Bible Readings for June 8th
Moses reveals in Deuteronomy 12:8–9 that Israel’s informality in their worship would eventually need to change: “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 to you.” Here, Moses is acknowledging that there was chaos in Israel’s worship during the days of their wilderness wanderings, so that it was customary for the Israelites to worship in different places.
In anticipation of the day when Israel would settle into the Promised Land, Moses gives explicit instructions in Deuteronomy 12 that the Israelites should destroy the high places and altars of foreign gods (Deut. 12:1–4) and that the Israelites should under no circumstances inquire into the worship practices of the nations whom Yahweh was driving out of the land (Deut. 12:29–31).
Ultimately, Israel ignored everything Moses said here. Instead, they failed to destroy the high places where the other nations worshiped and they actively inquired into the practices of those nations. The tragedy of Deuteronomy 12:8 is that the phrase of “everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes” becomes the theme of the book of Judges (e.g., Judg. 21:25) to describe how bad things had become in Israel.
But why? From our perspective, it seems crazy that Israel would succumb to worshiping the false gods of other nations after Yahweh had acted powerfully to lead them out of the house of Egypt. Why would Israel forsake their redeemer?
In fact, we struggle with the exact same problem. Israel’s error wasn’t so much that they were legitimately awed by the foreign gods but that they became attracted to the standards of their surrounding cultures. This was the reason Yahweh instructed them to destroy every remnant of the worship of these foreign nations: so that they wouldn’t stumble into false religions—especially the kind that led people to burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods (Deut. 12:31).
And still today, the church struggles with the same problem—not that we are attracted to ancient near eastern paganism, but that we wrestle with the same desires to make ourselves seem relevant and respectable in the eyes of the world.
We must fight to remember the words of the Apostle John: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20–21). That is, keep yourself from anything that would distract you from the one who is true God and eternal life, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.