It is the Lord your God you must follow and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.
Deuteronomy 13:4 GNB (Good News Bible)
This is the fifth (published sixth) of 20 memory verses that I will use as a guide/focal point to writing these articles. The “Table of Contents” is available here in the series introductory article.
Similar to the last published Memory Verse article, the commentary and analysis shared here will incorporate a new technique based on Interpreting the Bible, a short course being delivered by Clayton Church of Christ – Equip School:
- Choose a passage and translation
- Study the literary context:
- immediate context
- context of the book/passage
- context of other writings by the author
- context of the whole bible
- Study the historic-cultural background
- Do a verse-by-verse analysis, word study, grammatical – structural relationships and ultimately the cross-references.
The initial write up for Step 1 resulted in a separate article, dedicated to documenting the Bible Translations & Versions through History (scheduled for release Monday 23 Feb) As noted at the conclusion of that article, all memory verses as shown in the images are from the Good News Bible, which was my first Bible – the edition had been published with the audience of children in mind.
Immediate & Passage Literary Context
In order to study the immediate context of Deuteronomy 13:4, we will use Deuteronomy chapter 13:1-5 for analysis:
Prophets or interpreters of dreams may promise a miracle or a wonder, in order to lead you to worship and serve gods that you have not worshiped before. Even if what they promise comes true, do not pay any attention to them. The Lord your God is using them to test you, to see if you love the Lord with all your heart. Follow the Lord and honor him; obey him and keep his commands; worship him and be faithful to him. But put to death any interpreters of dreams or prophets that tell you to rebel against the Lord, who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. Such people are evil and are trying to lead you away from the life that the Lord has commanded you to live. They must be put to death, in order to rid yourselves of this evil.
Verse 4 is highlighted in this Good News translation. The passage is the first of three aspects of idolatry which Deuteronomy 13 addresses as a whole. The three different ways in which we are vulnerable to idolatry and turning away from God are:
- False prophecy (Verses 1-5)
- False relationships (Verses 6 – 11)
- Communing with Communities of Idolaters (Verses 12 – 18)
In all situations, no matter how the idolatry is committed, the commandments are clear – death and rejection ultimately by God. In those days,
Wider Literary Context
Deuteronomy forms part of the Torah (Hebrew for “instruction” or “teaching”). As a complete text, the Word of the Law was presented to the Israelites by Moses in three parts or sermons. He taught the community whilst they resided in the plains of Moab prior to their campaign to claim the Promised Land. Chapter 13 itself appears early in the second/middle sermon which covered all law concerning Israel and the worship of God.
Thus, Chapter 13 and indeed Verse 4 is central to the theme of Deuteronomy. When you examine the structure of Deuteronomy it becomes clear why this memory verse was singled out for the instruction of children learning the Bible for the first time. The key lesson taught here is strictly about avoiding idolatry by following the Lord and keeping His commandments. That basic application is a great teaching for kids, with the greater context, understanding and consequence useful for adults in discerning greater application and meaning.
Whilst in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul told the church in Corinth to remove a wicked man from the church, later in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul then told the community to forgive this same man because the man demonstrated true repentance.
So, in order to apply the teaching and value behind Deuteronomy 13:4, we must first be in a position to know and discern God’s commandments and laws – both the stated official teachings as well as the spirit of the law as manifested in the Holy Spirit indwelling of us modern-day believers. Having God-based and Bible-based teachers and influencers in our lives helps to keep us on the Lord’s path. When we do go astray, even as leaders, we have the New Testament mindset of repentance and forgiveness available to help restore us in our relationship with God.