Deuteronomy Part 2: Passionately One

Introduction

Hello everybody.
This is my second message from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.
Who was here two weeks ago?
To help us remember, a multichoice quiz:
 
one: in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, God made a promise to:
Abraham, Moses, Jonah.
 
Two: God promised Abraham:
the fastest camels in the Middle East.
Many descendants, with a good land, and blessing to all nations through them
three magic wishes.
 
Three: in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, through Moses, God rescued Abraham’s descendants, the people of Israel, from:
being slaves in Egypt.
Being stuck in Scotland.
being lost in Australia
 
Four: by the time of Deuteronomy, it is.
40 days/years/centuries later.
 
Five: the people of Israel are:
lying on the beach in Fiji.
About to cross the River Jordan into the land God promised them.
Sailing on a ship to China
 
Six: Deuteronomy is a collection of:
wise sayings from the Egyptians.
Speeches or sermons by Moses.
Stories about Jesus.
 
 
yes, most of Deuteronomy is three speeches by Moses.
 
Last time, we looked at Moses’ first speech.
He looks back over the last 40 years in the wilderness.
Poisonous snakes.
No water to drink.
Huge enemy soldiers.
 
Scary stuff!
But all the way, God looked after them
carried them like a loving father.
it was a hard time of terror and testing.
But also a time of tenderness with God.
 
Moses knows,
once they are safely in the land God promised Abraham,
the long-term danger will not be physical, but spiritual.
Not being killed by the enemy soldiers.
But absorbing the enemy’s thinking.
Becoming no different from other peoples
then they won’t be able to bring God’s blessing to those nations.
 
 
It can be the same in our lives
in hard times, we may be overcome by fear, so we don’t trust God.
in easy times, when life is smooth sailing,
we may become attached to the good things that we have, and forget we need God,.
We may become no different from the world around us.
Has that happened for you?
 
 
God knew this would be a danger,
so in the book of Exodus
Just after leaving Egypt, God led the people to Mount Sinai.
The presence of God came down on the mountain
There was thunder and lightning and smoke and fire.
The earth shook
It was terrifying – like a volcano.
 
There on the mountain, God spoke out of the fire.
He gave Moses many commandments or instructions about how the people should live.
how to stay different, so that they could bring God’s blessing to others.
All these rules make up the Law of Moses.
 
 
In Deuteronomy, it is 40 years later.
Before Moses dies
he revises these commandments for the people.
That’s where the name of the book comes from:
Deuteronomy means second law – the second telling of the law.
 
In my next two sessions, we’ll look at two big themes of these laws:
– their special heart for those at the bottom of society, the poor and weak,
– instructions for the top of society, the leaders, like judges and kings
but today we going to look at the foundation of all the commandments.
the start of Moses’ second speech
 

No Cheap Imitations

let’s read Deuteronomy 5
 
Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, “Listen carefully, Israel. Hear the decrees and regulations I am giving you today, so you may learn them and obey them!
 
“The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Mount Sinai… This is what he said:
 
“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
“You must not have any other god but me.
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them.
 
Deuteronomy 5:1-2, 6-9
 
 
who recognises these verses?
it’s the start of the famous 10 commandments.[1]
 
A covenant is when two people commit to a special sort of relationship, like a marriage
 
An idol is a statue that people treat like a God.
Idolatry means worshipping idols
in countries like India, you will see a lot.
In Old Testament times, most peoples had many idols
 
God wants his people to be different.
So Moses strongly warns.
Do not bow down or worship any sort of idol, any sort of image.
 
when they come into the land,
they will find these things from the previous people – what should they do?.
God says,
 
This is what you must do.
You must break down their pagan altars and shatter their sacred pillars.
Cut down their poles and burn their idols…
You must utterly detest such things, for they are set apart for destruction.
Deuteronomy 7:5, 26
 
 
Pretty strong language isn’t it?
God hates idols, he detests them, he wants them destroyed
So what’s the problem, why is God so against idols?
 
For a start, idols are simply helpless, lifeless, nothing.
They are a joke.
The Old Testament prophets are sometimes almost funny:
Jeremiah says to Israel,
 
“Do not act like the other nations,

Their ways are futile and foolish.
They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
They decorate it with gold and silver
and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
so it won’t fall over.
Their gods are like
helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field!
They cannot speak,
and they need to be carried because they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of such gods,
for they can neither harm you nor do you any good.”
 
Jeremiah 10:2-5
 
those things can’t do anything.
They can’t see or hear or speak (Deuteronomy 4:28)
They can’t even stand up, unless you carry them or nail them down!
 
Jeremiah continues,
Lord, there is no one like you!
For you are great, and your name is full of power.
Jeremiah 10:6
 
the God of Israel is a mighty God.
He made all creation – heavens and earth and sea
He fought against Pharaoh King of Egypt and rescued his people.
At Mount Sinai, he spoke to them out of the fire.
He carried them through the desert.
He still rescues and speaks and carries people today
 
What a contrast.
Idols are dead and powerless
the God of Israel is living and mighty.
 
The Lord is God and there is no other.
Deuteronomy 4: 35
 
 
So on one hand, idols are just a joke.
Who would exchange God for them?
Believe it or not, people do.
Idols can look so impressive.
They seem to offer us everything we want: money, love, happiness, fulfilment
very good advertising
like advertising, false gods are deceptive: the product doesn’t match the promise.
Jeremiah again, this time it’s not funny but sad:
 
My people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols!…
My people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!
Jeremiah 2:11,13
 
When we are hurting, in need, spiritually thirsty,
It is God who gives the water of life.
Following idols is like trying to catch rain in a broken bucket.
It doesn’t work, it just leaves you even more thirsty.
What a tragedy.
 
Have you experienced that?
Maybe you thought that new car would make you happy, that new job, that relationship.
You really set your heart on it – almost worshipped it.
But in the end, it just left you flat and empty.
 
 
Idols are a joke, but also a tragedy.
What’s more, their influence can be actively evil:
Moses said,
the other nations perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates.
They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods.
Deuteronomy 12:31
 
Archaeologists have found the jars full of burnt human bones.
 
 
That is not the sort of people God wants!
Israel was called to be different.
called to be free.
 
That’s why in Deuteronomy, Moses again and again warns the people,
don’t forget your God, don’t turn away from him.
Have nothing to do with the gods of other nations.
 
 
And I noticed, Moses often says things like:
Watch out!
Be very careful …
Don’t let your heart be deceived …
Do not fall into the trap…
Deuteronomy 4:9,11:16, 12:30
 
“don’t be seduced”
idols are not always obvious.
They are deceptive.
they can slowly creep into our hearts without our noticing.
Then they close, like a mousetrap, and we can’t get away, we are no longer free.[2]
 
 
Many of you come from countries in Asia, where people literally bow down to idols.
Some of you may have sacrificed to spirits,
gone to fortune-tellers to read your future.
These things may look harmless,
But in the end,
False gods can be an evil power, a trap that makes us slaves.
 
 
Western culture has idols too.
What do you think is the biggest?
Very likely money.
Paul says in the New Testament:
 
Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
Colossians 3:5
 
We may not burn them in fire,
But children often suffer because of our greed.
 
Look at the economic crisis.
the great gods of our financial markets are getting shaky.
Like the idols of silver and gold in Jeremiah,
We are desperately trying to nail them down so they don’t fall over.
Are things that different from Bible times?
 
 
So what idols or false gods could sneak into your life and trap you?
Be they fortune-telling spirits or greed for money,
just like Moses told Israel,
we need to chop them down and cut them out of our lives.
 
God’s Holy Spirit can help us do that.
If you have been caught in the trap of some false god,
people here would love to pray for you.
God wants us to be free.
 
 
We need to get rid of those things,
Because if there is anything God can’t stand, anything God totally hates, it is other gods.
The 10 commandments continue,
 
You must not bow down to them or worship them,
for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.
Deuteronomy 5:9
 
God is a jealous God.  (5:9)
what does that mean?
For humans, jealousy is often a bad thing – like a man going crazy and killing his girlfriend.
But it’s a beautiful thing here.
 
Did you see, in verse two, God made a covenant with Israel
A covenant is like a marriage.
When you get married, you promise to forsake all others.
You promise to be faithful.
 
One translation has “I am an impassioned God.”
God’s jealousy means that he is passionately committed to his people.
He is passionately committed to the relationship.
Like a faithful husband, he won’t let it be broken.
 
the Lord set his heart on you and chose you… The Lord loved you.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 [3]
 
Which brings us to chapter 6
 

One Lord, One Love, One Loyalty

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6: 4-5
 
Have you heard those words before?
for Jewish people, this is the most important part of the Bible.
As soon as Jewish children can speak, they learn these words first.
In the New Testament, Jesus calls this the greatest commandment[4]
 
 
hear, O Israel!
And then a very short sentence – just four words in Hebrew, the original language:
Lord, our God, Lord, one.
 
There are several ways to translate this sentence
it comes down to 2 big meanings
the first says something about God:
God is one.
not many, like the idols.
 
God is one
He is not in two minds, he doesn’t change his mind
he is the same yesterday and today and forever.
God is one, undivided, unchanging.
That is why God always keep his promises.
Why we can always trust him.
 
 
The second meaning says something about our response:
this God is our God alone.
We will worship nothing and no one else in God’s place
he alone is our God.
 
 
How should we love our God, our only God?
Love God with all your heart.
The Hebrew word is not just feeling, but also thinking – heart and mind.
your longings, thoughts, plans, intentions – are they all pleasing to God?
 
 
Love God with all your soul.
your whole being, your whole person.
The word also means breath.
Love God with every breath you take
and, especially, in the Jewish understanding, love God with the last breath you take
For Jewish people, the best way to die,
is with your last breath to breathe out, “God is one”
 
 
love God with all your strength.
all our possessions, all our resources.
Your money, your time, everything that you have – do you use it all to worship God?
 
 
This God, our God, is passionately one.
And so our love and loyalty must be passionately one.
everything we are, everything we have, every single breath.
 
Here is the best defence against idols creeping into our life and catching us in their trap.
If your heart is full of God’s love, there will be no room for idols.
If all of you belongs to God, nothing will be left for other gods.
 
 
So you see, the first of the 10 commandments, and this greatest love command,
are two sides of the same coin
 
The negative side: have no other gods, no false idols, nothing else in your heart.
The positive side: love God alone, give him your whole heart.
You can’t have one without the other.
 
Jesus said that all the commandments hang on loving God and loving people.
Jewish teachers say that totally rejecting idolatry, is to keep all God’s law.
 
here is the heart of Deuteronomy,
the inner passion behind all the many laws.
 

Ways to Remember God

as I’ve read about God and idols in Deuteronomy, I noticed another thing.
Moses doesn’t mention atheism – having no god at all.
Maybe there simply weren’t atheists back then,
but I think Moses would say, whether or not they know it, everyone has a God
like the singer Bob Dylan said,
 
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Bob Dylan
 
 
the only question, is this.
Are you serving the true God, or are you serving a false god – which means the devil?
Who or what is the God of your life?
 
Remember Moses’ warnings:
be very careful.
Do not be seduced, do not be trapped.
If we forget what God has done,
if we let our love for God grow cold,
other things will soon creep in and trap us.
 
How can we realise that is happening?
How can we stay safe?
Let’s read on.
 
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.
Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7
 
fill yourself with God’s words, repeat them all the time.
Remind each other what God has said and done.
most translations say, “keep these words in your heart.”  (6:6).
memorise verses like these, so they are always with us.
 
When Jewish people wake up in the morning, when they fall asleep at night.
The start and end of the day.
What do they say?
“The Lord our God is One.  Love him with all your heart and soul and strength.”
 
What do you dream about as you fall asleep?
What is the first thing you think about when you wake?
Is it our one and only God?
Moses’ words can test our hearts
 
Moses continues,
 
Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.
Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:8-9
 
Jewish people write these words in little boxes on their heads and arms.
And beside the doors of their house.
we don’t have to wear those little boxes.
but we do need to remind ourselves of God every day.
 
Many Christians have a quiet time of prayer and reading the Bible in the morning or evening.
Some Christians wear a bracelet that says, “What would Jesus do?”
– If that helps you to live like Jesus, great!
However you do it, it’s important to build regular reminders of God and his love into your life.
How are you doing at that?
 
——————-
 
Moses big challenge is this:
what do you really love?
Under the surface, what do you really worship?
It’s not always easy to tell.
we need to ask God to search our heart and show us what is hiding there.  (Psalm 139:23-24)
 
Here’s a little prayerful meditation I’ve done once or twice.
Maybe you’ll find it helpful too.
I can’t always see what’s in my heart,
but I can see what’s in my pockets
– or my purse or handbag!
The things I always carry with me.
 
 
So what do you think I’ve got in my pockets?
I’m not being The Hobbit if you know the book, it’s not a magic ring!
 
But look, there is a key ring!
Keys to my most precious possessions.
maybe my house, my bike, my car
 
Last week, George told us about a man he met in Mongolia.
God asked him to give away his truck – to give someone the key.
If God asked you to give up one of your keys, one of the things they unlock,
would you, could you?
Or have those things mastered your heart?
 
 
my wallet.
My money, my credit cards.
 
Imagine Jesus in front of you.
Could you give him your wallet, your credit card.
“Jesus, this money is not mine, it is yours.
Spend it how you want.”
 
What does your bank statement say about your heart?
Are you giving back to God, part of what he has given you?
Supporting God’s mission to bring blessing to the world?
 
 
My cell phone.
In the States, they’ve done surveys.[5]
Many people would rather not see their boyfriend or girlfriend than give up their cell phone.
Some people would rather lose a finger!
 
Imagine you’re driving on the motorway at night, and your car breaks down – scary.
20 years ago, what would you do?
Cry out to God – help!
God is everywhere, we can talk to him any time.
Today, what we do?
Grab the cell phone.
We can use it everywhere, call for help any time – as good as prayer!?
 
I work in IT, some years I have been to the Microsoft conference.
It’s exciting, it’s big, it’s dynamic.
It is almost the worship of technology.
Man, it’s cool – who needs an old-fashioned God anymore?
 
Maybe especially for guys, what captures your imagination:
fast changing high-tech, or the un-changing God?
The artificial world of cyber-space, or the ancient, yet ever new, world of scripture?
 
 
Look, it’s lipstick!
No, I’m not coming out of the closet
it’s just my mum’s – really!
But for some people, maybe more girls this time,
our physical appearance, our bodies, our face, can almost become a God.
 
 
And last of all, the one that really gets me,
my watch.
I am a busy, task focused person.
I have a work deadline next week.
I need to do some study.
But I’m preaching on Sunday.
I should go for a run
but I need time to sleep.
 
So many things making demands.
Pulling me in different directions
I’m frustrated and fragmented.
 
That’s what happens when I try to serve many gods
when I treat my watch like a God.
When I forget that God alone holds my times in his hand.  (Psalm 31:15)
 
So how do you spend your day?
What does your timetable say about your heart?
When you get busy, is it God that gets squeezed out?
 

Conclusion

If you could have one wish, what would it be?
What is your deepest desire?
 
In one of my favourite Psalms, David answers like this:
 
One thing I ask from the LORD,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life.
Psalm 27:4
 
Above all else, David wanted to be with God.
 
 
What one thing would you hang onto no matter what?
What one thing would you give up anything and everything else for?
 
Here’s what Paul answered in the New Testament.
 
Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have discarded everything else.
Philippians 3:8-9.
 
Above all else, Paul wanted to know Jesus.
If anything else got in the way, he got rid of it.
 
 
What about you and me?
Who or what is the Lord of your life?
What one thing do you love above all else?
What things do you need to get rid of, so God can be first?
So the Lord will be your God, the Lord alone.
 
 
I am the Lord your God, who rescued you…
You must not have any other god but me.
 
The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength
 
 

Questions

What do you do to regularly remember God?
What things could take God’s place in your life?
Think about Deuteronomy 6:5 – does it describe you?

 


All Deuteronomy Sermons


[1] the first and second command: no other gods, and no idols, are quite similar.  there are actually three different ways of counting the 10 commands.  in two of them, these are actually part of the same command
[2] In fact, Idolatry is very like an addiction. No one sets out to become an alcoholic.They just like having a drink.
But slowly, the alcohol takes over, and they are no longer free. That’s what idol worship does.
the true God is always setting people free.False gods make us slaves again.
[3] We love, because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19
[4] One of the teachers …asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Mark 12:28-30
[5] http://www.telenav.com/about/pr-summer-travel/report-20110803.html

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