In these next few chapters of Deuteronomy (12-18), Moses is telling the new generation of Israelites how to live holy lives. Basically, if they follow these commandments, these rules, these specific ways of worshiping, they will live happy and prosperous lives in the Promised Land. He’s reiterating the law that he told their parents, who lost their chance of living in the Promised Land because they did not trust God. They did not obey. They did not follow His direction.
I’ll summarize some parts that are repeats of Leviticus, which you can read on your own, but there are some important passages here like Moses’ prophecy of a coming prophet. Gee, who could that be? Let’s dig in…
Deuteronomy 12 – The Lord’s Chosen Place for Worship
“These are the decrees and regulations you must be careful to obey when you live in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must obey them as long as you live.
2 “When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods—high on the mountains, up on the hills, and under every green tree. 3 Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Completely erase the names of their gods!
4 “Do not worship the Lord your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods. 5 Rather, you must seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose from among all the tribes—the place where his name will be honored. 6 There you will bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, your offerings to fulfill a vow, your voluntary offerings, and your offerings of the firstborn animals of your herds and flocks. 7 There you and your families will feast in the presence of the Lord your God, and you will rejoice in all you have accomplished because the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 “Your pattern of worship will change. Today all of you are doing as you please, 9 because you have not yet arrived at the place of rest, the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession. 10 But you will soon cross the Jordan River and live in the land the Lord your God is giving you. When he gives you rest from all your enemies and you’re living safely in the land, 11 you must bring everything I command you—your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, and your offerings to fulfill a vow—to the designated place of worship, the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored.
12 “You must celebrate there in the presence of the Lord your God with your sons and daughters and all your servants. And remember to include the Levites who live in your towns, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings just anywhere you like. 14 You may do so only at the place the Lord will choose within one of your tribal territories. There you must offer your burnt offerings and do everything I command you.
15 “But you may butcher your animals and eat their meat in any town whenever you want. You may freely eat the animals with which the Lord your God blesses you. All of you, whether ceremonially clean or unclean, may eat that meat, just as you now eat gazelle and deer. 16 But you must not consume the blood. You must pour it out on the ground like water.
17 “But you may not eat your offerings in your hometown—neither the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, nor the firstborn of your flocks and herds, nor any offering to fulfill a vow, nor your voluntary offerings, nor your sacred offerings. 18 You must eat these in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose. Eat them there with your children, your servants, and the Levites who live in your towns, celebrating in the presence of the Lord your God in all you do. 19 And be very careful never to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
20 “When the Lord your God expands your territory as he has promised, and you have the urge to eat meat, you may freely eat meat whenever you want. 21 It might happen that the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—is a long way from your home. If so, you may butcher any of the cattle, sheep, or goats the Lord has given you, and you may freely eat the meat in your hometown, as I have commanded you. 22 Anyone, whether ceremonially clean or unclean, may eat that meat, just as you do now with gazelle and deer. 23 But never consume the blood, for the blood is the life, and you must not consume the lifeblood with the meat. 24 Instead, pour out the blood on the ground like water. 25 Do not consume the blood, so that all may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what pleases the Lord.
26 “Take your sacred gifts and your offerings given to fulfill a vow to the place the Lord chooses. 27 You must offer the meat and blood of your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God. The blood of your other sacrifices must be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.
29 “When the Lord your God goes ahead of you and destroys the nations and you drive them out and live in their land, 30 do not fall into the trap of following their customs and worshiping their gods. Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations worship their gods? I want to follow their example.’ 31 You must not worship the Lord your God the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods.
32 So be careful to obey all the commands I give you. You must not add anything to them or subtract anything from them.Deuteronomy 12 NLT
That last line is interesting because by the time we get to the first century, the “leaders of religious law” had added more and more rules, until it was ridiculous. Jesus called them out on this many times.
Another point to ponder is considering that the Hebrews were forbidden to eat or drink blood, what did Jesus’ disciples think when Jesus offered them the cup of wine saying, “This is my blood shed for you, take and drink”? (Last Supper)
You also might be thinking about how horrible it was that these pagans sacrificed their children to their gods. Well, think of today’s abortion. Is not a mother sacrificing her child for the good life free from responsibilities?
Deuteronomy 13 – A Warning Against Idolatry
You really get the feeling that God doesn’t like, nor will He tolerate idolatry….
“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, 2 and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— 3 do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. 4 Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. 5 The false prophets or visionaries who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the Lord your God, who redeemed you from slavery and brought you out of the land of Egypt. Since they try to lead you astray from the way the Lord your God commanded you to live, you must put them to death. In this way you will purge the evil from among you.
6 “Suppose someone secretly entices you—even your brother, your son or daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend—and says, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known. 7 They might suggest that you worship the gods of peoples who live nearby or who come from the ends of the earth. 8 But do not give in or listen. Have no pity, and do not spare or protect them. 9 You must put them to death! Strike the first blow yourself, and then all the people must join in. 10 Stone the guilty ones to death because they have tried to draw you away from the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear about it and be afraid, and no one will act so wickedly again.
12 “When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, you may hear 13 that scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods you have not known before. 14 In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find that the report is true and such a detestable act has been committed among you, 15 you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. 16 Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the open square and burn it. Burn the entire town as a burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. 17 Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a large nation, just as he swore to your ancestors.
18 “The Lord your God will be merciful only if you listen to his voice and keep all his commands that I am giving you today, doing what pleases him.Deuteronomy 13 NLT
Doing what pleases God. That’s all He wants from people. What are the idols in your life? What have you put before God in your life? What is more important than God in your life?
Let’s go on…
Here Moses covers…
- Animals that can and cannot be eaten. Jesus later shows Peter that all animals are good to eat because He wants the Gentiles to believe in Him also. However, the disciples taught that Christians should not eat food that was sacrificed to a pagan god. (1 Corinthians 8)
- Everyone must tithe — give 10% off the top — the best crops, the best animal with no blemishes. For us it’s the same. God doesn’t need our money! He wants to see your devotion to Him. He loves a cheerful giver!
- Cancelling of debts at the end of every 7th year — the Sabbath year.
- Setting any Hebrew servants free at the 7th year.
- The firstborn male animals must be sacrificed. This is a remembrance of the final plague that God put upon the Egyptians so that Pharaoh would let the Israelites go. Jesus was God’s only Son and He was sacrificed so that anyone who believes in Him would be set free from the slavery of sin and religion.
- They must celebrate the Passover every year to commemorate when God killed the firstborns of the Egyptians. He passed over the houses of the Hebrews because they had put the blood of a lamb on the door posts. Jesus was the final Passover!
- There were other annual festivals that they had to observe: Harvest, Weeks (Pentecost), and Tabernacles. Jesus fulfills them all except Tabernacles which is yet to come, when Jesus comes back and we can live on the earth with Him as our King!
Justice for the People
18 “Appoint judges and officials for yourselves from each of your tribes in all the towns the Lord your God is giving you. They must judge the people fairly. 19 You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly. 20 Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
21 “You must never set up a wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build for the Lord your God. 22 And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the Lord your God hates them.Deuteronomy 16:18-22 NLT
Back in the 80s, I worked on cruise ships for a while and traveled to Alaska and Canada. Many of the stops had areas with totem poles crafted by Native Americans. When I read about the Asherah poles, I think of them.
Idols and paganism are found all over the world. A friend of mine, our pastor’s wife, tells of some of the pagan worship of the dead in Taiwan, where they were missionaries for 20 years. The way she described it, reminded me of a video I had seen about the Mexican Day of the Dead (Nov. 1), which is tied to Halloween. It was eerily similar! Especially how they offered food to the dead spirits. Interestingly enough, the Day of the Dead is supported by the Catholic Church. That doesn’t surprise me, because the Roman Catholic Church puts Mary and dead saints above Jesus.
Remember how God feels about idols, idolatry and pagan worship… “The Lord your God hates them.”
When I mentioned the similarities to my friend, she said, that Satan is everywhere. See, anything that God hates, Satan will encourage. Worshiping anything besides the One True God — Jesus Christ — is Satanic! It’s your choice! Worship Christ or worship Satan! Run to Jesus!
“Never sacrifice sick or defective cattle, sheep, or goats to the Lord your God, for he detests such gifts.
2 “When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the Lord your God and violate the covenant. 3 For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. 4 When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. 6 But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. 7 The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people may join in. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you.Deuteronomy 17:1-7 NLT
- God wants the best gifts. That’s hard sometimes as the animals who are perfect sell for more money.
- Idolatry as well as astrology, and any of the occult is strictly forbidden. He considers it an evil act.
- After that, he details what happens when they go to court. It’s interesting because it’s an outline of our modern-day court system.
Guidelines for a King
14 “You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ 15 If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.
16 “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ 17 The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.
18 “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. 20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.Deuteronomy 17:14-20 NLT
Wow! That’s exactly what King Solomon did — took on many wives! (We’ll get to his story down the line.)
Here, Moses designates how the Levites — the priests — are to be paid with gifts. They won’t be owning or inheriting land. Read it here.
These next two parts are important.
A Call to Holy Living
9 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. 10 For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, 11 or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the Lord your God will drive them out ahead of you. 13 But you must be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the Lord your God forbids you to do such things.”
True and False Prophets
15 Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you yourselves requested of the Lord your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai. You said, ‘Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.’
17 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘What they have said is right. 18 I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. 19 I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. 20 But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’
21 “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ 22 If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.Deuteronomy 18:9-22 NLT (bold emphasis mine)
In Matthew 17 we find this fulfilled in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Moses and Elijah appeared, then a voice from above said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
Listen to Him!
It’s a command said by Moses and repeated by God Himself.
Check out what the folks at Spoken Gospel wrote about this chapter…
Jesus is our perfect judge. He takes no bribes, shows no partiality, always maintains justice, and his decisions are always perfect (Romans 2:11). He also is the only judge who justifies by taking our penalty on himself (Romans 3:26).
Jesus is our perfect king. He not only knew the law perfectly, he fulfilled the law perfectly (Matthew 5:17). So he does not sit on a throne enforcing the law on his people but left his throne to have the law’s penalty enforced on himself (Galatians 3:13). Then, like a good king, he leads us to follow his law as citizens of his kingdom (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is our perfect priest. Whereas Israel’s priests were supported by the offerings given by the people, Jesus provided his own sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12). He offered up his very self to provide once for all forgiveness for everyone who believes in him (Hebrews 10:10).
Lastly, Jesus is the perfect prophet Moses said would come. He not only perfectly spoke God’s word to us, but he was God’s perfect word in human flesh (Hebrews 1:3).“Jesus in all of Deuteronomy” by Spoken Gospel
Who do YOU Listen to?
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a Relationship with YOU!
Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart! What are you waiting for?! Let Him in!
Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!
Top image by Tim Shirey/Suzanne Peavy of Child Evangelism Fellowship Europe from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)