Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 1) – Tigers vs. Gamecocks: This Is Serious Stuff (And Sometimes Too Serious)

Posted: January 26, 2017 in 05-Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 1 of 4)

The Lord’s Chosen Place of Worship

One of the indications of how seriously we take our college football in this state that is my birth home and where I have lived all but three years of my life are two old sayings. One is that “at birth, the doctor will make you choose between the Clemson Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks.” The other is that if you were born elsewhere, “they stop you at the border and force you to make a choice between the Tigers and the Gamecocks.” It is part of the fabric of life here in the Palmetto State. To be a small state by land mass and population (only 40th in land mass [30,109 square miles] and 4.625 million people at the latest estimates by the census bureau), we have two Division I football programs. Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia and Memorial Stadium in Clemson are both large football stadiums holding anywhere from 86,000 to 88,000 seats. The Tigers and the Gamecocks are big business in this state. The rivalry is heated and like none other. In other parts of the country, you live in bigger states with more population and the teams’ following are more regionalized through the states. For example, in Georgia, Georgia Tech fans are generally concentrated in the larger cities of Georgia and mainly Atlanta. Georgia fans are all in the rest of the state. Alabama is similar when it comes to Bama and Auburn. North Carolina doesn’t even count cause they are all about basketball. Tennessee doesn’t matter because the Tennessee’s in-state rival is a private school, Vanderbilt. Michigan-Ohio State doesn’t have the same passion since they live state’s away. Southern Cal-UCLA is passionate but outside of Los Angeles nobody gets bunged up about it. Penn State and Pitt don’t even play each other every year.


Here, in South Carolina, it’s the law. South Carolina and Clemson must play each other every year. There’s an actual law. Here, the rivalry is enmeshed in the culture. It is part of who we are as Sandlappers. Since we are a small state, Clemson-Carolina is proximity. It’s neighbor against neighbor. It’s co-worker against co-worker. It’s family against family. The rivalry can even be within families. For example, my family unit (me, Elena, my daughters [Meghan & Taylor], and Elena’s daughter [Michelle]) is a family divided. My family and my daughter’s birth mom’s family are all Clemson fans. Elena and her family, though 2nd generation Cuban/Venezuelan descent, are Gamecock fans. In fact, within our blended family unit, Meghan is a Clemson graduate and Michelle is a University of South Carolina graduate. Michelle, bless her heart, is passionate about her Gamecocks. My girls and I are passionate about the Tigers. Our moods for at least the weekend are determined by whether the Tigers win or not. For the past six seasons of 10 plus wins every season, I have been a happy man on weekends most of the time. However, living in the same household with my wife being a Gamecock fan, it has tempered the intensity with which I allow the rivalry and football in general affect my being.


There are some Tiger and Gamecock fans that take this rivalry and their respective teams too seriously. You see friendships ended and families split apart by flippant or down right disrespectful things being said about the others’ team of preference. It is as if we are personally Clemson and they are personally South Carolina. You are the Gamecocks. I am the Tigers. You can say anything you want to about my wife and kids but you dare not speak ill of Clemson or you dare not speak ill of the Gamecocks. Some people even get into fist fights over the Tigers and Gamecocks. People have been hurt over these arguments and allegiances. It is about class divisions that run deep and into history. Clemson was the common man’s school that the upper crust Carolina grads in the statehouse tried to prevent from even opening for about 50 years until Ben Tillman rammed it through the statehouse and it finally opened in 1889. It was class warfare for many years. The common man vs. the elitists. It was rural farmers against city types. Now, it’s just good ol’ fashioned hate. Hate that sometimes goes too far when people make each university’s football team their god. There are those on both sides that make their football program their reason for being. They live and die by the successes and failures of their football team. You may have heard that college football is a religion in the South. It can be. It can become idol worship. It can be something that gets in the way of our relationship with God.


That’s why I am in part thankful that God brought Elena to me – one of the many reasons. The fact that she and Michelle are Gamecock fans and the fact that I love them has given me new perspective on the rivalry. Over the last three consecutive years, Clemson has gotten the better of Carolina (with two of those victories being pretty good spankings of the Gamecocks) but I must live with a Gamecock and talk regularly with her daughter who is also a Gamecock. It tempers the need to rub it in. Knowing that they have to deal with a loss to the Tigers for another year and loving them makes me roll back the rhetoric a bit. We resolve not to bring up the Tigers or the Gamecocks other than a one-liner when we are together. No extensive diatribes about either school. That’s the way it should be. But, man, there are those out there that will literally spew venom toward one another over this rivalry. The schools have become their gods. It literally CAN get in the way of our relationship with God.


It was the Clemson-Carolina rivalry, the very base-level thing that is part of who we are as South Carolinians, and sometimes how these football programs can reach idol status for us is what I thought about when reading this passage, Deuteronomy 12, this morning. The Tiger-Gamecock thing is an illustration about what God warns Israel about. Let’s see how the Tigers, Gamecocks, and the Israelites have something in common here:


12 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.


4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.


8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.


15 Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. 16 But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. 18 Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to. 19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.


20 When the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you, and you crave meat and say, “I would like some meat,” then you may eat as much of it as you want. 21 If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. 22 Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. 23 But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. 24 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 25 Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.


26 But take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give, and go to the place the Lord will choose. 27 Present your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God, both the meat and the blood. The blood of your sacrifices must be poured beside the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.


29 The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.


32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.[a]


In this passage, we see God’s warning among other things. Today, we will focus on that warning. When taking over the land previously occupied by other nations, the Israelites were supposed to destroy every pagan altar and idol in the land. God knew it would be easy for them to change their beliefs if they started using those altars. Therefore, God required that nothing remain that might tempt them to worship idols. We, too, should ruthlessly find and remove the false worship in our lives. These may be activities, attitudes, possessions, relationships, places, addictions, habits, and even sports teams – anything that tempts us to turn our hearts from God and give our full allegiance to it.


What is your idol? Is it your wife or your husband? Is it your car or your truck? Is it pornography? Is it drugs? Is it your job? Is it your career? Is it the Gamecocks or Tigers? Is it your hobbies or toys? Is it sex? Is it seeking approval of others? What is your idol?


Smash it to pieces. Bust it up! Smash it against a tree! Tear it up, shred by shred! Repent and turn back to God.


What is your idol?


Amen and Amen.

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