“Honoring the Beloved Part 2” – Deuteronomy 18:1-13

November 19th,  2017

Dt. 18:1-13

“Honoring the Beloved Pt 2”

Aux Text: Malachi 1:6-2:2

Call to Worship: Psalm 33


Service Orientation:  We say we love and honor God.  How we treat God’s ordained leaders, house, creation, and values demonstrate if our love and honor are genuine.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. — Proverbs 3:9-10


Honoring God – Pt 1 was April 30th 2017 when we looked at God’s 3rd commandment to not use the Lord’s name in vain.


Background Information:

  • Moses now shifts attention from the king as a paradigm of covenantal righteousness to Israel’s treatment of the priests as a measure of the people’s fidelity to the standards of righteousness. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 426)
  • After the two sections on “secular” leadership (the judge and the king), we now have two sections on the “spiritual” leadership provided by the priest and the prophet. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 213)
  • (v. 1) The responsibilities of the tribe of Levi were broadly twofold: the service of the sanctuary, especially the role of the priests at the altar; and the preservation and teaching of the law (cf. Lv 10:11; Dt 10:8; 33:10; 2 Chr 15:3; 17:8f.; 35:3; Neh 8:7-9).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 213)
  • (v. 1) Because of their zeal for God at the time of the golden calf incident (Dt 10:8), the Levites were set apart for service in connection with the tabernacle and its worship. Out of this tribe, the family of Aaron was designated to serve as priests.  However, the whole tribe–priests and those who engaged in setting up and dismantling the worship system–was prohibited from owning property in the promised land.  God instructed that they should live on the offerings made to the LORD by fire, which would serve as their inheritance.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 222)
  • (v. 1) The daily sustenance of the Levites came from the offerings made to the Lord and from the firstfruits. Particular portions of the offerings were to be given to the priests, those who were the sons of Aaron (Lv 7:31-35).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 118)
  • (v. 1) The one group for whom both tenure and subsistence were provided by law, their preferred position was based on a national need as well as on the real service that the Levites gave the nation. Until the breakup of the nation by Titus, priests were the backbone of Israel’s religious structure.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 2, 445)
  • (v. 2) The NT never calls those who serve the church in its leadership “priests.” Priesthood is applied only to either Christ (Heb 7, etc.), or the whole community of believers (1 Pt 2:9, echoing the same collective use in Ex 19:4-6).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 215)
  • (v. 2) The principle that those who serve God and teach God’s people should be fully provided for by God’s people is emphatically reapplied in the NT. Gal 6:6 applies it to Christian teachers (cf. 1 Tm 5:17f.).  Paul actually makes reference to OT priestly dues, along with many other supporting arguments (including another Deuteronomic law, 25:4, and a command of Christ), in establishing the responsibility of Christian churches to provide for the material needs of those who work for the cause of the Gospel (1 Cor 9:13).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 215)
  • (v. 2) Portraying them as “brothers” serving in the name of Yahweh and standing before him, this text assumes neither conflict nor competition between priests who serve at the central sanctuary and those who serve in outlying locations. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 429)
  • (v. 5) The terms “stand and minister” are used regularly for priestly service (Dt 17:12; Ex 28:43; though the former is also used more generally, as in 1 Kgs 17:1); and the phrase “and his descendants” echoes the provision that Aaron’s sons should be priests in perpetuity (Ex 28:4, 43b). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 298)
  • (v. 6) The purpose of these cities seems to have been to ensure that the needy, administering cleansing rituals, presiding over local sacrifices (cf. 1 Sm 9:12-13; cf. 8:16-17; 9:12-24; 16:1-6) and ceremonies of blessings and cursing (cf. 27:9-14; Josh 8:33), teaching Torah (31:9-13; 33:8-11), generally keeping alive the traditions of Israel, ensuring covenant fidelity, and representing the central sanctuary in the far-flung regions of the land. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 430)
  • (v. 10) One who engages in witchcraft may have cut up herbs and brewed them for magical purposes. The Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, the Septuagint, translated this as pharmaka, drug; narcotic or hallucinogenic drugs were frequently used to produce magical effects.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 165)
  • (v. 11) Other detestable practices claimed to reach beyond the realm of the living to make contact with the souls of the dead. The most basic term for such a practitioner was a medium; Greek uses the same word for medium as it does for ventriloquist, which may explain where the mysterious voices of the dead really came from.  The term spiritist is related to the word for “know;” perhaps the difference between a spiritist and a medium lay in the medium’s claim to be able to call up any spirit (such as the witch at Endor, 1 Sm 28:8-22), while a spiritist engaged a “familiar spirit” through whom he could contact the dead.  One who consults the dead may summarize the practices of the medium and the spiritist, or it could refer to a necromancer, someone who tells fortunes by consulting the dead, possibly by visiting their graves.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 164-5)
  • (v. 11) To use this means to manipulate the deity intensifies evil. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 436)
  • (v. 12) The practices in this list are all intended to manipulate deities, supernatural forces, and the spirits of the deceased to act in the worshiper’s favor. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 437)
  • (v. 13) The translation “blameless” is misleading (as is the KJV’s “be perfect”). The word really means to “be complete.”  The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) translates, “Be completely faithful to the LORD.”  The Savior God wanted his people to entrust their whole lives to his care, to conform all their desires to his will, and to be upright in every aspect of their lives.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 165)
  • To prepare the way for the section on the role of the prophet, Deuteronomy first outlines some of the pagan practices by which the Canaanites looked for answers to the riddles of life and the future. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 216)


The question to be answered is . . What are we to glean from this passage?


Answer: There are many things we could glean, but we need to see that we honor God when we honor that which is  called by His name.   We dishonor God by seeking to find in others what we should look to God to give us.


The Word for the Day is . . . Honor


The Jews of the OT most definitely understood the need to show reverence for God by honoring His name.  The scribes who copied Scriptures by hand had many, many complex rules that enabled them to copy them very carefully and accurately.  One of them was that whenever they came to any of the secondary names for God–such as El, or El Shaddai, Elohim, or many others–they would stop and put down their pens and take up new pens and carefully write that name.  But a very different rule applied when they came to the principal name that God had used to reveal Himself, the name “Jehovah” for which they used the four letters, YHWH.  Before they wrote this highest and best name, they would rise from their seats and go into their personal quarters.  They would take off their robes, bathe themselves, clothe themselves with new, clean garments and return to their work.  There they would kneel down, confess their sins, take a new pen, dunk it once into the ink well and write those four letters, YHWH–for Yahweh.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 66)


The Israelites took the idea of profaning God’s name very seriously; so they did not pronounce the name of God–probably spelled Yahweh–in conversation.  They usually substituted Yahweh with adonay, which is the word for lord.  So in most of our modern English Bibles, when Yahweh appears in the Hebrew, we find ‘LORD” in capitals and small capitals.  When adonay appears, it is rendered as “Lord” with the letters after the first letter in lower-case.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 181)


This name was held so sacred that it was pronounced only once a year by the priest when giving the blessing on the great Day of Atonement (Lv 23:27).  Israel came to value the name so much that when Scribes copied the manuscripts and came to the name Jehovah, they would stop, ceremonially bathe all over, and then go back to the scroll with an unused pen!  Jehovah was the awesome personal, covenantal, promise-keeping name of God that must not be misused.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 55)


Nowhere in Scripture do we find any indication that the tetragrammaton–the four letters constituting the sacred name YHWH–is too sacred to take upon our lips, as orthodox Jews allege.  In fact, even the names of idols like Ashtoreth, Cemosh, and Milcom are mentioned in Scripture without hesitation (e.g., 2 Kgs 23:13).  The only consideration is the purpose for which they are used.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 73)


What do we see in this passage about honoring God?:

I-  We honor God when we honor that which is connected to His name.  (Dt 18:1-8, 13; see also: Lv 27:30-33; Nm 18:8-32; 35:1-8; Dt 26:1-15; Josh 21:41-42; Prv 3:9; 14:31; Isa 58:13; 60:9; ; bk of Mal; Mt 10:10; Lk 10:7; Rom 13:1-7; 1 Cor 9:1-15; Gal 6:6; 1 Tm 5:17-18; Heb 5:5; 1 Pt 2:17)


They are to “minister” in his name and “stand” before him.  They are to represent God before the rest of the people.  And they represent the people before God.  They lead the people of God in worshiping God through thanksgiving and praise (1 Chr 16:4; Ps 135:1, 2) and through offering the sacrifices (Ex 30:20).  They are also responsible for caring for the place of worship (Nm 1:50; 3:31).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 461)


What is given to the Lord is for them, as the Lord is their inheritance.  If they are not looked after, that means that the people have not given God what is his due.  To neglect caring for God’s servants is to neglect giving to God.  In fact, Malachi views the failure to pay tithes as robbing God (Mal 3:8-10).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 458-9)


Since the text does not address the Levitical priests directly but speaks about them in the third person, the focus is less on the functions of priests than on the Israelites’ disposition toward and treatment of them.  In keeping with a call for “righteousness, only righteousness” in 16:20, Moses presents the people’s response to the Levitical priests as a barometer of their disposition toward Yahweh and his covenant.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 426)


The word translated “blameless” refers to a life that, in keeping with the covenant God made with Israel, is totally devoted to God without anything coming in between the person and God.  The moment we begin to compromise and entertain things that displease God in our lives, we dishonor our relationship with God with a halfhearted commitment that is very dangerous.  Yet all around us we may see others succumbing to the lure of these things that could drag us away from God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 464)


Those called into the Lord’s service need to be freed up from the demands of normal gainful employment so that they may attend to the work of the Lord without distraction.  In ancient Israel destitute Levites were a disgrace to the nation and a blot on Yahweh’s reputation.  Similarly today, the manner in which God’s people attend to his servants is a barometer of their spiritual health.  A minister in need is a symptom of a people living independently of God.  “Righteousness, only righteousness” (see 16:20) demands that God’s people care for those whom he has called into his service with generosity and liberality.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 431-2)


Yahweh may be the Levitical priests’ possession, but he takes care of them by means of the sacrifices that the people bring to him.  Moses specifies three types of offerings:  meat; the crops of the fields, vineyards, and olive groves; and wool (for clothing and blankets).  The gifts brought to the priests must be choice gifts:  the shoulder, jowls, and the stomach of the animals; the first of the processed grain, wine, olive oil, and the first fleeces of their flocks.  These expressions remind the Israelites of Yahweh’s abundant provision and reinforce their duty to treat the priests as generously as Yahweh has treated them.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 428)


This passage teaches that the money given to ministers is God’s money.  Those who give it are to do so as if they were giving to God.  Those who receive it should spend it as if it belongs to God.  Indeed, all the money in the world belongs to God.  So every financial transaction in which we engage must be done as if the money was God’s (which it is).  While we are careful with all funds, we have to be extra-careful with money that has been designated as belonging to God.  Just as the failure to give God his due is viewed in the Bible as robbing God, the failure to use God’s funds responsibly could be viewed as defrauding God.  This means that Christian workers need to be very careful how they use their personal finances, realizing that their salaries come from money belonging to God in a special way.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 459)


The command here (v. 13) is literally “You shall be complete [or perfect with] the LORD your God.”  The word is used frequently in sacrificial texts to refer to the unblemished animals that are required for sacrifice (Lv 1:3; 3:1).  But it is found too in the prophets to express the more abstract notion of truth (Amos 5:10).  And it often appears, as here, in expressions that are ethical and relational (Ps 18:23[24], “I am perfect with the LORD”).  The emphasis is on integrity in relationship, and this expresses well the whole ethical tenor of Deuteronomy.   (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 301-2)


Paul had freely chosen to waive this right in his own personal case, but he explicitly makes himself an exception to the principle he insists on for others.  Unfortunately, some Christian organizations have turned Paul’s exception, rather than his rule, into a policy imposed on their workers.  But in view of the teaching of both OT and NT, churches or other Christian groups that fail to pay their workers adequate living wages are not “living by faith,” but are simply living in disobedience.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 215-6)


Note how God associates himself with his servants so closely.  When the people rob God and do not give their tithes to him, the servants of God suffer because of the insult hurled at God.  But that does not prevent God from being with these servants.  While God has chosen to work through people and permits the sins of people to sometimes affect his faithful servants, he never leaves these servants alone and uncared for.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 460)


The statement that “the LORD is their inheritance” derives from the fact that the tithes and offerings given by the people was God’s inheritance.  A portion of that went to God’s servants, and the fact that they serve God ensured that they have an inheritance via what is given to God.  So the primary idea here is that what they receive comes out of the tithes and offerings given to God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 460)


Honoring God’s leaders “offered to the Lord is yours” – Numbers 18 (Rom 13; Dt 17)

Honoring God’s house  (Haggai; Malachi)

Honoring God’s creation

Honoring God’s values (obedience to His Laws) (Amos 5:23-24 – “follow God with all your heart”)


“Show me the man you honor and I will show you what kind of man you are.  – Thomas Carlyle


Therefore we ought to be so disposed in mind and speech that we neither think nor say anything concerning God and his mysteries, without reverence and much soberness.  (Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.22)


Sometimes God is dishonored by the presence of corporate unholiness in the church.  God says, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23, 24).  If the poor are given a less significant place than the rich in contradiction to what is taught in Jam 2:1-7, we dishonor God through injustice.  Even greater injustice is done when people from a certain race, caste, or class are made to feel unwelcome in a church.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 180)


It was a position of great dignity to claim the Lord for one’s inheritance:  as the Good News Bible expresses it in verse 2, “their share is the privilege of being the Lord’s priests.”  But it could all too easily be a position of awful poverty unless God’s people–then and now–recognize their responsibilities to give the Lord and his ministers their rightful dues.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 108)


The LORD your God has chosen them. . . out of all your tribes.  Interestingly, this describes the Levites in terms that verbally echo God’s choice of Israel as a whole out of all the nations (cf. 7:6).  The implication is that the Israelites function as “model” Israelites, both in their dependence (on the rest of the Israelites, as the Israelites in turn depended on God) and in their benefits (from the rest of the Israelites, as the Israelites in turn were blessed by God).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 214)


If it were disagreeable to the people that their revenue should be tithed, God came as it were between, and declaring that it was His property in His right as King, appointed the Levites to be His stewards and collectors for receiving it.  There was then no ground for any one to raise a dispute, unless he chose professedly to rob God.  But this declaration often occurs; since it was of great importance that the people should be assured that God accounted as received by Himself what He had assigned to the Levites; not only lest any portion should be withheld from them, but also that every one should willingly pay the lawful dues of God’s ministers; and again, lest any should wickedly murmur because the first-fruits and some portion of the sacrifices were appropriated for the subsistence of the priests.  Another reason is also expressed, why the honor assigned to the priests should be paid without grudging; viz., because God had appointed them to be the ministers of His service; but “the laborer is worthy of his hire.”  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 289)


This is the sum of the law, that the Levites who remained at home, should be content with the tithes, and touch nothing of the other offerings; but that from withersoever they should come to the sanctuary, they were to be accounted as ministers and take their proper place.  By this law then, it was provided that none should be excluded on the ground of the intermission of their duties; and that the condition of those that dwelt elsewhere should not be worse than of those who lived at Jerusalem.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 290)


How do we misuse God’s name?:  (From 4-30-17 message “Honoring the Beloved – Pt 1″)

I-      We dishonor God when we misuse His name (Dt 5:11; Rom 2:23-24; 1 Cor 6:20; 2 Cor 7:1; Phil 1:20)

Ia-    When we use God’s name as any other name (Lv 22:32; Nm 14:11; Dt 28:58ff)

Ib-    When our actions speak against our pious words (Lv 21:6; 22:2; Mal 1:6-2:10; Mt 5:34; Rom 2:23-24; )


Pretended holiness is merely double wickedness.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 85)


Ib1-  When we profane God’s name by our words or actions (Lv 19:11-12; Jer 44:10; Ezek 22:26; 33:31; Hag 1:8; 1 Cor 6:20; 2 Cor 7:10; Ti 1:16)


Whatever we get bored with, we perceive as smaller than us.  (Peter Kreft lecture “The Mystery of the Sea”)


Christians, especially leaders, can dishonor God through bad behavior.  Here are some examples.

–    Sincere Christians often associate the projects and ideas of a Christian leader with God’s will.  They participate in a project with the attitude that they are doing it for God.  Later they find out that this does not seem to have been God’s will after all.  God’s name is dishonored because God was associated with a project that was not his will and proved to be a failure or a disaster.

–    Some leaders urge giving to God’s work and use some of the funds to support lifestyles way above that of those who sacrificially gave to the work.  Some projects are aimed more at enhancing the leader’s reputation than God’s name.

–     Sometimes leaders push people to accept an idea saying it was God’s will even though they were not sure about it.  Examples include encouraging one to marry or not to marry a given person and urging someone to leave his job to join the church because he seems to have gifts that can be of great benefit to the church.  Often I qualify the advice I give with something like, “This is what I think:  I am not sure whether this is God’s will.”  Even Paul did that in 1 Cor 7:12 when he said, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) . . .”

–    False prophecy is very common today.  Later Moses will speak of severe punishment for prophets whose prophecies are not fulfilled (Dt 18:20-22).  This happens all the time today, and we seem to ignore it.  It is a very serious thing to make prophecies as direct messages from God.

–    We all know of wars between nations and conflicts between Christians within the church that are fought in the name of God.  Sometimes both sides claim to have God on their side.  We should be very careful about bringing God’s name into our battles.  It could help rouse support for the cause, but it could really hurt the much more important cause of Christ.  This is especially true of political causes.  As a visitor to the United States I sometimes feel very uneasy about issues that Christians are fighting for as being God’s battles.  Coming from another country where a different dynamic is at work, I wonder what makes a particular cause so Christian, especially when other Christians seem to oppose it.  If we do this indiscriminately, the next generation might reject God because he was, in the minds of these people, on the wrong side.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 181-2)


Ib2-  When we fear or worry. (Ps 23:4; 27:1, 3; 46:2; 49:5; 112:7-8; 115:11; Prv 3:5-6; Mt 6:25-33; Lk 12:22-29; Phil 4:6; 1 Pt 5:7; 1 Jn 4:18)


Ib3-  When we treat those who bear God’s image with contempt.  (Gn 1:26-28; Lv 19:14; Prv 14:3; 17:5; Amos 2:7; Eph 5:21; Jam 2:1-7)


One also senses that attacking one of God’s creatures can be an attack upon the name of the Lord.  Anyone who mocks the poor insults their Maker (Prv 17:5).  You may not curse a deaf person or put a stumbling block in front of a blind person (Lv 19:14).  These actions also violate the third commandment.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 76)


Ib4-   When we lack faith and do not trust God to care for us.  (Lv 18:21; Nm 20:12; Dt 14:23; Prv 3:9; 30:9; Mt 6:19-34)


Ib5-   When we speak evil of God in our complaints.  (Ex 22:28; Dt 17:12-13; Rom 13:1-7)


Ib6-   When we speak against God’s Word.  (Ps 119:120, 161; Isa 57:15; 66:2)


Ib7-   When we use God or Scripture to defend our sin. (Gn 3:11-13; Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13)


Ib8-   When we use God’s Name to empower us (oaths, prophecies, plans, or ideas). (Lv 19:12; Dt 18:20; Acts 19:13ff; Jam 4:13-15)


Ib9-   When our worship is uninspired and heartless.  (Isa 29:13; Ezek 33:31; Ps 50:16; Mt 15:8; Mk 7:6)


Ib10- When our prayers are without zeal and submission.  (Mt 6:5-8; 1 Jn 5:10)


See sermon notes for 4-30-17.


II-  We dishonor God by attempting to manipulate Him or by seeking to find in others what God wants to give us.  (Dt 18:9-12; see also: Ex 22:18; Lv 19:26-31; 20:2-6, 22-27; Dt 12:31; Josh 21:41-42; 1 Sm 15:23; 28:1-20; Josh 13:22; Prv 14:31; Isa 8:19; 19:3; Jer 14:14; Ezek 21:21; 16:20-21; Hos 4:12; Mic 3:7; Mal 1:6-2:2; Acts 13:6-11; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Tm 5:17-18;  )


When God’s children try to discern future events that Scripture has not revealed, they demonstrate a lack of faith in God.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 216)


When we trust in stars, sorcery, or spirits to give us answers God has chosen not to reveal, we are turning our backs on our Creator.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 217)


Pagan magic is an abomination to God.  His will cannot be learned, forced, or coerced by it.  He cannot be tricked into revelation.  He will make himself known when and by the means that he himself chooses; i.e., by his herald, the prophet, whose word shall be clearly spoken and clearly understood in contrast to the devious and mysterious world of the occult.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 447)


Israel is told sharply to have nothing to do with soothsayers, diviners (v. 14) and the rest.  All of them belong to our general prophetic category, and that is why this chapter sweeps them to one side before discussing the true Israelite prophet.  It is emphasized that they belonged to foreign, pagan nations; there was no place for them in Israelite religion.  Like prophets, all these practitioners claimed to be able to ascertain the divine will, or to read the future.  They used a wide variety of means, which explains why the list is so long.  Some read the stars, some read the entrails of slaughtered animals, and so on–they were all specialists in their own way.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 110)


Regardless of the particular bag of tricks that they happen to carry, their line of trade is always the same.  They deal in magic, and magic is the attempt to bend the will of God to suit the will of man.  Magic presumes to have power to control the laws of God and to exercise that power by secret knowledge in favor of particular persons.  It does not worship God; it uses him. (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, 171)


Scripture warns against “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).  This is exactly what Satan offers through the occult.  He cajoles people into believing they are gaining possessions, power, and prestige by occult practices, when it is actually his power working through them.  Those participating in the occult become Satan’s puppets.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 216)


The need to hear a word from the deity was universally felt in the ancient world, and a whole array of esoteric arts and practices grew up around it, together with various kinds of experts in them.  The magicians of Pharaoh (Ex 7:11), the wise men of Nebuchadnezzar (Dn 2:2), and even the Magi of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 2:1) echo that world of thought.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 300)


Divination is a general term for the use of esoteric means to determine the likely course of events.  It is sometimes used in a neutral sense of prophets in Israel.  In Mic 3:11 it occurs in company with other activities that are legitimate in themselves, but abused by their practitioners (cf. Isa 3:2-3).  The OT records a number of cases of seeking answers from Yahweh that are not adversely judged (e.g. the taking of Urim and Thummim; Lv 8:8; Dt 33:8; cf. Jdg 6:36-40).  The force of the term here, therefore, derives from its association with means of knowledge used by other nations, the hopeless divination directed to false gods.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 301)


The biblical response to divination, magic, and necromancy presupposes that these practices actually worked.  While in certain cases Yahweh overrode fundamentally pagan practices and used them to achieve his own ends, in his eyes divination, magic, and necromancy were as abominable as idolatry itself.  The present categorical repudiation of these practices is also grounded on several fundamental convictions.  (1) Just as idolatry represents the perverted worship of objects made by human hands (Dt 4:15-18, 28), so divination, magic, and necromancy represent humanly designed techniques for communicating with the deity that substitute for the gracious communication that Yahweh himself has offered.  (2) These divinatory procedures were designed to manipulate deity to fulfill human agendas.  This reflects the antithesis of faith and circumvents the means by which Yahweh has promised to speak unambiguously and directly.  It also upsets the divine order, which calls on humans to fulfill the divine agenda rather than vice versa.  (3) Most significantly, these techniques assume faulty views of the relationship between the natural and supernatural world.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 438)


Because of the difficulty of bridging the gap between the Lord God and the people (Ex 20:18-21)–their beliefs and behavior–leadership in Israel included several roles.  Judges, possible kings, and priests were to have their areas of responsibility and authority in interpreting and applying the basic elements of the written codes.  In Deuteronomy’s addresses both the office and the procedures were being presented by Moses in preparation for the new national life the people were to face in Canaan.  However, the Canaanites employed other means of communication with their pagan gods, and those means might lure the Israelites to emulate them.  Such emulation would mean rebellion and defection from the Lord and the covenant-treaty with him.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 120)


God makes it abundantly clear that he will not reveal his mind nor give any guidance for the future to anyone who resorts to such false methods; and as for non-existent deities, they have no guidance to offer.  So any resort to divination, astrology, and the like, is doomed to failure; the answers received will be false and likely to lead to wrong action.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 111)


It is a universal human desire to know the unknown, to have some preview of the future, to get guidance for decisions, to exercise control over others, to harm others and ward off the harm others may aim at oneself.  Alienated from the living God, humans devise the dark arts of verses 10b-11 for such purposes.  Their effect is usually to compound the fear that led to their being practiced in the first place.  The list of practices here is comprehensive and not at all out-of-date, since all these forms of occult, magic, and spiritism are still widespread today.  And we must assume that, given the consistency of God, they are just as detestable to the LORD now as they were then.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 216)


That they should be put in the same “detestable” category as child-sacrifice is an interesting window on biblical values.  God knows there are more things that destroy human life and dignity then physical fire.  The same severe moral assessment of the occult is implied in the statement that because of these practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations (v. 12), which is a reminder of the moral context in which the OT sets the conquest (cf. Lv 18:24-28, 20:22f.).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 216-7)


Saul, after ridding the land of necromancers and wizards (1 Sm 28:3), nevertheless sought out in desperation the Witch of Endor, who was a necromancer (1 Sm 28:5-19; 1 Chr 10:13).  Tigay makes the point that this communication with Samuel’s ghost, just like the early magic performed by Egypt’s magicians prior to the exodus, is not reported in the Bible as being ineffective.  Quite the contrary.  In both of these cases it seems to have worked!  Yet people are told in no uncertain terms not to seek out necromancers (Lv 19:31), the punishment for necromancers being death (Lv 20:6, 27).  Nevertheless, Manasseh legalized them (2 Kgs 21:6; 2 Chr 33:6), with Josiah putting them away again (2 Kgs 23:24).  Necromancers and wizards were said by Isaiah to be active in Egypt, where he predicted Yahweh’s judgment upon them (Isa 19:3).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 552)


In our discussions on chapters 7 and 12 we pointed out that today we live in multi-religious societies and not in theocracies like Israel.  Therefore, we cannot forcefully destroy these practices that people of other faiths regard as helpful and good.  But we can use arguments to persuade people about their futility.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 463-4)


Christians who have been involved in these practices before or after they became Christians may need some spiritual therapy or deliverance to free them from the insidious hold that occult forces can have on them.  We should be alert to this possibility and counsel those whom we know have had such backgrounds to seek some special help to be delivered from any vestiges of these influences that Satan can use to cause havoc in their lives.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 464)


Many people have difficulty accepting the more spectacular episodes of God’s word at work, such as we have seen from Scripture.  The same people, however, still believe in the healing power of prayer and in the capacity of some individuals or some rituals practiced by the church to minister at the physical level in the healing of the body and so forth.  Is this not just more superstition?

The answer is that, in our faith, we do not believe that the power concerned resides in the words used or in the rituals taken by themselves.  If we did, we would indeed be engaged in superstitious practices.  Instead, we regard the words and actions simply as ways ordained in the nature of things, as established by God, for accomplishing the matter in question.  They work as part of life in the kingdom of God.  They enlist the personal agencies of that kingdom to achieve the ends at their disposal and are not mere tools by which we engineer our desired result.  We are under authority, not in control.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 181)


Legalism claims that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behavior is what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing.  Jesus called legalism “the righteousness…of the scribes and Pharisees” (Mt 5:20).

Legalism, superstition and magic are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events.  Legalists are forced toward superstitious behavior because, in the interest of controlling life through their laws, they depart from the natural connections of life.  They bypass the realities of the heart and soul from which life really flows.  That is why Jesus tells us we must go beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees if we are truly to enter into life.

Life does not come by law (Gal 3:21), nor can law adequately depict or guide life.  The law is the letter, and “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6).  Legalists are evermore forced into merely symbolic behavior, which they superstitiously suppose to have the good effects they seek.  Magic or superstition, as is well known, also place absolute emphasis on doing everything “just right,” which is the essence of legalism.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 183)


Moses groups together all the words which the language contained for the different modes of exploring the future and discovering the will of God, for the purpose of forbidding every description of soothsaying, and places the prohibition of Moloch-worship at the head, to show the inward connection between soothsaying and idolatry, possibly because februation, or passing children through the fire in the worship of Moloch, was more intimately connected with soothsaying and magic than any other description of idolatry.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 393)


It is precisely in answer to this question that historic Christianity and historic Judaism distinguish themselves most sharply from those “fringe” religious movements that have plagued society since time immemorial.  In contrast to these historic religions, the devotees of a “cult” are bound by the mystical insights of someone other than themselves–usually by the visions of the cult’s founder.  Joseph Smith, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and Mary Baker Eddy all held that revelations mystically vouchsafed to themselves were binding upon their followers.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 447)


Worship Point:  We are not really worshiping God when our loyalties and affections are for anything or anyone other than God.  (Dt 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; Josh 22:5; 23:14; 1 Sm 12:20; 12:24; Prv 3:5; 4:4; Jer 29:13; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30, 33; Lk 10:27)


Notice that calling the Sabbath a delight is parallel to calling the holy day of the Lord honorable.  This simply means you honor what you delight in.  Or you glorify what you enjoy.

The enjoyment of God and the glorification of God are one.  His eternal purpose and our eternal pleasure unite.  To magnify his name and multiply your joy is the reason I have written this book, for The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 254)


It is a mark of spiritual barrenness in the church when people come to worship to fulfill a duty or keep a habit rather than satisfy an appetite.  (Eric Alexander, Truth for Life 65562)


To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)


No worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. (A. W. Tozer; Whatever Happened to Worship?, 125)


When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship; then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him.  — Stephan Charnock


If we set our desires on anything other than the true God, we will become like that thing.  Desire that is focused on the right object–the one true God–enables and grows a human being.  Desire set on the wrong thing corrupts and debases us.

If we worship money, in other words, we’ll become a greedy person.

If we worship sex, we’ll become a lustful person.

If we worship power, we’ll become a corrupt person.

If we worship accomplishment, we’ll become a restless, frantic person.

If we worship love and acceptance, we’ll become a slave to others.

If we worship external beauty, we’ll become shallow.

And worshiping anything other than the true God will make us something other than what he created us to be.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 158)


You will not find a verse in Scripture where people are told to “bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me.”  You will not find a place where a superstitious sinner’s prayer is even mentioned.  And you will not find an emphasis on accepting Jesus.  We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.

Accept him?  Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance?  Don’t we need him?  (David Platt, Radical, 37)


Opposed to spiritual worship is superstitious worship.  Superstitious worship is motivated not by the Spirit but by dread of God, by un unholy fear of God and an anxiety about his will toward us.  The worship of an “unknown God” is superstitious worship that tries to appease a shadowy, dark divinity seen from the standpoint of the guilt of those who have not kept his commandments rather than from the standpoint of grace, the standpoint of the thousand generations of those who know him and keep his commandments.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 427)


I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord:  but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 122)


He loves Thee too little

who loves anything together with Thee,

which he loves not for Thy sake.   -Augustine

In other words, if created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry—if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 143)


Gospel Application:  Look to Jesus to find an example of what it looks like to fully honor God the Father.   Trusting in Jesus imputes to us that same honor2.  (Dn chps 2-4; 23 Cor 5:21; Eph 6:10-18; Heb 2:10, 17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:1-10; 7:1-28; 9:11; 10:1, 11-14; 12:2, 23)



I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen!  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)


The person of Jesus Christ is our spirituality.  Rather than speaking of “becoming more spiritual,” we should rather think in terms of growing in our daily faith relationship with our Lord Jesus.  This is as spiritual as we can get.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 106)


When I say “I am perfect!” I am not talking about my life.  I am talking about an identity which God has given to me in Christ Jesus.  When I look at Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, I see my perfect righteousness.  When I look at myself, plodding along from day to day, getting old and facing inevitable death, I see my sin.  The question is “Where do I choose to look?”  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 93)


Whereas the Scriptures concerning Israel speak of these as privileges reserved for angels (Lk 1:19), prophets (1 Kgs 17:1; Jer 23:18, 22), and priests (Zech 3:1; Heb 10:11-12), the NT teaching on the priesthood of all believers (1 Pt 2:9) means that because of the work of Jesus Christ believers collectively have direct access to God and responsibility to represent him to the unbelieving world.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 431)


Spiritual Challenge:  Examine your life.  Do you really honor God by honoring His ordained leaders, His house, His creation and His values?  (2 Kgs 23:24; Ps 26:2; ch 139: Prv 5:21; Jer 17:10; 20:12; Lam 3:40; 1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 13:5; Heb 4:12


Do we even know who God’s ordained leaders really are?  Do we even know what God’s values are?


A man–I don’t care who he is–dishonors Christ when any other person is put to disadvantage by his piety.  If you imagine you are more free to do slipshod work because you are a Christian, I say, it is precisely the reverse.  It is just because you claim to be the Lord’s that any sort of work will not do.  Bearing His name, you are responsible to Him for every detail of your daily life.  If your secular duties are more imperfectly discharged because you are a believer, you do great wrong to the Redeemer.  If you snatch a little of your employer’s time to scatter tracts, or prepare for a Sabbath class, or even to read your Bible; or if, in business hours, your thoughts are so given to spiritual themes that you cannot do justice to your work, in any of these cases you do real harm to religion.  (Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator, 2 Chronicles, 111)


Throw away the excuses and face reality!  The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.”  It means your old sinful nature is in control.  Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind.  It means that you are not abiding in Christ.  Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse.  It means you have a weak connection to Jesus.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)


In Mt 12:43-45, the Lord says that if a man empties his mind of an unclean spirit and sweeps it clean, wicked spirits may nevertheless return sevenfold if the man fails to occupy his mind with Someone stronger than himself.  Our minds are not neutral ground; to remain clean, they must be God-controlled.

When we yield to the flesh, we give Satan control.  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and flood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 217)


So What?:  If we do not want to face God’s curses we need to properly honor God (and everything called by His name) through our gifts, our affections and in Whom we place our faith.  (Dt 18:12; see also; Lv 18:24-28; 20:2-6, 22-23; Dt 5:11; 1 Sm 2:20; 15:23; 2 Kgs 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chr 33:6; Bk of Mal; Jer 19:1-13; Ezek 20:25-26, 31)


Why do we seek signs, mediums, palm readers, fortune tellers and all the other paranormal information revealers?   Do we not trust God with our future?  — Pastor Keith


Such detestable practices were one of the reasons God used Israel to destroy the Canaanites (vv. 12, 14).  By avoiding these pagan customs, the Israelites would “be blameless before the LORD your God” (v. 13).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 216)


That last statement says that one reason God commanded the Israelites to completely destroy the Canaanite people was that they indulged in these abominable practices.  These activities were so harmful to humanity that the nation through whom God’s message of salvation to humanity was to be communicated needed to be protected from being contaminated by them.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 463)


These evil practices were the reason the Lord was going to drive the Canaanites out of the land.  Not only adherence to the false gods of Canaan was proscribed, but also the means by which the Canaanites attempted to communicate with them.  Both the objects and the methods of Canaanite religious life were to be abhorred totally and rejected completely.

The Israelites were not to “imitate” (v. 9) the nations of Canaan but rather were to be “blameless” (v. 13).  They were to be without any taint of these detestable practices, which were to be absolutely shunned.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 120)


Look to Jesus!





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