It’s been a little deeper study for me in that I’m doing word & phrase studies, looking at special topics, and trying to understand the author’s original intent, which is the heart of interpretation.
As I’ve been praying about where to go next with my sermons, I came across a devotional passage that lends itself to a series of sermons that beg the question...what does it look like to follow, fear, keep, listen, serve, and cling to God?
Allow me to read my text this morning:
"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom 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 find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you." (Deut. 13:1-5 NASB)
Deuteronomy 13 is a chapter that is against all forms of idolatry at all levels of religious, as well as, civic life.
Verses 1-5 speak about false prophets.
Verses 6-11 speak about family members who try to draw other family members into idolatry.
Verses 12-18 talk about the entire city or community which embraces idolatry.
The overarching narrative for Israel is that they are called on to love YHWH with absolute complete devotion (Deut. 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 19, 30).
It’s one thing to say that we love God, but its quite another thing to have that love put to the test. I think the ultimate test is to have everything stripped away (e.g. Job’s narrative) and then to be brought to that place where we love God for God alone.
Sadly, the history of Israel is plagued with compromise and turning their backs on God.
So the question I want to address this morning is, “What does it look like to follow God?”
The most common Hebrew root word for follow means heel, as in the story of Jacob when he grasped the heel of Esau when he was born. When we follow someone, we’re tracing their footsteps or watching their every movement.
While there are many well known Bible characters who followed God, I want to consider 3 lesser-known characters who did the same.
Our first example is about an amazing woman named Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. Allow me to summarize her story in 50 characters or less...
Samuel died. Nabal insulted David, so Abigail (Nabal’s wife) acted quickly, chose her words wisely and David accepted her counsel. The LORD struck Nabal dead and David married Abigail. And they lived happily ever after.
There’s a little bit more to the story then that, but Nabal had not taken due notice of David and his men protecting his shepherds.
When his camp started to run out of food, David sent ten messengers to Nabal. The messengers told Nabal about how they had been protecting his shepherds and they asked for provisions, but Nabal flatly refused them. He even screamed at them. (1 Sam. 25:14 NLT) Nabal’s actions deeply insulted David, and David responded by preparing for a slaughter. (1 Sam. 25:13, 22)
A servant told Abigail how Nabal had dishonoured David, and he informed her of the danger they now faced. Abigail was not just intelligent and beautiful, she was also brave. Abigail approached David with great diplomacy, and humbly offered him a “peace offering”. She also gave David and his men plenty of food. Her quick actions saved her household from disaster. Abigail did the right thing in the sight of God.
Our second example comes from 2 Samuel—"A military man named Ittai the Gittite”.
Allow me to read from 2 Samuel 15 (MSG):
13 Someone came to David with the report, “The whole country has taken up with Absalom!” “Up and out of here!” called David to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem. “We’ve got to run for our lives or none of us will escape Absalom! Hurry, he’s about to pull the city down around us and slaughter us all!” The king’s servants said, “Whatever our master, the king, says, we’ll do; we’re with you all the way!” So the king and his entire household escaped on foot. The king left ten concubines behind to tend to the palace. And so they left, step by step, and then paused at the last house as the whole army passed by him—all the Kerethites, all the Pelethites, and the six hundred Gittites who had marched with him from Gath, went past. The king called out to Ittai the Gittite, “What are you doing here? Go back with King Absalom. You’re a stranger here and freshly uprooted from your own country. You arrived only yesterday, and am I going to let you take your chances with us? Go back, and take your family with you. And God’s grace and truth go with you!” But Ittai answered, “As God lives and my master the king lives, where my master is, that’s where I’ll be—whether it means life or death.” “All right,” said David, “go ahead.” And they went on, Ittai the Gittite with all his men and all the children he had with him.
What’s amazing in this story is that Ittai decided to follow David and protect him from his enemies. He was loyal to David even though they didn’t know each other for very long. Ittai chose to pick up his family and march along with David, most likely knowing there was a chance they could die in an attack. Everything he had was left behind to carry out his duty to King David and his Lord.
Our third example is two women who decided that God would protect them and His people if they looked toward Him, instead of to Pharaoh.
Exodus 1:15 states, “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives – the first whose name was Shiphrah and the second whose name was Puah.”
Shiphrah and Puah were Hebrew midwives living in Egypt at the time of Pharaoh’s oppression of the Israelites, who had been there since the time of Jacob.
The king of Egypt tells Shiphrah and Puah to kill any male child born to an Israelite woman because he feared they would continue to spread and revolt.
These two women defied the Pharaoh of Egypt and refused to kill the male babies. They told Pharaoh that the Israelite women gave birth before the midwives could get to them.
They said this in order to protect their people. Their fear of God overcame their fear of Pharaoh.
All three examples show us that the cost of following God can be high. It can include leaving everything we have always known and even taking our last breath.
How Can We Live This Out Today?
Today we must realize that although we are not marching across a desert like the Israelites or fighting battles with the Philistines, we are still fighting the inward battle to follow God no matter how hard or how much it costs.
Humor: A chicken and a pig were walking down the street one day and noticed some poor children who looked as if they hadn’t eaten anything for days. Moved with compassion, the chicken said to the pig, “I have an idea! Let’s give those children a nice breakfast of ham and eggs.” The pig thought about the chicken’s suggestion and said, “That’s easy for you, since it would only be a small sacrifice, but for me it would involve total commitment.”
Following God sometimes means total commitment in doing the right thing, taking risks, and overcoming our fears.
My own personal experience of following God is teaching me that life is more than stuff, money, prestige, and fame. I could have taken over my Dad’s hotel business. I could have retired a long time ago.
Instead, I took a different path. Has it been easy? No! But as I look back, I’ve seen God’s hand of mercy provision, and protection! PRAISE BE TO GOD!!