Deuteronomy 14 Guided Reading

Remembering the Big Picture

1-11 – Moses’ call to renew the covenant

  • 1-4  Retelling of the covenant history
  • 5-11  Covenant recantation and urging obedience

12-26 Moses’ exposition of the Law

  • 12:2-16:17  Israel’s obligations to God (worship) [We are here]
  • 16:18-21:9  Offices God ordains in the Land
  • 21:10-22:30  Family Law
  • 23:1-8  Boundaries of covenant community
  • 23:9-25:19  Regulations for Israelite life
  • 26:1-15  Instructions for Worship

27-28 Covenant blessings and curses

29-31 Moses’ final appeal for obedience

32-34 Moses’ parting words

  • 32  Song of Moses
  • 33  Moses’ blessing on Israel
  • 34  Moses’ death

Whole-Life Worship – Part 1 (Deuteronomy 14)

Day 1:

– This chapter begins a concentrated section that spans from 14:1-16:17 on Israel’s holiness. The section largely concerns imaging God rightly through daily life in a way that is congruent with Israel’s calling as the people of God.

– This chapter instructs Israel how they are to differ from the nations in three aspects of life: mourning the dead, diet, and resources.

Deut. 14:1-2

  • The Lord begins by clarifying Israel’s identity in relation to God. This statement is significant in declaring that Israelites are sons of the Lord.
    • Many biblical authors, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, employ this method of instruction. Paul does so in Ephesians through declaring for three chapters the difference that Christ makes in one’s life. (you once were this, but now you are this)
  • Israel’s identity, defined as sons of the Lord, is the starting point for how they are to live in the land in a way that reflects their father, not the reflection of other nations.
    • Moses specifies two distinct ways that Israel is not to mourn the dead. Cutting oneself and making baldness on one’s forehead is forbidden.
      • These rituals are also mentioned in the holiness code of Leviticus 19:27-28.
      • We see from other texts (Hos. 7:14; 1 Kings 18:28; and Jer. 47:5) that cutting oneself is an act of worship to foreign gods.
      • As Moses calls Israel to distinctiveness (vv. 1-2), this is intended to separate them in all aspects of life including their method of mourning.
      • We see many ways Israel did mourn and honor those who passed away: weeping, tearing of clothes, wearing sackcloth, and lamenting. However, Israel was to practice these methods with an understanding of God’s sovereignty and ultimately lead to an expression of praise to the Lord.
  • As a people on this side of the cross of Christ, what should we learn from this section and specific prohibition?
    • As Moses called Israel to do, we should first dwell upon the reality of our identity. If you are in Christ, a partaker of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood by repentance of your sin and faith upon His completed work at the cross, your identity is firmly set.
      • You are alive in Christ. (Eph. 2:1-10)
      • You are a new creation cloaked in Christ’s righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Eph. 4:20-24)
      • You are a part of Christ’s body, the church. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
      • You are a child of the King. (Eph. 1:4-7; Romans 8:12-15)
      • You are coheirs with Christ. (Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:4-7)
    • As we dwell upon our new identity in Christ, we should realize Christ calls us to live distinctively.
      • Distinctiveness in Israel was to not cut themselves or shave their head in mourning the dead.
      • Distinctiveness in the church is seen in not mourning hopelessly, but rather mourning correctly with our mind set on the hope of resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
      • This does not mean we are not saddened by the death of our loved ones, but we do frame death in the correct light. For Jesus conquered death and we who are in Christ can mourn our loss with the hope that we will one day be raised.
      • The world does not have this hope that we have in Christ, and death is the final curtain.
      • Therefore, when we mourn with hope the world asks “where does this joy in the midst of death come from?” To which we can reply, “We will miss our loved one and their absence will be felt, but we know where they are and who they’re with. Would you like to know about this one called Jesus who died for you so that you might live to him?”

– Spend time in prayer today dwelling upon your identity in Christ. Let the truth of the gospel fill you with joy and hope that only comes through Jesus Christ. The resurrection of the dead in Christ is a glorious truth for Christians and should guide how we distinctively mourn those who pass away.

  • This presents a unique challenge to share the love of Christ in the midst of death. For those who do not believe will also be raised, but they will be raised destined for an eternity separated from the Lord in Hell. Pray for unbelievers the Lord has placed in your life and share the good news of Jesus Christ, the hope of salvation He provides.

Day 2:

Vv. 3-21 describes the second aspect of life that is to differ from the nations surrounding Israel. Their diet is to reflect the Lord in all they eat.

  • It is helpful to track the Lord’s direction concerning food from creation until this point in redemptive history and then discuss the specific prohibitions we see here in vv. 3-21.
    • In the garden, there is direction from the Lord specifying that man and woman are to eat from “every tree yielding seed in its fruit,” and all other created things are to eat “every green plant for food.” (Gen. 1:29-31)
    • This explicitly changes after the fall of man and the new creation at the end of the flood narrative (Gen. 9:3-4). The Lord instructs Noah, and by extension his descendants, every moving thing that lives (excluding what has died naturally) is for food.
    • It remained as such through the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) until the Lord calls His people out of Egypt and further constricts their diet through the giving of the Law. This reality is designated by the phrase “for you” (speaking of Israel) throughout this section in vv. 7, 8, and 10.
  • The designation of clean and unclean simply delineates between what is good for food (clean) and what is not (unclean). This designation in no way assigns morality to these animals. (i.e. oxen are no more moral than pigs.)
    • These animals are mentioned in their corresponding creation categories: land, sea, birds, and insects.
    • A more developed list is seen in Lev. 11:2-23, this section serves as a summary of the dietary laws of Israel.
  • A major question that arises in the study of Israel’s dietary law is: Why these particular animals?
    • The simple answer in that we do not know for certain, other than the designation given in the text (“parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud” and “whatever has fins and scales”).
      • The “chosen” language of v. 2 demonstrates that Israel is to reflect the Lord in his holiness (Lev. 19:1-2) through adherence to his commands.
      • Holiness is the theme over this chapter and should be understood as the primary reason for the prohibition.
      • Israel is aligned with the Lord through covenant and these dietary laws serve as a reminder of their status as God’s distinctive people. This is strengthened by the allowance of not Israelites to eat these animals in v. 21.
      • Through preparation and consumption of each meal, they are reminded of God’s commitment to them and their subsequent commitment to Him.
    • Interestingly the animals the Lord permits Israel to eat correspond to the animals blood which God accepts for sacrifice.
      • God accepts oxen, goats, and sheep as acceptable sacrifices. These animals are domesticated in the land, but the other animals listed could be considered the undomesticated equivalents of these that the Lord accepts as sacrifices.
      • It is on this basis that some commentators have described this text as an invitation to the table of Yahweh.
    • One can link the designation of certain animals as unclean to certain pagan practice, therefore the avoidance of consuming these animals would work to set Israel apart as holy to the Lord.
      • In light of the pagan connection of some of these animals, eating forbidden meat is not simply ingesting unclean meat, but rather is an assault upon covenant faithfulness through association with pagan religions.
    • A final question we must wrestle with is: How are we to read and understand the dietary laws as the NT church?
      • We are to read these dietary laws in view of the full revelation of God’s Word.
        • In Mark 7:1-13 Jesus is answering the objections of the Pharisees’ objection to the disciples not following the “tradition of the elders” that instruct a certain policy of hand washing before eating.
        • In this context, Jesus speaks clearly in vv. 14-23 about the reality of how one defiles himself. Jesus argues what goes into your mouth does not defile you rather it is what overflows from your heart.
        • In the midst of this passage, Mark clarifies the saying of Jesus in v. 19 as to mean, “Thus he declared all foods clean.”
        • This is later confirmed in the vision of Peter in the sheet descending from heaven on which where all sorts of living creatures. God then instructs Peter to “rise and eat” this call occurred three times. Peter was not getting it, and the Lord says, “Do not call unclean what I have called clean.”
        • This vision, set in the context of Acts 10, serves to instruct the church in the folly of there thinking about the Gentiles not being permitted into the Church of Christ.
        • It is communicating the same truth that Jesus addresses in Mark 7, we are not defiled because of the food we eat, rather the sinfulness of our hearts which the sacrifices of Christ remedies.
      • Theologically, if we take the clean animals to be so because of their relation to the sacrifices God accepts as offerings. Then Israel is invited to the table of God through enjoying that which God takes delight.
        • However, with the termination of the sacrifices in the once for all sacrifice of Christ these food regulations become void. For we are now invited to the Lord’s table to partake in the body and blood of Christ the sacrifice God has provided for us.

– Spend time in prayer and searching God’s word today thinking about how we are called to holiness. It could be foregoing aspects of our life that do not look like Christ, and need to be set aside. It could be beliefs that we hold that do not line up with the truth of God’s word, but are accepted by our culture. Ask the Spirit to reveal areas in which you can be more conformed to the image of Christ and his holiness with the purpose of being the light of the world.

Day 3:

Vv. 22-29 describes this chapter’s final aspect of life that Israel is to differ from the nations. Israel’s allocation of the yield of their harvest is to represent whom it is that provides for them, the Lord.

  • There is much language in vv. 22-29 that points the reader back to Ch. 12 where we see the tithe mentioned in vv. 5-7 and the place God will place his name multiple times throughout the chapter.
  • These connections in language point us to the underling reality that the tithe is a central portion of Israel worship to the Lord. We will also see this in Deut. 26.
  • 22-27 deal with the annual tithe and vv. 28-29 addresses the third year offering.

– There are two points of focus throughout this section concerning the tithe and Israel’s worship.

  • The first is rejoicing at table in praise to the Lord
    • We see this primarily through the Lord invitation for Israel to partake of that which they bring before him in the place he will choose.
    • In v. 23, “you shall eat the tithe of your grain,” and again in v. 26 where the Lord instructs them to buy what they desire “and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice.”
    • We do not usually speak in this language concerning tithe, but I think it shows us exactly what Paul instructs us to in 2 Corinthians 9:7.
      • “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
    • This attitude toward giving to the Lord is extremely freeing and if done in line with this principle becomes a joy and an act of worship.
  • The second focus is open-handedness in care for the Levite, poor, and foreigner
    • We see this focus in v. 27 which speaks of including the Levite in rejoicing in this annual tithe Israel to bring.
    • In v. 29 we see the third year offering is to be given to the Lord for the purpose of charity. This tithe is used in ministry to the Levite, the sojourner (foreigner), the fatherless (orphan), and the widow.
    • We will discuss this tithe further in Deut. 26 as it describes it further.

– Spend time with the Lord seeking after his truth in His calling to give in accordance with the instruction of His word. Ask him to teach you how to give with joy as an act of worship not obligation. Remember God does not need our money, he desires our obedience for all we have is from his hand anyway.

 

Deuteronomy 13 Guided Reading

– I have separated the posts into devotional days to better facilitate personal study and reflection. There is a prayer focus at the end of each day to aid in this task as we allow God’s Word to penetrate and transform our heart to be more like him. Lord Jesus I praise you for your Word and ask that you would speak clearly to each individual and that you would be glorified. Amen.

Remembering the Big Picture

1-11 – Moses’ call to renew the covenant

  • 1-4 Retelling of the covenant history
  • 5-11 Covenant recantation and urging obedience

12-26 Moses’ exposition of the Law

  • 12:2-16:17 Israel’s obligations to God (worship) [We are here]
  • 16:18-21:9 Offices God ordains in the Land
  • 21:10-22:30 Family Law
  • 23:1-8 Boundaries of covenant community
  • 23:9-25:19 Regulations for Israelite life
  • 26:1-15 Instructions for Worship

27-28 Covenant blessings and curses

29-31 Moses’ final appeal for obedience

32-34 Moses’ parting words

  • 32 Song of Moses
  • 33 Moses’ blessing on Israel
  • 34 Moses’ death

Worshiping as God Intends (Deuteronomy 13)

Day 1:

– The topic of this chapter is continuing the discussion of the previous. The root point Moses is driving home is worshiping as God intends. While in Deut. 12:1-28 God is addressing is the place and method of worship, in Deut. 12:29-13:18 he addresses the object of worship.

  • The object of Israelite worship is to be the Lord alone, as we have seen in the 10 Commandments through commandments one and two.
    • 1 – “‘You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deut. 5:7)
    • 2 – “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deut. 5:8-10
  • Deuteronomy addresses the topic of idol worship extensively, and Moses’ return to it in this passage dealing with appropriate worship is not surprising. Idolatry is the prevalent sin occurring constantly in the history of Israel, but it is also a major struggle in our lives as Christians.
    • A good definition for idolatry is when the object of our love, affection and worship moves from God to anything else. This means that God must be your highest love, highest affection, and the one you worship; anything else is idolatry.
    • Idolatry is not just bowing down to little wooden or golden figurines, but is also devotion to anything that takes the place of God in your life. It can be a plethora of different things: kids, career, spouse, money, yourself.
    • So as we study through this passage together seek the Lord in prayer about where you might be slipping into idolatry, and who might be leading you there (which is what Moses addresses here). If you are not currently struggling with this praise be to God, but allow God to show you areas where Satan can tempt you into idolatry through others.

12:29-31 deal with God’s instruction to not fall into serving the gods of the Canaanites.

  • Moses grounds this instruction in an appeal to God’s authority in proclaiming the Israelites are not to worship in the same way as the Canaanites.

– In v. 32 Moses sets the stage for the discussion in 13:1-18 concerning those who would tempt the Israelites into the method of Canaanite worship which God forbids and the object of Canaanite worship, namely other gods, which is idolatry.

  • The warning in this verse is a repeat of 12:28 which calls for obedience to the Lord’s commands.
  • Moses also warns them not to add to the Law of God through supplementing with their own thoughts about how worship should work.
    • The reality is that you should not give a rip about what I (Adam) has to say. Anytime I stand in the pulpit, by God’s grace, or write on this blog you as the reader or hearer should not care about what I (a fallible, sinful creature whose worth is solely in Christ) say, but rather what God has said.
    • The question you must ask of any Bible teacher or preacher is will he tell me what God’s word says?
    • We correctly question and study because we are not permitted to add to the word of God, but rather instruct and teach what God has spoken through His Word.
  • Equally destructive is to take away what they do not want to follow.
    • Rationalizing God’s word occurs many times in our culture, we explain things away and do not give God’s Word the reverence it deserves.
    • Many times we do this because we don’t understand what it says or we explain it away to rationalize our own sin. Our culture has become professionals at this even within the church.
    • Our culture calls sin a mistake or an accident that is not that serious, this is not the Bible’s definition of sin.
      • The Bible’s definition of a sin is a willful act of rebellion against a holy God whose consequence is death (Romans 6:26). It is an attack, not just an “oops,” for God sees sin serious enough to warrant Jesus’ death. By making light of it, we make light of Jesus’ sacrifice.
      • But praise be to God that Jesus willfully went to the cross to take our sin upon himself and also the wrath that is meant for it (Rom. 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
    • Or redefining something that is proclaimed to be a sin in scripture as an acceptable way of life, essentially saying the Bible got it wrong. This is an example of taking from Scripture.

– Pray about areas of your life that you might be doing either of these things. Ask the Lord to reveal them to you through His Spirit’s work in your heart. Let us be a people who hold to the whole counsel of God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and not add or take from it.

Day 2:

– It is most logical this section follows 12:29-32 concerned about Israel’s instruction to purge all gods from the land and warning to not add or take from God’s commands. Chapter 13:1-18 warns against the various ways the people of God can be led away from God, the right object of worship. Vv. 1-5 warns against false prophets, vv. 6-11 warns against family members, vv. 12-18 refers to anyone else in Israel.

  • Scenario 1: Moses gives a scenario in which a prophet (same word as is used in Deut. 18) or “one who dreams” comes and his message seems to be authentic because of the signs he does comes to pass, but they are calling Israel away from the Lord.
    • What is a prophet?
      • A prophet, as Moses will define in Deut. 18, is one who is charged by the Lord to speak His words to the people.
      • In this scenario, the prophet speaks a word and gives a sign, as a means to draw the people of God away from correct worship.
    • What is a “dreamer of dreams?”
      • A “dreamer of dreams” speaks of a common practice in that time period and region which one claims to have access to the mind of a deity through dreams.
      • God does communicate this way in Scripture in certain instances (Genesis 15, 28:10-22, 37:5-11, 40:9-19, 41:1-7; Daniel 2:1-49)
      • So we can certainly say that this passage is not speaking of communication through dreams as an impossibility, however, as the rest of the passage will show, Israel should exercise great caution.
    • In this scenario, a sign or wonder accompanies the prophet or dreamer’s message.
      • Signs and wonders occur often in Scripture when the Lord makes firm a prophet’s message, however here the sign and wonder is not accompanied by the right message. “Let us go after other gods and serve them.”
      • The language reminds readers of the magicians in Egypt who squared off against Moses and preformed similar works, but did not have the correct message because they served different gods.
      • This individual is not calling the hearers to right worship, but to forsake the God who has already redeemed them.
    • God instructs how His people are to respond to this scenario in vv. 3-5.
      • First instruction is the disregard of the prophet’s words, and the recognition that as the Lord directs all things, this scenario is no different.
      • Moses gives theological reflection on how the sign comes to pass, it is by God’s allowance for the testing of Israel’s faith and loyalty to Him. This raises a difficult question: Why does God test Israel?
        • Testing is not God playing games with Israel, rather God is allowing Israel the choice of following God without reservation or to turn from him through service to other gods. God is not seeking to draw Israel into sin, but rather allow their covenantal commitment (their inward confession) to be expressed through their actions (their outward obedience).
        • We can say with faith that God permits the prophet to do these signs and wonders and invite Israel to turn from the Lord, as he also permits Job’s suffering at the hand of Satan and the suffering of the church at the hands of those that want to destroy it.
      • In v. 4 we see Moses emphatically calling Israel to unreserved heart and soul love through six familiar verbs: “Walk after the Lord (same verb from v. 2 referring to going after other gods);” “fear Him;” “keep His commandments;” “obey His voice;” “serve Him;” and “hold fast to Him.”
      • God’s next instruction is dealing with the prophet or dreamer which is the same in all three of these scenarios Moses presents, and calls for the death of the individual.
        • The punishment of death is questioned often, many argue that death is so harsh and unnecessary. However, the penalty of death is not barbarism at work, or religious fanaticism, but rather communicates the seriousness of the crime.
        • The offense is treason not only against the Lord, but also against the entire community and has disastrous consequences for the nation (Deut. 11:28).
        • The crime is not just that the prophet worships other gods, but that they call Israel to rebellion against the one true God. This call is to faithlessness to a God who has shown himself completely faithful in redeeming them from Egypt (v. 5). This call is also to complete disobedience to God’s commands, which he lovingly gave to them as a sign of the covenant he has made with them.
        • So this punishment is not overly harsh, but is designed to protect the entire community from the effects of idolatry.

– Pray and examine the teachers in your life, whether they teach the truth or some false version of it. Let us always keep in mind that Peter warns in 2 Peter 1:16-2:3 about false teachers. They come in all forms and they might sprinkle in hints of truth, but preach a false gospel. This proves that Satan comes as an angle of light not necessarily the red pitchfork-wielding individual we think him to be.

Day 3:

  • Scenario 2: Moses describes the possible scenario of a family member or a close friend being the agent used to draw Israelites away from the Lord.
    • The family unit in Israelite society was central to the overall structure of God’s people, make resistance to the secretly spoken enticing voice much more difficult.
      • The message is exactly that of the prophet or dreamer (v. 2; 6), but different in it publicity being that this scenario is more secretive in nature.
      • This secret call away from the Lord is a call to prioritize family relationships through following after other gods over covenant loyalty to the Lord.
    • We see the urgency in Moses’ tone through vv. 8-10 where he emphatically instructs Israel in what they are to do in response to this individual.
      • The temptation to sweep this offence under the rug would be great because of the familial relationship, but Moses instructs the same punishment be given as with the prophet or dreamer.
      • The familial relationship does not change the seriousness of the sin of idolatry. We would do well to remember the character of God exhibited through this passage as a jealous God who will not share his glory with another. For this reason in v. 10, Moses reminds them of their redemption from slavery that came at God’s hand not Israel’s ability.
      • The reality is that we would not want him to, for if he did he would not be the God the Scriptures proclaim him to be.
    • Jesus makes comments that are strikingly similar to Moses’ warning against forsaking God at the bequest of family.
      • This is something Jesus personally dealt with through his mother and brother challenging him in Matt. 12:46-50 and his close follower Peter in Matt. 16: 21-23.
      • Or his call to his followers to prioritize devotion to Him above even family relationships in Luke 14:25-27 and Matt. 10:34-39.
      • While the warning is there, some ask what about the punishment to stone them to death?
        • Jesus instructs the church in Matt. 18:15-35 that church discipline is the means of dealing with those who would entice believers away from the truth.
        • We no longer are commanded to punish through death because Christ took the death the sin of idolatry and enticing others to the same incurs. We must proclaim the truth of this merciful offering of grace.
        • We call unbelievers to repentance and to turn to Christ for forgiveness seeking they be raised to life and enabled to right worship before the one true God through Christ.
        • Church discipline deals with those in the church, saved by Christ, who find themselves in sin and are directed to repent and seek forgiveness. So regardless of the situation, the Gospel of Christ is the remedy.
      • Let us pray for those who oppose the Gospel. We must also wrestle with the possibility that even those closest to us (spouse, mother, father, brother, sister) might be the ones calling us away from Jesus who gave his life for us.
        • Christ calls us to prioritize loving and serving Him above all things, and sometimes this is hard; especially when it involves family as the hindrance to our service for our savior.
        • Let me encourage you to pray diligently for them right now, and pray that God would allow you the opportunity and boldness to call them to repentance and belief in the Gospel. Prayerfully live out the gospel before them and speak the truth in love.
      • Scenario 3: Moses describes the leader of an entire city drawing the inhabitants away from serving the Lord to serve other gods.
        • The call is the same as we have heard in the previous two scenarios, “let us go after other gods.”
        • This scenario shows the reality of what will eventually happen and lead to the destruction of Israel and the exile to Babylon.
        • The covenant role Israel was to image God in the land, but this scenario depicts an upending of this role as they have become like the nations God is using them to punish and dispel from the land.
          • Moses’ use of the same word in v. 15, “devoting it to destruction,” as used in Deut. 7:2 to describe how Israel is to destroy the nations currently in the land clues readers in to this reversal.
          • The sin of idolatry, worshipping the created rather than the creator, is why God is instructing this future city of Israel to be put to the sword, just as the nations before them continued idolatry and sin is the reason for God’s judgment upon them.
          • We see this law carried out against Gibeah who fall to this type of judgment in Judges 19-20.
        • In vv. 16-17, God demands the possessions of this city are to be utterly destroyed and offered as a “whole burnt offering.” There are various types of burnt offerings in the sacrificial system, but the language in v. 17 appears to be reminiscent of Leviticus 1:3-4 which describes an individually offered sacrifice to atone for sin.
          • This consuming fire would burn up everything completely leaving an ash heap, for nothing was to “stick to the Israelite’s hand.”
          • The reasoning for the burnt offering, which Israel offers through burning all the spoil, is for the Lord to respond in showing all of Israel compassion and mercy rather than the “destruction” shown to the city because of the sin of idolatry.
        • Moses concludes in v. 18 with pastoral word to the Israelites; pointing out the necessary (and appropriate) response to the words of the Lord. He states this response in three ways:
          • Obey the Lord’s voice, rather than the voice of the prophet, family member, or leader who would lead them to idolatry.
          • Keep His (the Lord’s) commandments, rather than falling into the practices of the idolatrous nations.
          • Do what is right in the Lord’s sight (right worship of Him alone), rather than breaking the covenant by serving to please other false gods.

 We must realize the seriousness of idolatry and false deity worship here in Deuteronomy. There are countless times in the Old Testament that God judges nations, Israel and false prophets alike because of  the worship of other gods. The seriousness of Idolatry is seen in the punishment of death that the Lord calls for in response to it, but the reality is that we all are deserving of death because of our sin. The hope we have rest only in the work of Christ on the cross who has taken the death our sin deserves and given life to those who repent and have faith in Him alone. However, given our culture’s desire to place everything above Christ we must ask the question; has God relaxed the seriousness of idolatry or have we?

  • I would argue it is the latter. For Paul speaks of false prophets often, but specifically in Galatians 1:8-9 he uses the language of Deut. 13. Paul in v. 9 of chapter one says of anyone who speaks a false gospel that they should be eternally condemned. The Greek word Paul uses for “eternally condemned” is the counterpart of the Hebrew word used in our passage “complete destruction.” Preaching another gospel or following one that does still has ramifications as it always has.
  • The New Testament through the words of Christ and the writings of the apostles affirm the seriousness of serving anything or anyone other than Christ our savior. We should look at idolatry in the same serious light and not just shrug our shoulders at it as has become customary in the church today.
  • Let us be careful in our own lives to attack such inclinations of the heart. We must guard our hearts from idols, which is anything that would deflect our commitment to Jesus. Whether it is our family, career, sports, or our comforts these things should not be prioritized above service and devotion to Christ who has died for us.
  • I challenge you to pray and look at your own life and allow the Spirit to convict you of possible places you are falling in to idolatry. Look for areas that are addressed in this text that could be leading you into the worship of anything other than Christ, and recognize the subtly of the evil one. Then repent (turn away from these things), seek forgiveness from Christ, and seek to prioritize Him above all, remembering the encouragement of Moses: Obey His voice, keep His commands, and do what is right in His sight.

 

Deuteronomy 12 Guided Reading

– When reading through these chapters it is important to keep the correct biblical mindset. Moses is speaking to the new generation before going over the Jordan to take the Land of promise. So while reading we, on the other side of the cross, should read with two primary questions in mind.

  • What does this passage teach us about God?
  • How does this passage impact God’s people?

– These questions can guide us as we navigate the biblical text and seek to apply its truth to our walk toward Christlikeness and holiness, for all of Scripture is transformative (1 Tim. 3:16-17)

– My prayer in writing on the sermonic passage over the coming weeks is to answer possible difficult questions, and that Christ would use it to deepen your time in His Word for His glory. This guided reading will not be exhaustive, so if this sparks more questions feel free to ask me through email or on Sunday.

Remembering the Big Picture

1-11 – Moses’ call to renew the covenant

  • 1-4 Retelling of the covenant history
  • 5-11 Covenant recantation and urging obedience

12-26 Moses’ exposition of the Law

  • 12:2-16:17 Israel’s obligations to God (worship) [We are here]
  • 16:18-21:9 Offices God ordains in the Land
  • 21:10-22:30 Family Law
  • 23:1-8 Boundaries of covenant community
  • 23:9-25:19 Regulations for Israelite life
  • 26:1-15 Instructions for Worship

27-28 Covenant blessings and curses

29-31 Moses’ final appeal for obedience

32-34 Moses’ parting words

  • 32 Song of Moses
  • 33 Moses’ blessing on Israel
  • 34 Moses’ death

Worshiping as God Intends (Deuteronomy 12)

– The opening of this new section in chapter 12 is similar in wording to the last of chapter 11. This similarity is significant and points to continuity between the sections. We should be careful not to divorce these sections from one another, the previous certainly informs what is to come in 12-26.

Day 1:

vv. 2-4 and vv. 29-31 highlight the same issue of Israel’s worship. This construction keys us into what goes on in the middle, and instructs us on the topic of this chapter, namely Worship.

  • These passages instruct Israel in the necessity of eliminating the places, objects, and practices of worship of the previous inhabitants of the Land, the Canaanites.
  • This certainly echoes the refrain of the first and second command, but it also teaches us about God’s character as rightly jealous for his glory, being one deserving absolute devotion.
    • The threat to the Israelites was to come in and add the God of Israel to the plethora of gods the Canaanites worshiped. In doing this, they would not be glorifying the only true God who redeemed them from Egypt and is giving them a land.
  • As Israel, we live in a culture that continually creates mini-gods that fill our time, money and energy.
    • Therein lies how we can answer our second question how do these passages impact God’s people?
    • The call to us is the same call to Israel: if there be something in our lives that divides our attention from the worship of God it should be cut out and replaced with right worship of God. This could be any number of things: sports, family, work. Or it could be sin in our lives: hatred toward a brother or sister, apathy toward the things of God, or disobedience to His commands. Return to Him and find forgiveness and fullness of joy in worshiping Him as we were created to do.
    • The reality is that this call might cost us something and is hard, but Christ who has died for us to give us life is worth everything. All other possible objects of our worship pale in comparison to knowing and worshiping Christ as Paul makes clear in Philippians 3:2-11.
    • Take time to pray and seek the Lord concerning what in your life might be taking the place of worshiping God. Pray for the conviction and strength, the Holy Spirit provides, to grow in your relationship with God through whole-hearted devotion to worshiping Him alone.

Day 2:

v. 5-28 highlight the how of Israel’s worship. There is a significant focus upon the Lord’s command to destroy the names of the Canaanite gods from the land at the end of v. 3 because of God’s revelation as to where the Lord will place his name.

  • God placing His name is important because of what “the name” represents. This terminology refers not only to God’s ownership of the Land, for as creator He owns and commands all, but also represents His presence, power, and nearness to His people.
    • The emphasis is upon God’s presence in the location he will choose, not necessarily the location chosen. This place of worship will be important not because of the location itself, but because God chooses to reside there.
    • This is why Jesus’ answer to the woman at the well in John 4:23-24 provides so much insight, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshiper will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit in truth.”
      • Christ enables us to rightly worship through acceptance of him and the indwelling spirit, called salvation. Paul calls our bodies the temple of the Lord because if you are in Christ, he has chosen to place his presence in you. So we, through Christ, are empowered and near to the Father.
      • This should impact the way we live, our desires, and affections. These things change when we accept Christ and become “true worshipers,” because our longing should be to destroy the names of other objects of worship and replaced with the name above all names. We become new creations with new desires that worship the Lord in all we do, not just at church on Sunday morning.
    • The end of v. 5 and beginning of v. 6 can be read as a gracious invitation from the Lord to this place He will choose to set his name, translated as: “you may come there and bring your…” This leads into the description of how Israel is to worship in this place in v. 6-14.
      • The list of various offerings in v. 6 is not exhaustive, for there are many more types that were used in Israelite worship for various reasons.
      • 7 highlights the God-centeredness of worship, and the part the community plays in worship. While there are obvious times of personal worship, the Lord certainly views worship as the joyful and celebratory response of His people to His invitation into his presence.

– v. 8-14 draws a contrast between worshiping as the Israelites pleased (seen in the phrase “everyone doing whatever is right in his own eye”) and worshiping as God intends.

  • Israel was not to just continue in the ways of their fathers doing what they wanted, rather worship was and is to be God-centered, God-directed, and done as He instructs.
  • The worship God intends is enabled through His provision of rest in the land (v. 9), defeat of surrounding enemies (v. 10), and choosing of the place to set his name (v. 11).
  • God is the one accomplishing the means by which Israel is to worship. This gives us great hope, for Israel could not come before the Lord rightly without His divine work.
  • Likewise, we cannot come before the Lord rightly apart from the divine work of Christ, who provides the means for us to rightly come before God in worship. We respond in repentance and belief (faith) to His perfect life and wrath-appeasing death, which then enables us by His blood to enter His presence in right worship.
  • 12 gives a snippet as to who is allowed in this joyful time of worship. Christopher Wright says well, “The social inclusiveness and compassionate sensitivity of Israel’s worship is expanded to include other categories of needy people.” The poor and alien are to be included also (14:28ff; 16:11, 14) for this shows the heart of God to call all to himself.  He is concerned that the worship of His people draw others to knowledge of Himself. Israelite worship was one way this was to occur.
    • This speaks a word to us as well about inviting non-believers to worship to come, taste and see the Lord is good (Psalm 34).
  • This worship through coming into the presence of the Lord and bringing sacrifices is done joyfully before the Lord. But the question one might ask is, what does this teach us on this side of the cross? We do not offer sacrifices, do we?
    • While our sacrifices do not look exactly like that of Israel (bulls, lambs, sheep, and grain) I would submit, we are in fact called to sacrifice as a form of worship.
    • Paul makes this very clear in Romans 12:1. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
      • What Paul is getting at is that the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices is Christ’s death. However, sacrifice is still the means of worship by living as one who has died to self and Christ now lives through (Galatians 2:20).
      • The only acceptable worship to the Lord is complete offering of ourselves to the lordship of Christ.
      • This could take form in many ways, but a couple practical ones would be: intentionally planning to commune with God in community at church by prioritizing it correctly, starting a bible study at your workplace, setting aside time normally for something else toward prayer and bible reading.
    • Take time and pray through this section of God’s word, asking yourself if you are worshiping God as he intends or are you doing so according to what is right in your own eyes. Allow the Spirit to speak truth and show possible changes in priorities or elimination of idols that he is calling for in this text. And then respond in prayer by asking him to strengthen you to this task.

Day 3:

– Vv. 15-28

  • While vv.5-27 dealt with the specifics of right worship through sacrifice, this section addresses a change in Israelite ability to slaughter and eat meat away from the temple.
  • The key phrase is the allowance to slaughter and eat “within any of your towns.” This previously was not done because of every Israelite’s close proximity to the tabernacle after leaving Mt. Sinai.
  • The blessing of provision is still from the Lord, and is for everyone.
    • The ceremonial unclean and clean alike can partake of this meat slaughtered in the towns. This is not speaking of cleanliness or dirtiness, but of one’s ritual purity or impurity.
    • The ceremonial unclean could not partake of the meat of sacrifices because of various things that makes one unclean. (see Lev. 11-15 and Num. 19 for things that would make one ceremonially unclean)
  • Moses circles back to ensure understanding that the sacrifices of vv. 5-27 are not to be eaten in the towns, but rather are only taken to the future place of the Lord’s name and eaten there.
    • This repetition is meant to keep the Israelites from confusion.
  • Concern for the Levite within the towns is a majorreoccurring theme (v. 19).
    • Remember the Levites were not given a portion of land as every other tribe of Israel. Their portion was the Lord himself and he promises to care for them through the obedience of the other tribes. (Num. 8:14; Giving of the Land: Joshua 13:8-21:45)
  • 20-28 run parallel to vv. 15-19 to further describe the reasoning for the allowance of secular slaughter and eating.
    • Israelites could always slaughter and eat wild game (gazelle and deer) apart from sacrifice. However, certain animals of the flock (those eligible for sacrificial use: i.e. oxen, lambs, and goats) could not be used for food apart from sacrifice.
    • The reasoning is a practical one that stems from a shift in largeness of territory. As the Israelites were close together in the wilderness and could sacrifice every animal before the Lord, so now as they enter the Promise Land they will be far from the chosen place of God and secular slaughter is God’s provision for this shift v. 21.
    • While this provision is given, the takeaway can be seen in the use of the verb “to slaughter” in v. 21 which is used of sacrificial and secular slaughter.
      • This instructs the Israelites that the method of preparing the food is the same and therefore points to the spiritual reality that all provision is from the Lord and should be treated with thanksgiving.
    • The treatment of the blood, which is “the life,” and is not to be consumed places emphasis upon this common method as well. This prohibition goes back to Gen. 9:2-4 and teaches a reverence for life and the reality that God is the one who gives and takes.
      • In our culture, we are so removed from the slaughterhouses. There is not much concern about the animals that come in the package,
      • This was not the case on small farms where cows were given names and recognized by temperament, and the understanding of sacrifice being the means of God’s provision abounded.
      • This passage, I believe, shows us the need not go backward in redemptive history, but rather understand that God, in his provision for us, allows the life of these animals to be taken. And we would do well to give him the praise and the thanks for it.

– The summation of these concepts is seen in v. 28 that calls the Israelites to obedience, and is calling us to the same through a correct understanding of what it means to worship Him through the recognition of His magnificent provision. And the praise that should fill our lips and lives in sacrificial response. Take time to praise the Lord for his provision and also for his redemptive grace through the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ.