Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Deuteronomy. Day 27, A Sermon On Loving The Lord, Part One

In Deuteronomy 5 Moses stressed the importance of fearing (honoring and respecting and obeying) the Lord. In Deuteronomy 6 he speaks of the importance of loving the Lord.

We have all obeyed someone out of fear rather than out of love. We've had teachers whose personalities we didn't particularly like or bosses who weren't very kind-hearted, yet we did what they said because they were in authority over us. But we've also had people in authority over us who we genuinely cared about, such as our parents or beloved teachers or bosses who were good friends to us. It's a joy to obey the instructions of a person we both love and respect. That's why it's important for us to both love and respect the Lord so our obedience will be a delight. It will be a willing sacrifice of putting Him ahead of ourselves. 

Moses has just completed a sermon on the Ten Commandments and he refers back to them by saying, "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, 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. 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." (Deuteronomy 6:1-3) 

The people are to obey God because He is Lord, because He is holy, because He is righteous, and because He is the only God. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) This alone should be enough to compel man to worship Him, but the Lord also wants us to be able to serve Him with joy, and that's where love comes in. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5)

There is only one God and this does not negate the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity in which we worship God in His three offices: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We do not believe in three Gods. We believe in three aspects of one God. He ministers to us in three different ways. As the Father: the Creator and Lawgiver. As the Son: the Teacher and Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit: the One who reveals to us our sins and wrong attitudes, who leads us to repentance, and who guides us in holy living. In no way does the Christian doctrine deny Deuteronomy 6:5 for we agree that "the Lord our God, the Lord is one". In addition, we believe that Genesis 1:26 confirms the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, for God (referred to there as the plural Elohim) says, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness". To whom was He speaking? To the angels? No, we are not created in the image of angels. We are created in the image of our God who is referred to in plural form because the Trinity is in view in Genesis 1:26. This is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three facets of the one true God were at work in the creation. All three facets of the one true God have been at work on man's behalf ever since. This is how He can be one God and be the plural Elohim at the same time. 

In addition, when Moses says the Lord is "one" he uses the Hebrew "echad". This word denotes a plurality; it means something that is unified or joined together. This same word is used when speaking of the evening and the morning making up the first day, when speaking of a husband and a wife being joined together, when speaking of the clasps that were used to hold all the curtains of the tabernacle together, and when the prophet Ezekiel is told to bind two sticks together representing the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom of Israel. The word echad indicates multiple parts joined together to make one whole. There is only one God but He can rightly be referred to as Elohim (a plural word) because He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit joined together as one whole (echad). 

Speaking of God the Son, when He was asked which is the greatest commandment of all, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, saying, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38) It's so much easier to obey someone we love than to obey someone for whom we feel little or no affection. Loving the Lord is the first and greatest commandment because it enables us to serve Him willingly and joyfully. Obeying Him then becomes an honor and a privilege, not a chore or an obligation. 

Loving and serving the Lord enables us to love and serve our fellow man, which is why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is closely connected to the very greatest commandment, "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:39-40) 

Every law and commandment has to do with either our relationship to the Lord or our relationship to our fellow man. Every law and commandment involves either how we are to obey the Lord or how we are to treat our fellow man. If we love the Lord we'll naturally want to honor Him with godly living. If we love our fellow man we'll naturally want to treat them with kindness and respect. It's far easier to keep from breaking the laws and commandments of the Holy Bible if we love the Lord with everything we've got. It's far easier to avoid sinning against our neighbor if we love our neighbor and value his rights just as much as we value our own. That is why Jesus said all the laws and commandments in God's holy word hang on loving the Lord and loving our neighbor. That is why the Apostle Paul said, "The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not covet,' and whatever other command there may be are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does not harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:9-10)

If we love the Lord we'll do a better job obeying the commandments regarding our relationship with Him and we'll do a better job at loving our neighbor and treating our neighbor according to the Lord's instructions.

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