“When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31)
Moses had just warned Israel about the danger of worshipping other gods and instructed them to not to allow any of the old religious artifacts to remain. He also warned them not to begin to offer sacrifices in other places because it becomes so easy to begin to adopt false doctrine and practices.
Here he warns them of the danger of curiosity about other people’s religious beliefs. Such curiosity has resulted in the revival of the ancient Druid religion in England, widespread interest in witchcraft and the Wicca religion, and efforts to return to their native religions among many American Indian tribes. Here on the Navajo Reservation, much of the interest was sparked by “mission” groups who wanted to help preserve the traditional dances and celebrations. Unfortunately, they have only preserved the religion, without many of the moral and ethical standards. Curiosity could well lead Israel into the same kind of idolatry
“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32)
God’s commandments were not to be changed in any way. The present day requirement that Jews eat only Kosher food, food that has been blessed by a Jewish rabbi is an example of an addition to the law, adding to Deuteronomy 12:15, “Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.” While many perceive it as a way of reinforcing the law, it is in direct violation of the law. God’s law was not to be changed in any way.
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)
They were to stick to God and his commandments regardless what qualifications the prophet or religious leader might have, or what miraculous signs he might perform. A doctorate, a recommendation from a famous preacher or organization, or even a series of miraculous signs was not to be accepted as an excuse for going along with other religions, nor. Instead they were to view it as test from God whether they would obey or not.
This is very similar to what is commanded in Galatians 1:8-9. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” How many times do we allow a degree or a reputation to overshadow and set aside what God said?
“Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” (Deuteronomy 13:4-5)
They were to put God first and obey him no matter what the other man might say. That prophet was to be taken out and executed for trying to turn them away from God. While the New testament does not tell us to kill such false prophets, it does direct us to separate from them. Romans 16:17-18 commands, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
In similar fashion, I Timothy 6:3-5 instructs, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:6-9)
Personal relationships were not to be allowed to influence their obedience. If he were a friend or relative they were to be the first to take their stand against his false teaching.
“If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; Then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.” (Deuteronomy 13:12-16)
Such sin was not to be ignored in other groups either. An accusation was not to be taken lightly, but was to be thoroughly investigated, and if true, they were to execute the entire city for their failure to obey God. Not only was the entire city to be destroyed, their belongings were to be destroyed as well. The accusations were not to be a way of enriching themselves.
“And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and show thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 13:17-18)
When they followed God completely in these matters they could expect God to keep his promises to bless them but failure would ensure his Judgment. The churches at Pergamos and Thyatira were condemned in Revelation 2 because they ignored false doctrine, even allowing it to be openly taught in Thyatira. It is a serious warning to modern churches.
While it is often believed we ought to study other religions to be better able to deal with them, it also exposes us to false doctrine and increases the probability of confusion. It would be far better to focus on what is true. No one will be rewarded or get to heaven for knowing what is wrong with another groups beliefs. The rewards are for knowing and doing what is right.