“Love’s Exclusivity, Part 2” – Deuteronomy 12:1-32; 16:21-17:7

September 10th, 2017

Dt. 12:1-32; 16:21-17:7

Love’s Exclusivity – Pt 2”

Aux Text: Acts 4:8-20

Call to Worship: Psalm 62

 

Service Orientation: To love and serve God with all our hearts demands that we give exclusive loyalty and obedience to Him alone.  It even means giving up loyalty to ourselves, to our families, to everyone else.  But it also means pursuing life.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the WeekThere is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.— Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 1) This verse marks a major turning point in Deuteronomy. Chapters 5-11 dealt with general stipulations of the covenant–the motivation for obedience once Israel conquered the land.  Beginning here, Moses expounded the specific stipulations of the covenant, building on the motivations of the previous chapters.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 158)
  • As these laws are given to a theocratic state, where God is the ruler and the word of God is the national constitution, many of the laws cannot be directly applied by us today. But because each law is a reflection of the mind of God, we can glean principles that are relevant to all of God’s people in every generation.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 365)
  • As we read these laws, decrees, and stipulations, we need to recall that God intended many of them for a small, agricultural nation 35 centuries ago. Most were temporary commandments, meant only for Israel and only until Jesus came.  St. Paul described these laws as “shadows of what was to come,” but explained that “the reality is found in Christ” (Col 2:17).  Under the old covenant, God treated Israel like a minor child, who needed many rules and requirements to shape behavior.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 107)
  • (v. 2) But it was not until a later day that God’s desire that Israel rule the entire Promised Land would become a possibility. When the possibility arose, however, Israel lacked fortitude and did, in fact, tolerate shrines to other gods.  Attempts were made at reform by Asa (1 Kgs 15:11-14), Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:3-4), and Josiah (2 Kgs 23:4-25; 2 Chr 34:3-7).  Only Josiah achieved a great measure of success, but on his death, pagan worship reappeared.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 175)
  • (v. 5) Seek, therefore, is not the ideal translation here; certainly not if it implies merely trying to identify something, as in a guessing game. The meaning is that the Israelites should decide to resort to Yahweh’s place of worship, as a deliberate choice of him and rejection of the other nations’ gods.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 219)
  • (v. 5) Israel’s worship is now depicted as happening at the chosen place before the LORD. The plain meaning is that he is actually present, just as he has been present with Israel during their journeyings to the land (1:31).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 223)
  • (v. 15) Christians may wonder about the value of all the dietary laws observed by Jewish people; but at least they give the home a sacred dimension. It is all too easy for Christians to act as if religion belonged only to church buildings and to Sundays.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 85)
  • (v. 15ff) While sacrificial offerings were to be brought to the central sanctuary, the butchering and eating of meat for regular sustenance could be engaged in anywhere (vv. 15, 20-25). The only restriction on eating nonsacrifical meat (except for the rules relative to unclean foods) prohibited eating the blood, which is the life and so must not be eaten.  The blood was to be poured out on the ground like water (vv. 16, 23-24).  The nonsacrificial meat may be eaten by anyone–the ceremonially unclean person as well as the clean (v. 22).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 96)
  • (v. 18) in all that your hand reaches.  Still more literally, “all the reach of your hand.”  The phrase mishlah-yad clearly refers to “undertakings,” and to the material yield of the undertaking.  Appropriately, the phrase has come to mean “vocation” in modern Hebrew.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 941)
  • (v. 23) This identification of the blood with life derives from observing the life of an animal or person ebbing away as blood is lost.  Because life is sacred and the blood is identified with the life, consuming blood is viewed as an attack on life itself, which explains Moses’ explicit comment in verse 23, “You must not eat the life with the meat.”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 318)
  • (v. 23) Eugene Merrill explains, “The idea seems to be that blood, as the very essence of life, must be returned to the earth from which the Creator at the beginning had brought it forth” (cf. Gn 1:24; 2:19; 3:23; 4:10-11; Dt 15:23).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 373)
  • (v. 31) You shall not do thus for the LORD your God.  This echo of verse 4 marks a formal inclusio structure that frames this whole unit.  It begins and now ends with an injunction to avoid all contact with the practices of the local pagan cults.  To the paraphernalia of idol worship mentioned at the beginning the writer here adds a moral abomination of pagan religion–child sacrifice.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 945)
  • (v. 17:1) To offer God defective animals in sacrifice was to give him second best. It was also hypocrisy, since it gave the impressive appearance of a pious act, but was a ruse to save money, for obviously such animals would fetch low prices in the market. No punishment is mentioned, but the strong words about God’s attitude to such conduct make their own point.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 103-4)
  • (v. 17:3) In OT theology the sun, moon, and stars along with other physical elements–as mountains and seas–show the glory of the Lord; but they are by no means idolatrous, pantheistic, or animistic representations of the Lord (Ps 8:3; 19:1; 148:3-6; Jer 10:10-13; see also Rom 1:20). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 114)
  • (v. 17:6) Dt 17:6 says that we should be at pains to find out that those accused of guilt are really guilty: “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (17:6).  We can make a mistake and convict people who are not guilty of wrongdoing.  So there must be corroborating evidence from more than one witness.  This principle of using more than one witness is carried over into the NT, also (Mt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tm 5:19).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 441)
  • (v. 17:7) This idea of purging evil through punishment appears nine times in Deuteronomy. One cannot live in sin and expect to remain in the church.  The church is a pure bride of Christ, and Christ cannot dwell alongside a rebellious people.  The church will always welcome sinners from outside its borders, as Christ did when he was on earth.  But if members of the church commit serious sins they must be sent out at least until they repent and give up their rebellious acts.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 443)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is Moses teaching us here?

 

Answer:  If we are to love God with all our hearts it means we do things His way, not our way, not culture’s way, not anyone else’s way.  When we are exclusively His, it will go well for both us and everyone else.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Exclusive

 

God must be permitted to make the rules when it comes to his own unveiling of himself.  As he sought to teach Israel, he must be approached on his own terms.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 158)

 

What is Moses teaching us here?:

I-  Love and serve God exclusively.  (Dt 12:1-4, 8, 11, 13-15, 30-32; 16:21-17:3 see also: Ex 20:20-25; Lv 17:7; 18:3, 21; 20:2-5; Nm 33:50-52; Dt 6:4-6; 7:5, 16, 25-26; Jdg 2:3; 17:6; 21:25; 1 Sm 8:5; 1 Kgs 3:1-2; 14:23; 2 Kgs 17:7-41; Ps 62:1-6; 83:18; Prv 3:5-6; Isa 37:16, 20; 44:24; Jer 17:2-3, 10-14, 30; 32:34; Ez 20; Hos 4:11-19; Mal 1:6-14; 2:9; Mk 2:7; 10:18; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16-18)

 

These verses at the end of the chapter, like vss. 2-3 at the beginning, show the purpose of the injunctions within it.  That purpose is the purity of Israelite worship, uncontaminated by idolatry and idolatrous practices.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2. 417)

 

Curiosity is an enormous challenge to godly living.  With Israel, the dangers of curiosity lay in wanting to know more about the Canaanite gods.  Moses insisted that Israel not even ask how the people of the land went about serving their gods, because if they did they would be tempted to do the same.  Their curiosity would lead to their being ensnared by the paganism they were supposed to be displacing.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 162)

 

To remove the names of Canaan’s gods was to remove their presence and their power, just as the putting of Yahweh’s name in a place was to fill it with his availability and his nearness.  But they could not coexist.  The names of other gods must be deleted, destroyed, along with all their paraphernalia.  The change must be radical.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 159)

 

The lack of a place-name thus serves only to underline the importance of the name installed there–Yahweh’s name.  Scholars’ preoccupation with “the place” in geographical terms through linking it to a specific historical program of centralization in Jerusalem has inverted the priority of the text, which is concerned not so much with the location of the place as with its election by Yahweh.  What matters is not “where?” but “who?”  Likewise, the Canaanite sanctuaries were to be destroyed, not because of where they were or because they were many but because of their names, i.e., whose they were.  Whatever human name the place may come to have will be less important than the name that God will have put there.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 163)

 

Worship must be designed to please the object of worship, not the worshipers.  If Moses had to call a stop to the Israelites of his day worshiping in any way they pleased (v. 8), the same is true today.  In the end, the divine verdict on our worship is the only verdict that matters.  True worship involves an audience with the divine King and transpires in God’s place by God’s invitation on God’s terms.  Contrary to some, ultimately acceptable forms and styles of worship are not determined by worshipers, let alone the unregenerate or marginally spiritual.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 313-4)

 

All Canaanite worship sites are to be destroyed (7:5).  The Covenant Code says as much in Ex 23:24, and the Priestly writer the same in Nm 33:50-52.  As things turned out, after the sites were destroyed Yahweh worship was often carried out on the same location (Jdg 6:26; 1 Kgs 18:23-35).  Ex 34:11-16 expressed the concern that Yahweh worship might coexist with indigenous Canaanite worship, and there is evidence aplenty, both in the Bible and from archaeological excavations, that this did, in fact, take place (Jer 17:2-3a).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 423)

 

Fertility rites were carried out on hills, under spreading trees, and in ancient religion generally these rites included sex-related activities (Hos 4:13).  Yahweh worship too, both early and late, occurred on mountains and hills (Gn 12:6-8; Dt 11:30).  The prophets heaped scorn on high-place worship (Hos 4:13; Jer 3:23; 17:2-3; Ezek 6:3-4), with the result that high places were abolished in the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah (2 Kgs 18:4, 22[=Isa 36:7]; 23:8, 13, 15).  Jeremiah would later lament that the mountains are what led Israel astray (Jer 50:6).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 423)

 

Depravity is man’s own way.  ( Chuck Swindoll James Series, “How Fights Are Started and Stopped”)

 

C.S. Lewis once said that hell is getting your way for all of eternity. (Steve Brown; No Condemnation”  Key Life Network April-June 2000, 2)

 

Israel was not to worship the Lord in the way or with the means that the inhabitants of Canaan worshiped their gods (vv. 4, 30-31).  Neither were they to be as free as they had been in the desert wanderings (vv. 8-9).  Everyone doing “as he sees fit” (v. 8) indicates that the camp life of the desert years was less controlled than the settled life in Canaan under the regimen of the covenant-treaty stipulations was to be.  The messages of Deuteronomy were needed as preparation for that new life to come.  They emphasize particularly those aspects of the commands of God that were most important in Moses’ sight as he was led by divine revelation.  The basic elements of love and obedience toward God and concern for others are still the requirements for a new life in Christ (Mt 22:37-39; 1 Cor 13; Heb 5:9).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 93)

 

Whatever else “in spirit and in truth” means, worship “in spirit” involves worship driven by the regenerating and animating work of the Spirit of God.  Worship “in truth” is worship with integrity–participation in actions that please God and arise out of lives that please him as well.  As Stephen declared in Acts 7:47-50, Israel’s spiritual pilgrimage took a wrong turn when they lost sight of the divine Resident and became preoccupied with his earthly residence.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 314)

 

If you put any conditions on your service to Christ (“I will serve you if”) then you are not really serving Christ at all but it is yourself you are serving.  —Tim Keller

 

For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality; and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue.  For the modern man, the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.  (C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man)

 

When the serpent came and said, ‘eat the tree and you will be as god’. . . . What did he mean by that? At first look it is kind of mystical.  What does that mean if he eats the tree he’ll be as god, does that mean there is god-juice in the tree? That if you eat the fruit you will get god-juice in you?

No, no.  It is much simpler than that.  Much more mundane.  Much less mystical.   If you decide what is right or wrong for you, rather than following God’s Word; you are de facto putting yourself in the place of God.  The serpent is totally right!”  (Tim Keller message “Reconciliation”)

 

On the other hand, trusting God doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our “homework.”  Prv 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (italics added).

Implicit in the idea of not leaning on “your own understanding” is that you have already gained an understanding on which you are now told not to rely!  Trusting God isn’t flying blind.  Gain an understanding–know your product, study the economic trends, learn the likes and dislikes of your customers, improve your skills.  But after you’ve done all that, don’t depend on the “strength” of what you know, but on God. (Patrick Morely,; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 48)

 

This does not mean that Israel’s worship was never true worship or that it was never driven by the Spirit; rather, it means that the vision of spiritual and true worship envisioned by Moses will be recovered because once again worshipers will focus on the object of worship–Yahweh incarnate in Christ–rather than the place itself.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 313)

 

Chapter 12 is concerned with Israel’s exclusive loyalty to Yahweh in its worship and thus reflects the first two Decalogue commandments.  The chapter also echoes Ex 20:22-26 in its concern for the legitimacy of the worship of Yahweh and Lv 18:3 in its concern for the distinctiveness of Israel from the nations (notice the key word in common with Dt 12:4 and 31: “you shall not do as they do”; NIV you must not worship).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 159)

 

God warned Israel, “If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it” (Ex 20:25).  To defile something is to make it ordinary.  God insists that any approach crafted by human ingenuity will produce a worship system just like all the pagan systems in the world.  In other words, it will be common or profane–just like everyone else’s paganism.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 164)

 

To an observer any cultic action might appear pious, but when the sacrificial animal is defective, seemingly correct worship is rejected by Yahweh.  This warning represents the obverse of 15:29-21.  It is not merely a matter of giving the best; perfect specimens speak of wholeness.  The characterization of blemished sacrifice as a “detestable [thing]” of Yahweh places such worship in the same category as overtly pagan actions (cf. 7:26; 12:31; 18:9; 20:18).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 404-5)

 

Reflecting on the ethnic make-up of congregations, authorities on worship have often said that the worship hour on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.  Whereas in the past the comment lamented the division of God’s people on ethnic and racial grounds, to these fractures in recent times we have added segregation based on age and maturity.  When churches split their services on the basis of race or age or musical tastes, the enemy has achieved his goal–a house divided.  Worshipers who are overwhelmed by their own unworthiness on the one hand and the grace of God on the other will be more concerned about worship that pleases him than about pleasing themselves.  If God’s people are united about anything, it should be about the joy and privilege of worshiping him–together.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 314)

 

On the front end, verses 2-4 say that all vestiges of Canaanite worship must be destroyed.  On the back end verses 29-32 say that they must have nothing to do with any form of Canaanite worship.  Verses 4 and 31a say the same thing:  “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way”; or putting it more literally, “You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God (NASB).  The key to this passage is that because the Israelites are God’s holy people, they are to be different from the Canaanites.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 365)

 

There were many gods with different names in Canaan.  Once their shrines have been destroyed, there will only be God’s place of worship with only his name.  We are reminded how much this grates against the pluralistic mood of the day.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 367-8)

 

In Deuteronomy the command not to imitate the Canaanites is strongly associated both with the command to destroy them and with the “abhorrent” things they do, particularly child sacrifice (cf. The sequence 7:2-4; 12:4, 30-31; 18:9-10; 20:17-18).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 229)

 

Israel was told that if it made such things, it would soon perish from the land it was about to possess (4:25-26).  But it did so anyway (Isa 10:10), and so we hear the prophets crying out against these lifeless wonders in their denunciation of Israelite and Judahite worship (Hos 11:3; Mic 5:12[13]).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 425)

 

The placing of a sacred pole beside the altar of God was a particular offence against the true worship of Yahweh; the act is attributed in Kings to Manasseh, who appears there as the most flagrant apostate (2 Kgs 21:7; cf. 23:6).  Yahweh’s “hatred” of these symbols of the worship of other gods is echoed in the prophets’ critique of false worship (Isa 1:14; Amos 5:21).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 289)

 

The religious associations of a place of worship went deep; the logic of this command is, then, that the only sure way to protect Israel from sliding into the worship of the gods of the land was to eradicate the physical remains of it, with their long and powerful memories.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 219)

 

Right practice in worship had an important ingredient of “wholeness,” which applied to priests as well as to the animals they offered (Lv 21:16-23).  The point of the command, therefore, is not simply “giving one’s best” to God (though that may be Malachi’s point); the concept is strictly cultic, namely that wholeness is appropriate to the holy sphere.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 289)

 

This text declares that Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth, the God of Israel, and Redeemer of humankind, who appeared among us as the divine incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, is the only legitimate object of worship.  Whether they be the man-made forms like those created by ancient Canaanites or the cleverly devised idols of moderns, all other objects of worship are not only illegitimate; they are abominable.  As envisioned here, true worship perceives God alone as the divine host, with redeemed human beings as his guests.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 313)

 

For pluralism, the possibility of one true revelation by one true God known by one saving name through one particular people is a priority of God’s saving purpose behind the particularity of Israel’s election, pluralists reject the very possibility of such a view of truth and salvation as being (a) chauvinistic and/or imperialistic and (b) incompatible with their epistemology of cultural and historical relativism.  (That is, pluralists insist that truth cannot be known absolutely within any single cultural or historical context; all is relative and partial.  They do not tell us, however, on what privileged epistemological grounds they themselves are able to make this intrinsically absolutist claim.) . . . For the pluralist, then, all of the names of deity in the religions of humanity have some validity, but, equally, none of them is uniquely or absolutely the real name of final revelation of the ultimate divine reality.  No one name can arrogate to itself the right to deny, let alone destroy, the other names.  Pluralism, therefore, is the reverse of our text.  Multiple names and places are to be affirmed in the great project of religio-cultural pluralism.  The only name to be rejected would be any name that refused to accept its own relativity and to coexist happily with the others.  There is, then, an unavoidable clash between the pluralist agenda and the agenda of this biblical text.  According to Deuteronomy, there are some divine names that cannot be tolerated alongside the name of Yahweh.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 161)

 

Why would a triune God create a world?  If he were a uni-personal God, you might say, “Well, he created the world so he can have beings who give him worshipful love, and that would give him joy.”  But the triune God already had that–and he received love within himself in a far purer, more powerful form than we human beings can ever give him.  So why would he create us?  There’s only one answer.  He must have created us not to get joy but to give it.   He must have created us to invite us into the dance, to say:  If you glorify me, if you center your entire life on me, if you find me beautiful for who I am in myself, then you will step into the dance, which is what you are made for.  You are made not just to believe in me or to be spiritual in some general way, not just to pray and get a bit of inspiration when things are tough.  You are made to center everything in your life on me, to think of everything in terms of your relationship to me.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 9-10)

 

 “You give up nothing when you give up everything because you gain the whole world.”   (Tim Keller; “Parable of the Pearl: On Priorities” Mt 13:44-46).

 

If you have any conditions to your obedience to Jesus then Jesus is not your King and you are not in the Kingdom.  Because the thing that is the basis of your “if” or “when” of your salvation is your salvation and King.  You cannot say “I’ll follow you Jesus if . . . or “I’ll follow you Jesus when . . .” because the thing that is the “if” or “when” is your king and Lord . . . not Jesus.  – Keith Porter after listening to Tim Keller

 

II-  When we follow God exclusively we can rejoice.  (Dt 12:7, 12, 18-19, see also: Lv 23:40; Dt 14:26; 16:11, 14; 26:11; 27:7; Neh 9:8-11; Ps 95:1-5; Prv 3:5-6; Isa 30:29; 55:8; Jer 31; Mal 3:6-15; Mt 5:8; Acts 14:17; 1 Tm 4:3-5; 6:6-19 

 

The theme of “rejoicing before the LORD” is characteristic of Deuteronomy (cf. 14:26; 16:11, 14; 26:11; 27:7; and Lv 23:40).  Chapter 8 envisages a people enjoying the bounty of the land to such an extent that they would be in danger of forgetting the Lord in their satiety and pride.  Here, a way to prevent that danger is to regularly do some of their eating and rejoicing specifically in the presence of Yahweh, so that there could be no mistaking where the bounty came from (because the LORD your God, and no fertility god or goddess, has blessed you, v. 7).

The emphasis on feasting and joy in the worship of Israel is striking.  The idea of a God who somehow disapproves of human enjoyment of material things is far removed from these texts.  Eating and rejoicing are not just permitted; they are commanded!  Furthermore, they are to permeate the whole of life (in everything you have put your hand to, v. 7).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 165)

 

Moses again commanded Israel to rejoice before the LORD.  This expression appears often in Deuteronomy (cp. 14:26; 16:11, 14; 26:11; 27:7) but only once elsewhere (Lv 23:40).  Nonetheless, rejoicing is a central part of worship in Scripture.  Such rejoicing was to be universal in Israel.  The nation would engage in communal rejoicing at God’s appointed intervals.  The entire family was expected to participate:  sons and daughters,. . . menservants and maidservants.  In the midst of this celebration, the Levites, who had no allotment of property, were not to be forgotten.  They were to take part in the festivities even though they were not property owners, living as the did on the food provided by Israel’s sacrifices.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 161)

 

The command to eat and rejoice in the presence of Yahweh follows hard on the heels of the command to destroy the phallic and fertility symbols of Canaanite religion in which cultic sex played such a role.  All of that was excluded from Israel’s worship, which had to be not. . . in their way (v. 4).  However, not having orgies does not mean not having fun.  Canaanite depravity was to be replaced by Israelite purity, but Israelites could still enjoy their worship, physically, and emotionally: eat and rejoice!  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 165)

 

The importance of joy is underlined by the fact that it is referred to twice more in this chapter in connection with the meals accompanying sacrifices and offerings (12:12, 18).  Giving is one of the happiest things about Christianity.  There is great joy in divesting ourselves of earthly encumbrances by giving to the needy and for God’s work.  Paul says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 369)

 

The rejoicing of Israel is a response to the promised blessings, now realized, in that everything the people do is successful.  The feasting is in itself a participation in the blessings given.  Israel at worship, in obedience, togetherness, prosperity and joyful feasting, is a cameo picture of the covenant people in active and harmonious relationship with God.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 223)

 

When you were baptized you said, “I’m coming.”  But have you come?   When you joined the church, you said, “I’m coming.”  But have you come?   Every time you take the Lord’s Supper you are receiving an invitation and you are making a reservation. “I’m coming.”  But have you come?   But, what does it mean to come?   Are you sitting down at the King’s table?  Are you rejoicing in His dainties?   Are you rejoicing in His love?   Are you experiencing it?   Are you rejoicing in Him with all your heart?     (Tim Keller; Merit or Mercy, Mt 22:1-14)

 

Moses views worship as the joyful and celebrative response of everyone in the community to Yahweh’s invitation to his presence.  He seems to have seized on Lv 23:40, which contains the only occurrence of a verb for joy or celebration in the Sinai legislation and made it normative for any worship that transpires before Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 308)

 

The close connection between right behavior and enjoying the blessings of being Yahweh’s people is also expressed syntactically:  “[you will have] well-being, because you do what is good and right.”  The “because” hides a condition, yet “if” would be too strong; the point is to express a correlation within a synthetic picture composed of doing good and right and experiencing the blessing of being Yahweh’s people (cf. 6:24-25).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 228)

 

20-28.  The previous instructions about the eating of meat are repeated in different words so that the meaning may be perfectly clear.  One may slaughter and eat meat at home as often and as much as he desires, just as he would eat game, provided that the blood and the holy dues are not consumed.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2. 415-6)

 

In the worship of God, eating and rejoicing are close partners.  In both the OT and the NT, the central act of redemption is a sacramental meal.  In Hebrew Scripture, the meal is the Passover (Ex 12); in the NT, it is the Lord’s supper.  With the exception of the Day of Atonement, Israel’s festivals generally included food as part of the event.  Many of the sacrifices, in fact, involved killing an animal, a portion of which was offered in fire to God.  Another portion was given to the officiating priest, and the rest was given to the worshiper to be enjoyed by him and his family together before the Lord.

More than anything else, however, it was joy that God sought in worship. The believer was to appear before the Lord as one who was satisfied in the wonder and caregiving of his God.  The basis of the joy was the fact that the Lord had blessed the worshiper and that he was the kind of God who blessed people.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 159-60)

 

The connection between worship and feasting is not in itself surprising (cf. Ex 24:11 for a classic example), and, as we have noted, animal sacrifice did not always mean the complete destruction of an animal, for some of it was often kept for consummation by the offerers.   However, this regular portrayal of the official worship as a tremendous social event is a peculiarity of Deuteronomy (cf. 12:12; 14:26).  The significance of “with your households” is that Israel is pictured as a community together in its worship of Yahweh.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 223)

 

The gazelle and the deer are “clean” game animals (Dt 14:5), that is, they may be eaten subject to the restriction regarding the disposal of blood (Lv 17:13), and do not fall under sacrificial regulations.  The profane slaughter of animals suitable for sacrifice is thus put on a par with animals that may be killed in hunting.  The phrase “as much as the LORD your God has blessed you with” shows that the concern of the permission is to ensure that the people may enjoy the gift of the land fully; whether participating in sacrificial meals at the sanctuary, or eating in their towns, they are enjoying the blessings of Yahweh.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 226)

 

III-  All ya’alls greatest freedom, joy and life comes when all ya’all seek God exclusively.  (Dt 12:15-28 especially vss 25 &28; Dt 6:24-25; 8:3; 30:15-20; 32:47; Ps 1; Isa 64:4; Amos 4:4-5:5; Mal 4:1-6; Mt 6:33; 12:5-6; 4:19-26; 10:10; Acts 2:42-46; 7:44-50; Rom 6:18-22; 8:2;  1 Cor 2:9; Gal 5:1, 13; Col 1:22; Heb 9:15; 1 Pt 2:16)

 

Biblical religion is truly holistic.  We don’t put worship and pleasurable experiences into different compartments.  Just as our worship is done as an expression of our devotion to God, so are our feasting and partying and playing.  We don’t break God’s principles in any of these areas–in fact, we enjoy them fully with God as our companion.  The peace of shalom that God gives us involves a harmony of all aspects of life.  When our conscience does not contradict our pleasure we have pure pleasure.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 373)

 

Why would God insist on one central worship place?  Israelites would observe the major festivals of its worship calendar there, offer sacrifices there, travel there annually from their homes all over the land.  Such a centralized worship life would unify the people and keep them focused on God’s purpose for them as his covenant people.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 110)

 

God intended man to live by trusting Him instead of making his own choices.  Thus, when man acquired freedom of choice he acquired a curse.  True freedom is serving God and trusting in Him.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths” (Prv 3:5, 6).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Discipline, 119)

 

I said that every Discipline has its corresponding freedom.  What freedom corresponds to submission?  It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.  The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today.  People will spend weeks, months, even years in a perpetual stew because some little thing did not go as they wished.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 111)

 

In submission we are at least free to value other people.  Their dreams and plans become important to us.  We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom–the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others.  For the first time we can love people unconditionally.  We have given up the right to demand that they return our love.  No longer do we feel that we have to be treated in a certain way.  We rejoice in their successes.  We feel genuine sorrow in their failures.  It is of little consequence that our plans are frustrated if their plans succeed.  We discover that it is far better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 112)

 

Moses repeated the Lord’s prohibition, first stated in Lv 17:14, against eating the blood from an animal.  Life was in the blood, and life is a mystery only God can control.  Pouring the blood back onto the ground was a way of recognizing that life came from God and was being given back to him.  By commanding that the blood be poured on the ground, God also may have wanted to distinguish Israel’s worship from the rituals of their pagan neighbors, who believed that if they drank the blood they could preserve or increase this mysterious life force in themselves.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 115)

 

We also need to be redeemed and liberated from what the Bible would call false masters.

If, and we all do, if you feel the need to prove yourself, because we have this sense (as Kaufka said of being a sinner) we turn to our job, we turn to academia, some of us were good students, some of us were going to try and be professors, we’re going to be scholars, some of us are going to go into career and we’re going to make money, or have professional success.  Some of us go into relationships, and if this person loves me and I have a family.  But, if we are looking to those things as our significance and security; they are not just a job, not just a school, they are not just a family; then they become a master.

Here is what a slave master is.  A slave master is someone who has no boundaries and someone who beats you up if you fail.  You see we often say, “O my boss who is here in New York City is a slave master.  Well, you don’t know what a slave master is.  A slave master has no boundaries and they can do anything they want to and they do.  And when you fail a little bit, they beat you.

And how do you know whether your family, how do you know whether your career, how do you know whether your school, is a slave master or just a family, a career or a school?  The answer is . . . You can’t say no to them.  They are slave masters.  You work too hard.  You can’t stop them.  If you are enslaved in a relationship that means you can’t say no. You can’t walk away.   You’ve got to have them.  They are your significance, your self, your security.  Same thing with making money.  Same thing with your career.

This isn’t just a job, not just money, this isn’t just school, this isn’t just a relationship; they are slave masters.  And if you don’t live up . . .  They beat you.  (Tim Keller message, “By the Blood of Jesus”)

 

We need to warn people constantly about the god of materialism, just as the Bible warns us about the dangers of “the love of money” (1 Tm 6:10; Heb 13:5), about “the deceitfulness of riches” (Mk 4:19), and about “how difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:23-31).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 439)

 

Once again a stern warning–this time thice-repeated–that blood must not be eaten, since it embodies the life of the animal; it is sacred.  People are given another reason not to eat the blood:  that it go well for them and their children when they do what is right in the eyes of Yahweh.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 442)

 

We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.  Why do we fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly?  Of course, the general answer is “because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself.  We would not lie unless we first had made something—human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage—more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God.  The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 166)

 

Although we don’t live in a theocracy, God still wants us to understand how deadly false worship is to our faith.  By being unfaithful to God’s Word, we risk losing the forgiveness, peace of conscience, and eternal life the Savior gives us.  That’s why sins of doctrine are more deadly than sins of lifestyle.  If God’s Word remains true for us, we have the tools to correct the shortcomings in our Christian lives.  But if we lose the truth of the Word, we forfeit the only power which can confront our sin, assure us of our Lord’s forgiveness, and provide the spiritual strength to change our lives.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 154)

 

We do not possess a full, objective description of Canaanite religious practices, but we know at least they tended to promote sexual immorality, and that–if only rarely–they included human sacrifice (see v. 31).  Since in both Israelite and Canaanite worship animals were sacrificed, one can readily see how ordinary folk might confuse the two faiths and drift unawares into Canaanite worship practices.  It was chiefly in order to safeguard against any corruption of the true faith that the law of the single sanctuary was decreed.  It was much easier to regulate religious practices in one central shrine, which was under the control of the royal court or the senior priest, than in a multitude of places throughout the land.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 81)

 

Deuteronomy looks ahead to the Israelites living throughout the land in scattered settlements (in any of your towns, v. 15; cf. v. 20).  Then, unlike the Israel of the wilderness camped around the tabernacle, many would live at a distance from Yahweh’s sanctuary.  In such circumstances, to insist that no meat be eaten except that which had been sacrificed at the sanctuary would consign the majority of the population to a vegetarian diet supplemented by game birds or animals caught by hunting.  Thus, the rules laid down here allow animals from the herds and flocks (v. 21–i.e., animals eligible for sacrifice) to be slaughtered and eaten with no sacrificial requirements (vv. 15, 20).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 166-7)

 

It was not God’s intent to restrict Israel’s diet to vegetable or grain products.  Once the land was settled and God had enlarged Israel’s territory, they could eat all the meat they wanted.  God merely insisted that they observe his restrictions against eating the blood of the animal.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 162)

 

Charles Bradlaugh, a well-known skeptic, once issued a debate challenge to H. P. Hughes, a British preacher.  Hughes, who ran a downtown rescue mission in London, accepted with one condition.  He challenged Bradlaugh to show the fruit of the message he advocated.  Hughes explained that he planned to bring with him one hundred men and women who would give testimony to what had happened in their personal lives since they had been believers in Jesus Christ.  The entire group would be composed of people who had once been drains on society, having been either involved in destructive lifestyles or coming from dysfunctional and/or poverty-stricken homes.  He went on to explain to Bradlaugh that his one hundred friends would be willing to submit to cross-examination so that the validity of their testimony could be explored.  Hughes challenged Bradlaugh to bring his own groups of people, those whose lives had been changed by their lack of faith.

True to his word, at the appointed time Hughes arrived with his one hundred friends.  Bradlaugh never showed up, so Hughes used the occasion as a testimony meeting.  A number of people in the audience who had come to hear a debate heard of the living reality of the God of the Bible, and many of them were converted.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 163)

 

The centrality of worship also had political and social benefits in unifying the people.  While the one place the Lord would choose might vary from time to time (as it did), the tendency of the directive was toward stability and unification.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 93)

 

The “place” is not a royal-sacral complex in which the people’s right of approach is relativized or mediated.  The space in Dt 12 belongs to Yahweh and to Israel.  The people itself, in its households, gathers before Yahweh.  This integrity of the people is no light or sentimental thing, but makes demands.  It involves the inclusion of slaves, or servants, in the big picture of the people of God, as well as the Levites, who have no substance of their own.  (The picture is filled out in 14:29, to include widows, orphans and resident aliens).  Those who, in terms of the social structure of Israel, have no power, and particularly no land, of their own, are, even so, fully part of the “landed”, holy people of God.  When Israel is truly itself, in worship, it can brook no division of self-interest within it.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 231)

 

The one proviso regarding eating of nonsacrificial meat, repeated emphatically in vv. 23-25 and often in the Pentateuch (15:23; Gn 9:4; Lv 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:109-14; 19:26).  In the NT period, eating blood was an issue at the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15), where a decision was reached that Gentiles should refrain from eating blood (Acts 15:20).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 435)

 

We can only enjoy freedom, joy and life in our families when we put God first.

We can only enjoy freedom, joy and life in our work when we put God first.

We can only enjoy freedom, joy and life with our communities when we put God first.

We can only enjoy freedom, joy and life in passions when we put God first.

We can only enjoy freedom, joy and life in our finances when we put God first.

We can only enjoy freedom, joy and life in our existence when we put God first.

Otherwise we will become a slave to that in which we try to find our salvation.

 

Says Keller, “Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their romances to give their lives meaning, to justify and save them, to give them what they should be looking for from God.  This idolatry leads to anxiety, obsessiveness, envy, and resentment.  I have found that when you describe their lives in terms of idolatry, postmodern people do not give much resistance.  Then Christ and his salvation can be presented not (at this point) so much as their only hope for forgiveness, but as their only hope for freedom.  (Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace, 80)

 

 

By definition, to forget God is to assume the place of God in your life and the world.  Now, what is so bad about that?  Oh my goodness, think about that for a second.  What do you think worry is?  Let me tell you what worry is.   Worry is a frustrated aspiration to omniscience.  Worry is saying exactly what James says we cannot say.  You are eaten up with worry to the degree you say, “I know.  I know what tomorrow holds.  I know what is right.  I know what has to happen.  I know how history has to go.  I know.  Now if you say that, you will be eaten up with worry because you are aspiring to omniscience.  (Tim Keller; sermon entitled Worry)

 

Hell = Your life for mine

Heaven = My life for yours  (Tim Keller)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who cares deeply about our enjoying life in all of its abundance.  He wants us to live lives filled with joy; if we would only trust Him and follow His lead.

 

“My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms.  Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.  There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.

We have a name for those who try to praise when they have no pleasure in the object.  We call them hypocrites.” (John Piper; Desiring God, 19)

 

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.  It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose–and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.  –William Temple

 

True worship takes place according to God’s specifications or not at all.  Sometimes the first priority in participating in true worship is a destruction of false forms of worship.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 166)

 

God desires worshipers who are in tune with him.  — Donald Guthrie

 

Gospel Application:  The life and death of Jesus proved to us that our way leads to ultimate death and His way leads to ultimate life(Prv 14:12; 16:25; Isa 55:6; Jn 3:16-36; 5:21; 6:40; 11:25; 1 Cor 15:22)

 

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake.  The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.”  Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness.  This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace.  Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 131)

 

In the wider canonical context, this valuing of a place because of Yahweh’s choice and presence, rather than because of its location, sows the seeds for the NT’s transference of the significance of the place of worship.  The temple gives way to the person of Jesus Christ as the focus of worship in the messianic age (cf. Jn 4:19-26; Acts 7:44-50; and Davies, Land).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 163)

 

Spiritual ChallengeDie daily to our self and our own agenda.  Allow Jesus, the greatest temple, to set our agenda and us as secondary temples(Jn 2:19-21; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16-17)

 

There will be different central places of worship over time until they settle on Jerusalem, but when they move to a new place the tabernacle and the ark would move to the new place.  Now Christ has come and declared that there will no longer be a centralized place of worship of God but that the key to worshiping him is doing so “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:21-24).  We have now become God’s temple because the Holy Spirit dwells in us (2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:14-22).  Talking about the geographical location of the tabernacle and the ark seems not to be relevant to us.  However, the principle of God’s holiness and the awe that should accompany worship that was powerfully demonstrated in the worship at the tabernacle still remains unchanged.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 368)

 

God repeatedly expresses his pleasure with and delight in those who do exactly what he says.  In Isa 66:1-4 true religion (“the life of God in the soul of man”) is characterized by one “who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” in contrast to these who choose their own way.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 58)

 

So what is a Christian worldview?  Simply put, there is a living God, and He has revealed himself in Scripture.  Therefore as Christians, we believe that we can find absolute truth from the Bible, regardless of what is politically correct, regardless of what we feel is right or not right.  We base our beliefs on what the Bible teaches.  That is what it means to have a Christian worldview.  —Greg Laurie

 

Israel is to obey these laws not in order to become holy; rather, she is to obey them because she is holy.  The observance of law is a byproduct of holiness, not a means of attaining holiness.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 171)

 

Christianity, rightly understood, is utterly unlike religion that man invents.  It is so completely contrary to the way man does things that it must have come from God.  Take Christmas, for example; only God could have thought of that.  When man invents a super being, he comes up with a Superman, or a Captain Marvel.  God gives the world a baby.  — Richard Halverson

 

Fourteen centuries after Moses, alongside a well at Sychar, a Samaritan woman asked Jesus where the truly proper worship place was.  Was it at the nearby Samaritan sanctuary at Mt. Gerizim, she asked, or was it, as the Jews said, at Jerusalem?  Her question reveals how significant Moses’ laws were considered in later Israelite history.  Jesus’ answer, however, shows that the heart of worship isn’t in the location but in the worshiper.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 111)

 

So What?:  To follow Christ is to pursue life.  To follow self is to pursue death.  Choose life!

JESUS:

The ONLY WAY

 

 

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