The Story of Covenant - Deut. 6
Intro: How do you normally relate to rules?
Two extremes on a spectrum: ultra compliant on the one extreme… ultra-rebellious on the other extreme.
I’m ultra compliant.
I want to know that what I am doing is absolutely right. I don’t want anyone to be angry with me.
I get tied in knots if I ever even THINK I could have POSSIBLY broken a law of the land.
But deep down, I sort of resent that… like even though I’m compliant, I still wish that I didn’t have to follow the rules.
And even for us ultra-compliant people, rules don’t exactly give us the warm and fuzzies, right?
Which is why the topic we are going to talk about today is difficult for us to understand: ..that God’s LAW is an expression of God’s LOVE for his people.
The law of God that we find in the Old Testament was part of his COVENANT with the nation he had rescued out of slavery and was now forming.
A lot of people generalize the Old Testament as a time when God was harsh and ruthless… and then all of the sudden he became warm and fuzzy after Jesus died on the cross...
They make a false claim that the Old Testament is all law and wrath and the New Testament is, in contrast, all grace and love (which they define as God having no expectations of his people)...
And that’s just not a helpful way to think about it… and it reveals DEEP misunderstandings about how the story unfolds and how God’s character never changes.
The word for steadfast love… or covenant-keeping love is used almost 250 times in the OT...
And so to think of God’s character as UNLOVING or harsh as he gives his law and interacts with his people in the OT is deeply flawed.
So to make sure we don’t fall into those wrong assumptions, we need to understand the nature of God as a COVENANT keeping God.
We are in our sermon series called, “God’s Story, My Story,” and we are learning to find our place in God’s unfolding story of salvation through Jesus Christ.
God has a place for us in his story…
And today we are finding our place in the part of the story where God establishes a COVENANT with a specific nation: the nation of Israel.
He delivered them out of slavery… he gave them a national identity… he promised to be their God and he would be their people… and he gave them a law to live by.
He established a covenant… a binding promise that governed his relationship with them...
And that covenant has great value in helping us understand our own relationship to God.
It’s because he LOVED them and he wanted them to LOVE HIM.
Now we have to be careful with this because we are not Israel…
In the first two sections of the story, we had a lot in common with the characters… we were all descendents of Adam… we all shared in his sin… and our ethnic heritage didn’t matter much…
But now God is calling out a specific nation.
And I don’t THINK anyone here is of pure Jewish descent… and this part of the Bible is written specifically TO the nation of Israel...
I want to be clear today: the church did not REPLACE Israel… God is still going to keep his promises to them…
So that should make us ask the question, “Does this part of the Bible even matter to us? Does it even apply? Is it FOR us?”
And the answer is YES! because WE are SAVED by Israel’s Messiah… our Savior King is actually their Savior King… the one God promised to THEM...
And through him, we will get to share in Israel’s blessing as Jesus Christ’s returns to establish his Kingdom…
but we are God’s people… and we live under a new covenant that is established on the covenant he made with Israel… he is still a covenant keeping God.
But we live under a new covenant that is established on the covenant he made with Israel…
So the story of His specific covenant with the specific nation of Israel can teach us a lot about our story here today.
And the story of His specific covenant with the specific nation of Israel can teach us a lot about our story here today.
God’s purposes and plan for his covenant people have not changed. And this is OUR heritage. OUR history because it is JESUS CHRIST’S history.
So here’s the Big Idea we want to pursue today:
Big Idea: Draw near to the covenant-keeping God.
Big Idea: Draw near to the covenant-keeping God.
Now this word covenant isn’t a word we use very often… the most we use it is when we are thinking about a marriage covenant… and even then, that concept is lost in our society for the most part as marriage is less and less viewed as a binding, unfailing contract...
A covenant is simply a binding promise that defines and governs the relationship between two parties.
Last week we talked about God’s PROMISE to Abraham… really what he did was he made a COVENANT with Abraham.
He established a relationship between the two parties and defined the terms.
His offspring would become a great nation…
We last left off in Genesis with God’s promise to Abraham: to establish him in a land and to bless him through offspring that would come from him…
He called Abraham to walk before him and be blameless… that he would be Abraham’s God… the one in whom Abraham would put his trust...
And says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness…
He was not blameless because he never sinned… but because he believed God.
And God made some very one-sided promises to Abraham… let me just remind you of those promises that we talked about last week… and bring you up to speed, setting the context for what we are going to study today. You can follow each event in your notes and up on the screen… maybe just move your finger along as I move along here...
His offspring would become a great nation…
You’ll remember that he promised Abraham land… and blessing… and offspring…
He promised Abraham that His offspring would become a great nation…
And his offspring would include the one promised to the woman in the curse of .
God gave Abraham and his wife Sarah a son named Isaac who was the child of promise… and he confirmed his promise to Isaac.
And I put in your notes a sort of timeline of everything that happened between and … what we are talking about today covers a LARGE portion of the story in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.
God gave Isaac two sons named Esau and Jacob, and Jacob became the one who received Isaac’s blessing… his name was later changed to Israel...
And God gave Jacob (or Israel) 12 sons… these became the forefathers of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Now one of these brothers was Jacob’s favorite… his name was Joseph...
And because Joseph didn’t have a lot of humility or wisdom in how he spoke to his brothers, they sold him into slavery in Egypt.
They intended that for evil, but God intended it for good… because he took Joseph through some pretty difficult times to raise him up to be second in command in Egypt....
And it was his wisdom that saved Egypt from a famine.
During that famine, his family came to Egypt looking for food… and that was where they were staying at the end of the book of Genesis.
The book of Exodus opens remembering the family of Jacob in Egypt… but fast-forwarding 400 years…
a Pharoah arose who did not know of Joseph… he got scared of these Israelites multiplying and overtaking him...
And so he subjected them to harsh slavery.
They cry out to God, and the end of tells us that God remembered his covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…
The story continues of how God saved Israel out of the hands of a new Pharoah with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…
He sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians until Pharaoh let them go...
Only to chase them down again...
But God pulled back the waters of the Red Sea, allowing Israel to cross on dry ground...
And he dropped those same waters on the Egyptians when they tried to pursue...
So God brought them to this mountain called Horeb or Sinai… and there he established his covenant with them.
He gave them moral and religious and civil laws...
He gave them a blueprint for the tabernacle…
But they continually sinned against him...
They grumbled and complained and made idols…
And their sin kept them from God.
The book of Exodus ends with Moses… and therefore everyone else… UNABLE to enter the tabernacle they just built.
Enter Leviticus - Leviticus establishes ritual laws for removing the uncleanness that is associated with guilt and death...
I was going to go through ALL of that, but I decided not to because I still want you listening by the end…
It calls for moral and physical purity to enter into the holy space of God.
God wanted to make a way for his people to commune with him even though they carried the guilt of sin.
And so God gave them sacrifices and purifications to take away the sin and uncleanness associated with death.
And it’s SUCCESSFUL… the book of Numbers begins with the fact that Moses is IN the tabernacle hearing from God…
But as they begin to move from Mt. Sinai to the Promised Land, they show their lack of faith in God...
And there are a LOT of numbers in the book of Numbers… but there are also a lot of events that carry the story forward...
But there is a lot that carries the story forward...
And God judges their sin and waits a whole generation to deliver them into the promised land.
God gives instruction for how Israel is to set up their camp… getting them ready for what SHOULD BE a two-week long journey through the wilderness...
So the brief is this: Abraham’s descendents grew into a large nation that was enslaved in Egypt.
God moves his people from Sinai after being there a year...
They were at Sinai for a year getting ready… now it’s time to move… And he moves them toward the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… the land of Canaan.
And he moves them toward the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… the land of Canaan.
Not only that, but by the end of the book of Numbers, even MOSES is not allowed to enter the promised land because of his own sin...
The only problem is that they send out twelve spies, and 10 of them report that the land is full of big, scary giants and there is no way to defeat them.
Two of the spies: Caleb and Joshua are like, “You are forgetting that we have God on our side and he’s really good at defeating enemies and keeping promises.”
But the ten sway the people over the two… and God gets rightfully angry and sentences that generation to not enter the promised land but to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
During that time, they continue to grumble and complain…
And Moses gets angry and he oversteps his bounds as the nations leader, throwing a temper tantrum… striking a rock so that God would bring water out of it...
And God says, “Moses, you don’t get to enter the promised land either.”
So by the time we get to Deuteronomy, we are pretty bummed...
A whole generation has died out… Moses is now giving this final speech reminding the NEW generation about God’s covenant… and calling them to not forsake it...
God delivered them from Egypt in some dramatic and powerful ways, and established a COVENANT with them…
And that brings us to where we are today.
a binding promise that defined and governed their relationship to him...
They would be his people and he would be their God and they would dwell with him under a Covenant law that we read in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
I chose this chapter because it was one of the most important chapters to an ancient Israelite.
But they kept breaking that covenant and not trusting or believing him...
They kept grumbling and complaining...
It contains a prayer/recitation called the great Shema which was repeated frequently by the Jews..
And so God judged the generation that he delivered out of Egypt… even Moses...
This is understood by all… even Jesus.. as the heart behind God’s covenant with Israel.
This is the PURPOSE behind the whole Covenant with Israel.
And they had to wait 40 years until that generation died out for them to receive the promised land.
This is the heart behind God’s covenant with Israel.
So in Deuteronomy, we are hearing Moses’ final speech to that generation that would enter into the land under the leadership of Joshua.
And even as God gives us a new covenant in Jesus, his purposes don’t really change much.
And in , we are hearing God’s heart behind why he gave them the law… this covenant…
The details of the covenant change… no longer do we sacrifice animals or worry about being ritually unclean...
What purpose would it serve in their lives?
No longer do we have earthly priests entering God’s presence FOR US.
The details may change, but God’s purposes do not. He still desires that we draw near to him through the covenant he has given.
Now we have a High Priest in Jesus who has past into the heavenly places and we draw near to God PERSONALLY through him…
And so really, all of God’s covenant purposes to Israel are MORE FULLY realized by us than they ever were by him...
Which is why we ought to know what they are.
We have so much more access to God through Jesus… and we need to know WHY God gives that access to us.
So now that we’ve set up the context… here’s the text...
So read with me .
In this passage, I want us to see:
6 Ways to Draw Near to the Covenant Keeping God:
6 Ways to Draw Near to the Covenant Keeping God:
1. Revere his commandment. (v. 1-2)
1. Revere his commandment. (v. 1-2)
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may DO THEM IN THE LAND to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.” (, ESV)
Now at first glance, someone could easily read this and say, “That’s works salvation… Israel was saved by works and we are saved by grace.”
People think that because Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy are FILLED with laws for the nation of Israel...
And there is blessing in keeping the laws and cursing if they do not keep the laws.
So it looks to us like works salvation… in fact, it looked that way to the Israelite’s of Jesus’ day
But that’s not what God is saying here. The law wasn’t about salvation… it was about covenant relationship.
Remember… he has already delivered them… he already SAVED them from Egypt… he already CALLED them HIS people.
And he charges them to “DO” the statutes and rules “IN THE LAND.”
In other words, they will already be experiencing God’s salvation at the time they are to obey him...
So they are not working SO THAT God would save them… but because God ALREADY saved them and they need to know how to relate to him properly...
They must choose to put their faith in the powerful God who worked to save them.
And NOW they are to LIVE like they believe it.
We call that FEARING the Lord… when we know who God is we FEAR him… or revere him… by obeying his commandment.
God had proven that he is the creator and sustainer of his people… that his way is best...
And therefore the only appropriate response is to do what he says to do.
That’s not works salvation… that’s just plain wisdom.
That’s just putting our faith into action.
And God calls us to the same thing even under the new covenant.
Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments....” [In other words… the expression of our love for Jesus is keeping his commandments…]
But the beautiful difference between us and Israel is what Jesus says next: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (, ESV)
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (, ESV)
We obey the commandments of Christ not at a ritual level… not at a civil level… not even merely at a moral level… we obey them at a HEART level because the very Spirit of God has indwelled our hearts and transforms them… HE is our helper who leads us into the truth of obeying Christ.
We don’t directly obey the ritual laws of Israel surrounding the tabernacle and sacrifices because Jesus was the FINAL sacrifice for our sin, letting us enter the Holy Place of Heaven and sending the very glory of God himself to indwell us…
We don’t directly obey the specific civil laws of Israel that governed them as a nation… though we do embrace the goal of those laws to love our neighbor as yourself.
But we do obey the moral laws… the laws that Jesus repeated and re-commanded and told his disciples to teach other disciples to obey.
And he re-commanded them in a way that shows the heart motives underneath them and the necessity of the Spirit’s power in our hearts.
The result of a covenant relationship based on love is that we revere his commandments.
When we obey Jesus, we revere him.
We acknowledge that to believe in him is to believe that he is Lord over all.
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
And his word is truth.
And here’s the good news… when we revere his commandments, we get to:
2. Experience his blessing. (v. 3)
2. Experience his blessing. (v. 3)
Look at verse 3: “Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (, ESV)
The way that’s worded, it’s supposed to make us think back to the blessing on Man and woman in the garden… be fruitful and multiply… fill the earth and subdue it.
That blessing is repeated A LOT in the first five books… He blessed Adam in the Garden… He blessed Noah after the flood… he blessed Abraham and Isaac and Jacob...
Understand: all throughout the Bible, God DELIGHTS to bless those who are in a covenant relationship with him.
Blessing is his divine favor… it’s God sharing his GOODNESS with his creation.
And he blesses those who recognize that he is God and there is none other.
God DELIGHTS in blessing his people.
That’s one of the biggest themes in the Bible.
We have to believe this: God LOVES TO BLESS HIS PEOPLE!!!
His blessing is experienced when we recognize that HE is God and we are not… And it is lost when we try to act like we are God and go our own way.
God LOVES TO BLESS PEOPLE!!! …and his blessing is found when we recognize that HE is God and we are not.
And it is lost when we try to act like God and go our own way.
And he blesses those who recognize that he is God and there is none other.
That’s why there is blessing in “doing” or “keeping” the commandments.
For Israel, blessing meant that they could continually occupy the land of promise.
A land that provided them with everything good… a land that was meant to be as close as you could get to the Garden of Eden this side of Heaven.
This is the same land we were talking about last Sunday that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It was a rich, fertile land… and even today it continues to be some of the most sought-after real-estate in the world due to its rich resources and deep religious heritage...
The story is still unfolding on this land even to this day.
So as long as the nation of Israel would continue serving God, they would experience God’s blessing in the land.
We see that at the end of the book of Deuteronomy.
Moses finishes his speech with these words: I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” ( ESV)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (ESV)
The call to live in covenant was a call to truly live.
And generally speaking, during the time of Joshua as they enter the land, they obey and receive blessing.
God gives them victory after victory after victory. They settle in there. They divide the land between the twelve tribes.
And then at the end of the book, Joshua reminds the people of their choice:
“...choose this day whom you will serve.” ( ESV)
And they say, “Yes Yes… we WILL serve the Lord.”
But in the time of Judges… just one book in the story later, generation after generation did what was right in their own eyes instead of being careful to keep the commandments of the Lord.
They would forfeit God’s blessing by trying to be like God…
And God would send oppressors… he would get their attention… he would raise up a judge to deliver them...
They would return to him for a short time… but the process would just repeat in a way worse than the last time.
You see, the fallen sin response is to reject God’s eternal blessing for earthly pleasures.
Israel wanted a God they could see… feel.. touch… control...
There are a few glimpses in this part of the story of blessing that comes from doing things God’s way… but most of the story is the absence of blessing for NOT doing it God’s way.
They wanted to do whatever FELT right in the moment instead of what God wanted them to do...
And that should instruct us here today. Because OUR sin response is to reject God’s eternal blessing for earthly pleasures.
We are not given the same exact promise that we will multiply greatly in a specific land.
Do not try to apply this promise to America…
Orange may be the new black, but America is NOT the new Israel.
And yet God promises that if we place our faith in Jesus Christ, Israel’s perfect Savior-King, we get to experience HIS blessing as HE obeyed God’s voice perfectly on our behalf.
And God has promised that he will return as King over the land of Israel… and his rule will be marked by peace and wholeness and blessing...
And when we come to him in faith, he calls us OUT of the Kingdoms of this world and makes our primary allegiance the Kingdom of his Son.
And we get to look forward to that blessing of that Kingdom.
He calls us OUT of the Kingdoms of this world and makes our primary allegiance the Kingdom of his Son.
And when we obey his voice, we are experiencing a foretaste of that blessing now.... just a little taste of his Kingdom...
It’s like when you go to Giant and they give you a sample of a savory piece of meat..
And you get that little bite… and you say, “OH MAN… this is WAY better than the meat that’s usually in my cart… I’m TOTALLY buying that meat...”
But then you have to wait… you have to go home… you have to cook it…
Obedience to Jesus and the blessing we receive through is that little bite in the grocery story... it is a foretaste of the Kingdom that is to come.
The blessing promised to us as Christians is not an immediate material blessing: it’s a Kingdom blessing that makes us eager and ready to live under rule of King Jesus when he takes up his throne in this SAME Promised Land.
Right now we are waiting… like exiles… for the blessing of the promised land… the rule and reign of Jesus Christ from the nation of Israel.
And just as he promised Israel that they would multiply greatly... the multiplication that he is looking for at the moment is not the physical offspring of Israel… but the spiritual offspring of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
God promised to Abraham a nation through which all the nations would be blessed...
And the Old Testament focuses a lot on that nation...
And the New Testament focuses a lot on all the nations that receive blessing THROUGH that one nation.
And we obey the commands of Christ, because it is through our obedience to his commands that the gospel is taken to the nations...
So that the nations can share in the blessing of Israel.
Is that what you’re living for? Is that what your story is all about?
Because that is what God’s story is all about.
Him blessing the nations through the offspring of Eve… the offspring of Abraham… the offspring of Israel… the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
God desire… he delights in… his people experiencing the eternal blessings of Christ.
We drawn near to the covenant-keeping God through revering his commandments… which leads us to experience his blessings… which will result in… loving his uniqueness.
That’s the third way we draw near to the covenant-keeping God:
3. Love his uniqueness. (v. 4-6)
3. Love his uniqueness. (v. 4-6)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (5, ESV)
Explain: This is the part I mentioned earlier that is known as the great Shema which means, “Hear… listen… pay attention!!!”…
it was recited daily by the people of Israel… and Jesus cited it as the FIRST and GREATEST commandment…
He said that all other commandments depended upon this ONE commandment.
In other words, if you don’t get these words right here, you don’t get the covenant God made with Israel.
God did not give Israel a LAW because he was angry with them… he gave them a LAW because he LOVED them… and they needed to learn how to love him.
They are called to HEAR… to listen attentively… to take to heart… this truth: The Lord your God, the Lord is ONE.
The LORD our God is one LORD; or The LORD is our God, the LORD is one; or The LORD is our God, the LORD alone
ESV Footnote offers a couple alternate translations: “The LORD our God is one LORD”; or “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one”; or “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
The emphasis is that Israel has a UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP with the UNIQUE God...
They have been called out by none other than YHWH himself… the God who Created the Heavens and the Earth...
The God who made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob...
The God who defeated the false deities of Egypt… even Pharoah himself.
He is the ONE AND ONLY God.
And he is THEIR God.
And it stands in contrast to the many nations around them who believed that there were MANY gods.
He doesn’t want them to just go through the motions of keeping some external rituals and rules just to keep appease him… that’s what the foreign nations did...
No, no… he wants them to love him.
He doesn’t want them to go through the motions just to keep him happy… he wants them to love him.
They are to respond to God’s steadfast love toward them with a love of their own that overtakes their whole being. With all their heart, soul and might. Commentator John Thompson explains that:
Just one chapter later he says, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.” (, ESV)
In other words: “God loves you because he loves you and he’s going to keep love you with a steadfast love.”
Over and over we see God loving Israel that word… steadfast love… hesed… it is love that is based upon the covenant.
And he is calling Israel to love him in return.
They are to respond to his love with a love of their own that overtakes their whole being. With all their heart, soul and might. Commentator John Thompson explains that:
“The heart was regarded as the seat of the mind and will as well as of a wide range of emotions. The term soul is difficult to define, but it seems to refer to the source of life and vitality, or even of one’s ‘being’. In and 19 man and animals are described as living ‘beings’. The two terms heart and soul between them indicate that a man is to love God with unreserved devotion. To give more weight to the demand a third expression is added, with all your might, i.e. ‘with all your strength’.” (1)
The heart is much more than we think of heart: we think of the heart as your emotions… and the brain is where you mind resides… but the HEART… in Hebrew thought... included not ONLY your emotions, but also your mind and your will (your choices). (1)
So you have your mind, your will, your emotions… then you have your soul.
The soul was your immaterial being and your source of life. (1)
That part of you that makes you more than just a mash-up of chemical reactions.
And then you add to that your might… that was your physical strength. (1)
So that pretty much covers all of you…
And God’s purpose for his covenant with Israel is also his purpose for his covenant with us… that you would LOVE God.
Not just that you would KNOW ABOUT God… Not just that you would go through some relgious motions and pray a prayer and get baptized and come to church on Sunday mornings and do your devotions each day… as if it’s just some to-do list and then you’re good…
The purpose of God’s covenant with us is so that you would LOVE God.
I hope to get to explore this more in the new year, but Jesus said that he wants us to ABIDE in his love.
That we would make his love our home… and that every moment of our day would be lived out of love for him.
Listen: There is no part of you… no corner of your life… no thought that passes through your mind… no choice that you make… no muscle that you move… NO PART OF YOU that God does not deserve and demand as an expression of love to him.
THAT is the worth of the God we serve.
This takes us off of that spectrum of compliant or rebellious...
Both of those relate to the rules as merely rules…
But God wants us to see his rules as an expression of HIS LOVE for us and to obey as an expression of our love for him.
Do you see it in verse 6 again? “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (, ESV)
He wants his commandments to control our hearts: our mind, will and emotions…
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Dt 6:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
And when that happens, we then are to pass that on to the next generation…
look at verse 7: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (, ESV)
We draw near to the covenant keeping God by preserving his heritage.
4. Preserve his heritage. (v. 7-9)
4. Preserve his heritage. (v. 7-9)
God didn’t just make a promise to Abraham… he made a promise to his offspring.
And the covenant with Israel was not just for that generation… it was to be remembered for generation after generation after generation.
They were to teach God’s commandments intentionally…
they were to talk about God’s commandments in the course of everyday life…
they were to transcribe… write-down... God’s commandments and put them everywhere.
God wanted the coming generations to know him.
And sadly… as we open the book of Judges, we see the failure to do that… and the result was devastating.
tells us, “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel.... And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” (, ESV)
They didn’t pass it on. One generation served the Lord and saw him work through their own faith… the next generation saw the wonders of God at work through their parents faith and thought it was cool… and the third generation didn’t know him at all.
For all their reciting of the shema, the purpose didn’t reach the next generations.
God has said that he will preserve his heritage as his people teach, talk, and transcribe his word to the next generation.
That is still our responsibility.
We are here to support that as a church… but the primary responsbility is on you parents.
You need to teach your kids God’s word. Have designated, intentional times where you are teaching them the scriptures.
Teach them the gospel. Teach them straight out of the Bible.
Set up specific, focused times. Go over their fighter verse. Help them process through their day and apply scripture to it.
But it’s not just teaching, it’s talking.
Talk about God and his word when you are sitting… and walking… and laying down… and standing around...
In other words: ALL THE TIME.
There is not one moment of your day that is not an opportunity for your the next generation to learn about God.
You may have heard it said, “More is caught than taught.” And that’s true to a degree… but it doesn’t have to be one or the other...
As they are catching it… as you are living life together and your kids are seeing you live out your faith in Jesus...
As they see you repent and obey and trust and make godly choices… TELL them WHY.
Not a single one.
Tell them about the commandments of the Lord… tell tehm about his gospel...
And then to reinforce all the teaching and talking, transcribe the word: write it down.
When my sister and I were teenagers, I remember my mama putting scripture verses on our bathroom mirror that were related to things we were going through in our lives so that God’s word would be right in our face....
And we didn’t like it at the time… but it sticks with me now.
In our house, we have created an ABCs of the attributes of God… and we have scripture memory verses that go with them...
We want our kids to know God.
Our children are a heritage from the Lord… they are HIS kids… our job is to help them know him.
The covenant with Israel was to be passed on from generation to generation to preserve the worship of God. But sadly it was forgotten.
Look at verse 10 - “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.” (, ESV)
16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised.
The fifth way we draw near to the covenant keeping God is by dedicating his worship.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Dt 6:10–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
5. Dedicate his worship. (6:10-19)
5. Dedicate his worship. (6:10-19)
A lot of people struggle with the fact that God tells the Israelites in the book of Joshua to devote the foreign nations to destruction.
How can God be merciful and gracious if he is so ruthless and gory?
But it’s important that we remember: the foreign nations have seen the glory of God in creation.. they have everything they need to know that there is a God and they aren’t it...
But instead they are wicked...
And they create idols whom they can control...
And they act like God is small...
And God is showing that, first of all, they deserve his destruction because they have committed anarchy… mutiny… against him.
He is a JEALOUS God… he does not share his glory with another because no one else deserves it!
And second-of-all, he’s showing that the nation of Israel is different… they are called out to be holy like he is holy.
They are devoted to him, and therefore they are NOT devoted to destruction.
And they must be so dedicated to the worship of the one true God that they destroy all false worship.
He is the one who saved them… he is the one who called them out… who made them holy… who purifies their sins...
He is the one who established this covenant...
No other God gets that glory.
And again, Israel generally failed here.
They drive out MOST of the nations from the land of Egypt… they destroy MOST of the false worship… but not all of it.
And by the time of the Judges, they start worshipping the foreign gods of the nations around them.
They start acting just like everyone else because their hearts are sinful.
And this is instructive to us: our hearts are prone to wander after foreign gods.
As the people whom God has rescued and purchased out of slavery to sin by the blood of his own SON… we MUST be DEVOTED in worship.
- “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (, ESV)
As you think over the last week… or month… have you been devoted to the worship of the one true God? Have you devoted to destruction all false worship in your heart?
Or only most of it?
God establishes his covenant with his people so that they would revere his commandment, experience his blessing, love his uniqueness, preserve his heritage, and devote his worship.
And all of that really depends on this one thing:
6. Remember his Salvation.
6. Remember his Salvation.
“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’” (, ESV)
There is going to come a day, Israel, when your son asks, “What is the meaning of all this? Why do we worship God in this way? Why do we obey all these commandments?”
And the faithful Jewish Father would answer: because God saved us in an incredible way… and he made a covenant with us… and he promised us that we would dwell in this land with him through that covenant.
They had to remember God’s salvation from the land of Egypt in order for ANY of this to make sense.
And so what would you answer if somebody asked you that question: Why? Why do you go to church every week and sing songs and listen to some guy talk for a really long time? Why do you live different than the rest of the world and make different choices? Why do you think that God would want ANYTHING to do with you, or that you should go to heaven?
What would be your answer?
And I hope it would be this: I was a slave to sin, worshipping idols of my own making, going along with the rest of our evil society.
And the Lord brought me out of that slavery with a mighty hand.
God became a man whose name was Jesus…
And he showed signs and wonders… he lived a perfect life and performed incredible miracles…
and as he died on a cross, the sun went dark…
It’s because the Father was pouring out his wrath for my sin on him.
He was the lamb of God… the perfect sacrifice in my place… covering over my sin and taking it away....
and I know the Father accepted that sacrifice because, on the third day, Jesus rose again and walked out of his grave and appeared to many.
He showed his mighty hand over his enemies: Satan, sin and death.
And I believe he is returning again to bring me into the land of his kingdom.
He is Savior and Lord. And his commandments are for my good always, that he might preserve my soul and hold me fast.
And his life is my righteousness.
That’s what all this means. That’s the only explanation I can give for my life. That’s God’s story. That’s my story.
God wants us to draw near by remembering his salvation.
And one of the ways he gave us to do that was the Lord’s table.
Paul reminds us, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”” (, ESV)
God made a covenant with Israel. Jesus gives us a NEW Covenant in his blood.
We are going to sing a song… and I want you to reflect on these 6 ways we draw near to God...
These six things are offered to YOU through the blood of the lamb of God that was shed for your sins.
Are you drawing near to him?
And as you sing, and reflect, I would invite you to come to the table. To draw near and eat and drink and be reminded of the grace that God shows you and the power God gives you through the New Covenant.
And if you don’t know Jesus… and you have never put your faith in his saving work on the cross… don’t come, but just reflect and consider his sacrifice for you.
(1) Thompson, J. A. (1974). Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 5, p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.