Don’t run away from God’s place of blessing; God desires his people to worship him and grow into the image of the Messiah through his church. This is an ancient lesson that God taught Israel in Deuteronomy 12.
Deuteronomy 12 provides a mandate for Israel to obey after entering the land (cf. 12:1). When they enter into the land and control it, they must destroy all the false religious worship centers, even the Asherims and idols. Of course, Israel actually built Asherims and religious centers on the high places (2 Kgs 17:10–12). So instead of tearing down the false worship centers and idols of the nations, Israel built them up. But this stands in high contrast to the echoing cry of Deuterononomy 12:4, “You shall not worship Yahweh your God in that way.” Thus, even if Israel thought they were worshiping God, they were surely wrong.
Deuteronomy 12:5 tells Israel they seek the “place” Yahweh will choose to put his name and dwell. What is especially noteworthy is that Deuteronomy 12:5 explains that this place will be one place “out of all your tribes” (cf. 12:14) Thus, Israel could not make the excuse that since Israel and Judah split they must create two places of worship. After Israel enters into the land and God grants rest to her (Deut 12:9), then Yahweh will choose his place to make his name dwell. There all cultic worship must occur. Now there is a future pattern here that one must pay careful attention to or loose the transformation of the “place” theology.
Deuteronomy 12:8 says, “you shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” But this was precisely the condition of Israel during the time of Judges (immediately following the conquest). Judges 17:6 and 21:25 echo the refrain, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” It seems that the cause of this chaos was no unified kingship (cf. 18:1ff).
Until everyone did what was right under a unified kingship, then there would be no rest from enemies and enjoyment of the land occurred:
“For you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that Yahweh your God is giving you. But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that Yahweh your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you.” (Deut 12:9–11a)
This time of rest from enemies and enjoyment happened during the rule of David, where “rest” from enemies and enjoyment of the inheritance occur (2 Sam 7:11–12). Thus, David’s son Solomon will build “a house for my name” (2 Sam 7:13). Solomon constructs the temple where Yahweh put his name (1 kgs 8.29, 43-44, 48), which the book of Kings confirms in other places (e.g. 1 Kgs 11:36; 2 Kgs 21:4). The promises made to David and his son—the whole hope of messianic kingship, rest from enemies, an eternal kingdom, and the presence of God with his people—are tied up into the place where Yahweh put his name, Jerusalem.
Now if this is true, the nature of Israel’s sin is a monstrosity of evil, coupled with a bombastic stupidity. To worship away from Jerusalem meant a giving up or rejection of God’s blessing and promises. Perhaps when Judeans did something foolish, they said, “I pulled a Jeroboam son of Nebat!” The theological lesson from 2 Kings 17:7–12 is to never leave God’s means of worship and blessing or judgment awaits.
So go to church!