Love Letter From God: Rules Redux John 3:16, Deuteronomy 5:16-21

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-63uyq-95375b

Transcript:

 

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Deuteronomy 5:6-21

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

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Let us pray

Hide me behind your cross, Lord. May my words be your heart. You have told us you love us, help us to know your love and live it every day of our lives. Amen

Just a quick recap of where we have been so far. And it’s appropriate to do it today, because that’s exactly what Deuteronomy is – a speech, wrapped in a little context, that is given just before the children of Israel cross over Jordan to take on the daunting and yet do-able task of conquering the land. The land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs of this incredible homeless for now nation in the desert between Egypt and Canaan.

In Genesis, we were created and we fell, but God promised this land to Abraham along with descendants for him and his barren wife that would number more than they could count. God continued that promise through Isaac, and then Jacob, also known as Israel.

Jacob’s son Joseph wound up in Egypt by nefarious things – his brothers sold him out of jealousy. Joseph eventually, after false accusations and prison, reunited with his brothers and rescued them from famine, by bringing them all to Egypt.

In Exodus, 400 years later, Moses was born into a nation that had become pretty large and was enslaved to the Egyptians. Moses had some missteps of his own, but he ultimately lead the children of Israel out of Egypt – across the Red Sea on dry land – and then to the foot of Mount Sinai.

There, the people received the law.

There, the people rebelled for the first time by forming a golden calf.

In Leviticus, we read the full text of the law and it’s purpose for setting apart the children of Israel as holy people who love God and neighbor.

Eventually, as we read in Numbers, the people arrived at the Jordan the first time.

They sent spies.

The spies (save 2) said that while the land was plentiful, it was also dangerous.

The majority won the argument.

God withheld the promise for them for 40 years.

And that is where we find the children of Israel now – 40 years after the first spies were sent in, they have arrived back at the edge of the Jordan. This is Deuteronomy’s purpose: to remind the people of where they have been, since all of those here now were young children when their parents screwed it up the first time.

Moses, who was originally going to be part of this, also had disobeyed God and been refused entry to the promised land. He’s gone up on a mountain, and though 120 years old at this point, he has seen the land that was promised.

Moses needs to remind the people of all that has happened and what they can expect if they disobey going forward – because that is the crux of the promises of God – obedience to God’s law draws them closer to God and puts them in the seat of blessing. The closer they live to what God has called them to do and be, the more God blesses their nation as a whole by drawing closer to them.

But disobedience and rebellion – these will cause God to turn away from them, God will still love them, but when their hearts are not tuned to God’s, things will be devastating and harsh for them.

God always gives us choices.

God always lets us make the wrong one and God always has grace enough to welcome us back if we choose God again.

This morning, driving in to church, I messed up. I turned earlier off Georgetown road than I intended, and was going way faster than the posted 30 mph speed limit, because I forgot where I was.

I should have gotten a ticket.

I was entitled to a ticket.

But I got a warning.

That’s grace.

And that’s what God does over and over for the Israelites as they make their way across the Jordan and into the promised land.

We’ll learn more about that as we move into the rest of the Old Testament, but the reason God gave them this whole speech in the book of Deuteronomy, was to remind them of their promise at Mt. Sinai, and to give them another opportunity to hear the whole thing, as a people. And to warn them.

This morning’s warning wasn’t the first one I’ve gotten in recent months.

A few weeks ago, I was speeding on 2nd street in front of the school.

I got a warning from the Momence police then.

But this morning, I messed up again. I will try harder not to do it going forward, but I forget to think about speed when I’m driving. Or I think “I won’t get caught…” But the truth is, at some point, I’m going to get the ticket I deserve. And I won’t have any excuses about why I got it – I will have deserved it. I’ve gotten plenty of warnings, that’s for sure.

The children of Israel are the same – they are getting this warning. They will get others, but still they were going to mess it up and they were going to get it wrong. EVEN with the warnings, they were going to rebel.

You see, many people look at the 10 commandments, which we read this morning, as a cage – a restriction to doing all the fun things.

But the reality is – they are a guard rail. They keep you from going off the edge. Because God’s judgement for us isn’t just about being committed to God – it is about avoiding the consequences for all the bad choices.

When I speed, I risk an accident. Thus the rules about not speeding.

When we violate God’s law, we risk all kinds of negative consequences. Thus the rules about putting God first, worshiping God appropriately, and not hurting others.

God knew the Israelites were going into a land where the idol worship was devastating and horrible – children were sacrificed, worship involved rituals that defiled bodies and ruined hearts and minds.

And God knew that these practices were not just disrespectful to God, but that they held the power to ruin the children of Israel as a nation of people who stood apart from the rest of the world and lived in a way that was kinder and gentler than those around them.

Hear the rules again:

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.

“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

 

When we talked about the law in Leviticus, we talked about how God’s law is always vertical first, and horizontal second – God’s law turns our attention to him first and then to others – God’s protection for us against consequences includes caring about what happens to other people, because of our relationship with God.

All of scripture reminds us, over and over, that when we are in right relationship with God, everything we do reflects that.

And that is what God is reminding the Israelites of in Deuteronomy, by recapping everything they’ve been through to this point and restating the law for them.

But God knows they won’t make it.

And God knows WE can’t make it.

That is why we have the key verse, the verse that our series hangs on – God’s love for us, his desire that we DO make it, that we DO get there in obedience and love, was revealed to us in Jesus Christ, and set out for us in the shape of a cross. We love because God loved us. When we surrender to Jesus, when we live in the shadow of that cross, when we celebrate the gift of Jesus, we are embracing the law that God gave to give us life. The commandments that turn us toward God and then, align us with God’s heart, by turning us toward each other.

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.

God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – and abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.

God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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