Series: Possession: Claiming God's Promise - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 5, 2012
Would you turn with me to the book of Deuteronomy and we’ll come there in a moment. Also - in your bulletin there are Message Notes. Those will be helpful to you.
Think with me about the pivotal moments of life. A few examples from recent history. Remember this? The assassination of JFK. What about this? Man’s first step on the moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” What about this? The student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. How about this? 9.11.01. Those are pretty pivotal moments recent history. Right? In those moments our world changed.
One more. “The Catch.” Hugely significant pivotal moment.
There are pivotal moments in history. There are pivotal moments in our lives. Right?
Like being born. Being born is kinda significant. Isn’t it? What are some others? Death. Marriage. Moving away from home. Graduation. Getting our first real job. The birth of a child. The death of a parent or spouse. Diagnosis of a long term illness. Losing a job. Retirement. Hugely significant is when we trust Jesus with our lives.
Sometimes change happens in an instant. Sometimes change happens below our radar - over a period of time. Little subtle changes that add up. Like when we realize that our body no longer does what our mind tells it to do. For better or worse we realize that things have changed - dramatically.
Sometimes God leads us to a pivotal moment - calls on us to change.
In every pivotal moments of change we always have the choice to move forward trusting God or to hold back trusting ourselves. To choose - to trust God or trust ourselves. Sometimes we struggle with trusting God. Yes?
Deuteronomy is a pivotal moment in the life of God’s people. God’s people have been brought to the moment of change. There’s a question: Will they move forward trusting God?
Some background on Deuteronomy - to catch us up to where God’s people are. What’s going on. What’s pivotal.
Deuteronomy is the last of the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy begins with Moses preaching to God’s people and ends with the account of Moses’ death.
Because Moses disobeyed God - remember this? - Moses striking the rock with a rod instead of speaking to bring forth water for the people in the wilderness. Because Moses disobeyed God - God didn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land.
The end of Deuteronomy records that God ordered Moses to go up into Mount Nebo - which is here - Mount Nebo which overlooked the Promised Land. From Mount Nebo God allowed Moses to see the land. Then Moses died. Moses died and God buried him. No one but God knows where Moses is buried.
Before Moses died he preached the message that we have recorded here in Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book is “El-leh Had-barim” which means “these are the words.” These are the words Moses preached.
The name “Deuteronomy” comes from the Greek title “deuteros nomos.” Which means “second law.” What we have here - these words of Moses are a restatement of “the Law” for a new generation - new circumstances - new opportunities.
Do you hear pivotal change in that?
God’s people are camped out about here in the wilderness just east of the Jordan River. Just across the Jordan River from Jericho.
Grab this: This is a different generation that’s camped just across the Jordan River from Jericho.
After 40 years of God’s people wandering in the wilderness this is a new generation. Its a different generation than the generation that were slaves and came out of Egypt. A different generation than the one that came up to the Promised Land the first time and decided they couldn’t trust God. This a new generation with a new leader. Moses is getting dead. God is replacing Moses with Joshua.
Deuteronomy - the restatement of the law for a new generation. Moses’ last message looks ahead to the life that’s going to be theirs - this new generation as they step forward into the Promised Land.
Grab this. This is a huge pivotal moment. God’s people - the new generation - they’re done with the wilderness. They’re ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses’ message is all about trusting God as they step forward into this huge change in their lives.
Are we together?
Read with me Deuteronomy 4:1 and then we’ll come back and unpack this verse. Deuteronomy 4:1: And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
There are two parts to this verse that we want to focus on. The first part deals with The Land. Let’s say that together. “The land.”
Moses says, “Listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you”
Statutes and rules are terms that describe how God’s people are to live as God’s people. They’re ordinances and laws and procedures oh my. All that stuff in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers that makes for such great devotional reading. Take six homers of goat entrails and heave it with five hin of flour on Aaron to consecrate him as the priest.
Moses’ restatement - his teaching of the law for a new generation.
“Listen and do them.” Don’t just be hearers of the word. Make a choice to step forward in faith and do them. Reason being - so “that you may live, go in, and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”
To take possession - the Hebrew word - literally means to over run the people that are there. Wipe them out. Lay waste to their cities. Seize what’s there. Go in an conquer the place. Occupy the land. Take possession of it.
Take possession of what? The land. What land? The land that the Lord, the God of your fathers is giving you.
Who gives them the land? The Lord the God of your fathers. Emphasis being that God is the one who makes all that possible. And not just any god. But the God of your fathers. Meaning the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Patriarchs. The forefathers of the Hebrew nation.
Hold on to this. What God’s people are about to possess is a whole lot more than some dirt, rocks, and a few olive trees - a place to pasteurize sheep. Say this with me. “The land is more than dirt.”
Remember Abraham? In Genesis 11 - Abraham’s family is living in Ur. Great name for a city. “Where are you from?” “Ur.” Abraham’s family travels up to Haran - a city by what today is the border of Syria and Turkey.
In Genesis 12 God makes an incredible promise to Abraham. Remember this? A promise of what God would do in and through Abraham. An offer that included land - descendants living on that land - and incredible blessing - and that God was going to use Abraham and his descendants to be a blessing to all the nations of the world.
In Genesis 13 - God takes Abraham to the land of Canaan and says to him, “Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17)
God promised this land to Abraham and his descendants. For centuries God has been reaffirming that promise to His people.
Reading ahead - in Deuteronomy 34 - when God takes Moses up on Mount Nebo - just before Moses is about to get dead and buried. God shows Moses the land. God says to Moses, “I promised this land to Abraham. I’m going to give it to His descendants. You can’t enter it because you disobeyed Me. But this generation is going in to possess it.” (Deuteronomy 34:4)
Land is a place to call home. To put down roots. To belong. To cease wandering and restlessness. To watch generations grow.
Even deeper. When God’s people - trusting God - dwelt in the land in obedience to God’s statutes and rules - God dwelt with them. The land is a place of God’s blessing and presence.
What God is promising here - on a spiritual level - is about living daily in a deeply satisfying - intimate - relationship with God - and God’s people - where we know that we are His - that we belong to Him.
Thinking about that promise for ourselves. As those who are spiritually descendants of Abraham - our father - that promise of God has huge meaning for us as well.
We live in an increasingly dangerous world. Any question about that? Things are changing. Not always for the better.
America is an increasingly violent society. Schools are dangerous places. Gang violence is growing. Violence over drugs. We’re concerned for the safety of our children. Tons of people have home security systems. There are reasons for that. We’re concerned about identity theft - car theft - theft period. It wasn’t like this just a few years ago.
There are other things that cause fear - sickness - death - the insecurity of lost relationships - the economy or lack of.
We long to know who we are. We long for a sense of self-worth. Its way too easy to struggle with this - to suffer when we don’t know who we are.
In a changing world things like security and self-worth are huge.
We long for a place that’s ours - where we feel secure - welcomed - a place of peace. In many ways God has designed the church for that. When we trust Jesus with our lives He puts us into the Church - His body - this community - the fellowship of believers.
Even deeper. When we trust Jesus with our lives the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. God dwelling within us. We’re never alone. He gives us what we need to live each day. He’s our protector. Our guide. He gives purpose and value to our lives.
God promised Abraham and the offspring of Abraham - that’s us in Christ - that He - God - would be their God - our God - personally - intimately - knowing each of us and God being intimately known by us - a right relationship with God Himself. That’s astounding. Isn’t it? To know God and be known by Him on that intimate a level? Dwelling with God.
Don’t you long for that?
The land - what God is promising here - the land is whole lot more than dirt.
Hold on to God’s promise for yourself. God knows what you’re searching for and how to bless you with it. Only in Jesus is the answer to what we crave - restoration - self-worth - the possibility of being the men and women that we’ve been created to be.
Like Moses speaking to generation next. God speaks to us. Will you trust me? Will you step forward in faith claiming my promise?
In Hebrew - those two words are like a “therefore.” When we read a “therefore” we need to ask, “Wherefore the therefore.” When we see “and now” we can ask, “Why now?” Try that with me, “Why now?”
“And now” points backward to everything that’s been said before and looks forward to everything that’s to come. Because of all that’s been said up to now - from this point on - now - this is how you’re to live.
Chapters 1 to 3 are the “what’s been said up to now” part. They’re the history lesson part of Moses’ words to God’s people.
Some people here may been interested in watching football this afternoon so rather than taking the next few hours to read and think through all of Hebrew history were just going to touch the main points. Hang on to something.
In chapter 1 Moses begins his history lesson at Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai - where God gave His law to His people. By starting there Moses is reminding God’s people that it was God Who choose Abraham - Abraham living in Ur - God Who made all those promises to Abraham.
God Who preserved His people in Egypt. God Who made His people into a great nation. They multiplied like rabbits while they were Egypt. And God Who delivered His people out of Egypt - humbling Pharaoh - instituting the Passover sacrifice - leading them through the Red Sea - bringing them to Mount Horeb where God gives His law to His people.
Are you noticing a trend? Who’s behind all this? God. Hang on to that.
Then - going on in chapter 1 - Moses details the journey from Mount Horeb to the southern entrance to Canaan - the Promised Land - at a place called Kadesh Barnea. Ordinarily that journey took about 11 days. God’s people accomplished it in only 38 years. Why? Because the first time they came to the Promised Land and God said, “Possess it.” God’s people punted.
Remember this? Rather than taking God at His word and stepping forward in faith God’s people opted to send in spies who came back whining about giants and how there was no way they were ever going to conquer anything. And God’s people - at a huge pivotal moment - rather than stepping forward in faith - God’s people held back in fear.
So God said that He was going to punish His people by sending them back into the wilderness until the old generation - the one that had come out of Egypt - got dead and generation next was ready to step forward in faith.
Which is when God’s people decided that they weren’t going back into the wilderness but were going to take matters into their own hands and invade the Promised Land anyway. So they invaded Canaan under their own power and without God’s blessing and got spanked by the Amorites.
Grab that: These are rebellious people focused on themselves not God.
For 38 years God leads His people around the wilderness. God provides for His people - water - manna - quail. Even keeps their sandals from wearing out. All the time God’s people are whining. If there was something to whine about they whined about it.
In 2:7 Moses says “These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”
Grab that: Who’s taking care of the rebellious whiners? God.
Then - in chapters 2 and 3 - Moses reminds God’s people that God made them into a nation of mighty warriors. A people that other people feared. As they moved up through Moab and up towards where they’re camped across from Jericho God’s people conquered Gilead and Bashan. They killed the Amorite king Sihon, king of Heshbon. They killed Og, king of Bashan. Moving forward with God generation next is a power to be feared.
Who makes them into a feared mighty warrior nation? God.
Then - towards the end of chapter 3 - Moses reminds the people that the land east of the Jordan River - what they had already conquered - was divided between the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 the tribe of Manasseh.
That dividing up of the land they’d conquered took place with the understanding that the warriors from those tribes - Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 the tribe of Manasseh - that the warriors from those tribes would cross the Jordan and fight with the rest of God’s people. And notice this reasoning - after they took possession of the Promised Land then the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh could return to their families on the east side of the Jordan..
Grab that: That’s faith. We’re gonna possess the land and then come back. Who inspires that faith? God.
In 3:21 Moses says to Joshua - and God’s people: “Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings - Sihon and Og - conquering the east side of the Jordan River - So will the Lord do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.”
Who’s been faithful to His promises even when His people punted? God. Who took care of His people even when they rebelled and whined? God. Who fights for Israel? God. Who’s going to lead His people into the Promised Land and give them possession of it? God.
“And now” - “Why now?” At this pivotal moment in history - remember how we got here. Who got us here? God. And when we cross the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land - who will we trust? God. “The Lord, the God of our fathers, is giving it to us.”
The Old Testament - these 5 books of Moses - in many ways are a visual aid for us. They’re a demonstration in the flesh and blood lives of God’s people - a visual demonstration of what happens to us in our lives - in our relationship with God.
As God leads His people through the wilderness - and with all that they experienced there - and as He leads them into the Promised Land and all that that means - the obstacles and problems and enemies and victories - all that is really the same stuff of life that we go through - and especially in our relationship with God.
The bondage of Egypt - God’s people in slavery - is a living illustration of our bondage in sin to this world. What we experienced before we came to Christ. The land of Canaan - the Promised Land - flowing with milk and honey - pictures our life with God - victorious life that can be ours in Christ.
The truths of the New Testament are visually illustrated in the Old Testament. That’s why - when we talk about the pivotal moments in our lives - that’s why we can come to a moment in time - like this one for God’s people - and see ourselves. To hear Moses’ words for ourselves and to learn along with them - as they did - what it means to live life with God - stepping forward trusting God - in the pivotal moments - in all the moments or our lives.
There’s a huge difference between playing golf and wandering around a grassy area chasing a small white ball with a club. How many of you have played golf? Even mini-golf? Or, at least made the attempt?
Golf can be frustrating. Yes? But, one of the great things about golf is that every hole is a new opportunity. We get to start over again. It doesn’t matter how many balls have bounced off the windmill. Standing at the tee we’re a new man ready to take on the volcano.
Which is like our relationship with God. Isn’t it? The only difference is that God doesn’t keep cumulative scores.
God takes a rebellious nation - leads them through the wilderness - brings them back to His promises and says, “And now, will you trust Me?”
It really doesn’t matter how we’ve messed up in life or where we’ve punted in the past. It doesn’t matter how inadequate we may feel or what obstacles we may be up against. In the pivotal moments of our lives - with the opportunities that God lays before us - with the promise of God to be there - to dwell with us as we move forward - the question is will we hang back trusting ourselves or will we step forward in faith trusting God?
We need to grab some truth here. Why should we trust God and step forward in faith? One huge truth: The only constant in life is change. Heard that? The only constant in change is God. Let’s repeat that together. “The only constant in change is God.”
Do you remember what David wrote in Psalm 139?
“For you - God - formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
What’s a huge mind bender is to realize that God knew every detail of our lives before creation was creation. Before we were conceived God knew everything about us and He still created us.
Ponder that. Your face and features, your voice, your style, your background, your characteristics and peculiarities, your abilities, your smile, your walk, your viewpoint.... everything that is uniquely you God knew before you were even conceived.
God tells the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Before we were born - even before we were conceived - God gives purpose to our lives. God’s purpose for us doesn’t change because we punt. God’s promise to us is still there even when we rebel against Him. God loves us even when we reject Him.
God knew every detail of our life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Every thing we’ve said, done, or thought that was sin - all of it - God knew about - before He created us. And He created us anyway. And He’s been there with us through it all. Whether we’ve acknowledged Him or not.
A while back I was in a downward spiral of depression and I was struggling with trusting God. So I started writing out all the pivotal moments in my life and thinking about how God had been with me through all that. Thinking about some of the stuff I’ve done in life I’m not really comfortable thinking that God was right there as a witness of it. But He was there. If we starting looking at our lives - even in the worst of it - if we look for Him - we’ll see that God’s been there with us.
Moses’ history lesson is a reminder of where God’s people have come from and how - despite themselves - God got them to where they are. A huge reason to trust God.
It really helps to process that truth for ourselves. God being involved in the details of our lives despite ourselves - despite our sin and rebellion. God working His purposes. God lavishing His love on us. God calling us to step forward into His promises.
Grab this: The Almighty sovereign God of creation designed you - planned out the days of your life - even before you were born - before creation was creation He knew you. And He loved you. Loves you so much that He came and died in your place to pay your penalty for your sin so that you could live forgiven - restored - according to the incredible purposes for which He - the Almighty sovereign God of Creation - your Heavenly Father - has created you.
Not because of all the great things we’ve done for God or ever could do for God. But in spite of ourselves God because God is the God of grace who chooses to be gracious to us - hangs in there with us - loves us - saves us - and continues to hang in there with us.
Grab that for yourself. God doesn’t recruit heroes. Christianity isn’t attractive or true or commendable because all kinds of wonderful people embrace it. Because the most intelligent, prosperous, powerful, winners in the game of life, the “in” crowd choose to follow Jesus.
The gospel - the church of Jesus Christ - God attracts His enemies - the losers - the wounded - people who can’t seem to love themselves - people who are genuinely messed up - who’ve failed, often miserably. Just look around. Share this with someone near you. “We belong here.”
God makes something out of sinners - out of hurting people - struggling to do life. He lifts us up. He cleans us up. He heals our wounds. Forgives our sins and sets us out to accomplish great things that we could never imagine ourselves having a shot at being a part of.
Why trust God and step forward - trusting that He’ll be there with us - dwelling with us - never leaving us - fulfilling His promise to us? Why trust God when we come up against those life changing moments that stun us and rock us and shake us to the core of who we are and when it seems so much safer to hang back and trust ourselves?
Because the only constant in change is God. And our God has never and will never change in His love towards us.
On your Message Notes there’s a second part. The “Taking It Home” part. There are questions there that are take home questions. Some questions to help you think about and reflect on what we’ve been looking at this morning. Maybe something you’d like to think through during your time with God this week. Maybe something you’d like to think through with others. Something to discuss together.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.