Summary: God doesn’t want us to obey Him just because we’re afraid of punishment. He longs for loving obedience that comes from our hearts.
Opening illustration: A Colorado Springs woman sits in her car in front of an elementary school every weekday afternoon and points a hair dryer out her window at passing vehicles. Many drivers mistake the hand-held dryer for a radar gun and slow down. Mission accomplished! The speed limit is posted in the school zone but it often takes the threat of punishment to make drivers obey the law.
That’s a sobering picture of us all, even in our relationship with God. Instead of an inner willingness to follow God, it may take the force of difficult circumstances to turn us toward Him. But that’s not how our heavenly Father wants it to be.
The Lord has always longed for His people to obey Him from their hearts. When the Israelites were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses reviewed the Ten Commandments and then told them God’s response to their intention to keep His law: “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
God doesn’t want us to obey Him just because we’re afraid of punishment. He longs for loving obedience that comes from our hearts. (David C. McCasland, ODB)
Let us turn to Deuteronomy 5 and catch up with the excuses the Israelites made before God …
Introduction: The Law was never intended to enslave one to the Law but to enhance the liberated life. The Law was given not as a burdensome imposition, but to help us remember the grace of the God who redeemed us from our horrific life of slavery. The Law was never intended to bind us to a code of conduct but to deepen our covenant relationship with God. The Law was never intended to make us mad but to protect us.
After repeating the Ten Commandments which God delivered to Israel by the hand of Moses, Moses recalls the scene at the foot of Mount Sinai after the law had been given. The glory of God's presence was still surrounding the mountain, the majesty of God was displayed in fire, thunder, and darkness and the people cowered in fear. Though God wanted to meet up with them one-on-one, the children of Israel had excuses not to. Though God wanted to have an intimate relationship with them, the children of Israel had excuses not to. Though God wanted their obedience, the children of Israel had excuses not to.
We live in almost the same realm and attitude as the Israelites. God wants the best for us and desires to have an intimate relationship with us but how are we responding to Him? Do we also have similar excuses to avoid God, just as the children of Israel had …?
Why is our relationship with God NOT intimate?
1. Excuses to avoid God (vs. 23-26)
• Do not want to face reality
• Cannot handle the truth
• Fear of God’s Judgment (coming)
• Exposure of our sin
• Fear of being killed by God’s presence
• Don’t have the ability to handle or deal with God
• Know that God will talk the hard stuff … might get defensive and not submit
• Pride … I don’t know Who He is … I don’t want Him intruding my life.
• Let Him do His stuff and I will do mine
• Might get into a vulnerable or contentious situation
• Fear of the flesh being unable to sustain the presence of God
• Fear of shutting down
• Fear of the unknown and death
Illustration: Forget about non-believers, today even believers have a hard time being on one-on-one with God. Most believers don’t even venture out to exercise their God given gifts … Fear of not know how to deal and handle Him, so they write them off saying these are not needed and operational in todays’ context without giving any scriptural backing. This is the best way to avoid God and His manifested presence.
2. Excuses to keep a distant relationship with God (vs. 27-30)
• I can have a relationship with God as long as He doesn’t interfere in my life.
• Say hi whenever you want to and get out when your flesh doesn’t want to be around.
• We might argue that God is distant from us but the reality is living in a lifestyle of sin will always encourage us to keep a distant relationship with God
• We cannot run our lives freely on feelings
• We get intimidated by God’s presence in our lives because it is intrusive … not to forget that love is intrusive and God doesn’t want to end the relationship at salvation but to grow tightly thereafter