Deut. 12:5-6 But to the place which Jehovah your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name, to His habitation, shall you seek, and there shall you go. And there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices and your tithes and the heave offering of your hand and your vows and your freewill offerings and the firstborn of your heard and of your flock;
In messages 10-12 of the Life-Study of Deuteronomy we continue with the rehearsal of the law (see Week 2 and Week 3), but come to a very particular matter, which is the center for the worship of God. Prior to this, the rehearsal had been somewhat general, but in Deuteronomy 12 Moses becomes quite specific in his instructions. This chapter shows that God cares very much for the place where we worship Him – we are not free to act simply according to what is right in our own eyes (Deut. 12:8). Just as God’s people were specifically directed in the Old Testament, today we should apply this to ourselves when we gather to worship the Lord. There are four specific principles revealed in Deuteronomy 12 that apply to the believers today.
First, God’s people should always be one. Oneness is the highest attribute of the Triune God; as His expression and representation, His people must be one as well (John 17:21; Rom. 12:5). In order to preserve the oneness of His people, God did not allow them to have multiple worship centers according to convenience or preference, but He commanded them to worship at the place of His choosing (Deut. 12:11). Later this principle was violated by Jeroboam when he set up two additional worship centers in Dan and Bethel in order to keep the northern kingdom to himself (1 Kings 12:26-30). This damaged the oneness of God’s people and became a great sin in the eyes of God and was repeatedly mentioned as the “sins of Jeroboam” in 1 and 2 Kings (1 Kings 13:34; 14:16; 15:30, 34; 16:2, 19, 26; 21:22; 22:52; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 6, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:21). For more please see Genuine Ground of Oneness by Witness Lee (online free version).
Second, God’s way to keep the oneness of His people is to have a place with His name (Deut. 12:5, 11, 21; Matt. 18:20). As believers who are betrothed to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), we should not deny the Lord’s name (Rev. 3:8). To take the name of someone besides that of our Husband is to deny His name, which is offensive to God and damages the oneness of His people. For this reason we should avoid labeling ourselves with any other name, i.e. “denominating” ourselves, but simply meet as believers in Christ in the city where we live. The New Testament reveals that this was the practice of the early believers who gathered simply as the local church in their respective cities, such as the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1; 11:22), the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), and the seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:11). For more please see The Ground of of the Church and the Meetings of the Church by Witness Lee (online free version).
Third, the place chosen by God for our worship of Him is the place of His habitation (Deut. 12:5). Today, God’s habitation, His dwelling place, is in our spirit (John 4:21-23; Eph. 2:22)! On the one hand, we must gather in the name of the Lord Jesus, but on the other hand we need to be exercised in our spirit. If our meetings are doctrinally correct but we do not exercise our spirit, then we will not be in the habitation of God and we will lose the proper ground of the church.
Fourth, the place of worship has an altar, signifying the cross (Deut. 12:27). When we come to worship God and meet with other believers, we need His name, His habitation, and His cross. Paul sought only to know the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). In the church there is only room for Christ (Col. 3:11). Our natural man, our opinions, our self, and our flesh must be crucified when we meet as the church. When we are on the cross, we are truly in the spirit (see Christ and the Cross, chapter 18).
Finally, in chapter 13 of Deuteronomy, Moses proceeds to give a word concerning apostasy. In the Old Testament, apostasy was to give up God and turn to idols. In the New Testament, apostasy is to deny the deity of Christ. While we should be open and receptive to all genuine believers as Paul describes in Romans 14-15, there are some limitations to our receiving, including idolatry, gross sins, divisiveness, and the denial of the deity of Christ (1 John 5:21; 1 Cor. 5:9-11; Rom. 16:17; 2 John 7-11). In this way we can maintain the oneness of the Body of Christ and a proper testimony for the Lord. May we as the second generation heed these words of warning in Deuteronomy lest we fall away from God’s eternal economy and purpose!