Summary: God is a God who wants to protect and defend us from wrong and error. So the warning against superstition is for our benefit and protection.
“You must not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23: 19).
The people of God, the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. Just before they embarked upon the journey into that land, they were given specific commands - commands that would keep them focused and on track. One such command that was given to the people was the command not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk. What a strange command sandwiched between directions instructions concerning feasts that were to be celebrated and worship requirements! Thus, the command is not insignificant. We may ask ourselves what does it mean?
It is God who is who is giving the instruction to the people through Moses, so it something God is concerned about. The Promised Land was a land that was to be conquered, not quickly, but over period of time. As the people of God invaded Caanan they would come across things that could easily have an unhelpful influence upon them. Such was the prohibition of not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. In Caanan the practice of doing so was a superstition. The action of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk was a fertility rite. In the Promised Land there would be other superstitious beliefs. This one command becomes representative of many superstitious practices in the new land. This command of God becomes a general principle for the people to abide by.
God was not interested it a people whose lives were going to be formed by superstitions or crazy ideas. God wanted a people would be obedient to his command, rather than people who put their trust in false notions. God wanted a people to response to what he said, rather than the sayings of another religious system.
The people of God had to be focused!
The Christian has to be focused too!
It is not the boiling of a kid in its mother’s milk that may concern us, but there are other superstitions that we may allow to influence us; never walking under a ladder, seeing a black cat at night, breaking a mirror, and so on. The believer in God cannot involve himself or herself in false and corrupt beliefs. Some of these notions are crazy, but people believe in them. Their lives are controlled by superstitions. God wants the Christian to be controlled by the ‘spirit of truth’.
The nation of Israel be entering enemy territory and would be tempted to compromise with the wicked people in the Land, the people had been already told not to even “repeat the name of other gods: let it not be heard from your lips” (v. 13). So it not surprising that there is an extension to that command, don’t follow any superstitious practice either.
The people of God had to be different to the other nations around about them - they had to be a peculiar people, a distinct people (Deuteronomy 14: 2).
I remember from my childhood, often seeing my mother, when some salt was spilt, taking a pinch and throwing it over her shoulder, for good luck. My mother also carried a rabbit’s foot in her purse. I remember as youngster touching the rabbit’s foot. I’m not sure how much my mother empowered these actions, but in the light of scripture, her actions were clearly wrong as a believer. It is easy to compromise and mix your beliefs and practices.
In this post-modern age, when the world does not believe in ‘absolutes’ anymore, there is a real danger in blindly accepting any other religious practices. The people of God, had already been given the command, “You shall have no other god’s except me” (Exodus 20: 3).
God declares himself to be a jealous God (Exodus 20: 5). In other words, God is a God who wants to protect and defend us from wrong and error. So the warning against superstition is for our benefit and protection. He is continually looking out for welfare and well-being. That is his nature.
It seems strange that the instruction about the boiling the kid in his mother’s milk is out of place, when the passage of scripture deals with the yearly cycle of the worship of the people – the feast Unleaven Bread celebrating the Exodus itself, the Feast of Harvest and the feast of Ingarthering. And also, the requirement of the menfolk presenting themselves three times a year before the Lord (Exodus 23: 14 – 17). Why, is this so? Superstitions would corrupt true worship. Superstitions are incompatible with true worship. Superstitions capture our heart and mind and lead astray. Superstitions seem innocent enough, but they are otherwise.
There is a real obligation for God’s people to protect themselves from any evil influence!