These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the Lord God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth. Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods . . . ” (Deuteronomy 12:1-8)
Many saints don’t know what to do on earth. They view life on earth as something like a train station at which they’re waiting. They have a ticket to ride to heaven upon death. But in the interim, there is not much to do here at the train station, at least there’s not much to do that has any relationship to the final destination. They need to be holy in this train station, they understand that much. And they need to read their Bibles and pray to the God who awaits them at their final destination. But they don’t have a strategy for life at the train station. And they have no sense that the glory of the heaven to which they indeed are going is coming upon the train station. The good news is that the glory of that heaven is indeed coming upon the train station. That is why we pray in faith, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Once you realize that the kingdom of God is coming upon earth, coming upon this train station, then the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 12 can make sense. Moses delivered marching orders to Israel who was soon to cross the Jordan River to conquer and possess the Promised Land. And the marching orders that he delivered to them are the same marching orders we have today. Some things have changed. But the marching orders have not changed. Let’s consider a survey of the text.
SURVEY OF THE TEXT
Moses tells Israel that they must observe and do the statues he was giving them when they entered the land. And it was the LORD God who was giving them the land to possess. The statues Israel received were to be done “on earth” (v. 1).
Israel was to utterly destroy all the places where the adherents of Canaan served their gods: the high mountain places, the hills, and under every green tree (v. 2).
Not only the places, but the altars also had to be destroyed. Their pillars had to be broken, their groves torched with fire, their graven images cut down. The destruction of these idols resulted in the “names” of these false gods being destroyed and erased from “that place” (v. 3).
Moses ordered the opposite concerning the LORD God. His “name” was to be put in a special place of his choosing. This place would be his habitation, where he would dwell in the midst of Israel. And Israel would routinely come to this central place (v. 5).
When they came, Moses instructed Israel to bring a variety of sacrifices and offerings: routine burnt offerings and sacrifices, tithes, and heave offerings (which were a certain portion set aside for the priests), vows and freewill offerings (which were offerings freely given over and above the required ones), and the firstlings of their herds. Moses had already instructed Israel back in Exodus 13 regarding these first born offerings. When Israelite children asked why the firstborn of the herds and flocks were sacrificed, parents were to tell their children about God striking down Pharaoh and the firstborn of Egypt.
Israel was to eat before the LORD, which is a pattern we see many times in Scripture when Israel gathered for covenant renewal. Israel was to rejoice in their work with their households, whatever it is was they laid their hand to do (v. 7). As they lived in the Promised Land, they were not to live as they had before, every man doing what was right in his own eyes (v. 8).
THE SAME MARCHING ORDERS
The marching orders from Moses to Israel were clear. So many years later when the Israelites heard that Dagon, god of the Philistines, had fallen down before the ark of the Lord, and his head and hands were cut off, they knew that the LORD had cut down an idol. We must read our times in the same way. In the New Covenant, some things change: The Old Testament saints ate Passover, we eat the Lord’s Supper. They circumcised their children, we baptize them. But the substance of things stays the same. God cut down idols back then, and charged his people to do the same. And none of that has changed.
So the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade was an idol that God cut down. Planned Parenthood clinics are the altars where the sacrifices are offered. The unborn children are the sacrifices. The whole operation is simply modern day Molech worship.
After God struck down Dagon, the Philistines picked him up off the ground and set him up again to be worshipped. And, in the same way, many will attempt to keep up abortion. But the fact that they will offer their blood sacrifices in California and across the border in Washington State does not negate what God has done in our midst. The battle rages on, yes. And that is the point. You must heed God’s commands for life and battle in the land that God, the God of your fathers, has given you.
THE LAND WHICH GOD GIVES
In Moses’ day, God gave Israel the land of Canaan. And many make the mistake of thinking that God has only given us heavenly real estate. They think the train station in which they find themselves belongs to the devil. But as Jesus was headed to the cross he said, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Moreover, Christ has told us to baptize the nations, teaching them to obey all that he has commanded. He speaks as if the nations belong to him, and that is because they do.
Our new covenant terrain has not been diminished or unrealized. Rather it has been expanded. Israel of old stood on the banks of the Jordan and Moses told them how they were to live in Canaan. And you stand in the world that has been promised to Christ. Indeed, it has not only been promised to him. It has become his possession. The Apostle Paul shows just how this point shakes out for the saints when he says, “All things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
How then should you live in the world that is yours in Christ? You should destroy idols like Israel of old. There is nothing wicked or fleshly about doing so. Paul says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
When idols pop up, that is not a time to be afraid. That is a time to do your job. All of the idols will be gone one day. And then Christ will return, having made all of his enemies his footstool. In the meantime, you’re not allowed to sit back and think that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. You’re to put hell in a hand-basket. Cut down the idols, and deliver them over to Christ. That operation can only be done by the Word of God.
Now where do you start cutting down these idols? You look around and say, “Boy they’re all over.” Yes, they are. So start right at home. Start with your idols. John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). And then intercede for your children. And then your church. And then the Moscow Christian community. And then the whole kingdom of God. And then the idols manifest outside of the kingdom of God like Roe v. Wade, and Obergefell, and all of the other pillars that state legislators are toiling away at right now in the wake of Roe’s fall.
Another duty you have, here in the land God has given you, is to attend the LORDs house to worship him. Moses told Israel there was to be one place, a central place. And we hear the same language when the LORD spoke to Solomon after he completed the temple in 2 Chronicles 7. The LORD told Solomon that he had chosen this house and his name would remain there forever.
But like with the increase of land, so with the increase of our place of worship. Paul says in Ephesians 2 that the Church of God is now this holy temple. And we are being “built together for a habitation of God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). Every baptism is the addition of another brick in this temple. And God’s “name” is upon us.
You assemble here to offer sacrifices to God. And the sacrifices that you offer are yourselves. You present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1). If you feel “stretched out,” that is because you are. If you feel cut by his Word, that is because you are. If you feel “poured out,” then praise the Lord, you are right there alongside the Apostle Paul.
As you have heard before, worship is the central engine that drives cultural reformation. People struggle to see this because they have either become pragmatists or pietists. The pragmatists can’t understand the point because he wants to rig up and run the reformation according to humans blue prints and ingenuity. The pietists can’t understand it because he wants to worship God in a sky theatre with no earthly manifestation of God’s name.
But the Christian way is to worship, knowing that while Baal cannot send the rain or the fire, Yahweh can. And Yahweh does. He really is building up his kingdom on earth. And you baptized, covenant people, are his kingdom. If the kingdom grows, and it will grow, then pagan temples fall.
What this means is that the worship of the Triune God was the central driver to the fall of Roe. And there are many other idols that need to have their “name” destroyed. So keep up the public worship of our Triune God.
REJOICING IN WORK
Moses said that Israel was to rejoice in all that they put their hand to do. And they were to do rejoice in their work as households. I do not have to tell you that such joyful work is going on around here. The saints in Moscow are known far and wide for covenant households and joyful labor. So this is a reminder to keep it up and grow not weary in doing good.
What kind of works ought you to lay your hand to? The answer is: any kind, all kinds. Laundry and writing and teaching. Cleaning teeth and learning and building. Legislating and marketing and painting. Coaching and kid-transporting and a thousand other things: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,” remember.
Some think that work is too big. And others think the promise of Christ’s worldwide conquest is too good to be true. But the Apostle Paul has already addressed this and we should take it to heart: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?