No dancing, no mourning

Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist, asking people why it was that they wouldn’t listen to him. Why wouldn’t they listen to his message? He said that, instead, they were people that would neither dance nor mourn. Their generation would play the music but there was no response whatsoever:

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.

Matthew 11:16-19

How similar is this to our generation of today? We are so distracted by so many different things that I wonder sometimes if we can even hear the music that is being played. God is playing the music and he calls us to dance for joy, but we don’t listen and so we don’t dance. We don’t respond and we have no joy.

On the other hand, God calls us to respond in repentance. He plays a dirge and yet we can’t hear that either. We don’t even know when it is time to be sad and mourn. We think that our bank account must grow, or we think that our pleasure must increase, so we focus on these things and we never hear the dirge that God is playing. We never repent and come to Him.

Like the generation that Jesus describes, we prefer to throw criticisms. We prefer to think about how right we are, and in our pride we maintain our own righteousness. We are as foolish as the people of Jesus’s day, and yet we think that we are wise and learned, and advanced as we look into the mirror and declare ourselves to be great.

God help us to break out of the prevailing current of our generation. Let us be a people who seek after you, who look to you, who run after you. Let us be a people who dance to the music that you play for us.


Stark reality

You know, those that walk in God’s way, He will protect them.

We are blessed. God is watching over me and will protect me.

Those that obey God will be protected by God.

I hear these types of statements made pretty routinely amongst Christians. Sometimes I speak up, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it comes up later in conversations with other people. Usually my response is something along the lines of:

I don’t believe that for one second.

People are usually pretty shocked when I say that, but I think that I have good reason to say it. In our western Christianity, we have frequently conflated our prosperity with the blessing from God. Some think that we have received God’s blessing because it is a “Christian society” or because we were founded on Biblical principles. And there are parts of that that I can’t argue with.

We have, in general, become used to a relatively peaceful society, especially in America, based on our military might, as it is a rare occurrence that we would be attacked, or that someone would even want to attack us for fear that our military would be able to drive them into the ground immediately.

So I think that our current physical realities have a way of seeping into our theology making us believe that we will be protected by God in our physical world if we are generally aligned with God’s will spiritually.

But I think that the Bible says exactly the opposite.

This morning, we are reading Matthew 10 where Jesus sent out his 12 disciples to announce and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. He said this:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 10:16

So, let’s look at what Jesus is saying here:

First, Jesus is sending them. He has an idea in mind for what he wants them to do and he is sending them to do it. It is a proactive understanding of a mission for them to complete.

Next: What else does Jesus know? He knows that he is sending them amongst wolves. These are wolves that are going to tear them apart. In the synagogues. At a governmental level. Within families, and amongst friends. In each of these places – in short, at every turn, Jesus is sending them amongst the wolves. He already understands this, even before sending them.

And now, he is sending them as sheep. These are sheep that are defenseless. In fact, he tells them:

Don’t take money.

Look for someone’s house to stay in.

When you are arrested (not if), don’t worry about what you will say. The Holy Spirit will speak for you.

But don’t worry about men. They can kill you, but you shouldn’t concern yourselves with those who can kill your physical body. Instead, concern yourselves with He who can through your spirit into Hell.

OK, now, this is the same Jesus that people are talking about when they say that, if they are a Christian, God will protect them. And they are talking about the physical world!

I think that it is a gross misunderstanding, or ignorance, of the true realities of what Jesus is intending to do with those that are his believers. And furthermore, an incredible injustice to those who will follow after us who speak about protection, or possibly wealth and prosperity.

From my perspective, if we are truly telling people what it means to follow Christ, we should help them to understand that it is not intended to be easy, full of physical blessing and protection from God. In fact, I see the opposite here. I see Jesus intentionally sending his disciples into harm’s way for the purpose of announcing the Kingdom of God and demonstrating it other people. I think that this is the reality that we see with the disciples and the same reality that we see in the rest of the scriptures with Paul and those that worked with him as well. Any other understanding of what is likely to happen is probably based on some other understanding of who we are in Christ or doing something other than what he has commanded us to do.

Connected to this verse today, I wanted to also share this video. It is a 2 hour film, but it is worth the time. It is also called Sheep Among Wolves and regards discipleship and church planting work happening in Iran by Iranians. May God use these people for His glory!


These Words of Mine

As Jesus taught the people, most especially in Matthew 5-7 in the Sermon on the Mount, they were amazed. At the end of Matthew 7, it says that they were amazed because Jesus taught as one who had authority, unlike the way the teachers of the law taught them.

What does that mean, that he taught with authority? Let me give an example:

In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”

Of course, that is one of the 10 commandments. Commandment number 6: You shall not murder. Easy enough, makes complete sense.

However, Jesus then goes on to say something pretty radical. He says: But I tell you…

So, stop there for a second. Regardless of what comes next after “But I tell you”, Jesus has already gone too far, at least if he is just a man, but especially if he is just a prophet, or anything less than God himself. Why?

Because Jesus has just overridden God’s direct word to his people. God himself was the one who had given the commandments to Moses to give to the people. He was the one who spoke and told them “You shall not murder”, but now Jesus says, “But I tell you”.

See the problem?

If you are a Jew at that time, those four words, “But I tell you”, should have been absolutely shocking to you. Who does Jesus think he is to be able to tell us anything? Why does he think that he can change the word of God? You are going to change the commandments of God? Come on…

Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. In fact, he didn’t just do it once. He went on with regard to lust, divorce, taking oaths, love for others, prayer, fasting, and many other things. Jesus is, himself, giving direct commands, not simply pointing back to the commands of God as given in the time of Moses.

Now, let’s ask ourselves, why would he do that?

Jesus is, of course, trying to help the people understand the true heart behind each one of these different commands. If we return back to the question of murder, Jesus said that if anyone is angry with another person, they will be subject to judgment. He is trying to explain to the people that he wants their hearts. It is the condition of their hearts that makes the difference, not just the outward action. The law speaks to the actions and creates consequences for the actions, but the heart and reasoning behind the law is that God wants his people to live in love, to live in harmony, with one another. They should never even get to the point where they want to murder one another because their hearts are pure for one another. This is a way of living by the Spirit of God, not just by the letter of the law.

But I think that there is another reason as well. Jesus was not just teaching the people, but he was showing them who he was. By saying, “You have heard that it was said…” and then going on to say, “But I tell you…”, Jesus is showing himself. He is showing his true identity. He is showing who he truly is.

In what way?

A man cannot say “But I tell you…” over the words of God. Not possible. We should never even try.

But God himself can explain His intent behind His own words. And that is what Jesus is doing. He is teaching the people, but in the process Jesus is revealing his true identity. He is revealing that he is God Himself that has come here to the earth in the form of a man, in the form of Jesus.

So this is why, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 7, we see Jesus say this:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Matthew 7:24-27

Jesus tells the people that these are his words, yet the people recognize the authority with which Jesus is speaking. They understand that Jesus is giving commandments, not simply looking back to the commandments that were given and teaching them. That is good, but that is not what Jesus was doing.

So here we see the authority of Christ. The people who heard Jesus recognized that authority, and we must do the same, listening to what Jesus said and obeying him. In doing this we learn to walk by his Spirit, obeying his words, the words that will lead to eternal life.


Announcing with trumpets

We seek approval from others quite a lot. As we grow older, we tend to frequently think about what others are thinking as we consider the next thing that we will say or the next thing that we will do. It might seem at times as if we are putting on a show for other people. This certainly isn’t a good way to walk through life.

On the other hand, there are those that take the “I don’t care” attitude, or at least claim to have that attitude, and suggest that they are going to do what they want to do without caring what anyone says. I can’t say that I think that this is a productive way to walk through life either. It seems more like adolescent rebellion than a productive way of walking through life.

Jesus tells us that it is important that we do good, but he says that it is also important that we do it without doing that good in front of others. For example, he says:

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:2-3

Jesus is laying out the difference in our hearts for the reasons that we are doing good deeds. On the one hand, he says that you can give to the needy, but you do it because you want to be seen and honored by other people. These are deeds for which you will be honored here on earth amongst people. Jesus says that, if this is the reason that you are doing it, even if you are doing it as a “religious” deed, you have received all of the reward for what you have done that you are going to receive. God will give you nothing more because your motivations for doing the work were not right.

On the other hand, if we do what we so that only God can see, and we work only to receive our praise from Him and not from other people, then we will truly have a reward from our Father in heaven.

As I was reading this passage this morning, I was struck by the idea that, while Jesus is saying these things with regard to giving money to those in need, I’m pretty sure that his intention wasn’t that these rewards, and the motivation for what we are doing would be limited only to this deed.

Instead, I think it would be fair to say that this would be extended to any spiritual, or religious, deed. How often do we do things to please people around us because we believe that they will see us and consider us to be greater spiritual people? How often do we lift our hands or raise our voice, not because we are doing it for God, but instead to show ourselves to men? Let us be careful in this so that we can live to please God, not to announce our deeds with trumpets before men.


Radical and extreme

On Sunday night at church, we were following up from a few weeks of talking about God’s grace upon us, upon our lives. We read together from Philippians 1:18-26 where we saw that Paul was writing a letter to the church in Philippi. He was writing the letter from his prison in Rome where he was in chains as a result of having preached the Gospel and then appealed for an audience with Caesar.

Now, Paul was writing to the Philippians saying that he was full of joy because of what had happened to him, that it would lead to his deliverance.

But wait… full of joy?!? How could he be full of joy while sitting in a prison? He is joyful that the Gospel is being preached? OK, yes, that is a good thing, but full of joy? Hmm….

What was more, Paul went on to say that he expects and hopes to be courageous because he may be near death, even saying that it doesn’t really matter to him whether he lives or dies. In fact, he says: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. What can you do to punish a person like that? Nothing. If he dies, he is even happier than if he stays alive. That person is truly an instrument in God’s hands because his priorities are directly aligned to God’s priorities.

As we were reading and discussing the passage, we were responding to the question: What do we learn about God? It struck me how radical Paul actually was in saying the things that he had said to the Philippians. But I wondered, was that how he started? Was he always this way? I don’t think so. I think God changed his heart as a result of Christ’s work within him. God loved him and had incredible grace and mercy upon Paul which, through a series of subsequent experiences and work to further the Kingdom of God, gave him the ability to say that if he continued living, it would be for Christ, but if he died, it would be to his gain.

So my observation was that we can learn that God desires to change us radically. He wants to make us “extreme”. He has given us such love and grace and mercy that he wants the same for us. He wants us to become “radical” and “extreme” in the same sense, that we would offer love and grace and mercy to others and desire Christ above all else. This is the type of person that God intends for each of us to become, just as we saw in the example of Paul.

So this morning, I was reading Matthew 5 where I read that Jesus calls his disciples the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Here is what he said:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus is telling his disciples that they are the salt and the light. He is, of course, there with them at that point, but it won’t be too much longer before he will leave, so he needs them to know that they are the ones who will be continuing. They are the ones who will go on, continuing to carry the torch, in a sense, for him and for the Kingdom of God, once he has returned back to the Father.

And of course, we see that Jesus immediately after calls them to radical and extreme obedience:

Jesus says that he came to fulfill the law and that they should as well.

Jesus says that they shouldn’t just not murder, but if they are angry with someone, they will be judged.

Jesus says that they shouldn’t just not commit adultery, but if they even look at someone lustfully, they could be subject to being thrown into hell.

How radical is Jesus? How extreme is he? All of the way, and then some! Has anyone ever heard someone talk like this? No, the disciples hadn’t. The Jews hadn’t. The Gentiles hadn’t. No one had ever heard anything like this before.

But now Jesus is saying that his disciples are the light of the world. They are the ones who will be radical and extreme like him. They are the ones who will completely commit themselves to fully obeying God because of the love that they have for Him. They are the ones who will offer love and grace and mercy. They are the ones who will be the salt and light of the world. They will carry on his radical and extreme way of life.

And that is what we saw in Paul. And that is what we see he also calls us to be and to do.


My beloved son

John the Baptist had been baptizing people from Jerusalem, across Judea, and throughout the region where the Jordan river ran. He was calling people to repentance from their sins, preparing the way for Jesus to come, the one who would save them from their sins and call the people into his Kingdom.

But then Jesus comes to John to be baptized. John is, at first, reluctant to baptize Jesus, but Jesus says that they must do it to fulfill righteousness. It is important that Jesus also be baptized, leading the way for the people to be baptized in his name in the future.

As Jesus is baptized, he comes back up out of the water and we read about two amazing things that happened:

The heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17

Jesus is immediately met by the Spirit of God descending upon him. We see the Spirit entering Jesus, confirming his identity as fully God. Jesus was born without a human father, of a virgin birth as the result of the Spirit placing Jesus within Mary, but now we see the public entrance of the Spirit within Jesus confirming his identity as both a full human as well as fully being God.

After this, we also see that God speaks from heaven about Jesus saying that Jesus is His Son, and He is pleased with him. God the Father identifies Jesus as His Son. He says that Jesus is, in fact, divine. He comes from heaven. He comes from God. God has confirmed that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One who would carry out God’s plan here on the earth.

So in this one scene, we see all three persons, all three representations of God, all at work in one place at one time.


Born King

Reading in Matthew 2 today, I noticed that Jesus was recognized by the Magi who had come from the east as the one that would be born to be the king of the Jews. I noted that this is a pretty extraordinary statement given that the Roman empire ruled over Israel at the time. The most powerful empire that had been known in the world up to that point was now ruling over the Jews, and yet the Magi came saying that they were looking for the one who would be born to be their king.

Of course, they were looking for the Messiah, the one that they thought would deliver the Jews from oppression, as did also the Jewish people. As they had been under the heel of oppression of several kingdoms, whether they would be the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, or now the Romans, the Jews had waited for centuries for deliverance. They expected one that would come to liberate them from their oppression, setting them free from the servitude that they had experienced under the authority of each of these kingdoms.

But what they didn’t realize was that it was a different kind of slavery, a different kind of servitude that this Messiah would come to deliver them from. The Bible speaks of the kingdom of darkness, a spiritual kingdom in which Satan rules over those who rebel against God and against His Christ. Jesus is the Messiah who came to deliver his people from the bondage of this kingdom. The Kingdom of God wins over the kingdom of darkness and Jesus is the King in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was born King to a Kingdom that will never pass away. He is the One who was sent to deliver his people from the bondage of sin and from the punishment that would come as a result. This is the reason that Christ came to earth, to establish his Kingdom and purchase people away from the kingdom of darkness to come to serve him in the Kingdom of God.

I wanted to note one other point that I saw in the scripture for today. In verse 6, Matthew quotes the prophet Micah as he says:

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.

Matthew 2:6

This speaks of an honor that this tiny town of Bethlehem would have to birth the Messiah, and this Messiah is the one that would lead and shepherd Israel, God’s people.

Yet as I looked back to the original verse that Matthew quoted, I noticed that there was a second part to the verse that I liked and wanted to note here:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.

Micah 5:2

What I find interesting is the last part. Micah is speaking of Bethlehem and that the Messiah would come from that town. And that Messiah would be the ruler over Israel.

But that new baby, who was born to be the King over his people… where does he come from?

Micah says his origins are of old. His origins are from ancient times.

How is that possible?

Micah is pointing out the reality that this Messiah would come from God Himself. In fact, He is God Himself. He is born new to the world, but His origins are of old. All things come from Him and all things serve Him. He is the creator and He is now also the savior. He has made all things and He will now redeem all things. What a privilege that we have to serve the One who was born King over all.


Terms of the Covenant

Moses was giving his final speech to the people of Israel, recapitulating the good news and blessing of the covenant that God had made with his people, while also declaring the curses that will come on them should they disobey Him and leave Him for other gods. This covenant, which came as part of giving the law through Moses, was conditional on the Israelites, God’s chosen people, obeying God’s law, the Word that He had given to them through Moses.

In chapter 29, God tells the people this through Moses:

These are the terms of the covenant the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab

Deuteronomy 29:1

God says that these are the “terms” of the agreement. It is also frequently translated simply, “words”, but the point is still the same. It is a bi-lateral agreement, similar to a contract. In this agreement, both sides have a responsibility. The responsibilities of each side are essentially:

God will be the God of the Israelites. He is the one true God. The only God, and He will be the God of the Israelites. If the Israelites will obey Him, He will give them blessing. He will lead them and guide them. And they will prosper as a people.

But the Israelites must obey God. They must do what God has called them to do. God has given them his law and they must follow the law that He has given them.

Those are the terms. That is the deal. If they will do it, then God will fulfill His part of the covenant. If they will not, God will not only not fulfill His part, but He will bring curses, anger, and wrath upon them and the blessing that they had experienced from God will evaporate and be gone.

Looking ahead

God is the same God today as He was in the time of the Israelites. However, he has gone on to establish a new covenant with his people through Jesus. God had told the Israelites that the whole earth is mine but that they would be for Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. As His people, they would serve Him on the earth.

This is similar to whom we are called to be! At the last supper, Jesus establishes the New Covenant in his blood. He says that this covenant offers forgiveness for sins. God is creating a new people for Himself in Christ. Those that have had their sins forgiven through Christ will become a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.

So even today, God continues to establish His covenant with His people. Will we keep the terms of the covenant? Will we put our trust in – and only in – the blood of Christ?


It is to be with him

God anticipated the day when Israel would reject Him as their king. God had not given the Israelites a king, but instead had Himself been the king of the Israelites. Instead, they had prophets who would speak to the people on God’s behalf, as Moses did, as well as judges, who would judge the disputes between the people.

This was the governmental system that God set up for the Israelites. It was intentionally unlike the systems of the other people that surrounded the Israelites. God intentionally did not give them a king, specifically because His people were a people that were to be set apart. They were to be a people that looked to God as their king, not a man.

And yet God knew that the people would eventually reject Him. He knew that the hearts of the Israelites would be drawn away from God and instead would be lured into believing that they should be like the other peoples. They would want to worship the other “gods” and they would ask for a king who was a man, just like what the other nations around them had. They looked and saw that this is what the other peoples did, and so they decided that this is what they wanted as well.

This wasn’t God’s desire, but He anticipated this eventuality, so in speaking for God, Moses told the Israelites the conditions under which this would happen. He said that this person should not be a foreigner, but must be an Israelite. He said that this person must be a king that God will choose. And God said that this person shouldn’t seek wealth, power, nor unlimited pleasure through “many wives”.

But this was the part that hit me as I read this today: God said that this person must start their reign in this way:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.

Deuteronomy 17:18

God wants the Israelites to keep Him at the highest place before them individually and as a community. However, he knows that they will reject Him and will ask for a king. So he says that when this happens, God will choose the man that He wants them to have.

But if the Israelites have a king, where will their law come from? It should come directly from God. This king should receive his law from the true King, God Himself.

You might see where I’m going with this. In a kingdom, where does the law come from? It comes from the king. The king is the sovereign in that particular territory. Whatever the king says, that is what happens. No questions.

But if and when a king is established before the nation of Israelites, he should start his rule and reign by creating his own copy of the law from the Word of God. The law isn’t a law from the king. It isn’t the king’s word. It is the Word that comes from a greater power. A law that comes directly from God. The king, therefore, should remain submitted to God, submitted to His word. This newly installed king isn’t the “sovereign”. God remains the Sovereign over His people.

We might be tempted to say something like: Yeah! Our government should be submitted to God’s Word! But let me suggest that we should start by looking at our own selves. We should start by asking ourselves, “Who is my sovereign?” Do I treat God as my Sovereign? Am I “writing out a copy” of God’s Word and following it each day? Is that what I live by? Or do I look to another source? Myself, for example? Do I do, instead, what is right in my own eyes? Or do I do what is right in the eyes of God?

These are important questions for each of us. The people of Israel went astray from God and His plan because they no longer considered God and His Word to be the Sovereign over them, over their nation. Instead, they did what they wanted to do because they considered their own ideas to be greater than that of God’s ideas. They considered their plans to be greater than God’s plans, and that is exactly why they continued downward into the ruin that they did. So now we should ask ourselves whether or not we will follow their same path, or if we will each “write out” God’s Word and have it be with us and our Guide while we walk out the rest of our days.


Put them to death?

Wow, that is severe. In Deuteronomy 13, Moses gives the Israelites a command that they are to put people to death under certain conditions. In these cases, he says that enticing people within the Israelite community to serve other gods deserves the punishment of death.

In the first case, Moses says that even if a prophet comes and gives a prophecy that comes true and then tells people to follow other gods – the gods of the people around them – they deserve to be put to death.


Because they are inciting rebellion against God, the one true God, and Moses says that they must purge the evil from within them that is inciting the rebellion.

But then Moses gives them a commandment that is even more severe. He says:

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, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 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.

Deuteronomy 13:6-9

Whoa… So, even if this person is a family member? And I would have to be the first one whose hand is raised in putting them to death?

This seems rough. It seems over the top. Too much. And we often see a couple of different types of responses to these commands.

One response could be: How could a loving God tell one person to kill another person? Is God not a loving God? A merciful God? How could I believe in a God that calls for one person to kill another? No, I can’t do this. I can’t believe or follow this God.

But there is a second response that we could have, understanding God properly.

We could understand that God is a loving God. He is loving precisely because he doesn’t want to send anyone to serve other gods and the evil that is done in their name, thus causing immense pain to the people during their lifetime. By removing the person from the community, the ideas

He is loving precisely because he doesn’t want to send anyone to Hell upon His final judgment of each person on the earth.

God is loving because He knows that there is no greater gift that He can give than Himself. God has made a covenant with his people that He will be their God and they will be His people, which is the greatest gift that God could possibly give.

But it is precisely because of our value, or our lack of value, for the gift that God has given – namely our relationship with Him – that shocks us as we read what Moses has said here.

I am, of course, not advocating, nor never advocating violence against other people. Instead, my intent is to try to understand the context in which Moses would say this to the Israelite people and to understand why God would tell Moses to command this of the people.

For us today, we also must place our relationship with God at the highest possible place, giving Him the highest possible value of all things. We must leave behind anyone and anything that would entice, or seek to entice us to worship at the throne of another “god”. Anyone or anything that would call us to leave God or His commands to follow after any other must be laid aside for the purpose of knowing and worshiping Him and Him alone.