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Well, good morning. It’s a pleasure to be with you. If you are visiting with us, on screen, my name is Derek Wells and I’m the Pastor of Shepherding and Discipleship here at Christ Covenant. It’s a privilege to be with you this morning. I guess the first thing that I should say is Happy Mother’s Day. If you’re a mom out there, I hope you feel loved and appreciated and celebrated already this morning.
We are nearing the end of a long series in the Gospel of John. It’s been a great, insightful series and this Sunday we’re going to actually take a break and do a topical sermon from Deuteronomy chapter 6. Keven originally planned to be traveling during this time and with COVID it’s kind of altered things, but we’ll be back in the Gospel of John next Sunday.
The title of this sermon is “The Hero of the Home.” Now, I didn’t calculate that it would be Mother’s Day when I gave it this title. Neither did I calculate that the spotlight would be on the life of our home as much as it’s been the last few months. And you may feel like this, Derek, the hero of the home, I don’t know if hero and home is something that I would put together. In fact, it seems like the life of my home has revealed more villains than heroes of late. Well, if that’s true, hopefully this sermon will be for you.
There will be some take-aways for the family, but you know, as I studied, the net kind of got wider and I began to think of not just “the family” but the covenant family of God. And so hopefully you will see some broader application for all of us as well as we move into this sermon. In fact, they’ll be much in keeping with what we’ve been hearing in the book of Nehemiah in our Sunday night series. You know, on the centrality and the presence of God’s Word in the life of His people, and so I want us to think about God’s Word, particularly in light of the mundane.
You know, the mundane parts of your life, the ordinary parts of your life. How does God’s Word converge with the ordinary parts of your life? Your Monday through Saturday. And to that end, I want to give you three convergences to think through that form our outline this morning, is one our hope, two our heart, and three our habits. Our hope, our heart, our habits.
The book of Deuteronomy is at least in part a summary sermon to the nation of Israel from Moses. In the first few chapters, Moses is recounting the history of the nation of Israel, but it’s not just a recitation, it’s not just a history lecture or a history lesson. He’s not just laying out one even and then this event happened and that event happened, not just sharing information, but it’s more, the book is more a theological reflection. And even more so, a pastoral reflection for a people, to a generation, whose about to enter the Promised Land.
And with that is a plea from a pastor. We can look at Moses’ sermon in chapters 1 through 11 as something of a plea before a people who are about to enter the Promised Land, and he lays before them ultimately in the book, the way of obedience and blessing and the way of disobedience and cursing.
And at the heart of this is one of the most famous passages in the Old Testament, and that’s Deuteronomy chapter 6 and verses 4 through 9. So please follow along with me as I read in God’s Word.
Hear the word of the Lord.
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, 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.”
Let’s go the Lord in prayer. O Lord, we’ve just sang our sins are many, but Your mercy is more. And so Lord we long to taste Your grace and Your mercy and Your truth in Your Word this morning. And so we pray that Your Holy Spirit might take over and You might open our ears and open our hearts and open our eyes that we would behold wonderful things about our Lord and our God. So Lord we pray that You would lead us and that you would strengthen us, and grow us in our faith. Help us to receive Your Word in obedience this morning, and we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Well, I don’t know how many Zoom calls you’ve been on lately. I’ve been on my fair share of Zoom calls, and there’s been no shortage of mishaps. In fact, if you are on social media at all, you’re probably seeing a lot of different circulation of parodies of Zoom calls. You know, comedies that capture all the mishaps of what’s going on. You know, you think of the person whose connection is, is poor and they just kind of freeze there, and they’re kind of locked in place. Or perhaps the person, the one with the kids interrupting, they’re constantly coming in and crawling on your shoulders. That’s, that’s more me. I’ll tell you something that I’ve really perfected in the last few weeks is nonverbal communication with my children. You know, as I’m on the Zoom call, just giving them the Heisman, you know, just stop right there, don’t come in this room, or the redirection, you know, just go somewhere else. Flashing nonverbal signals to them. Or perhaps the one whose dog keeps barking in the middle of the call. Or the one who’s outside and the neighbor is mowing the lawn, interrupting important business.
But I think one that that’s really captured my attention is the focus on the one who’s not paying attention, right? The one who’s just kind of zoomed out. Maybe you, maybe you’ve seen that. Someone’s just kind of, they’re distracted with something else and the conversation turns to them and they have to say “I’m sorry, could you repeat what you were saying?” The person who’s just zooming out.
I think these Zoom calls have highlighted our tendency toward distraction. And the Lord, of course, knows this common tendency of ours, the tendency just to tune out. And in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, when He wants to get His people’s attention, He creates a face-to-face encounter through His prophet.
And here we have Moses before his people as leader, as prophet, as preacher, standing before the people with a command, an imperative. “Hear, O Israel.” This is what is famously known as The Shema. It’s a Hebrew word that means to hear or in our vernacular we might say “listen.”
You know, you get in front of your child when you really want them to hear what you’re saying, you get in front of them and you say “I want you, I want you to listen to me. Just stop what you’re doing. Look at me and listen. I want you to listen to what I’m saying.”
Well, what is it that God wants His people to hear? Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
This is the closest thing that we have in the Old Testament to a confession of faith. A summary statement of who God is and His relationship to His people. The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Now for us, that might not seem all that profound or revealing. Think about if you went to your pastor for some pastoral advice, you share with him some heavy problem, he prays and he says, “You know, I’ve got the answer for you. Here it is, wait for it – the Lord our God is one.” You might want to say “And? You gonna follow that up with anything else?”
To us it doesn’t seem profound or revealing, but to Israel it was a confession that distinguished Yahweh in a pagan culture, not as one God among many gods, but as the one true God. It pointed to His exclusive deity with an emphasis on His covenantal relationship with them.
And so what you have here is an imperative, “Hear, O Israel,” and also an affirmation, “The Lord our God is one.”
This is what God wants His people to hear. We see this structure of calling and affirmation of God to His people throughout the book of Deuteronomy. In the previous chapter, chapter 5 and verse 1, he says, “Hear, O Israel, be careful to obey.” And as Moses restates the 10 Commandments in that chapter, he begins with a covenantal refrain in verse 6: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The 10 Commandments begin with an emphasis on Yahweh being their deliverer.
We see this again in Deuteronomy 9, this time related to conquest, to entering the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 9:1: “Hear, O Israel, you are to cross the Jordan today.” And then verse 3, “Know therefore that He who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you.”
And then again in Deuteronomy chapter 20 and verse 4: “Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies. Let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”
If you fold these multiple Shemas together in Deuteronomy, you begin to get a narrative for the people of God that focuses and centers on Yahweh. Yahweh is the deliverer, Yahweh is the One who saves, Yahweh is the One who reveals Himself, Yahweh is the One who commands, Yahweh is the One who fights for them, Yahweh is the hero.
This is what was to sink in to the fabric of their lives, anchoring their hope in Yahweh, the Lord our God, the one true God, the one true God is He who delivers, He who saves, the One who reveals Himself, the One who fights for us.
This narrative paints a beautiful picture of not only God’s identity, but His covenantal relationship to His people, directing their hope toward Yahweh, informing their lives around that hope.
You know, when I was new to the Reformed faith and the Presbyterian church, I didn’t grow up in a church that had a liturgy per se or did a confession of faith, and so my first few times going to a worship service where there was a confession of faith, it felt ritualistic, it felt rote, it felt odd. And I thought to myself, why are we just reading sort of facts about God? Why are we doing that? But over time, I began to see that it was drawing my attention to God’s identity and to God’s character.
Listen, first as an act of worship to name Him, to esteem Him, and also as a help, to recall His promises, to recall His deeds, to recall His character, to recall His redemptive acts, and in doing so to taste His goodness and His faithfulness.
Now I’ve some to see the need of reminding myself of what I know to be true about God. Why? Because we are, we are bent toward forgetting. We, God’s people, are bent toward tuning out. We see this in verse 12 of Deuteronomy 6. Here’s what Moses says to the people of Israel: “Then take care lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
We might say Israel was given to spiritual amnesia. And with are much the same.
Your Pastor Tom last Sunday evening quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones in saying 99% of our spiritual problems are due to the fact that we are ignorant of God. And I dare to say that we are ignorant of God due in large part to our forgetfulness. We need to recall His character to remember His character, to be reminded.
There are similar admonitions in the New Testament.
Hebrews chapter 2, verse 1: “We must pay more careful attention.”
Revelation 3:3: “Jesus says to His church, ‘Remember what you have heard and repent.'”
So you may wonder, how is this a convergence? What does this mean to practical, daily life? It means that I am to direct my hope to God, consistently, by referring to what He has revealed about Himself, His identity, His character.
You think about this: Whatever you are facing today, it be a health, be it an uncertain job situation, be it summer plans, I don’t know what we’re going to do with the kids, be it future economic concerns… Whatever you are facing today, start with this question: What do I know to be true about God? His power, His character, His faithfulness. Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one. Direct your hope to the one true God.
Convergence of our hope.
The next convergence surrounds our heart. There is a call to Israel to direct their hope, but also a command to place their affections. Look at verse 5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”
God not only calls them to recall His identity, but He calls them to obedience as well. And we know this as the greatest commandment from Mark chapter 12 and Matthew 22, the summary of all the law is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might. It’s actually a positive injunction of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Now there are a few things that we need to understand about loving God. For most of us, when we think about loving God, the first thing that comes to our mind are feelings, are emotions, and we sort of equate loving God with walking around 24/7, with just kind of the warm fuzzies about God. We feel all gooey and tingly about the Lord, which is sort of spontaneous, feelings and emotions that just kind of bubble up in our heart or our soul. But that is not a biblical view of loving God.
Biblical love involves the feelings, but it’s more than a feeling. A better word, more consistent with Scripture, would be the affections. Our affections. Affections are deeper in us. Affections are joined to our mind, to what we believe. Affections are joined to our will. Affections are joined to our whole being. And this is what the Scriptures are getting at with this commandment. It’s one of devoting our whole being to God.
So biblical love is not less than a feeling, but it’s more than a feeling, involving the devotion of our whole person to God.
Biblical love is also a response. We can tend to look at this command and think of it as an arbitrary command, as if God just showed up and said “love Me.” But this is not an arbitrary command. This is, this is a covenantal calling. Remember, there’s a context for this command. We’ve already hinted at it. It’s rooted in God’s choosing them, God’s delivering them, God revealing Himself to them. It’s rooted in God’s demonstrated faithfulness to them. In other words, Israel’s love for God was to be grounded in God’s love for them. Their love for God was to be one of response.
And it’s the same for us. If I could ask you this question: What is the starting point for your relationship with God? What is the foundation for your relationship with God? Is it your love for God, or God’s love for you? If your foundation is your love for God, you’ll always be in despair, you’ll always lack assurance, you’ll always feel like a failure. That would be one end. Or you’ll always be prideful.
But if your foundation, if your starting point is God’s love for you, then that is freeing. When we come to the New Testament, we see this echoed. Think of Scriptures like 1 John, chapter 4 and verse 10, “In this is love. Not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
In the Gospel we see that God is the great initiator toward His people, sending His Son to die for them, making satisfaction for our sins, not because He looked down in the future and He saw that we were going to love Him, or not because He looked in the future and saw that we were going to obey this commandment. No. It’s actually the opposite. God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He didn’t look in the future and see future love from us and therefore sent His Son. No, He sent His Son first in spite of our lack of love.
So it is He who loved first and it is we who respond in love. It is Christ, perfectly embodying this command, loving the Father perfectly, because Christ loved the Father perfectly, we are enabled to love Him truly.
But if I’m going to love God truly, if I’m going to respond to this command, I have to place my affections rightly, in the right foundation. Not only the right foundation, the right person.
And so the question for Israel then, and the question for us to ask ourselves today, is do I have misplaced affections? What am I, what am I giving myself to? What am I devoting myself to? What am I looking to for meaning, for value, for security, for peace? What am I looking to for pardon? Where am I placing my affections? Is it on Christ? Or something else?
God intends for this command the love of God to be the guiding principle of our lives, the love of God given for us in Christ and our response to Him because of His grace and because of His mercy, not to earn His favor.
Verse 6 is a pivot verse to our final point, which flows from the heart into our habits. He says, “And these words I command you today. They shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.”
And so Moses provokes us to think, “Where, where is my hope directed? Where am I placing my affections?” And he also provokes us to think, “Where are my opportunities?” Then he turns to the older generation to impress God’s command on the younger generation.
Now this centers on parents and children, but it can extend more broadly into the covenant community, the people within your sphere of influence, to teach them diligently.
You know, we naturally impress on our children, the parents, we naturally impress on our children those things that we’re passionate about. You know, if you’re passionate about music, you’re going to impress that on your child. You’re going to tell them all about music, you’re going to teach them about music. If you’re passionate about your team, you’re going to impress that on your child. You’re going to, you’re going to buy the gear, you’re going to teach them the fight songs. You’re going to teach them the chants. You’re going to teach them the great traditions. You’re going to tell the whole story, the full tradition, of your team, all the wins, all the losses, everything. You’re going to give them the whole sweep of their history.
Well, there’s similarities here. We teach what we’re passionate about. And the Bible tells us to teach our children diligently.
The Hebrew word here means to sharpen or to whet their appetite, that is to cultivate, cultivate their desire for spiritual things. Think about that. How do we, how do we do that? How do we whet their appetite?
First, you expose their palate to the right things. You know, a consistent exposure to the right things. You think about if you want your child to eat healthy food, what do you do? You put healthy food in front of them. Well, they take the plate and throw it on the floor or whatever. What do you do? You keep coming back and you keep getting them to taste it. What? Taste it. Over and over and over again until their palate begins to be shaped by it, until they begin to desire those things, until they get a taste for it.
It’s the same thing here. A consistent exposure to the right things, exposing our children to Scripture and to creation. Feeding the mind and the imagination. Now, of course, there’ the Holy Spirit, we’re dependent upon Him. It’s not just a matter of putting these practices into place. We’re praying. We’re asking the Holy Spirit to work, but we’re exposing our children to the right things, cultivating a spiritual desire or desire for spiritual things.
We’re not only exposing them to the right things, we’re doing it in the right way.
Have you ever been to a really nice restaurant and you get a waiter that’s just, just not that into it? You know. He can, you can just kind of tell from the get-go he doesn’t really know too much about the menu and just kind of plops it down in front of you and just, just kind of, you get the sense of just eat whatever, whatever you want to eat, just choose. Right? It’s a bad waiter.
Conversely, do you ever have a great waiter? Or waitress. Who knew the menu through and through, I mean, they just show up and they’ve got it memorized by heart. And they’re telling you about this food and that food and you’ve gotta try this and you’ve gotta try that, and, oh by the way, this is my favorite food, this is to die for. You can’t leave here without trying that. You won’t regret it if you walk out of here and you order that. And you just get this sense that he or she knows the joy of eating at this restaurant. And they want you to taste it.
This is about a kind of instruction, a kind of instruction to our children, to others who might fall in our sphere of influence, that says “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
We might ask ourselves, Christian parents, not only am I exposing my children to the right things, but am I doing it in the right way? Is it my invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good? Do they get a sense from me that I’ve tasted, that I know the menu, yes, but I’m wanting to talk to them about the wonderful truths of God.
Well, verse 7b tells us how to do it. It says, “You 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.”
And I think the idea behind this is a continual, a continual spontaneity of conversation. And that’s what’s wonderful about this passage. It’s kind of intriguing, but, but it’s not a given. If we could just stop there and say, “You shall talk” and just stop there. It’s not a given that we’re actually talking.
You know, I think if we’re not going to be tuned out, we’ve got to be aware that there are some natural barriers, especially in our culture now. Since 1970, the size of the average American home has doubled. Did you know that? Our homes are increasingly becoming places that prize individuality and autonomy. They’re carefully constructed more and more to give everyone retreat, to give everyone quarter. Now, there’s something to be said for having solitude, for spending time alone. Every moment of every day does not have to be communal, but it begs the question: Are we paying attention to the subtle ways that our daily habits and practices erect natural boundaries in our lives? Are we talking? Are we conversing?
We might say it this way. I’ve seen many books about recovering the art of conversation. Well, really what we need to recover is the act of conversation. Are we working to do this? How do we deal with these natural barriers then?
Well, I think the way to do that is to seize natural opportunities. There are natural rhythms in our life, rhythms that present themselves to us by virtue of creation, of God’s goodness, for gathering, things like meals and Sabbath and morning and evening, and the question is are we improving these times? Are we, are we using them to make the most of them relationally? Are we using them to make the most of them spiritually? Are we attaching family devotions to them, family worship? Are we doing it in a formal ways, and also are we doing it in informal ways as well? Making the most of unforced rhythms in life. We can really see this if we drill down in this verse.
And we can seek to do this as parents, and influence others in ways that aren’t very positive, in ways that are kind of forced. You know, this is a little bit like pray without ceasing. Does this mean that I’m just constantly talking about God, all the time, with my children? No, there’s a rhythm to it. This is, this is not your 16-year-old son comes to you and says, “Dad, can I, can I get the keys to the car?” and you say, “Sure, Johnny, they’re hanging on the wall over there. Just grab them. By the way, that reminds me of Matthew 16 and the keys to the kingdom. Do you want to sit down and talk about that before you go? Can we do that?” No.
It’s not forcing our way in, but rather taking advantage of natural rhythms and unplanned moments. You see, here’s the thing. We often want to choose the time that we’re going to teach our children, but that is, that’s not the way it works. Our children often want to have those theological conversations right at bedtime, which is not, it’s not my specialty. My wife does much better than I do with that.
But there are unplanned opportunities, and they often come in the form of a question, a question that I think we as parents, and maybe with friends and others, we are, we are prone to dismiss, tempted to dismiss, or at least answer in shorthand, and that’s the question of why?
You know this question. Why should I do this? Why should I obey? Why should I go to church? Why should I listen? And we are tempted to short-circuit those conversations, “because I said so,” or “because the Bible says so.” And there may be a time and place to put your foot down and do that, but there needs to be something more than that.
There’s a “why” moment later in Deuteronomy chapter 6. Listen to this “why” moment, in verse 20. Here’s what Moses says to the people: “When your son asks you, in time to come, what is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules 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, 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 righteous for us if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God as He has commanded us.”
What is Moses saying there? He’s saying the why is an occasion to recount the story, the narrative of God’s grace to the younger generation. He says retell the story, recall the testimony of God’s deliverance, His saving character. Tell the story of God leading His people out of bondage in Egypt. Tell the story. Give them the broad sweep of it when they ask why. Tell the story of God leading His people out of bondage in Egypt. Tell the story of God leading His people out of bondage to sin in Christ.
Moses encourages parents, tell the story of Christ our deliverer, Christ our Savior, Christ our conqueror, Christ the hero.
And the question is, am I looking for these opportunities? With friends, with spouses, with children, to recount the story. Not only recount that story, but recount your story, as well. How God delivered you out of bondage. Don’t despise the “why.” The “why” is a gospel moment.
Finally, the text says, in verse 8, “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.”
There’s no time to go into the historical details of all of this, but the idea is of making God’s Word a fixture, making God’s Word a fixture in our home and in our hearts as well. God’s Word always before us.
So how do you make God’s Word a fixture in your home? How do you make God’s Word a fixture in your heart? There is something of a New Testament version of Deuteronomy 6. It’s found from our New Testament reading in worship this morning, in Colossians 3:16. Here’s what Paul says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Paul gives us Deuteronomy 6 here in full flower. He gives us some practical help, teaching, admonishing one another, singing psalms, singing hymns, singing spiritual songs. Certainly that’s the Word of God coming to dwell richly in us.
But even more so, the Word of God written on the doorposts of our homes becomes a fixture when it comes to dwell richly in our hearts through Christ.
The previous verse in Colossians says “let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, to which indeed you were called.”
God called to Israel through Moses, and He calls to us through Christ. He calls us to hear, listen, to God’s spoken word of deliverance, of forgiveness, of restoration. Listen to God, your hero, the one who fights for you, in Christ.
So listen and make much of it in your heart, and to those around you, with gratitude and thanksgiving.
Let us pray. Father in heaven, we do pray that You would give us ears to hear, to hear what You speak so clearly to us through Christ. We pray, O Lord, that You would give us responsive hearts, hearts that are moved by that witness of the gospel, to love You deeply and to love You truly. And we pray that the habits of our lives would be formed around the hope of our heart. Teach us, we ask, Holy Spirit, in Christ’s name. Amen.