Sunday, October 3, 2010

Trinity 18 Deuteronomy 10:12-21 "Is What We Do the Most Important Thing?"

And now, Israel–what does Yahweh your God ask from you, unless to fear Yahweh, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God in all your heart and in all your soul, and to safeguard the commandments of Yahweh and His obligations which I myself am commanding you today to your good? Look, to Yahweh your God–the heavens and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all which is in it. Only on your fathers–desire of Yahweh, to love them; and He chose in their seed after them--on you, from all the peoples, as this day. And circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and your neck, stiffen no longer. For Yahweh, your God–He, God of the gods and Lord of the lords, the God, the great One, the strong One, and the awesome One, who does not lift up faces, and he does not take bribes. He does justly for the orphan and the widow, and He loves the foreigner to give bread and clothes. And show your love to the foreigner, for foreigners you were, in the land of Egypt. Yahweh, your God, you will fear; with Him you will serve, and in Him you will hold on, and in His Name you will swear. He–your praise, and He–your God, Who has done to you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen.

If you go to look up the ten commandments in your bible, you won't find them in only one place. Yes, they are found in Exodus 20, but they are also found in Deuteronomy 5! Why is God's Torah given twice? In the book of Deuteronomy, which means "second giving of the Torah", the ten commandments are repeated. You see, the Israelites had wandered in the Sinai for almost forty years since Moses first showed them the two stone tablets. Now, the younger generation would receive the Torah too!

You've probably noticed that I have purposely not called this the giving of the Law, but of the Torah. That's because, while the Torah teachings do include God's Law, that's not all that the LORD revealed to His people through Moses. You might be surprised, for instance, to know the very first words on those stone tablets. "I am Yahweh, your God, Who brought you out of slavery in Egypt." This is no "commandment" of what we must do. First and foremost is Who God is and what He does!

What the Israelites saw with their own eyes, you and I do well to comprehend today, so we don't get all caught up in God's Law. We like the Law, since it's all about us. There's a tiny pharisee in your heart who wants to do the right thing to feel good about yourself for doing it. So you try to live by the Law, becoming stiff-necked with satisfaction for what you do, looking down your nose at others who fail where you seem to succeed. But the danger is that you become self-righteous–your own savior!

That's why Moses cautions the Israelites to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts. For that's the body part from which sin emanates. Now, you don't want a surgeon with a stiff neck to perform such an operation, do you? So you, being stiff-necked, are not qualified. That's when the Great Physician, Jesus performs your heart surgery through Holy Baptism, removing the hard-hearted foreskin of your sin from it through the water and the word of the font. Your unrighteousness is removed–gone forever!

God gave the Israelites the Law and the Gospel so they would understand who they were, and who God is. You too are blessed to know that you too were rescued from slavery. Not to Egyptians in your case, but slaves to sin and that tempter, the devil. Jesus came to set you free from sin, which He bore on the tree of the cross. His body was given for you there to death, and His holy, precious blood was shed for you at Calvary; that you may eat and drink Jesus' forgiveness in Holy Communion.

For you were chosen to belong to God without any merit or worthiness of your own. You didn't bribe Him to love you. He didn't lift up your face and say, "I guess I'll die for this one." It wasn't because you are so lovable that God chose to love you. In fact, despite yourself, Jesus loved you. While you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. Jesus chose to love you anyway, because He is God, and God is love. It isn't your righteousness that impressed God, it was Jesus' holy righteousness that matters.

So now you are called by God to safeguard His commandments. But you are not going to be able to keep them, perfectly. No matter how hard you try, your sinful flesh will get the better of you at times, and you'll fall into temptation. But His commands remain to restrain your sinful flesh so that Christ Who lives in you may succeed in loving your neighbor through you. Even the foreigner who speaks only Spanish you may help, since you were once foreigners to God before you believed in Him. But even though you will fail at times, God loves you anyway, in Christ Jesus who proclaims you forgiven.

Today's hymns from LSB:
#852 O God of Mercy, God of Might
#694 Thee Will I Love, My Strength, My Tower

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