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Chapter 12:1-9 (ESV)

Posted on February 21, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 12:1-9 (ESV) - “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. 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. 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, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And 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.

“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you.

Question to consider: Why was Israel not allowed to worship God using the places where the nations served their gods?

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God by disobeying the one prohibition He gave them, their reason was that they wanted to be like God and decide what was right and wrong in their own eyes— meaning doing their preference instead of that of their creator.

Despite the fact that the LORD had given them detailed instructions on what He considered right and wrong and how He wanted to be worshiped, Moses still had to remind Israel that they had not yet received the land so they should take care to do all that the LORD commanded them to do. There would be all kinds of altars and places of worship set up by the different nations for their gods.  It would be tempting to use these places to worship the LORD rather than take the time to destroy and rebuild them according to the LORD’s specifications. After all, as long as God received worship, what difference does it make on where and how it was done?

I often hear this same line of thinking today. People will say they believe in God and want to worship God but that they won’t do so in a church because of all of the hypocrites. Yet Paul wrote that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), and he spent his entire life building up the churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Antioch, Lystra and Derbe, and the list goes on and on. The apostles talked about order in the church and doctrinal purity in the church. Jesus prayed for unity in the church and a love between the members that worked together like a body and let the world know that they belong to Christ. While the body of Christ extends beyond a local body of believers, it is the intention of Christ that believers are to gather together over His word and sacraments.

People will say that doctrine doesn’t matter or that they won’t get baptized because the thief on the cross next to Jesus didn’t get baptized, but Jesus explicitly commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

These are examples of people doing whatever is right in their own eyes. It wouldn’t matter how someone wanted to worship if they made up the gods they are worshiping. However, this was the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt with mighty plagues and led them in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This was the God who provided manna in the desert and water from the rock. This was the God who decimated the Amalekites and Amorites and would continue to destroy their enemies throughout the land. Because God exists, it matters how we worship. Because Christ rose from the dead, it matters how we worship.

Trying to worship God from an altar of Baal was offensive because all of the specifications God gave for worship was to set the people apart from the other nations and point them to Christ so they would recognize Him when He came. Even something like striking a rock for the second time interfered with God’s design, for as Paul said to the Corinthians, "For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:4) The first time they drank, the rock was struck to point to the crucifixion of Christ. The second time they drank, the water was to come forth from the rock by command. This was to demonstrate Christ as the Word of God.


Dear heavenly Father, help us to see Christ in the Old Testament and give us a desire to worship You in the manner You desire and not to rebel against Your word and do what we think is right in our own eyes. Amen.