Deuteronomy 12:1-4 In this section Moses instructs Israel that there is only one way that Israel might worship God. Chapter 5-11 contain general stipulations of the covenant as well as motivation for keeping the commands of God. Here Moses becomes more specific on how God is to be worshiped. The first two commandments (Deut 5:6-10) has to do with who their God is, and that worship must be exclusive to Him alone. In vivid language Israel is called to destroy from the land all the places and images where the nations they were dispossessing worshiped their gods. Moses gave the reason for this destruction; Israel was not to imitate any pagan system. Just as God was beyond comparison, so was their worship. They could not worship God the wrong way, this is why the “high places” were condemned.
Deuteronomy 12:5-7 Worshiping God’s would require Israel to seek the place God would choose. All worship should take place at a central sanctuary. Up to this point Israel worshipped God in the Tabernacle, the portable tent in the wilderness. Once in the land the tabernacle would be replaced by the temple. Moses was saying that God would reveal to Israel’s leaders when and where this would be. This actually came to David who acquired the land in Jerusalem, but Nathan the prophet told David, that Solomon would be the one to build the Temple (2 Sam. 7). For now, Moses tells Israel it will be in is the place the Lord will choose. It would be in the land, in the territory of one of the tribes, and represent God’s dwelling on earth and where The Lord would put his Name. It would be there where they would bring their offerings and sacrifices and where tithes would be presented. It would be the place where Israel would fulfil their vows to God, as well as their freewill offerings. There, in his presence families would eat and rejoice and give thanks for everything good that happened. Worship of the God of Israel, eating and rejoicing were an integral part of fellowship with God and one another. In both the Old and New Covenants, a key element of thanksgiving and redemption is a sacramental meal. Passover in the Old and the Lord’s Supper in the New. Israel’s Holy Days and festivals, except for the Day of Atonement, generally included food as part of worship. Many of the sacrifices, involved offering an animal, a portion of which was offered in fire to God. Another portion was given to the priests, and the rest was for the worshiper to be enjoyed by him and his family before the Lord. The purpose of worship was giving thanksgiving for his blessings and rejoicing before the Lord.
Deuteronomy 12:8-9 By everyone “doing whatever is right in their own eyes” cannot mean a rebellion to God’s Law and walking with the Lord because the Lord had disciplined the previous generation and gave Israel guidelines for worship forty years earlier (Exod 25:1-9; 29:38-45; 31:12-17). The journey in the wilderness meant that there was no stable form of worship. Soon however they would come to the land of rest and worship would become more regulated. God’s law had already stipulated that they would be required to present themselves at least three times yearly, Passover, Shavout (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) Ex. 23:14-19; 34:23-24;Deut 16-18.
Deuteronomy 12:10-11 Israel corporately is described in Scripture as his son: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1). As Israel’s father he made provision for His sons to have a dwelling place. The word Yeshua spoke complements this in the New Covenant when he told His disciples in John 14:1-3 that He is preparing for them a permanent home. Israel prior to Egypt were tent dwellers and God promised their fathers that he would give them the land that they did not possess. We too are described as pilgrims on a journey to our homeland (Heb. 11:13-14). When they were safely in the land and their enemies removed, God would choose a city that would house a dwelling for his Name. The safety referred to in verse 10 came at the time of David (2 Sam. 7:1-2). Under Saul the Philistines still occupied much of the land. Only in David’s reign was the time suitable for the fulfillment of God’s promise to this new generation.
Deuteronomy 12:12-14 A repeated call in Deuteronomy is to rejoice before the Lord. This is central to worship among God’s people in both Old and New Covenants. The three pilgrim festivals were a call for national rejoicing in Israel’s God. This involved entire families celebrating together before the Lord including sons and daughters, male and female servants. There was the call to not forget the Levites who may have been overlooked since they had no portion of property given to them. Their provision came from God’s people in their offerings and tithes. God again commanded Israel not to sacrifice anywhere but the place that God appointed. This was abused with the “high places”. Prior to the construction of the Temple altars were tolerated by the Lord in genuine worship. We find such examples in Gideon (Judg. 6:18,26), Manoah (Judg. 13:16), and Elijah (1 Kgs. 18:31) who was a prophet called to the Northern tribes that had separated from Judah and the Temple in Jerusalem.
Deuteronomy 12:15-16 Moses tells Israel that not all animals used for meat needed to brought to the central place of worship. Ceremonial cleansing through the mikvah and offerings was not a requirement to eat meat in their homes. Ceremonial cleansing was called for holy gatherings but not for everyday eating. God however required that none of the blood of animals be eaten it should be poured out on the ground. In Gen. 9:4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood and Lev. 17:10-14 And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement. In these verses we learn of God’s perspective on blood. Blood in the sacrificial system in the tabernacle and later the Temple showed that it spoke of the life of the animal. When the blood is gone, the life is gone. When blood was sprinkled on the altar, an innocent life is shed for sin. These sacrifices demonstrated a substitution of the innocent for the guilty. This foreshadows what would come later. An animal, no matter how perfect, would not remove sin only cover it and as such had to be repeated. Is. 53:10-11 looks forward to the innocent Servant of the Lord dying as a sin offering But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering … By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. (cf. John 1:29). This saw the perfect and final sacrifice that would provide everlasting atonement for the person who trusted in His perfect offering for sin.
Deuteronomy 12:17-19 Although ordinary meat could be eaten anywhere, the tithes were to be brought to the future central sanctuary to be offered. Firstborn animals had to be offered there (or redeemed). The offerings associated with vows, freewill offerings and special gifts also were taken there. Part of the offerings were eaten in the presence of the Lord at this central place. All these offerings were to be associated with thanksgiving, worship and rejoicing. A portion of these offerings were to be set aside for the Levites for their service to the Lord.
Deuteronomy 12:20-28 The reason for allowing meat to be eaten outside of the locale of the central sanctuary was for the time when the land was settled, and it would be too far to go. Once again, the sanctity of life and blood is repeated. Obedience to this command brought with it a promise of blessing. Moses repeats that those things set apart to the Lord were to be taken to that place the Lord would designate. The blood of those animals must be poured beside the altar by the priests. The prosperity and welfare of this and future generations depended on their obedience to God’s Law.
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 – When the nations of Canaan were defeated and removed from the land worship of the Lord could be centralized and exclusive. However, the spiritual enemy of God’s people hasatan (the adversary) is always at work seeking to undermine God’s testimony to the world. Even though the idolatrous people and their shrines were removed other religions remain a temptation to God’s people. Moses sees the time when Israel would forsake the way and we see this in Judg 2:7-15. This went against the first commandment as v. 31 makes clear. To serve other gods is spiritual adultery and rots Israel relationship to her husband the Lord. Moses cites where such unfaithfulness will lead; to the practice of human sacrifice (2 Kgs 16:3; 17:17; 21:6).
Deuteronomy 12:32 In the Hebrew Bible Deut 12:32 is the first verse in chap. 13. While it does not affect the meaning it seems to be the introduction of a new statement. This is the second time that Moses warns Israel about neither adding nor taking away from God’s Word (Deut 4:2). This is a testimony to the doctrine that God is the author of Scripture even though he used 40 different authors on three different continents over 1500 years to reveal His complete Word to us. This exhortation also appears in Revelation 22:18 concerning the prophecy given to John but has also been applied to all of Scripture. Paul’s exhortation in 2 Tim. 3:16 also complements this truth, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”