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You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way

Deuteronomy 12:2–7 reveals important principles regarding the way God desires to be worshiped and, specifically, the relationship between the biblical way to worship and the ways of the pagans.

You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.

But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.

Notice that God commanded that the people destroy the places where pagans worshiper, including their altars, their pillars, their images, and even the names of the places. This is clearly more than simply insisting that they worship Yahweh rather than false gods; this is also stark evidence that God rejects worship that imitates pagan worship in any way. Everything in pagan culture contains meaning, and those elements that are imbibed with pagan meaning must be rejected for use in worship. One might ask why they had to destroy, for example, the altars and pillars; wouldn’t these be useful even for the worship of the true God?

Yet God commanded that they be destroyed. He summarized his desires with the words, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” Instead, they were to listen to his instructions and find a place of his choosing for their worship and follow his commands.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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