Four Words Which Ought to Describe Each of Our Relationships with God’s Word!
O Lord God, as I enter Your presence for worship this day instill within my heart a deep desire for and reverence of Your Word. May I listen carefully as I hear it. Please send Your Spirit to guide me, so that I fully understand it. Then, O Lord, help me always to apply it appropriately within my life, so that through my words and actions I might honor Your saving name and be blessed by Your powerful hand. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
We are justified before God by faith through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We cannot boast in our own deeds, but rather have received by faith God’s gift of righteousness!
Any fool can mouth God’s Word or even perform supposed wonder in Christ’s name, but the truly wise person builds both his faith and life upon that Word—believing it and practicing it!
Moses addresses the Children of Israel:
“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth…. Behold, I set 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 which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”
In Christ Jesus, whose words bestow life upon all who cherish them, dear fellow redeemed:
During the past two hundred years there has been no greater battle fought between the unbelieving world and the Christian Church and among the members of the external Christian Church than the battle over the Bible. Is the Bible truly the Word of God as it claims, or is it merely the word of men about God as the world and many within the external church suggest? Is theBible truly inspired in the sense that the Holy Spirit breathed the thoughts and words recorded there into the minds of the prophets and apostles as it indeed claims, or is it merely inspired in the sense that Shakespeare and other literary figures are said to be inspired as the world and many within the external church suggest?
The debates over the Bible have at times been bitter and often somewhat intellectual as terms like “gospel reductionism” and “plenary” are used to explain exact positions. Such debates, however, can leave ordinary Christians somewhat confused and discouraged, not knowing exactly what to believe. That is unfortunate, because Satan, who is ultimately behind every attack on the Bible, wants just that to happen. He wants us to become discouraged, confused, and uncertain of exactly what to believe, because then he can attack us that much more effectively!
It is vitally important for all of us to have a strong relationship with God! Because God has chosen to communicate with us through the Bible, it is also important that we have a strong relationship with God’s Word. That was already the case when Moses addressed the words of our text to the Children of Israel some 3,500 years ago. On the basis of this text I would share with you FOUR WORDS WHICH OUGHT TO DESCRIBE EACH OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD’S WORD!Those words are personal, relevant, beneficial, and essential! Ask yourselves—do these words describe your relationship with God’s Word?
Your relationship with God’s Word is to be personal! Listen to Moses as he addresses these words shortly before his death to a people he had led through the wilderness for 40 years: “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul.” Moses is certainly not describing a casual relationship with the Word of God! He urged Israel, as he urges each of us, to store up the truths of the Bible in our hearts and souls—in our deepest beings.
You will not hear me quoting Billy Graham very often from this pulpit, but recently I read a quotation by the Rev. Graham, which summarizes this thought very well. He wrote: “Like Joseph storing up grain during the years of plenty to be used during the years of famine that lay ahead, may we store up the truth of God’s Word in our hearts as much as possible, so that we are prepared for whatever suffering we are called upon to endure” (An Encyclopedia of Compelling Quotations, p. 71). Life is oftentimes very difficult. God has given us His Word to enable us to deal with this life as we look ahead to everlasting life. If we do not have a personal knowledge of that Word; if we remain unfamiliar with it, then it will be unavailable to us when confronted by the very real challenges of this life. Then we will be like individuals washed overboard in a storm and having no life preservers. Such individuals will surely drown!
Moses further urged the Israelites, even as he urges us, to “bind them (God’s Word) as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” What does he mean? Some orthodox Jews take these words literally and have developed headbands and bracelets to which they have attached small pieces of paper with biblical verses inscribed upon them. This is not what Moses is urging us to do, but he is emphasizing in yet another way how personal our relationship with God’s Word is to be! There is virtually nothing that you do during any given day without using your hands. Unless you are blind, there is nothing that you do during any given day without constantly using your eyes. What Moses is saying is that God’s Word is not only to be internalized within your heart and soul, but it is to inform your every action each and every day.
Many of you have Bible verses incorporated into the decorations in your homes. Some of you, I know, have written out especially meaningful verses to attach to your bathroom mirrors. You do so in order that you might begin each day with those important thoughts in your minds, so that as the day progresses your hands will be guided by those thoughts. In our home I have hanging over the front door that familiar passage of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). I hung it purposely so that you do not see it as you enter the house, but as you leave the house because I want God’s thoughts to guide my family members and me as we live our entire lives. Personal is a WORD WHICH OUGHT TO DESCRIBE EACH OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD’S WORD! Does it describe yours?
So ought the word relevant! Moses commanded the Israelites: “You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
The world would have us believe that the Bible is irrelevant. Some years ago one of our members shared an anecdote with me, which demonstrates this. This person was at work and during a lunch break she and her co-workers were discussing a social issue of the day. When she brought up what the Bible had to say about that particular issue, one of her co-workers responded, “You don’t believe what that old book has to say, do you?” The opinions of men and women vary and often change, but always remember that “the word of the LORD endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). God’s Word will always remain relevant when properly applied to the social issues of any age! That is why you and I, even as Israel of old, will want to teach God’s Word to our children.
Such instruction is to begin in the home, Moses says, but it does not end there. It continues as you “walk by the way.” In other words, wherever you are, instruction in God’s Word is relevant. But notice that Moses speaks not only of location, but also of timing. He says teach that word when you lie down—in other words at night, and when you rise up—in the morning. So, wherever you find yourselves and whenever it is possible, we are to instruct our children in God’s Word because it is relevant for their everyday lives, even as it is relevant for our own everyday lives!
During the final weeks of this past school year I covered the topic of human sexuality and marriage in my Religion Class here at Immanuel Lutheran School. We covered not only what theBible says regarding those issues, but we also addressed several challenges to biblical teaching that are so prevalent in our society today—divorce, co-habitation, and homosexuality. I asked the students to prepare a final essay in which they were to lay out the biblical foundation for sexuality and marriage and prepare a response to those challenges. Why have them do that? I had them do that because God’s Word is so relevant for their lives today. These young people need to know how to respond both to the temptations they will face, but also they need to be in a position to help others know in a positive way what the good and gracious will of God is in these very practical areas of life. Relevant is a WORD WHICH OUGHT TO DESCRIBE EACH OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD’S WORD! Does it describe yours?
So ought the word beneficial! Moses wrote: “You shall write them (the Word of God) on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.”
God gave Abraham and his descendants the Promised Land—a land Israel would soon conquer under the leadership of Joshua. That promise, however, was tied to the condition that Israel would be faithful to the LORD God and keep the commandments of His Word. Moses promised that if Israel remained faithful to God’s Word they would be richly blessed in the land they would inherit. As you trace the history of Old Testament Israel, whether during the times of Joshua and the Judges, or during the times of the United and Divided Kingdoms, you will find that what Moses promised did indeed come true. When Israel was faithful to their God and kept His commandments and worshipped Him with sincerity, God stood by them and blessed them in every possible way. Unfortunately, when they did not do so, that blessing was withdrawn from them.
My dear friends, while we Christians today do not have a specific promise that God will give us our own land like He did Old Testament Israel, we do have numerous promises that faithfulness and obedience to God’s Word will bring blessing into our lives—that such faithfulness and obedience will be beneficial for us. Consider just a few. Jesus promises us: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Beneficial is a WORD WHICH OUGHT TO DESCRIBE EACH OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD’S WORD! Does it describe yours?
So ought the word essential! Moses concludes the words of our text by telling Israel: “Behold, I set 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 which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”
These words do not sit well with a culture that denies the existence of absolute truth, which quotes as a favorite Bible verse, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), and whose typical response to any serious moral issue is “whatever!” What Moses is saying, however, is that our relationship with God’s Word is essential to both our temporal and eternal welfare. You cannot deny or ignore God’s Word and assume all will be well for you, because it will not! Either you are for Christ or against Christ; either you confess Christ or deny Christ! In the same way you are either for God’s Word and willing to submit yourself to that Word and obey that Word, or you are against God’s Word, unwilling to submit yourself to that Word and refuse to obey that Word.
As a child of God you have the choice to follow Christ or reject Him—to accept or reject His Word. That is what Joshua was acknowledging when he challenged Israel in his day and said to them: “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell” (Joshua 24:14-15).
Notice two things about both the words of Moses and those of Joshua. First of all, your relationships with God and His Word are absolutely essential! Those relationships touch everything in your life and will ultimately determine both the course of your present life in this world and the possibility of everlasting life in the next. Secondly, both Moses and Joshua tie the rejection of God’s Word to idolatry. If you by God’s grace embrace your Savior and His Word you will find yourself in a loving relationship with the one, true God and will, thereby, be fulfilling the 1stCommandment. You will be blessed! If, on the other hand, you choose to reject God and turn away from His Word, then you are in reality embracing a false god. You may not ever bow down to an idol of wood or stone, but the false opinions of other men or even of your own mind will have become for you a false god—your idol. Sadly, the end result of such a decision is that you will be cursed! My dear friends, do not ever allow that to occur to you! Essential is a WORD WHICH OUGHT TO DESCRIBE EACH OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD’S WORD! Does it describe yours? I pray that it does, and that it always will! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!