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No Math! Deuteronomy 12

In Summary:
Briefly, Deuteronomy 12 presents the second helping of the laws of God related to public worship. The old pagan structures are to be destroyed, new worship is to be done in accordance with God’s commands.

Notice, especially, the statements about how: 1. You shall not act like this toward YHWH, your God; 2. God’s choice of worship—the place which YHWH will choose; 3. Tithes in 17-19, that were to be used for fellowship, rejoicing, and feeding the Levites.

In Focus:
I have one, clear focal point in this passage. Take a look at Deuteronomy 12:32. (For you Greek nerds, it’s 13:1 in the LXX, also in the BHS for you חֶברֶו types.)

Take a good look. Especially that last phrase: you shall not add to it or take away from it.

God is abundantly clear that His commands are to be followed, and even more clear that they are not to be added to by people.
In Practice:
What matters in practice of this?

In summary, legalism. In all sorts of forms, legalism keeps cropping up. It is the Hydra of Christian practice, that when you cut off one head, two more take its place. Cut it off, here and now, and singe it with the fire of the Spirit.

How does Legalism keep springing back? Take a current, massively destructive debate in Christianity about education. Here’s legalism at work in three easy statements:

A. Those who do not homeschool their children are handing them over to Satan and dooming them to destruction.

B. Those who do not send their children to government/public schools are abandoning their communities and dooming all the lost of their community to destruction.

C. Those who do not send their children to private schools are dooming their children to lousy education, lousy social skills, and destruction of their spiritual well-being.

All of those statements are legalistic. They do not take into account the freedom in the Spirit to make wise, discerning choices about parenting and education.

Have another issue we are constantly lobbing rocks about, that of family responsibilities. Here are three statements on it:

A. Women who work outside the home abandon their God-given responsibilities to the home, and it should never happen.

B. Women who never work outside the home are trapped, and often deluded into thinking they are not trapped, by men whose only purpose is control.

C. Men whose wives work outside the home are less than real men.

Again, we are not allowing people the freedom to make their own decisions based on their understanding of the Word of God.

And God’s Word is not as crystal-clear on these matters as advocates on any side would like you to think it is.

This violates the principle stated here, to not add to the Lord’s commands. Yet sometimes we are so obsessed with what we think His commands are that we keep piling on to them, and then we extend them to everyone else. For example, Ann and I are convinced that in our situation, the wise choice is to homeschool. I will not detail all the reasons here, but we feel that we are being obedient to God’s commands in doing so. However, we know others who utilize both public and private options for education. And they are being just as obedient as we are.

Likewise, Ann works for an outside company but she works from home. I am not unmanned by this nor is she abandoning anything by working. She would not be abandoning us if she went to a local Internet cafe to work. There just are no local cafes.

Other families make other choices, and we are in no position to condemn their choices. Especially without knowing them! Now, if you came to me as your pastor and detailed a laundry list of family, work, and school issues, I would heartily recommend you make different choices. I have no fear of that. But I will not issue a blanket statement about any of these because I see that Scripture does not permit making any of those options the absolute Word of God. Why?

God did not make it the Word of God. I am not in a position to correct His choices.

The extension on this: if you are hearing from a preacher, teacher, or so-called ministry that insists that the Word of God must extend to include their view, their vision, to the exclusion of all others—that person is wrong. Based on Scripture. (Now, this caveat should not be necessary, but obviously some things are out-of-bounds and it’s not legalistic to say so—there are practices of pagans to be eschewed, just as the Israelites were told.)

Get out from teaching like that. Find help, find support, and get away.

Because the Law of God is very clear that there is no more math: no addition, no subtraction. He has spoken, and we act on it.

In Nerdiness: I’ve got nothing nerdy to add. It is plain here, and there is no wiggle room. Want to get nerdy? Wrestle with why the original languages have 12:32 as 13:1…or why English has 13:1 as 12:32, whichever you’d like.


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