Follow Exclusively


John 10 1-16 NET

“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus said to them again, “I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. 13 Because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep, he runs away. 14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.This month we have been studying what it means to follow the Lord. We saw in Deuteronomy 13 that it means not allowing ourselves to be tempted to rebel against him, even if that temptation comes from someone famous for being wise or gifted. We should resist the temptation to reject the Lord even if it comes from a close friend or family member. We should resist the temptation even if a whole city combines to influence us against the Lord.

Last week, we saw three examples of people who were called to follow Jesus, and in each case, the call to follow Jesus was a call to sacrifice. The four fishermen were called to sacrifice their nets to learn how to fish for people. Matthew was told to walk away from his job as a tax collector. The Pharisees and experts in the law were challenged to sacrifice their phony self-righteousness, and follow Jesus into true righteousness by faith.

For this week’s text, we turn to the teaching of Jesus himself. John chapter 10 is where Jesus explains why we should follow him exclusively. You see, there will always be people who will look at passages like Deuteronomy 13 and say, “Why not do both – why not follow the LORD and the other gods of the nations?” They suggest that we should be more inclusive. It’s okay to follow the LORD, but why not add other gods and follow them as well.

There will also be those who after hearing God’s call to be fishers of people will reply, okay, I’ll do some evangelism on the side, as long as you don’t require that I give up my position as a professional fisherman, or a professional tax collector, or a professional religious leader. Let me be myself, Jesus, and I will follow you also.

It’s in today’s text that we learn that we cannot follow Jesus also. He demands exclusive loyalty. We have to follow him exclusively, and here is why:

We should follow Jesus exclusively because of who he is:

Jesus is teaching by using a parable here. In some of Jesus’ parables, we can identify particular elements, and part of interpreting the parable is deciding who is being identified by each element. The trouble with today’s text is that Jesus kind of bends the rules. He uses two different elements to refer to himself.

  • Jesus is the door (2,7,9,16).

The first element that Jesus uses to refer to himself is the door. It is not the door to a house and it is not the door to a church or temple. It is the door to a sheep pen or a sheepfold.

Here is how Cowles introduces what is going on in this section of the parable:

“A sheep-fold is an enclosure, with walls and a door. The owner is supposed to employ and control the porter, and also, the shepherd; or perhaps, as in the application of the figure here, fill all these offices himself. He is lord of the fold and of the flock, and of course, has command of the door of entrance.”1

The owner employs someone who keeps watch at the door of the sheepfold. This is the porter or the doorkeeper. The owner has also employed others – shepherds – but they can only have access to the sheepfold if they come in through the door.

Now, the interesting thing about this section of the parable is that you would expect Jesus to say that he is the doorkeeper, but he does not. He’s the door itself. If Jesus were the doorkeeper, then all kinds of shepherds could come to him and Jesus could give a yes or no vote as to whether they were worth following.

The door is the symbol Jesus uses here for access to God and his kingdom. What Jesus is saying by identifying himself with the door is that no one will have access to God and his kingdom without first coming to him.

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus said the same thing when he said that he is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). The way and the door are the same thing. They speak of access to God and his kingdom. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness according to Jesus in Matthew 6:33. Jesus is the only way to do that. Jesus is the only door anyone can take that will lead them to God and make them into people who are righteous like God.

  • Jesus is also the good shepherd (2-5, 11,14).

Now, after he has made his point about being the only means of legitimate access to God, Jesus shifts his emphasis and starts identifying as the good shepherd. First, he says that any legitimate leader of God’s people will have to go through him. You cannot even really be a shepherd of the sheep without going through the door.

All the shepherds of the sheep have to follow the good shepherd. As the good shepherd, Jesus claims to know each one of his followers individually. He knows us and we know him. He knows me and I know him. He knows you and you know him. There’s a relationship there.

So, another thing we learn about following Jesus in this text is that it is more than just access to his power. Jesus is more than a door we can walk through. He is the good shepherd. He is here for us to know, and be known by him. He is someone who can change us by the very influence of his presence.

Without the good shepherd, the sheep will be vulnerable to attack, and they will not know where to go to get the right food. They will not be safe lying down. They will be in danger of accidents wherever they go.

As we go deeper into the imagery of Jesus as the good shepherd we also learn that…

We should follow Jesus exclusively because of what he does:

  • As the good shepherd, He has laid down his life for the sheep (11,15).

I love what Gaebelein says here: “This statement sums up all the predictions and types of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning Him and His work of love. He came to die for the sheep, those who are given to Him by the Father. This statement also answers completely the miserable invention that Christ died to seal in death the Truth He had preached, that He was a martyr on account of His convictions and His doctrine. He did not lay down His life for His doctrines, but for His sheep.”2

To put it another way, Jesus is the Truth, but he is also the Life. He came teaching, but God had sent other teachers. When John the Baptist saw him, he didn’t declare to his followers “here is your teacher.” No, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

His death on the cross was crucial to the work of Christ.

We honor the first responders who put their lives on the line for those who need their help. Jesus is the eternal first responder who in the divine plan of the ages came to die as the sinless sacrifice which reconciled sinners to God.

  • As the good shepherd, Jesus also protects the sheep from thieves (1,10)

The thieves are introduced in verse 1, and they are contrasted to Jesus in verse 10. In neither of these are the thieves identified as Satan. The thieves are false shepherds who try to lead God’s people but do not do so by first coming through the door themselves. Sure, it is true that the devil only seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us, but that is not what Jesus is talking about. The thieves in this text are those who want us to follow them, but they refuse to follow Jesus.

  • As the good shepherd, Jesus also leads the sheep to abundant life (9-10).

Here again, I’m afraid we have been misled.

Whole movements have theologized to excess about what Jesus could have meant when he promised us abundant life. We should remember that Jesus’ promise here is couched in a parable where believers are depicted as sheep. What would an abundant life mean to a sheep? Do you think those sheep out in that pasture are dreaming about owning a Cadillac? Do you think they care about bank accounts and mansions? Abundant life for a sheep would mean life instead of death. It would mean rescue from the thieves who sought to steal, kill and destroy the sheep.

It cannot be denied that coming to Jesus will most certainly enhance the quality of life that most Christians will live in this life. But for some, coming to Jesus will mean certain – and in some cases, immediate death. In such cases, how can the promise of abundant life in John 10 be true? It can be true if Jesus was promising an abundant life which is both quantitative and qualitative but promising these things for eternity after the resurrection.

In John 10:10, Jesus is not rewiring our theology. He is not adding a separate new promise of abundance on top of his previous promises of permanent life at the resurrection. If he is hinting at anything we might consider new, it is probably that our new permanent lives after the resurrection will far exceed anything we can imagine. But he is not guaranteeing that we will experience that kind of abundance before the resurrection.

Taken together, all these elements of the parable Jesus teaches in John 10 show us that as the door, Jesus gives us access to God’s sheepfold. As the good shepherd, Jesus died for us. He can now protect us from the false shepherds who are thieves and robbers. And Jesus offers us abundant life for eternity – a life only he can give. For all these reasons, it makes sense to devote our lives to following him exclusively.


1Cowles, Henry. The Gospel and Epistles of John. New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1876. p. 156.

2Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. The Gospel of John, A Complete Analytical Exposition of the Gospel of John. New York, N.Y.: Publication Office “Our Hope “, 1925. pp. 183-184.




Mark 1:16-20; 2:13-17 NET

Follow Sacrificially

We have seen from Deuteronomy 13 that the LORD expects us to follow him loyally. We are not to allow anyone to tempt us to forsake our allegiance to God no matter what credentials they have, no matter how close we are to them and no matter how many are backing them – even if it is an entire city.

When the New Testament talks about Following God, the emphasis is on following Jesus – the king of God’s coming kingdom. When you join a club, it is usually because the club is doing something you want to be involved with. But when you become part of the kingdom, you are pledging loyalty to a king. From that point on, it is not what you want that matters. From now on, it is what the king wants that matters.

That is why following Jesus always means more than being a fan of him. When he calls us, the call requires that we follow him sacrificially.

The story of Jesus’ call of the four fishermen is an example of this fact.

Jesus challenged the four fishermen to follow him sacrificially (1:16-20).

16 As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). 17 Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” 18 They left their nets immediately and followed him. 19 Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their boat mending nets. 20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

These four men were not just out for a weekend of pleasure fishing. They had their own boats, their own nets, and they even had some hired men along. They were professional fishermen. They did this for a living. Being fishermen was the family business for them. It was the means that God had given them for providing for their own families. We learn from the early chapters of the book of John that at least three of these four men had already met Jesus, and probably accompanied him on his preaching tour in Judea (John 2:2, 12, 17; 3:22; 4:2, 27).

Now, these men were back in Galilee, and they were back at work. That short-term ministry trip was wonderful and all, but they have to get back to work now. So it is here in their normal setting that Jesus comes and visits them. They had already committed themselves to Jesus as the Messiah. Now their king comes to them and tells them that he wants them to do something else.

Let’s just stop there for a moment and ask that all-important question. Could Jesus be calling us to do something else besides what we normally do? He didn’t call Zebedee that day. He didn’t call the other hired men. He zeroed in on these four and specifically challenged them to rejoin his preaching tour. This time, it would be in Galilee. This time it would be in their home region. Except that this time they would have to sacrifice more than just a short time away from family and friends. This time he was challenging them to change their occupation. They would have to train to preach the gospel. They would have to begin at ground zero and relearn how to work at that new job.

Later, Mark describes another disciple who was challenged by Jesus to give up his current job and become a trainee disciple. We know this disciple as Matthew, but Mark called him by his Jewish name – Levi.

Jesus challenged Levi to follow him sacrificially (2:13-15).

13 Jesus went out again by the sea. The whole crowd came to him, and he taught them. 14 As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him. 15 As Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s home, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.

The last time Mark had Jesus by the sea it was to recruit four new trainees. Now he is back there, and there is a whole crowd with him. He had just healed a paralytic, and so there was a huge crowd following him around, waiting to see what he would do next. What he did next was in a sense even more remarkable than the healing. He approached the tax booth.

Now, it’s one thing to approach a group of fishermen. They might not smell great, but they are generally likable. The only ones who don’t like fishermen are fish. But everybody tried to stay away from people like Levi. They were traitors. They had sold out to the evil Romans. They took money from good Jewish people to give to the hated Romans. Worse than that, they had a reputation for cheating people by taking more than was lawful. Becoming a tax collector was a way to get rich.

But that choice came with a price. Levi was the son of Alphaeus, but Alphaeus probably didn’t acknowledge Levi. Probably one of the reasons Levi changed his name was because he had been appointed tax collector. He had a new family. He had become a tax collector, so now he associated with two groups. One group was other tax collectors. The other group was a general group of outcasts in society – simply called “sinners” here.

The very next thing we see after Jesus calls Levi is Jesus and his disciples in Levi’s home, having a meal with him. Alphaeus is not there. But Levi has invited some of his fellow tax collectors to the party, and a number of those outcast “sinners” as well.

Levi’s initial contribution to Jesus’ ministry is his connection to these outcasts. He has an “in” with these people. There are a lot of people in Capernaum who are spiritually sick and they need a doctor. Levi brings the doctor and the sick people together.

But Jesus calls Levi to change his vocation again. He challenges him to sacrifice all his clout with Rome and all his potential riches and become a trainee like the four fishermen. Before he could become Matthew, the apostle, he had to become Matthew the disciple. Once again, the Lord is calling on his follower to sacrifice for the master.

Jesus even challenged the religious leaders to follow him sacrificially (2:16-17).

16 When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The news got out about the party in Levi’s house. The religious leaders in Capernaum found out about the meal Jesus and his disciples shared with the tax collectors and sinners.

This was a real problem for those religious leaders. They considered such a meal not just a breach of decorum. They taught that if you ate with such people, it would defile you, so you could no longer be around the good folks. There is an “us” and a “them.” If you want to be around us, you have to stay away from them.

Somebody (probably the one who drew the short straw) was delegated to ask the disciples why Jesus chose to associate with the riffraff. Jesus responded himself by saying that it is the sick people who need a doctor, and the doctor is in.

Now, Jesus is not saying that these religious leaders were already righteous, so they didn’t need him. He’s not saying that he chose to concentrate on the tax collectors and sinners because the experts in the law and the Pharisees were strong enough to take care of themselves.

Broadus points out that in verse 17, “The righteous is, literally, ‘ righteous (persons),’ without an article, thus not implying that there was an actual class of persons really righteous, not saying whether there were such persons or not.”1

The religious leaders considered themselves righteous people already. But Jesus implied that they were only hypothetically righteous. At any rate, it was just that hypothetical righteousness that excluded them from the party. Jesus was in Levi’s house to reach new people for his kingdom. To join Jesus, these religious leaders would have to sacrifice their presumption of innocence. They would have to sacrifice their status as the spiritually elite of Capernaum.

The crowd who met in Levi’s house all had something in common. They came to see Jesus because they knew he had something they didn’t have. They were curious. They wanted to know why Levi was packing his things.

Weidner suggests that this feast was a going-away party. He says “Matthew made this feast in honor of Christ, and probably by way of farewell, invited many of his old associates, ‘for there was a great multitude of publicans and of others that were sitting at meat with them’ (Luke 5: 29)”2

They didn’t consider it beneath their dignity to come to Jesus. They might not have considered themself “sick” of anything, but they would be honest enough with themselves to admit that they could use some improvement. They were there to say goodbye to their friend. But since he was their friend, they were open to listening to him explain why giving up his job and taking up with Jesus was important to him. Because Levi was loyal to Jesus, they were interested in what he had to say.

But the crowd of hypothetically righteous people outside did not want to come in. They were not interested in defiling themselves, even if it meant seeing Jesus. There is always a crowd outside who will refuse to come inside. There is always a group of people who think that they don’t need Jesus. They can take him or leave him. There will also always be enough Levis on the inside to keep the people on the outside from coming inside. What Jesus told the Pharisees that day was that as long as they looked down on the Christians that are they will never become actual Christians themselves. As long as they let their prejudice and self-righteousness determine their loyalty, they will be staying away from his kingdom.

Following Jesus requires change, and change never happens without sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is letting go of the things you expect to happen in your life. You train all your life to be a fisherman, and then you discover that Jesus wants you to be a fisher of men. Sometimes that sacrifice is leaving your stability for a less secure and uncertain future. You just get settled as a tax collector, and Jesus calls you to leave that post and become a trainee disciple. Sometimes that sacrifice means admitting that you are not as healthy as the world thinks you are. You are on the outside, looking at the party, and you realize that the doctor is in there, and you need him.

Wherever you are in your walk with Christ, don’t be afraid to sacrifice for him.

Listen to these words from a former Pharisee who realized that he had been only hypothetically righteous, so he sacrificed all his assets for Christ. They are the words of the apostle Paul:

“If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:4b-11 NET).

1Broadus, John Albert. Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1905. p. 23.

2 Weidner, Revere Franklin. Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Allentown, Pa: Brobst, Diehl & Co, 1881. p. 79.




Deuteronomy 13:1-18 NET

Today I’m starting a new series of sermons on following Jesus. You should not be surprised that I am beginning this series with a message from the Old Testament. You should know by now that I don’t think anything that Jesus said to us was an entirely new idea. God had already been preparing us for the New Testament gospel of the kingdom by what was revealed in the Old Testament. We should begin studying about following Jesus there.

Deuteronomy 13 is a good place to start. This chapter outlines for us the dangers of following the wrong leaders. If we do not discriminate in the people we follow, we will inevitably wind up following those who lead us away from God and his truth. That is a recipe for disaster.

The danger of following the wrong teacher (1-5)

1 Suppose a prophet or one who foretells by dreams should appear among you and show you a sign or wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder should come to pass concerning what he said to you, namely, “Let us follow other gods” – gods whom you have not previously known – “and let us serve them.” 3 You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer, for the LORD your God will be testing you to see if you love him with all your mind and being. 4 You must follow the LORD your God and revere only him; and you must observe his commandments, obey him, serve him, and remain loyal to him. 5 As for that prophet or dreamer, he must be executed because he encouraged rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, redeeming you from that place of slavery, and because he has tried to entice you from the way the LORD your God has commanded you to go. In this way you must purge out evil from within.

Notice the depths of the temptation here. The Israelites would never have followed a teacher who came declaring that he was a false prophet. They would not knowingly follow someone whose declared intention was to lead them away from the LORD. But the temptation would come from someone with a title. More than that, he came with a reputation: credentials. His credentials were the fact that he had predicted something was going to happen, and it happened.

We often get the wrong idea about how gullible the Israelites were. We tend to think of them as so naive that they would follow anyone who said anything. I don’t think that is the case. These people had a history of following God because he had proven his existence and power by delivering them from the gods of Egypt. They are used to a God who proved himself by striking down the firstborn in Egypt, leading Israel our from their midst, dividing the Red Sea, leading Israel through its midst, tossing Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea, leading Israel through the wilderness, and defeating great kings of Canaan to help them gain the promised land. They are not going to be persuaded by a mere argument.

So, the teachers who would come to tempt Israel away from their loyalty to God would be false prophets whose prophecies would come true. Why would God allow that? Henry Blunt asked the same question:

“At first sight, we are apt to imagine, that the easiest way for the Almighty to have prevented any such mischievous and dangerous results, would have been by preventing the sign or the wonder from coming to pass since it was so evidently wrought to establish a falsehood. But this is not the method of God’s dealings with his people in any age; He does not keep them from temptation, but with the temptation, he sends a way to escape.”1

God intended for false teachers to come into Israel for the expressed purpose of leading his people away from their faith. He would allow those teachers to come, and to demonstrate their credentials as prophets by showing that their prophecies came true. God would permit this because he would be testing Israel to see if they truly love him with all of their minds and being (3).

Now, brothers and sisters, do I dare to compare our day to the time in which this scripture was written? Do I dare to tell you that the same God who allowed the Israelites to be tempted by false teachers might also allow you and me to face the same temptation? Yes, I dare to do that.

The world around us stands deluded by a scientific community that has suggested that everything can be explained without God. Politics and Philosophy have also provided teachers who are have embraced this atheistic doctrine. All of these prophets come with impeccable credentials. We are tempted to ask how all these experts can be wrong. But the scriptures here warn us that such a thing can and will happen. God is allowing it to happen to test our loyalty.

God’s prescription for the Israelites was simple. Those false prophets who encouraged rebellion against God were to be executed. In God’s kingdom on earth, nobody had freedom of speech if that speech denied the absolute authority of God Almighty.

The second section of this chapter shows that the Israelites would be tempted to be disloyal to God even by those closest to them. The tempters would emerge even among their friends and family.

The danger of following a friend or family member (6-11)

6 Suppose your own full brother, your son, your daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend should seduce you secretly and encourage you to go and serve other gods that neither you nor your ancestors have previously known, 7 the gods of the surrounding people (whether near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other). 8 You must not give in to him or even listen to him; do not feel sympathy for him or spare him or cover up for him. 9 Instead, you must kill him without fail! Your own hand must be the first to strike him, and then the hands of the whole community. 10 You must stone him to death because he tried to entice you away from the LORD your God, who delivered you from the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. 11 Thus all Israel will hear and be afraid; no longer will they continue to do evil like this among you.

This new phase of the temptation is more intimate than the last. Some people will remain loyal to the LORD despite anything they might hear from an expert. But these might be tempted if the word comes from someone close – a brother, son, daughter, wife, close friend. These are the false prophets who come to seduce us secretly (6).

Driver writes about this kind of attack:

“The sternest measures must at once be adopted to check the evil: not only is the tempter not to be listened to, but even though the temptation has only been expressed by him in secret, he is to be treated without mercy or compunction; for his attempt to seduce a brother Israelite from his loyalty to Jehovah, he is to be stoned to death”2

Notice what is happening here. The temptation was first from an unknown prophet who came with a credential. God had told his people to ignore the credential and respond to the temptation to be disloyal because God is testing their loyalty by allowing the prophet to come. Now the temptation is coming from a known source – a trusted friend or family member. God’s command for them was to disregard the closeness of the source and once again to treat the temptation based on its result.

Friends, we are so far from obeying this command in our everyday lives. We allow family and friends to undermine our loyalty to God at every turn. We need to come face to face with our guilt in this matter.

Jesus warned us that families would turn against one another because of him. He said “Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:12-13 NET).

The temptation to rebel against God can come from our closest kin and our dearest friends. This is also a test of our loyalty.

The final section of today’s text reveals yet another phase of the temptation to rebel against exclusive loyalty to God.

The danger of following a disloyal city (12-18)

12 Suppose you should hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you as a place to live, that 13 some evil people have departed from among you to entice the inhabitants of their cities, saying, “Let’s go and serve other gods” (whom you have not known before). 14 You must investigate thoroughly and inquire carefully. If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing is being done among you, 15 you must by all means slaughter the inhabitants of that city with the sword; annihilate with the sword everyone in it, as well as the livestock. 16 You must gather all of its plunder into the middle of the plaza and burn the city and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It will be an abandoned ruin forever – it must never be rebuilt again. 17 You must not take for yourself anything that has been placed under judgment. Then the LORD will relent from his intense anger, show you compassion, have mercy on you, and multiply you as he promised your ancestors. 18 Thus you must obey the LORD your God, keeping all his commandments that I am giving you today and doing what is right before him.

In this phase of the temptation, an entire city has been won over by the rebels. It is a city that had been loyal to the LORD but has now gone completely in the opposite direction.

In that case, the entire city was to be devoted to destruction. You may remember that such was the case of Jericho. God had devoted the entire city to destruction, and that is why Achan sinned when he kept some of its treasures for himself.

A city so destroyed was to be a prophecy of the final judgment – of destruction in Gehenna itself. The city which rebelled against the LORD was to be treated like God treated Sodom and Gomorrah. Its destruction was to remind all true followers of the price of apostasy. Jesus taught that rebels will be destroyed – soul and body – in hell (Matthew 10:28). The fact that cities devoted to destruction are not to be rebuilt is also a prophecy of the utter finality of hell. The apostle Paul taught that the fate of the lost is permanent destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9). A person permanently destroyed cannot live again.

When we look at this chapter as a whole, we can see a warning from God that his people – those devoted to him – will be tempted to turn away from him. Prophets with supernatural skills will seek to lure them away. Friends and family will try to erase their faith. Even entire cities will seek to undermine their loyalty to the LORD.

Such is the case with believers in Jesus Christ today. The moment a person declares their faith in Christ, that person becomes a target for those who will make it their mission to destroy that faith. They will seek to undermine that loyalty. We have been warned!

1Blunt, Henry. A Family Exposition of the Pentateuch. London: J. Hatchard and Son, 1844. p. 243.

2Driver, S. R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy. New York: Charles Scribner, 1895. p. 153.