Moses is largely speaking to their children, many of whom had not experienced the parting of the Red Sea. The miracles always had a practical purpose. They were never done to demonstrate magic. They were done to induce faith and awe, and to cause greater faith in God. Moses is warning this younger generation of Israelites who are about to enter Canaan, that there may be false prophets among them who do miraculous things and make predictions that come true for the purpose of leading them to other gods. Should that occur, those prophets are to be put to death so that corruption does not infiltrate God’s people, even if those persons are family members! There is a deceptive principle at work here, a principle that is still in operation in our day. Put simply, “It’s true if it works!” If someone were to do a miracle, everything else about what they say must be true. The danger was that “the results, it was believed, validated the truth of the proposition.” That is one of the devil’s oldest tricks. Moses was saying, “Is the voice you hear from God? Does it lead you to Him? Does it draw you closer to God?” The danger for the church today is that too often budgets and worship attendance are used to validate the “truth” of God’s working in a ministry. Those are not the signs of the transformational work of the Holy Spirit. The voice of God produces greater godliness.
“I Will Arise and Go to Jesus” by Robert Shaw Festival Singers (Watch on YouTube)
O divine Father, whose mercy ever awaits those who return unto Thee in true lowliness and contrition of heart, hear now one humble suppliant who need Thy help. Bravely have I set out upon the life of a new day; now I lie down ashamed and burdened with memories of things undone that ought to have been done and things done that ought not to have been done. My mouth was shut when it should have been opened and opened when it should have been shut. I assumed what I saw was true rather than weighing it against your word. Bring to me afresh O God, Thy healing and cleansing power, so that again I may lay hold of the salvation which Thou hast offered to me through Jesus Christ my Lord.
- John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, p.79, adapted Daniel Sharp