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A Sermon on the Scriptures

In an effort to get more of stuff up on here and to see if things are publicizing here is another topical sermon I did about a month or so ago. As I post this I should probably note, though I may have before, I have footnotes, well endnotes in wordpress that aren’t exactly properly cited, but if anyone wants the fuller citation they need only ask and I can easily give it.

The Holy Scripture: Deuteronomy 6.4-9

“”Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6.4-9

This set of verses that we are looking at this evening, is part of what Judaism calls the Shema. The Shema is a very important prayer in Judaism in similar sense that the Lord’s prayer has been important to Christians. It’s title comes from the beginning of these verses in the Hebrew, the first word being the Hebrew verb Shema meaning Hear! In first pharse in Hebrew being Shema Y’srael.[1] Hear O Israel.

Looking at these set of verses we’ll see the Greatest Commandment and the truth of what God’s place should be in our lives. Of What it is that we are to hear and pay attention to first. Then for the rest of this sermon we’ll focus on the affect of God’s words in our lives when he take to heart as God wishes us to do.

“”Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – The Authority of God: Deut 6.4-5

We begin with the Authority of God in our lives. The Shema begins with a call to pay attention, Moses is saying to Israel Listen to me, and as we read this portion we should stop see what Moses had to say.[2] The Hebrew for Hear is in the imperative, it is a command to listen. When Moses said and when read it we should stop and realize that Moses is commanding attention.

The Lord is one, or it could also be translated the Lord Alone, at this point Moses isn’t concerned if there are other gods or not, but rather that would not the people turn to worship idols and so share Yahweh among a pantheon. No, Yahweh alone is worthy of worship.[3] Thus by saying Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone, Moses was calling the people to devote themselves only to him.[4] Yahweh is not one among many, but totally unique in himself. There was no reason for the Israelites to share Yahweh with the Baals and gods of the Canaanites. Did not need to pray to one God for rain and another for marriage and another for business transactions to go well.

In the same sense we don’t need to place undue faith in things over God, too often we rather worship the the idea of Security than the only God who can truly give us security. We rather worship money than the only source of true wealth. We rather worship America and its freedoms than the God who truly provide freedom. Yahweh doesn’t need to share our attention he deserves all alone.

The first part of this great Jewish prayer, is moreover, what Jesus calls the greatest commandment.[5] Matthew 22.37-38: “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” And in Mark 12.29-30: “”The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

(The second portion of the Greatest Commandment comes as an aside is found in Leviticus 19.18.)[6] This commandment is a call to obey and love Yahweh with all that is within us. This call to love God with all that is within us is a call to see his words and his commandments not as something to obey out of a form of legalism, but instead a call to obey out of love and true faith.[7]

In Hebrew thought the Heart was where “understanding and will as well as emotions,” came from the soul was where our core being was, “our source of life and strength,” while might is merely a reinforcement of what the other two have. [8] When Christ says mind is not saying something different, but rather what was implied with all our heart and soul.[9]

God loves us and he wants to have relationship with him. We have his word and his commandments and he has done this for the love he shows us. He doesn’t want us to obey his word just because he says so, no, he wants to realize that if we love this how we can please him. God is well please with someone who is striving to follow him.

The Authority of the Scripture: Having spoken about the authority of God in our lives and the truth that if we say we are followers than we need to love him above all else and worship him alone. We come to the next set of verses, which speak of our need to follow his word and to place it as a core part of our being. Before we speak of the actions that God’s word should take in our life I wish to speak briefly about the authority of the Scriptures.

By briefly I mean to quote The formula of Concord. This formula is a document that came to exists during a series of controversies within early Lutheranism, it sought to show that authority rested in Scripture, not Luther or any of his followers. Its words in many senses ring clear to us even today. Especially when so many churches seem to prop up this or that evangelist this or that teacher, this or that Father over the word of God.

“We believe, teach, and confess that there is only one rule and norm according to which all teachings [dogmata] and teachers are to be appraised and judged, which is none other than the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments. […] Other writings, whether of the fathers or more recent theologians, no matter what their names may be, cannot be regarded as possessing equal status to Holy Scripture. All must be considered to be subordinate to it, and to witness to the way in which the teaching of the prophets and apostles was preserved in postapostolic times and in different parts of the world. […] Holy Scripture remains the only judge, rule, and norm according to which all doctrines are to be understood and judged, as to which are good or evil, and which are true or truly false. Certain other creeds [symbola] and writings […] do no themselves possess the authority of judges, as in the case of Holy Scripture, but are witnesses of our religions as to how [the Holy Scriptures] were explained and presented.” [10]

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” – Scriptures should be Always be on our mind Deut 6.6

In the context, Deuteronomy 6.6-9 “these words,” refer to all the Law that is seen in Deuteronomy.[11] However, in a true sense what is said of God’s word here is applicable for all of the Bible. As Moses continues speaking about the commandments of God, he noted that our love for God should influence how we perceive his words. For if we truly love God we will wish to obey him. Therefore within these next set of verses he shows the “total demand,” as one commentator calls it that the word of God should have upon us.[12]

This phrase of “placing word upon the heart and soul,” occurs in other Ancient Near Eastern Texts as part of political loyalty oaths, and in sense by reading and applying the word of God you are saying I will be loyal to you Lord at this and this point![13] These words will be repeated in Deuteronomy 11.18b “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul,” and in our present text the LXX even adds soul to it.[14]

We need to do more than simply read the word of God, we need to apply it our lives. It doesn’t matter if we quote the entire book if we do not take any of it to heart. Thus we need to  be loyal to God and the things in which he has said in his word. We need to be diligent in when we read something he tells us to do that we strive to do it. After all if we truly love Yahweh if we love what Christ has done for us then we will heartily obey him and strive to place these words upon our hearts.

Secondly as Scripture is always to be on our hearts. When we seek answers we turn to God in prayer and to Holy Writ to see what God says about things. To see its principals and basic ideas. So that when questions come up our answers are not based on a worldly point of view, but on a biblical point of view. For example, The bible doesn’t say anything about abortion, but it does clearly speak about the evils of Moloch and the truth of life at conception. So that we can say rightly that abortion is wrong, even without a verse that say thou shalt not.

Obedience to the word requires an intimate knowledge of it, a desire to truly understand God’s word, not some sort of legalistic knowledge.[15] Thus as he strive to show that we love God we will strive to obey him. In the prophets God promised that he himself would do this, Jeremiah 31.33 states, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

“You shall teach them diligently to your children,” – Scripture should be taught to the next generation, Deut 6.7a

With Scripture being always on our mind and hearts, it should thus flow out into our other actions and this leads to Moses’ second command, the scriptures are to be taught![16] With each new generation, we have a duty to show them the truth of God’s word and so therefore, we are commanded to teach our children what God has said.[17]

The word used here for diligently in our text is actually a hard word to translate, it only occurs in this form here in the Old Testament in its qal form where it appears more often it means to sharpen, and so the idea is to perhaps to “teach sharply, diligently, or to impress upon.”[18] We need to impress upon our children the importance of the scriptures. This book that we have is not so human work, but it is the very word of God. It would often be better for us to say what the scripture says and to have our children remember that instead of the words that we would say.

As Israel was commanded to teach their children so the Church ought to. It is important for not only church leaders to teach the bible, but for parents themselves to be readers and teachers of the bible to their children. After all a parent has far more time with their child than any church leader would.

“and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Scripture should influence our life, Deut 6.7b

Not only are we to teach our children, but the scripture is to be as one commentator writes, “the object of total involvement.”[19] There is idea of constantly reading the word of God and so that our total involvement is always being in the word and knowing it just by being ingrained in it.[20] Our first command was to have it on our hearts to let it always influence us, second to teach our children, and third to read it and let its be part of our daily lives.

As Psalm 1.2 states, “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Or Deuteronomy mentions of the king in 17.19 “And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them.” Or Joshua 1.8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Not only should the scriptures be on our hearts and souls and the guiding factor in our lives our world view, but we shouldn’t separate it from our daily lives. We need to be constantly reading it and mentioning it from sun up to sunset. In essence Moses was saying the same thing, by noting the two set of opposites, we should always be ready to speak about the Word of God.[21]

In our daily conversation no matter the situation we should naturally be inclined toward the things of God.[22] We should always be ready to say this what God’s word says. We should be prepared to speak of the Gospel at any moment for though we may not realize it, God could use that to bring someone to salvation.

We need to constantly be in the word, be studying it, be reflecting on it. We need to let it become so much a part of our lives that’s we notice something’s wrong when we haven’t read the word today. That when talk we could say something and not even realize that we’ve qouted from the holy scriptures. We do this not because God has told us, but because we love God. Not because if we could quote a million verses we’d impress people, but because we love God. Not because of any reason we could force, but simply because we love God.

The word of God as already noted should be learnt not out duty, but out of love and so our obedience to God and worship and praise of him should not be actions of mere motion, of simply doing it since it was called, but rather a true devotion that affects our whole lives. When we get ready in the morning and get ready to sleep, when we walk here or there and when we are in our homes.[23] God and his word should be with us.

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Continually looking at the Word and Using reminders 6.8-9

This last command was a call for the people to always meditate and be directed by the word of God.[24] In essence this verse is saying that God’s words should always be before us, always with us, not just on Sunday not just at a church building, but everywhere.[25] It really articulates in many ways what the last half of verse seven already said.

The Jewish people would end up taking these verse literally and would so would bind phylacteries upon their forehead and arms that contain verses from the Torah, they would also in the upper right hand corner of their doorpost place a box that would contain within the word of God.[26]

Although the Jewish people might have taken this verse more literally than what God had intended there something to be said of using things to remind of us God and of his word. As Wesley once noted: “Thou shalt give all diligence, and use all means to keep them in thy remembrance.”[27] As another commentator notes, “It is easier to decry the literalism of such practices than to emulate the devotion they express.”[28]

 


[1] NOAB, 262.

[2] NOAB, 262.

[3] NOAB, 262.

[4] Blenkinsopp, NJBC, 99.

[5] Blenkinsopp, [OT] 107.

[6] Cousins, 263.

[7] Cousins, 263.

[8] Cousins, 264.

[9] Cousins, 264.

[10] The Formula of Concord, found in The Christian Theology Reader, 109.

[11] Moran, 265.

[12] Cousins, 264.

[13] Weinfield, 340.

[14] Weinfield, 332.

[15] MacArthur, 258.

[16] Cousins, 264.

[17] McConville, 207.

[18] Weinfield, 332.

[19] Blenkinsopp, NJBC, 99.

[20] Weinfield, 341.

[21] NOAB, 262.

[22] Macarthur, 258.

[23] McConville, 207.

[24] MacArthur, 258.

[25] McConville, 207.

[26] NOAB, 262.

[27] Wesley, in Classic Bible Commentary, 162.

[28] Cousins, 264.

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