Deuteronomy 12:8 (CSB)
8 “You are not to do as we are doing here today; everyone is doing whatever seems right in his own sight.
This pericope is focused on worship: both the destruction of the places of worship of false gods, and the focus of worship of the one true God in a single place. And throughout, there continues the reminder to obey God’s commands.
- False gods
Deut. 12:2-4 contains the command to destroy all the places of worship the Canaanites have erected. Deut. 12:3 goes so far as to say, “wipe out their names from every place,” in reference to the false gods. We should not be surprised by this command, God alone is worthy of worship, and is a jealous God after all (Exodus 20:5 and 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, and 6:15). And don’t be deceived into thinking this means God is some sort of narcissist. The truth is, just as the Israelites displayed, and we continue to do the same today, that when we shift our focus and worship away from God, and to false gods, we hurt ourselves. The destruction of these places of false worship was for the Israelites own good!
- Focused worship of God
In conjunction with the destruction of the false places of worship, we see that there is to be a single place of worship for the true God. This seems slightly odd, as well as troublesome in a practical way (the nation will have to travel to one place in order to worship, present sacrifices, etc.). But, perhaps this is more about helping the Israelites remain focused on God, as a single site for worship would necessarily have a focused environment. Perhaps a single site of worship is a reminder that there is a single God. Perhaps it is another reminder that God is not like the pagan gods: His form of worship is singular, while the worship of false gods is all over.
I really like Deut. 12:8, I think it encapsulates the point of this passage. The Israelites are not following God currently, they are doing whatever they want, whatever they think is right. That’s essentially making yourself God by the way. And this cannot continue as they enter and take Canaan. This is an eternal truth though: we should not follow the ways of the world, instead our worship should be focused solely on God.
Lord, thank You for leading us in how we should worship and follow You. I ask forgiveness for so often deciding that I know better than You, and placing my ways above Yours. I pray for the wisdom and will to resist the world, and worship only You. Amen.