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.