Good morning everyone, today we are in a spot in our Gospel story series where we aren’t necessarily moving the plot forward, we have some exposition that needs covered. Last week we saw how God wanted the Israelites to enter into the promised land, but because of the report of the people who lived there they were afraid to go into the land. They thought they would be defeated and were so upset about it they wanted to turn around and go back to Egypt. God tells them that instead of entering the promised land, they are now going to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years because of their disobedience.
This roughly brings up to the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy, we are going to be given more details on the law that God wants his people to follow and how they are meant to live. These laws are meant to make Israel totally different from the other nations, it is to demonstrate to the world that Israel is a priestly nation and serve as a light to the world. The passage we are going to be looking at is the beginning of more detailed instructions about the ten commandments. We will also see why this passage is so important for us today as we look at what Jesus had to say about this passage in Deuteronomy.
Engage / Tension
Engage / Tension
Dana Visneskie tells the story of a Native American and his friend who were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening.
Suddenly, the Native American said, “I hear a cricket.”
His friend said, “What? You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!”
“No, I’m sure of it,” the Native American said. “I heard a cricket.”
“That’s crazy,” said the friend.
The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!”
“No,” said the Native American. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.”
What we hear often depends on what we are listening for. As that story tells us, the man was able to hear the cricket because he was listening for it. If you are doing something or not paying attention, if you have closed off your brain to hearing people around you, it is possible to have someone talking right next to you, but you have no idea because you’re looking at your phone or something else that takes away your ability to listen.
How many times has someone tried talking to their spouse or child, saying their name, but they don’t respond because they aren’t actually listening? Probably a lot!
In Deuteronomy 6, we are given a passage that is called the Shema. Shema is Hebrew means “Hear.” God wants his people to hear what he is saying, to pay attention.
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 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 your gates.
The passage begins by Moses telling the people that these are the laws that God wants them to follow even when they are in the promised land. God wants the people to listen and follow these commands so that they, along with their children and future generations, will know God and follow him.
In verse 4 then, the Shema begins. The Shema is extremely important in Jewish worship. The passage is the opening sentence of every worship service. Jews often repeat this passage every morning and evening. And it begins, by saying Hear, Shema, Israel, the Lord is one.
Another way that this can be translated is, “Yahweh, (all caps LORD) is our God, Yahweh alone.” This means that the Lord is the true and living God, and he alone is the object of our worship. Even though God exists as the Trinity, God exists in three co-equal, co-eternal persons.
We see the Trinity in creation, when God created everything and the Spirit of God is there as well. Then later in John we see that Jesus was also actively involved in creation. This points us to the theology of the Trinity, God is three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I know that isn’t the greatest explanation of the Trinity, but hopefully we at least get the picture. God is God alone.
In verse 5 then, we are told to love Yahweh our God with all of our heart, soul, and strength. If this verse sounds familiar to you, it is probably because we hear it through Jesus as well in the gospel of Mark.
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The thought, both in Deuteronomy and in Mark, is that we would completely love God. That we would love God so much that every part of us would be consumed with this love.
I know that I spend a lot of time often talking about God’s love for us, which is good and warranted! But I think we also need to acknowledge that God desires us to love him and to demonstrate that love to him. We are often quick to pray to God when we need something, but do we take time and talk to God simply about how much we love him?
I love this story of Abraham Lincoln, and what it means to have someone express their thanks and love.
In the middle of Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency, an elderly lady made an appointment to see him. As she entered his office, he asked her “How can I be of service to you?” The lady answered, “Mr. President, I know you are a very busy man, and I have not come to ask you for anything. I simply came to bring you this box of cookies.” There was a long silence and Lincoln had tears in his eyes. He replied, “I am greatly moved by what you have done. For since I have become president, people have come into this office one after another asking favors and demanding things from me. You are the first person who has ever entered asking no favor but bringing a gift. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
And so how often do we do something similar with God? How often do we stop in our busy day and simply thank God for what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do? Do you ever just stop and express your thanks and love to God. Not asking for anything, but simply telling him how much you love him.
Now, there are other ways that we can express our love of God as well. One of those ways is shown in verse 7 of Deuteronomy 6. Impress these laws to your children. Talk to them about God, raise your kids to know the love of God and to follow him. This is another way that we can demonstrate our love of God. Talk to your kids and your family about God. Don’t leave Sunday as the only day of the week that God gets mentioned in your house. Talk about what God has done for you, how he has demonstrated his love for you and your family. Going on a road trip? Talk about the Bible and God’s faithfulness in it. Find ways to talk to your family about God. Talking about God to your family can’t be left to only Sunday mornings. This is just an hour, maybe two, out of your entire week. Use that time with your family to talk about God. Tell your children, grandchildren, spouse, friends, whoever is a part of your family, about God and what he has done for you.
We see another way to love God in Matthew 25 that directly ties in with Jesus’ response to the teacher of the law that we read in Mark, about loving your neighbor.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus is pointing out in this passage that when we love others, when we care for others, when we visit others, when we do all of these things, we are doing it all for him. One of the ways that we can demonstrate practically our love for God, beyond voicing it, is to take practical steps to help people. To love God is to love one another.
Love God by...
take time this week to be intentional about voicing your love to God. Go to God in prayer at times simply to tell him that. (For me, it makes me think of people who send flowers to their wife on a random Tuesday, just because they love them)
Teaching your family about God
Tell your kids, grandkids, whoever is in your family about what God has done for you. When was the last time you talked about how you came to know Jesus with your family? When was the last time you talked about the gospel with those who are closest to you? Take time this week to talk about your faith with one another. (Seems like people say don’t talk about religion or politics at family gatherings, I might agree with the politics, but it shouldn’t be that way with our faith!)
Love God by loving others. If you see someone in need and you have the ability to help them, help them! If you see someone who needs a word of encouragement or someone to talk to, provide that encouragement and a listening ear.
Make this a habit in your life to do these things. Think about the love that God has for you, and out of that, seek to show your love to God.