Category Archives: Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 31-34: Waiting for a rescuer

commonwealth gamesThe Commonwealth Games were on a few weeks ago. And we got to hear different national anthems. And the aim of the national anthem is to REFLECT SOMETHING OF THE NATIONAL IDENTITY. To describe what a country is like. Or at least what it WANTS to be.

So, for example, Advance Australia Fair describes a country that’s young and free, a country with plenty of opportunities – golden soil and wealth for toil. A land abounding in nature’s gifts.

And don’t forget the SECOND verse. “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve BOUNDLESS PLAINS TO SHARE.” (Our government may have forgotten that LAST part in the way it’s treating refugees and asylum seekers.) But nevertheless, it’s a song that’s quite accurate at reflecting our national character.

But it’s what it DOESN’T say that’s significant. There’s no mention of GOD. Unlike the English or the Canadian anthems.

Or my FAVOURITE of ALL – the New Zealand national anthem. Apart from having a great tune, the words are FANTASTIC! It’s a PRAYER of DEPENDENCE, not a BOLD DECLARATION. The Maori FIRST verse translates as: O Lord, God of all people, listen to us. Cherish us. May good flourish, May your blessings flow. Defend Aotearoa

Then there’s FIVE verses in English that say things like:

God of Nations at Thy feet, In the bonds of love we meet, Hear our voices, we entreat, God defend our free land.

2 Men of every creed and race, Gather here before Thy face, Asking Thee to bless this place, God defend our free land.

From dissension, envy, hate, And corruption guard our state, Make our country good and great, God defend New Zealand.

Lord of battles in Thy might, Put our enemies to flight, Let our cause be just and right, God defend New Zealand.

  1. Let our love for Thee increase, May Thy blessings never cease, Give us plenty, give us peace, God defend our free land. Guide her in the nations’ van, Preaching love and truth to man, Working out Thy glorious plan, God defend New Zealand.

Wow! Imagine if New Zealand actually reflected THAT! What a country it’d be!

And there’s ANOTHER national anthem to sing. Here in this last part of Deuteronomy. Ch 32. And the composer is GOD HIMSELF, who gives it to Moses. And it’s going to be ISRAEL’S national anthem. Because it’s going to describe her NATIONAL IDENTITY.

As one generation dies and another replaces it, the song itself will live on, describing what Israel is like. TEACHING her. REMINDING her who she’s meant to be, and who God is.

Disposed to evil

But there’s nothing FLATTERING about this description. There’s no “golden soil”. No “preaching love and truth to man, working out thy glorious plan.” Because God knows EXACTLY what Israel’s like. See there, from v20 of Ch 31?

20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will TURN TO OTHER GODS AND WORSHIP THEM, REJECTING ME AND BREAKING MY COVENANT.

That’s their FUTURE. And it’s never been any different. From Egypt, all the way through the desert. Their INCLINATION, their NATURAL STATE, is to wander away from the God who saved them. See there at the end of v21? God says

I KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DISPOSED TO DO, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.”

I know what direction they naturally head in. Like a car that’s crashed into a gutter, and damaged the steering. Now, every time you hold the wheel straight, the car keeps drifting to one side. The steering alignment is out. And so it drifts off course. It’s naturally crooked.

And that’s Israel. Always veers off course. Always following OTHER gods. FALSE, POWERLESS gods. It’s just NOT NATURAL for them to be grateful to the GOD WHO SAVED THEM.

We saw LAST week in Ch 29 how it was a problem with THEIR HEARTS. Their CORE IDENTITY. V18. Naturally turned away from God. A root that produced bitter poison.

And that’s US, TOO. It’s a steering alignment problem shared by the WHOLE HUMAN RACE. We’ve got a talent for turning good into bad. Every time.

Some people want to convince you that humanity is basically GOOD. But it’s JUST NOT TRUE. The natural human disposition is toward godless, selfish, rebellion.

And we know it’s true. Not just when we read our BIBLES. But when we read our NEWSPAPERS.

And not just world events, and local crimes. But when we read our own HEARTS. Our own motivations and secret thoughts. We NATURALLY want to put OURSELVES FIRST. Our STUBBORN, INDEPENDENT STREAK comes NATURALLY. We’re BORN with it. Brand new babies have it, and so do 100 year old grandmothers. From the cradle to the grave.

“I know what they are DISPOSED to do,” says God.

A song of faithfulness and unfaithfulness

And so, for Israel, God gives them a song that’s going to be A WITNESS. A TESTIMONY. You can see God’s purpose there in v19 of ch 31. “Teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, SO THAT IT MAY BE A WITNESS FOR ME against them.”

In the future, when they DO veer away from the TRUE God, and head off course, and follow other gods. And when God brings all the punishments and curses he’s promised. Then God knows they’re going to COMPLAIN. (v17 of Ch 31), “This has all happened because God’s ABANDONED us!”

And so they need A SONG. A song that testifies to God’s RELIABILITY. Not his ABANDONMENT. A song that’s his “I told you so”. There in v21 of Ch 31.

21 And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will TESTIFY AGAINST THEM, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants.

And if you read through the song/ that’s EXACTLY what it DOES. Describes God’s FAITHFULNESS, and Israel’s UNFAITHFULNESS.

Like from v3 of Ch 32. “Praise the greatness of our God.”

4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and ALL HIS WAYS ARE JUST. A faithful God who DOES NO WRONG, UPRIGHT AND JUST is he.

That’s GOD. THEY think he’s UNFAITHFUL. But, NO! His judgments are FAITHFUL.

On the OTHER hand, THIS is Israel (v5)

5 They have acted CORRUPTLY toward him; to their shame they are no longer his children, but A WARPED AND CROOKED GENERATION. 6 Is this the way you repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?

Then down in v10, more about God’s goodness to Israel.

10 In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, 11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. 12 The LORD alone led him; no foreign god was with him.

But how did Israel RESPOND? V15

15 Jeshurun (that’s Israel) grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. 16 They made him JEALOUS with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.

And so God will do EXACTLY what he’s promised – send them into exile, conquered by a foreign nation. V21

21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.

Down to v25.

25 In the street the sword will make them childless; in their homes terror will reign. Young men and young women will perish, infants and gray-haired men. 26 I SAID I would scatter them and blot out their memory from mankind,

 

It’s a dreadful tale of woe and despair. A sad lament. For those of you who are musical, the tune would be in a MINOR KEY. With long , mournful notes. And the tears would FLOW as people sung it.

What a terrible future!

Who can save us?

And as Moses teaches them the song, you can imagine the people wailing, “No! That’s not what we want! Surely there must be a solution! Who can save us? Who’s the repairer who can correct our nature? Our natural inclination to sin?”

Well, it’s not going to be Moses – as fine a leader as he was, and as far as he’s brought them. Ch 31 begins with Moses delivering the news (v2) “I’m no longer able to lead you. God’s told me I won’t cross the Jordan.

Even Moses had failed. Back in Number Ch 20, there’s the sad story. And the punishment will be that Moses gets right to the door step to the Promised Land. But never goes in. And that’s the way it turns out. Over in Ch 34, Moses gets to climb up Mt Nebo, on the wilderness side of the Jordan, and he gets to look over the whole promised land

Perhaps the people shift their gaze expectantly from Moses across to Joshua. Perhaps the NEW MAN can fix things.

But no, Joshua’s not the Saviour EITHER. Ch 31 v14. God calls Moses and Joshua to the tent of meeting. The old, and the new. It’s handing on the baton. And we expect an encouraging word for Joshua. But instead, v16.

16 And the LORD said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed.

So JOSHUA can’t save them.

Then what about the LEVITES and THE LAW? The ones who look after the Ark of the covenant, and perform the sacrifices? Perhaps THEY can keep the people following God’s law?

In v9 of Ch 31, Moses writes down a copy of his sermon, and gives it to the priests. And he commands them to assemble everyone together, once every seven years, and read out the whole thing. V12.

12 Assemble the people–men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns–so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.

Perhaps THEY can convince the people to follow God?

But if you jump down to v24. Moses gives the copy of the law to the Levites to put beside the Ark of the Covenant. But look at its PURPOSE. (the end of v26)

There it will remain as A WITNESS AGAINST YOU. 27 For I know how REBELLIOUS AND STIFF-NECKED YOU ARE. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still ALIVE AND WITH YOU, how much more will you rebel AFTER I DIE!

In other words, Moses knows the law WON’T DO ANY GOOD. Reading it out every seven years won’t work. Because they’ve got A HEART PROBLEM. Their NATURAL INCLINATION is to wander.

All the law will do is serve as evidence against them. A WITNESS. A measure of how far they’ve slipped.

Israel are like an old house that’s sinking. The foundations are soft. What it needs is A JACK to lift them back up again to level. But that’s not the law. The law is just a TAPE MEASURE that measures HOW FAR THEY’VE SLIPPED. It’s not a JACK that can lift them up again.

So the Levites and the Law can’t fix their future. And it won’t be the elders and leaders either. They’re NEXT in line to receive the bad news. V28. The elders and officials are all called together so Moses can speak to them and call heaven and earth to testify against THEM. He says

29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made.”

Down the line we’ve travelled. And they all fall short. Moses,. Joshua, the Levites and the Law, the elders and officials. No human repairer who can fix the basic human orientation to evil. To idolatry and self-centredness.

Not THEN. And not TODAY. Human invented self-improvement can never work. No matter how convincing the sales pitch.

Not meditation, or education, or religion.

Not new age spirituality, or ancient mysticism, or humanism.

Not yoga, or surgery or diet or pills.

Not technology or anthropology or philanthropism (donating money).

Not travel, or self-denial, or fitness

All useless. Perhaps you’ve TRIED them all. And found them EMPTY. POWERLESS. Promising MUCH, but delivering LITTLE. Because they can’t change your basic orientation. Your nature.

All that self-improvement and you wonder whether you’ve improved AT ALL?!

And so we come back to Israel’s national anthem. Because we’ve only looked at the FIRST half. The sad lament. But from v27, the tune changes, and a ray of hope begins to shine through. It changes from a MINOR key to a MAJOR one. From a QUESTION, to AN ANSWER. What humanity is UNABLE to do… GOD does.

In v26, he’s scattered his people into the punishment of exile. But in v27, he thinks to himself.

27 but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy, lest the adversary misunderstand and say, ‘Our hand has triumphed; the LORD has not done all this.'”

God’s going to act to defend his reputation. The nations God’s used to bring his judgment against Israel/ will THEMSELVES be judged for their pride.

But not only that, he’ll RESTORE HIS PEOPLE. v36.

36 The LORD will judge his people and have COMPASSION on his servants when he SEES their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in,

When they hit ROCK BOTTOM, God will SEE them. When their OTHER gods FAIL, HE will step in. v39

39 “See now that I myself am He! THERE IS NO GOD BESIDES ME. I put to death and I BRING TO LIFE, I have wounded and I WILL HEAL, and no one can deliver out of my hand.

Now THAT’S a song you can get EXCITED about singing! And it finishes on a HIGH NOTE with EVERYONE joining in the chorus. V43.

43 Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for HE will avenge the blood of his servants; HE will take vengeance on his enemies and make ATONEMENT for his LAND AND PEOPLE.

GOD will do it. What people COULDN’T do, GOD promises to do. To make ATONEMENT. To RESTORE. To HEAL. To BRING to LIFE.

That was the song. A testimony against their own sinful disposition. And of God’s determination to act JUSTLY.

And Israel sang it, there in the desert east of the Jordan.

And we assume they sang it when they ENTERED the land.

And sang it as they CONQUERED it.

And perhaps they even sang it, as the centuries rolled by, as they veered off course, and followed other gods.

And perhaps they sang it as they were SENT into exile.

(All happening just as the song predicted. God acting just like he’d promised.)

And then perhaps they sang it as they longed for RETURN from exile.

And then God DELIVERED on his promises in the song. And he RESTORED them to the land.

And for a while things looked like they might be fixed. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people rebuild the temple, they confess their sins, and they begin to follow God with a new determination.

But before long, they slip back into old habits. Because that’s their inclination. They work on the Sabbath. They inter- marry with the nations. Even the PRIESTS. And by the end of the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah realises that HE can’t fix Israel’s problems EITHER. He’s praying that God would at least remember HIM for his efforts.

And so it goes on. Again and again, the Old Testament makes the point. Who can rescue humanity? NO ONE! Because there’s a problem with our basic HUMAN NATURE. Like God said to Moses – “I know what they’re DISPOSED TO DO.”

And when we jump forward to the first century AD. And it’s still the same. In Romans 7, Paul describes the struggle of Jews trying to keep God’s law. Ch 7 v5.

5 For when we were controlled by THE SINFUL NATURE, the sinful passions aroused by the LAW were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for DEATH.

And he goes on to describe how the Jewish law is powerless to really change people. Because they’re INCLINED to EVIL. It was Paul’s experience TOO. In v21, he concludes

When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see ANOTHER LAW AT WORK IN THE MEMBERS OF MY BODY, waging WAR against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! WHO WILL RESCUE ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH?

The same cry of frustration of every Jew from Moses to Paul! The question the whole Old Testament asked. “Who can rescue us? Who can fix our disposition to choose evil, even when we WANT to choose good?”

But look at what Paul discovered! “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” v25.

Thanks be TO GOD-THROUGH JESUS CHRIST our Lord!

GOD does what HUMANS CAN’T. And he DOES it through JESUS. And as we read on, we see HOW.

8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life SET ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH. 3 For what THE LAW WAS POWERLESS TO DO in that it was weakened by the sinful NATURE, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man TO BE A SIN OFFERING. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Way back in the song of Moses, God promised to MAKE ATONEMENT for his land and his people. And in Jesus he FINALLY DOES it.

He provides the perfect sacrifice for sin to deal with it once and for all. And condemned sin, instead of condemning US.

And then Jesus sends HIS Spirit of life and power to change our nature. To change our orientation. To BEND us back towards God. So we WANT to please him, and actually have his power to be ABLE to obey him.

And the result is God’s gift of true life. Romans 8 goes on to describe it. The life of his Spirit. Peace, and rest and victory and righteousness and purpose and fulfillment. Life that Israel had LONGED for since Moses.

And that’s a life and a gift and a rescuer that really IS worth SINGING about!

 

Deuteronomy 29-30: From the Heart

“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

In 1992 Woody Allen left Mia Farrow because he’d fallen in love with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. Allen was 57 and Soon-Yi, 20.

When he was asked later about the age difference, Woody Allen replied, “”There’s no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love, and that’s that. THE HEART WANTS WHAT THE HEART WANTS. ”

In other words, “It might not make sense. It might be WRONG. But I’ve got a responsibility to myself to satisfy WHATEVER MY HEART DESIRES.”

It’s such a weak, wrong-headed excuse.

But Woody Allen’s right about ONE thing. The human heart is hungry and powerful, and often misguided and dangerous.

Down through history, right back to ISRAEL, the HUMAN HEART has been how we describe THE CENTRE OF OUR PERSONALITY. The heart is that part of us that drives our decisions and our desires. It’s the essence of who we are.

So when we want to GET TO THE HEART of the matter. That means we want to get TO THE VERY CENTRE. The core of what something involves.

When two people have a conversation that talks about deep and personal things, they have “a HEART TO HEART”. And when you miss out on something you really want, you say you’re HEART-BROKEN.

We speak of romance as being a MATTER OF THE HEART. And so there’s HUNDREDS OF SONGS that mention “the heart”. Nearly always to do with relationships and love. It’s not surprising since LOVE is one of the strongest emotions we have. We feel it in the CORE OF WHO WE ARE. It influences every part of our life.

Turned away hearts (29:18)

On the ONE hand, the heart can want GOOD things. But frequently the Bible speaks about the heart in A DIFFERENT WAY. In Gen 6:5, God looks at the world of Noah’s time, and he

saw how great man’s WICKEDNESS on the earth had become, and that EVERY INCLINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART was ONLY evil ALL the time.

Jeremiah 17:9 says “the human heart is DECEITFUL above all things and BEYOND CURE. Who can understand it?”

Or here’s a cheery one. Eccl 9:3

The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live.

And in Mk 7:21, Jesus says the same thing, “For from within, OUT OF MEN’S HEARTS, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery (and so on).”

The Bible’s position is that OUR HEARTS ARE INCLINED TO EVIL. Our basic identity, our natural inclination, is to do what pleases OURSELVES.

And that puts a different spin on that quote from Woody Allen, doesn’t it? “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

If that’s the case – that the heart really IS deceitful and wicked – IS IT ANY SURPRISE he chose selfishness and satisfaction/ rather than loyalty and honour?

And it’s that same HEART PROBLEM that’s going to confront the nation of Israel.

Here they are on the door step to the promised land. Everything’s CHANGED. In the space of one generation, they’ve gone from slaves in Egypt, with no future. To being a powerful nation, conquering everything in its path.

They’ve gone from a disobedient, frightened rabble to a chastened, hopeful new generation, with forty long years of discipline in the desert behind them.

Everything’s CHANGED. But have THEY changed?

Right from the start of his sermon in Deuteronomy, Moses was concerned about THE STATE OF THEIR HEARTS. Because he knows what the human heart is LIKE. Deut 4:9, he commanded them,

“Only be careful, and WATCH YOURSELVES CLOSELY so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen OR LET THEM SLIP FROM YOUR HEART as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Or Deut 6:4-6

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.   5 Love the LORD your God WITH ALL YOUR HEART and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today ARE TO BE UPON YOUR HEARTS.

He told them what God’s DESIRE was for their hearts. Deut 5:29. God said,

Oh, that their HEARTS would be INCLINED TO FEAR me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

And all the way through the sermon, as Moses gave them COMMAND AFTER COMMAND. He hammered home the truth that it had to be MORE THAN JUST APPEARANCES – a mere keeping the LETTER of the law. There had to be a HEART DESIRE. A CORE MOTIVATION – A NATURAL ORIENTATION towards pleasing God.

Like Deut 10:12 – sums up his core message.

12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL,

What’s going to REALLY make the commands stick/ is if Israel can, somehow, ALIGN THEIR BASIC ORIENTATION so it’s in the direction of obeying God. Serve him with their WHOLE HEART. In a way that LASTS.

Like a permanent magnet.

When you bring a magnet near a piece of iron, it will be attracted. Magnetic dipoles in the iron LINE UP in the same direction as the magnetic field.

But as soon as you take the magnet away, the dipoles go back to pointing in random directions. The alignment doesn’t LAST.

But if you STROKE the magnet along the piece of iron, the magnetic dipoles line up again. And this time, they STAY in that direction. And you’ve changed the ordinary piece of iron into a permanent magnet.

That’s what ISRAEL needs. A change of heart. To be STROKED by God so that their hearts will be PERMANENTLY aligned in the direction of God’s commands.

And as we come to Ch 29, we see Moses giving it ONE LAST EFFORT. Instruction time’s OVER. Now’s it’s DECISION time. It’s all about the COVENANT. The CONTRACT between God and his people. See it there in v1?

29:1 These are THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab

And unlike SOME contracts, there’s no tricky language to trap you or make things difficult. God’s made it perfectly plain. Jump down to v29.

29 The SECRET things belong to the LORD our God,

SOME things God keeps to himself. But this covenant isn’t ONE of them.

but THE THINGS REVEALED belong to us and to our children forever, THAT WE MAY FOLLOW ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.

Moses makes it even PLAINER down into Ch 30 v11.

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

It’s easily within reach. It’s understandable, and it’s simple. Why? SO YOU MAY OBEY IT.

And to give them the INCENTIVE to follow God with all their HEARTS, to keep THEIR side of the contract, Moses begins by describing ALL THAT GOD’S DONE. Back up in V2 of Ch 29

Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land.

MIRACULOUS signs and wonders. But also MORE NORMAL provision. V5

5 During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.

He didn’t miraculously produce NEW sandals. But he kept the old ones going. Perhaps you wouldn’t even NOTICE it, until you THOUGHT about it.

But it didn’t stop in the desert. V7-8 – He’s brought them victory against the nations standing between them and the promised land.

That’s what GOD’S done. V9 – now, here’s YOUR side of the contract.

9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do.

EVERY PERSON listening. V12.

12 You are standing here in order to ENTER INTO A COVENANT with the LORD your God, a covenant the LORD is making with you this day and SEALING with an oath, 13 to CONFIRM YOU THIS DAY AS HIS PEOPLE, THAT HE MAY BE YOUR GOD

Entered, sealed, confirmed.

Signed, sealed and delivered.

And if you jump down to v18, see what the terms of the covenant are. The NOT SO FINE print. And here’s where THE HEART comes in.

18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose HEART TURNS AWAY FROM THE LORD OUR GOD to go and worship the gods of those nations;.

It BEGINS with the HEART. The heart wants what the heart wants. And it chooses OTHER gods. A TURNED AWAY heart. Chooses disloyalty, stubbornness, ungratefulness, disobedience.

And notice what Moses says the heart is like.

make sure there is NO ROOT AMONG YOU THAT PRODUCES SUCH BITTER POISON

The heart is A ROOT that grows to produce bitter poison. The heart is never satisfied. It’s constantly hungry, always looking for the NEXT thing. Something bigger, something better, something more exciting or rewarding or satisfying.

And it’s a root that will grow to PRODUCE BITTER FRUIT. At the very least – PERSONALLY – the fruit of dissatisfaction and discontentment. Of grumbling and second-guessing and knowing better. And that shows itself in IDOLATRY. Serving OTHER gods.

But that’s not all. A heart that chases after idols produces the bitter fruit of DISASTER AND CURSES FROM GOD. V20

20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

Famine, disaster, the whole land a burning waste of salt and sulphur. Curses that reach a pinnacle in REMOVAL from the land. V28, Moses predicts what will happen in the future.

28 In furious anger and in great wrath the LORD uprooted them from their land and THRUST THEM INTO ANOTHER LAND,

And it all grows from the ROOT of the HUMAN HEART. The heart that’s not wholly committed to following God.

Turned back hearts (30:1)

It’s a depressing prediction. And oh, so accurate. But even THEN, there’s good news. And it’s about THEIR HEARTS. And what God will DO. Into Ch 30.

30:1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and YOU TAKE THEM TO HEART wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and OBEY HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.

Verse 1 literally says when you TURN BACK THE HEART. When you change your orientation. When the curses finally do their work. When the discipline softens and breaks your hard hearts.

And then, following the change of HEART, there’s a change of ORIENTATION. “When you turn back to the Lord”. You look to HIS instruction and direction. And not only TURN to him, but OBEY him. Obey him with “all YOUR HEART and soul.”

When you do THAT, Moses promises, then God will FORGIVE you. And he’ll RESTORE you to the land. That word for RESTORE in v3 is the same one as TURN BACK in v1. If Israel turn back THEIR HEARTS, then GOD will turn THEM back from captivity.

And it won’t matter HOW far you’ve fallen. Or how far you’ve travelled. V4.

4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will GATHER you and BRING YOU BACK.

The human heart might be pretty good at SINNING. At running AWAY from God. But God’s even better at FORGIVING. At BRINGING BACK. Paul puts it like this in Romans 5:20 “Where sin abounded, grace increased all the more”. Or grace HYPER-ABOUNDED.

It’s great news for US. No heart is too depraved. No sinner is too far gone to be beyond forgiveness. If God was willing to gather ISRAEL no matter how far they’d wandered. HOW MUCH MORE confident can we be, THIS side of the cross, that he’ll forgive sinners.

And as we follow Israel’s story through history, we see how that restoration works out. They DO turn back to him in exile. And God DOES hear them. And he DOES bring them back to the land. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Circumcised hearts (30:6)

But that’s not all, there’s even something MORE special. God’s not just going to RESTORE them. He’s going to IMPROVE them. He’s going to do something about the ROOT of the problem. The HEART of the problem. He promises some HEART SURGERY. Look there in v6.

6 The LORD your God will CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEARTS and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may LOVE HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART and with all your soul, and live.

God’s promising to do a supernatural work on their hearts. He’s going to CUT AWAY every psychological and moral and spiritual barrier that stops them being fully devoted to him.

Humans CAN’T love God on our own. Because the heart wants what the heart wants. It takes A WORK OF GOD to do it.

And when he DOES that, his goal for the law will be ACHIEVED. His people WILL love him with all their heart and soul. ALL of them. And they’ll REALLY LIVE. Live out the complete blessings God’s planned for his people.

What a promise!

New hearts (Ezek 36:24-27)

Hundreds of years later, with the people NOW LIVING in exile. Living out God’s curses on their hard hearts. God promises AGAIN. Through the prophet Ezekiel. And he looks forward to the same heart surgery he’d promised through Moses. Ezekiel 36 v24.

He begins by promising the same things Moses had promised. Return from exile, and forgiveness. V24

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

God’s people, in God’s land, under God’s rule. And then he gets to the heart surgery. But it’s no longer just heart SURGERY – it’s a heart REPLACEMENT. V26.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

That’s the way God will CIRCUMCISE hearts. He’ll put his own Spirit in people. And not just in a select few – in priests and kings and prophets. But ALL his people.

God’s Spirit makes their hearts NEW. Makes them soft and fleshy and obedient, rather than hard and proud. And it will be his Spirit that MOVES people to follow his decrees. That MOTIVATES, and EMPOWERS them.

And that’s the TRUE identifying characteristic of God’s people. It’s not bloodlines, or what your passport says, or where you live.

And it’s not simply the sign of PHYSICAL circumcision. God’s TRUE people need heart circumcision by his Spirit. That’s what Romans 2:28-29 says. It’s written to Jews who thought the EXTERNAL signs were all that mattered. V28 of Rom 2.

28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART, by THE SPIRIT, not by the written code

But even though God PROMISED the spiritual heart surgery, promised a time when he’d pour out his Spirit into dirty, broken turned away hearts. It didn’t happen in Moses’ time. It didn’t happen in Ezekiel’s time. And it didn’t happen with THE RETURN FROM EXILE.

But it DID come with Jesus. When he turned up by the Jordan River to be baptised, John the Baptist said, “I baptise you with water, but HE will baptise you WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.” FILL you with the Spirit, wash YOUR HEART clean! (Mk 1:8)

And before Jesus left to return to his Father, he promised to send his disciples ANOTHER helper. His Holy Spirit. John 14.23

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and WE WILL COME TO HIM AND MAKE OUR HOME WITH HIM.

And then he talks about what that will MEAN. V26.

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will TEACH you all things and will REMIND you of everything I have said to you. 27 PEACE I leave with you; my peace I give you.

Guidance, truth, peace and strength. All from God’s Spirit when he gives us a new HEART. Just like Ezekiel prophesied.

And that’s an experience many of YOU have known. I’ve seen the huge GRINS as people here have told me about how they became Christians. How God poured his Spirit into their hearts. Washed away fear and guilt and doubt. And how he replaced turned away hearts with turned BACK hearts.

I’ve seen the peace and the assurance and the hope and the strength and the courage he’s given you.

That’s not YOU, though. That’s GOD’S work in you. And it’s WONDERFUL!

It was the sort of thing Paul loved to see in the Corinthian church. 2 Corinthians 3:3. Some people were questioning Paul’s authority to teach. He didn’t have the references some of the OTHER visiting teachers had. But Paul says he doesn’t need them, because his references are the CORINTHIANS THEMSELVES.

3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD, NOT ON TABLETS OF STONE BUT ON TABLETS OF HUMAN HEARTS.

God’s written the truth of the gospel. The truth of our forgiveness. The truth of his peace and power and love and guidance ON OUR HEARTS.

If you DON’T know that. Then turn BACK your heart to God. He promises to RESTORE you. And to give you a NEW heart. And to give you his Spirit. And MOVE you to obey him and live for him.

And then you’ll be able to love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and truly LIVE.

Let me finish with Moses final plea to the people. Choose LIFE! 30:19

19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life

Deuteronomy 27-28: Twin Peaks

forkQuite often in life, things come down to A CHOICE OF TWO.

How about a show of hands. Which do you prefer?:

Holden or Ford?

Summer or Winter?

Pizza or pasta?

Luxury holiday or adventure holiday?

Beach or bush?

Tissues or hankies?

Some choices are EASY, while others are DIFFICULT.

Some choices AREN’T SIGNIFICANT. It doesn’t matter much either way – whether you wear the red tie or the blue one. Or whether you live in THIS street or THAT street.

But others choices are A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH. Like: Should I run across the road now, or wait for the lights?

Should I have chemotherapy, or just take Chinese herbal medication?

Should I get in the car with the driver who’s been drinking, or catch a taxi?

And as Moses winds up his greatest sermon ever, here in Deuteronomy. Here on the plains of Moab as Israel look across the river to the promised land. He wants them to realise that the choice in front of them is ONE OF THOSE LAST SORT. A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.

Two choices. Obedience or disobedience. Doing things God’s way, or ignoring him. It’s not complicated. Black and white. No shades of grey. No complexities, no excuses. Obedience or disobedience.

It’s not complicated, but the consequences are HUGE. If they OBEY, there’ll be BLESSING. If they DISOBEY, there’ll be CURSES.

It’s like that movie “Sliding Doors”. Two completely different versions of the future. One- where things turn out WELL, and the OTHER – disaster. And it all comes down to ONE CRUCIAL CHOICE.

In the movie, the two versions of the future depend on whether Gwyneth Paltrow catches a train, or misses it.

But in Moses’ two alternative futures, the crucial decision is much more important than whether you catch a train. For Israel, it’s whether they choose to OBEY THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE. To do things HIS way, or to go their OWN way.

Twin peaks

And just to hammer it home, to SYMBOLISE the choice, Moses plans a huge dramatic production. PERFORMANCE ART involving the whole nation. I’m calling the production, “Twin Peaks”!

Have a look at Ch 27 v12, Moses says,

12 When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. 13 And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali. Mt Gerazim and Ebal Shechem

Troop through the land, says Moses, until you come to Shechem. The town sits in the valley between two mountains, Ebal and Gerazim. And when you get there, split into two groups. Half the tribes head up Mount Gerazim, and the other half head up Mt Ebal.

And that split – that division, that FORK IN THE ROAD- it represents the turning point to your two alternative futures. It’s your “sliding door” moment. ONE, Mt Gerazim, represents OBEDIENCE and BLESSING. The OTHER, Mt EBAL, represents DISobedience and CURSES.

And then, Moses continues, WHICHEVER mountain you’re on, shout out your “Amen” as the Levites spell out what disobedience looks like. And what the CONSEQUENCE will be.

V15. Make an idol? You’ll be CURSED. Everyone says, AMEN!

V16. Dishonour your parents? You’ll be CURSED. “Amen” comes the reply from both hills.

17. Same thing if you move a neighbour’s boundary stone. CURSED. Or if you lead the blind astray on the road. (Not LOVING them). CURSED for THAT TOO. Amen comes the response.

Every area of life. Big and small. Life that’s thoroughly saturated with obedience.

And so on, to the end of the Chapter.

Blessing and curse

That’s what you’re to do says Moses. And then he goes on to describe in detail what the blessings and curses will LOOK LIKE. What obedience or disobedience will RESULT IN.

So verses 1-14 we see the BLESSINGS.

28:1 If you fully OBEY the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these BLESSINGS will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:

V3. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, so will your crops and your flocks.

V7. Your enemies will be defeated before you. They’ll come at you in ONE direction, but flee from you in SEVEN.

V9. The LORD will ESTABLISH you if you keep his commands. All peoples on earth will see that you’re called by the name of the LORD, and they’ll FEAR you.

V12. He’ll open the storehouses of heaven. He’ll send RAIN, and bless the work of your hands. You’ll LEND to many nations, and BORROW from NONE. The LORD will make you the HEAD, not the TAIL. Always AT THE TOP, never at THE BOTTOM.

Moses is painting a picture of PARADISE. Of a return to Eden. That’s what God’s promises for obedience, for not turning aside to the right or the left.

HOWEVER (v15)

if you do NOT obey the LORD your God and do NOT carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these CURSES will come upon you and overtake you:

The complete OPPOSITE of the blessings. V18 The fruit of your womb and your crops and herds will be cursed.

V20. Curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you do.

V24 The OPPOSITE of blessing. The LORD will turn the rain of your country into DUST AND POWDER. Not PLENTY, but FAMINE.

V25 The LORD will cause YOU to be defeated by your enemies. You’ll come at them in ONE direction, but flee in seven.

V27. The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumours, festering sores. He’ll afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.

V32. Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day. A people you don’t know will eat what your land and labour produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days.

Down in v43. More blessing reversal. The ALIEN WHO LIVES AMONG YOU will rise above you higher and higher, but YOU will sink lower and lower. He will be the head, but you will be the tail. Like a giant game of snakes and ladders. But Israel will always LOSE.

And v49.

49 The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined.

Here we’ve got Moses painting an alternative reality THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE of Eden. After Eden was THE FALL – when the snake and the ground were CURSED – that’s what Israel will be if they choose disobedience.

Two mountain sized choices. With BLESSINGS piled up like a mound. Or CURSES piled up even HIGHER. Choose a mountain – Gerazim or Ebal? Blessing or curse?

Disobedience and Curse for Israel

So what happens?

For those of you who know anything about the story of the Old Testament, there’s HALF of this chapter that SOUNDS PRETTY FAMILIAR. And I’ll give you a hint – it’s not the FIRST half.

As we follow the story of Israel in the land through the Bible, there’s precious little of the BLESSINGS Moses describes. (Every so often we catch GLIMPSES of it.)

But we see MUCH MORE of the CURSES. Of the famine, and the sickness. And especially of the foreign oppression.

Because the reality was Israel RARELY followed God like they SHOULD. They DIDN’T listen. They turned to the left and the right. They forgot his laws. They were stiff-necked, and hard-hearted.

To the point where you wonder whether there’s EVEN ONE ISRAELITE who follows God’s law like he should.

Let’s make a giant leap across a whole lot of history. And the rest of the Old Testament. Because it’s pretty depressing really. And touch down in northern Canaan, around the Sea of Galilee. Around AD 30.

We’re looking at Matthew Ch 8. And we might have jumped a couple of thousand years, but we’re in pretty much the same place, and things are looking pretty much like Moses’ picture.

This is a land that’s bearing the scars of God’s CURSE for disobedience. There in v2 of Mt 8 there’s a man with LEPROSY. Just like Moses SAID.

Then in v5. A foreign oppressor. A centurion with a paralysed servant. Or down in v14, Peter’s mother-in-law has a FEVER. Or v16 MANY demon-possessed and sick.

Or, v28, two more demon-possessed men living a graveyard.

Into Ch 9, a paralysed man.

Or V18. Moses said, “You’d lose your children.” And here’s the daughter of the synagogue ruler – DEAD. NOBODY’S safe – not even children or religious leaders!

And another, v20, a woman suffering from twelve years of menstrual bleeding. Then again, v27, two BLIND men. And finally, v32 a MUTE man possessed by a demon.

And hanging over it all, the dark cloud of Roman oppressors. Moses said, God will curse you by sending a nation, swooping like an eagle. They’ll devour your livestock and your crops. They’ll be the HEAD, you’ll be the TAIL.

And that’s what was happening!

And yet in the MIDST of the CURSES, there’s the ANSWER to the question – Is there ever going to be an Israelite who TRULY obey God’s law? Who’ll come to the CHOICE, and who’ll choose OBEDIENCE? And then who’ll live the blessings God promised?

And Matthew’s WOVEN the answer into his picture in these chapters. JESUS. The ONE TRUE ISRAEL. THE FAITHFUL ISRAEL. The BLESSED ISRAEL.

Jump back to Matthew Ch 1. A story about Jesus, The Son of Abraham, the son of David. The true Israelite.

Then in Ch 2 he was born, then v15 he fled to Egypt. Then he came BACK from Egypt – just like ISRAEL had.

And then we come to Ch 4, and Jesus is in the wilderness – just like Israel. 40 DAYS instead of 40 years. But here’s where the story changes. Because where Israel FAILED, Jesus DIDN’T.

As Satan tempts Jesus. As he presents Jesus with a “Sliding doors” moment. The chance to choose an alternative future. Jesus consistently choose OBEDIENCE. Chooses BLESSING.

And he does it USING MOSES’ WORDS FROM DEUTERONOMY.

V3. Satan says, You’re hungry. Do what Israel did and complain against God. And in v4, Jesus responds. Straight from Deut 8:3. “Man doesn’t live by bread alone.”

So Satan tempts him to prove his identity by jumping off the temple. V7 Jesus quotes Deut 6:16. “Don’t put God to the test.”

A THIRD time. Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Even though they belong to Jesus ANYWAY. Jesus quotes Deut 6:10 Worship and serve God ONLY.

Here’s Jesus, a faithful Israel of ONE. EVERY TIME/ he chooses obedience and blessing / over disobedience and curses.

So it’s no surprise that as he walks through the curses and suffering of Palestine that BLESSING and DELIVERANCE begins to break out EVERYWHERE.

Sickness and madness and demons and poverty begin to be turned upside down. CURSES become BLESSING.

It’s no surprise that dead eyes become SHARP and CLEAR. That lifeless or broken bodies are RESTORED. That crippled limbs become straight and strong. That Satan’s oppressive foot soldiers are beaten back into submission. That hungry crowds are fed and satisfied.

And Jesus offers more than just a restored and blessed promised land for Israel. He offers a restored CREATION. The blessings he brings glimpses of AN INVITATION. An invitation to experience an ETERNITY of God’s blessed creation. For ANYONE who joins himself to Jesus and the blessing that comes from his obedience.

And he GIVES the invitation in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew Ch 5. Jesus’ invitation of BLESSING is to all who recognise that they’re POOR IN SPIRIT. Who recognise that they’re no more able to obey God and bring his blessings down / than Israel was when Moses gave THEM the choice.

And he promises blessing to any who HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Who long to BE right with God, and to LIVE right FOR him. Even though they know they can’t ACHIEVE it.

To people like THAT, To ALL who come. Jesus promises BLESSING. Because he’s the one who BRINGS God’s blessing. Through his PERFECT OBEDIENCE.

The choice Moses offered might have seemed significant. But it matters little compared to the choice Jesus offers. Hebrews 10:28 compares the two offers.

28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has TRAMPLED THE SON OF GOD UNDER FOOT, …

And then in v31.

  31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And that’s the ULTIMATE choice of two we’re faced with this morning. What we do with JESUS’ offer. To continue in the curse of stiff-necked disobedience. Or to come to Jesus, poor in Spirit, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. And receive his BLESSING. The blessing that comes from HIS perfect obedience. The blessing of seeing God. Of being called SONS of God.

Most of us have already DONE that. Which is FANTASTIC. Because when we ARE sons of God, he gives us the blessing of his Spirit. To walk with us and HELP us. And we actually begin to be able to CHOOSE obedience.

Romans Ch 8 describes what the new blessed life of being God’s sons and daughters is LIKE.

8:1 Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus,  2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life SET ME FREE from the law of sin and death.

No more CURSE!

3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature (bring blessing through obedience), God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,  4 IN ORDER THAT THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULLY MET IN US,

We can actually CHOOSE OBEDIENCE. How? What’s different? (the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us)

WHO DO NOT LIVE ACCORDING TO THE SINFUL NATURE BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT.

As Christians we have the choice of living according to the sinful nature, or according to the Spirit. He’s the key that ENABLES us to choose to obey. He’s the key to victory over sin, and to blessing.

Paul goes on to describe his own “Sliding Doors” moment. His description of two alternative realities. Presenting US with the choice. Which will YOU choose?

Here’s Mt EBAL. The CURSES. Rom 8 v5.

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires;

Heres My Gerazim. The BLESSINGS.

but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

V6 EBAL. CURSES.

The mind of sinful man is DEATH,

GERAZIM. Blessings.

but the mind controlled by the Spirit is LIFE AND PEACE;

v7 EBAL. CURSES.

the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

v9 GERAZIM. BLESSINGS.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet YOUR SPIRIT IS ALIVE BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Here’s the CHOICE. Blessing or Curse?

12 THEREFORE, brothers, we have an OBLIGATION-but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the SINFUL nature, you will DIE; but if by the spirit you put to DEATH the misdeeds of the body, you will LIVE,

So many of the decisions we make / come down to A CHOICE OF TWO. Big and small. Dozens of moments each day to give in to temptation or resist it. To speak or remain silent. To stop and help, or to walk on by. To trust God’s promises or to trust what you SEE. To listen to God’s Spirit, or to listen to the voices around you. To fuel the desire, or to FLEE it. To seek YOUR comfort, or Christ’s glory.

With the help of God’s Spirit, as his children. We CAN choose obedience and blessing.

This week. Choose Christ. Choose the blessing of being IN HIM. Of being sons and daughters. Choose to be LED BY HIS Spirit. To RELY on him, and to follow his lead. Choose to put to death the misdeeds of the body. Choose LIFE.

Deuteronomy 5-11: The God who initiates

Isaac had loved Amy for ages. And when he decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, he wanted to propose marriage in a BIG way. Completely unexpected.

So, in 2012, in Portland, Oregon, over the course of months, he designed and planned the ULTIMATE marriage proposal. A HUGE GESTURE of LOVE.

Pretty impressive, wasn’t it? It involved months of planning. Over 70 family and friends. As you saw, it included choreographed dance moves, video cameras, laptops, signs, props, costumes and even a marching band.

All to show Amy the depth of his love. All so that she might RESPOND with love and a heartfelt YES to his proposal.

It was COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED. It was ALL OUT. OVER THE TOP.

Grace before works

A little like God’s relationship with Israel. He’d taken the initiative. He’d done the work. The relationship had been established. Israel’s job was simply to RESPOND. To live out the relationship they already had.

It might SEEM like Deuteronomy is full of LAW. One REALLY LONG sermon of rules and regulations. Of how to please God. And that’s TRUE.

But what’s often missed is Moses’ emphasis that it’s GOD who’s taking the initiative. GOD who’s proposing. He’s done all the work. He’s made the commitment. In a HUGE way.

He’s CALLED them. He’s SAVED them. He’s made them into his people. And made a covenant with them. All before they’ve done anything to earn it, or deserve it, or play THEIR part. GRACE BEFORE WORKS.

And it’s only AFTER his action, that he wants a response. To obey his commands ONCE THEY’VE BEEN SAVED. Good works in RESPONSE to salvation. Not to EARN salvation.

Which sounds familiar. Because it’s exactly the way God works in the New Testament TOO. It’s the way he’s ALWAYS worked. Let me show you how it works in Deuteronomy.

At the start of Ch 5, Moses summons the people to hear how God wants them to live. What life will look like in the promised land. And he reminds them of what God said from Mt Sinai. There in v6.

6 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

God announces who he is. He’s THE LORD. Many of you know that LORD in capitals is the way English Bibles translate God’s NAME, Yahweh, or Jehovah. It’s his COVENANT name. The name HIS PEOPLE can call him by. He revealed it to Moses himself.

Jews think God’s name is so holy they can’t even SAY IT. So when they read Yahweh in their Hebrew Scriptures, they say “Adonai” instead. Which means LORD. And that’s the way we translate Yahweh.

So, God announces WHO HE IS. And then he announces what his RELATIONSHIP is to Israel. He’s THEIR God. “I am Yahweh, YOUR God.” No one else’s. You ONLY.

And then he adds what he’s DONE for them. How he’s SHOWN that he’s Israel’s God. “Who brought you out of Egypt. Out of the land of slavery.”

He initiates the relationship. He becomes Israel’s God, and makes them his people. He saves FIRST. Then asks for response SECOND. Which begins in v7. The Ten Commandments. How Israel are to respond to THEIR God, who SAVES them.

We’ll come back to those in a moment. But let me show you how the pattern continues. God INITIATES, his people RESPOND.

Over in Ch 6 v20. Moses says, In the future, when your son asks you what the meaning is of all the laws they keep. You’re to say (v21)

“We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders

v23

But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers.

God acts FIRST, then (v24) OBEDIENCE comes SECOND.

24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive

God acts FIRST, we RESPOND. He saves for a purpose. So that his people can OBEY him.

It’s the same thing again in Ch 7. Israel are to drive out the nations. Have nothing to do with them. Show no mercy. Don’t inter-marry. Smash their idols and altars.

But look at what came FIRST. V6.

(Burn their idols in the fire). 6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God HAS CHOSEN YOU OUT OF ALL THE PEOPLES on the face of the earth to be HIS people, his TREASURED POSSESSION.

They have no other gods BECAUSE God’s chosen them to be his. Saved FIRST. Good works SECOND.

And just in case Israel were tempted to think he’d done it because of their WORTHINESS – some innate goodness or suitability – Moses quickly puts them in their place. V7

7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand

Nothing to do with them. It’s all about God’s LOVE, not Israel’s LOVELINESS.

And I could show you MORE examples. I’ve listed them there in the notes if you’re interested. But I hope you’ve got the point. God BEGINS the relationship. He chooses, he calls, he saves. He makes a people. Our response is simply TO FOLLOW. We obey BECAUSE God made us his. He doesn’t make us his because we OBEY.

And that puts a very different spin on the ten commandments. Back in Ch 5. He said, “I am Yahweh, YOUR God. Who BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT. Here’s how to RESPOND to me.”

The ten commandments don’t BRING YOU INTO the covenant. They GIVE EXPRESSION to the covenant God’s ALREADY made.

Number One. V7. Have no other Gods before him. Obvious really. He’s your God, you’re his people. So don’t have any other gods.

Same with number TWO. No idols. Not of GOD, or of anything ELSE.

And number THREE flows right on from it. v11. “Don’t take the LORD’S name in vain”. It’s often taken to mean something about SPEAKING his name in a wrong way.

But a literal way of translating the Hebrew is “Don’t bear (or carry) the LORD’s name EMPTILY (or worthlessly).” I quite like that because it lifts this commandment to a whole new level. He’s YOUR God, you’re his servant who bears his name – or who WEARS HIS OWNERSHIP. Don’t take that LIGHTLY. Live that out WORTHILY.

In Isaiah 44, God looks forward to the day when that will happen. To the day when his Spirit will bring life to his people. To the day (v5) when

5 One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’;

another will call himself by the name of Jacob;

still another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’

and will take the name Israel.

Bearing his name means belonging to him. Don’t do that LIGHTLY, or FLIPPANTLY. Live that OUT! Which is what the REST of the commandments are about.

V12. Rest on the seventh day. Keep it HOLY. And not just YOU. Your whole household. Kids. Servants. Even ANIMALS. Treat those under you with compassion, says God (v15), because YOU used to be slaves. And God treated YOU with compassion when he rescued you.

God acted FIRST. You respond.

That’s what it means to bear God’s name WORTHILY. To reflect him in your dealings with people. To value OTHERS the way God valued YOU.

Including PARENTS. V16. Honour them. Value them.

And v17. Value human life. Don’t MURDER.

V18. Value MARRIAGE. No adultery. No sexual relationships outside of marriage.

V19. Value the PROPERTY of others. Don’t steal.

V20. Value JUSTICE for others. Don’t lie against your neighbour. Don’t commit perjury in court to gain an advantage.

And, finally, v21, value your neighbour’s SECURITY. Work at building TRUST across the fence in the community. Keep your eyes to yourself. Keep them off his wife, or his house, or land, or servants, or animals.

That’s the way to bear his name WORTHILY. In ALL of life. He’s ACTED FIRST. Made you his people. Now respond APPROPRIATELY.

Moses goes on to expand on what ALL OF LIFE means. Into Ch 6. v4. “Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Another way to translate it is, “Yahweh is OUR God, Yahweh ALONE.” And THAT means in EVERY AREA of LIFE. From the innermost to the outermost. (v5) “LOVE Yahweh your God

with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength

There’s got to be PERSONAL transformation. In every part of your life.. With everything you’ve got. Write in on your innermost being. V6. On your HEART.

But not just PERSONAL. In EVERY area of life. Make his laws central in YOUR FAMILY. V7.

7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up..

But not just in your FAMILY. Make them a PUBLIC matter TOO. God’s law should transform SOCIETY.

8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Jews today take v8 LITERALLY. But it’s probably meant to be a METAPHOR. Make God’s laws central to the work of your HANDS. And they’ve got to impact your THINKING. The decisions you make about money and family and priorities.

And v9 is about God’s laws impacting your FAMILY LIFE. Your doorframes – so you see them going out and coming in. Flavouring how you raise your kids, how you honour your parents, and respect your wife, and treat your slaves.

And his laws have to influence WHOLE TOWNS. The gates refers to the CITY gates. Where business took place. Where judges delivered verdicts. God’s law needed to be reflected in the justice and fairness of THE WHOLE SOCIETY. In buying and selling, and law courts and witnesses and trials.

It was a wonderful vision. Society and families really WOULD be different if people lived out God’s law like THAT.

What about us?

(pause) But that was Israel. A different PEOPLE. In a different PLACE, In a different TIME. Under a different COVENANT. But what about US? What do the Ten Commandments have to say to Australian society TODAY?

a. The ten commandments are for God’s people

Let me say, first, that Western civilisation has much to thank the Ten Commandments for. The good ordering of society, principles of law and justice – many of the specific laws themselves- come from the Bible.

And society works BEST when it follows God’s laws as summarised in the Ten Commandments. INDIVIDUALS have a better life, as a general rule, when they follow the Ten Commandments.

Having said THAT though, there’s one logical consequence of my main point. If grace comes FIRST, and works comes SECOND. (If God MAKES a people, and THEN commands them.) Then that means THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AREN’T FOR UNBELIEVERS. God doesn’t EXPECT them to obey it. It’s not for THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

God is no more pleased that “Joe the unbeliever” keeps the Sabbath than he DOESN’T. It’s neither here nor there to God if he or marries his girlfriend, rather than lives with her.

Joe’s BIG problem is that he’s a rebel and a sinner and God’s enemy. What God wants is his repentance and humility. Not his good works.

The Bible commentator Daniel Block makes this comment, “The problem with western society is NOT that people do not keep the 10 commandments; it is that most have never left Egypt (They’re not God’s people – he hasn’t saved them). It is UNREALISTIC and UNBIBLICAL to EXPECT THOSE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN REDEEMED to live according to the principles and commitments of the redeemed. They have neither the motivation nor the indwelling Spirit to empower them to do so.” 172

Good works are what he expects of HIS people. Look at what Moses says in Deut 6:25.

25 And if WE are careful to obey all this law before the LORD OUR God, as he has commanded us, that will be OUR righteousness.”

Obedience will SHOW that we are his people. Rightly connected to him. If we obey him BECAUSE of his grace.

But it doesn’t work with NON-BELIEVERS. God wants their repentance FIRST.

Let’s preach THE GOSPEL to the world. And not judge their lifestyle or moral choices. Let’s not focus on WORKS. Because that comes SECOND, not FIRST.

I wonder if Christians would have a better name in the media, and be ridiculed less as bigoted and judgemental, if, like Moses, we did a better job of preaching GRACE, not WORKS. Preaching THE GOSPEL before we preached the RESPONSE to the gospel.

b. preach grace not works

And that’s the application I want to make when it comes to CHRISTIANS, TOO. Preach grace, not works.

It’s a complicated question – how the Christian is to relate to the Law. And we’ll focus on it NEXT WEEK. But let me say ONE thing today.

God hasn’t changed. He’s STILL the God who initiates. Who shows grace before works. Whether it was through Moses for Israel. Or through Jesus for US. Ephesians 2 v8

8 For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast.

Grace comes FIRST. Salvation doesn’t depend on our good works. Our WORTHINESS. It’s all about trusting, instead, the works OF JESUS. On our behalf.

But once that happens. Look at what comes NEXT. ONCE we’re saved. V10.

10 For we are God’s WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God showed us grace – he called us and saved us through Jesus FOR A PURPOSE. TO DO GOOD WORKS. To live out his justice and mercy and goodness and love in our relationships with people around us. JUST LIKE ISRAEL.

And that means that has to be OUR MESSAGE TOO. We have to preach GRACE, not LEGALISM. Too often, either in preaching from pulpits or just as Christians talk to non-Christians, we get things back to front. We put the cart before the horse.

We focus on ACTIONS, rather than ATTITUDE. We concentrate so much on what WE SHOULD DO for God, and so little on what God has done for US, that we’re really just preaching LEGALISM..

Whether it be Old Testament legalism or New Testament legalism. Old Testament legalism like keeping the ten commandments. Not working on the Sabbath. Not lying or stealing. Honouring our parents.

Or whether it’s New Testament legalism. You see, we’re also pretty good at expecting rule-keeping from THE NEW TESTAMENT TOO. At expecting that TRUE Christian conduct will LOOK like a certain thing.

Regular attendance at church, especially at the Lord’s Supper, tithing, membership of a Bible study group, active in personal evangelism, regular quiet times.

And those who don’t conform, well, perhaps their very salvation is in question! The way we preach sermon application, we almost make these things a CONDITION of our salvation, rather than the FRUIT. And it’s not BIBLICAL!

Listen instead to a BIBLICAL emphasis on what drives our good works. Rom 12:1

12:1 THEREFORE, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-

BECAUSE of everything that’s come before in Romans. All that God’s done to SAVE you. All his mercies. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Good works done in response to grace.

Or what about Titus 2:11-14?

11 For the GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGS SALVATION has APPEARED to all men (pause). 12 It TEACHES us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

Grace comes FIRST. And that TEACHES us to respond with good works. With godly lives.

Or look at what comes next. Same thing AGAIN. V13

13 while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 WHO GAVE HIMSELF FOR US to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, EAGER TO DO WHAT IS GOOD.

Jesus GAVE himself to purify a people. What for? So they’d be EAGER TO DO GOOD WORKS. Grace first, Works IN RESPONSE.

I need to emphasise GRACE. To describe the riches of God’s mercies as ATTRACTIVELY and COMPREHENSIVELY as I can. So we can LOVE Jesus more. Heart, soul, mind and strength.

And that we’ll live it out in good works.

Grace first can lead to pitfalls

And BECAUSE we’ve been shown grace. Just like Israel. Moses has warnings for us. About the pitfalls that come from living with grace. The TRAPS. God’s saved Israel, and brought them into the land FIRST. He’s ALREADY MADE them his people. THEN he expects their obedience. Same as US.

And it’s human nature to lose the incentive to keep your side of the bargain when you’ve already GOT what you want. It’s why you never pay a tradesman until he’s finished the job. If there’s nothing in it for him anymore, he’ll just keep putting off FINISHING.

And once the people are IN the land, Moses knows their natural reaction will be to lose interest in obeying God. And we can learn from Moses AS WELL. Because we’re tempted to take grace for granted. To treat it with contempt.

The pitfall of prosperity-pride

So the first pitfall Moses warns them of is of PROSPERITY-PRIDE. Of forgetting God, and thinking THEY’VE EARNED all the good things they’ve got. Look at Ch 6 v10.

10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you–a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant–then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Don’t be PROUD. God’s BROUGHT you into the land. He’s given you everything. You didn’t build ANY of it. Remember the LORD. It’s HIS work, not yours.

But Moses doesn’t just WARN. He gives the ANTIDOTE to performance-pride. Over in Ch 8. Look BACK, he says. V16.

16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to HUMBLE and to test you SO THAT IN THE END IT MIGHT GO WELL WITH YOU. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 BUT REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR IT IS HE WHO GIVES YOU THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE WEALTH, and so confirms his covenant,

Look BACK. God taught you HUMILITY in the desert. Everything comes from his hand. It’s ALL of grace. HIS work, not YOURS. So don’t fall into the trap of forgetting God – of thinking you don’t need him any more – when you become PROSPEROUS.

Same FOR US. Look back. Focus on the cross. Confess your sin. Focus on Jesus’ perfection. Everything you have comes from God. Count your blessings. And be THANKFUL. There’s nothing for you to be PROUD about. So, continue to live in humble dependence.

The pitfall of peer-pressure (7:1-6, 17-25)

Second pitfall is there in Ch 7. The PITFALL OF PEER PRESSURE. No problem when they were out in the desert. All on their own. But the promised land would be different. There the nations around will lead you astray says Moses. You’ll see their gods and their temples. Life will seem to be going so well for them. And you’ll be tempted to CONFORM. To JOIN IN. To inter-marry. To make life just that little bit FULLER.

But Moses’ is clear about the ANTIDOTE to peer –pressure. DESTROY IT. Cut it off. Don’t let it influence you. Have nothing to DO with them.

Jesus said a SIMILAR thing. If your right hand causes you to sin, CUT IT OFF. Don’t let it INFLUENCE you. Be BRUTAL. FLEE temptation.

And Moses gives the REASON there in v6 of Ch 7.

6 For you are a people HOLY to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

He’s called you out to be SEPARATE. So be DIFFERENT, uninfluenced, even while you live among them. Whether in Canaan, or Ashfield.

The pitfall of performance-pride 9:4-6; 10:12-16)

The third pitfall is over in Ch 9. It’s the pitfall of PERFORMANCE-PRIDE. Of thinking that God LOVES you because you’re LOVELY. That he gave you everything because you DESERVED it. Ch 9 v4.

4 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the WICKEDNESS OF THESE NATIONS that the LORD is going to drive them out before you.

Or down in v6.

6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your RIGHTEOUSNESS that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a STIFF-NECKED PEOPLE.

It’s the problem with mistaking GRACE for PAYMENT. For thinking that you’ve received something because you’ve EARNED it. Rather than because it’s a GIFT.

Don’t be PROUD. Don’t compare yourself to OTHERS. Don’t be STIFF-NECKED. THAT’S what comes naturally. Not righteousness. The reality is Israel had a long history of being STIFF-NECKED. Of wilfully doing things THEIR way, rather than God’s way.

Moses WARNS them against performance-pride. And he gives them THE ANTIDOTE. 10:16. The remedy to spiritual stiff necks. And it’s just as anatomically impossible as the illness. Circumcise your hearts. 10:15.

15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEARTS, therefore, and DO NOT BE STIFF-NECKED ANY LONGER.

A circumcised heart is the OPPOSITE of a stiff neck. It’s about turning from a heart-orientation of pride and self-interest, and turning to God, in humility and loving commitment and obedience.

That’s the way to overcome performance pride.

Focus on God. On his character. On his goodness and grace. Focus on all that he’s done for us in Jesus. Heart circumcision. Preach grace not works TO YOURSELF. That’s the motivation to humility and gratitude. The motivation to RESPOND to him with loving obedience.

Look at how MOSES directs their attention to God’s goodness. Preaching GRACE to them. Deut 10:16-22

16 CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEARTS, THEREFORE, AND DO NOT BE STIFF-NECKED ANY LONGER. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

God has acted FIRST. He’s made you HIS. Now fear and serve him in loving and obedient RESPONSE.

Deuteronomy 12-26: A Peculiar People

child-asking-why-300Have you got a child who went through a “But why?” phase? D. sent me a list of questions H. bombarded him with recently.

1. Where are the disciples? I wish we could meet them
2. Are Jesus and God twins?
3. Are Jesus and God boys?
4. Why can’t we see God? If we can’t see God, what happens if we bump into him? Will he get out of the way?
5. Can God make people come alive again? Does that mean he can make us alive again after we’re dead?
6. Who’s going to die tomorrow?

7. When’s yai yai (grandma) going to die?

Some interesting questions there! D. didn’t tell me what his answers were. He just said I should cover them in Kids talks!

And when it comes to some of the laws here in Deuteronomy, let me just say it’s NOT ONLY THE KIDS asking “But why?” Some of those laws are just plain WEIRD!

Like (14:1) “Do not cut yourselves, or shave the front of your heads for the dead”

Or (14:23) “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk”

Or (22:5)” “A woman mustn’t wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing

Or (22:9). “Don’t plant two kids of seeds in your vineyard. If you do the fruit will be defiled. Always helpful gardening advice.

Or finally, there’s some FASHION advice. (22:11) “Don’t wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

Some of those laws just make us want to ask, “But WHY?” Why does it MATTER what type of clothes Israel wore? Or how they cook their goat?

Because obedience is an expression of the covenant (6:20-25)

But it wasn’t just US TODAY. Moses knew that little Jewish kids would be asking the same questions. Questions about what God was like, and why his people needed to do certain things. So in ch 6 v20, he gives parents some help.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?”

When they ask, “But why?” Here’s the ANSWER

… tell him…”We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders–great and terrible–upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Four answers right there in those few verses. Why obey?

1.To remind you of everything God’s done for you.

2.Because God COMMANDED us, and he’s OUR GOD.

3.So we might PROSPER and LIVE in the land.

4.So it will BE FOR OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

At its simplest, the parent’s answer is something like THIS:“God’s done all these things for us. He’s made us his people. And he’s brought us into the land. If we keep our side of the bargain, we’ll get to STAY here. He’s made a covenant with us. These laws SHOW how we’re his people. They show HOW WE EXPRESS OUR COMMITMENT to the covenant.”

And that’s not a bad start.

But let’s see if we can find some MORE answers. We’re going to cast our eyes across chapters 12 to 26, and ask the question WHY? Why obey?

We’ll think firstly about ISRAEL. What it meant for THEM, in THAT PLACE, back THEN.

And then we’ll think about what OUR connection is. Which is more COMPLICATED. What WE should do with these laws.

Because obedience shows that you’re different

So, first. Perhaps the most OBVIOUS reason Israel are to obey God’s laws is because it SHOWS THAT THEY’RE DIFFERENT. Again and again in these chapters we read that Israel are to do certain things because they’re HOLY TO THE LORD. Distinct, separate, different. And, closely connected to that, we read that some things are CLEAN while others are UNCLEAN.

So, for example in Ch 12. Israel are to WORSHIP in a different way to the nations because they’re different.

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

Don’t worship where they worship. DESTROY their places of worship. Because you’re DIFFERENT.

But it’s not just how you WORSHIP that shows that. Ch 14 – EVEN WHAT YOU EAT reminds you you’re different. 14:2 for you are a people HOLY to the LORD your God. He’s chosen YOU to be his treasured possession.

So (v3), don’t eat any detestable thing. All sorts of animals you CAN eat. But not camels, rabbits or coneys. Or v8 Pigs. Unclean.

And then, from the ocean. Some animals are CLEAN. Others are UNCLEAN. Or v11. All sorts of BIRDS. Some are clean. others are UNCLEAN. Everything can be SEPARATED – into what’s CLEAN and what’s UNCLEAN.

But it’s not a matter of HYGIENE. Of getting sick. Look there in v21. Don’t eat anything you find dead. A FOREIGNER CAN EAT IT. But not YOU – BECAUSE YOU’RE A PEOPLE HOLY TO THE LORD YOUR GOD. It’s only unclean TO YOU.

NOT eating certain animals REMINDS God’s people they’re separate.

And that seems to be the case for OTHER laws. Nothing particularly WRONG or UNCLEAN in THEMSELVES. OTHER than it was about KEEPING certain THINGS SEPARATE. Don’t MIX two things. Why? AS A REMINDER that YOU’RE separate. God’s HOLY people.

Like 14:21. When you’re cooking, don’t mix a young goat’s meat, with its mother’s milk. Cook one. Cook the OTHER. But don’t MIX them.

Or 22:5 Don’t mix women with men’s clothing, or men with women’s clothing. Or 22:6 if you find a mother bird sitting on eggs, don’t take BOTH. Let the mother go and take the EGGS, or leave the eggs and take the mother. But don’t take BOTH TOGETHER. Keep them SEPARATE. Because YOU’RE separate.

Same thing in 22:9. Don’t mix TWO KINDS OF SEED. Keep them SEPARATE. Not because there’s anything agriculturally unsound about it. Just to remind you that YOU’RE separate.

22:10 Don’t mix ox and donkey pulling the same plough.

22:11 Don’t mix wool and linen in the same garment.

All to remind you YOU’RE DIFFERENT.

Clean and unclean. Holy and unholy. Be different. Be separate. In EVERY area of life. It was a truth hammered into the Jews for generation after generation. Century after century.

Until it became SO central to their identity, their thinking SHIFTED. They began to think it was the DOING of those laws that MADE them clean. That MADE them holy and separate.

When the reality was God had ALREADY made them his people. And the laws just REMINDED them they were holy and separate.

And by the time of Jesus, that was the mistake lots of Jews were making. Mark ch 7, the Pharisees want to know why Jesus’ disciples don’t ceremonially wash their hands after they’ve been to the marketplace. And Jesus criticises them. He says (v6) Isaiah was right when he said about you hypocrites.

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

In other words, it’s more important what’s happening in YOUR HEART than WITH YOUR HANDS. God cares about being clean on the INSIDE rather than the OUTSIDE.

Down in v18, he explains it to the disciples.

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (IN SAYING THIS, JESUS DECLARED ALL FOODS “CLEAN.”)

Now that Jesus had come, the OLD reminders of clean and unclean were outdated. Superseded. There was no NEED to keep the food laws. All foods are clean.[1]

Now that Jesus has come, “clean and unclean” means something different. It’s all about how you treat JESUS.

And people doing that will be found from EVERY NATION, eating EVERY sort of food. But they’ve ALL got God’s Holy Spirit. And he makes them clean where it COUNTS. ON THE INSIDE.

Which means, NOW, we don’t need to keep those laws that remind us that we’re different. We’re free to eat ANYTHING.

Instead, we’re called to do OTHER things to show we’re different. All sorts of verses in the New Testament we could look at to do with LIVING A CERTAIN WAY TO SHOW YOU’RE HOLY. But 1 Peter 1:9-12 is a beauty.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, A HOLY NATION, a people belonging to God,

You’re HOLY. Now LIVE like it. SHOW you’re different. He goes on in v11.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, AS ALIENS AND STRANGERS IN THE WORLD, to ABSTAIN FROM SINFUL DESIRES, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

And that’s much harder and more far-reaching than simply what you wear or what you eat. Show you’re different by A WHOLE LIFE.

Because obedience reminds you of God’s goodness

But back to Deuteronomy. ANOTHER reason Moses gives for obeying the law is that it REMINDS ISRAEL OF GOD’S GOODNESS.

Like when the people CELEBRATE THE FESTIVALS. Ch 16. V3. Celebrate the Passover with unleavened bread. Why? To remember that in EGYPT you left in a hurry, and didn’t have time to make leavened bread. Remember how God RESCUED you.

And THIS one doesn’t sound too difficult. A command to HAVE A PARTY. 14:26. Your tithes and collections should be used to pay for a CELEBRATION. And your whole household shall eat in the presence of God AND REJOICE. Be THANKFUL because he’s BLESSED you with all these good things you’re enjoying. Remember everything he’s done for you!

Or in Ch 15 v12, if a fellow Israelite becomes a slave to settle a debt, make sure you release him after seven years. That’s just AND compassionate. And be GENEROUS to him. Why? V14.

Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and THE LORD YOUR GOD REDEEMED YOU. THAT is why I give you this command today.

Being generous and compassionate isn’t a way of EARNING God’s favour. It’s a way of REMINDING you of his goodness.

And that’s a motivation that DOESN’T change with Jesus. Like the command to celebrate the SACRAMENTS. The Lord’s Supper and Baptism. They both REMIND US OF GOD’S GOODNESS.

Baptism reminds us that God’s washed away our sin. Whether it’s our OWN baptism, or just watching someone else. We SEE it, and it helps us to remember, and to be THANKFUL.

And eating the Lord’s Supper reminds us of how that washing happened. That our SPIRITUAL nutrition – our spiritual life – comes from Jesus’ sacrifice in our place. We remember the cross. The ULTIMATE sign of God’s goodness to us.

Both sacraments are VISUAL CUES – just like lots of Israel’s laws – to help forgetful and faithless saints to REMEMBER and to TRUST and to BE THANKFUL FOR God’s gifts.

Jesus has given them to us for OUR GOOD. Let’s obediently celebrate them to remember his grace.

Because obedience reflects God’s character

Another reason Moses gives for his laws are BECAUSE OBEDIENCE REFLECTS GOD’S CHARACTER. His people should be LIKE him. God is just and compassionate and reliable, and his people REFLECT those qualities as they keep his laws.

Like Ch 15. It’s okay to lend money. But every 7 years, cancel every debt. It doesn’t make good business sense. But it reflects God’s generosity and forgiveness.

Or Ch 16 v18. Judges are to be JUST. Not show partiality. Don’t accept bribes. Make sure there’s TWO witnesses. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Because that sort of justice reflects God’s character. He LOVES justice.

And then there are laws that reflect God’s character because of things he HATES. Like Ch 19 Moses set up cities of refuge where people could flee if they’d ACCIDENTLY killed someone. Because that would stop the cycle of revenge killings. Why? Because, v10, God HATES THE SHEDDING OF INNOCENT BLOOD. Because he’s JUST.

Here’s some OTHER things he hates. Ch 25 v15. He hates DISHONEST BUSINESS PRACTICES.

15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

Act consistently and without greed. Because that reflects God’s character.

And when we get all the way over to Ch 26, Moses say, v18

18 And the LORD has declared this day that YOU ARE HIS PEOPLE, his treasured possession as he promised, and THAT YOU ARE TO KEEP ALL HIS COMMANDS. 19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that YOU WILL BE A PEOPLE HOLY TO THE LORD YOUR GOD, as he promised

In other words, measure up to your calling. BE WHO YOU ARE. You’re God’s people, you’re HOLY. Now BE it. And these laws are how you DO that.

And even though that’s going to look different for US as Christians, it’s the same command. Like Colossians 3. Measure up to your calling. You’re God’s holy people. Be who you are.

Col 3 begins with the DESCRIPTION. “Since then you have been raised with Christ” That’s your IDENTITY.

Then it follows with WHAT THAT MEANS. Live out your calling. Be who you are. Since you’ve been raised, “SET YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS on things above.”

What does that mean? V5. Put to DEATH whatever belongs to the sinful nature. You USED to do that stuff. But NOW you need to do what REFLECTS GOD’S CHARACTER instead.  V10. “Put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge IN THE IMAGE OF ITS CREATOR.”

And v12 describes what that new self will LOOK LIKE.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, HOLY AND DEARLY LOVED, CLOTHE yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and FORGIVE whatever grievances you may have against one another. FORGIVE AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU. 14 And over all these virtues put on LOVE

Reflect God’s character. Be holy because HE is holy.

Because it points to Jesus (Mt 5:17-18)

(pause) The last reason we need to pay attention to the law is BECAUSE IT POINTS US TO JESUS.

Some Christians think we should have NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. All it does is show our sinfulness. They think that since Jesus has REPLACED the law. Since he’s replaced the sacrifices. Since he’s declared all foods clean. Since he makes us his people by FAITH. And told us simply to LOVE GOD and to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOUR.

They think CHRISTIANS DON’T NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE LAW.

But that’s not what Jesus thought. Matthew 5:17. He’s just getting warmed up in the Sermon on the Mount. His NEW law delivered from the mountain. And he says THIS about Moses’ law.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, WILL BY ANY MEANS DISAPPEAR FROM THE LAW UNTIL EVERYTHING IS ACCOMPLISHED.

Yes, Jesus has FULFILLED it. But he hasn’t REPLACED it. He’s the GOAL or the CULMINATION of the law. Not its ALTERNATIVE. It’s STILL THERE. It’s still authoritative. It’s still IMPORTANT.

But what FOR? If we’re no longer judged by whether we KEEP it or not. If the food laws are obsolete. Then why IS IT important.

Because it points us to Jesus. It shows us what he’s like. It shows us why we NEED him. It ASKS THE QUESTIONS that Jesus is THE ANSWER TO.

In Luke 24, after Jesus’ resurrection, he appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They can’t believe it’s really him. And he said to them (v44)

This is what I told you while I was still with you: EVERYTHING MUST BE FULFILLED THAT IS WRITTEN ABOUT ME IN THE LAW OF MOSES, THE PROPHETS AND THE PSALMS.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

The WHOLE Old Testament – including the Law of Moses- is WRITTEN ABOUT JESUS. It DESCRIBES him. It POINTS to him. It ANTICIPATES him.

Let me briefly show you what I mean just in the chapters we’re looking at today.

First, we lesson we learn is that the JUST punishment for sin IS DEATH. Sin is SERIOUS. It can’t be overlooked, or paid for CHEAPLY. Idolatry deserves death (17:5), contempt of court deserves death (17:12). Even a REBELLIOUS SON deserves death (21:21). Sin is deadly.

But then in Ch 21:1-9, we see that FORGIVENESS of sin is COSTLY. The blood guilt of an unsolved murder is difficult to remove.

Ch 17:1 teaches us that the forgiveness of sin requires A PERFECT SACRIFICE.

And then in v14-20 of Ch 17. We see that the best sort of king IS A BROTHER who FOLLOWS GOD’S LAWS CAREFULLY.

And that’s just THE START. The rest of Scripture describes the Passover lamb who’s blood protects. Or the substitionary atonement of a goat who bears the sins of the people, and goes into the wilderness to die. And it describes the High Priest who stand in between God and the people. And it describes the Suffering Servant who bears the iniquity of us all. And by whose wounds we are healed.

Pictures. Objects lessons. That illustrate. And prepare the way.

But EVERY PART of the Law stays in place. Moral, judicial AND ceremonial. Not because we must OBEY it. But because it points us to Jesus. Because it shows us our need. It reminds us of his character, and it reminds us to be thankful for his grace.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul commends the Old Testament Scriptures to Timothy. He says

15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are ABLE TO MAKE YOU WISE FOR SALVATION THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

That’s talking about THE Old Testament. INCLUDING these laws in Deuteronomy. They can make you WISE FOR SALVATION through faith in Jesus. They’re useful to teach and rebuke and correct and TRAIN you. To make you THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED. So PAY ATTENTION to them.

But don’t let them JUDGE you.

You see, the law is like a retired professor. He USED to be full of information. He USED to have the power to set tests and to pass or fail students. But not anymore. He’s still FULL of helpful information. He can direct and guide you in useful directions.

But he’s powerless to grade you. He’s incapable of failing ANYONE now. As long as you’re connected to Jesus. Trusting HIS works instead of YOURS.

Helpful, but powerless.

So let these laws GUIDE you. Let them help you to remember that YOU’RE DIFFERENT. To remind you of God’s GOODNESS. To reflect his CHARACTER. And to point you to JESUS.

And let’s do that now ESPECIALLY as we obey Jesus’ command to celebrate HIS meal.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Communion Table is the table of our Lord Jesus.

On behalf of the Session, I therefore invite those who love the Lord Jesus Christ to join in  this celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus instituted this meal as a Sacrament – a sign and seal to help us remember his death, and the pledge of his love. As a bond of our union with him and with each other as members of the Church which is his Body, and as the assurance of his coming again.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul said about the Lord’s Supper:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)

Let us pray:

All glory to you, our Heavenly Father, for your great love for mankind, by which you gave your only Son Jesus Christ, that all who trust in him should not perish, but have eternal life. We give praise and thanks for him, our great High Priest, who by his death offered for mankind the one true sacrifice for sin and obtained an eternal deliverance for his people.

We recognise our sin, our guilt and unworthiness to receive this gift. The gift of eternal life, of an inheritance that will never spoil, of your Holy Spirit. The gift of reconciliation with you – our Creator and Redeemer.

Forgive us, Lord. And wash us clean. Because of the acceptable sacrifice of your son, who died in our place.

So now, Father, with praise and thanksgiving we do as your Son commanded: we recall before you his suffering, his death and resurrection; we  acknowledge his reign in glory; and we look for the coming of his kingdom. Amen.

Then the minister shall say:

The Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it (the minister breaks the bread) and said:

THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH IS FOR YOU; DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.

The minister says:

In the same way after supper he took the cup saying:

THIS CUP IS THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD; DO THIS WHENEVER YOU DRINK IT, IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.

When all have eaten the minister may read a suitable passage of Scripture or say:

Let us pray:

Thank you, O Lord our God, for the privilege of joining in the Lord’s Supper and for its reminder to us of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Renew our faith and obedience that we may serve you without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. Give to us the strength to fight the good fight of faith and to endure to the end. As we have received Christ,  help us to live in Him. Make us wise so that we might live in a manner pleasing to you, enjoying life’s pleasures with thankfulness, fulfilling its duties with faithfulness, and bearing its trials with patience. Instruct and guide us by your Spirit so that above all else we might obey and please you, and live with you in your holy and everlasting Kingdom. These things we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be thanksgiving, honour and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Then shall a Psalm or Hymn be sung.

And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God our Father,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with you all evermore. Amen.

 


[1] And then in the book of Acts, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as the Christian church grew, we see that truth WORKED OUT IN PRACTICE. Because the gospel began to spread to unclean Gentiles. Just like God had always planned. And he had some difficult lessons to teach good Jewish disciples like Peter.

Like in Acts 10. It’s lunchtime, Peter’s hungry, and while lunch is being cooked, he falls into a trance. And God gives him a vision of a whole lot of unclean animals. A voice tells him to eat, But Peter says he’s never eaten anything unclean. The voice replies (v15) “Don’t call anything impure that God has made clean.”

He gets the same vision three times. And by the time the THIRD one’s finished, Peter realises God’s talking about PEOPLE – Gentiles. That God makes them clean on THE INSIDE, even though they’re unclean according to Moses’ law.

Because in Jesus’ NEW covenant, “clean and unclean” means something DIFFERENT. Down in v34, Peter visits the Gentile Cornelius and says,

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

It’s all about how they treat JESUS, rather than what they eat or how they wash.

Deuteronomy 4: The God of Word

the voiceThe TV show “The Voice” says it’s different from all the other talent shows out there because it’s ALL ABOUT THE VOICE. The judges don’t watch the stage. They don’t get distracted by the looks of the singer, or the costume, or the dancing skills. They have to concentrate on LISTENING CAREFULLY. They work hard to hear the QUALITY of the singer’s voice – their tone and control and emotion. They’re forced to concentrate all their energy into LISTENING because they can’t use their OTHER senses. OTHER shows consider the total package. But on THIS show, it’s ALL ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THE VOICE. Nothing else matters.

And that’s Moses’ point here in Ch 4. It’s what separates the TRUE GOD from the gods of the nations. There’s no image – nothing to see. JUST A VOICE. So we should CONCENTRATE on what God has to say. Look at how Moses describes what happened at Mt Sinai. There in v10.

10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to HEAR MY WORDS so that they may LEARN TO REVERE ME as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the LORD SPOKE to you out of the fire. YOU HEARD THE SOUND OF WORDS BUT SAW NO FORM; THERE WAS ONLY A VOICE.

God has spoken! So hear his words! Or again in v15.15 You saw NO FORM OF ANY KIND the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire.

This God is UNIQUE. He’s THE VOICE. There’s no other god LIKE that. Every other nation has gods you can SEE. You can BOW DOWN TO. Every other nation has an IMAGE to worship. A representation that influences the way they THINK about their god. But those God’s ARE SILENT.But not the God of ISRAEL.

Look at the sorts of things the NATIONS do. V16. Don’t become corrupt, says Moses, and make for yourselves an idol, Something to SEE. An image of any shape. Not a man or woman or animal or bird or fish. V19. Don’t make something that looks like the sun or moon or stars, then bow down and worship it. Don’t worship them because the TRUE God has CREATED those things and GIVEN them to every nation.

Created things aren’t to be worshipped. It’s the complete opposite of the way God made things with Adam and Eve. He made HUMANS in his likeness and image. And he commanded them to rule over created things. (God over humans over creation.)

But ever since the fall, we REPLACE our Creator. We turn things upside down. Instead of God making us in his image, and us serving him, and then ruling over created things. We choose to make images of created things, and then serve THEM. And in the process ignore God. (creation over humans over God). It’s not RIGHT says Moses. God spoke with a VOICE ALONE. He TOLD us who he was, and how to worship him. No other god has done that. He’s OUTSIDE and ABOVE created things. No PHYSICAL FORM. Spirit instead of matter. He’s UNIQUE.

Therefore, watch yourselves (9-31)

So, how do you RESPOND to the God of Word? The unique God who SPEAKS to you out of fire? Who has the power to speak judgment, and people fall down DEAD?

It’s obvious! VERY CAREFULLY. If the God of the Universe thinks it important to speak to you. Then it’s obviously important to LISTEN to what he SAYS. Back up in v9. Moses says,

9 Only BE CAREFUL, and WATCH YOURSELVES CLOSELY so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Make sure you do EXACTLY what he says. And never forget it.

He says the same thing down in v15. This time SPECIFICALLY to do with not making any idols of God. 15 You saw NO FORM of any kind the day the LORD SPOKE to you at Horeb out of the fire. THEREFORE WATCH YOURSELVES VERY CAREFULLY, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, AN IMAGE OF ANY SHAPE,

Same thing again, over in v23. When you finally make it into the promised land,

23 BE CAREFUL not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden.

And here’s a pretty good reason to be careful. V24.24 For the LORD your God is A CONSUMING FIRE, A JEALOUS GOD.

He’s JEALOUS for his honour. He won’t SHARE it with other gods. He alone deserves worship. Nothing less than COMPLETE DEVOTION MEASURES UP to the wonder of what God’s done. Look at all the different ways Moses pleads with the people to pay attention when the God of Word SPEAKS.

Starting at v1 HEAR the laws. FOLLOW them.

V2. Don’t ADD OR SUBTRACT from them. KEEP them.

V4. HOLD FAST to the Lord.

V6. OBSERVE THEM CAREFULLY.

V9. Be careful, watch yourselves closely. Do not forget. Teach them to your children

V10. Learn to REVERE, or respect, God

In every area of life. With every part of your identity. For the whole length of your life. With all your physical and emotional and mental strength. Over in Ch 6 v4, he summarises it like THIS

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.   5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Everything. Do it because he’s UNIQUE. Do it because he’s SPOKEN. Do it because he deserves NOTHING LESS.

  • So that the nations may notice (6-8)

And do it (v6) SO THAT THE NATIONS WILL NOTICE. It’s what evangelism looked like in the Old Testament.

6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding TO THE NATIONS, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

A people who honour the God who saved them by FOLLOWING HIM WHOLE-HEARTEDLY. Who look to him in prayerful dependence. What a witness THAT would be!Who knows what the shape of God’s people would have been if Israel had actually DONE that! Imagine it – Nations flocking into Israel to live out together the justice and compassion and peace of God! Things could have been SO DIFFERENT!

The reality, however, was that by the end of the Old Testament, the Jews had shrunk to a couple of tribes. The land was ruled by Gentiles. And rather than the nations flocking to Israel, Israel was spread among the nations. Watered down and ineffective.It would take THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS and THE SENDING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT before the boundaries of God’s people would spread beyond Israel in any significant way. Before God’s people could begin to obey his laws with all their heart. But it’s not God’s plan. Back at the beginning, Moses is saying, “Here’s what things COULD LOOK LIKE if you LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THE GOD WHO SPEAKS.”

It’s easy, isn’t it, to be critical of Israel? To point out all their mistakes and hard-heartedness? But let’s hold up v6-8 as a mirror to OURSELVES. Is that a job description WE’VE taken seriously? Observing God’s decrees and laws CAREFULLY? So that people will NOTICE?

Do people look at the way WE live, at the way we approach life? At how we treat each other and outsiders? And say to themselves, “Surely this is a wise and understanding people. Surely they follow a great God. You know what – When people really live God’s way, life just… WORKS! It’s the sort of life I’d be interested in living.”I wonder, what would it take for us to start making THAT sort of impression with people?

The one and only (32-39)

Perhaps understanding more about WHO GOD IS. Moses wants to give the people a reason to listen well. To respond to the one and only God, who’s actions have never been seen before. Down in v32. Look back through history, he says. Look from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened? V33

33 Has any other people HEARD THE VOICE OF GOD SPEAKING OUT OF FIRE, as you have, and LIVED? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

Never before, and never since. God, the One and Only. And he did it all, so we might RECOGNISE him for it. v35.35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.He didn’t give us an image to look at. To show us what he’s like. He gave us AN ACTION PLAN. All of it, a visual aid. A teaching point designed to produce a RESPONSE. So people would know that he’s the ONLY God.

People think it’s a religious smorgasbord out there. (Lots of gods. Take your pick – whatever you feel like. One’s as good as another.) But the truth is there’s only ONE GOD ON THE MENU. Only one God who WORKS. ONE GOD who STEPS INTO HISTORY. Who SAVES A PEOPLE. One God. ALL OTHER CON-tenders are PRE-tenders. Take it or leave it. You don’t get much more politically incorrect than THAT in today’s multi-cultural society.

  • Therefore, obey

But it’s not enough to just RECOGNISE it. To just BELIEVE it. You’ve got to DO SOMETHING about it. v3939 ACKNOWLEDGE and TAKE TO HEART this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. 40 KEEP HIS DECREES AND COMMANDS, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.

Know it. And Consider it. Dwell on it. Let it soak into your nature. God is the ONE AND ONLY. But don’t stop there. SHOW IT, by keeping his commands. Listening to the God of Word. Then DOING it. That’s the way to respond to the only God who’s ever spoken to his people.

How well does that process work FOR YOU? That step between v39 and v40? How well does what you know with YOUR HEAD go on and influence YOUR LIFE?You’ll nod in agreement at all the Heidelberg Catechism questions. You’ll read out the answers with conviction. You’ll say Amen at the end of the prayers. You’ll sing the songs with gusto. But how’s the connection to Monday morning? To the way you speak to your kids when you’re rushing to get them ready for school? To the choice you make about whether to open the Bible first, or the newspaper? To the way you answer that question at work about how your weekend was? Do you mention church, or do you keep quiet?

How’s the connection between the things you KNOW, and the WAY YOU WORK? The attitude of HUMILITY you show to EVERYONE – CEO and janitor? The sense of JUSTICE you have – whether it’s $5 on the line or five MILLION? The WORK ETHIC you show – whether your pay review’s coming up, or whether you’ve been knocked back for the promotion again?How does the head knowledge impact the things you DESIRE? The things you daydream about? Your priorities? Your credit card statement? Your diary?Heart, soul, mind and strength says Moses. The one and only God deserves nothing less. Home, work, weekend and holiday. Words and actions and choices and passions. Acknowledge and take it to heart. Then KEEP HIS DECREES AND COMMANDS.

Has anything so great as this ever happened? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire AND LIVED?

The God of Word becomes flesh

And if ISRAEL had a spectacular motivation to pay careful attention. We have even GREATER motivation. Because the God of Word didn’t just come and speak out of fire. The God of Word became THE WORD OF GOD. The God WITHOUT shape TOOK ON shape. Took on human form and became a man. The God who spoke from the MOUNTAIN came DOWN from the mountain and spoke from a MOUTH.John Ch 1 describes it like this. 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

 

And then, v14.

14 The Word became FLESH and made his dwelling among us. We have SEEN HIS GLORY, the glory of THE ONE AND ONLY, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The God who refused to allow an image to be made of him wrapped flesh around his own son, making him into his PERFECT image. Like Father – like Son.And humankind have SEEN him. Seen his GLORY. Seen the self-revealing presence of God himself. Just like the glory cloud on the mountain, or in the temple. But BETTER.

Oh, the wonder of grace that God should condescend to show us himself LIKE THAT! V16.

16 From the FULLNESS of his grace we have all received ONE blessing after ANOTHER. 17 For the LAW was given through MOSES (ONE blessing); GRACE AND TRUTH came through JESUS CHRIST (the BETTER blessing). 18 No one has ever seen God, but GOD THE ONE AND ONLY (that’s Jesus), who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

God the Father is the ONLY TRUE GOD. And Jesus is God, his ONE AND ONLY Son. And he’s been SEEN and he’s made the Father known. How much more should we listen to THAT ONE?! How much more should we listen to THAT ONE?!

Jump over to Hebrews Ch 12. It’s written to Christian believers, and comparing back to Moses and Israel. Ch 12 v18. And the point is for us to appreciate the PRIVILEGE of what we’ve received in Christ. V18.18 You have NOT come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

THAT was SPECIAL. Moses could say that nothing so great as that had ever happened! But it was so frightening, so holy, so distant. The people could hardly BEAR it. Even Moses shook like a leaf. Compare that to what we have as Christians. V22. 22 BUT you have come to Mount Zion, to the HEAVENLY Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to JESUS the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. That’s your identity. Your nationality. That’s your future. That’s your HOPE. Your Saviour. Your GOD.

So how should you RESPOND to that? Exactly the same way as ISRAEL should have responded. By LISTENING to the God who speaks. Heb 12.2525 See to it that you DO NOT REFUSE HIM WHO SPEAKS. Down in v28, we see what that LOOKS LIKE IN PRACTICE. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (that’s the picture back in v22-23), let us be THANKFUL, and SO WORSHIP GOD ACCEPTABLY WITH REVERENCE AND AWE, God has SPOKEN, we are to respond with THANKS AND WORSHIP.

And just like Israel, that acceptable worship is going to show itself in EVERY AREA of LIFE. Because that’s what the one and only God DESERVES. Acceptable worship is FAR MORE than just turning up to church on Sundays. It’s far more than songs and prayers and standing and sitting. Flowing straight on into Hebrews Ch 13. It’s full of examples of what it LOOKS LIKE to worship God acceptably. Follow the logic with me. SINCE (12:28) we’re receiving a wonderful kingdom. THEREFORE let us be thankful and worship God acceptably. WHICH WE DO BY (13:1). Loving each other. v2 Being hospitable. v3 Looking after the prisoners. v4 Keep sexually pure. v5 Be content. v7 Follow your leaders. And down to v15. Through Jesus, therefore, let us CONTINUALLY offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. More than just songs and prayers on Sunday. God deserves words of praise ALL WEEK. To WHOEVER WE MEET. A sacrifice offered EVERYWHERE, not just in a temple.

And it’s not just WORDS. V16. It’s actions TOO. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such SACRIFICES God is pleased. That’s sacrifices and offerings that will cost you MUCH MORE than what you drop in the collection plate. Because God DESERVES much more. The one and only God has SPOKEN. Are you LISTENING?

 

Deuteronomy 1-3: The God of Power

Ashfield is a very different suburb than it was even ten years ago.

The 2011 census figures for Ashfield show that since 2001 the major religion of Catholicism fell from 37% of the population to 31%. No religion – the SECOND most popular response – INCREASED from 17% to 26%.

In another ten years, NO RELIGION looks like being the top response.

And Hinduism jumped from being outside the top 5 in 2001 to being fourth most popular at 5.9%. Just behind Anglican at 7.8%

Ashfield 2001 census 2011 census
Catholicism 37% 31%
No religion 17% 26%
Hinduism <4% 5.9%

Christianity is under threat. Fewer people see any relevance for the church today. Sunday is a day for washing the car or shopping or playing sport. But not for attending church.

Ashfield Presbyterian may have a prominent position on the street. But it’s not prominent in INFLUENCE in Ashfield. Most people just walk right on by, and don’t give us a second thought.

I wonder if you’re feeling just a little bit THREATENED? Afraid? As Jesus commands us to head out and conquer the world with nothing but the message of the gospel, are you feeling a little DOUBTFUL about whether the gospel can really change ANYTHING?

Maybe you’re feeling like you’re up against GIANTS? That you’re SMALL on persuasiveness and significance and effectiveness.

Well, that’s exactly how ISRAEL felt. As they stood at the entrance to the Promised Land. Up against giants. And they’re not sure they’re UP to it. And Deuteronomy is Moses’ attempt to get them ready for what they were about to face.

Second chances

Deuteronomy literally means SECOND LAW. Moses has already passed on the law ONCE. When Israel were at Mt Sinai, or Mt Horeb, in the desert.

And here in v1, we see he’s teaching it all again.

And straight away we get a hint about WHY. Because this is the SECOND TIME Israel’s been at this point. At the doorway to the promised land.

In v2, we’re told it takes 11 days to walk from Mt Horeb to Kadesh Barnea . And that’s about how long it took THE FIRST TIME.

But v3 tells us it’s FORTY YEARS LATER. And the people are back for a SECOND CHANCE.

That little comment in v2 might seem insignificant. But it’s a sly nod to a hugely significant period of history for Israel.

40 yrs before, God had led them out of Egypt. Miraculously rescuing them from the hand of Pharaoh. He’d led them through the desert, providing food and water for them. And then at Mt Horeb, or Sinai, he’d revealed himself to them. And given them his law. The Ten Commandments on two stone tablets. How to live as his people.

Moses takes up the story in v6. Reminding them of their history. And how they’ve ended up back at the door to the Promised Land for a second chance.

From Horeb, God led them to Kadesh Barnea. And told them that he’d given them the land. V8 All they needed to do was to go and take possession of it.

V22. They sent some spies in to check things out. The spies come back and report that it’s a GOOD land. Flowing with milk and honey.

But the people were SCARED (v26). And they grumbled that God HATED them. Look at what they say (v28)

“Our brothers (the spies) have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are STRONGER AND TALLER THAN WE ARE; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the ANAKITES there.'”

Now, apparently Anakites were HUGE. They had a reputation for being giants, and fearsome fighters. And the people thought they were NO CHANCE of defeating them.

But they’d forgotten that GOD was fighting for them. Forgotten what God had ALREADY DONE for them in bringing them out of Egypt. In leading them and looking after them in the desert.

V29 Moses begins the chorus he’s going to repeat again and again over the next few chapters. It’s the lesson this CURRENT generation need to learn from the FIRST generation. Here’s what he said the FIRST time. V29.

29 Then I said to you, “DO NOT BE TERRIFIED; DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEM. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight FOR you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God CARRIED you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

Don’t be scared. God will work FOR you.

But they didn’t trust God. They refused to go in and fight. And so, v34, God was angry and he delivered judgment. No one from that evil generation would see the land. Only their descendents.

So, v40, God told them to turn around and head back out into the desert.

And that’s where they wandered for the next forty years. Until the entire generation of fighting men had died. All the ones who were afraid, and who’d doubted that God could bring them victory.

And now, finally, God’s brought them back to the entrance to the land. And they’ve got a second chance to get it right.

And over that time God’s been teaching Moses some lessons. Lessons he wants to pass on. And that’s the SETTING for Deuteronomy. Moses’ sermons. An old man’s reflections on a lifetime of experiencing God, and of how to live trusting him. Look back there in Ch 1 v5.

5 East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying:

He’s had FORTY YEARS to think about where Israel went wrong. And how they can make sure they get it right THIS TIME. And Deuteronomy is the FRUIT of that thinking.

History Lessons from desert wanderings

And, so, in the first three chapters we’re going to focus on THREE HISTORY LESSONS. Three lessons Israel needed to hear as they conquered the land. And lessons WE need to hear TOO as we face up to OUR scary giants.

First history lesson. God is trustworthy.

Second history lesson. Don’t be afraid of giants.

Third history lesson. Make sure you enter your rest.

  1. God is trustworthy

So, first lesson. God is TRUSTWORTHY. He’s RELIABLE. He can be DEPENDED on. If he SAYS he’ll do something, you can TRUST it. It’s a point Moses hammers home in these first few chapters.

1:10-11 The God who keeps his promise

We see it first in v10. He’s the God who keeps his promise.

10 The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky.

Just like he promised Abraham. He’s done THAT bit. Made you into a great nation. In fact, he did it WHILE YOU WERE SLAVES IN EGYPT. So you can trust him to keep his OTHER promises.

Like, V21. His promise to Abraham about giving them LAND. He’s GIVEN it to you. Just go up and TAKE it.

He’s done the FIRST part. So trust him for THE SECOND.

1:31 The God who carries you

But not only is God trustworthy because he’s KEPT HIS PROMISE. But because he’s the God who CARRIES you. Through all the struggles and wanderings, it’s GOD who’s looked after you. He’s looked after you IN THE PAST, so trust him to look after you IN THE FUTURE. V31.

“The LORD your God CARRIED you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place”.

That’s a metaphor. But we see the sorts of things that means PRACTICALLY, too.

V30. He FOUGHT for them. Back in Egypt. Delivered plagues on Egypt. Killed their first born. Parted the sea. Drowned Pharaoh’s army.

Or V33. He went BEFORE them. Guiding them by fire and a cloud. Showing when and where to go. He searched out places for them to camp.

Or over into Ch 2, v7. All through the desert, he BLESSED THE WORK OF THEIR HANDS. He’s watched over them. Provided everything they needed. They LACKED NOTHING.

And now, as the forty years draws to a close, Moses brings the history lesson up to date. Because God had fought for the PRESENT GENERATION. As they’d got ready to take the land A SECOND TIME.

He’d brought them victory over some of the surrounding nations. We see Moses reminding the people of that over in Ch 2 v24. God gave Sihon, king of the Amorites into their hand.

Or into Ch 3, Og, King of Bashan falls as well. Because God was bringing the victory. V3.

God’s ALREADY DONE IT. So you can trust him to DO IT AGAIN.

That’s lesson number one. God is TRUSTWORTHY. Because he keeps his promises. And he CARRIES you.

And that’s JUST AS TRUE for US TODAY. The Bible is one long record of God keeping his promises. And if he’s proved reliable in the PAST, then we can trust him with TOMORROW’S questions.

  1. Will my kids be alright?
  2. Can I pay the rent this month?
  3. Has God really forgiven me for that sin?
  4. What if no one likes me?
  5. What if I can’t get a job? Or don’t pass the test? Or make it into Uni?
  6. What if they laugh when I speak about Jesus?

When those questions raise their ugly heads, and we’re tempted to WORRY, or FEAR, or DOUBT. We need to remember God promises to CARRY US, TOO.[1]

Lesson number one. God is TRUSTWORTHY. Because he keeps his promises. And he CARRIES you.

2. Do not be afraid of giants

Lesson number two. Don’t be afraid of giants. Remember what the people had been afraid of the FIRST time. That the land was filled with Anakites. Even though God said he’d go before them, and bring them victory.

And Moses wants to point out a few things he’s learned in the last 40 years about DEFEATING GIANTS.

They’re finally on their way back from their desert wanderings. And they’re travelling along the desert road of Moab. God tells Moses (Ch 2 v9), not to pick a fight with the Moabites as they travelled through their land. And look at the reason. Because “I have GIVEN Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.”

God wasn’t just blessing Abraham’s descendants. He was doing it for his relative LOT, TOO.

And here’s why it’s relevant. Look at what Moses says next. 2:10.

10(The Emites used to live there–a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites.

Do you remember the Anakites? They’re the ones who’d scared off Israel the FIRST time they’d come to the promised land. (1:28). Giants too powerful to defeat.

But God had managed to defeat EMITES when he gave Lot’s descendants their land. He’d helped the MOABITES fight against giants. So why would Israel doubt he’d do the same FOR THEM?

And just in case Israel didn’t get the point, Moses repeats it down in v20. The Ammonites’ land wasn’t to be touched either. V20.

20(That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; but the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. 21 They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The LORD destroyed THEM from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place. 22 The LORD had done the same for the descendants of Esau, who lived in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites from before them. They drove them out and have lived in their place to this day. 23 And as for the Avvites who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorites coming out from Caphtor destroyed them and settled in their place.)

A whole history lesson about God driving out giants. And settling OTHER nations in their place. And here we’ve got God’s OWN PEOPLE who are too scared of giants to trust God to do the same for them!

And then God even began to use ISRAEL to defeat nations. 2:24. Sihon, king of Heshbon and his country fall to God and his people. v33 of Ch 2.

33 the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. 34 At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them–men, women and children. We left no survivors.

Or into Ch 3. Og, King of Bashan. Don’t be afraid! He’s no match for God, who’s fighting for his people. v3

3 So the LORD our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors.

And notice the significant bit of information about their king. V11.

11(Only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the REPHAITES. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide.

Og was a giant TOO! And God defeated him. In fact, he’d even given his lands to the tribe of Manessah. On the east of the Jordan. V13.

13 The rest of Gilead and also all of Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half tribe of Manasseh. (The whole region of Argob in Bashan used to be known as a land of the Rephaites.

It was “Giant CITY”! And Manessah was already LIVING there!

History lesson over, 3:18, Moses commands the people to go in and take possession of the land. God had GIVEN it to them. Then he has a word for Joshua. The new leader. V21.

“You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. 22 DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEM; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.”

Don’t be afraid of giants. Trust God. He’ll fight FOR you.

It’s the same message FOR US. With the battles WE fight. The battle, as a church, to make the name of Jesus known in Ashfield. To build bridges with our neighbours and the people we meet. To be willing to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the gospel. To risk rejection and ridicule.

The battle, as parents, to keep Christian things a priority in our family. To get the kids to church when they want to sleep in. Or to read the Bible and pray after dinner when the kids are restless and misbehave.

The battle to live a consistent Christian life among your friends or family who make fun of your faith.

The battle to be honest at work. To tell the truth, and to work hard. To stick to your word, when it would be far easier to bend the truth, or not rock the boat. The battle to have integrity and to be consistent, when everyone else bends whichever way the wind blows, or whatever the boss

God WANTS to build his church, and to make his name known, and for his people to walk in holiness and humility and justice, and for your friends and family to respond to the gospel. He will fight FOR you in those battles. No matter HOW big the giants seem to be.

So trust him, and don’t be afraid.

3. Make sure you enter God’s rest, unlike our fathers

That plea from Moses, to not be afraid, it’s not just advice you can take or leave. It’s LIFE OR DEATH.

That’s the way it worked for Moses and Israel. That first generation had all died in the desert. Because they were afraid. Because they’d refused to trust God’s promises.

And even Moses HIMSELF had missed out. That’s there at the end of Ch 3.

And that’s the THIRD lesson we can learn from history. To make sure WE enter God’s rest.

That’s something the writer to the Hebrews points out. Over in Hebrews 3. In v7, he describes Israel who hardened their hearts. And who never entered their rest, because God punished them.

And then, in v12, he draws the history lesson for US. What we should LEARN from their example.

12 See to it, brothers, that none of YOU has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of YOU may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly TILL THE END the confidence we had at first.

He’s writing to PEOPLE SITTING IN CHURCH. With all sorts of external marks of following Jesus. And he warns them that it’s not enough to just HANG AROUND God’s people. It’s not enough to know the right phrases to use. To attend the meetings. To sing the songs. To know the way things work.

And it’s not enough to just START well. You’ve got to keep trusting day after day. Year after year.

That’s the key. TRUST. See it there in v12? Make sure no one has a sinful UNBELIEVING heart. What counts is confidence in God that stands solid for the long haul. When the giants are huge, and it looks like there’s no way around them. When the threats and the discouragements and the struggles just keep coming for year after year, and it looks like there’s no end in sight.

Don’t be like Israel. Hold firmly to the END the confidence you had at first.

That first generation of Israel had ALL THE BENEFITS. But they didn’t combine them WITH FAITH. When the crucial moment came – when giants threatened – they chose THEIR strength, rather than God’s. THEIR wisdom, rather than God’s wisdom. THEIR way, rather than God’s way.

And they perished in the desert. They missed out on resting in the promised land.

And the writer of Hebrews want us to learn the lesson from them. Into Ch 4, he says.

4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of YOU be found to have fallen short of it.

MAKE SURE you enter your rest.

And there’s TWO PARTS to that rest. There’s our ETERNAL REST. We’re to make sure we make it through the journey of THIS life, and make it into ETERNITY. Which will be the ULTIMATE rest.

But there’s also rest we experience NOW. Jesus invited people, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST.” And Hebrews 4:3 says “We who have believed ENTER THAT REST.” Something we do NOW.

And they’re both to do with TRUST. Faith. What Israel DIDN’T show. They missed out on rest because of a sinful UNBELIEVING heart (3:12). Or in 4:2, they heard the message, but didn’t COMBINE IT WITH FAITH.

On the other hand, we’re encouraged to BELIEVE so we enter rest. (Whether that’s rest in ETERNITY. Or the rest we experience IN THIS LIFE). Trust is the key for BOTH.

It’s by FIRST trusting God that we’re SAVED. Trusting his forgiveness by GRACE ALONE. To make us righteous. Trusting the work of Jesus on our behalf. Trust that doesn’t try to bring anything of our OWN to sweeten the deal. Trust that comes in humility and child-like dependence.

And it’s THAT faith that SAVES us. That ensures our entrance into ETERNAL rest.

And that’s a trust we need to KEEP showing. Child-like dependence. Because we’re naturally PROUD, and we don’t like to depend on ANYTHING. We like to earn our way.

It doesn’t come NATURALLY. So we need to keep REMINDING each other. Reminding each other of THE GOSPEL. Of our sin. Of God’s greatness and our dependence. We need to confess our sin together. We need to keep singing wonderful gospel truths to each other. As Hebrews 3:13 says, we need to encourage each other DAILY, so none may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

(pause) But we also need to trust God when it comes to the DAILY EXPERIENCE of rest. As Christians we KNOW that God is in control. That he works all things for good.

But often we WORRY. We STRIVE and STRESS to fix things on our own. We suffer performance anxiety. Whether we’ve done enough.

We look at the clock, and worry about time-frames. We want things to happen more quickly. Or more slowly.

The stress that the grass is greener on the OTHER side of the fence, rather than on OUR side.

Or if it’s not trusting our OWN performance instead of God. It’s trusting OTHER things as more solid and reliable than God. It’s the deceitfulness of SIN. It’s trusting financial security – trusting plans and banks and real estate prices and investment portfolios and reliable cars, instead of God’s promises.

It’s trusting the reliability of other things to make us HAPPY, rather than God himself. It’s striving after the approval of others, or influence and power, or promotion, or material comforts.

That’s a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

And that’s not REST! That’s not trusting God’s word and his promises.

For many of us, our attitude to life is often no different from the non-Christian.

Learn the less from Moses and Israel. Trust God. Don’t fall short of entering your rest. He’s more powerful than the greatest giant. His promises are reliable. And his plans always come to pass.