ADMIT YOUR STRUGGLE WITH SIN

 

Week of June 3, 2007

 

Bible Verses:Deuteronomy 1:6-8,26-33,42-46.

 

Biblical Truth: Disobeying God has immediate and long-term consequences, including bogging down in oneís journey of faith.

 

Are you going where God leads: Deuteronomy 1:6-8.

 

[6] The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ĎYou have stayed long enough at this mountain. [7]Turn and set 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 Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. [8]See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them.í ††[NASU]

 

The introductory paragraphs of this book outline some important biblical principles about those qualities of leadership which will always enrich the life of the people of God. They are as relevant today as when they were first given over three thousand years ago. These verses make it clear that those who lead in Godís work must be loyal to Godís word, honest concerning their personal inadequacy, confident of Godís unchanging faithfulness, prepared for sacrifice, and willing to share responsibility with others. The opening verses of this book portray Moses as a vivid example of submissive, realistic, confident, sacrificial, shared and vulnerable leadership.

 

Deuteronomy is an extended sermon or a series of addresses. From time to time, however, we are given not simply the content of the message but a glimpse of the communicator. In the opening paragraph, Moses is introduced in his most significant role. He is primarily a preacher, a faithful communicator of Godís word. The true leader must be totally subservient to Godís revealed word. There are several truths here which are relevant for those who are called to share Godís word in our own generation. The first words of the book emphasize the priority of the message. To read Deuteronomy is to realize that one is part of a congregation listening to the words of a man burdened with a message which is not of his own choosing. Godís word is a vital ingredient in life because by nature men and women are stubborn and willful. God has to speak to them again and again about the things they have heard repeatedly in former days. These verses also describe the source of the message. Moses stands before the people in the plains of Moab with a word which comes from beyond himself. Moses shared with the people of Israel all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them [3]. It was not his message but Godís. Human beings must not tamper with the message: Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it [12:32; see 4:2]. The word is not ours to amend, correct, modify or strive to improve. This introductory section about Mosesí preaching also describes the communication of the message. Moses undertook to expound this law [5]. The word expound is an interesting one. It tells us something extremely important about the preacherís role. The word means ďto make something absolutely clear and plain.Ē The dedicated communicator will do all within his power to ensure that the key truths are clearly evident. By this means the people will appreciate its importance, discern its relevance and apply its teaching to their everyday lives.

 

The bookís opening description of Moses as a communicator of Godís word also says something about the content of the message. Moses is here concerned about the word and the works of God, what God has said [3] and what He has done [4]. The alien territory of the Amorites and the hostile kingdom of Bashan lay directly across the path of their entrance to the land which had been promised to them. At that strategic time in their history God had been pleased to reveal Himself by His deeds as well as by His words. The word was declared to the people in the wake of a remarkable and humanly impossible victory. It is surely intended as a forceful reminder to the Israelites of the great exodus event. God defeated the Egyptians and then gave the Israelites His word at Horeb. Now He had overcome fresh opponents and proved to them beyond all doubt that His achievements were not distant tales, locked away in a remote past. He was still with them, in power as well as in word. He had promised to give them the land [8] and had no intention of breaking His word, though His people had repeatedly broken theirs. What He had said He would certainly do.

 

Finally, in their introductory detail about preaching, these verses define the aim of the message. The word is not only confirmed by the acts of God; it demands the response of those who hear. Good biblical communication always leads to a verdict. It is forcefully and relevantly applied to the present condition of those who hear it. Mosesí preaching was designed to lead the people to the place of obedient response. Godís word to the people way back at Mount Horeb is repeated at the beginning of Deuteronomy. Moses recalled that, in those days, The Lord our God spoke to us Ö go in and possess the land [6-8]. As we shall see, the Israelites did not always respond to Godís word as they had been commanded. The effective communicator, under the direction and power of the Spirit, strives to create in the mind of the hearer the desire to do what God has said and so encourage an eager response.

 

Are you controlled by Discouragement?: Deuteronomy 1:26-28.

 

[26]Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; [27]and you grumbled in your tents and said, ĎBecause the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. [28]Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, ďThe people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.Ē  [NASU]

 

Instead of responding to Godís clear command [21] they stubbornly disobeyed it: Yet you were not willing to go up [26]. It is a picture of men and women at their worst, a story of stark rebellion [26], ungrateful murmuring, total misunderstanding [27], needless fear, widespread panic [28] and blatant unbelief [32]. And the revolt was all due to one fundamental sin, as prevalent now as then Ė forgetfulness. If only they had stilled their disturbed hearts, quietly listened to the word of Moses and recalled what God has been to them, said to them and done for them. A poor memory has robbed many a Christian of potential blessing.

 

Notice first, that they were deaf to what God said. They insisted that God hated them [27] but in fact He could not have loved them more [4:37]. They feared they would fall into Amorite hands whereas He had plainly told them that the enemy would fall into theirs! They maintained that these grim experiences would end in death whereas God was determined to give them life. They anticipated an overwhelming defeat when God had promised an assured victory. Instead of attending to the reliable word of God they listened to the distorted opinions of men. Jaundiced pessimism always distorts the truth. The spies came back with grapes but the murmurers talked about giants, the Anakites [28]. The spies assured them that it was a good land but the fearful said it would be their grave. The spies had fixed their eyes on God, the generous giver [25], but the pessimists kept their eyes on men. They had nothing to talk about but the Amoriteís physical superiority, architectural advantages and military prowess [28].

 

Are you Distrustful of Godís help?: Deuteronomy 1:29-33.

 

[29]Then I said to you, ĎDo not be shocked, nor fear them. [30]The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, [31]and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place. [32]But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, [33]who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.[NASU]

 

Additionally, the people were blind to who God is. Moses was patient and pleaded with the terror-stricken multitude not to fear them [29]. He presented them with three vivid word-pictures of the God who had spoken to them so clearly about their promised possession. He is a victorious soldier, caring father and dependable guide.

 

Had they forgotten that God is a victorious soldier [29]? They will not be taking the first steps on to Amorite soil. God goes before them and has promised to encounter the enemy long before they get anywhere near the battle lines. God will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes says Moses [30]. They had seen for themselves how He had conquered their enemies at the beginning of the journey. Did they seriously think that He had brought them all that way to let them down at the end? What God accomplished in Egypt is followed by what He achieved in the wilderness.

 

They have also forgotten that God is a caring father [31]. How could they possibly have made their way in such vast numbers across that dry and inhospitable desert waste if, day after day, they had not been carried along by a God who bore them up on His shoulders just as a proud father carries His dearly loved son?

 

They had failed to remember another truth which they ought to have learnt from those days and nights in the desert: God is a dependable guide [32]. How could they forget so easily and quickly the fact that He had been their advance-guard in days gone by? What He had done so brilliantly in the Sinai peninsula He was perfectly able to continue on the Amorite borders. What more could He have done to show them how much He loved and valued them? He had chosen their leaders, conquered their enemies, guided their steps, sent their food, provided their drink and assured their future. But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God [32]. The word of Moses is spoken by a crushed and astonished leader. Leadership is painfully difficult when people who ought to be grateful forget Godís former mercies, ignore His present word and reject His future blessings.

 

Are you Defying Godís commands?: Deuteronomy 1:42-46.

 

[42]And the LORD said to me, ĎSay to them, ďDo not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.Ēí [43]So I spoke to you, but you would not listen. Instead you rebelled against the command of the LORD, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country. [44]The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah. [45]Then you returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD did not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. [46]So you remained in Kadesh many days, the days that you spent there.†† [NASU]

 

The Israelites were not only fearful but perverse and presumptuous. God plainly told them that because of their sin they would not enter the land: But as for you, turn around [40]. When the Lord told them to go [21] they refused [26]. Now He tells them not to go [35], they insist on going [41]. When it was promised territory they would not enter it. Now it is forbidden territory, they will not stay away. We may think it unbelievably perverse but it is entirely typical of human sinfulness.

 

Their presumption is even more serious than their perversity. Off they went, an ill-prepared crowd of cocksure warriors arrogantly presuming that, because they had used some appropriate religious phrases [41], the Lord would give them the victory. God is not likely to be impressed by what we say if we have stubbornly refused to hear what He says. When Moses refers to their arrogance [43], the word he uses describes an action characterized by gross insolence. Those who sin blatantly against a holy God, fully aware of the divine warning, cannot hope to get away with it. The Amorite soldiers need not have terrified them if, initially, they had done what God had commanded. Now the enemy swept down on them and they fled, like a man pursued by angry bees whose nest has been disturbed [44]. The memory of those bitter stings was to last for many days [46]. The Fatherís best gifts are not distributed to people who simply have the right phraseology. They are reserved for responsive and dependent children. God is far more impressed by how we listen than by what we say.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.††††† What do the opening verses of Deuteronomy teach us about being an effective communicator of Godís word?

 

2.††††† Why is the sin of forgetfulness so detrimental to the Christian life? What things must each believer do in order to continually remember all that God has done and promised to do for His children?

 

3.††††† What three word-pictures does Moses present to the people in order to remind them of who God is and all that He has done for them? Meditate upon how God has been each of these three things to you in your Christian life.

 

4.††††† The Israelites presumed that they could control God by using the correct religious phraseology. What lesson did God teach them? Why is this such an important lesson for all believers to learn? Ask God this week to convict you of times in your spiritual journey where you are committing the sin of presumption.

 

References:

Deuteronomy, Eugene Merrill, NAC, Broadman.

The Message of Deuteronomy, Raymond Brown, Inter-Varsity.