When a prophet or visionary gets up in your community and gives out a miracle-sign or wonder,
and the miracle-sign or wonder that he gave out happens and he says, "Let's follow other gods" (these are gods you know nothing about), "let's worship them,"
don't pay any attention to what that prophet or visionary says. God, your God, is testing you to find out if you totally love him with everything you have in you.
You are to follow only God, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandments, listen obediently to what he says, serve him - hold on to him for dear life!
And that prophet or visionary must be put to death. He has urged mutiny against God, your God, who rescued you from Egypt, who redeemed you from a world of slavery and put you on the road on which God, your God, has commanded you to walk. Purge the evil from your company.
And when your brother or son or daughter, or even your dear wife or lifelong friend, comes to you in secret and whispers, "Let's go and worship some other gods" (gods that you know nothing about, neither you nor your ancestors,
the gods of the peoples around you near and far, from one end of the Earth to the other),
don't go along with him; shut your ears. Don't feel sorry for him and don't make excuses for him.
Kill him. That's right, kill him. You throw the first stone. Take action at once and swiftly with everybody in the community getting in on it at the end.
Stone him with stones so that he dies. He tried to turn you traitor against God, your God, the one who got you out of Egypt and the world of slavery.
Every man, woman, and child in Israel will hear what's been done and be in awe. No one will dare to do an evil thing like this again.
When word comes in from one of your cities that God, your God, is giving you to live in,
reporting that evil men have gotten together with some of the citizens of the city and have broken away, saying, "Let's go and worship other gods" (gods you know nothing about),
then you must conduct a careful examination. Ask questions, investigate. If it turns out that the report is true and this abomination did in fact take place in your community,
you must execute the citizens of that town. Kill them, setting that city apart for holy destruction: the city and everything in it including its animals.
Gather the plunder in the middle of the town square and burn it all - town and plunder together up in smoke, a holy sacrifice to God, your God. Leave it there, ashes and ruins. Don't build on that site again.
And don't let any of the plunder devoted to holy destruction stick to your fingers. Get rid of it so that God may turn from anger to compassion, generously making you prosper, just as he promised your ancestors.
Yes. Obediently listen to God, your God. Keep all his commands that I am giving you today. Do the right thing in the eyes of God, your God.
You are children of God, your God, so don't mutilate your bodies or shave your heads in funeral rites for the dead.
You only are a people holy to God, your God; God chose you out of all the people on Earth as his cherished personal treasure.
Don't eat anything abominable.
These are the animals you may eat: ox, sheep, goat,
deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, mountain sheep -
any animal that has a cloven hoof and chews the cud.
But you may not eat camels, rabbits, and rock badgers because they chew the cud but they don't have a cloven hoof - that makes them ritually unclean.
And pigs: Don't eat pigs - they have a cloven hoof but don't chew the cud, which makes them ritually unclean. Don't even touch a pig's carcass.
This is what you may eat from the water: anything that has fins and scales.
But if it doesn't have fins or scales, you may not eat it. It's ritually unclean.
You may eat any ritually clean bird.
These are the exceptions, so don't eat these: eagle, vulture, black vulture,
kite, falcon, the buzzard family,
the raven family,
ostrich, nighthawk, the hawk family,
little owl, great owl, white owl,
pelican, osprey, cormorant,
stork, the heron family, hoopoe, bat.
Winged insects are ritually unclean; don't eat them.
But ritually clean winged creatures are permitted.
Because you are a people holy to God, your God, don't eat anything that you find dead. You can, though, give it to a foreigner in your neighborhood for a meal or sell it to a foreigner. Don't boil a kid in its mother's milk.
Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year.
Bring this into the Presence of God, your God, at the place he designates for worship and there eat the tithe from your grain, wine, and oil and the firstborn from your herds and flocks. In this way you will learn to live in deep reverence before God, your God, as long as you live.
But if the place God, your God, designates for worship is too far away and you can't carry your tithe that far, God, your God, will still bless you:
exchange your tithe for money and take the money to the place God, your God, has chosen to be worshiped.
Use the money to buy anything you want: cattle, sheep, wine, or beer - anything that looks good to you. You and your family can then feast in the Presence of God, your God, and have a good time.
Meanwhile, don't forget to take good care of the Levites who live in your towns; they won't get any property or inheritance of their own as you will.
At the end of every third year, gather the tithe from all your produce of that year and put it aside in storage.
Keep it in reserve for the Levite who won't get any property or inheritance as you will, and for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow who live in your neighborhood. That way they'll have plenty to eat and God, your God, will bless you in all your work.
At the end of every seventh year, cancel all debts.
This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or his brother for payment: All-Debts-Are-Canceled - God says so.
You may collect payment from foreigners, but whatever you have lent to your fellow Israelite you must write off.
There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land.
But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today.
Oh yes - God, your God, will bless you just as he promised. You will lend to many nations but won't borrow from any; you'll rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
When you happen on someone who's in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don't look the other way pretending you don't see him. Don't keep a tight grip on your purse.
No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs.
Don't count the cost. Don't listen to that selfish voice saying, "It's almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled," and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He'll call God's attention to you and your blatant sin.
Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God's, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures.
There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.
If a Hebrew man or Hebrew woman was sold to you and has served you for six years, in the seventh year you must set him or her free, released into a free life.
And when you set them free don't send them off empty-handed.
Provide them with some animals, plenty of bread and wine and oil. Load them with provisions from all the blessings with which God, your God, has blessed you.
Don't for a minute forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and God, your God, redeemed you from that slave world. For that reason, this day I command you to do this.
But if your slave, because he loves you and your family and has a good life with you, says, "I don't want to leave you,"
then take an awl and pierce through his earlobe into the doorpost, marking him as your slave forever. Do the same with your women slaves who want to stay with you.
Don't consider this an unreasonable hardship, this setting your slave free. After all, he's worked six years for you at half the cost of a hired hand. Believe me, God, your God, will bless you in everything you do.
Consecrate to God, your God, all the firstborn males in your herds and flocks. Don't use the firstborn from your herds as work animals; don't shear the firstborn from your flocks.
These are for you to eat every year, you and your family, in the Presence of God, your God, at the place that God designates for worship.
If the animal is defective, lame, say, or blind - anything wrong with it - don't slaughter it as a sacrifice to God, your God.
Stay at home and eat it there. Both the ritually clean and unclean may eat it, the same as with a gazelle or a deer.
Only you must not eat its blood. Pour the blood out on the ground like water.
One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: "Which is most important of all the commandments?"
Jesus said, "The first in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one;
so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.'
And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these."
The religion scholar said, "A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate - that God is one and there is no other.
And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that's better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!"
When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, "You're almost there, right on the border of God's kingdom." After that, no one else dared ask a question.
While he was teaching in the Temple, Jesus asked, "How is it that the religion scholars say that the Messiah is David's 'son,'
when we all know that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, God said to my Master, "Sit here at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."
"David here designates the Messiah 'my Master' - so how can the Messiah also be his 'son'?" The large crowd was delighted with what they heard.
He continued teaching. "Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery,
basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.
And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they'll pay for it in the end."
Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions.
One poor widow came up and put in two small coins - a measly two cents.
Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together.
All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford - she gave her all."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)