As we start this new book, here is a head’s up that we’ll be going back to our normal six chapters per week rhythm as we read through Deuteronomy. Sundays will go back to being a rest (or catch-up) day. For an overview (or refresher) on Deuteronomy, click here.
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Read Deuteronomy 12
The One Place of Worship
12 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smashtheir sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.
4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit,9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.11 Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.
15 Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. 16 But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts.18 Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to. 19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
20 When the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you, and you crave meat and say, “I would like some meat,” then you may eat as much of it as you want. 21 If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. 22 Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. 23 But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. 24 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 25 Do not eat it, so that it may go wellwith you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is rightin the eyes of the Lord.
26 But take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give,and go to the place the Lord will choose. 27 Present your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God, both the meat and the blood. The blood of your sacrifices must be poured beside the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lordyour God.
29 The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lordyour God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.
32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.
It is tempting as believers to think being a Christian would be a far easier assignment if we had more clear instructions or a checklist of what to do to honor and obey God. The reality is the story of the conflicted human heart–the insistence to prefer our own nature to be self-sufficient and sinful versus God’s desire for us to be pure-hearted and fully reliant on Him–is always a tangled journey. This is true even when God’s voice seems clear.
In this chapter, Moses clearly and specifically lays out the decrees of worship for the Israelites to follow. The laws included destroying previous places of worship, prohibiting eating the blood of animals, and how to properly present burnt offerings at the altar. It is clear these rules are to protect the Israelites and help them prosper. “Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God” (v. 28).
Just like today, there were distractions for God’s people. “Be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods” (v. 30). Being distracted, listening and following other gods leads to doing “detestable things the Lord hates” (v. 31). We might be distracted by gods presented in other religions that seem to be direct competitors to God. However, there are other distractions that may not seem to have any religious connection, but may still take us away from God all the same.
We see Moses’ overarching, foundational message is conveying the absolute and singular nature of God. This is the ultimate purpose behind all of the laws presented–to point forward many thousands of years to Jesus. The entire Old Testament foreshadows Jesus’ emergence. Considering today’s verse in light of Jesus’ coming, death, and resurrection make what could be a confusing chapter more clear. We are no longer held to these same laws because of Jesus. Our reality as believers can be reduced down to this verse: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).
- What other examples or stories of the Old Testament carry the theme of God as the one true God?
- What are other gods in modern society that we are continually tempted to worship outside of Him?
- What is a daily practice we can incorporate to feed the reality in our heads and hearts that Jesus is the only way to truth and life?
Did You Know?
Why was it necessary for God to provide a framework for the Israelites’ worship? Pastor David Guzik, in his Enduring Word commentary, explains it this way:
“Before Israel crossed over the Jordan, during the wilderness wanderings, each Israelite pretty much conducted their own worship as they pleased. But God was not really pleased with this; worship was not a matter left up to whatever pleased the individual. Real worship is concerned with what pleases God.”
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1 thought on “Deuteronomy 12”
God is very specific in what we are and are not to worship. Pertaining to idols or other gods, the language Moses uses is strong—destroy, break, smash, cut, burn. Nothing short of total obliteration will suffice. He calls us to be ruthless with false worship that creeps into our lives. Lest we think we are safe because we don’t own alters, sacred pillars, Asherah poles or carved idols, we must look at our activities, possessions, relationships and habits. Have we bowed down to one of these “idols” that Christ died for? Praying that whatever steals our affection for our Savior will be demolished from our hearts leaving space for adoration and obedience to the One who called us out of darkness into the kingdom of light.