Worshiping the Lord
Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 12:1-32, Deuteronomy 13:1-18, Deuteronomy 14:1-21, 1 Corinthians 10:14-31
My mom and I are good friends. Like all good friends, we can get ourselves into passionate, playful arguments about very important topics—like vanilla extract. Yes, you heard that right: vanilla extract. I’m a purist. She was too, until taking the advice of a TV chef.
“It all tastes the same in the end,” she says. And that, my friends, is where our playful little argument begins. Now, I understand the benefit of using imitation vanilla on a budget. Dropping thirty dollars on a little bottle of flavoring may not be the best way to steward our finances when there are more pressing needs. It’s an extravagance. But I do think it’s important to recognize there is a difference. Greater value is given to vanilla in its purest form than to a watered-down imitation of it because it’s unlike anything else of its kind.
Our God, the Lord of lords, is also unlike anything of His kind. Anything, anywhere, in all creation. He is the one true God. And in Scripture, we see God place deep value on worshiping Him, untainted by idolatry. This is because He is holy and alone worthy of receiving not just our worship, but that which is genuine and from the heart. More importantly, when we find ourselves securing our affections to anything outside of God, it’s only a counterfeit imitation of true worship. It’s an insult to our Father who is over all things and conceived us in love.
In today’s reading, Moses addresses worship practices that are, in short, a hot mess. The people inhabiting the land that God had promised the Israelites are worshipping every kind of idol, constructing Asherah poles, pillars, and altars built for human-made statues (Deuteronomy 12:3-4,8).
Moses urges God’s people to recognize the difference between the current practices in the promised land and the worship of the one true God, between bowing before a statue crafted from human hands instead of the God who spoke metal, wood, and light into being. They are called to mark a difference between what is pagan and what is pure, not just in who or what they worship, but in how. Avoiding idolatry wasn’t only about avoiding bowing down to statues—it was about adopting a way of living that aligned with being set apart. “For you are a holy people,” Moses says, “belonging to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 14:21).
Fortunately, Mom and I agree that being a purist in baking is not anywhere near as important as it is in worship. You and I may not be called to the same instructions as the Israelites living under the old covenant, but we are called to worship with pure hearts all the same. Today, let’s sit in the presence of the God who alone is worthy of our heart’s deepest affection.