Today’s reading begins with instruction on the LORD’s chosen place of worship and concludes with instructions on the sacrifice of the first born among the livestock.
A significant portion of the reading for today is dedicated to clarifying and restating of the laws the God had given Moses in Leviticus regarding clean and unclean animals, tithes and offerings, and the sabbatical year of release from service for the people of Israel.
Half of today’s reading, however, focuses on what God requires of the people once they have entered the Promised Land. The Israelites were coming into a land full of people who worshiped false gods and erected altars, monuments, and statues to worship these false gods. The LORD knew the tendency of the people would be to let those items remain, especially if they didn’t drive out the people of the land in their entirety. He knew that if those items remained that the people would be tempted to incorporate the worship practices of the Promised Land into their own worship of the One True God, the LORD. In this passage God gives reminders of the how He is to be worshiped. How the people are to offer sacrifices and give offerings to the LORD.
The people who God was commanding the Israelites to displace were so evil that they would even sacrifice their children to their gods to appease and please them. God hated the worship practices of the peoples that Israel was about to displace, so much so that God even commanded that if an Israelite suggested worshiping one of these gods that the person making the suggestion should be put to death. He knew this was a difficult command because the tendency of people is to have mercy or compassion on loved ones, on other people. God explicitly states “nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him.” Deuteronomy 13:8 (ESV).
The evil was so great, so insidious that the people were not to even let continue to live a person suggesting worship of another. A difficult thing to put into practice. As difficult today, as it was then. Though God doesn’t call us to put people to death now in our time, certainly His command to keep all things out our lives that would put even the slightest wedge between Him and us.