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Worship Series: Bible Stories
Worship Theme: Obedience Commanded
- CW 226: To Your Temple I Draw Near
- Change My Heart, Oh God
- Alleluia! Let Praises Ring
- CW 462: Oh, That The Lord Would Guide My Ways
- CW 390: Salvation unto Us Has Come
Watch the livestream beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.
Message: Obedience Commanded
Pastor Jake Schram
Deuteronomy is one of those books of the Bible you probably don’t read very often. It’s not super exciting and I have yet to hear someone say, “Oh Pastor, can we please study Deuteronomy. Please. Pleeeease!” While it is not the most action packed of Biblical Books, it still is important. Deuteronomy shows the Israelites on the verge of entering the promised land. Moses had led them through the desert for 40 years and their wanderings were finally over. Before they enter the promised land, Moses wants to review some things so his people have the right perspective and don’t make the same mistakes as they have in the past.
In the first several chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses has briefly reviewed some of the wonderful things God had done for them. He had led them out of slavery, appointed leaders for them, guided them in their travels, provided food and water for them, protected them from many dangers, gave them the strength to defeat mighty kings, and so much more. In response to these many, many blessings, the Israelites had not returned the favor. They rebelled in so many ways. They had wandered from God, worshipped idols, sinned greatly, and disregarded his commands. Now, Moses is reminding the Israelites of their past, and urging them to do something they have not been good at: obeying God.
Thus Moses says, “ Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”
Moses wants them to follow the laws of the LORD. Ok, now. How many of you get excited for rules? Like,”WOOOOO. Yay! More precepts to follow!!!” It doesn’t happen like that. So why do we have them? What is the purpose of rules if they are done right? Yeah, to help and protect us. When done right, law and rules are supposed to help us. Laws and regulations are never supposed to be the end goal. They are always supposed to lead us to something better.
God’s commandments were put in place to help the Israelites. They would live better lives. They would adhere to justice. After all, these commandments were not arbitrary. They come from God who is just in everything he does. His commandments were a reflection of Him. If the Israelites went against these commandments, they would be opening themselves up for sin to take over or be guided to worship something apart from God. They would be drifting away from God’s own Word.
Which is never a good idea. God’s Word is perfect. There are times where people think they are right, but often aren’t. How do you know if something is right or wrong? Let’s take abortion for example. Polls in recent years have indicated that the United States is split on this issue. About 50% is pro-choice. About 50% is pro-life. So, who’s right? They can’t both be. Not in this case. If you say it’s whatever is right for each person, you are opening up the door for murder, stealing, and a whole bunch of worse sins. It can’t just be whatever is right for each person. We might feel a certain way or believe it a certain way, but it doesn’t change what is actually just. What is right is what God says in his Word. He is the unchanging guide that helps us know what is right and wrong, despite our own opinions.
That’s why Moses encourages that we do not change the word of God. We don’t add to it. We don’t subtract from it. Because people change in what they think is right, but God does not. And it’s so easy for us to try and change God’s Word. The Israelites that Moses was talking to had recently achieved a new level of sin at Baal Peor. They had recently done all sorts of things that would make you gasp…things I’m not going to describe in church with families present. And they did all this under the false pretense that it was to make their God happy. But it wasn’t his Word that told them to do these things. It was their own choice.
Have you ever changed God’s Word? I don’t mean like grabbing the Bible, ripping out pages, and replacing them with your own. I don’t mean adding your own favorite book to the Bible. What I do mean is have you ever found something in the Bible you consider offensive to your reason. Something that you didn’t feel was right. Something that you didn’t understand and so you ignored it or adjusted it so it was more politically correct? It’s not usually one huge gap where people decide not to follow God, although it can be. Usually it’s a bunch of small increments of shifting away that add up until you are not even following the God you thought you were without realizing it because you are too busy following yourself. Whenever the Israelites went their own way, it went terribly for them. They thought they knew what was right, but instead should have followed God.
That’s why God’s Word and his commands are so important. They keep us grounded. Not only do they guide us on how to live. Not only do they help us guard God’s Word. They also help us see something more clearly. The most important thing. Without the law, I couldn’t understand the Gospel. Without knowing all the rules I have failed to keep. Without knowing how far I fall short of the measure. Without knowing the despicable things I have done, the good news of a Savior wouldn’t mean so much. You see, God loved the Israelites despite their unspeakable actions at Baal Peor. He’s a just and righteous God and so he had to act, but he’s also loving. Often his laws help people stay focused on the Savior that would one day come. God loves us despite our horrific past actions. His laws show you, you failed. You haven’t kept them perfectly despite your efforts. You haven’t even come close. The Gospel shows you God loves you anyway. It shows that he sent his Son to die for our sins. But without the law, we wouldn’t see the promise of a Savior correctly. The Gospel wouldn’t make any sense or taste as sweet as it does.
Thus far, Moses has explained to us that the law is important, but like most things, it’s not very helpful unless we practice what we preach. Deuteronomy tells us to “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.”
We actually talked about the difference between wisdom and foolishness in the sermon two weeks ago. In short, foolishness was straying from God and seeking other things which seem to bring more pleasure, but in the end the consequences are emptiness and sadness. True Wisdom was God himself and the ability to follow God’s ways even when something else seemed more tempting. The Wisdom found through faith in Christ leads to everlasting joy in heaven with him. We are wise because God gave us faith. And the actions that we do in life can show the faith that we have.
Your actions are important. They are an example for others. There are people in your life watching the way you live and what you do can both help and hurt them. Most of the time you may not even know the impact your actions have on people, but it does have an effect. Every once in a while in my life, I’ve had someone come up to me and ask why do you do the things you do? And it’s opened up a discussion/an opportunity to share the message of Jesus. It happened at college when someone asked why I worked so hard. I knew enough to pass, why did I keep studying? Because I knew sharing the Word was important and I wanted to know what I was talking about. It wasn’t about the grade, it was about how I could use it later. Once, someone working in a cafeteria gave Jesus a chance after I was nice to her for months. She had been a complete jerk throughout that time, but the kindness opened here up to Christ. Or one time, and this one stands out the most, in high school, someone had been directed my way to talk about God.
He wasn’t so sure God was real. But he talked to me because of one reason. He looked at me and said, “Why do you care so much?” “Why do you try to help so much? Why, even when there is no reward in sight do you keep trying? What’s the point? Why are you nice to me?” I looked at him and said, “Because I know who you are meant to be.” I went on to explain he was made to be with God in heaven. That’s what God wanted for him. I just recognized him for what he truly was, a child of God. We went on to talk about Jesus and how he saves through his perfect life and death on a cross. And this guy started believing in Christ. We then talked about why it’s good to reach out to people. If you were in trouble, in danger of death or worse, wouldn’t you want to be told about the one thing that could save you? That’s why we talk about Jesus. The next night warmed my heart. Because as I was going on a walk, I saw this guy have the exact same conversation that I did with him, with someone else. He had been nice to someone all day and she had asked why? And he shared the message of a Savior. Are these people still Christians today? I don’t know. In our lives people will fall away from the faith and people will join the faith. But faith comes from hearing the message and sometimes your actions can create an opportunity to share that message.
You see, everyone has a god. Every single person on this planet has a god of some sort in some way. Some people make themselves their god, where all that matters is what he or she wants. For some people it’s money, for some people it’s stuff. But all of those are just like the idols of wood and stone of ages past. Because none of those can truly save you. Only one can save.
Our goal is to get people to see the one true God. The God that is near to us. The one active and living. The one who listens to our problems and actually cares. The one who addresses our concerns. The one who would give himself up for us all. Not all gods are equal. One Triune God stands large over all the others. And we are blessed because that is our God. We are God’s own people, flawed as we are. No other people are as blessed as we are. God has given us righteous decrees. The commands of God are a good thing. He commands obedience to help us see the Gospel clearly. He commands obedience so that we can show others the Gospel.