Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 18, 2017)

DEUTERONOMY 11:18-21,26-28


In the name + of Jesus.

     The words which Moses proclaimed in our lesson were written in the book of Deuteronomy.  Deuteronomy means “second law”, or second giving of the Law.  When the Law was first given at Mt. Sinai, these Israelites were little children or had not even been born.  Forty years later, Moses repeated the covenant to this next generation of Israelites as they were poised to enter the Promised Land.  Moses spoke in very plain terms.  “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)  
     Moses' plea was not a call to conversion.  These Israelites were already God's chosen people under the covenant.  Moses' encouraged them to remain faithful to that covenant.  He urged Israel: Bind yourself to God's Word and blessing.
     When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were to exterminate the Canaanite nations who lived there.  The Canaanites had devoted themselves to perverse religious practices for centuries, and the Lord's patience for their repentance had worn out.  Israel was to be the agent of God's judgment against them.  But another reason God gave for exterminating them was so that Israel would not listen to the Canaanites and follow their ways.  Israel was to bind themselves to the word of the Lord alone and, by binding themselves to the Lord, to continue to receive his blessings.
     Unfortunately, the Israelites did not listen to God's word.  They spared many of the Canaanites and listened to them.  Israel adopted their practices and blended them in with the worship of the Lord.  So, although the Israelites perverted their worship, they would still insist that they were faithful to the Lord.  But if they had listened to God's word, they would not have adopted practices God condemned.  They did not listen to God's word or follow it; therefore they forfeited God's blessing and fell under his curse.
     Like these Israelites of old, you too are God's chosen people.  You have been chosen by God and redeemed by Jesus.  You have been cleansed of your sin in baptism and have been clothed in garments of salvation.  Through his minister, Jesus' voice absolves you of all your sins and his word directs you in godly living.  The Holy Spirit has set you apart from sin, death, and Satan, and the Holy Spirit has set you apart for lives of purity and compassion and serving your fellow man.
     Like these Israelites of old, you too are in need of the encouragement Moses gave.  Bind yourself to God's word so that you remain under his blessing and favor; for, Satan will not leave you alone.  Now, Satan cannot abduct you from the kingdom of God or wrestle you away from Jesus.  Jesus declares, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” (John 10:27-29)  Since Satan cannot snatch you from Jesus or steal your faith from you, he tries to lure you away from Jesus.
     Satan speaks to you with a seductive voice.  His lies sound appealing, true, and reasonable.  He tells you that God's word is contradictory because he wants you to view God's word with suspicion.  Satan wants you to take pride in yourself, your opinions, and your preferences because he wants you to be the judge over God.  He wants you to assess God's word by asking, “Does this fit my life?  Do I really want to live like I believe this?”   The world also has many voices which bombard you with its own version of truth.  For example, the world condemns almost no one.  The world is highly offended when we call someone a sinnner.  Therefore, when God forbids sins and condemns the guilty, the world challenges, “What kind of God is so vindictive and hateful?  Why can't he love the way we love?  Our love is so much bigger and better!”  Since you know that God is love, you are inclined to accept the world's definition of love and reshape your view of God, turning him into a god who has no problem with sins, and who is neither holy nor a threat.  Suddenly, you believe in a god who is no god at all.
     Be warned!  The world is not interested in having a debate with God's word.  It has already passed judgment and has decreed itself true.  God's word has been declared hypocritical and hateful.  If you confess it, guess what sentence the world will pass on you!  The world has no love or tolerance for God's word or for people who confess it with their words and actions.  You can't avoid all these voices.  They speak constantly, even convincingly.  So, while the devil cannot snatch you out of the kingdom of God, he can certainly talk you out of it.  He would do with us what he did to Israel: He teaches us to blend worldly attitudes with Christian faith so that we adopt what is evil by still believe that we are honoring the Lord—as if God is content with us being intoxicated or obscene, with our lying or fornicating.  This brought God's curse on Israel; we earn God's curse by this too.  Repent.
     Since you are continually being bombarded by the voices from the devil and this world, you will need to hear the voice of your Savior all the more.  Bind yourself to God's word and blessing.  Listen to your Good Shepherd's voice.  This is the voice that reminds you that all have sinned, but it is also the voice that reminds you that Jesus Christ has come for sinners.  If you refuse to be a sinner, then Jesus has nothing for you.  But for sinners, Jesus has removed your curse.  The curse we have earned for our sins Jesus has taken from us and carried it to the cross.  There, Jesus endured what sinners have earned.  There, Jesus died under God's wrath so that you, in turn, would receive God's forgiveness and blessing.  Then Jesus rose from the dead to show you that his payment for your sins is sufficient.  Jesus' resurrection guarantees your own resurrection to eternal life.  You aren't saved because you are better; you are saved because Jesus has taken your sins from you.  There is no other salvation because there is no other Savior.
     Listen to what Moses tells you: “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)  The voices from the devil and the world never stop.  Therefore, do not limit the voice of our Lord to Sunday mornings, and do not give the impression that the Christian faith is restricted to these four walls.  God's word is always needed to correct, to guide, to encourage and to console—whenever you get up or go to bed, whenever you are on the road or at home.  God's word is needed to direct your steps no matter what you put your hand to or open your eyes to.  You have been set apart by Jesus for godly living at all times; that's because you have been set apart for his blessing and salvation at all times.
     Bind yourself to God's word and blessing.  Teach these things to your children.  If you want your children to be Christians and to see them in heaven with you, then see to it that you are talking about God's word when you are on the road or at home, when you lie down and when you get up.  Show them that God's word is not merely story time, but it is salvation.  It matters, and it is the only thing that saves for all eternity.  No one else will do this work for you.  Your children will hear many voices throughout their lifetime.  But you get to see to it that they hear their Savior's voice so that it takes root them.  You know that they need it, because you need it, too.
     Bind yourself to God's word and blessing.  It is this word alone which will sustain you in the saving faith and which will comfort you in life and in death.  It is the one thing which you truly need for God's blessing.  And it is the only thing which saves.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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