Exodus 34:12-17 A child of God is one not because of what he knows or professes to believe but how he lives

Exodus 34:12-17  A child of God is one not because of what he knows or professes to believe but how he lives

Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim — for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods. You shall make for yourself no molten gods.


After the golden calf incident, the people repented before God. Moses, having broken the tablets of the commandments went up the mountain to collect a second set of tablets. At the same time, God re-iterated to Moses the more salient portions of the original covenant. Today’s devotion teaches us: A child of God is one not because of what he knows or professes to believe but how he lived.


Moses prepares Israel for a new life in the promised land. When the Israelites dispossess the inhabitants, they are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim. An idol worshiper is one who adopts the values and norms of the world. Thus, the tearing down of pagan idols pertains to the destruction of worldly values that are entrenched in the culture of the natives. Otherwise, the integrity of God’s dominion over Israel will be threatened. Hence, God warns the Israelites against making a covenant with foreigners without first aligning them towards God’s kingdom values. To make a covenant with someone is to adopt him as part of the family.

“To play the harlot” is to cast aside God’s kingdom values in exchange for the values of the world. The consequences of assimilating a person who is not aligned with God’s kingdom values will result in the permanent and irreversible corruption of the community of faith. And that will inevitably play out when God’s people allow their children to inter-marry with the children of the world. Therefore, the Israelites must be vigilant to distant themselves from people of pagan beliefs. Failing to do so will result in the destruction of their nationhood under God.


A child of God is one not because of what he knows or professes to believe but how he lives.

To make a covenant with someone in biblical terms is to make him a part of God’s family. In the New Testament church, a person is ritually assimilated into the community of faith through baptism. From here on, he enters into holy communion as a member of God’s family. Within the family of God, there is inherent trust to care for one another and to partake in the gifts of the Spirit. All that is possible because each member possesses the same values system and spirit as God’s children. That said, the privilege of divine camaraderie that is inherent in the community must be protected at all cost – for there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Such persons pretend to worship God in public but they secretly harbour idols of lust and greed. Through deception, they scheme to betray, sow discord and plant seeds of lust and worldly desires. Hence, the community must be discerning and vigilant in distancing themselves from such individuals for a time until they are ready to be assimilated into the community.

The antichrists and the church

That said, each member of the church must be trained to discern the hearts of those who enter into the community. By exercising sound judgment through the Spirit, each member can protect themselves and their family from dubious individuals. A person may be conversant with biblical knowledge and appear righteous but he is really a man of darkness, a roaring lion seeking to devour his next victim. The Apostle John went as far as to say that the antichrist comes from within the church, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us.” (1 John 2:18-19a).

How do we know if a person is truly born of God?

John taught us to discern and test every person because many antichrists and false prophets are out there to deceive and destroy (1 John 4:1). We test them by observing the way they live, not by what they profess to know and achieved. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16). What is the fruit? John taught about the fruit of love and truth that identifies them as God’s children,

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:1-4.

It is through the fruit of love and obedience to God’s commandments that we identify those who are born of God. Many project an appearance of obedience by discriminating against perpetrators of abortion and those who are LGBT. Instead of loving them and helping them to heal and transform, they discriminate against them for selfish gain. Such have the appearance of godliness, but have no power to transform sinners other than to persecute them (see 2 Timothy 3:5). Paul tells us to avoid such people for their own darkness which they tried so hard to conceal will eventually be exposed (see 2 Timothy 3:9). Indeed, the church should never condone abortionist and LGBT practices, but neither should we treat them as inferior. 

As we know it, Israel fell not because of an enemy that came from without, but from within. Likewise, the church must be discerning and not trust anyone who by appearance espouses the causes of Christ. A child of God is one not because of what he knows or professes to believe but how he lives.


Be wise and astute to judge ourselves before we judge others. To help us in our discernment, the Apostle Paul provided a list in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For

  • They love money
  • They are boastful, proud and ungrateful
  • They break rules and consider nothing as sacred or out of bounds
  • They bear grudges and slander others
  • They become unhinged lacking in self-control
  • They become cruel and unconscionable
  • They betray friends
  • They act religious

On the flip side, the godly possess the following characteristics in 2 Timothy 2:19-23. Paul said, “The Lord knows those who are His and all who belong to the Lord…

  • They turn from evil
  • They are pure, clean and honourable in their deeds
  • They run from youthful lusts
  • They pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love and peace
  • They surround themselves with people who are pure in heart
  • They don’t get involved in meaningless talks and arguments
  • They are patient and teachable.

Dear Lord, cleanse me of the darkness that is in my heart. Protect me and my family from the evil and lawlessness of the last days. Cleanse my mind so that I may discern clearly and wisely. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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