Summary: Why can't we get along?
The Israelites are about to enter the land of Canaan, the promised land. Eventually, each tribe will be given a portion of the land for their home. The day is coming when they will no longer travel as a nation with the very presence of God on display in the cloud by day and the fire by night. They will be dispersed throughout the land.
Thus, the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is all about remembering.
Remembering where they came from
Remembering their God
Remember their identity
[Deuteronomy 6:4-7] Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.
What are these commandments?
5-11 Repeating the Ten Commandments, living as separate people, obedient to God
12-26 The code of laws to be observed in Canaan
Chapter after chapter of laws and regulations. We saw these in Numbers in the Book of the Covenant and they are reaffirmed to this new generation who are about to enter the Promised Land. All these laws, rules, regulations, principles…why?
Everything in Deuteronomy serves as a reminder to the Israelites that God called them to be holy, set apart. They were chosen by God to be His people. One nation, loving and serving one God, obeying one set of commandments. Holy and united. Two characteristics of God, which should be two characteristics of God’s people. Throughout Footsteps, we’ve covered God’s holiness; this morning I would like to focus on unity.
Just as the Godhead is one – three Persons, one God – the Lord wants His people to be one. Just as a holy nation is a reflection of a holy God, so a united nation is a reflection of a united God.
Jesus prayed for this in His High Priestly prayer in John 17…
[John 17:20-23] My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Unity. This is not just wishful thinking, this has been God’s plan all along: to transform a group of individuals, with a variety of opinions and ideas and goals, into one nation, into one body submitting to one Head, Jesus Christ.
I fear we don’t take unity very seriously. I’m sure we would all agree that unity within the body of Christ is a nice concept, but how many of us see it as an essential component of our fellowship with each other and our witness to the world?
We would drop what we are doing to provide a meal for someone who is hurting or dying.
We would drop what we are doing to encourage someone who is discouraged or hopeless.
But would we drop what we are doing to seek reconciliation with someone we’re at odds with?
[Matthew 5:23] Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there if front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.
According to this verse, reconciliation seems pretty vital to me. Don’t bother giving an offering or singing praises to God, or taking communion if you are not reconciled with a brother or sister in Christ. We think we’re doing God and the body of Christ a favor when we simply move to another church. “I don’t want to make a big deal about this.”
How do we move beyond this attitude? How would this attitude work in your family or in your marriage? At the first sign of conflict, you just pack your bags and move on? When will we realize that we are stuck with each other in the body of Christ – there’s nowhere to hide, we can’t escape other, so we need to work this out!
According to Scripture, there is a bond between us.
[Ezekiel 20:37-38] I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.