“Then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently . . .”
Today’s passage is part of the LORD’s instructions to Israel’s leaders on how to deal with gross idolatry. If word reached them that a certain city in their land had become wholly given over to the worship of false gods, they were to make a thorough investigation of the matter before taking action (Deuteronomy 13:12-14). If the report turned out to be true, they were to “smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword” (Deuteronomy 13:15). Furthermore, they were to gather all the spoil of the city into the street and burn it, along with the rest of the city. (Deuteronomy 13:15-16). Though this action may seem drastic to us, we must remember that it was to be prefaced with serious, honest and diligent investigation. Unsubstantiated hearsay did not count as evidence back then. As the LORD elsewhere commanded, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death.” Even an eyewitness testimony was insufficient to condemn people if that testimony was without corroboration (Deuteronomy 17:6). Though the Mosaic Law, as Law, has been forever set aside (Romans 6:14-15; 7:4; 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:5-11; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 8:12-13) it still contains certain valuable lessons and principles that we would do well to observe. The imperative to thoroughly investigate a matter before passing judgment or taking action is at once pleasing to God and of enormous practical value. On the other hand, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him,” declares the Scripture (Proverbs 18:13). This is especially important for us living in an age of widespread, state-sponsored propaganda and misinformation. We are surely living in the last of days in which evil men and seducers are becoming worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13). Since deception is our adversary’s chief weapon (John 8:44), and the world is currently under his sway (1 John 5:19), we ought to be the most thoughtful and discerning of all people. We know that the first to present his case may seem right, but that can change drastically when he comes under serious cross examination (Proverbs 18:17). Let us test all things by the word of truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21), searching the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11). Relationally, in matters of accusation or disputation among us, our default setting must be to think the very best of one another, to give one another the benefit of the doubt rather than pass harsh and premature judgment (Ephesians 4:31-32). May God help us to conduct ourselves in this fashion for His glory and for the blessedness of His people.
God bless you,