Previously: deuteronomy 14:22-29, the fear of the Lord
(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic. The paragraph divisions reveal the chiastic structures: narratives which zero in on the main point of the narrative at its center, like a bull’s eye at the center of a target. The main point is revealed, because the narrative elements before the main point (or central axis) are repeated after the central axis, in reverse order, while the central axis itself is not repeated.)
Deu 11:26-14:29 is the section explaining the second commandment, Do not make idols (this is my summary of it.) It turns out this entire section forms a single chiastic structure with smaller structures within it:
Deu 11:26-14:29 sx3+p+sx6+p+s+s
1a) Deu 11:26-32, Obey these commandments, statutes, and judgments that the Lord may bless you;
1b) Deu 12:2-19 s+s, You shall eat in the place of YHVH’s name + rejoice + do not forsake the Levite;
1c) Deu 12:20-28 s, What Israel may and may not eat;
1d) Deu 12:29-32 p, Israel shall not do as the idolaters do;
central axis) Deu 13:1-18 s+s+s, Israel shall judge prophet + kinsman + city + that seeks to serve other gods;
2d) Deu 14:1-2 s, Israel shall not do as the idolaters do;
2c) Deu 14:3-21 s+s+p, What Israel may and may not eat;
2b) Deu 14:22-27 s, You shall eat in the place of YHVH’s name + rejoice + do not forsake the Levite;
2a) Deu 14:28-29 s, Lay up the tithe of the 3rd year for the Levite + stranger + fatherless + widow that the Lord may bless you.
What do we learn about not making idols, not falling into idolatry, and keeping the Lord as our God with no other gods before Him?
The central axis puts me in mind of the admonition Bad company ruins good morals, and A little leaven leavens the whole lump. We can start out fervent for the Lord our God. But the reason compromise is so deadly, is that it never stays contained, it spreads. It is like a virus that takes over one cell, but then is not content with that one cell. If we did not have an immune system that had the programming of destroy everything foreign, the first virus we caught in life would be our last, because it would spread until the whole is destroyed. And by having Deu 13:1-18 as the central axis, God is teaching us that there is no such thing as a little harmless idolatry.
We can guard against its encroach on our lives by drawing a line in the sand and refusing to worship or practice the things the idolaters worship and practice. In Israel’s day is was making the head bald to mourn the dead, or sprinkling magic milk on fields to ensure the blessing of the fertility goddess for the coming year. In our day there are so many things the world considers right and good that we know by reading the Bible is an offense in the Lord’s face. This is one way the Holy Spirit helps us when He is given. He is our Helper, and He teaches us and convicts us concerning sin and righteousness. He works with the Word of God to instruct us. Let us never let something we are being convicted of, slide, because our _parents, friends, church, Bible study teacher, coworkers_ practice it and are fine with it.
Now we come to a touchy subject – dietary laws. God made a distinction between His people who ate only clean food, and the world’s people who ate everything. Before I suggest that science is showing us that the blessing of health is more likely to come upon those who eat cleanly, let me just say that when God is our God, if He asks something of us, let us have a submissive heart and obey Him whether we know what the science says or not. That is part and parcel of God being our God. He is the One we mind, not man. (Index of dietary laws studies here, including in the New Testament.)
I just had the thought that the thing that cast man from Eden, was violating a command concerning what to eat. But really, it doesn’t matter the command, the heart that is truly submitted to the Lord our God will obey His word.
The outer pairs wrapping the central axis and admonitions against idolatry, are the blessing of the Lord and our gratitude and thanksgiving in that blessing. We rejoice before Him, because He is good and has done good to us! Recognizing His blessing and being grateful for it is a very strong guard of our hearts! And we are to tithe and not forget the Levite or the poor. We are to acknowledge that our blessing, provision, and prosperity comes from Him and we return worship to Him for it in the tithe. We tithe so that He may bless us, and we obey His commandments so that He may bless us. In so doing, we guard our hearts against idolatry and confirm that it is the Lord who is our God and none other, for beside Him no other is.