You can take the people out of Egypt, but the God who made them knew how hard it would be to take Egypt out of the people. For 400 years the people of Israel had lived in the land of Joseph. But over four centuries, the land remembered Joseph less and less. Whatever influence he may have had over the land in his time concerning the God of his fathers had passed long ago. While there may have been shadowy stories of their fading folklore told at bedtime, before Moses generation after generation would have grown up more familiar with how to live with fake gods than how to dwell with the one true God now in their midst. A verse in Leviticus reminds me of that this morning.
“So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.”
(Leviticus 17:7 ESV)
Context? A warning about offering sacrifices at home. A prohibition against presenting sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, or any other offerings “in the open field” (v. 5). It would seem that’s how they rolled in Egypt. Implies to me that back in the land of slavery, whenever they thought Pan, the goat demon, needed to be appeased they’d just head out to the backyard and do the deed. Quick, convenient, do it yourself sacrifice — whenever you want, wherever you want.
But not so for a people now en route to a promised land. A redeemed people. A purchased people. A people no longer their own but now the inheritance of the one true God of all creation. Worship of this God would need to happen inside the camp, not outside in their own fields. Their offerings brought to the tent of meeting and offered only by a set apart priest, no longer taken out to the back yard and offered on a self-serve basis. They had left the land of Egypt, they were to leave its ways as well.
As I chew on these opening verses of Leviticus 17, I’m thinking there’s something instructive for us here.
Though they were free from bondage, they weren’t free to do as they pleased. Deliverance by the God of their fathers demanded deference to the God of their fathers. Old things had to pass away if they were to fully realize the promise of a new life. No longer were goat demons to be a thing. Thus, they needed to stop living as if they were. Instead, the holy God who created them, who reclaimed them, and who desired to dwell with them was to be revered and obeyed by them. And a big part of that was in the manner of their offerings.
How prone might we be to improvising with our worship as were Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3)? How tempted might we be towards settling for convenience rather than pressing into true consecration? How easy might it be for us to find ourselves falling back to behaving in the old ways while claiming to be walking according to a new life? Pretty prone, pretty tempted, pretty easy, I’m thinking.
No more, says the God of deliverance, through His deliverer, to the people He has delivered.
Bring your offerings inside the camp. Present your sacrifices in My presence — at the tent of meeting, the place where My glory resides.
Come to Me, and keep coming to Me. Walk in My ways, not in the ways of the world.
No more goat demons.
By God’s grace. For God’s glory.