Say it Again Moses

May 24, 2020

A Baptist church was looking for a pastor. After many candidates were vetted and interviewed, the perspective candidate preached his trial sermon and wowed the church.

Everyone agreed that he was the right person for the job. The vote was unanimous, and the church called their new pastor.

On the very first Sunday as their new pastor, the pastor walked to the pulpit, opened up his Bible, and preached another powerful sermon. It was biblically sound, theologically accurate, and useful to the congregation’s everyday life.

People nudged each other and said, “This is just who we needed.”

On the second Sunday, he walked to the pulpit, opened up his Bible, and preached from the same text. He preached the same sermon as he did the week before.

Some heard it for the first time, but those that were there the week before were a bit shocked.

On the third Sunday, the pastor walked to the pulpit, read the same passage, and preached the same sermon again.

Now the congregation was confused and a bit miffed. Some members approached the deacon chairman and said, “If he dares to preach that sermon one more time – you’ll need to talk with him!”

On the fourth Sunday, the pastor walked to the pulpit, read the same passage, and preached the same sermon. After the service, the deacons requested a few moments of the pastor’s time. He invited them into his study and asked, “What can I do for all of you?”

They answered, “We are concerned that you keep preaching the same sermon every Sunday. We want to know if you have another sermon.”

The preacher took off his glasses and said, “I do have another sermon. And as soon as I see evidence that you have heard the first one, I’ll move on to the second one.”

You get an idea of how these people at this church felt when you read your Bible up through the Book of Deuteronomy.

You think, “Moses, haven’t we heard you preach this message before?”

If Moses could answer, he might say the same thing that preacher said to his church. “Yep, but you have not obeyed what I said the first time I preached it. So here it is again.”

The word Deuteronomy comes from the Greek “Deuteronomion,” which means Second Law.

If Deuteronomy sounds familiar, it’s because it is.  Moses is giving Israel the Law for a second time.

He’s like a school teacher that’s come to the end of the year and has decided to do a review of the most important lessons they have learned, so they don’t forget them before the final exam.

There’s one big difference. It’s not the end of the year for Moses. He’s come to the end of his life.

For Israel, they are about to graduate from walking in the wilderness for 40 years.  They are about to move their tassel over to the other side and make their way into the Promised Land. Moses wants them to be as prepared as possible.

Moses is giving these graduates their final instructions before they cross the Jordan.

What a life Moses lived.  His mother saved his life when she put him in a basket coated with tar and pushed him off into the Nile River to keep him from being murdered by Pharaoh’s men. They were killing Hebrew baby boys to decrease the Hebrew population.

The providence of God caused Pharaoh’s daughter to find the baby when she went to the river to bathe. He was named Moses, which is the Egyptian word for water.

Moses grew up as an Egyptian, but he never forgot the plight of his people.

At age 40, he came to the defense of a Hebrew slave that was being abused by an Egyptian.

There was a fight, and Moses killed the Egyptian. He fled to the wilderness to keep from being killed himself after he was identified as the killer.

He lived there for 40 years until God came to him in a burning bush and instructed him to go back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s hand.

Through the miracles of God, the Israelites were released and made their way through the parted Red Sea before they headed to the Promised Land.

When they reached the Jordan River, they sent spies over. They came back agreeing that the land was indeed all that God said it was, but only two of them said they should take the land as God directed.

The other ten advised the nation against it, saying that they would be devoured by the size and strength of those that lived there.

Because of their disobedience, God told Moses that the entire generation of people would die in the wilderness.

During this time, Moses received God’s laws for living we call The Ten Commandments. Moses also gave the people instructions on how they were to live in harmony with each other and how they were to worship God through the tabernacle’s sacrificial system.

Moses came to the end of his life and made one last appeal to the Hebrew people.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  (Deut. 30)

When I was in school, I appreciated teachers that took the time to review what they were teaching. Sometimes it wasn’t until the review that something discussed in class made sense for the first time.

Sometimes that would happen in a class like algebra or trigonometry.

The light would come on. I’d say, “Oh, I get it now.” From there, I could work the equation.

There was something about Moses phrasing his explanation of the Law the second time around that caused many to have that “Ah-Ha” moment. Maybe for them, the light came on the second time around.

In the review, Moses gave them the key to keeping the Law. He gave them the incentive that they needed to choose life.

He gave them the only thing that would make it possible for them to cross the Jordan River, possess the land, and keep it.

I am going to give you the Cliff Note version now.

“Love the Lord your God. Listen to his voice. Hold fast to him.” You find those easy to remember words in verse twenty.

I’d like for you to say these words with me, and perhaps they will sink into our hearts and memory.

Love the Lord your God

Listen to His Voice

Hold Fast to Him

Earlier in the sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses wrote the most well-known portion of the book that became known as The Shema Yisrael.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on our gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

This is a beautiful and wonderful passage to hear after we have been confined to our homes. This is also a beautiful passage to hear as we emerge from our homes and return to the busy world around us.

Moses was telling the people the commandments did little good if they were just on a stone or a scroll, but rather, they should be impressed on their hearts.  If these words were on their hearts, then they should impress them upon their children.

When? Just on the Sabbath? No. Moses said that we should look for every opportunity to talk about God’s Law: when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down at night, and when we get up in the morning.

If giving testimony for Jesus is confined to standing up in church or Sunday school to say why we live for him, that’s not living out this passage of scripture.  Every opportunity means that whenever the opportunity arises in our day, at work, at play, with friends, with our children, our grandchildren, closing a business deal, at mealtime, on vacation, or on the ball field.

There are always opportunities to talk about why we serve the Lord.

In the Shema, we find these elements that Moses spoke about are important to faith: Listening, Loving, and Holding Fast to God.

Moses wanted Israel to give their full attention to God.

It took the new Baptist preacher four Sundays of preaching the same sermon before getting the attention of his congregation. They were not listening because they were not holding fast to the word of God. They were not living out God’s word.

We cannot live out God’s word until we listen to what God’s word says.

Moses had told the people of Israel what God said, but they chose not to listen. They were stubborn. They spent 40 years in the wilderness because they were poor students.

In Deuteronomy, Moses reviews with them. He tells them again what they failed to learn the first time.

Not only did they not listen, but they did not love.

The Shema says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (v. 5)

You will recall that Jesus later said that this is the greatest commandment of all. Loving God is the motivation for keeping any of the commandments.

Have you noticed that we are not adequately motived to do good because of guilt?

Guilt can motivate you to do good for a while, but it doesn’t sustain you.

If you do not love God, you will not have the motivation to obey God. To serve God, you must love God.

You will not listen to God and obey God if you do not love God.

If you love God, you will listen. If you listen, you will know what God wants you to do and not do.

If we love God, the text says we should hold fast to God. Do not waver from what God says.

Orthodox Jews have held fast to the Shema in very literal ways by tying this verse to their forearms and forehead in boxes called phylacteries. They also place this verse in a box and put it on the doorframes of their homes.

In doing this, Moses was asking the Israelites to do something to remind them of the importance of the commandments.

However, the most important thing wasn’t these religious rituals. The most important thing was for these commandments to seep down into the crevices of their hearts so that they would become a part of their everyday lives.

Moses wanted God to be at the forefront of their thoughts because he wanted them to love God more than anything. He knew if they lived that way, they would live in the Promised Land for a long time.

Before Moses died, he climbed a mountain and said,

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.

Jesus said it like this: “I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.”

As Moses reviewed the Law, the people should have known what death and destruction looked like. It looked like 40 years of pain in the wilderness as a generation of people died there. If those had listened to God, that could have been avoided.

This morning, we are reminded that we need to listen to God, love God, and hold fast to his teachings.  A lot of our pain can be avoided if we do these things.

Perhaps the text and the story of Moses and the Hebrew people have made you aware that there are ways you could be listening to the Lord that you are not.  Perhaps you realize that you do not love the Lord with all that you are?

You may be aware that you are letting go of God in some areas of your life.  You may be aware are not holding on to the Lord, and his teachings like you know you should.

If so, the pray right now and ask confess these thing to God and allow God to begin to work anew in your life.

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