Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Deuteronomy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:56
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The book of Deuteronomy consists of one sermon divided into three addresses. The sermon was divided into three addresses because it extended to a whole day of worship. The first address was given in the morning, followed by a lunch break. The second and longest address was given in the afternoon and was followed by an evening meal. The third and final address was given in the evening. Interspersed with these sermons were songs and prayers. The service probably began with a call to worship and as we will see in chapter 32, ended with a benediction.
All together, this sermon takes about five hours to read out loud from beginning to end. Don’t worry, I am not going to preach a five hour sermon! We are going to look at small portions of each address at a time. Today, our Scripture reading is Deut 1:1-18.
Deuteronomy 1:1–18 ESV
These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’ “At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.
May God now add his blessing upon this reading of His holy and infallible Word.
When most Americans hear the word “wilderness”, they think of the vast tracks of old growth forest that once covered the United States. Places such as Greene County in the time of George Washington or Kentucky and Tennessee in the time of Daniel Boone; but when we read the word “wilderness” in Scripture, it is speaking of a desert. In the opening verse of Deuteronomy, we read that “Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness”. In verse 6, we read that God spoke to Israel at Horeb. “Horeb” is another name for “Sinai”, it means “desolate place”. In the book of Deuteronomy, “Horeb” is Moses’ preferred title for this area and mountain; he only uses the name “Sinai” once in the whole book.
Why is this?
It is because Israel is...

A Spiritually Desolate People

The opening verses of any book of Scripture are often some of the most important verses of the whole book. The first five verses serve as the Preamble of a covenant treaty between God and Israel. In these first five verses, we are introduced to Moses who serves as a mediator between God and Israel as they make a treaty together. We are also introduced to the main theme: God’s faithfulness and grace are greater than our unfaithfulness and sin. We see this in verses 2-4, where we are reminded that what should have been an 11-day journey became forty years and eleven months! Why this great delay?It was the Exodus generation’s sin and rebellion against God! With the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb, everyone of that generation (and this includes Moses) had disqualified themselves from entering the Promised Land. We are going to look at this rebellion in greater depth in next week’s sermon, but for now I what you to look at vs. 4, in contrast to Israel’s sin and unfaithfulness is God’s grace and faithfulness, and this is what I want to turn to now.

God Remains Faithful to His Promises

Imagine if everyone in the world, who professes faith in Jesus Christ, with the exception of two people were really apostates! You would think the church was destroyed and that the Kingdom of God was overthrown, but this passage shows us that that is not the case at all. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the entire Exodus generation had shown themselves unfaithful, but God was able to take these two men, along with all the people who were but infants and children forty years ago and from them make a mighty army that killed giants and conquered fortified cities!
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul cites a saying that was popular in the early church:
2 Timothy 2:13 ESV
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
God’s faithfulness is the foundation upon which both the Old Covenant and New Covenant are built. This faithfulness is also seen in vs. 10:
Deuteronomy 1:10 ESV
The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.
Perhaps those words sound familiar to you, because they are. They are the direct fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham given to him in Genesis 15:
Genesis 15:5 ESV
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
What we are seeing in these first eighteen verses of Deuteronomy we will be seeing again and again—God is faithful and gracious, even when we are sinful and rebellious. This is the heart of the Gospel, and it brings us to applying this text to our own lives:

Grace is Greater Than Our Sin

This of course is the title of our closing hymn this morning, which begins with these words, “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace exceeds our sin and our guilt!” It is in the light of God’s grace that we read and obey God’s commands. The reason that Jesus was in conflict with the Pharisees and Paul with the Judaizer, was that they took the commandments of God out of context. The context of all the commands we find in Scripture is the gospel of God’s grace and faithfulness. Even the Ten Commandment begin with a statement of God’s grace:
Exodus 20:1–2 ESV
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
What should motivate our obedience to God’s commands is gratitude and faith. Gratitude because of the great things God has done for us. Faith because God is faithful to keep His promises. As we go on in Deuteronomy, we will discover that God’s commands carry with them a promise of blessing or curse. God promises to bless us if we obey and curse us if we do not, but here is the rub: Sin and Satan also make a promise of cursing and blessing.
Why did the Exodus generation not obey God’s command to conquer the Promise Land? Was it not because they believed sin’s lie that they would be “cursed” if they did?
Numbers 14:3 ESV
Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
Conversely, why do we choose sin? Is it not that we believe we will receive some blessing from sin?
You see, all sin flows from unbelief and all obedience flows from faith. It is just as Paul says in Romans 1:17:
Romans 1:17 ESV
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
That phrase, “from faith for faith” is a Greek idiom meaning “beginning and ending in faith”!
As I told you last week, the book of Deuteronomy is “The Gospel According to Moses”. Today’s message is but a small appetizer compared to the feast at lays before us. It gets better, but for now, I want to speak a personal word to anyone hearing this message who feels like their sin has left them like Horeb, “a place of desolation”. God’s grace is greater than your sin! The prophet Isaiah (who by the way, cites or alludes to Deuteronomy frequently), gives this promise:
Isaiah 51:3 ESV
For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
Do you hear what Isaiah is saying? Your desolate places can be made like the Garden of Eden! Your life can be a place of joy and gladness, thanksgiving and song!
Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises found in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Old Testament. By faith in Him, you can experience the forgiveness of sin and enter into a new life of blessing. By becoming a curse for us, Jesus removed the curse of the Law. All that remains is its blessing!
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