THE LOVE TEST (II)
Earthly Relationships Versus God’s Word
Text: Deuteronomy 13:6-11
In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, we saw how God may at times permit His people to be subjected to testing so that they may know whether they truly love Him with all their hearts. Moses warned the children of Israel that God would allow false prophets to come into their midst. There will be times when the sign or wonder prophesied by the prophet come to pass. Nevertheless, if the prophet draws away the people from the LORD with his teaching, he must be severely dealt with and stoned to death. The love for God and His Word must triumph over all our experiences.
However, how will we respond if the prophet is one of our closest friends? What if he is related to us? What if he is our son or spouse? Will the love of God and His Word triumph over our experiences? Will we stand up for God’s truth? Or will we side relationships as “blood is thicker than water”?
As men, it is usual for us to have deeper affections for our family and loved ones, and those whom we have interacted fondly over the years. We are also naturally grateful to those who have helped us extensively, especially if they have helped us with life issues. A Christian indeed ought to love such ones deeply in the Lord. No one should be cold or unsupportive towards his family (1 Timothy 5:8). Neither should he be unthankful to his benefactors. Ungratefulness is the hallmark of an infidel!
Nevertheless, Satan, who is the crafty and deceitful one, knows the power of relationships. He will utilise relationships to entrap us, veering us from the Holy Scriptures. These enticements may at times be done in “secret” (v.6). However, there is no such thing as a secret sin, for soon it will manifest itself and be found out. When such “secret enticements” are permitted to continue, it will quickly result in idolatry, which is an abomination to the Lord.
McIntire astutely restates the truth in this way: “The most subtle temptations come through our loved ones. Satan frequently approaches us through intimate friends in whom we have the utmost confidence. So, temptation becomes subtle and powerful.”
How then should Israel deal with a false prophet who is a loved one? The Bible emphatically declares, “Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9) There must be no room for idolatry in Israel, for they are called to be a spiritual witness for Jehovah. Nothing must be between them and their love for God and His Word!
The Israelite must be the first to kill his loved one. Why is this necessary? Firstly, it is required for the witness to be the first to stone the offender. Secondly, it will reflect that the stoning of the false prophet is not due to any pressure from the community. Thirdly, it sends the unequivocal mes-sage that not even earthly relationships are above the Word of God. Similarly, when a member is rightfully disciplined according to the Scriptures, the loved ones must be the first to assent to the correction, rather than blame the church and her leaders. This is the test of love.
Christ taught the same principle during his earthly ministry. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38)
Our guards are often let down when it involves those whom we are close to. We must always be vigilant and discerning. When those who are close to us stray from the truth, we must stand up for the Lord.
We often hear accounts of parents who shield their children from the arm of the law when they commit a crime. Sadly, the same attitude is also pervasive in the church. How often do churches cover the sin and sweep it under the carpet when one has committed an error, and is wilfully unrepentant? The thought is that by acting like the proverbial ostrich, the problem will go away. They excuse their lack of love for God and His holiness by appealing to “mercy”. Alas, the consequences of the sin abide through the years, and it soon leads to further issues and transgressions in the congregation!
How then may we obtain mercy? Deuteronomy 13:14-18 teaches that when the sin is dealt with, and Biblical separation rightly exercised, the LORD will then “turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee.” Mercy must always be grounded upon the truth. What a man needs to do is always to “do what is right in the eyes of God” (v.18). Is this not what it means to love God? “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Dear brethren, our love for fellowmen must be in the truth. When our love for those who are close to us exceeds that of God’s Word, we can no long-er love the Lord with all our soul, and with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5). We thus fail the test of love. May the love of God truly reign in our hearts all our days. Let God be our all in all.
Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew