We can have confidence in God’s fore-bearing continuance with us, as we love him with all our heart, soul, and strength.
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Don Carson: Let’s plunge in by reading our passage first, Deuteronomy 12:1-7.
Deuteronomy12:1-7. “These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess, as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills, and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, and burn their Asherah poles in the fire. Cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his name there for his dwelling. To that place, you must go, there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes, and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your family shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
This is the word of the Lord. Let us pray. And now may the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, through Jesus.
Amen. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
That passage we’ve already heard this morning. As a way of recap, let me make four rapid introductory observations. Number one, this passage, Chapter 6, verse 4, that I just cited, is coherent only under the assumption of monotheism.
That is, the belief that there is but one God. The entailment of monotheism is undivided devotion to that one God. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and so on.
In other words, it makes no sense to display undivided adoration of and submission to one God, if, in fact, there are lots of gods. You are to parcel out your devotion, because these gods have different sectors.
You might have the god of a business operating in your corner, but not the God of love operating in your corner. Or maybe it’s a local god, but you’re traveling elsewhere. Or maybe it’s a god that looks after communication, but not safety and travel or whatever, whatever, whatever. In the ancient world, the gods were divided up into sector domains of one sort or another.
If there are lots of gods, then, if you provide all of your devotion to just one God, you’re risking getting tripped up by another, which brings us to the second observation. It follows that any failure in observing this command in Chapter 6, verse 4, any failure in observing this command which the Lord Jesus himself calls the greatest command, embroils us not in mere coldness of heart, that is, not loving God with all of our being.
It actually involves us in idolatry. Not to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength pre-supposes that there are other things that are pulling our devotion, pulling our affection, pulling our hearts.
These idols may be things that are negative in themselves. You might be attracted to bitterness, porn. You might be attracted to greed, selfishness, lust.
But, in fact, these things that can become idols may be things that are intrinsically good. Comfort, freedom from persecution.In our age, especially a sense of entitlement. “I’m owed certain things.” Your children. There’s nothing intrinsically wicked about being spared a virulent persecution if God in His sovereign providence leads you into a sector and time where there is relatively little persecution. But, you read your Bible and you come across texts like this, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in his name, but also to suffer for his sake.” Then the apostles rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for the name.
You believe texts like that under the sweeping sovereignty of God, and the notion that you have the right to escape opposition, cruelty, persecution, even violent death becomes just ridiculous. It’s a false god, it’s something that you’re attracted to wrongly. The problem of a divided heart is, in fact, a problem of idolatry.
Think of Eve in the Garden. She sees that the fruit is physically attractive. She sees that it is, according to the promise of the serpent, that it has the potential for making her godlike in her pronouncements, and she is attracted to it.
But that is already the first step in idolatry, at competing God, at competing claim. You only see what went wrong in her life if you stop to consider what she should have said when the serpent first approached her. “Has God really said such and such? Has God actually forbidden that you eat any of the fruit in the garden?”
What she should have said was, “Are you out of your little skull? This is Eden. God’s the Creator.He’s good and He’s wise, and He’s knowledgeable. He’s right, and He loves me, and He knows what’s best. And what I need to do is owe Him my perfect devotion. For you to be holding some temptation in front of me as if I’m attracted to disobeying God, allegedly for my own advantage, it clearly is not for my own advantage. This is deceit. This is lie. This is idolatry.”
That’s what she should have said. And if she had said that, all of human history would have been different. The problem of a divided heart is the problem of idolatry. Number three, it is very important to observe how the first commandment in importance, the command to love God with heart and soul, and mind and strength, and the second, the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself, are anchored very differently.
The second one is cast again and again as a comparative. As for example, Leviticus 19, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The first one, however, is not anchored as a comparative.
It does not say, “You shall love God as you love yourself.” Because that would somehow suggest that you and God are on the same par of attractiveness to being loved. No, you are to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. You’re not to love your neighbor with heart and soul and mind strength, for that would suggest that the neighbor is becoming godish.
No, indeed, in Scripture, the second greatest command the command to love your neighbor as yourself is itself grounded in the first command. So, in Leviticus 19, we read, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”God says, “I am the Lord.”
In other words, the absolute allegiance to God Himself as the Lord grounds the authority of the second commandment. That is why this is the first commandment. It’s the commandment that reveals our heart, that takes us to the heart of what sin and idolatry are.
But I’ve been asked to speak especially on the topic, “The Greatest Commandment in a Pluralistic Age.” Every age, this side of the fall is, in some sense, a pluralistic age, simply because it’s got more gods than God. In the Old Testament context, the Egyptians had many gods, the chief one being Ra, the sun god.
In the land of Canaan, there were all the Baals and the Asherahs, the goddesses, often whose shrine poles were posted at the top of hills, so that when Israel took over, all of these mini sanctuaries, as it were, were already there. And it was easy to become somehow guilty of linking the worship of the one God with these places of worship and exactly where your allegiance really lay became more and more obscure.
But in every age, this side of the fall, there is a kind of pluralism that is antithetical to biblical Christianity. In the 1st century, in Paul’s day, in Jesus’s day, the Greeks had thousands of gods.
Modern Hinduism has millions of gods. Nobody knows them all. And, of course, in our so-called secular context, we’re encouraged to have lots of gods. They’re not called that, but we’re encouraged to find our own way, to find our own absolutes, to find our own identity, to define ourselves, and thus to cast off any claim that God might have to defining us.
So here is another reason why the greatest command is so important. It’s the command that you always break if you commit any sin whatsoever. It’s a defiance of God and His word and His way. It is the background to why the Bible says, all have sinned, all of us have de-goded God.
We have multiplied gods, we’ve adopted idolatry. I have often said that when I do university evangelism, which I’ve been doing for 45 years, I’ve discovered that in the last 15 years or so, there are only 2 things that make students angry with a Christian speaker.
And both of them are intrinsic to this passage. One is any attempt to define sin. This world wants sin to be a social construct. You’ve got your sin, some other cultures got their sin.
Even within this culture, you define sin differently from me, but that means that God doesn’t have a say. And then, secondly, any exclusive claim to the Gospel. And this is the passage that talks about completely destroying all the places on the high mountains of all the other gods.
Now, that recap then brings us to the passage I’ve been assigned. You will recall that most of Deuteronomy is made up of three large sermons or sermon series by Moses. If you have your book with you, your field guide, take a look at the chart on page 8.
This will remind you that the first sermon or sermon series runs from 1:6 to 4:40. It’s a kind of historical overview of God’s dealings with Israel in the past. Then the second sermon which now pre-supposes the covenant relationship that God has with His people.
The second sermon series runs from 4:44 to 29:1. It’s most of the book. I’ll say more about that structure in a moment. And the last one, the call for covenant renewal on the basis of everything that precedes runs from 29:2 to 30:20. It’s very helpful to keep those structures in mind as you’re reading the book of Deuteronomy so that you remember where you are in the argument.
Now, our passage, 12:1-7, falls in the large second sermon that runs from 4:44 to 29:1. That large sermon has an introduction, if you’re following the chart, 4:44-49. And then an overview of Covenant obligations, including what we’ve heard in the last two addresses, Chapters 5 to 11.
And then at last, Chapter 12 to 26, which is the next big sub-block of this second sermon, you have a great number of specific details and the covenant obligations, a review of the sacrificial system, what it means to be clean and unclean, and all the rest, running right from Chapter 12 to the end of Chapter 26.
So, our passage kicks off this section, and we hear it in these words, “These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess, as long as you live in the land.” This is sometimes called…because of this concatenation of details stipulations, it’s sometimes called Deuteronomy’s law code.
The preaching up to this point in the first 11 chapters has prepared the way for these details, stipulations, and then afterwards, there is an exhortation to decide. What is clear is that the command to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength now works out unambiguously in specific obedience.
The way is being prepared for in Chapter 11. Look at Chapter 11 verse 13. “So, if you faithfully obey the commands I’m giving you today, to love the Lord your God, to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…” Picking up Chapter 6 again, “If you obey, then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and springtime, and so forth.”
Or again, a little later in the same chapter, verse 26, “See, I’m setting before you today a blessing and a curse, the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from the command that I command you today by following other gods,” there’s the idolatry, “which you have not known.”
So we come to our passage then, where several of the entailments of loving God are worked out. There are five of them. Number one, love for God then, as we’ve just seen, entails obedience to God. It is doubtless emotional, it may even be sentimental, but it entails obedience.
And this was already made clear back in Chapter 6 where the command to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength was first articulated. In Chapter 6, verses 4 to 6, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And then down in 6 to 8, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands.”
In other words, it’s presupposed that they will be taught, understood, passed on to the next generation, all as a function of loving God with heart and soul and mind and strength. So, also here in Chapter 12, verse 1, “These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow.” And, of course, this recurs again and again in Holy Scripture.
The Lord Jesus, on the night that he’s betrayed, says in John’s Gospel, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This must not be interpreted in a narrow mechanistic sort of way, “do A and B will follow.”
That may be true, but it is too narrow a reading. The idea is richer and deeper and relational. Consider the relationship between Jesus and his Father. We’re told that Jesus loves his Father and, in consequence, does everything the Father gives him to do.
Does that mean Jesus is saying, “Okay, okay. If I got to do it, I got to do it?” It doesn’t mean that he’s saying, “Well, I’ll prove that I love him. I’ll obey him after all.” No, it’s out of the network of this triune love-relationship that Jesus can say, even in Gethsemane, “Not what I will, but what you will.”
He’s come to do his Father’s way. He’s not saying, “I suppose I’ve got enough love for me to obey Him on this instance.” Rather, the obedience is a reflection of the deepness of that love that Jesus has for his Father.
And correspondingly, as our love for God grows, the obedience is the entailment. That doesn’t make it less obey, it is still obedience. Just as Jesus’s conformity to doing the will of his Father, it’s still obedience, but it’s an obedience nurtured in, grounded and anchored in this triune love, the same triune love which is supposed to be manifested in our love for one another and our love for God, according to John 17.
Thus, in the ideal God’s covenant, people love their Heavenly Father and correspondingly love to do His will. This God is a rich, covenantal, multi-generational, promise-keeping, blessing-producing God.
Look at verse 1 again, “These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord your God has given you to possess.” It’s not just an isolated individual Christian blessing. It’s the covenant people of God under the terms of the Old Covenant.
And in the land with all the blessings that come with vines that are bursting with fresh grapes and the hills flowing with milk and honey. And moreover, that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you. “As you obey,” Moses is saying to the people, “you are worshipping and loving the same God who chose Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who established the covenant under Moses at Sinai. The same God who brought you to the borders of the Promised Land.”
This is a social, multi-generational, covenantal, promise-keeping, blessing-producing God. And the people are, therefore, to have their attention drawn, not only to individual blessings that they receive, but to the fact that this is the God of their ancestors.
This is the God who has disclosed Himself in historical moments of great power, the giving of the law, and the establishment of the covenant.
Number two, love for God entails right worship of God. Now, that’s the thrust of all of verses 2 to 7. Focus for a moment on verses 5 and 6. “You are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His name there for His dwelling. To that place, you must go. There, bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. Seek the place that the Lord your God will choose.”
The first arena of specific stipulations in all of Chapter 12 to 26 concerns corporate worship, and, in particular, the place where this foreseen temple is to be built. It’s worth pausing for a moment to think how many things God is said to choose in this book.
God chooses His people, Israel, Deuteronomy 7:6. Why does God choose Israel in Deuteronomy 7 and Deuteronomy 10? Is it because Israel is bigger or stronger or smarter? No, God sets His affection on Israel because he loves her.
He loves her because he loves her. You’re not going to get further back in the chain than that. That’s it. It is bound up in God’s choice. A little further on, God, ultimately, will choose the king, Chapter 17, verses 14 and following. “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’ be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses.”
So God chooses the people, God chooses the king. In Chapter 18:5, he chooses the Levitical priest. And here, God chooses the place for the temple. In other words, up to now, the meeting place between God and his people at the level of sacrifice and joint coming together at the great feasts that God has himself ordained has been this mobile temple, a tabernacle.
And during the years of wilderness wandering, once the tabernacle was erected and the pillar of cloud by day came down upon it, then that place was holy, and no one could enter the most holy place above the Ark, where the Cherubim stretched out their wings.
Nobody can enter that most holy place where the blood of the sacrifice was spilled according to the stipulations of Leviticus 16. Nobody could enter that except the high priest once a year with a prescribed blood under pain of death. But of course, once the pillar of cloud lifted up and began to move off, the people understood that God wanted the nation to move too.
So the Levites came along and folded it all off. That meant somebody had to take down the veil. Nobody got killed. It was just tent. Well, it was an important tent, but it wasn’t going to get you killed if you packed it up and carried it on your shoulders. And then when God selected the next space, they unpacked it, and the pillar of glory came and parked over the tent again and then all of the lethal stipulations came into play once more.
But eventually, God predicts. He prophesizes that there will be one stable place. What’s so interesting is that the place is not here named. He doesn’t say, “It’s going to be Jerusalem. It’s going to be Mount Moriah. It’s going to be Zion.”
It’s the fact of Gods’ choice that is underscored rather than where that choice will lead David and Solomon to build the temple. God chooses the place. In other words, there is going to come about a centralization of the worship of Israel. There will still be some God-sanctioned place for local sacrifices.
It’s a bit complex, but the central place when the people come together for the high feasts, to offer Passover sacrifice, for the high priests to offer the sacrifice of bull and goat on the Day of Atonement, and the rest, that will be in the central place that God ordains. Doing it anywhere else is going to be condemned and associated with idolatry.
So, love for God in this passage entails the right worship of God. Do you see how important the temple is in the Old Covenant at this juncture? Or consider what happens in the days of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is that book of the Old Testament which preserves the last Old Testament chapter of history of the Old Testament people got, about 400 years BC.
And you will recall how the second temple had been rebuilt some decades earlier under the ministry of Haggai and the others. And then under the ministry of Nehemiah, provision was made to rebuild the wall of the city. Then a repopulation program took place.
People began to move back into the city and the regular worship of God was set up. And in all of that context, there is a renewal of the covenant that takes place with corporate confession in Nehemiah 9, and the renewal of the covenant in Chapter 10. It’s very moving. But you know what’s striking. In the renewal of the covenant, no one has said…nothing is said about renewing covenantal vows not to steal, renewing covenantal vows not to commit adultery, renewing covenantal vows not to commit murder.
Nothing is said. There’s a general one, obey everything that God has said. But when it comes to specifics, what’s specific is, make sure everything is in place for the right offering of sacrifices in the temple. Make sure that the great feast days are observed. And for those of us in the West, who have been taught to make simple distinctions between moral law, important, eternal, goes on forever, and ceremonial law, which is temporary, we start asking, “Wait a minute, if you’re renewing the covenant, why do you put so much stress on the ceremonial law?”
And don’t even mention all the moral stuff, the good stuff that’s easy to preach in our churches. Why all this stuff that’s hard to preach while making sure you get the right animal? But don’t you see? That’s where the covenant people met with God according to God’s stipulation of the conditions of their meeting, with a sacrificial system, the prescribed priest.
Spirituality is not conceived of as something that you merely create for yourself on a nearby hilltop with a stone altar. It’s according to God’s own prescription with the people of God gathered together under the prescribed covenantal stipulations.
Doubtless, the stipulations have changed when we come to the New Covenant, we’ll say more about that. But at the same time, the point here is abundantly clear. Love for God entails the right worship of God.
Number three, love for God entails the rejection of false worship verses 2 to 4.
In our day, which has made a God of tolerance, this passage is not easily tolerated. “Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills, and under every spreading tree, where the nation’s you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, and burn their Asherah poles in the fire. Cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.”
This is tied to obedience, of course, and it is a theme which in one fashion or another, keep showing up in the Old Testament again, and again. This isn’t the only passage. Sometimes it focuses on the provision of worshiping God the way pagans do.
Sometimes it focuses on the provision of moral inconsistency when you’re allegedly worshiping God. That’s a very common theme in the prophets. Consider this passage from Jeremiah 7. “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, ‘Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house, and there proclaim this message, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says. ‘Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not press the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors forever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.’”
So the rest of the chapter’s devoted to condemning that kind of worship, which actually gets the structures right, but the morality wrong. The obedience has dissipated, and thus, even the formally correct structures are worse than useless.
They’re condemning. And again, in this chapter that is before us, Deuteronomy 12, prepares the way for Deuteronomy 13. Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 talk about false prophets who talk about false gods. How can you tell a false prophet? There are essentially two tests given in Deuteronomy.
Number one, if you claim that, in the name of a prophet, some god or other has said such and such will take place and it doesn’t take place, then, obviously, the prophet’s a liar. Alternatively, even if it does take place, if, in fact, the prophet is leading you astray from the God who has already disclosed himself, then he’s still a false prophet.
Just because he’s telling the truth doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth about God. Or consider that great passage, Isaiah 40 to 45, where the most fundamental difference between God and all the other putative gods is that they’re powerless. They neither know the future nor control it.
The real God, the God who is there both knows the future and controls it and can be trusted. Now, this question of smashing other gods is really sensitive in our generation. There are one or two things to be born in mind. Ancient Israel is not a democracy. Ancient Israel is a covenant people.
To demand this degree of discipline is equivalent under the New Covenant to demanding corresponding discipline in the church amongst the New Covenant people of God. Don’t misunderstand me, idolatry is always wrong. Idolatry still condemns, idolatry destroys, the nations of this world will one day become the nations of our…the kingdom of our God, and He will reign upon the earth.
Yet, the people of God are not called upon to bring about discipline in the head height empire, but amongst the covenant people of God. So today, the people of God, the confessing church is not called to bring about discipline in America as a nation, but in the first instance amongst the people of God.
In the New Testament, the most frightening discipline is what we call today excommunication. Now, in the New Testament, discipline is imposed at different levels, rebuke, encouragement, instruction, and so on. But the ultimate discipline is to be excommunicated, to be taken out of the communion of the local church.
That is terrifying, far more terrifying than the judgments depicted here. In the New Testament, there are three categories of sin which require the church to pronounce excommunication. Number one, grievous, moral, persistent, unrepentant defiance of God. As, for example, in the case of the man who’s sleeping with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians.
That man is to be excommunicated. Number two, persistent, God-defying, unrepentant teaching of doctrine that damns, genuine heresy. It leads men and women astray.
So, a moral test, a doctrinal test, and third, persistent, determined, lovelessness. “Warn a divisive person once, and then twice,” Paul says, “and then have nothing to do with him.” Someone who is persistently loveless and hate-filled in the local church, even if they can sign off on the TGC statement of faith, does not mean that they should not be disciplined because there is a love test in Scripture.
Does not Jesus himself teach us? “By their fruit, you shall know them.” Doesn’t the Apostle John insist that there are three tests as well, tests of life, a truth test, an obedience test, a social test? And it’s not best graded on the curve. No, the communion of God’s blood-bought people.
In the New Testament, the church is to uphold a certain kind of discipline that preserves the truth and integrity of relationships, and so on, in these major classes of sin. In short, love for God entails the rejection of false worship. In the name of loving people, we may refuse to love God and refuse to exercise discipline.
This does not show that our love is superior. It shows that our love for human beings is more important to us than our love for God. Number four, love for God entails a vision of worship as social transformation and joy among the Lord’s people. Look at verse 7, “There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
You and your families, not just individuals, shall eat and rejoice. This does not sound like sour-faced miserable, “I am being faithful to God” spite. No, no, no, this is a party atmosphere. You’re rejoicing before God, grateful for all the blessings that God has poured out. Bring on another course, let’s have dessert.
This all happens we’re told, in the chosen place. That is, where the temple will one day be built before the Lord, some translations say, or in the presence of the Lord, verse 7. That’s the highest cause of joy of all. It shows up again and again in Holy Scripture when people come together before God at the temple.
Yes, they can’t get in, yes, a mediator has to go in on their behalf, yes, yes, that’s true, but nevertheless, to be so close, to be drawn into proximity to God, and in the days of Moses, to see the pillar hovering over the tent is to remind us of the immense privilege of being near to God.
A nearness that can be terrifying as we saw last night. A nearness that involves a kind of awesome fear that looks for a mediator to bring us closer. But ultimately, the hope is that we get there too, hence, in the vision of the promised new temple in Ezekiel Chapter 40 to 48 in the promised New Jerusalem, the ultimate goal in the very last verses is to be in that location where everybody sings, “The Lord is there, the Lord is there.”
And what is the culminating element in the vision of Revelation 21 and to 22? “They shall see his face.” So, already these people, within the constraints of the Old Testament covenant, are not just having an ice cream Sunday, a party.
They’re rejoicing self-consciously in the presence of the Lord their God, families and individuals alike, eating and drinking. In fact, this goes back to Chapter 6, verse 3 as well. “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.”
Do you hear the overflow of blessing that is coming about? Chapter 12 again, verse 12, “And there rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own.” Chapter 14, verse 26, “Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.”
This goes way beyond duty. It’s raw privilege, bringing about joy, rejoice. Just as they’re commanded to love God and obey him in consequence, they’re commanded in this covenantal relationship to have a party in the presence of God over it and rejoice.
The Lord is there. In other words, here, worship is envisaged as a tremendous social event of great pleasure in the very presence of God himself.
And last, love for God recognizes the priority of grace. We’ve seen this already in the way God chooses the people and God chooses the king, and God chooses the priest, God chooses the place. We alluded to it by referencing Deuteronomy 7 and Deuteronomy 10. Why did God choose Israel? Why did He set His affection on Israel?
He set His affection on Israel because He loved her. The same point is made by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9. God chose the younger son over the older son before either of them had been born or done anything. God chose this one. He chose that one. There’s a priority of grace in all of this, and here it shows up in the last line of the last verse of our passage, verse 7. “There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your family shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
What has God done for Israel? Oh, He took them out of the land of slavery because the Lord their God blessed them. He led them through the desert because the Lord their God blessed them.
He led them into covenant of repentance and obedience because the Lord their God blessed them. He makes them secure for centuries in the Promised Land because the Lord their God blesses them. And even when He brings them into chastening exile, this, too, is a function of the fact that God, the Lord their God is blessing them by teaching them repentance and obedience.
And then he restores them to the land because the Lord their God blesses them. And when we come to the New Covenant, how can we say less? We’ve been blessed, not only with the entire heritage of God’s gracious acts to our spiritual ancestors in the wilderness, but also with all that has come to us in Christ Jesus.
Why do we have forgiveness of sins? God, in the fullness of time, sent his Son to bear our sin and his own body on the tree. The Lord our God has blessed us. Why have we come to faith when so many have not?
Because we’re clever, more gifted than others, perhaps, intellectually a little more astute? No, no, no. God choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He blessed us in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus. Why do we have the Spirit as the down payment of the promised inheritance?
Because the Spirit was bequeathed in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand. The Lord our God has blessed us. Why do we know something of the communion of the saints, the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ? As imperfect as we are, as guilt-ridden as we frequently act, nevertheless, with a foretaste of the fellowship, the koinonia, the communion of saints to be enjoyed and unrestricted love in the new heaven and the new earth and resurrection existence. Why? Why? Because the Lord our God has blessed us. Why can we have confidence in God’s fore-bearing continuance with us, bringing us at last to the pearly gates, bringing us at last to resurrection existence, where there is no more sin or death or sorrow or decay?
Well, it’s because the Lord our God has blessed us. “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 strength.”
Let us pray. Open our eyes, we beg of you, that we may see again and again the glory in which Scripture displays you. Open our eyes so that we may see wonderful things out of your most holy Word and anticipate the glory yet to come. Open our eyes, increase our faith, that in increasing measure, we may love you with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.
And within that holy love to experience rising waves of the joy of the Lord, even, on occasion, in the midst of suffering and death, as we anticipate the abolition of death and the abolition of sin, and the abolition of defeat, the abolition of care, and a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness, where all the glory is bound up with him who sits on the throne and the Lamb.
With this perspective, Lord, God, we call to you with Christians across every century, and we too cry, yes, even so, come, Lord Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.