Moses says to the people, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” Physical circumcision is a sign of the covenant the Lord made with His people, as He first told Abraham (Genesis 17). God is interested in people’s hearts, and circumcision of the heart means a heart totally devoted to the Lord. Later in the story, the prophet Jeremiah will tell the people to “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 4:4). Then in the New Testament, Paul will say, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:28-29). Paul is teaching that the Holy Spirit changes the heart, not the law. Only the Lord can change hearts. Before Jesus ascends to heaven, He will say, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Helper He is referring to is the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul will write to the new believers, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:8-10).
When the Holy Spirit fills the Lord’s people they will become the temple where God’s spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:6), but until that day arrives, the Lord is telling His people that there is only one place to worship Him – “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord… Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.”
The Lord warns the Israelites not to worship like the nations whose land they are going to possess. – “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
God expects His people to worship Him the way He instructs and in the place He will choose. The Lord will select Shiloh as the place to worship Him when the Israelites settle into the promised land during the Conquest Era and before the temple is built in Jerusalem during the Kingdom Era. However, during the Kingdom Era, one of the kings will disobey the Lord and worship false gods on the high places, resulting in the downfall of the kingdom and bringing us to the Divided Kingdom Era. But first, the Israelites still have to conquer the land, so keep reading. (Deuteronomy 10:1-12:32)