October 3, 2004
Text: Deuteronomy 4: 30-40
Subject: A Call to Obedience
Title: Jesus, Our Only Hope
What is hope? Webster’s dictionary defines it as, “a confident expectation that a desire will be fulfilled; wishful trust; something which one longs to see realized” That is a pretty good definition isn’t it?
Bernard M. Baruch tells the story of a man sentenced to death, who obtained a reprieve by assuring the king he would teach his majesty’s horse to fly within the year--on the condition that if he didn’t succeed, he would be put to death at the end of the year. "Within a year," the man explained later, "the king may die, or I may die, or the horse may die. Furthermore, in a year, who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to fly."
This man’s hope was based on something unknown. Hope, when put into effect, becomes faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Webster’s definition goes even a step further saying that hope is, “a person in whom confidence is placed or who could provide what is wanted; the virtue by which a Christian looks with confidence for God’s grace in this world and glory in the next.” We go through this life with the hope that this is not all. There is something better coming. We have God’s word on it.
In Deuteronomy 1-4:28 Moses recaps the history of the wilderness journey. He points out the failings of the people. What should have taken eleven days has turned into a forty-year trip. God led them up to the land of promise and they refused to go in. He reminds them of the battles they fought along the way. He encourages them by recalling the wonders they have seen. And he warns them of the dangers of idolatry. He even prophesies of their idolatrous nature and the coming captivity in Babylon. He concludes this section in 4:29 on a positive note, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.”
What does this have to do with us as Christians? As the children of Israel stumbled around in the desert, manna and water were supernaturally provide for them. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says, “all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” As Moses reminds Israel that their only hope is in trusting God, we Christians are remind that if we have any hope in this world, that hope is Jesus. He is our only hope.
I. SEEKING GOD’S PROTECTION. (30-31)
A. Turn to the Lord. Verse 30 plainly states the true nature of man. When given a choice between good and evil, we will often make the wrong choice. “When you are in distress and all these things come upon you in the latter days…” What things is Moses talking about? All the results of disobedience that he has mentioned before! We all know the testimonies of people who hit rock bottom and turned to Jesus only to be miraculously saved and changed. The problem with the nation of Israel for the most part was that they didn’t even realize they had gone astray. It happened so subtly that they thought they were still God’s chosen people and everything was all right. Right up to the time of the Babylonian captivity the so-called “prophets” were prophesying good news and victory. They couldn’t even tell that it was not God that they were hearing from. Though many go through the “rock bottom” experience, many of us were like Israel and didn’t even know it. We were “religious” enough to think we were somebody in God’s eyes. But we were in distress. But through the prayers of friends and family and the grace of a loving God, we were led out of the bondage of sin and into the freedom of His mercy. When we turned to Him, He had His arms open wide saying, “welcome home.”
B. Obey His Voice. Turning to God requires more than a confession of faith. It requires hearing and obeying. What does it mean to be obedient to God? We must understand that we are saved by grace. There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. Being obedient to God’s voice means giving up on our own righteousness and trusting Jesus. He is the only one who can save. After we are saved God’s grace continues to work through us to enable us to live lives that are holy and pleasing to Him.
C. Trust His Mercy. Moses reminds Israel of God’s mercy. Even though they were a rebellious people deserving of death, He is faithful to keep the contract that He had initiated with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Verse 31, “He will not forsake you nor destroy you…” Jesus established a New Covenant with those who accept it; the covenant of His blood… He will not break it. There are song lyrics that go like this, “When everything around is sinking sand, on Christ the solid Rock I stand. When I need a shelter when I need a friend, I go to the Rock. Turn to Jesus. Obey His voice. Trust His mercy. You really have nothing to lose but and eternity to gain.
II. REMEMBERING GOD’S PROMISES. (32-34)
A. Power of Creativity. “For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like it has been heard.” When you doubt God just go back and look at who His creation says He is. He set the universe into motion. He designed the great expanses of space and the most minute details of the human body. He spun the earth at just the right speed and tilted it at the right angle to sustain the life He created. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (divine nature) so they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) His divine nature and the promises that accompany it are revealed to us by His Spirit and through His word. When we look at what God has done in the past, it should be just a small step for us to move forward into what he can do for us now. And not only can do, but is willing to do. Remember Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” So when we ask God for what seems impossible, ask with a view to the past in what He has already done. It might increase your faith enough to receive even more.
B. The Power of Relationship. Israel must have been amazed. A fire led them by night. A cloud by day! Out of the fire God spoke to them in an audible voice. Consider this; it is a wonder that God revealed Himself to them out of the fire. But I think it an even more incredible miracle that God is willing to speak to us at all. That fact that He wants to communicate with us must tell us something about who He is and who we are. He’s God –we’re not! Yet He still sees something in us that we don’t often see in ourselves. Verse 34, “Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation out of the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by the great terrors, according to all that the Lord you God did for you in Egypt, before your eyes?” God desires fellowship with us so much that He goes to great measures – through signs and wonders – to accomplish it. Did God do it for Israel? Will He do it for us? Here is the great thing. What He does, He does out in the open for all to see His power and majesty. When God heals in our midst, we should shout it from the rooftop. When God speaks to us through the gifts, we should share the message with others. When God calls, saves, baptizes in the Holy Spirit, the whole town should know about it.
III. SEEING GOD’S PURPOSE. (35-38)
A. To Know He is God. Verse 35, “To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.” Israel could know that the Lord was God, because of all the amazing things God had done in the life of their nation. In the same way, when we consider how God has touched our lives - how we have experienced the power to free us from sin, to give us hope when we are discouraged, to heal our bodies, to free our bitter hearts, to answer our prayers, to overcome the most difficult obstacles - when we consider these things, we can know that the Lord Himself is God.
B. To Receive Instruction. When God spoke miraculously out of the fire, He gave instruction. I don’t know about you, but if fire spoke to me I would pay attention to it. The point is that God doesn’t just indiscriminately work miracles just to show off. He does it out of love and concern for His people and to teach them. If God loves you enough to heal, how do you think He expects you to respond to those who are sick? If God provides for your needs supernaturally, how should you respond to others in need? If God gave His Son to die on a cross for your sin when you were deserving of death, how much mercy should you show to others? He brought Israel out of Egypt “with His presence, with His mighty power.” He has delivered us from the bondage of sin to eternal life. Peter said that the promise is for you, and your children and for those who are afar off, as many as the Lord will call.”
C. To Give You the Land. Verse 38, God is, ”driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day.” The land that God had promised Abraham some 600 years before was now going to be their inheritance. God is never slack concerning His promises. There is an enemy in Palmyra and surrounding areas that is far more powerful than any foreign king of any age. He is the enemy of your soul, the accuser of the brethren, the god of this world. He is satan, the dragon, the father of all lies, the one who roams around like a roaring lion, seeking those he may devour. He is the one who kills, steals and destroys. He has set up a network of strongholds all around the world and has set principalities and powers over them. But God has given His people the land. Jesus is building His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. We have armor to protect our bodies. We have the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, that is sharper than any two-edged sword. He has given you the land and you shall inherit it for a millennium and then for eternity. If it has been given to us, I think it is time that we take it. The foundation for the kingdom has already been laid with the chief cornerstone being Jesus Christ. And the battle has already been won. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…”
IV. FINDING GOD’S PRESENCE. (39-40) God IS still on His throne.
A. He is the God of Heaven and Earth. Verse 39 says, “Therefore, know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath…” After everything that God had done for Israel – all the miracles, all the signs and wonders, all the miraculous provision of water and manna – after all these things, there is no way that they should not know that God is God. They should not only know it (claim it as their own, confess it with there mouths, and proclaim it to the world) but they should also consider it (reflect, meditate, consider the implications of it). If this God, who has done so many marvelous things for us, truly is the God He says He is, then how does that impact us? If He says that we can know for sure that we have eternal life but does not have the power to back it up, then maybe we should ignore it. But if He continues to confirm His word with signs and wonders and healing and provision and Holy Spirit manifestations, then we must listen and believe. When we accept that God is everything that the bible says He is we can begin to settle in to the comfort, power and the assurance of His deeply abiding presence. He is not some God who sits afar off in heaven but HE is the God of heaven and earth. He is Emmanuel, “God with us” and there is no other. The “god” of this world, satan, tells us that he has all the answers. Everything we need can be found in earthly pleasures. You know, I was surfing the net the other day looking for some information on “wicca”, a so - called religion that worships the earth and everything in it and practices witchcraft. The reason I was looking is because I believe it to be the source of some problems in Palmyra. The thing that I found interesting, that really showed me that satan has his hand in it, is their “motto”. It says, “If it harm none, do what you will”. In other words, if it feels good do it. Don’t worry about the bible or God or other people. Live for today. Though satan is the god of this world he is not the One true God. That is the God of the bible and He is Lord of heaven and earth.
B. He is the God of Promise. Verse 40, “You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” If you live in a loving relationship with the Father it is only natural that you try your best to live in a way pleasing to Him. We are not legalists, trying to earn our way to heaven by good works, but children of God who do good works because we love Him. And this verse tells us that if we try to live according to His word, our days may be prolonged. This means we may have a long life here on earth, but let’s look past that. We will have eternal life in the land to come, the new heaven and new earth. God’s promises are for now and for the future.
Let’s recap everything that the passage said today.
1) God protects us when we turn to Him, obey Him, and trust Him.
2) We can remember God’s promises through His power in creation and the power of our relationship with Him.
3) God’s purpose for us is to know Him, to be instructed by Him, and to receive the land He is giving us.
4) We can come into His presence by understanding that He is the God of heaven and earth and the God of promise.
This is the comfort that we can have. It is the comfort of faith in a living God. Paul wrote this about Abraham. “who contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘so shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in his faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Jesus is our hope. Because of faith in Him it is accounted to you as righteousness. Your slate is wiped clean. You are declared “Not guilty”! Trust in Him. Let your hope be in Him and His promised return. His word is true. Take the land. Live in His presence. Rest in His Promises.