For the week of August 25, 2001 / 6 Elul 5761
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12

Don't Imitate!

When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:9).

Last week we saw how God through Moses said the people were not to incorporate the customs of the false religions around them into their worship of God. How we worship God is a reflection of who we think God really is. Therefore we must represent God properly as we worship him.

This week we read similarly "do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:9). The people of Israel had to be careful not to imitate the ungodly customs of the people living in the land of Canaan.

The people of Moses' day were given clear directions as to the form of their worship. It was to be centered around the service of the Tabernacle (later the Temple) and the sacrifices. We saw last week how Yeshua the Messiah spoke of a time when that form of worship would be greatly transformed:

a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem (John 4:21).

The New Covenant teaches little about the form of worship. If anything it may be said that it turns us away from outward religious forms to a spirituality of the heart. This is exactly what the nevi'im (English: the prophets) foretold. Jeremiah for example spoke of the internalization of the Torah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

It was this understanding that helped the early followers of Yeshua not to impose Jewish customs upon the non-Jewish believers. This de-emphasis on religious customs and the later destruction of the temple laid the groundwork for the development of new forms of worship.

The rabbis who did not follow Yeshua believed it was necessary to provide the Jewish people with a version of Judaism reminiscent of the one God gave through Moses. Without understanding how Yeshua fulfilled the covenant of Sinai, they developed their own substitutes for many of God's directives. Denying God's revelation through the Messiah and his followers, they created a new system based on human ingenuity.

I wonder though how often the followers of Yeshua have done the same thing. Since the New Covenant does not provide us tangible religious forms, we have tended to develop them ourselves looking to various models through which to fashion our worship.

The Torah portions these two weeks have warned us against modeling our worship after the customs of the false religions. The assumption in these statements is that whatever God has told us is sufficient. This was clearly stated a few weeks ago when we were told not to add or take away anything from God's revelation (Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:2 -

That being the case, the development of our forms of worship should only be derived from God and his word. He is more than able to direct us in this area.

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