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Deeper Commentary

 

Deu 12:1 These are the statutes and ordinances which you shall observe to do in the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess all the days that you live on the earth-

The Hebrew mishpat, "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

Deu 12:2 You must surely destroy all the places in which the nations that you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree-
Israel were told to "throw down", "break in pieces" and "utterly destroy" the idols and altars of Canaan. There were times during their history when they obeyed this command by purging themselves from their apostasy in this. The Hebrew words used scarcely occur elsewhere, except very frequently in the context of how God "broke down", "threw down" and "destroyed" Israel at the hands of their Babylonian and Assyrian invaders as a result of their not 'breaking down' (etc.) the idols. "Throw down" in Ex. 34:13; Dt. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 is the same word in 2 Chron. 36:19; Jer. 4:26; 31:28; 33:4; 39:8; 52:14; Ez. 16:39; Nah. 1:6. "Cut down" in Dt. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 later occurs in Is. 10:33; Jer. 48;25; Lam. 2:3. So Israel faced the choice: either cut down your idols, or you will be cut down in the day of God's judgment. Those who worshipped idols were like unto them. The stone will either fall on us and destroy us, or we must fall on it and become broken men and women (Mt. 21:44). For the man untouched by the concept of living for God's glory, it's a hard choice. God will conquer sin, ultimately. When a man dies, it isn't just a biological, clockwork process. It is God's victory over sin in that individual. Either we must be slain by God; or with His gracious help, we must put sin to death in our members through association with the only One who really did this- and thereby rise to life eternal.


Deu 12:3 and you must break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You must cut down the engraved images of their gods and destroy their names out of that place-

The Lord's description of the rejected being cut down and thrown into the fire (Mt. 7:19) is surely referring to these words (cp. 7:5), where the idols of the world were to be hewn down and thrown into the fire. The Lord understood that those who worship idols are like unto them (Ps. 115:8; 135:18). Because all idols [of whatever kind] will be destroyed in the last day, all who worship them will have to share their destruction. And yet we can be hewn down by God's word now (Hos. 6:5) rather than wait for God to do it to us by the condemnation process. We must cut off (s.w. hew down) our flesh now (Mt. 5:30; 18:8 cp. 7:19).

 


Deu 12:4 You shall not do so to Yahweh your God-
 
Commonly enough, the New Testament speaks of baptism as a calling upon the Name of the Lord. This must be understood against its Hebrew background- qara' beshem Yahweh, which originally referred to approaching God in sacrifice (Gen. 12:7,8; Ps. 116:4,17). God placed His Name upon places in order to make them suitable places for sacrifice to be offered to Him (Dt. 12:4-7,21; Jer. 7:12). Baptism was thus seen as a sacrificial commitment to Yahweh in solemn covenant.


Deu 12:5 But to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, to His dwelling place you shall seek, and there you shall come-
Worldly religion is made as convenient as possible for the worshipper to come and participate in; the shrines of the Canaanite gods were everywhere in the land, whereas Yahweh insisted that there was one specific place to where His people should come to worship Him. This was perhaps partly to inspire national unity within the family of God. The pagan shrines were each different; they had no uniformity between them, as archaeologists have demonstrated. But the one true God has principles of worship and service which don’t vary geographically and are consistently the same because truth is truth and in that sense doesn’t vary from place to place nor context to context.

The judgment will be the time when God 'requires' of us our behaviour. And yet the Hebrew word is used about our enquiring / searching to God in prayer now (Gen. 25:22; Ex. 18:15; Dt. 4:29; 12:5; 1 Kings 22:5), as well as His 'requiring' / searching of us at the last day (Dt. 18:19; 23:21; Josh. 22:23; 1 Sam. 20:16; 2 Chron. 24:22; Ez. 3:20; 33:6,8). There is a mutuality between a man and his God.


Deu 12:6 and bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the wave offering of your hand, your vows, your freewill offerings and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.
Deu 12:7 There you shall eat before Yahweh your God and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, in which Yahweh your God has blessed you.
Deu 12:8 You shall not do all the things that we do here this day, every man whatever is right in his own eyes,
Deu 12:9 for you haven’t yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which Yahweh your God gives you-
 
- see on Ps. 132:8.


Deu 12:10 But when you go over the Jordan, and dwell in the land which Yahweh your God causes you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you, so that you dwell in safety-
Several times Moses describes Israel’s inheritance of the land as entering “rest”, mindful of how God had sworn that they would not enter into that rest, and yet he had pleaded with God to change His mind about that (Ps. 95:11; Heb. 3:11), even though Israel at the time didn’t realize the intensity of pleading and self-sacrifice for them which was going on up in the mountain. Just as we don’t appreciate the extent of the Lord’s mediation for us, that we might enter the final “rest” (Heb. 4:9).


Deu 12:11 then to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, to cause His name to dwell there, you must bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the wave offering of your hand and all your chosen vows which you vow to Yahweh.
Deu 12:12 Rejoice before Yahweh your God, you and your sons, your daughters, your male servants, your female servants and the Levite who is within your gates, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you.
Deu 12:13 Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see-
We can’t worship God any way we like, thinking that the fact we accept His existence and even worship Him means that we are somehow free to do it as we think.


Deu 12:14 but in the place which Yahweh shall choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
Deu 12:15 Notwithstanding, you may kill and eat flesh within all your gates after all the desire of your soul, according to the blessing of Yahweh your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and the hart.
Deu 12:16 Only you must not eat the blood. Pour it out on the earth as water-
The blood was understood as representing life (:23; Lev. 17:11). We are not to take life to ourselves; not merely in that we aren’t to murder, but we also aren’t to assume that our lives, or any life, is in fact ours to use or dominate for ourselves. Our lives and those of others are God’s, and we cannot take any life to ourselves.


Deu 12:17 You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, nor any of your vows which you vow, nor your freewill offerings, nor the wave offering of your hand;
Deu 12:18 but you must eat them before Yahweh your God in the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, you and your son, your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God in all that you put your hand on-
Whatever they put their hand on to give to God they were to give with joy; for God loves cheerful giving, and hates reluctant or manipulated ‘giving’ (2 Cor. 9:7).


Deu 12:19 Take heed to yourself that you don’t forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land-

Paul warned the new Israel that after his death ("after my departing", Acts 20:29) there would be serious apostasy. This is the spirit of his very last words, in 2 Tim. 4. it is exactly the spirit of Moses' farewell speech throughout the book of Deuteronomy, and throughout his final song (Dt. 32) and Dt. 31:29: "After my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves". Paul's "Take heed therefore unto yourselves" (Acts 20:28) is quoted from many places in Deuteronomy (e.g. Dt. 2:4; 4:9,15,23; 11:16; 12:13,19,30; 24:8; 27:9).



Deu 12:20 When Yahweh your God enlarges your border, as He has promised you, and you say I want to eat meat, because your soul desires to eat meat, you may eat meat, after all the desire of your soul-
Vegetarianism is a matter of personal choice, but it certainly isn’t commanded by God- indeed, quite the opposite (1 Tim. 4:3).


Deu 12:21 If the place which Yahweh your God shall choose to put His name there is too far from you, then you shall kill of your herd and of your flock which Yahweh has given you, as I have commanded you; you may eat within your gates, after all the desire of your soul.
Deu 12:22 As the gazelle and the hart is eaten, so you shall eat of it; the unclean and the clean may eat of it alike.
Deu 12:23 Only be sure that you don’t eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you shall not eat the life with the flesh.
Deu 12:24 You must not eat it; pour it out on the earth as water.
Deu 12:25 You must not eat it, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do that which is right in the eyes of Yahweh.
Deu 12:26 Only your holy things which you have and your vows, you shall take and go to the place which Yahweh shall choose,
Deu 12:27 and you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of Yahweh your God. The blood of your sacrifices must be poured out on the altar of Yahweh your God, and you shall eat the flesh.
Deu 12:28 Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever-

 

Moses really wanted Israel's well-being, he saw so clearly how obedience would result in blessing (e.g. Dt. 6:3; 12:28). This is a major theme of Moses in Deuteronomy. There was therefore a real sense of pleading behind his frequent appeal for Israel to "hear" or obey God's words. "Hear, O Israel" in Deuteronomy must have had a real passion behind it in his voice, uncorrupted as it was by old age. He didn't rattle it off as some kind of Sunday School proof. At least four times Moses interrupts the flow of his speech with this appeal: "Hear [‘be obedient’], O Israel" (Dt. 5:1; 6:3,4; 9:1; 20:3). And a glance through a concordance shows how often in Deuteronomy Moses pleads with them to hear God's voice. So he was back to his favourite theme: Hear the word, love the word, make it your life. For in this is your salvation. And the Lord Jesus (e.g. in passages like Jn. 6) makes just the same urgent appeal.  

 

When you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God-

Israel had been told by Moses that their doing what was "good and right" was required for them to possess the land (Dt. 6:18; 12:28). The Gibeonites use the same phrase in appealing for Joshua to do what was "good and right" (Josh. 9:25) in not slaying them but accepting them into covenant relationship with Yahweh. The people generally didn't want to do this (Josh. 9:26). It seems God's providence used Joshua's initial unwisdom in order to give Joshua a chance to do what was "good and right", so that Israel could indeed possess Canaan. We marvel at how God works through human unwisdom and dysfunction, in order to achieve His final purpose of giving His people His Kingdom.

Deu 12:29 When Yahweh your God cuts off the nations from before you, where you go in to dispossess them, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land-

"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.


Deu 12:30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods saying, How do these nations serve their gods? I will do likewise.
Deu 12:31 You must not do so to Yahweh your God, for every abomination to Yahweh, which He hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they burn in the fire to their gods.
Deu 12:32 Whatever I command you, you must observe to do. You must not add to it, nor take away from it-
As Moses very intensely manifested God to the people, so he foreshadowed the supreme manifestation of the Father in the Son. The commands of Moses were those of God (Dt. 7:11; 11:13,18; and 12:32 concerning Moses' words is quoted in Rev. 22:18,19 concerning God's words); his voice was God's voice (Dt. 13;18; 15:5; 28:1), as with Christ. Israel were to show their love of God by keeping Moses' commands (Dt. 11:13); as the new Israel do in their response to the word of Christ. Indeed, the well known prophecy that God would raise up a prophet "like unto" Moses to whom Israel would listen (Dt. 18:18) is in the context of Israel saying they did not want to hear God's voice directly. Therefore God said that he would raise up Christ, who would be another Moses in the sense that he too would speak forth God's word.  

Pharaoh had insisted that nothing should be "diminished" from the quota of bricks he had set (Ex. 5:11), and the same word is later used of how Israel were not to "diminish" ["take away"] from obeying Yahweh's commandments (Dt. 4:2; 12:32). They were being reminded that they had changed masters when they crossed the Red Sea, just as Paul says happens when we are baptized (Rom. 6). And the Red Sea crossing represented baptism into Jesus (1 Cor. 10:1,2). Like us, Israel were not radically free to do as they pleased. What happened was that they changed masters; hence the appeal to Pharaoh to let God's people go, that they may serve Him rather than Pharaoh. We too will only find ultimate freedom through this servitude to God's ways, and will finally emerge into the radical liberty of the children of God in the Kingdom age (Rom. 8:21).