Deuteronomy Chapter Twelve
The Sydney evangelist John Chapman (1930-2012) had a wonderful way of making profound truths simple and memorable. He told of being offered a cup of white tea with two sugars when he preferred black coffee with no sugar. He said the person had set out to please him but had not found out what actually would please him. In the same way he said people assume God will be happy with what they offer Him but don’t try to find out what that is.
In Deuteronomy 12 we move beyond the introductory chapters (1-4) and the covenant chapters (5-11) to the lifestyle chapters (12-26). And the first chapter (12) deals with the worship of God and what actually pleases Him – and what He demands.
It seems very likely that chapters 12-26 unpack the 10 commandments in a rough sort of way. So chapter 12 is about worshipping God, chapter 13 is about idolatry, chapter 14 is about being God’s distinctive people (who take His Name), chapters 15-16 are about feasts (like sabbath feasts), chapters 17-18 authority figures (no longer parents), chapters 19-21 relate to killing, chapters 22-24 relate to marriage and chapters 25-26 (roughly) cover honesty, truth and greed.
Chapter 12 begins with God’s call to (negatively) remove the idols in order to (positively) worship the Lord (12:1-3). Is it not sadly true that many who seem to begin the Christian life never really repent and so they give up, having never begun the Life Christ offers? Is it not sadly true that we who belong to Christ try to walk two roads only to find it’s impossible? The Lord sets out these wise principles of removing rivals (12:2), going to the “place” He decides (12:5) and offering the “sacrifices” He insists on (12:6).
Although David would eventually claim Jerusalem as the place for the Temple, this “place” that the Lord refers to in 12:5 simply means where He says. And the sacrifices are to be the ones He chooses. But notice the result of this worshipping Him in His way is so the people will “rejoice in everything” (12:7) because His way is best. So, they are not to follow the “everyone doing as they see fit” method (12:8) but are to take the worship of Him seriously (and no-one else) in the place He decides with the sacrifices He decides.
This has huge implications for the world today. The world religions may be sincere and sacrificial – putting Christians to shame sometimes for their zeal – but the One God is to be worshipped in “Spirit and Truth” (John 4:24) otherwise there is no access or joy. The prophets of Baal were trying like crazy to get somewhere (1 Kings 18:28) but there was no god, no connection and no result. Jesus is the “Way” (John 14:6).
All the Old Testament religion was merely a signpost to Jesus who would come as the final temple (John 2:19), priest and sacrifice. If a person wants to know the true and living God, they must know that Jesus is the place and the offering. He is sufficient for the whole world. As Luther said once the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient for the sins of innumerable worlds. And when you come to Him you receive “life to the full” (John 10:10) – an echo of the “joy” in Deuteronomy 12:7.
We shouldn’t be surprised then that the rest of Chapter 12 is about feasting on all the meat God will provide. The blood is to be left because it’s the life (12:23) but the provision and protection will be plentiful. The Living God is the Loving God.
Heavenly Father, Thank-you for making the way to know You both clear and possible. Draw us to yourself in faithful and joyful devotion – for the sake of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.