Before God even took the children of Israel across the Jordan He had a place in mind for His dwelling place. It would be a special place to all the people.
While the people were wandering in the wilderness, wherever they set up the Tabernacle was where they made their sacrifices to God. The people were also following their own heart in how they served God according to what I hear Moses saying. “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes” (verse 8). It appears that once the people have taken full possession of the land that the rules of worship and sacrifices tighten up.
God already had a place in mind. We know where that place is but Israel didn’t yet. Moses doesn’t give them a clue as to its location but that there would be a special place for God. Up until they finish their conquest of the Promised Land they will be maintaining their camp arrangement with the Tabernacle in the middle of them. But after all the cleansing of the land the tribes will disperse. No longer will they all live within spitting range of each other. The Tabernacle that they have carried all these years will come to rest too in a place of God’s choosing.
Did you notice that the Tabernacle won’t rest until the people do? God is going with the people every step of the way. He doesn’t take them up to a certain point and then send them off to finish the job. He travels with them, directs them, and fights for them the entire way.
But they have to be committed to following Him wherever He leads. They have to eliminate ALL the other gods along the way. “You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hill 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” (verses 2-3). This is a total campaign to remove the stain of other gods from the land. NOTHING is to be left of them including the practice of worshiping wherever whenever the mood strikes. The inhabitants’ practice of unstructured or individual worship is even stopped. Not because it is sinful to worship God anywhere except the prescribed place but because it separates His worship from all others. It gives distinction to the people and unites them in common practices of worship. They are to follow God’s statutes instead of the unordered practices of the people they are driving out. God wants CLEAR dividing lines.
God does give the people latitude to eat meat anywhere they choose but that meat is NOT to be treated as a “sacrifice” or “offering” unless it is brought to the place He will choose. One big difference between meat for their table and meat for sacrifice is the disposition of the blood. When the animal is offered as a sacrifice the blood of it must be applied to the altar. When it is simply dinner, the blood is to be poured out on the ground like water. The people are NOT to eat the blood of the animal. There is only ONE altar that is to be allowed in Israel; the one in God’s Tabernacle. This is the place of offerings and sacrifices to God.
After Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross we are no longer held to one location to meet with God. “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). God in the form of the Holy Spirit lives within the hearts of the believers. God’s presence isn’t located in one special place but is within ALL His people. We are His church, His Temple. We are called to still gather together as a body to share His word and His works with our fellow believers but we are now free to meet with Him in our own homes and prayer closets as well. This doesn’t mean that we can set up altars and shrines wherever we want but that our hearts are free to praise Him wherever we are. Praise Him in spirit and in truth.
Because of sin God was able to interact with His people only in a limited way. This was why they had to come to His house. There they could be cleaned from their sin and interact with Him. Now Jesus has cleaned our hearts and we can meet with God without the dividing line of sin. We are BOTH free to enjoy our relationship outside of the confines of the Tabernacle. Not only is the veil in the Temple open so man can approach God but so God can reach out to man and draw him near.
Father God, thank You for preparing so long ago a way for me to be with You. You wanted to be near man so much that You created a limited way to do so that held the promise of much more to come. I wonder what the people Moses was speaking with would have thought if You told them that one day the veil would no longer separate them from Your presence. Would they have cowered in fear or rejoiced? It is interesting to watch You set up the whole system knowing the steps it will take to get to the final result. We aren’t even there yet but we have come a LONG way because of YOU. NONE of the changes, including the original set up, were man’s doing. It was and always is YOUR work. THANK YOU for doing that work. I have NO hope of doing it for myself.
Thank You for letting me meet with You in my living room. Thank You that I don’t have to travel to one place on earth to hear from You or to honor You. Thank You for making our relationship even possible. Words fail me with expressing the honor that I feel at being Your child and being able to crawl up in Daddy’s lap. Just think, the words I read today paved the way for the relationship I have now. WOW!