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Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Place for His Name and a Practice Worthy of His Person

God longs to be among His people. He tells Moses of a day when He will choose a place among all the tribes of Israel to place His Name. He also warns Israel against redefining who He is and worshiping Him the way others worship their gods, “ careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kings of detestable things the LORD hates” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). 

Syncretism is adding to or subtracting from God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture; it is redefining God and reinterpreting worship. Idolatry:

  • Diminishes God’s identity as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and then worships that diminished view. 
  • Imagines God to be other than He has revealed Himself in Scripture and worships that image.
  • Cheapens God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture by creating an object to characterize Him and then worships that object.  
Therefore, the Lord commands Israel to tear down all the Canaanite places of worship, to destroy their idols. They were commanded to stone members in their own family and leaders in their own towns who try to entice them to redefine God and reinterpret worship. They were even commanded to destroy entire towns in their midst which were guilty of idolatry. 
Israel must screen every prophecy and worship practice through God’s revelation of Himself--His Word--regarding worship. Scripture is iconoclastic as it shatters misrepresentations and false ideas about God. God is who He says He is and worship is as He prescribes. Neither is open to interpretation or adaptation. God is holy and His Name to be revered both in belief and in practice. 
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"You must not worship the Lord your God in their way . . . be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, say, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same. You must not worship the Lord your God their way" (Deuteronomy 12:4,30b-31).

The Lord tells the children of Israel to remove carefully and meticulously any trace of idol worship from the land. Their altars, sacred stones, and poles are to be utterly wiped out. Why is this so important?

With great care the Lord describes how He is to be approached in worship. He establishes the Tent of Meeting with the divisions between the outer court, Holy Place, and Most Holy Place. He instructs the priests on how and when the sacrifices are to be presented. He even demands that His priests dress a certain way. God leaves nothing unexplained or to chance.
Why does God go to such lengths of instruction? Adherence to His laws guards against syncretism, the blending of belief systems. This blending, if unchecked, produces a folk religion that is neither the old Canaanite religion nor the pure biblical teaching of the Pentateuch. 
Syncretism rears its ugly head in every religion, but it is most insidious in the worship of the One True God. Contemporary syncretism shows up in an American "Christianity" that honors the flag, apple pie, mom, and sports, talks about God, espouses a particular political rhetoric, but denies the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Syncretism occurs when unbiblical practices creep into the worship of God; they eventually displace truth with error and erode the genuine faith "once for all delivered to the saints." It happened in Israel; it has happened in America, and it can happen in your own church as well as in your own life. The only plumb line that guards against syncretism is submission to the absolute authority of the Word of God--the Bible. Dr. Stan May says that "true contextualization occurs when the message or the church or any resulting event is defined by Scripture but shaped by culture." Only when Scripture defines our gospel message, our religious practices, and our worship experience can we truly avoid syncretism.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Deuteronomy 12:1-14:29
  • Why does God establish a central place of worship for Israel?
  • What are some of the regulations/penalties God gives to the people to protect them from syncretistic worship or from falling away altogether?
  • What are some of the regulations God gives to protect the children of Israel from becoming unholy people?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to walk and worship in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.