Deuteronomy 12 & Psalms 97-98

Deuteronomy 12

    “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. But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, but at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.

    “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake. Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

    “When the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. If the place that the LORD your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire. Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat of it. The unclean and the clean alike may eat of it. Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. You shall not eat it, that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD. But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the LORD will choose, and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, but the flesh you may eat. Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

    “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

    “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

(Deuteronomy 12 ESV)


Psalm 97

    The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
        let the many coastlands be glad!
    Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
        righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
    Fire goes before him
        and burns up his adversaries all around.
    His lightnings light up the world;
        the earth sees and trembles.
    The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
        before the Lord of all the earth.
    
    The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
        and all the peoples see his glory.
    All worshipers of images are put to shame,
        who make their boast in worthless idols;
        worship him, all you gods!
    
    Zion hears and is glad,
        and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
        because of your judgments, O LORD.
    For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth;
        you are exalted far above all gods.
    
    O you who love the LORD, hate evil!
        He preserves the lives of his saints;
        he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
    Light is sown for the righteous,
        and joy for the upright in heart.
    Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
        and give thanks to his holy name!

(Psalm 97 ESV)


Psalm 98

A Psalm.

    Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
        for he has done marvelous things!
    His right hand and his holy arm
        have worked salvation for him.
    The LORD has made known his salvation;
        he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
    He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
        to the house of Israel.
    All the ends of the earth have seen
        the salvation of our God.
    
    Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
        break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
    Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
        with the lyre and the sound of melody!
    With trumpets and the sound of the horn
        make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
    
    Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
        the world and those who dwell in it!
    Let the rivers clap their hands;
        let the hills sing for joy together
    before the LORD, for he comes
        to judge the earth.
    He will judge the world with righteousness,
        and the peoples with equity.

(Psalm 98 ESV)


Something to Consider

Deuteronomy 12: Throughout the previous seven chapters, Moses has provided very general "statutes and rules" that the Israelites are expected to uphold upon obtaining their inheritance of the Promised Land. Now, beginning in chapter twelve, Moses begins to provide the more detailed and specific "statutes and rules" that the Israelites are to observe in the new land. These more specific stipulations seem to follow the order of the more general Ten Commandments, and therefore the opening chapter of this section deals with the proper worship of God and having no other gods besides Him.

The Israelites are strictly commanded to destroy all areas of worship used for pagan practices and are prohibited from using these places or any pagan paraphernalia for their worship of God. Moses writes,

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.

The place that God would choose would be the place in which His presence would dwell, and He would reign as King over all His people. That place would be the place where one could reverently seek God and ultimately find Him. Jerusalem and its Temple would eventually be that place. 

However, when Christ came into the world He was clear that "neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father... But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him" (John 4). Not only that, after leaving the Temple in Jerusalem for the final time before His death, Christ declares, "See, your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23). 

Why could Christ say such things in light of what we read here in Deuteronomy?

Because Christ is the ultimate Temple and dwelling place of God's presence. "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power" (Hebrews 1). Christ declared, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14). The access the Israelites were given to God in that one place that He would choose is now granted to everyone and everywhere in that one person Jesus Christ.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5)