“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.” (Deuteronomy 12:1)
Some of the laws Israel was instructed to do would not be practical until they had their own land, but once they were in their own place they were to obey completely. Only by complete fulfillment could they ensure they would retain the land.
“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3)
Every vestige of the false religions of the previous occupants was to be destroyed. Any monuments, altars or images, whether statues or paintings, were to be destroyed, wherever they were. Any plantings for religious purposes were to be burned completely, and places renamed with names that would not evoke memories of those gods.
“Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God. But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.” (Deuteronomy 12:4-7)
While Israel was to destroy every reminder of the false Gods, they were to do everything they could to promote remembrance of God and the things he had done. Unlike the heathen who established their own shrines to their idols, Israel was to have an established central place of worship. While they were to meditate and study God’s law at home and teach it to their children, They were to regularly go to the Tabernacle or later the temple to offer the specified sacrifices.
“Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD: And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.” (Deuteronomy 12:8-12)
Before the land was conquered, the Tabernacle was moved fairly often, and especially for the trans-Jordan tribes, it would be difficult and dangerous to set out to worship with enemies roaming the area and no clearly designated place of worship.. Once the land was occupied, and their enemies driven out, God would designate a permanent place where thy could come and they would be expected to go to that place to offer sacrifices and worship.
“Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.” (Deuteronomy 12:13-14)
Israel was not to worship in other places, but only in the place God had designated, to prevent complacency, and error from creeping in. Sacrificing in other places was common, and was Solomon’s first step away from God, in I Kings 3, even though he was worshipping God. It became an increasing problem throughout the history of Israel.
Many today begin to watch some televised service or participate in some special service in conjunction with a particular activity, such as a service conducted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or Cowboy Church for Rodeo goers. Unfortunately, while they are still worshipping God, they are also setting that activity on a level with the worship of God by spending God’s day involved with that rather than with God. It is very easy to begin to set it above God. Not only do they risk being drawn away themselves, as many are, they also may encourage others to put that activity before God.
“Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart. Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.” (Deuteronomy 12:15-16)
It was not necessary to take their livestock to the temple to have it blessed before they ate it. The modern emphasis on eating only Kosher foods was never prescribed by God. They were free to eat whatever they wanted, except that they were to avoid the things God had forbidden, and especially the blood, which was to be poured on the ground.
“Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.
Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth. When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.” (Deuteronomy 12:17-20)
The tithes and offerings the Jews brought were to shared by them as well as the Levites and priests who worked at the Tabernacle of Temple. They were not to simply eat them at home and count them as a sacrifice to God. They were to be brought to the tabernacle and shared with those involved with the ministry.
What a different attitude than what is commonly seen today where the Church accumulates the money but the people never share in it and seldom know what happens to it. The simple sharing the results of their tithes would encourage a level of fellowship and joy that is often missing in modern giving. Sharing with those involved in ministry strengthened the bonds between them, just as church dinners do today.
“If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after. Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 12:21-25)
If the distance to the place of worship was too great, tithes and offerings of large quantities which they were to share in could be eaten at home, and the balance sold for cash to carry to the tabernacle. The standard guidelines still applied.
“Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose. And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the LORD thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the LORD thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh. Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 12:26-28)
Special commitments to God or burnt offerings such as the sin or thanks giving offerings still had to be taken to the priests to be offered according to the standard practice for that offering.