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ONE CENTER OF WORSHIP
To prepare for proper worship in the land, Israel must utterly destroy those in which the nations before them served their idols. This was commonly done in high places, in mountains and hills and in lovely wooded areas (v.2-3), just as many people today tell us they need no gathering of saints to the name of the Lord Jesus in order to worship, but feel closer to God when they are outside enjoying the beauties of nature. But this kind of worship was to be totally destroyed by Israel, by breaking down their pillars, burning their wooden images and cutting down their carved images. No vestige of these things was to be left, for Israel was not to adopt any such thing as part of their worship (v.4).
They had no choice even as regards where they were to worship. Rather, God had decided this matter and Israel was to seek only the place God had chosen (v.5). When they entered the land, God would leave no doubt as to where that center of worship was. Their worship in that place would require "burnt offerings, your sacrifices of your tithes, freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks." Notice that all of these things speak of Christ in some way, and emphatically Christ crucified. This must always be the prominent theme of worship. Worshiping the beauties of nature is an insult to God, for nature is under God's curse because of sin. Worshiping Christian worshiping the One who has borne the curse of our guilt on Calvary.
On such a basis too they were privileged to eat before the Lord and rejoice in the blessing the Lord had given them (v.2). The Lord expects this spirit of thankfulness and rejoicing before Him when people have been blessed, rather than an attitude of each person independently doing what is right in his own eyes (v.8). This too frequently happens when people are prosperous. If they have difficulties and hardship, usually people are drawn more together, to help one another.
Israel was yet traveling when Moses spoke, but when the Lord would settle them in the land beyond Jordan, then He would designate the place where His name would abide (vs.9-l1). To that place they were to bring their burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, heave offerings and all choice offerings, and all choice offerings, and in that center they were to rejoice before the Lord, together with their families, their servants and the Levite who resided in the area, since the Levites did not have a distinct inheritance (v.12). For us today, Christ and Him crucified is the Center of our worship, not a geographical location, but a living Person.
Only God's choice was to be allowed as a place of worship for Israel (v.13). We know from later history that Jerusalem was that center, its name meaning "the foundation of peace." In the New Testament the center for the Church of God is not a physical location, but Christ in resurrection is the Center, as He Himself declares, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them"
(Matthew 18:20). Thus, it is opposing Scripture to be gathered to a denominational name or to gather to a certain doctrine or doctrines. God has chosen His Son to be the only allowable Center. May we deeply value this and show our appreciation in gathering to Him alone, apart from the party names or party doctrines so popular today.
However, when animals were not offered as sacrifices, it was permissible for Israel to slaughter these at their homes and eat the meat. In this case even those who were unclean could eat (v.15). Thus the Lord Jesus received sinners and eat with them (Luke 15:2). But He ate the Passover only with His disciples (Luke 22:14). Scripture does not forbid a believer to eat a common meal with an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 10:27), but it does forbid any yoke with an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 6:14). But in any case, the blood of the animal was never to be eaten (v.16).
Verse 17 insists that none of those things that were offered to God were to be eaten "within your gates," that is, in their home circumstances: they were to be given a marked distinction and eaten only in the place the Lord would choose. Thus their worship was to be totally sanctified from their ordinary home life, and their entire family and servants were included in this, when they could rejoice exclusively before the Lord (v.18).
Neither must they forsake the Levite, for Levites were servants to the priests and had no specified inheritance because they were God's servants to care for the spiritual needs of the people (v.19).
Verses 20-22 reiterate the permission of God for Israel to eat meat in their homes, so long as the animal was not offered as a sacrifice to God, but with the restriction added as to eating no blood (vs.23-25). The repetition of such things was necessary in order that Israel might take to heart the truth of the Word of God.
The holy things, all that were to be offered to God, were to be taken to God's center of worship. There they were to be offered to God, with the blood of the animals poured out on the altar, while the offerers were permitted to eat the meat (v.27). These were peace offerings of which they were allowed to eat after God was given His portion, the fat, the entrails and kidneys (Leviticus 3:3-5); and the high priest and his sons also being given the breast and the thigh (Leviticus 7:31-32).
This section is ended by another pressing insistence from God that Israel should obey what He commands, that they and their children might reap favorable benefits from this (v.28).
WARNINGS AGAINST FALSE WORSHIP
In view of Israel's being planted in their land by God's dispossessing their enemies, Moses strongly warns them of the danger of Satan's temptation to snare Israel into adopting and following the false gods of the land (vs.29-30). Israel might foolishly think that their enemies had prospered because of their particular worship, just as today some Christians think the ungodly prosper because of their attractive forms of professed worship and adopt such forms that are actually idolatrous.
People may think this only another way of really serving God (v.31), as though Confucianism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Shintoism, Mormonism, Christian Science, etc. are only alternative styles of worshiping the same God. but all of these are absolutely false and opposed to the worship of God as revealed in His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Such religions can sink into such a low state that people dare to even burn their children in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. Though some of these do not go that far literally today, yet by teaching unholy doctrines to their children, they are virtually sacrificing them to the flames of hell!
The only real protection we have from such evil is in obedience to the Word of God (v.32). How vital it is that we should take to heart the words of this verse: "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it: you shall not add to it nor take away from it." This verse is found in the history of Scripture. In that history there is no slightest error. It provides all that is necessary for us to know as regards what is past, and nothing must be taken from it. Another similar warning is found in the poetry of Scripture (Proverbs 30:5-6); and another in the prophecy of Scripture (Revelation 22:18-19). Whether in its history, poetry or prophecy, the Word of God is absolute and full in its truth. We must not dare to add to it nor subtract from it, but treat it with utmost reverence.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 12". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany