“What this event makes clear is that God rejects worship of him in improper forms. He has the right to tell his people how he wants to be worshiped, and his people must follow those instructions to the letter. This event is also an illustration of a problem that will plague Hebrew worship for a long time—syncretism. They mixed true worship with false.”
(Scott Anoil) In the Old Testament Law, God gave his people very specific instructions about how they were to relate to the people around them, including in their culture and worship practices.
Deuteronomy 12:2–8 reveals important principles in this regard. God commanded that the people destroy the places where pagans worshiped, including their altars, their pillars, their images, and even the names of the places….
This is clearly more than simply insisting that they worship Yahweh rather than false gods; this is stark evidence that God rejects worship that imitates pagan worship in any way. Everything in pagan culture embodies religious commitments, and those elements that are imbibed with pagan religious meaning must be rejected for use in worship. One might ask why they had to destroy, for example, the altars and pillars; wouldn’t these be useful even for the worship of the true God? Yet God commanded that they be destroyed. He summarized his desires with the words, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” Instead, they were to listen to his instructions and find a place of his choosing for their worship.
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