For the week of August 22, 2009 / 2 Elul 5769
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12
When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:9; ESV)
As the people of Israel were prepared by God to enter the Promised Land, they were given specific details as to how they were to live. God's directives are not just a bunch of arbitrary religious regulations. Rather, they are an entire way of life that if carefully adhered to will enable God's people to live the way human beings were designed by God to live. While there were certain aspects of this lifestyle that were only for a certain time and place, much of what God revealed to Moses is his intention for all people for all time.
God's directives are expressed both positively, things we should do, and negatively, things we shouldn't do. I have heard it said that if we would fill our lives with good things, then we wouldn't have time for bad things. But that's not true. We humans seem to be able to always make time for bad stuff, no matter what else we may be doing. If we neglect obeying God in what he tells us not to do, we will certainly get ourselves and others into big trouble.
One of God's negative directives concerns our relationship to what Moses calls "the abominable practices" of the nations they were to dispossess. The people of Israel were to "not learn to follow" those practices. The way this is expressed emphasizes something more than just the avoiding of these practices. The people were to keep themselves from learning to follow them. This may suggest that while the people's initial reaction would be one of repulsion, if they allowed themselves they would learn to adopt them. God's directive then was that they should never even learn about them.
It is a challenge not to learn to follow abominable practices today. The sinful ways that are part and parcel of popular culture do not simply keep to themselves, waiting to see who might be interested in them. Rather they aggressively seek to influence us, calling to us to come and learn. They put on an appealing front in order to deceive us into thinking that any concern we may have over these things is an overreaction. Not only are abominable practices aggressive in their desire to lure us into their clutches, they are more than happy to have easy access to our lives through technology. At one time in order to learn these evil things, one had to purposefully go out of their way to seek them out. Now we can engage them with the simple push of a button anywhere, anytime.
To not learn to follow the abominable practices of our day takes a considerable amount of wisdom and effort. Perhaps like never before, we need to know the Scriptures. There are so many voices speaking in the name of the Bible, but do we have the ability to discern who is speaking the truth? Also, we need to have the courage to let the truth of Scripture confront the practices of the cultures around us. Cultural practices are not neutral. They are either under the influence of God or in the grip of evil. Too many people naively go along with the way things are, not taking the time to discern if they are truly of God or not. Once it is evident that certain practices are evil, we must not learn to follow them.
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