David used this quotation to illustrate that as humans we were created to worship God. But sin has distorted that purpose. We still have a ‘God-shaped vacuum’ in our lives but we try to fill it with other things. Yet God in His mercy pursues us, redeems us and reinstates the broken relationship. Forgiven and restored, now we are to commit ourselves to loving Him with all our heart, soul and strength. There must be no toleration of idols in our lives.
Our pastor defined an idol as ‘anything that absorbs our heart and imagination more than God’. (A sobering challenge.)
Beginning a new section of instructions in this passage, Moses homes in on worship. He warns of a potential hindrance to worship: the influence of others. Identifying three types of people to be aware of, he also gives advice on how to respond to any temptation away from the only true God.
The danger was (and is) real, and at times Moses’ language is shocking. David emphasised the need to take it to heart, here and now, because so much is at stake.
If we go after other gods, it will decimate our relationship with our true Father God, dilute our love and damage the purpose for which we were created. Who are the three types who may try to derail our worship?
First, false prophets or teachers. Unfortunately, these are still with us. When they promote anyone/thing other than God we must stop listening to them and ‘put them to death’(v.5). Moses’ command can be followed today with the mindset “you’re dead to me”. Instead, actively listen to what God says in Scripture.
With the second group, things get personal and more difficult. They are members of our own families, or our best friends. They want us to devote ourselves to other gods, as they do, or curb our active enthusiasm for Jesus and His people. But, warned David, the moment we decide to please family or friend before God, then we become extremely vulnerable to being drawn off course. Again, Moses’ instruction is not to listen to them and to ‘put them to death’, only this time we have to take the lead in the ‘killing’. This reinforces the idea that even family must not take precedence over God. Jesus said:
David explained this hard saying in this way: our love for our families is to be so far surpassed by our love for Jesus that it will seem like hatred in comparison.
Why is this important? Because of grace. Verses 5 and 10 remind us: only He redeemed us from slavery to sin, giving us a powerful hope and a glorious future.
The last group of people who might try to lead us astray are troublemakers in a community who want to lead a whole town off the path. David believes, worryingly, that some seek prominence in our society in order to influence multitudes of people towards false gods. We need to be on our guard.
This time Moses’ instructions are even more radical: all the townspeople are to be killed and their property burnt. He is pointing forward to the ultimate judgement of wilful sinners.
Why does God allow such temptations to arise from these various quarters?
He wants to know if our love is real. If it is, we will walk after Him, fear Him, keep His commands, obey His voice, serve Him and cling to Him.
May it be so.