Deuteronomy 12:29-31

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 3 September 2016


Do Not Imitate the World


"When Adonai your God cuts off before you the nations that you are going in to dispossess, when you have dispossessed them and settled in their land, 30 be careful not to be trapped into imitating them after they have been destroyed before you. Do not inquire about their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods? I will do the same.' 31 You are not to act like this toward Adonai your God! For every abomination of Adonai, which He hates, they have done to their gods—they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods." (Deut 12:29-31 TLV)

The text for today comes from Parashah 47, Re'eh, which began in the previous chapter, verse 26, and concludes in chapter 16 [verse 17]. The Hebrew word re'eh is the imperative form of ra'ah, which means to see, look or behold. The opening verse for the Parashah sets the theme, "Look, I am setting before you a blessing and a curse:" The command to look has a simple meaning in divine monologues: Pay attention to what I'm showing you or telling you. Imagine the people standing on the plain of Moav, and Moses directs their attention across the river. Look! There in the land is the opportunity for great blessing. There is also the danger of a curse.

The Parashah continues with instructions for worshipping at the place the Lord would choose, identifying animals acceptable for eating, forgiving debts every seven years, providing for the needs of Levites, widows and orphans, and observing the pilgrim festivals each year. In the midst of such straightforward instruction are repeated warnings about avoiding the idolatry of the nations whom God had set apart for destruction. Our text makes two important points about that subject. First, God warns the Israelites to control their curiosity about the Canaanites. Why would they be curious? Well, we all like to know how things work. The Israelites would be taking over cities, houses and farms that were all prospering. So, they might think "these Canaanites must have been doing something right for God to bless them. Maybe it had to do with their religious practices."

When they began to examine Canaanite religion they would discover a number of features they had in common. The Canaanites offered sacrifices of the same kind of animals. They had a high priest and priestly families. They had festivals that corresponded to the agricultural cycle. But, unlike Torah-prescribed worship Canaanite worship included singers and musical liturgy. And, the Canaanites had sacred prostitutes. In other words, the Canaanites had a pleasure-oriented feel-good religion. But, our text has a second important point. God reveals that the Canaanites had a really dark side. They killed their children by making them burnt offerings in religious rituals. Solomon said there are seven things God hates, one of them being hands that shed innocent blood. Think on this. Scripture affirms that a child is a creation and gift of God, so why destroy such a precious gift? But, it is the nature of Satan to kill and destroy. God's point is that the depraved world around us is not worthy to serve as an example of what would please Him in our religion and in our worship.

Eventually King David would create choirs and instrumental ensembles. Music became the medium for the expression of praise. In fact, six times in this Parashah God tells the Israelites that besides presenting sacrifices, offerings and tithes to the Lord they were to rejoice before the Lord at His dwelling-place. Now, David did not introduce musicians to make worship less boring or so the people could marvel at their performance. Music became a means of prophesying about the goodness and greatness of the God of Israel.

When Jean and I first attended Messianic Jewish services the worship resonated with our spirits and we have come to really appreciate the ministry of the worship leaders. But, here's something to remember. They do not lead us in worship to make us feel good. I have seen Christians change churches, because they didn't receive in worship what they wanted. Their thinking was fundamentally flawed. Worship is not about getting what we want to make us feel good, but giving God the glory He deserves. Some day we will stand before the throne and sing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb: "Great and wonderful are Your deeds, Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot, Just and true are you ways, O King of the nations." [Rev 15:3 TLV] So, hear the instruction of Paul: "let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips giving thanks to His name." [Heb 13:15]

Barukh Hashem!

Copyright © 2016 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.