The Scriptorium

Whatever God Commands

Watch out for the slippery slope. Deuteronomy 12.29-32

Concerning Worship: Deuteronomy 12 (6)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 19.12-14
Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19.12-14

(St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
Who, Lord, can know his errors? O keep sin far from me!
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be.
O let my thoughts, let all my words, before Your glorious sight
be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 12.29-32

1. What must Israel be careful about?

2. How should they do that?

Idolatry is simply looking to anything or anyone for that which God has promised, and ascribing to anything other than God the honor and reverence He alone deserves. In a materialistic age like ours, we are constantly tempted to think that our happiness depends on things, our daily bread is the fruit of our work, and our overall sense of wellbeing is the product of agreeable circumstances. All these things and more, people who do not believe in God look to and strive after for meaning and happiness. Instead of worshiping and serving God, they are devoted to fleeting temporal ends as their greatest good. God’s people must be careful not to allow the good things God provides for us to usurp His place as the ultimate focus of our devotion and love.

The people of Israel were constantly faced with the temptation to worship idols. God warned them against doing so (vv. 29, 30). But perhaps they would not worship the idols outright, but only incorporate into the worship of God certain pagan rituals or protocols. Like burning your children as sacrifices (v. 31).

God hates all pagan elements and forms of worship (v. 31). He has told us what the elements of worship should be – thanksgiving, praise, giving, hearing His Word, committing ourselves to Him (oaths and vows). And He has outlined the forms we may use to engage those elements – in Israel’s case, offerings and sacrifices, singing and prayer, and obeying the Law. Anything beyond what He prescribed is an abomination to God (v. 31).

We just need to do what God has revealed in His Word – nothing more, and nothing less (v. 32).

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Why bother to dispossess, displace, and then dwell in a land God gave you, if you were just going to recreate the same abominations? Indeed, why? God warned His people of this impending travesty, and He described the slippery slope they would confront: “Hmmm, how did these nations serve their gods? Well look here, I also will do likewise…” But then He said to them, “You shall NOT worship…in that way.” God knows these Israelites were not the only ones to be confronted with this temptation. He warned the people of the New Testament, and us too, of the same bad behavior. Jesus scolded the religious of His day saying, “…‘in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’…All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mk. 7.7, 9, 13). As we work to dispossess and displace the sins in our lives, and dwell in worship with God, we must do whatever He commands.


1. Why are we so easily drawn away from God’s Word to do things other than what He commands?

2. How can we check this tendency to drift from the Lord and to prefer our own ways rather than His?

3. What does the work of dispossessing and displacing the sin in your life require?

In this brief clause he teaches that no other service of God is lawful, except that of which He has testified His approval in His word, and that obedience is as it were the mother of piety; as if he had said that all modes of devotion are absurd and infected with superstition, which are not directed by this rule.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 12.32

Let Your Word guide my every step today, Lord, as I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 19.7-11
Thank God for His Law and for all His Word. Pray that He will embed His Word throughout your soul, so that you abide and walk in it always.

Psalm 19.7-11

(St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
the simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.

The fear of God is cleansing, forever shall it last.
His judgments all are true and just, by righteousness held fast.
O seek them more than gold most fine, than honey find them sweet;
be warned by every word and line; be blessed with joy complete.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore