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In Case You Missed It -- Deuteronomy 12-14:2, Psalm 105

Many modern readers grimace when reading that Deuteronomy 13 commands the death penalty for idolatry. For one reason, it’s because many of us realize how flippantly we treat the worship of God above all other living or created things. We cringe thinking that normal practices  around us and even those normal for us would have led an Israelite to public execution. One might counter, “No, we are just being compassionate.” If you believe you fit into the “compassionate” category, recall one of the many reasons idolatry is so grave. As Reinhold Neihbur famously pointed out, idolatry and injustice always go together. When we fail to worship the true God, we freely mistreat and misuse the image of God (i.e., other humans). When we show little justice to the image of God in our neighbors, we prove we care little for the God that made them. Injustice and idolatry are always flip sides of the same coin; wherever one is, the other always accompanies. Our reading today shows this reality plainly when it tells us that foreign idolaters do all sorts of wicked things, like sacrificing their children to false gods (Deuteronomy 12:31). God knows Israel will succumb to such wicked practices if idolatrous practices go unchecked; these are inevitable consequences. Let us remember and maintain scripture’s constant witness that God’s compassion far exceeds our own. Even if God seems harsh to us, I contend that our vantage point is limited, and we need to search out God’s ways from a more all-encompassing perspective. God bless our church’s readings, and may He grant such perspective!

Jeremiah Vaught