This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings…. They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.
The object of this whole requirement is to teach that all life belongs to God and that he alone is capable of handling it rightly. Only God understands life. That is the basis for all proper behavior. If you don’t understand this fact you are not going to behave properly. You can’t. You must understand that your life belongs to God, and that all other life around you, even animal life, must be brought before God and related to him, with the understanding that life is a mystery which we cannot handle ourselves, in which man is incapable of properly directing his own affairs.
This is set against the pagan practice of offering animals to demons, called goat idols here. A goat idol is a mythological figure, half-goat and half-man. It is really just an objectified form of demon worship. God is saying that they are not to try to placate the spirits, as though man could manipulate the unseen spirit world and run life according to his own desires by some kind of abracadabra, hocus-pocus, or other form of magic. It is amazing what a grip this idea has upon people’s minds! It is becoming more and more fashionable in our own day, with the rise again of interest in the occult. All of this is motivated by people’s desire in some way to manipulate and control the world of the spirits so that man thus handles life by himself. But that is what God wants to get us away from. We cannot handle life by ourselves. This whole matter of bringing every bit of life and offering it to God was designed to teach people that fundamental fact.
There is a basic lie which is widespread, both in primitive cultures and in civilized nations such as ours, that man is somehow capable of handling life by himself. In our day we are witnessing a revival of this ancient lie that, even though there are powers greater than man, man can control them, can manipulate them, and make them work for him.
God answers all that by commanding his people to cease these practices and to recognize that he alone is sovereign in life, that he runs the world, and that he controls our lives. We live in his universe, and we cannot handle life ourselves. Therefore, the fundamental truth underlying all behavior everywhere is that we must first recognize that life belongs to God — our own life and every other person’s life — and that God is sovereign in these affairs.
Father, thank you that life belongs to you and you alone. Help me to cease to look to my own ways to handle and even manipulate life.
Do we fail to trust the power and wisdom of our Sovereign Lord to guard and guide our lives? What is the alternative? Do we need to relinquish control of both our lives and others’?