Deuteronomy: The God worth hearing
As many of you know, there’s a fourth member of the Doughty family that doesn’t often get to join us here at Grace- Marvin the Basset Hound. Marvin really is a piece of work. I hear that bassets have one of the most advanced senses of smell among dogs. He can smell just about anything, but its his hearing that amazes me. I can find Marvin sitting on the couch and I can say, Marvin get down. Somehow he goes instantaneously deaf- like he doesn’t hear a word. But then, Marvin can be in the farthest part of the house and I open a bag of food- zoom! He’s right there. This week it really struck me that we can be a lot like that, especially in our relationship with God. We love the passages that speak of God’s blessing, but the passages that call us to let him be in control, we’d rather skip those over. Add to that the countless voices that call to us in the world today that tell us that if we just follow them we’ll find happiness. I think what happens is that we spend our lives divided and torn apart, missing out on the life God has for us. So how do we find and keep perspective? It’s here that the fifth book of the Bible has so much to say to us.
This morning we’re continuing in this series that we’re calling His Story: Discovering the God of Scripture. What we’re doing is going book by book through each book of the Bible and what it teaches us about the character of God. Today we come to the fifth book of the Bible, the book of Deuteronomy. It’s here that Moses speaks to the nation of Israel and reminds her of her relationship with God. Within that speech, you a find a powerful prayer that I believe is as important to us today as it was those many years ago. It’s found in . It’s called the Shema. In fact even to this day, it serves as one of the most important statements of the Old Testament. I can only imagine what it was like when Moses gathered the people of Israel and he spoke to them in Hebrew. (DO HEBREW)
But to give you a sense of what the whole book of Deuteronomy is about, I want to look to our friends at The Bible Project. (SHOW VIDEO)
It’s here in Moses’ prayer that we’re reminded of the power and importance of hearing and obeying God’s word. Specifically it all comes back to this whole idea of love. A love for God that was to pervade everything they do. What does that look like? Specifically, I believe the Shema reveals three powerful realities that speak to us today. Three ways that our love for God will practically find expression in our lives. The first is that,
1) Loving God will call us to hear him.
In verse 4, Moses calls the people to Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God. As the guys in the video mention this word for “hearing” emphasizes not so much the act of hearing, but a willingness to take it to heart. Have you ever had that experience where you talking to someone and you're listening what their saying, but their mind is someone where else? I hate to admit but on more than one occasion, Tami has been talking and I’m listening, but I’m not really hearing. I remember one time she was talking and she new I was half heartedly listening while checking my email and she said, so you’ll clean the house today. “Uh-huh.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew what I did. Lets just say my plans for the rest of the day were shot. I know that I’m the only guy who struggles with this right!?! In a world, where information and data come at us with dizzying speed, how do we learn to hear? I think it begins in reflecting on who I think is really worth hearing.
Moses says that the LORD is your God. This is a powerful statement. If you’ll notice your English version of the Bible, anytime you see the word LORD capitalized, its important. What the translators are telling you is that a special Hebrew name for God is being used here. Even to this day, the Jews will not say that name. It’s the name that Moses is given at the burning bush. He asks God What is your name? In , ”God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” Even today, every time the Hebrew is read aloud, its simply spoken as Lord. It’s because to speak that name is to call upon the Lord in all of his unbridled goodness and holiness. Moses makes this incredible statement. The Lord is your God. He’s saying, Israel, you’ve hit the jackpot. The greatest most powerful God in the whole of the universe, He has called himself your God. More than that, the Lord is One. The Hebrew here emphasizes that He’s your only God. He’s the one who brought you out of the land of Egypt. He's the one who has provided for you in all of your wanderings. He’s the one who has proved himself faithful again and again and again. So hear Him.
The trouble is there are countless voices that will claim to be our God. We often fail to hear God’s voice because we are listening to other things. We’re told that if we pursue success then we’ll be content. We’re told that if we just have more material things than we’ll be secure. If we just cling to the illusion of control, then we’ll be OK. Moses reminds us the LORD is our God. So listen to him. Are we spending time diving into the depths of God’s word? Are we allowing His grace and His mercy to guide and lead us? Do we spend time meditating on the truth of what he reveals in His word so that we can follow Him more each day. More often than not, Is he the last place we go? Do we only come to him when we’re desperate, out of solutions, and backed up against a wall? Is the Lord important enough to hear? When we begin to understand the incredible depth and power of His life changing love, we begin to understand that His love will call for us to give all that we have.
2) Loving will calls for us to give all that we have
Moses goes on to say, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and will all our soul, and with all our might. What I want draw your attention to is the repeated use of the word “all.” We are not just to love the Lord with part of our heart, or with part of our soul, or even part of our strength. With all of these things, we are to Love him. When we talk about love what exactly are we talking about?
For me the answer comes in how the Hebrew translators moved this idea from Hebrew to Greek in their translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. You may recall that in Greek, there are multiple kinds of love. For example you have romantic love or eros. Friendship or mutual love in Phileo. The unique kind of love that the Scriptures use to describe God’s love is Agape. Agape differs from all the other kinds of love because its the love of a choice. Its describes a willful decision on the part of the person who is loving the other to lay themselves down for the benefit of the other. So how can we “love” God in this way? How do we love him with all of our heart, soul, and mind?
This week, I was reflecting on the day that Tami and I were married. She was stunning. In fact here’s my favorite wedding picture. I remember thinking, I get the incredible privilege of spending my life with this woman. Even now, there isn't anyone else that I would rather spend my life with. I’ve been challenged though that the way I express my love to her isn't just in a vow, its in a willingness and faithfulness to die to myself everyday. To be honest, I fail at it constantly. This commitment to love my wife was a commitment to place myself second, that she might grow into the woman God has called her to be. Friends its the same with God. When we have been loved by Him, we receive a love that defies explanation. The response to that love is that we love Him back. It’s why Jesus says that if anyone would be my disciple, he must die to himself daily and follow me. Because we’ve been loved, the natural response to that gift is that we love God with total abandon.
Its interesting to me that in , a man comes to Jesus and asks, “Good teacher, what’s the greatest commandment?” Do you know how he answered? Look at . “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” It’s the Shema! Think for a second of all the things Jesus could have said. Follow the Ten Commandments. Observe the sacrifices. Keep the festivals. He doesn’t- instead he calls us to passionately love Him.
One of the dangers of walking this journey of faith is that we come into a place where we we know the right answers and we know the things we are supposed to do so we obey out of steely duty. We sometime forget to hear God’s voice because we follow from obligation rather than love. Why is it that Christians can be some of the most miserable people around? They're missing the point. God is inviting them to follow from I wonder today, where is God inviting us to love him more. Maybe its laying down a desire or putting another first so that they may see the glory of God. Maybe it’s risking your reputation so that another might know Christ’s love. The more I walk with Christ, the more I become convinced that the more clearly we see His love, the more clearly we will see just how worthy He really is of our love. It’s here that we are invited to recognize.
3) Love will characterize how we live our lives.
Moses goes on to tell the people, “These words shall be on your heart.” Again He’s telling us that this is about love. He isn't calling the people to follow these commands because they have to. He’s inviting them to follow because God has loved them and they’re invited to love Him return.
This call to love the Lord almost becomes like a filter through which they view the rest of their lives. They’re supposed to teach them to their children and to talk about them when they sit in their house or walk by the way. When you lie down and when you rise. “THE LORD IS OUR GOD. HE IS OUR GOD ALONE. LOVE HIM WITH ALL THAT YOU HAVE.” This week I found myself yearning for the kind of life where I am so moved by the grace and mercy of God that it’s all I think about. It’s all I talk about. Almost like a love sick teenager, all that matters is the object of my affection. I believe that when we reflect on the love of God and love others in this way, He powerfully draws our hearts to know and love him more.
This week, one of the things that really struck me was this command to teach these words to your children. For all you parents out there, one of the most beautiful and terrifying realities of parenting is that we have one of the greatest influences in their lives of how they see God. Moses reminds us that we are to teach these things diligently. In other words, not just a little bit. It really challenges us to remember that helping our kids know and love Christ is far more important than what they get on a report card. It’s far more important than the college that they get into. The greatest gift that we can give to our children is to model, share, and demonstrate the love of God. Here’s a simple test. “When was the last time you spoke of Jesus or his love in front of your kids?” Even more, would your kids and your spouse say you really love Jesus? When the love of God fills our lives we want to share it with others. Most of all we want to share it with those closest to us.
Now you might say, I don’t have kids or my kids are out of the house, I’m off the hook! I want to challenge you that you have a powerful role to play in influencing another generation for Christ. Don’t miss it. Serve in our Grace Kids or Epic Ministries. I see the incredible potential in this room and I believe what God can do through wisdom, love, and influence and we need you.
This section ends with a command to bind top the commands and to put them as frontlets before their eyes and to put them on the door posts of their house and gates. If you go to Israel, people literally do this. They have boxes on their door posts and on their mind and they are there to remind them of this main thing. God’s your God. Love Him and Him alone.
I believe that the whole point of the Shema and Deuteronomy can be boiled down to a call to Love. God has loved us with an unimaginable love and He invites us to share that same love with others. Doing that will call us to remember. It leaves us with the question, “Where do we lovingly need to hear God today?” Maybe it’s hearing Him say, it’s Ok, I’m in control. Maybe its hearing him say, that thing isn't my best for you, leave it behind. Hearing him starts with a willingness to hear. A willingness to love. A willingness to follow. May he grant us the grace to hear His love and may our lives be marked by the love of God. Hear Grace family- the Lord is your God, the Lord alone. Love Him with all that have, all the days of your life.