Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twelve Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Don't Copy Them
Verses 1-3: "These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place." There are very few land areas on earth that are not claimed by somebody. Kings or other officials say "It's mine!" about almost anything you can imagine—and for a few years or decades, many will agree with them. And if others don't agree, there's gonna' be trouble, jeopardizing "ownership" for all concerned. King Louis XIV of France reputedly said: "I am the state," speaking of "his" country. Like the rest of us, Louis was only human and the power allowed to him by God is gone. He's dead and his delusions died with him. The Lord God, our Creator, owns the land and everything else. Any power we might claim is a lie and we are to "tear down" the false, delusional "gods" existing in our minds, hearts and lives. Don't copy the many idol worshipers of this world. The Lord is our King and we look to Him.
Verses 4-7: "You shall not act like this toward the Lord your God. 5 But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. 6 There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you." God is real, beyond our human ability to perceive what reality is all about. Our reason is limited and so the Lord has given us the capacity for faith, operative through the grace of God. He has done the work of salvation and we respond by believing in Him through the godly faith that comes alive in us as we trust in Him. We are to worship in a manner carefully selected by Him for each one. Religious activities, such as those designed for Israel, express faith in the One who Created us and then re-Created us in Christ. Your outward expression of worship may differ from mine, but if we believe in and worship the Lord, the outcome is the same—we are blessedly His—forever.
Verses 8-11: "You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; 9 for you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. 10 When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, 11 then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the Lord." Moses, in the words of these verses, called Israel's attention to their current religious and secular practices. The patriarch of a family was not unlike a mini-king and priest to the rest of his group, exercising such functions wherever they happened to be at the time. That's similar to what the people of Canaan were doing, often choosing "high places" in wooded areas to set up idols and altars where a priestly character would lead religious services. Israel was to enter the land and then worship the true Lord in a place and circumstance of HIS choosing. We are to be led by God.
Verses 12-14: "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. 13 Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, 14 but in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you." We need the Lord's choice as to who you will worship with, in places He selects; all done in the manner revealed by the Holy Spirit. True worship includes rejoicing in the Lord. We don't reject those who aren't part of our immediate family, but instead worship with others as though they ARE family. Notice that Israel was to worship in the Promised Land at a specific place not yet revealed to them. We are in the future from that time and see that it was to be within the tribe of Judah's territory. The future was obscure to people then much it is now for us.
Verses 15-18: "However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your gates, whatever you desire, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. 18 But you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings." We know that the manna eaten by the people each day ceased, but food would be abundant in the land they were entering. Those who were ceremonially "unclean" could eat their fill, and so could everybody else. But the food was to reflect the benefits the Lord was giving to them. As to shed blood. Jesus would come to us later in time, bringing "peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20). He is our peace, and the symbolic act of pouring out blood was a visual prophesy that SOMEONE was coming who would shed His blood for you and me. The Lord Himself is the Offering given for us. We worship Him in the manner acceptable to God the Father—which is to place our faith in the Lord, who we now know is Jesus Christ, Son of Man, the Son of God.
Verses 19-22: "Be careful that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land. 20 When the Lord your God extends your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you desire to eat meat, then you may eat meat, whatever you desire. 21 If the place which the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, then you may slaughter of your herd and flock which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you; and you may eat within your gates whatever you desire. 22 Just as a gazelle or a deer is eaten, so you will eat it; the unclean and the clean alike may eat of it." The Lord has continued to select those from among us who will be called "priest... pastor... or Levite," or what other names God selects. Others are to support such people because to accept the Lord's vocation is often to choose a humbling life of poverty, requiring prayer and financial assistance in order to survive and do the Lord's will. Provision was here made for the Israelite who might travel far from the land, away from the city of Jerusalem, later revealed as the chosen place for Israel's worship. We are to pray about what we do and reasonably thank the Lord for His provision.
Verses 23-25: "Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. 25 You shall not eat it, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the Lord." The Holy Lord was to shed His blood for us, and so Israel avoided eating that substance, prophesying in action that "the blood is the life." Jesus later revealed: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). The blood poured out by the faithful in Israel looked ahead to the One who would shed His blood for us all. Quite often we are directed to do and say what we do not fully understand, as seen here in Israel's act of pouring out the blood. But understanding is less important than simple obedience, which can be an eloquent, often non-verbal expression of faith in the Lord.
Verses 26-27: "Only your holy things which you may have and your votive offerings, you shall take and go to the place which the Lord chooses. 27 And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the Lord your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, and you shall eat the flesh." Israel was being given an idea of what would happen when they entered the land of promise, and here was Moses, continuing to encourage and admonish them to have faith in the Lord at all times. They would have a PLACE, a specific location in that land where the Lord would establish a place of worship. He also has a place for you. Be alert to His leading in your life, which may or may not conform to some pattern you are familiar with. Instead: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6). He led Israel and He will lead you.
Verses 28-32: "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God. 29 When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise? 31 You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it." As the Lord leads you into places and situations, watch and keep on praying. Have you noticed that people don't dress in clothing that was common 300 years ago? Have you seen it that words leave the language and new words constantly enter it? There are many more changes that affect us, but the idea is this—people all over the world are desperately copying the changes others make—all the time. When you encounter certain behavior and the Lord reveals that it is a form of idolatry, don't follow it; do not copy those who do! Look to the Lord and trust in Him.
Lord, it's so easy to fall into the ways of this world, and I have fallen. I confess my sin. Please restore me. I need Your help and I don't want to just copy others anymore. I am Yours, Lord. I am Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.