Series: Possession: Claiming God's Promise - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 26, 2012
Over the last few Sundays we’ve been looking at Deuteronomy. This morning we’re coming to Deuteronomy 5.
God promised His people land - the Promised Land. That land is a whole lot more than dirt with milk and honey growing on it. God told His people - if you live on that land obeying me - I will dwell with you. You will experience my presence and blessing - the intimate personal presence and blessing of the Almighty God of creation. That’s huge.
Spiritually - as descendants of Abraham - because of Jesus - as those who participate in God’s promises to His people - we can know God’s intimate personal presence and blessing in our lives. (Romans 11:11ff)
Over the past few Sundays - as we’ve been looking at Deuteronomy - we’ve seen that God’s people - generation next - have come to the east side of the Jordan River. They’re camped there. Poised there. Ready to step across the river into the Promised Land - to take possession of what God has promised to them.
The big question is will they do it. Generation previous - same situation - punted - wimped out. Generation next is being called on to step forward in faith - into the land of strong warriors and fortified cities and giants (oh my). Just as we’re called to step forward in faith every day in the midst of the stuff of our lives. Will they - will we - step forward in faith trusting that God will be there with them?
Moses the Motivator - speaking to God’s people - has been getting them pumped up - ready to cross the river - preparing them to step forward in faith. Moses’ pep talk is not just a bunch of spiritual platitudes - “Trust God” “Have faith” “Pray more” “Go out there and win just one more for Yahweh”
Life is way too serious for that. Moses deals with “why” we should trust God. Which is the hugeness of what Chris Tomlin captures in his Song. (Chris Tomlin: “Our God”)
Who God is: “There's no one like you none like You! Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.”
And what God does: “Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind…Into the darkness you shine out of the ashes we rise there's no one like you none like You! Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God!”
Step forward in faith trusting God - why? Because what God has done - redeeming His people out of Egypt - providing for them - and on and on - what God has done reveals Who God is - His essence and character - and Who God is reveals what God will do.
Chris Tomlin: “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us. And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.”
Our God has and is and will be there for us. Our circumstances may change but God will never change in His love for us. His presence. His provision His protection. His fulfilling of His promises. That’s huge. Isn’t it?
Coming to Deuteronomy 5 - what we began looking at last Sunday - and by the way these messages are on line if you want to go back and catch up with where we are.
Coming to Deuteronomy 5 - we’ve been looking at “how.” How do we step forward in faith trusting God? To answer the “how” question - Moses has been reminding the people of the Ten Commandments.
Last Sunday - we looked at commandments 1 to 4 - which focus on God. The first 4 commandments that Jesus summarized - familiar words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37).
Question: How do we step forward in faith trusting God? Answer #1: Love God supremely.
This morning we’re coming to commandments 5 to 10 - which focus on our relationships with others. Commands that Jesus summarizes - familiar words: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39).
How do we step forward in faith trusting God.? Answer #2: Love Others Sacrificially. Let’s say that together. “Love others sacrificially.”
Answer number one is: “Love God supremely.” Answer number two: “Love others sacrificially.”
What does it mean to love others sacrificially?
Deuteronomy 5 - starting at verse 16 - let’s read this out loud together: Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Walk with me through this commandment.
To “honor” is the Hebrew word “kabed.” “Kabed” is the place of authority over our lives that we give to others. “Kabed” means to lift up our parents - to give them a unique place of respect and dignity and influence over our lives.
There are a number of examples in Scripture of what “kabeding” our parents looks.
Proverbs 15:5 calls on us to listen to our parents and respect their discipline and guidance and wisdom.
Proverbs 15:20 encourages us to do things that make our parents glad by not rebelling against their authority.
Proverbs 19:26 says that honoring our parents means that we don’t physically abuse or reject our parents. When we - the kids become the parents - we help and care for our parents.
Proverbs 20:20 and 30:11 tells us to honor our parents means that we speak well of them. We lift up their character and reputation before others. We bless them instead of cursing them.
Colossians 3:20 tells us to obey our parents.
Then with honoring comes God’s promise - which is what? that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you.” Sounds Vulcan: ‘Live long and prosper.”
Children learn honor as they watch us honor our parents. In the family where parents are honored - children learn how to honor each other - to respect others - family - extended family - neighbors - to give authority to others - police - government - to take responsibility within the family and our community. People who are emotionally balanced and mature are those who’ve learned to rightly relate to authority.
Genesis 25:8 says that when Abraham was 175 years old, “He breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life…”
There’s a personal promise here - fullness of life - life worth living - quality not just quantity of years. Being able to look back on our lives with satisfaction - with no sense of loss or need to do more.
That promise extends downward through the generations. Being able to look down through the generations as our children - and their children’s children - learn to honor their parents. Living full and prosperous lives in the land God will bring them to. Walking through life with God. Living with God in His promises.
Honor your father and your mother - live long and prosper.
That means sacrificial living.
The reality is that tons of people do not grow up in a “Leave It To Beaver” kind of home. Do you remember the Cleavers? June always mending or baking - always dressed so nice with perfect hair. Ward - the understanding strong father figure - even tempered - offering pearls of great wisdom. Having a brother like Wally - athletic - a good student - a sharp dresser. The Beave - always into a little mischief. Grounded maybe. But never really clobbered by Dad.
You don’t have to raise your hands. How many here have grown up in homes where your parents failed? Where approval was out of your reach? Favoritism was shown? You walked through emotional minefields? There was physical and emotional abuse. For you the residue of childhood includes anger and fear and difficulty trusting people - let alone God? Honoring your parents is the farthest thing from your mind
If you have Godly parents - if you’re sitting there saying to yourself, “I have no clue what he’s talking about” - praise God and thank your parents. Honor them. Follow their example as you raise your children.
Let me be clear on this. There are times when legal recourse needs to be pursued. There are times when for our own sake - as well as the well being of others - that confrontation needs to take place. There are times when the struggles and issues that result from abuse need to be worked through with a competent - wise - Godly - counselor. If you’re in that kind of circumstance do not hesitate to pursue the help you need.
But grab the point. Honoring takes place between generations. It is a choice that we make to honor our parents.
Honoring parents does not mean that we have to have warm fuzzy feelings and happy memories of camp outs and meal times together - post it on Facebook moments. Honoring is a choice to acknowledge who are parents are. Perhaps to honor them with forgiveness and then to move on. Perhaps honoring comes in the midst of illness.
Please hear this. We don’t choose our parents or the environment we grow up in. But we can choose how to respond to them. God gives us a choice - we can be bound by the past or we can move forward into God’s future.
That choice to honor - made easy by our parents or made hard - will mean sacrificing ourselves - our prerogatives - our time - our resources - doing whatever it takes - in order to honor them - to forgive - to love - to care for them with the kind of honoring that God calls us to.
Going on - “how” number two - verse 17 - let’s read this together: “You shall not murder.”
Do you remember who this is? The late Ray Charles - remember Ray? - the late Ray Charles once said, “Live every day like it’s your last, ’cause one day you’re gonna be right.” (1)
Life is valuable. Life is precious. Life is priceless. Life is to be cherished - valued.
In Hebrew there are seven different words for killing. Each has its own specific meaning and application. Here in the sixth commandment the word for “murder” is the Hebrew word “ratsach.” There are two ways that “ratsach” is used.
First - “ratsach” describes personal premeditated killing .
The issues of capital punishment or waging war - things that a government might do - aren’t included here. We have to go elsewhere in Scripture to understand God’s teaching about those issues. What God is focused on here is personal - the premeditated killing of a personal enemy - or an innocent victim - or even our taking of our own lives - suicide.
Second, “ratsach” is used to describe manslaughter by negligence - death because of something we fail to do.
In the Old Testament, God’s people were required to take precautions in order to protect life. In Exodus 21:28 - God told His people - if you have an ox and it gores someone and that person dies - then the ox is to be stoned - killed. But the owner of the ox gets to keep living. Because it was an accident. But, if you don’t kill your ox - or keep the killer ox penned in - and it goes out and gores someone else then the owner is put to death. There’s punishment. You’ve been negligent - because you knew what could happen. (Exodus 21:28,29)
The basis of the command “you shall not murder” - the basis of that command is found in Genesis 9:6. God speaks to Noah. God says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.”
God took dirt and formed Adam in His own image - breathed into Adam His breath - created in us a living soul. Life is sacred - to be valued - because God made it so.
Ray Stedman once said, “If you lose God, you lose man.” (2)
The struggles that we have today - in wrestling with issues like - abortion - stem cell research - euthanasia - assisted suicide - to a tremendous degree that struggle is because we’ve forgotten the truth behind this sixth commandment. Man is created in the image of God. Value God and you will value human life.
The sixth commandment teaches us the value of life. We need to see God in the life of others. To realize that the planned taking of that life - or negligence that results in death - murder is a rejection of God and the value He places on human life.
Commandment #6 - means we need to sacrifice for others - to value the lives of others as we value our own life. We sacrifice for ourselves - right? We need to go out of our way - even living sacrificially for others - to protect their lives.
Going on - verse 18 - “how” number three - let’s read this together: “And you shall not commit adultery.”
Put positively: “You shall be committed to marriage.” Marriage is to be protected - cherished - nurtured. Never violated. Be committed to the sanctity of marriage. Especially today - when marriage is being attacked - its crucial for us to be reminded of and committed to the uniqueness and goodness and worth of marriage as God has designed it to be.
Adultery - as the Bible defines adultery - is the act by which a married man or women becomes sexually involved with a member of the opposite - or same sex - outside of marriage.
The people who take surveys have found that about one-third of men in the United States and about one-quarter of women will admit to having had at least one extramarital sexual experience. (3) Those numbers seem to be pretty consistent for those within the church as well.
There are web sites that give instructions - useful information - helpful hints - on how to have an affair. There are a number of online services that can help us connect with someone to have an affair with. Cyber-sex - pornography - virtual adultery - chatting and hooking up - is just a click away. As someone said, “We just clicked.”
Remember how Jesus took adultery to another level? Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said - Old Testament law - You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27,28)
The people were saying, “I haven’t cheated. I’m not guilty of breaking the commandment.” We might be tempted to think the same thing today. Its sobering to think that both Jesus and Moses were talking to a crowd of adulterers. Given Jesus’ teaching, it would be safe to say that there isn’t anyone here this morning that isn’t guilty of adultery.
Jesus talking about what? The character of our heart. The deep stuff inside that shapes our thoughts and actions.
Adultery focuses on us - self-gratification - getting my needs met - always at the expense of someone else. Any married person knows form experience that marriage requires sacrifice. Giving up or our selves in order to love as God has loved us.
Paul writes to the Ephesian church: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…. Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.... Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:1,2,22,25).
Do you hear sacrifice in that? The choice to be committed to the sanctity of marriage?
How to step forward in faith - number 4 - verse 19 - read this with me: “And you shall not steal.”
The Hebrew word for “steal” is “ganab” - which originally had the idea of kidnapping. Sounds kind of like kidnapping doesn’t it? Try it with me, “ganab.” To “ganab” someone is to “nab” them.
Remember Joseph? Joseph’s brothers grabbed Joseph and threw him into a pit. They stripped him - took the coat that their father had given him - sold him for 20 shekels of silver to a caravan of Ishmaelites - spice traders on their way to Egypt. In Egypt Joseph ends up as Potiphar’s slave - stripped of his possessions - his inheritance stolen from him - his hopes and dreams are shattered. (Genesis 37:17-36)
Kidnapping is the ultimate in stealing. Kidnapping someone is to take from them their life - their reputation - their goods - their productivity - their hopes - their dreams. “To steal” - ultimately is when we show such disrespect for a person that we take from them what is rightfully theirs to possesses - even destroying who they are in the process.
Would you agree with this? In our culture, stealing is a way of life.
Corporations lie about their products - advertisements that exaggerate the quality of an item - packaging that’s twice the size of the product. Buyer beware. Because if we’re not we’re going to get ripped off.
Employees steal from employers. A report I saw said that 80% of employees steal an average of 3 hours and 45 minutes per week from their employers - all those perks of time and things we allow ourselves. (4)
Today it seems like the majority of Americans expect someone else to pay for the benefits we keep voting for ourselves. Cut some other program. Not the one that benefits me. Just keep borrowing and keep spending. Who cares what it costs the other person.
Remember the bumper sticker: “Hit me I need the money”? What do I get out of it? How can I get ahead? What’s the bottom line for me?
We could go on with this - example after example. We live in a society where stealing is a way of life. But for Christians it shouldn’t be. We must live different.
Sometimes that puts us at a disadvantage - not playing the world’s version of winner take all. It may mean looking out for the other guy. Putting others ahead of us in line. Honesty and integrity in our dealings with others - in business - with out taxes - in the way we conduct ourselves with our neighbors.
How to step forward in faith number 5 - comes in verse 20. Let’s read it together: “And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
In Hebrew, “to bear false witness” is a legal term. It has to do with giving false testimony in a court of law.
Have you heard this? “Sticks and stones may break my bones. But names can - what? - never hurt me.” And yet, saying what is untrue about a person - their character - their reputation - giving false witness - can be terribly destructive.
False witness can be a false impression given. Seeming to be in agreement with something by keeping silent. Not wanting to stick our necks out and say something when we know what’s being said is wrong.
False witness can be a suggestion. We might say, “Did you know that Gertrude left her husband?” And leave off the part about her visiting her sick sister.
Gossip is bearing false witness. How many times have we heard - or said - “Just so you can pray about this, I thought you should know…”
Slander - is false witness - inventing and circulating a lie with malicious intentions.
The ninth commandment was given as an expectation of the way God’s people were to treat God’s people. Don’t lie “against your - who? your neighbor.” “Your neighbor” was the rest of the Hebrew nation.
Jesus - answering the question of “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus expanded the neighborhood to include everyone - including the dreaded Samaritans. (Luke 10:25-37 - see also Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5). Another time Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said - the religious tradition and laws that you’ve been taught is this - You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43,44)
“How” number 5 is about sanctifying truth in all our relationships.
Deceit - manipulation - silence in the face of falsehood is self-centered. It shows that we’re trusting ourselves and not God. Trying to save our own skin rather than trusting God to take care of us. To the degree we’ve come to trust God with our lives we’ll be able to speak truth.
In a society that rejects the idea of absolute truth - where truth is bent - strained - to support what we desire for ourselves - we who believe that God has spoken truth in His word - we have an obligation to speak truth. The greatest of which is that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. That only way to God is through Jesus. (John 14:6)
That will involve bearing true witness - speaking for what is right - defending the defenseless - even if it means being misunderstood - ridiculed - rejected. Even if it means seemingly lost opportunities and the appearance of lost advantage. It means sacrifice for others.
How to step forward in faith number 6 comes in verse 21. Let’s read this together: “And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
There are five examples of coveting here. Briefly walk through them with me.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” Which is about the desire for the relationship of a husband and wife. Looking at someone else’s wife - seeing the kind of intimacy and attention that she gives her husband - their husband/wife relationship - and wanting that with her.
Or - when your husband is passed out on his barko-lounger in front of the football game - the temptation to think - “Why can’t he be more like so-and-so” is a heartbeat away from “I wish so-and-so was my husband.”
Second example: “You shall not desire your neighbor’s house and land.” The Hebrew word for house describes where someone dwells - a physical house - a tent - the land they dwell on - what they pass down through the generations. “House” - also describes household. “Their kids are so much better behaved than mine. They don’t have the family issues we have.” Desiring the family life of others.
Third example: “Your neighbor’s male or female servant” A person with servants could leave the day to day drudgery of the household to the servants - the dusting - the vacuuming - watering the camels. With servants there’s time off - leisure time - creature comforts. He and the wife get to take the Winnebago Chariot on family vacations to exotic places like Ur. The example is about coveting the lifestyle and experiences of others.
Fourth example - “your neighbor’s ox or donkey” - has to do with coveting some one else’s means of making a living - their education - job - career - income - wealth - economic level - their success - their situation in life.
Then fifth - “anything else” - someone else’s looks - their abilities - their walk with God - God’s blessing of someone - and we could go on adding to the list. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s golf cart” The list of what we covet is long.
“Don’t covet” - “Do not desire what is inappropriate for you to have.”
Hang on to this. When we covet it exposes our choice of choosing our own wisdom over God’s wisdom. We say to God that we know what would make us happy and serve our needs better than He does. We’re ungrateful for what He gives us. We reject His provision.
When we covet we cannot rejoice when God blesses others. We’re in competition with them. We desire what others have. We become bitter and angry and jealous. We miss the joy of seeing God at work in others.
Covet the right thing. Desire what God desires for others. That means sacrificing my wants for other’s needs.
We need to ask, “Do I desire what God desires? Am I serving Him or myself. Is my heart in tune with God’s heart? Am I desiring God’s best for others.”
Life is about God - not us. God has created us and redeemed us. When we love God supremely and choose to love others sacrificially we begin to live by faith - trusting God - following God into His promises - into the unimaginable opportunities that He lays before us.
To give us just a glimpse of that we have a short video clip. As you watch this - think about the possibilities of what God might do in your or through you - if you were to love Him supremely and others sacrificially.
(Video - Strangers)
1. Quoted in Leadership, Fall 2004, page 91
2. Quoted by Steve Zeisler, sermon “Respect For Life”
3. The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, 1993, and the University of Chicago study quoted in US News and World Report, 08.31.984. Jerry White, Honesty, Morality, and Conscience, page 95
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.