Chapter 12 begins the third section of Deuteronomy, specific elaborations on the foundational laws mentioned in chapters 5 – 11. It is most appropriate then that the section begin with a pointed command to be sure that worship is distinctly according to God’s way. Specifically forbidden is any allowance of worldly influence.
Three points stand out in this chapter:
First is the previously mentioned holiness of worship. It was to be God’s way, in God’s time, at God’s appointed place. Though we have no designated singular place for worship today under Christ’s covenant, the notion that worship must never be done in a way that smacks of worldliness remains. The world has no vote – and neither should worldly people. This should not mean that because pagan temples have windows, our churches should not – or if they have air-conditioning we should swelter in the heat. Such things have nothing to do with actual worship. But in the worship itself, such should be done as God has said, to please solely Him. When our worship assemblies become vehicles to make Christianity appealing and satisfactory to the world, we’ve forgotten this lesson of Deuteronomy 12.
Second is the need for the assembly of the community. While there was a time when individual worship was the rule because corporate worship had not been established, one should recognize that corporate worship was important to God – far more so than individual worship. To worship in the place of your choice would eventually lead to the displacement of God’s choice.
This brings us to the final point. One cannot help but notice the caveat that even after the establishment of a place of worship, there was room for local and individual worship (vss. 15ff). I regard this as the weak link. As long as the choice of worshiping locally and individually was even remotely acceptable, Israel would be drawn away from corporate worship according to the dictates of God. And yet, it could not be avoided. Worship was to be done where God appointed, but that was not to be the only worship that was done.