“THE EYES OF THE LORD ON THIS LAND” By Pastor YAU
Text: Deuteronomy 11:8-12 December 29, 2013.
1) Words of hope 4,000 years ago: The Book of Deuteronomy was written over 4,000 years ago when the Israelis were about to enter into a new land God had promised to their ancestor Abraham 1,000 years earlier. They had wandered over 40 years in the wilderness with success and failure, faith and confusion, and now they were about to enter into the Promised Land. God, through Moses, sent them words of hope and confidence before they step into the new land with new challenges. To receive a promise of land is much easier than to enter, conquer and occupy the land. God didn't want to leave them on their own to enjoy the Promised Land. God had laid out some important strategy of success and blessing so they would know what they need to do to fulfill the promise God had for them.
2) Words of hope 4,000 years later: As God promised the Israelis his eyes will continually on the Promised Land over 4,000 years ago to carry them into the land, never to leave them on their own to face the challenges, in the same way, God will set his eye on this land the FCBC is located, not to leave us on our own to face the challenges we may face in the years to come. We have entered into this land 15 years ago in 1998, and we have our fair share of success and failure, good faith and some confusion as did the Israelis. Now God wants us to know that he is still with us, his eyes are continually on this land and this church to lead us to face the opportunities and challenges in the new year to come. Let us learn from his word what God intends to do in us and what we need to do to stay in this land and to prosper in what we may do to fulfill the goal God has on us.
GOD'S PLAN FOR THE FUTURE: (Deuteronomy 11:8-12)
1) Be strong to take the land: “Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (11:8) “Have the strength” may be better translated as “be strong” to understand God's command. One of the many weaknesses the Israelis had during the wandering years is their fear of everything: the difficulties in the environment, the giants in Jericho, the lack of food and water, the weak faith of some leaders, the murmuring of the people and their lingering memory of Egypt, just to name a few. Fear is the worst enemy of God's people, be it in our own life or in our church life. Fear could paralyze our faith and hope to live, serve or to achieve great things for God. Many Christians won't get involved to serve, to help, to give, because they are afraid of commitment, failure or responsibility. Remember if we live in fear, we will never cross over the Jordan to take over the new land.
2) Live long in that land: “So that you may live long in the land the Lord sworn to your forefather.” (11:9) “Live long” or “stay long” is a sign of long term blessing of the Lord on his people. In biblical culture, “long” is God's intent for his people: long life, long friendship, long marriage, long blessing, just to name a few. Biblical culture is not as it is today, only seek temporary gratification at the moment, and never pursue anything that lasts long. God has a plan for Israelis to live in that land for long, long time. That Promised Land is not a short term lease but a title deed forever. God wants us to be his children, to receive his favor and blessing for long, long time. He also wants to see us have a long term relationship with him, long term commitment to him and enjoy blessing from him for long, long years.
3) The new is better than the old: “The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains, and valleys that drink rain from heaven.” (11:9-10) How much can you plant a vegetable garden and water it by carrying water on foot? God has something much better for all of us: He will bring us into a land of mountain and valleys so big God has to send rain for irrigation to grow the crop for good harvest. If you think what you have is fine and enough, you need to see what God can do for you if you put your trust in him. Too many Christians have a problem of being short-sighted. If we can have the faith to launch into something new we will see God's blessing on us much more and greater in new horizon.
4) The Lord promises to care for you: “It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to the end.” (11:12) “Beginning to the end” includes each and every day of the years. God promised to care the land and all the people who lived in it. What else will you ask the Lord to do for you in the new year to come? If you are looking for a better day in the new year, you have God's promise to support your dream. We all may worry what may happen in the new year to come and how we may face them. But we need to know that God won't leave us alone to face the new year. He promises to care for us each and everyday.
GOD'S GUIDELINES FOR THE FUTURE: (Deut. 11:13-17) No one may do enough good to earn God's blessings. It is always by God's grace. But God sets guidelines in the Bible so we may prepare ourselves fit to receive his blessings. Here God set clear guidelines for the Israelis and us so we may follow his blueprint to inherit all the good life listed above.
1) Observe the commands of God: “Observe all the commands I am giving you today.” (11:8) Although all blessings of God is from grace, God always set conditions for his people to observe, obey, and follow his commands so we will be in right position to be blessed. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:21, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes.” The commands of God were given to show us how to live our life suitable to receive his grace and blessing. Getting to know God's word, obey his word, follow his direction is the key to inherit his promised blessing. To observe means to “keep doing” as we observe some national days like Labor Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We keep observing these days because we see them as important in our nation. Same way we need to observe God's commands and keep doing them without any breaking.
2) Love the Lord our God: “If you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today---to love the Lord your God.” (11:13) What does it mean to obey the commands of God? First, it means “to love the Lord your God.” To obey doesn't necessarily “to love.” We obey many laws of the land like traffic law, tax law, but how often we “love” those laws? God demands higher attitude in “obey.” He wants to see us obey him not because of duty but because of love. Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) How do we know if we love the Lord? We love him by obeying his commands. Love is the foundation of obedience. To the Ephesian church which had done a lot of good work, Jesus still had one thing against them: They had lost their first love to the Lord.” (Rev 2:4)
3) Serve the Lord our God: “And to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (11:13b) This is a repetition of 10:12, “O, Israel, what doles the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his way, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” Love is in the heart on the inside, service is in action on the outside. If we truly love God on the inside, we will serve him diligently on the outside. Serving the Lord is a sure expression of loving the Lord. We all love to serve our loved ones, to do things to make their life happier, better, to show them how we love them by how we serve them in our works.
4) Be careful never to turn away: “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.” (11:16) This is the sin God hates the most---to have other gods in the hearts of his children. To have other gods in heart, to worship them and to bow down to them is the cardinal sin in the Old Testament. God listed this as the two most important in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-6. Throughout the Old Testament God showed Israelis how much he hated idols in their hearts and their deeds. Idols of all kind will certainly entice God's children to turn away from God, much less to love God or serve God. It is very very important we have our whole heart dedicated only to God, to love him, obey his commands and to serve him. God wants to know he is the first in our hearts and lives: “You shall have no other gods except me.” (Ex 20:3) If we are sincere on receiving blessings of God, we need to be very careful not to have anyone or anything become gods in out heart or our mind.
APPLICATIONS OF TRUTH:
1) All is for your own good: “To observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.” (Deut 10:13) Too many of us mistaken the purpose of God in demanding we obey his law, serve him with all our heart as burdens to benefit God. Think of this: Is there anything we may do or give to make God better, more or richer? God wants us to love him and serve him not for his benefits but ours. This is true because by obeying God and serving God, we put us in position to receive his abundant grace and blessings. “For your own good” is God's intend in asking us to do all this. If you know the secrets on how to win a lottery, won't you take all steps to win one? To receive blessing of God is a million times better than to win a lottery. Why won't you follow God's guidelines to be in position so God can shower his blessings on you, “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)
2) Never too late to join in: “In the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7) This is the purpose of the parables of lost and found Jesus gave in Luke 15. The moral of these parables is the joy God and all heavenly hosts have when a sinner repents and joins the crowd of God's people in loving him, obeying him and serving him in that new land of the grace. The kingdom of God is not a country club only for the privileged but a home for all who seek for eternity and find one in the Lord Jesus Christ.