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Bible: What Does Deuteronomy 12-15 Teach Us About Idolatry, False Prophets, and Tithing?
Moses introduces another set of statutes and judgments for Israel to observe (v. 1).
Foremost in his mind is the absolute destruction of pagan worship sites (altars, pillars, Asherim, and images) [vv. 2-3].
Israel must not use these objects to aid them in their worship of Yahweh (v. 4; cf. Ex. 32).
[By application, this verse appears to be a strong argument against the practice of making statues of deity].
Contrary to what they are doing in Moab—specifically, whatever is right in their own eyes—Israel must find Yahweh’s chosen “home” in the Land, and worship Him there with all of their sacrifices and offerings, eating and rejoicing before Him (vv. 5-9).
When they are at rest in their inheritance, Israel will bring their sacrifices to the “place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide” (Jerusalem), and rejoice there with their children, their servants, and the Levites (vv. 10-12).
Moses warns them to make sure that they worship God in that place only (vv. 13-14; cf. John 4:19-24).
Israelites, regardless of ceremonial status (clean or unclean), may slaughter their animals and eat them within their gates, but they must not eat blood (vv. 15-16).
Also forbidden is the consumption of the tithe of various offerings; they (including children, servants, and Levites) must eat these goods at that special site God chooses among their tribes (vv. 17-19).
If, while they are in the Land, they wish to eat meat but are too far from that special worship center, they may eat as much as they wish within their gates (vv. 20-22).
Again, however, Moses prohibits the eating of blood with the meat; they must dispose of it properly that Israel may prosper (vv. 23-25).
Promised offerings and things “set apart” for sacrifice they must take to the special place of God and follow the prescribed ceremonies, that “it may go well with you and your children after you forever” (vv. 26-28).
Another warning against their falling prey to idolatrous worship in the Land follows (vv. 29-30).
Moses prohibits them from worshiping God by using abominable pagan practices, but enjoins complete obedience to the exact words He/he commands them (vv. 31-32).
False Prophets Lead Others Astray
"Dreamer of Dreams"
Israel must not follow a miracle-working “prophet” or “dreamer of dreams” if he exhorts them to serve gods other than Yahweh (vv. 1-3a).
Moses calls this man “a loyalty test” from the LORD (v. 3b), and then reminds the people of what their God expects from them (v. 4).
The one who “tests” them—the “prophet”—must suffer capital punishment for his apostasy (v. 5).
[Again, Moses adds many words to express just who Yahweh is, and what the false prophet tries to do].
God’s man then tightens the screws, extending the same degree of punishment (namely, stoning to death) to friends and family members who advocate abandoning Yahweh (vv. 6-10).
Such impartiality should prove to be an effective deterrent (v. 11); Moses applies this judgment even further still.
After ferreting out all the facts that certain “sons of Belial” spread this “abomination” in one of Canaan’s cities, Israel must annihilate every human being and animal in that city, publicly burn all of its plunder, and make it a heap and uninhabitable forever (vv. 12-16).
If no Israelite confiscates any “accursed things,” then God will turn from His wrath and show His people mercy and compassion for their obedience (vv. 17-18).
[Notice that the whole city suffers punishment for tolerating and accepting false leaders].
Ceremonial Laws: For the Church?
Do Israel's ceremonial laws apply to the Church today?
As holy children of the LORD, specially treasured and chosen, Israel must not mourn improperly by using pagan practices (vv. 1-2).
In addition, they must not eat certain animals; Moses first lists those that the Law permits Israel to eat (vv. 3-6).
Unclean meat comes from those beasts that chew the cud, but do not have cloven hooves (or vice versa, in the case of the swine) [vv. 7-8].
The Law allows Israel to eat those creatures with fins and scales, but prohibits those that do not (vv. 9-10).
Encased between two references to clean birds on the “Eat” agenda, Moses lists twenty varieties of unclean birds under “Do not eat” (vv. 11-20).
The creature that “dies of itself” Israel may give to foreigners or aliens, but they themselves may not eat it (v. 21).
[Cf. Leviticus 11:2-45 for a more extensive treatment of this subject].
Now Moses changes gears and gives Israel principles about tithing (vv. 22-29).
The people must tithe their grain increase yearly (v. 22), and eat this tithe (as well as all others) in that special site Yahweh chooses (v. 23).
They may exchange the tithe for money if this place is too far away to transport everything there (vv. 24-25).
While in this special location, they may buy “whatever your heart desires” and eat it there with their families, not forgetting their local Levite (vv. 26-27).
At the end of every third year Israelites put in storage a tithe of their produce; those without an inheritance (namely, the Levite) and the indigent benefit from this contribution (vv. 28-29a).
God promises to bless the work of those who obey this principle (v. 29b).
Show Concern for the Poor
The LORD's Release
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The “LORD’s release” at the end of every seven years obligates Israelites to cancel their brethren’s debts (vv. 1-2).
This remission does not extend to foreigners, but only to fellow Israelites (v. 3).
Obedience to this commandment will bring blessing; Israel will become a powerful nation that lends to other peoples and rules them (vv. 4-6).
Well-to-do Israelites must lend enough funds to poor brethren to meet their needs (vv. 7-8).
They must guard against withholding charity as the “LORD’s release” approaches; their heart attitude toward giving to the poor should not be a grudging one, for God will bless them for their compassion (vv. 9-10; cf. 2 Cor. 9:7).
As poverty will never cease, those with means will always have opportunities to supply the lack (v. 11; cf. John 12:8).
Also in the seventh year, Israel must set free their brethren who have become bond-servants (v. 12).
The master must supply the needs of the servant with liberality, remembering his days as a slave in Egypt and the LORD’s redemption (vv. 13-15).
[Of course, as time progresses, individual Israelites will not have that first memory upon which they might draw; thus, they must remind themselves of their own spiritual redemption].
Those servants, male and female, who wish to stay because they love their masters, must have their ear pierced as an identification mark (vv. 16-17).
The master should not feel unduly burdened because he freed a fellow Israelite after six years, for he received great service from him or her (v. 18).
More instruction on firstborn animals follows (vv. 19-23).
"Sanctified" beasts must not work the field, or be sheared (v. 19); Israel must eat them at the special place the LORD will choose, unless the animals are imperfect (vv. 20-21).
In that case, anyone, clean or unclean, may eat their flesh (but not their blood) in their own cities (vv. 22-23).
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