“The Sacred, the Common, and the Temptation to Idolatry” 

Deuteronomy 12 

November 12, 2023 

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service 

Pastor Nicoletti 

The Reading of the Word 

We return this morning to the book of Deuteronomy, as Moses instructs the people of Israel, while they stand on the verge of the promised land. 

Our text is a longer one, and it may feel distant from our lives at first, but this morning I want to argue that it actually contains important concepts that are very relevant for how we live today. 

With that in mind, let’s turn to our text: Deuteronomy 12. 

Please do listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this morning. 

Moses said to the people: 

12:1“These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 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. 3 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. 4 You shall not worship Yahweh your God in that way. 5 But you shall seek the place that Yahweh your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, 6 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. 7 And there you shall eat before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which Yahweh your God has blessed you. 

8 “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that Yahweh your God is giving you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, 11 then to the place that Yahweh your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to Yahweh. 12 And you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. 13 Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, 14 but at the place that Yahweh will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you. 

15 “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of Yahweh your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before Yahweh your God in the place that Yahweh your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God in all that you undertake. 19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land. 

20 “When Yahweh your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. 21 If the place that Yahweh your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which Yahweh has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire. 22 Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat of it. The unclean and the clean alike may eat of it. 23 Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 25 You shall not eat it, that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of Yahweh. 26 But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that Yahweh will choose, 27 and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of Yahweh your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of Yahweh your God, but the flesh you may eat. 28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of Yahweh your God. 

29 “When Yahweh your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship Yahweh your God in that way, for every abominable thing that Yahweh hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 

32  “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” 

This is the Word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.) 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25] 

Let’s pray … 

Prayer of Illumination 

Lord, we rejoice at your word, 

like one who finds great spoil. 

We hate falsehood, 

but we love your commandments. 

We know that those who love your law have peace, 

and nothing can make them stumble. 

And so help us now to keep your testimonies from the heart, 

and to love them exceedingly. 

Help us to pursue a life of faithfulness, 

knowing that all our ways are before you. 

Grant this, we ask, for Jesus’s sake. Amen. 

[Based on Psalm 119:162-163, 165, 167-168] 


As we consider this longer, somewhat repetitive chapter, it might be helpful for us to begin by zooming out before we zoom in. And as we do, we see that three major themes emerge. 

The first is a warning and command against using the idols and the shrines of the Canaanite pagans as the means by which they worship. This comes up in verses one through four, then again in verses eight and nine, and once more in verses twenty-nine through thirty-two. In many ways, this is the theme which frames the entire passage. 

The second theme is a technical distinction Moses makes between the common slaughter of animals and eating of meat, on the one hand, and then the sacred sacrificial slaughter of animals and sacred meals at the tabernacle, on the other hand. That comes up first in verses fifteen and sixteen, and then again in verses twenty through twenty-five. In these verses Moses calls them to discern a distinction between common slaughter and sacred sacrifice – between common meals and sacred festivals of worship. 

Finally, the third theme we see, repeated several times throughout the text, is the call on Israel to proper, sacred worship. Moses calls on the Israelites to gather for worship with God’s diverse people, under God’s faithful servants, in God’s special presence. We see this in verses five through seven, verses ten through fourteen, verses seventeen through nineteen, and verses twenty-six through twenty-nine. In fact, almost half the verses of this chapter are spent on this this third theme: this positive call to sacred worship. 

Those are the three themes of this chapter, and they’re the three points we’ll focus on this morning: 

  • The temptation to idolatry,  
  • the distinction between the sacred and the common,  
  • and the call to sacred worship. 

The Temptation to Idolatry in the How 

So first, let’s think together about the temptation to idolatry, as Moses outlines it here. 

Take a look at verses two through four. Moses calls on Israel there to destroy the worship sites and idols of the Canaanites, and not to use them. 

Now there are two important things we need to note about that commandment. 

First, this text is not about how Christians should treat the active religious sites of non-believers. Moses’s instruction here is about what Israel should do after the land becomes theirs – after the Canaanites have either been driven out of the land, killed, or converted to faith in Yahweh. Verses twenty-nine and thirty make that clear. This is about how Israel should and should not worship – not about how they interact with unbelievers. 

Second, this chapter is not about who Israel worships, but how Israel worships. That becomes obvious in verse four. After describing the worship sites and idols of the Canaanites in verses two and three, Moses says “You shall not worship Yahweh your God in that way.” The same statement is repeated again in verse thirty-one. Moses is concerned here with how Israel will worship Yahweh – the Lord. 

And the temptation he identifies, once they get into the land, will be to simply adapt the pagan means of worship, and tweak them a little, and then use them to worship Yahweh. But that’s not what Yahweh wants. 

Now, that might seem picky or narrow to some, but really, it’s an acknowledgement that our relationship with the Lord is a real relationship with a real person.  

Real people are not interchangeable. And that comes up when we think of gifts given as a sign of love. If a new husband gives his wife a gift to show his love for her, but the object he gives her is not something she wants, but something his old ex-girlfriend once told him she would like … well, his wife is not going to receive that gift as a real sign of love. She’s going to be hurt. And they’re probably going to end up in my office. Because the gift is not focused on her, but it shows that her husband actually had someone else in mind when he gave her the gift – even if it’s his wife that he gave the gift to. 

And in the same way, to give to Yahweh what Ashera or Baal have asked for is not an act of love towards Yahweh – especially when, as we read in verse thirty-one, Yahweh hates what Ashera and Baal love. 

In worship, Israel had to offer to Yahweh, and draw close to Yahweh, in the ways that Yahweh himself had called them to – not in the ways of the false gods around them. That’s Moses’s point here. 

The question is then, how does this apply to us? 

There are, of course, worship sites to other gods all around us: to Allah or Budda or Vishnu or others. And certainly this text is a reminder that the God of the Bible is not interchangeable with the gods of those other religions. But most of you here have not been tempted recently to worship Yahweh in a mosque or a Buddhist temple or some other house of worship. So if you haven’t been tempted to do that, then how does this warning apply to you? 

Well, as many point out, the dominant idols of our secular age tend to be aspects of creation that we treat as the objects of our highest devotion – they are good things that we elevate and treat as ultimate things. 

For some it’s career or wealth. It’s by our career or financial success that we mark our ultimate success in life, and it is to them that we look for assurance that we are secure, and good. 

For others, it can be the family. We look to the success of our families to gauge our ultimate success in life and to determine whether we are good. Exactly how we do that might vary. In some circles it will be about the size of our family. In others it will be about the worldly success of our children. In others it will be about the methods by which we raise our kids. But our family can become not just a good thing in our lives, but an ultimate thing – our highest good. 

Still for others, it might be political activism that becomes ultimate. Our trust for the future – for the world – is placed in political success. To be righteous is to be in the right political tribe, and ultimate importance is placed on every political battle. Political victory becomes our ultimate hope, and political defeat becomes our ultimate fear. 

Still for others, the highest source of our hope and security might be in the realm of romantic or sexual expression. On the cultural left this manifests itself as a belief that we cannot be fully and authentically human unless we fulfill our sexual desires. And on the religious right this can manifest itself as a conviction that you are not living life fully until you’re married or have started a family. In both views, ultimate human fulfillment comes through the sexual and romantic dimension of our human nature. 

And, of course, we could go on with other examples. There are many other things that might be good in themselves, but which we, in our culture, are tempted to turn into ultimate sources of hope and ultimate grounds for righteousness. These are our secular idols. 

Now … normally when we speak of these secular idols, we talk about the temptation to worship and serve these things instead of serving God. But Moses’s focus here is on the temptation to try to offer sacred worship to God through our idols. 

It’s easy enough to understand what that looks like when it comes to a shrine to Asherah or Baal … but we need to ask: How does Moses’s warning here apply to these secular idols – these things that we have said are good in themselves? Surely, we’re not called on to destroy our careers or our finances or our families or our political powers or our sexuality as the Israelites were called on to destroy the pagan worship sites in their villages. So what are we called to do then? 

And here, it’s Moses’s second theme that provides us with some important help. 

So the first thing we see is the temptation to idolatry in how we worship the Lord. 

The Discernment Between Sacred & Common  

The second thing we see in our text this morning is the call to distinguish between the sacred and the common. 

Now, even as I say that, we need a bit more clarity, because those words can mean different things to different people. 

By “common” I do not mean something bad, or something worthless, or something to be avoided. Rather, I mean good things – good gifts from God, which we are called to engage in and use, and which, properly used, can bless us, and bless others, and glorify God. But by “common” I also mean things that God has not designated as the primary arena for his relationship with us – as primary means of grace … things he has not designated for special, sacred use in the worship of his people. That’s what I mean by “common.” 

And by “sacred” I mean those things that God has designated for special, sacred use in the worship of his people – things he has set apart as the primary arena for his relationship with his people. These things are the special means of grace that God has called on his people to engage in when they are gathered for special worship before him, in order to draw close to him together: things like the Scriptures, the sacraments, and prayer, in the context of God’s people gathered for worship. 

Now, some might respond that all of the Christian life is supposed to be an act of worship. And in a sense, you’re right! But it’s because you’re right that this distinction is so important. Because the type of worship that all of life is is not uniform. It’s not all the same. In our regular acts of life, done rightly, to God’s glory, we might say that we are engaged in common-life worship. We can do our jobs, or raise or kids, or do the dishes, all to the glory of God. That is common-life worship. 

But then there’s special worship – worship that is especially set apart by God, where we draw more intensely close to him. That’s what we do when we gather here, together, with God’s people, to hear God’s word, to pray, to sing, to receive the sacraments. That is special, or “sacred” worship. 

And intuitively we acknowledge that. This room is set apart for special worship. And there’s a reason we have Bibles and hymnals in front of you, and not kitchen sinks. There’s a reason we spend our time here singing hymns and hearing God’s word, and not washing dishes. Both singing hymns and washing dishes, done rightly, can glorify God. But one is an act of God’s special worship, called for in the sacred assembly of his people, and the other is an act of our common-life worship, done in our day-to-day lives. 

And it’s this category distinction that Moses introduces here in Deuteronomy 12.  

We see this in verses fifteen and sixteen, and then again in verses twenty through twenty-five, where Moses draws a sharp distinction between the common slaughter of an animal and the sacred sacrifice of an animal – and with that, a distinction between common meals and sacred meals of worship. 

Now, that distinction might seem obvious to us. But it would not have been obvious in the ancient world. As Robert Alter points out, in the ancient world, there was no categorical distinction between religious sacrifice and the secular slaughter of an animal for meat. Every time you slaughtered an animal, it was supposed to also be a sacred, religious sacrifice. Even in Hebrew, there was one word for both “slaughter” and “sacrifice” – not two. [Alter, 943] 

But the innovation Moses introduces here is this category of what some call “secular slaughter” [Alter, 943]: the idea of slaughtering an animal in a way that was good, but that was not part of a sacred act of worship. 

This secular slaughter is not done at a religious site. The blood is not used in a religious ceremony, but it’s poured out on the ground like water. The act is moved from the realm of the sacred – from an act of special worship – to the common: a good gift of God that is part of common life. 

And the point is not that these common meals were bad or even spiritually neutral. They weren’t! As the Apostle Paul said, whether we eat or drink, we should do everything to the glory of God [1 Corinthians 10:31]. Every meal is a gift from God. Every meal is an opportunity to glorify God. Every meal is a good thing that requires right engagement. But not every meal is a sacred meal. Not every meal, for Israel, was the same as the meals to be received in the House of God. There’s a distinction between good, common aspects of life, and good sacred aspects of life. That distinction, when it comes to slaughtering meat and enjoying it, is key to our text. 

And that distinction is also key for us. We can’t divide the world into just two categories: into just the good and the bad, or just the sacred and the worthless. And that’s because not all good things fulfill the same purpose. Some are set aside, by God, for special purposes in our relationship with him. Others are more common good things. And the fact that they are common does not make them bad or worthless. At the same time, the fact that they are good does not necessarily make them sacred acts that God has set apart as primary means of grace.  

And if we fail to make those distinctions – if we fail to discern the difference between good common things and good sacred things, then we too can fall into idolatry: not necessarily the idolatry of worshipping other things instead of Yahweh, but the idolatry that Moses warns of here, of trying to worship Yahweh in an idolatrous fashion: by raising something common higher than God has intended it to be, and in the process, lowering something sacred below what God has said it should be. 

What does this look like for us? 

Well think again of the secular idols we mentioned earlier. 

Think about the realm of career and finances. Our work and the stewardship of our wealth is important to God – by them we might honor God or by them we might dishonor him. Work and finances are not bad or spiritually neutral. But they are also not the primary arena of our relationship with God. And if we’re honest … we’re sometimes tempted to treat them as if they are. We’re tempted to value our career success or our finances more than we should. And when we do, as Christians, we’re often tempted to justify it by telling ourselves that our work and our stewardship are a service to the Lord. And that may be true … but it becomes idolatry when we raise that aspect of service higher than we should … when we begin to treat work or finances like they are the primary act for our faithfulness to Christ. Then, we begin to gauge our relationship with God by our success in our work or with our finances. We begin to excuse neglecting our other callings – even our calling to active involvement with the Church – by telling ourselves that our work is the primary place where we serve the Lord. 

But our workplace is not the Kingdom of God. Our service to our employer is not the total fulfillment of our service to Christ. Our career success is not the pinnacle of spiritual success. There are many aspects of the Christian life that are much more important than what we achieve at work or how we handle our finances. As important as those things may be, they are not of ultimate importance – they are good, but they are not the sacred. Our mission at work is not synonymous with the mission that Christ has given to us as his disciples, and our community at work is not the communion of saints.  

Our work and career may be a good thing, but it is not the sacred realm of God’s unique special presence – it is not the primary arena where he has promised to draw close to us. And to treat it as such … is an act of idolatry – an act of trying to worship the Lord primarily by a means he has not set apart as what he wants for our sacred acts of worship. 

And if we idolize our work and say it’s actually a service to the Lord, then we are like Israelites, giving to Yahweh what Asherah demands. We become idolators. 

But work, of course, is not the only place we can be tempted to make this mistake. 

For others it will be their family. Now, of course, God cares about our families – the Bible is full of commandments for family life. But our families do not rank higher in importance than God’s family. Rather, our families are merely a part of God’s family – which is the Church. God works in our families, and we must seek to live out our family life in distinctly Christian ways. But our families are not the Church. Our families are not themselves the Body of Christ. Our families are not the sacred realm of God’s unique special presence. 

The same distinction is important when we consider our engagement with politics. God cares about politics, and he calls us to engagement with the state and civil authorities. Those are good common-life things and good common-life callings for us to engage in specifically as Christians. But political discussion and connection are not the means of grace or the gathered worship of the saints. Political action is not synonymous with Christ’s calling on us in the great commission. The state and our political party are not the Body of Christ or the Family of God. Civic engagement is an important common-life good, but the halls of power and legislation are not the sacred realm of God’s unique special presence. 

Finally, our sexuality is also important to God. It’s meant to be a gift, and an arena where we glorify him, by living lives of sexual integrity, whether in singleness or in marriage. God made our sexual nature to be good. But he has not made sexual expression and romantic relationships to be the spiritual peak of our lives. Such relationships are good common-life blessings. But they are not the sacred realm of God’s unique special presence. 

Moses’s second theme calls us to make these distinctions between the sacred means of grace, found in the special acts of worship among God’s gathered people on the one hand, and the common-life blessings and callings of this life on the other hand. 

Where are you tempted to blur that distinction? Where are you tempted to place some other work in life as more sacred than special worship? Where are you tempted to place some other community above the Church in spiritual significance? That is the kind of idolatry that Moses is warning you about here. It may seem subtle. But the threat is real. 

This is what Moses warns us against. 

When then, does Moses call us to? 

The Call of Sacred Worship 

The third theme of our text is that Moses calls us to sacred worship. 

In fact, he spends almost half the chapter calling Israel to sacred worship. And he calls them to it is a specific way: He calls them to gather for worship with God’s diverse people, under God’s faithful servants, in God’s special presence. 

Gathering with God’s Diverse People 

First, Moses calls them to gather with God’s diverse people.  

By centralizing worship as he does here, God was calling the Israelites out of the small subcultures of their villages, into the broader gathering of God’s people – beyond not just their village, but beyond their clan, and even beyond their tribe. He called them to gather with fellow believers from different regions, different backgrounds, and different levels of social status, as verses twelve and eighteen stress. 

And one reason this was important was because in the ancient world, idolatry tended to be regional. The shrines and idols left behind might vary from place to place. In their own region – in their own small world – those idols might take on a level of plausibility. But by gathering with other believers who knew nothing of those particular idols of their village, an Israelite had their temptations to idolatry corrected and put in perspective. 

And we often need the same thing. We tend – especially in our culture today – to be drawn into narrower and narrower social silos and echo chambers. And usually, those silos are centered on certain cultural idols. And even Christians can fall into this. 

But if you’re tempted to turn your politics into an idolatrous form of serving Jesus, then gathering for worship with Christians who have different political perspectives than you will push back against that temptation. 

If you’re tempted to turn your family into an idolatrous form of serving Jesus, then gathering for worship with Christians who approach family life differently than you do should push back against that temptation. 

If you’re tempted to turn your work or finances into an idolatrous form of serving Jesus, then gathering for worship with Christians who have very different jobs from you, or occupy different socio-economic statuses than you, should push back against that temptation. 

And if you are tempted to turn your sexuality into an idolatrous form of knowing Jesus, then if you’re gathering with married Christians, and single Christians, widowed Christians, and widower Christians, each with different struggles, but each living out the Christian life faithfully, and in its fullness, then that should push back against the temptation to turn romance or sexuality into an idol. 

Whatever your struggle, the call to gather with God’s diverse people counteracts the temptations to idolatry we often face … while narrow sectarianism tends to nurture and reinforce our personal idols. 

Under God’s Faithful Servants 

Second, Moses calls the people to gather under God’s faithful servants. 

The Levites are mentioned twice here – both in verse twelve and again in verse eighteen. 

The Levites, along with the priests, were specially set apart servants of Yahweh. Some of their functions took place at the tabernacle. But their responsibilities for spiritual instruction continued when scattered among the people of God too – among the tribes of Israel. 

Now, as verse nineteen highlights, part of the reason for their mention here is that they were to receive their provision, in part, from the tithes of the people. 

But as one commentator points out, there’s probably more going on here than that. A Levite could hopefully make it by financially on the tithes of faithful Israelites. But he could do even better by adopting the idols and shrines in the land. Israel was tempted to those idols, and a Levite, who wanted to make a buck, or make a name for himself, could simply adopt one of those idols that Israel was already attracted to, assure them that it was a valid means of serving Yahweh, and then receive an income from the sacrifices and offerings made at that shrine. [Alter, 942] In fact, this is similar to what we see happen in Judges 17 and 18. 

But Moses is directing Israel here to gather with the faithful Levites – with those who are not off serving at the idolatrous shrines, but who are serving God faithfully, in his house. 

In the same way we need to place ourselves with and under God’s faithful servants. There are all sorts of valid ways to evaluate pastors, and teachers, and elders, and other leaders among God’s people. But chief among them must be: Are they faithful servants of Yahweh?  

There are lots of ways to apply that question, but what’s in view in our text is this: Do they point you towards the truth of God’s word, even when it’s not what you want to hear … or instead, do they tend to justify, and nurture, and even inflame the idolatries of your heart? And don’t worry about other people’s idols right now – but your idols, the idols you tend to struggle with. 

Because if I or others are just pushing you towards those idols – telling you that by worshipping them you’re actually serving Jesus – then that’s a huge problem. 

That criteria applies to me and to other pastors and official church leaders in your life. But you also need to apply it to the other voices you lend your ear to. You need to ask yourself: The books you read, the podcasts you listen to, the radio programs, or tv channels, or people you follow on social media – are they challenging the idols you tend towards … or are they nurturing them … inflaming them … “baptizing” them and assuring you that those idols and shrines really are the ultimate sacred realms for knowing and serving Jesus? If the people you listen to are doing that … then you are harboring unfaithful Levites in your life … and you need to separate yourself from them, and find the voices of faithful Levites to replace them with. 

Is that something you need to do? 

Because here, Moses calls us to worship under God’s faithful servants. 

In God’s Special Presence 

Third and finally, Moses calls Israel to gather in God’s special presence. 

The Bible tells us that God is present everywhere. But it also tells us that God is present in a special way in certain places. In the Old Testament that was in the tabernacle – the place where God set up his house, as discussed here in our text. 

In the New Testament, the site of God’s special presence is Christ. And with that, it is anywhere God’s people gather in the name of Christ [Matthew 18:20]. It’s as we gather in him that God is especially present with us. It’s when we gather together, as the Church, because of Jesus that we experience this blessing … not when we gather because we share a blood relationship, or a career field, or a socio-economic status, or a political philosophy, or a sexual identity, or a marital status – no, it is when we gather because we share a faith in Christ – when we gather in his name that he is with us in a special way. 

And it’s because he is with us in a special way that Christian worship is the sacred arena where God relates to us, and we relate to him, like nowhere else. It’s that special presence that makes the Church holy. It’s that special presence that makes our worship holy. It’s that special presence anchors our spiritual lives, and grows our faith, and enables us to live faithfully in all the common-life arenas the Lord has called us to throughout the week. It’s here where we experience the Lord in that special, set apart way. And it’s here where we get a special glimpse of the fellowship we will have with God for all eternity.  

Because here we gather in Christ. And it’s in Christ, and in his special presence, that our God draws close to us, and we draw close to him, like nowhere else. 

Do you recognize that? Do you recognize that gathering here, with God’s people, is categorically different from every other gathering you are a part of throughout the week? Those other gatherings and their activities may be good. But this gathering is sacred – set apart by God. And the acts of worship we do here are sacred – set apart as the special means of grace by which we draw closer to God and he draws close to us. Do you recognize that reality in your own life? Do you remind yourself each Lord’s Day that that is what you step into as you walk into this room? Do you prioritize being here for worship in light of that truth? 

If nothing else, our text this morning is a call to recognize that this assembly is unlike any other in your life. And so it’s important to be here. And it’s important to step into this gathering expecting God to work in special ways in our hearts and lives. 

That is the gift of sacred worship. Let us not take it for granted. Let us not put it below the other callings we have in this life. But let us treasure it, and draw close every Lord’s Day, eager to experience God’s special presence here.  

For that is the blessing of sacred worship. 



This sermon draws on material from: 

Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. New York, NY: Norton, 2004. 

Barker, Paul. Introduction and notes to Deuteronomy in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. 

Block, Daniel I. The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.  

Wright, Christopher. Deuteronomy. NIBC. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996. 

Note: In my preaching I often cite and draw from a range of sources, which includes material from Christians within my theological tradition, Christians outside my theological tradition (in keeping with our church’s core value of “Reformed Catholicity”), and also (following the Apostle Paul’s example in Acts 17) non-Christians who are well outside of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy. And so, when I cite an author or a source, that citation should not be understood or construed as me necessarily agreeing with, endorsing, or recommending to others anything else from that author or source, except for what I explicitly say I agree with, endorse, or recommend. When engaging with different materials and thinkers, all Christians must exercise wisdom and discernment to determine what is helpful, appropriate, and edifying for each person, taking into account their current needs, wisdom, and spiritual maturity.