Deuteronomy 12 (English Standard Version)
The LORD’s Chosen Place of Worship
1 “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. 2 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. 3You 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. 4You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.
The practice in the ancient world, which was always short on buildings, was to take a nice building such as a temple previously used to worship a prior god, and simply make it a place to worship one’s own god. The Lord God wanted none of that in His own worship. He commanded that the places of pagan worship be completely destroyed, and that they shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.
John 4:23-24 (CEV)
But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.
5 “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, 6and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.
Whether the Israelites were celebrating their Passover meals, or eating a joyful dinner when a newborn son was circumcised, or sharing at a wedding feast or a meal after a funeral — or whether in present day, we are gathered around our heavily-laden Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables with friends and family — all are pointing us to the Lamb’s Marriage Feast in Heaven. Until then, we can practice as verse 7 directs us, enjoying fellowship with the Lord and others, blessing the Name of the Lord.
8“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, 9for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you. 10But 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, 11then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there,
A particular place is important to worship. The man who tells himself, “I can worship God just as well out on the golf course” is a man doing whatever is right in his own eyes. It is fine for him to worship God out on the golf course; but there must also be a specific place where he comes to worship with God’s people. This goes against the trend of our times. Studies find that among baby-boomers, 70% say that you should attend worship services not out of a sense of duty, but only if it “meets your needs.” 80% say you can be a good Christian without attending church.
This passage brings to mind two of my friends. They are believers, and they have been hurt in churches in the past. So they no longer attend, rather adamantly. Probably you know of similar situations. I am bothered by this, for I think they are losing out on some of God’s blessings by not finding a church home. Hebrews 10:25 says, And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. So I pray for their return to the worshiping body of Christ.
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. 12And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. 13 Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, 14but 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.
God commanded the Israelites to worship “at the place that the Lord shall choose,” and for thousands of years the Jews have honored Jerusalem as “that place.” HERE The Mormon Tabernacle Choir presents “I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me” by C. Hubert H. Parry. The text is from Psalm 122, which begins, “I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord.”
15“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. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 17You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake. 19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.
The members of the tribe of Levi were called Levites, and they were the priests. How can we obey God in this regard and “not neglect” our pastors? Here are some suggestions:
1. Pray for them regularly.
2. Cut the criticism.
3. Pray for them regularly.
4. Express our appreciation in writing.
5. Pray for them regularly.
6. Offer our skills to help them.
7. Pray for them regularly.
8. Squelch church gossip.
9. Pray for them regularly.
10. Pray for them and their families regularly.
20“When the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. 21If the place that the LORD your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire. 22Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat of it. The unclean and the clean alike may eat of it. 23 Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 25You shall not eat it, that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.
26″But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the LORD will choose, 27and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, but the flesh you may eat. 28Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.
Warning Against Idolatry
29“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
Psalm 106:36-39 (New International Version)
They worshiped their idols,
which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.
They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.
They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
32 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
The standard for worship is reflected in God’s Word — not in my whimsical preference or opinion.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.