““If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 13:1–5 ESV)
This section warns the Israelites not to listen to or follow prophets who do miracles and tells them to follow & serve other gods! This seems easy and straight forward to us, but at this point in history the scriptures had not been fully given to the people so prophets played a major role in God revealing His will to His people. The Israelites were called to follow God (who was familiar), to fear God, to obey God and to hold fast to God. In the western world, there is little cost to count for this, but for the Israelites it would be their lives and their very existence.
God calls them to take radical steps to purge the evil in their midst, in this case a false prophet. That false prophet shall be put to death! Scripture always paints the removal of evil & the killing of sin (mortification) in violent ways. It paints pictures and uses words like murder, annihilation, mutilation & amputation (Colossians 3:1-11, Matthew 5:29-30 & 26:41). This was physical for the Israelites – a picture of what we should pursue in our walk with the Lord.
We tend to minimize our sins & idols as “not being that big of a deal.” But, God’s standard is holiness and He is completely devoted to conforming His children into the image of His Son. Far too often we are content to bring our sins & idols into our hearts (Ezekiel 14:3) where we dream about them, place our trust in them & rely upon them for our well being in life. In short, we worship them. Killing sin always starts in our hearts and is aimed at ripping out the things that we have come to rely upon for our identity, safety, well being (emotional, physical or spiritual) – the things that we have placed our hope for deliverance in. When things get ripped out of our hearts, pain is involved because a part of us is dying. Dying is painful. But the person who is willing to endure the pain will find true life, abiding joy & deep satisfaction (Psalm 16:11, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).
What tugs at your hearts affections? Do you find your affection for the Lord cooling, while your affections for other things warming? We must flee those things that create competing affections in our hearts. This is done practically by removing ourselves from the situation & exposure, and by cultivating a deeper love for God. The answer is to see God more clearly (sovereign, holy, merciful, good, gracious) so that the things that vie for our affections become less attractive because they pale in comparison.