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Year 1, Week 21, Day 3

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Deuteronomy 12-13.

Today’s reading begins a new segment of Moses’ message to the new generation of Israelites. Moses presents Israel with the particular rules that were to guide their lives in the Promised Land. The first rules that Moses provides would serve to govern Israel’s worship of the LORD. Deuteronomy 12 instructs Israel with the need to worship the LORD in the manner that He has provided, which means that all false places of worship will need to be immediately done away with as a way to protect against idolatry. Deuteronomy 12 warns Israel against various potential enticements to worship a false god. The new life in the Promised Land will not require the need for a new god, Israel would need to stay true to the God who had, "brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 13:5b).

One of the things that struck me in today’s reading was the LORD’s priority for Israel to be ordered by the true worship of God and thus, the utmost importance of rejecting idolatry: “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love” (Psalm 31:6-7a). The LORD is deserving of worship; the LORD desires the worship of His people. Deuteronomy 12-26 is a restatement of the Ten Words that the LORD gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai, but are now given afresh for the regulating of life in the Promised Land: “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth.” (Deuteronomy 12:1). As the first word at Mt. Sinai concerned having no other gods, Moses opens with words on false worship: “You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-4). Instead of idolatry, Israel would need to worship only the LORD and only in the manner He prescribed: “But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present” (Deuteronomy 12:5-6a). First things first. Life in the Land starts with worshipping the LORD in the way that He desires to be worshipped.

As Moses continues unfolding the need to worship the LORD in the way He prescribes, he references a central place of worship once they get settled in the Promised Land: “But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 12:10-11). This yet unspecified place would be the place and only the place to offer sacrifices: “Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, but at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.” (Deuteronomy 12:13-14). While the meat sacrifices were to be only offered at the central place of worship, eating meat itself could occur anywhere: “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 12:15).

Moses warns of the enticements that Israel will experience to turn away from worshipping the LORD: “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known…you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him.” (Deuteronomy 13:6-8). Deuteronomy 13 gives three different scenarios whereby others, whether they were family members, so-called prophets, or general inhabitants, seek to lead others astray by false worship. Any suggestions toward idolatry was to be judged by the standard that Moses laid down in the Word: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32). The consequence for any who contradicted the LORD’s requirements was severe: “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death…you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people…you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword” (Deuteronomy 13:5,9,15). False worship and the enticement to worship falsely is no small concern. While the penalty under the Old Covenant is not binding in the New Covenant, the need to worship only the LORD and only in the way he prescribes endures forever: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14); and “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe