As chapter ten drew to a close, Moses was telling the Israelites how God loved them, and how He'd blessed their people - multiplying them from seventy people to millions over the last 440 years. And because of that...
Because God has been so good and loving, they are to love Him and keep His commandments.
Moses says, "You who have seen God do amazing things over the last forty years are the ones to whom I am speaking. You were children and teenagers when God struck the Egyptians with the plagues to free you from slavery. You saw the Egyptian chariots engulfed in the Red Sea."
They'd also seen Daw-THAWN and Ab-ee-RAWM, the sons of El-ee-AWB swallowed into the earth. Remember our study of Numbers 16, when we read of Korah's rebellion.
Korah, along with Daw-THAWN and Ab-ee-RAWM - and about 250 other popular people in the congregation - rose up against Moses' leadership. They said, "All of us should be leading, not just you." Moses confronted them and said, "The ministry God has given you isn't enough for you? You have to be in charge to be happy?"
Moses had all of the rebels gather together. They must have seemed an imposing force. But not to God.
Num. 16:28-33 Moses said, "By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD." As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
This crime of rebellion was so sinful that Jude describes apostates as having...
Jude 1:11 ...perished in the rebellion of Korah.
Mounting a rebellion against the leader God appoints will result in your destruction as well as everyone who sides with you.
The Israelites to whom Moses was now speaking had seen this happen with their own eyes.
Keeping the Word was a prerequisite for possessing the land long-term. The land was truly amazing - more than they could imagine. It flowed with milk and honey - in other words, it was abundantly fertile, supporting livestock and crops.
God lets them know also that the method for maintaining the Promised Land would be different than they'd practiced in Egypt. In that area, it was all irrigation watering - they had to use their feet to dig channels and to spin water wheels to deliver water to the plants. The land which God was giving to them was watered only by rain. In other words, this land wasn't going to be sustained by labor, but by blessing.
This is a great place to be - fully reliant on God to pour down rain. But it's a terrible place to be if you're going to walk away from Him. Because if you decide to go your own way, you're in big trouble. After all, you can't make it rain.
In our lives, God wants us to be in a place where we are totally dependent on Him. He wants us to leave Egypt - a picture of the world. He wants us to enter the Promised Land - a place where we no longer make things happen with our sweat, energy, effort, strategizing, planning, and manipulation. But we've got to understand that once in the Promised Land, we will from there on out be sustained by the blessings of God, and we won't be in a place to grab the reins from Him and just "make it happen." This is when we remind ourselves that it's...
Zech. 4:6 ..."Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the LORD...
And so we must adhere to the Word of God to remain in the place of the blessings of God. Notice what we are to do:
- Impress the Word on our heart. That verb in Hebrew means "to put, place, or set" them there. The Word doesn't get into our hearts on its own - we've got to put it there.
- Secondly, we are to bind the Word on our hands. That is, we must tie the Word to everything we're touching. "As I dialing this phone, am I applying the Word? As I'm swinging this hammer, am I serving the Lord? As I'm typing this memo, am I representing the faith? As I'm digging this ditch, am I being a witness?"
- Thirdly, they are to be "as frontals on your forehead." That literally means "bindings at your eyes." We need to see everything through the filter of the Word. When you look at what the world is offering, when you view situations, when you see things happening around you, it all needs to be filtered through the truth of the Word.
- Fourth, we are to teach the Word to our children. How can we do that? By talking about it all the time and marking our house with it. Parents, how much do you talk about the Word of God in your home? When your kids are in a conflict, or facing a decision, are you giving worldly advice, or teaching them the Word and how to apply it?
Moses tells them what their borders will be if they claim them: From Egypt north to Lebanon, and from the Mediterranean Sea east to the middle of Iraq.
God was making it clear: obey the Word and be blessed. Disobey the Word and be cursed. Just in case they missed or forgot the exhortation, God will provide them with a visual aid. As the people cross the Jordan into the promised land, they will see the twin peaks of Gher-ee-ZEEM and Ay-BAWL.
As they headed west, they would pass between Gher-ee-ZEEM to the left and Ay-BAWL to the right. Gher-ee-ZEEM was lush with vegetation and would have the blessing placed on it, while Ay-BAWL was barren and rocky and would have the curse placed on it. There's the visual, the reminder. It's your choice, your decision as to which mountain you want to live on. We'll see more on this in chapter 27.
One of the first things the Israelites were to do when they entered the land and conquered the enemy was to completely destroy the Canaanites' altars and places of worship.
This is a principle which many people learn in their walk with God: He doesn't want anything competing for your affection, so it's gotta go. The world's ways and the world's worship must be removed. Clear it out, clean it up, take it all to the dump or the burn pile.
Once they entered into the Promised Land, God would establish a singular place of worship.
After Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, that place was Bayth-ALE (Judges 20:26-27), but ultimately God established His house in Jerusalem. It was only in the Temple where the Israelites were to come and offer their sacrifices, tithes, and offerings.
Before there was a temple, the people of God built altars anywhere and offered their sacrifices to God. But once there was an established house, they were to go there exclusively.
What application does this have for the people of God today? In the same way they had the temple in which to assemble and make offerings, we have churches today. There can be no excuses like, "I just worship God on the golf course," or, "My church is up on the rocks at Vedauwoo." God has established His name in a certain place. The Scripture says,
Heb. 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
It is where the Lord's people assemble that we are called to meet for worship and fellowship, give our offerings, and rejoice over blessings.
The word "cultic" is not in the Hebrew language. As a matter of fact, this phrase is closer to saying "all places that appear." Moses is reminding them that their burnt offerings are not to go everywhere. "Oh look, there's a place. We'll offer it here." No, it was the place where God had established His name. Several people have told me over the years, "Pastor Ron, I just want you to know that Calvary Chapel is my home church, but I send my tithes over to that nice preacher man on TBN." But your offerings are to go where God has established His name in your life.
In the same way, sometimes visitors from other churches drop money in the tithe basket as it goes by. I don't believe that's right either. I believe that their tithe should be going to the church where God has established His name in their lives.
Now, there's nothing wrong with sending money to good ministries. In addition to our tithes, our family has a couple of kids in Compassion International. But that is above and beyond what we purpose in our hearts to give to the church.
Moses also reviews the difference between animals that are sacrificed for tithes at the temple and animals which are for barbecue. A barbecue is fine to have at your house, but the tithed sacrifice is not for your house - it is for God's house. Don't eat it at home and say, "this was my tithe." This sounds just like when a guy once told me, "I used my tithe money this month to buy a new Bible for myself." The tithe is for the house of God, not for your own house.
If the Israelites just withheld the tithes for their own blessings, then the Levites would be forsaken. They were the ones whose lives were dedicated to serving the Lord full-time, and much of the tithe given to the house of God was for the support of the Levites.
In Israel's history, they often got selfish and withheld their offerings from the temple. Nehemiah writes of a time when this happened:
Neh. 13:10-12 I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field. So I reprimanded the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" Then I gathered them together and restored them to their posts. All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses.
Moses had warned the people years before not to fall into this sin.
Finally, Moses says, "Don't be tempted to go after these other gods of the Canaanites." You know, many saints of God are no longer tempted by some of the things that the world worships. But there is a temptation addressed here that even the strongest believers are falling into these days, and that is the danger of...
Deut. 12:30 ...saying, "How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?"
This sin is rampant in the church today. "Let's look at how the world is doing it, and then do likewise! What kinds of gimmicks and graphics are working in the world? Let's do that in the church! How do they do it? Let's imitate them!"
That has become just as much of a snare to churches today as the false gods were to Israel. Instead, we need to take verse 32 to heart:
Deut. 12:32 "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it."
God has given us His eternal Word, which is alive forever, and will last longer than any fad or social trend. If we simply gather in His house to offer Him worship, and learn what He commands in His Word, doing whatever it says without trying to add to it, then we will do well.