BUT THE HIGH PLACES …
Deuteronomy 12:2 – 7 Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God. But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.
Please remember the phrase … unto his habitation … for our later edification. God called the Israelites to utterly destroy the places where the prior inhabitants had served their gods, and called them unto a place of worship of His choosing; He told them this again in verses 11 and 14 of Chapter 12. They were called to a walk of obedience. We need to look beyond considering how they failed, and see how they continued to walk therein after they recognized their failure.
Let us start by considering the spiritual disobedience and failures of King Saul: he failed to wait for Samuel to come and offer sacrifice at Gilgal (I Samuel 10:8, and I Samuel 13:8 – 14); he failed to utterly destroy the Amalekites and their livestock as ordered by God (I Samuel 15:2, 3, and I Samuel 15:9 – 23); he sought out the witch of Endor and disquieted Samuel (I Samuel 28: 6 – 19). God replaced Saul with a man after His own heart, King David. But his son Solomon, although beloved of God, failed;
Nehemiah 13:26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
Nehemiah recognizes the sin of the king, and purposes to not repeat his failures. Solomon failed of all the things Moses commanded that the kings of Israel should heed and obey in Deuteronomy 17:16 – 20. This is recorded in I Kings 11:1 – 10, but for our purposes in this study we only want to look at a consequence of his sin;
I Kings 11:7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
Rehoboam, son of Solomon, compounded this failure of Solomon, as recorded in I Kings 14;
I Kings 14:22, 23 And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.
We see then that Solomon and Rehoboam in their sin did re-establish the practices of the nations that were cast out before the children of Israel. Now let us consider some of the “good” kings that followed.
King Asa began to restore the walk God intended, but did not complete it, in that the high places were not removed;
I Kings 15:11 – 14 And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.
King Jehoshaphat continued in the ways of his father Asa, but again did not complete the work. We will return for a closer look at Jehoshaphat, but for now;
I Kings 22:43 And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.
King Jehoash also let the high places remain;
II Kings 12:2, 3 And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. But the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.
King Amaziah did as his father, also leaving the high places;
II Kings 14:3, 4 And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.
King Azariah did according to his father, and again left the high places;
II Kings 15:3, 4 And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; Save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.
We could continue with King Jotham, but surely this is enough to see the pattern. The Israelites had a form of worship and sacrifice, but not after the due order; God had commanded that they were to worship Him in the place that He chose. Why did many of these things in the Old Testament happen? They are for examples, and our admonition;
I Corinthians 10:11, 12 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
What is the spiritual parallel here for us? The kings and Israelites could not find complete worship or righteousness without obedience. King Jehoshaphat came so close. In II Chronicles it records of him;
II Chronicles 17:6 And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.
From all appearances it seems that the scripture is in conflict with I Kings, but it is not. Jehoshaphat removed the high places out of Judah, but not out of Jerusalem;
II Chronicles 20:32, 33 And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.
Jehoshaphat had a desire to do what was right, and took away the places in Judah that were keeping the people from coming to Jerusalem to worship. However, he could not spiritually see that the high places in Jerusalem were just as wrong. The Israelites had mistakenly believed that Jerusalem was the “place” that God had chosen, not realizing that while it was the city God chose, it only contained the place God chose; the temple. This false understanding of the “place” continued through the generations, as evidenced by the Samaritan woman at the well;
John 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
When the Samaritan woman says “ye say“ she is referring to the Israelites, who looked down on the Samaritans, and told them that the city Jerusalem was the place to worship. The Word tells us it was because the people had not prepared their hearts; how are you coming to worship? Are you coming with only head knowledge that it is the right thing to do? Are you coming in the pride of flesh only? Are you coming in sin or disobedience while still expecting the blessings of God? We come to a church building anticipating it to be the “place”. Or we come in body, soul, and mind expecting to bring the “place” with us. These physical things have then become our Jerusalem in the spiritual. We have unprepared hearts, just as the Jews did. The “heart” is a physical word used for a spiritual “place”; the word “heart” is only a term that helps us understand the spiritual parallel. Jesus answer to the woman at the well has been hidden from us due to the blindness of our hearts;
John 4:21 – 24 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
We need to find the walk of humbleness and obedience that lets God enable us to recognize and overcome the high places in our lives;
II Corinthians 10:5, 6 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
All those things that exalt self prevent you from reaching the prepared heart, the place where God has chosen for you to worship and serve Him;
Psalms 34:18, 19 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
You may say “God has not called me to such and such things.” Your answer is “Yet”. You and your heart are not prepared to receive them “yet”. But God in His mercy will guide us to the place;
Exodus 15:13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
God is calling us to prepare ourselves, to come to His holy habitation. We cannot find His holy habitation in our place, the walk of our choosing. He wants to guide us so that we, as in Monica’s promise … are in the place, yea, that the miracle will be performed, saith the Lord Jesus Christ. The “place” is spiritual, not physical.
Jehoshaphat had achieved a closer walk with God when he tore down the high places in Judah. He could have seen a greater walk with God if he had torn down the high places in Jerusalem. What or where are our high places? the things that hinder a closer walk and worship of Him. It could be places you go, or things you watch; it is not just the depths of sin we recognize. James tells us it can be the things we don’t do;
James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
The word knoweth here is a spiritual word. Would it be good for you to sell everything and go to be a missionary? If God did not call and send you, you would be an abject failure. Reverend Buckner says it very well when he says, “You hear and you do.” Let God open your spiritual ears, hear Him, and obey. He will show you your high places to remove.
But as we come to the door of the Temple we should not let our walk stop there. We should never stop our desire for a closer place of worship with Him. Let God show you your high places; destroy them and come to the outer court, and then to the altar. Do not remain there; Jesus has rent the veil from the top to the bottom, and given us the ability to enter the holy of holies. Let God show you again your high places, cast them down and come to the mercy seat, the “place” of His holy habitation in the physical example of the temple. At each time you hear and do, God will bless you and give you much greater gifts than what you have given up.
During a study of the high places the following scriptures in Romans were read;
Romans 12:1, 2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
It is … by the mercies of God … that He shows you how to be the living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable. It is our … reasonable service. God is the renewer of our minds, and we should allow Him to transform us, and show us what is good, and acceptable, and perfect. You hear and you do! By stating therefore with the start of the verses, we are told that it is because of what is in the end of the prior chapter. Chapter 11 tells us of the omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence of God;
Romans 11:33 – 36 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.
With the knowledge, power, honor, and holiness of God, why are we seeking to find Him in our ways? Present yourself wholly to God and He will direct you!
Luke provides the following words of Jesus regarding the kingdom of God;
Luke 17:20, 21 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
It seems a paradox to say that the kingdom is within us, since we know our sin and iniquity can separate us from God;
Isaiah 59:1, 2 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
But the kingdom of God is a spiritual place, not a physical place. The place of God’s choosing is to be on the throne of your heart, ruling and reigning totally. That cannot occur when you are bound by the physical, and the high places of your choosing;
I Corinthians 3:16, 17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
When we cast down our high places and let Him have full reign we will then receive the fullness of the kingdom;
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Give up the walk of your choosing, ignore the calls of your flesh for the things of nought, cast down the high places God reveals to you, and you will walk in the fullness of His blessing and calling for you.