“You are not to do as we are doing here today; everyone is doing whatever seems right in his own eyes. Indeed, you have not yet come into the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. When you cross the Jordan and live in the land the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all the enemies around you and you live in security, then Yahweh your God will choose the place to have His name dwell. Bring there everything I command you: your burnt offerings, sacrifices, offerings of the tenth, personal contributions, and all your choice offerings you vow to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 12:8-11, HCSB).
Beginning in Chapter 12 in Deuteronomy and for about the next 10 chapters, a series of laws and statutes are given by Moses during his second address to the Israelites. In this chapter Moses specifically addresses the chosen place for the Israelites to worship.
Moses told the Israelites that when they entered the promised land, they could not offer sacrifices to God from anywhere, but they were only to worship God from the place that He would choose.
The first permanent central place of worship after the Israelites crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan was Shiloh, near the center of the promised land. The tabernacle remained there nearly 300 years, from the latter days of Joshua until the early years of the prophet Samuel.
So why establish one centralized place of worship with a lot of rules and regulations about how to worship?
The Israelites needed to establish a sense of the sacred in their land and their lives. They needed to establish a sense that God dwelled among them and would protect and bless them if they would obey Him.
To establish and nurture this sense of the sacred, Moses told the Israelites that when they entered the promised land, to sacrifice to God only in the one place that He would choose (vs. 12:1-14), not to tolerate idolatry or apostasy among themselves (vs. 13:1-18), to eat and sacrifice only certain animals and only in a certain way (vs. 12:15-25; 14:3-22); to set aside a tenth of their produce as a sacrifice to God (vs. 14:22-29); to help the poor (vs. 15: 1-11); to celebrate certain holy days and festivals (vs. 16:1-20); and eventually to appoint a king who was to write down a copy of God’s law for himself, read it every day, and obey it (vs. 17:14-20).
This sense of the sacred was God’s revelation of Himself to them.
Without this sense of the sacred firmly established, the Israelites would fall into unfaithfulness and disobedience. They would do whatever seemed right in their own eyes and not distinguish what God has determined is right and wrong. In other words, they would lack discernment.
So I said all that to say this: The lesson to be learned here is that like the ancient Israelites, we need to establish and nurture a sense of the sacred in our lives through Bible study, prayer, worship, and other spiritual disciplines.
If we don’t, then we begin to do what seems right in our own eyes and our vision becomes blurred. We don’t make competent distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil. We lack discernment.
Without a revelation of God, without a sense of the sacred, and without nurturing it, then we become more concerned with pleasing ourselves than with pleasing God.
When we establish the sacred in our lives, that reverence for God and His Sovereignty over His creation, then God can bring us to a resting place in His gracious love and salvation.
Our hearts become the dwelling place of God’s Spirit, who enables us to love and obey God.