There’s nothing little kids love more than being chased.
Their little shrieks reach astronomical levels as they dart around, back and forth, terrified and thrilled at the same time because someone is chasing them.
I, on the other hand, hate being chased. Suddenly, the play fight is no longer fun, and I’m just freaked out and running faster than I would ever choose to on my own.
It may not be logical, but that’s how our bodies react to being chased. All we’re doing is responding very naturally to the brain’s signal: DANGER.
Moses was giving that exact same signal during his speech/sermon to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 13. He knew what was waiting for them in the Promised Land. He knew what they would be up against. This was his last chance to warn them, to give them the tools they needed to survive what was coming next.
But who or what exactly was coming for them? And what about us? Could you and I be in danger too?
The danger facing the Israelites was actually really obvious and not mysterious at all. They were heading into enemy territory.
The Promised Land was promised, sure, but it wasn’t empty. There were kingdoms and cities and whole peoples living there already – and they weren’t about to give up their land without a fight.
But that wasn’t really the problem.
Fighting the Canaanites for their land was handled already. By God. Case closed. They were going to win.
The real danger wasn’t the Canaanite weapons, it was their gods. Their worship. Their religion. In a word, the Israelites were in danger of giving in to peer pressure. Instead of serving the one true God, they might be convinced to worship a false god, inhumane worship services and all (human sacrifices, anyone?).
That sounds dangerous to me. But what about me? And you? Are we in enemy territory? Could we be convinced to live like the nations around us, sinful vices and all?
Activate your fight or flight
No way, right? The Israelites’ situation was totally different. We as Christians are not threatened by “the world”. That’s such a weird thing to say.
It definitely is a weird thing to say. But that’s what the Israelites told themselves, too. When they finally entered the Promised Land, things started out well. Spoiler alert, they didn’t stay well. The Israelites began to give in to peer pressure. They started doing what the nations around them did. They started worshiping their gods and going to their worship services.
And that did not turn out well for them. As we keep reading about the Israelites, we’ll see the ups and downs of their leadership, the terrible people that oppressed and abused them, the hopelessness that would wrap around their nation for generations at a time. It was all because they stopped obeying the One who could truly lead them and sustain them and save them from their own self-destructive tendencies – Jesus.
In other words, it was all preventable.
And that was why, years before all this would happen, Moses was up there preaching his heart out to the Israelites. He held nothing back. He urged the Israelites not to believe the lies of the nations around them. He pleaded with them to reject even family members who started singing the praises of a foreign god. He instructed the Israelites to ignore, cast out, even kill anyone who tried to turn them away from the one true God.
It sounds crazy. It sounds intolerant. It does not sound progressive at all. But that was God’s point. Whenever something in the Bible makes you go what?!, that’s your cue to lean in to the questions. Why would God tell them to kill people?
Maybe because it really was that serious. If a serial killer was chasing you, intent on taking your life, you’d want them dead.
Maybe God commanded the Israelites to put to death anyone who suggested they forsake Him because that suggestion, if taken, would quite literally kill them. After all, it did kill them.
And it still kills people. Here in our very own enemy territory, we see the effects of sin constantly. Bad cops, child abuse, sexism, corrupt leaders, sex slavery, global warming, Donald Trump – I could keep going. You could pick up where I leave off. We all know we hate it here.
And it’s because of sin. We’ve been so seduced by the customs and practices of our enemies that we haven’t even realized that we’re killing ourselves instead of killing them.
We don’t have time for this anymore. We don’t have the luxury of sitting on our behinds and soaking in all the “fun” customs of the nations around us. It’s time to get violent. It’s time to fight and deny self. It’s time to flee from sin.
What other option do we have?
“You need a bodyguard. That’s Me.”
We’re not very good at this Promised Land stuff. Maybe sometimes we’re vigilant. We’re firm. We say no to sin. We reject the customs of the people around us. We worship God and obey Him. We’re good.
Then something happens and we trip. We start slipping. We’re sure this is temporary and tomorrow we’ll be back on track. But we look up and it’s been a week or a month or several years and we smell our own flesh decomposing. We’re dying and it’s all our fault.
But the Israelites were never supposed to enter the Promised Land alone. They were led in by the God of angel armies. They were led in by their Bodyguard. They were protected from sin and the threat of the nations around them as long as they let God do the protecting.
Sadly, that all changed for the Israelites. They rejected God’s protection – but you and I don’t have to. The only way we’ll survive in this world is if we stick with our Protection – our Father, our Friend. The only way we’ll escape the pain and sorrow is if we surrender our lives to our Bodyguard.
We can’t fight alone. We can’t run alone. But God can.
So run. To Jesus. And find comfort in His safety.
What do you think? What was your take on the instructions God gave the Israelites in this chapter? Comment below and share.