Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.
- CW 939 O Lord, Our Lord
- CW 916 Today Your Mercy Calls Us
- CW 654 Jesus Sinners Does Receive
- CW 670 I Come, O Savior, to Your Table
- CW 758:1,2,4 Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds
As I begin this sermon, I’m reminded of an old Brian Regan joke. He would do this small bit about how hard life would be as a refrigerator salesman. “You see, this refrigerator here…this will keep your food cold for $600. And this one here, it will keep your food cold for $800. Check this out! $1400! Keeps all your food cold.” Maybe you know a lot more about refrigerators than I do, but to me they all seem to basically do the same thing. The compartments might differ between fridges, but it wouldn’t matter too much to me because they all have the power to keep your food cold.
As we start into our text for this morning, this is how the nations around Israel were viewing gods. They were thinking that all of them provided godly services. Like different compartments, one might be for making crops grow, one might be for helping someone fall in love, but they figured all had the power to be God. They were wrong. The book of Deuteronomy is essentially Moses’ farewell speech to the nation of Israel. He was concerned the Israelites would pick up the same incorrect thoughts on God as their neighbors. Not all gods are the same. In fact, there is only one God. Everyone or everything else was a fake. It’s not like fridges, where you have multiple brands and models to pick from that do the same thing. You either have the one true God or you don’t have a real God at all. Verse 4 tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Jesus often said things like “He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13:9).” And in this passage, he wants all believers to use their ears. As he speaks through his servant Moses, Jesus wants you to listen up to the message found here “so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live!”
Before we jump into how to fear the LORD your God, we have to figure out what fear means. In the English language fear is an unpleasant emotion. We don’t like it and we usually stay away from what causes it. Is that what God wants from us? For us to hate him and avoid him? Nah. Too many other verses including one we will talk about today (v. 5) speak about loving God, so we know that’s not what is meant here. It’s also definitely not like God is standing around the corner waiting to jump out at us and go “boo!” So what fear are we talking about here?
Does everyone here know who Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is? Is that someone you would pick a fight with? Why not? Yeah, he’s ripped. Most of us would lose in a fight. We would fear what he could do to us. But if you were to see the Rock just walking down the street one day, would you necessarily be worried that he’d just come after you? Nah. Probably not. Because he’s a nice guy. He’d have no reason to come after you, especially if you are a fan. Now every analogy limps, but I think this one shows us a little bit of how we should fear the one true God. Our fear is a healthy respect for God’s abilities and what he could do to us, mixed with understanding and gratitude of God’s love and mercy to you.
Now that we’ve got that in mind, let’s dive into how we go about fearing the LORD. We see a little bit of it already in Verse 1. “These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you.” In verse 3 it says, “Hear, Israel.” In verse 4 again, God’s Word says, “Hear, O Israel.” So the first part of fearing God is not crazy hard. It is actually very simple. Step one of fearing the LORD is to shut up and listen.
“What? Huh? What did you say?” I would guess that phrases like these fall into the top ten most often used English phrases, not just because people have poor hearing, but also because so often we don’t pay attention to the things around us. If you are married, I’m guessing you have heard your spouse say that to you. If you are a parent, I’m sure you’ve gotten the “huh?” with the blank stare that often comes with your kid. If you are a kid, I’m sure you’ve caught your parents not listening to a single word you just said. If you are God… Well, I can only imagine how often God has had people not listening to him. It’s funny because even though it’s so simple to listen to someone, we are still really bad at it.
According to fastcompany.com there are 6 reasons we are bad listeners. 1. Our natural desire is to talk. We want to talk about ourselves and appear smart and knowledgeable by sharing what we know. Often too much so. 2. We judge others. When we feel someone isn’t as smart as us, we are less inclined to listen to them. 3. We have preconceptions and biases. We aren’t really open to learning. 4. Our egos get in the way. What could someone else possibly offer us that we don’t already know? 5. We try to multitask. It can be hard to drop everything and focus. 6. We shut people off. If we disagree with someone or think we know what everyone is going to say, this can lead us to dismiss the whole conversation immediately.
And we do these 6 things with God all the time too. We want him to just give us what we want without listening to what he has to say. We judge churches, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly, but miss out on what God is saying because we are too busy being upset with organized religion. We think we know it all. Why hear it again? We might even try to run through our fantasy football line-ups during the sermon and miss out on something important. And so often we shut God out because sometimes he gives us hard truths. God urges you to fight against these obstacles and listen. To really listen and dwell on his Word because it’s absolutely necessary for your well-being.
Why is it necessary? God calls his people to listen to his Word because this is the only way to hear what you need to hear. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message comes through the word of Christ.” To know more about Jesus, I need to hear his Word. I can’t look at the sun and the stars and understand all the information of how Jesus lived a perfect life. I can’t rely on my emotions to teach me all the facts about Jesus dying on the cross and giving up that perfect life for all my sins. I need to have that message that saves whether it’s from the mouths of others or straight from reading the Bible itself. It’s the only way to fill oneself up with what’s needed.
It’s like this. This is going to be fairly similar to our school chapel devotion this week, but I think it proves the point nicely. Can I have two volunteers? I am going to give two of you a task, but I am going to only give instructions to one of you. We’ll see how it goes. (give instructions to one and after a short time compare efforts between the two volunteers). Yeah. Look how well this turned out. One of these is great. The other…well…it’s not great. But how were you supposed to know without someone telling you the way (thank the volunteers and move on)? That’s why we need to listen to God’s Word. Otherwise, how would we know about Jesus? This activity also shows us the importance of not just hearing the message, but also sharing it with others.
Verse 7 says, “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.” Out of the 24 hours in a day, how often are you not sitting, walking/running, lying down or being awake in some way or form? That covers just about everything. God is not just supposed to be a one day a week thing. His message is supposed to be woven through all our days, ever present in the fabric of our lives.
Jesus was a fantastic example. As he went along, he was always teaching people of how he was the Messiah, always sharing information that would help bring people closer to God. And we try to do the same in our schools. We ask parents to do the same thing at home because it’s not just a school thing. It’s a life thing. There is probably nothing more important that we do in our lives than listening to his word and teaching it to others. We want the next generation, and the next generation, and even the generation after that to fear the LORD our God. That’s why a biblical education is so important. Listening and teaching is part of fearing the LORD.
We had a saying in my friend group growing up. “Don’t just talk about it, do about it.” While our grammar could use some work, the thought remains true. Your actions should back up your words. Verse one of our text says, “These are the decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe.” Verse 3 talks about being “careful to obey” what they hear.
To fear the LORD, one has to be ready to not only listen and teach, but be ready to back it up with actions. To love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. To serve him. It’s another thing that is difficult for us. Sometimes you talk a big game about being a Christian or loving God, but when it comes to reading that Bible, you may not even know where you put it all those years ago. Or maybe you read it, but it’s hard to put all that forgiveness into real life action. It’s hard to reach out and show people you don’t know what it looks like to care for all God’s Children. It’s hard to stand strong while others continually press you not to follow the hard truths of the Bible. And oh, how often we fall short of what’s expected of us.
For an illustration of love in action this morning, I can think of no better example than Jesus Christ. Who, seeing all those times we didn’t back up our Christianity with actions or chickened out from following his Word, still shows the ultimate acts of love. God has always backed up his promises and his Word. In our text for today, he actually gave a couple promises to the Israelites. He said he would surely bring the children of Israel into the land of Canaan, that they would enjoy the rich prosperity (flowing with milk and honey) of the land, and that they would increase greatly in number. He kept all those promises. God has kept every promise. When sin first entered the world, God had every right to be the scary God he can be and bring down justice. But he instead acted out of love and mercy. He promised a Savior would come and followed up on that by wiping away the many sins of you and me with Jesus’ blood.
You and I can never repay the LORD for all he has done for us, but we can respond out of love with our actions. The Israelites would tie God’s word as symbols on their hands and bind them to their foreheads. We may not tie verses to our foreheads, but we might wear a cross or better yet bring memorized scripture around inside of our brains. The Israelites would write verses on the doorframes of their houses and on the gates. This is actually really cool. Because the doorframes of their houses were more private. The gates were often the public places of meeting. So it covers a broad spectrum. Basically, God is saying, wherever you go show your love for God in what you do.
Look, you have more of an effect on your friends and family than I ever could. I don’t mean to make you nervous, but they are watching you. They notice the words you say and the actions you take. When you come to church, your friends, kids, etc. will understand it’s important to you and might later wonder why and look into it. When you pray before a meal, whether at home or in a restaurant, people often notice. When you invite someone to church, it says in no uncertain terms you’d like to share what you have. And what you do serves as an act of love showing faith in the God you fear.
It’s Christian Education Sunday. And as we celebrate all that God has done for us, we realize just how important it is for people to learn about him. That’s why we listen and teach his Word. That’s why we act in love. All so that we, our children, even their children may fear the one true LORD, our God. Amen.