The Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2017
Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28
Words of Fatherly Wisdom:
Stay the Course!
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Does anyone remember having one of these? Does anyone remember using one of these? This is a Rand McNally road atlas. Back in “my day” (i.e. before most people’s phone had a built in GPS) whenever someone wanted to take a long journey you would pull out your Rand McNally road atlas and plot out your journey. This atlas also has things to help you do just that. There is a map which contains all the major freeways all across the nation. There are individual maps for each state. And in the back there is a map of the USA that tells you how far apart certain cities are and how long it would take you to travel from one city to the next. If you wanted to travel from here to Seattle or from here to Longville, Minnesota or from here to South Haven, Michigan this book would enable you to do it! All you have to do is find the route you want to take and stay the course!
As I was studying our sermon text for this morning I was reminded of how many trips my family and I have made utilizing an atlas such as this. Why did that memory come to mind? Because our sermon text for today reminds us that as Christians we are on a journey— a journey with a very specific destination in mind. It also reminds us that the good Lord has graciously given to us an “atlas” to help insure that we don’t get lost along the way. And finally our text reminds us that we have both the privilege and responsibility of helping others to make this very same journey with us. With all of that in mind let’s see how God Himself uses this portion of His holy Word to say to us: Stay the Course!
The book of Deuteronomy contains Moses’ last words to the Children of Israel. The people of God were now camped on the plains of
Faithfulness to the covenant that God has graciously established with His people is the heart and core of our text for today. And whether it was Moses and the people of God some 3,400 years ago or you and I today the motivation behind this faithfulness can be summed up in just one word. That word is love. Earlier in the book of Deuteronomy Moses very clearly reminded the people that the only reason they were even in a covenant relationship with the Lord of heaven and earth is because of His love— His amazing grace. Moses wrote, “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of the Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
The love and the faithfulness of the Lord are crucial to a proper understanding of our text for today. At the very same time the love and faithfulness of the Lord are critical when it comes to having the proper motivation for staying the course upon which God Himself has placed us.
Now as I mentioned earlier my family and I very often used an atlas just like this when we made long journeys across the country. An atlas, however, will do us no good whatsoever if we simply pack it away in a suitcase and never look at it. The very same principle applies to the “atlas” of God’s Word. That is why the Lord Himself used Moses to say to His people of old and to say to us today, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
The Hebrew word that is translated here in our text as “fix” very literally means, “to put, deposit, attach, appoint or plant.” If you and I want to stay the course that leads us home to heaven we need to “fix” or “plant” God’s Word in our hearts and minds. To put it another way, if we want to stay the course that leads us home to heaven we need to be a life-long student of God’s holy inspired Word. Coming to church and listening to a pastor who faithfully proclaims the Word of God in all of its truth and purity is a very good start. Even better is coming to church on a regular basis plus attending Bible class on a regular basis. Best of all is coming to church plus attending Bible class plus reading our Bibles at home!
Repeated regular contact with God’s Word is eternally important, my friends. Why? Think about it. If my family and I fail to use our atlas and after days of driving around the country we find ourselves someplace other than where we wanted to be, we can sheepishly say, “Ooops!” and head in the correct direction. However, if as a child of God we fail to open up the “atlas” of God’s Book, if as a child of God we fail to “fix” or “plant” His holy Word in our hearts and minds and as a result we stray off the only course that leads us home to heaven there is only one other alternate destination— hell. And no one who ends up in hell is ever given the opportunity to say, “Ooops! Let me try that again!” In His love and in His faithfulness the Lord of heaven and earth has graciously given us the “atlas” of His Word. In love and in thankfulness we now need to daily think about that Word, to meditate upon that Word, to humbly receive both its warnings and its comforts. When God’s Word is a regular part of our everyday life then by God’s grace we will be able to stay the course— the course that leads us directly to a glorious eternity in heaven.
There is, however, another use for the “atlas” of God’s Word, isn’t there. Let’s say that as we are in the middle of our journey across the country my family and I come across a young couple that is hopelessly lost. They are trying to find their way to Yellowstone National Park but foolishly started on their journey thinking they would be able to find their way to Yellowstone all on their own. Do you think I should take my atlas and quietly hide it under the seat of my car? Not at all! I am going to take that atlas and show that young couple both where they are now and how to get where they want to be!
Here in our text Moses emphasizes a similar situation but on a far more personal level. God has given us the “atlas” of His Word not only so that we might stay the course that leads us home to heaven, but He has also given us the “atlas” of His Word so that we can show others— especially our own children and grandchildren— how they too need to stay the course! Speaking of God’s Word Moses writes, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give to your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”
Since today is Father’s Day this is a very good time for us Dads to remember that our heavenly Father has given to us the primary responsibility of bringing up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Stop and think about what this means for us as Christian Dads. We consciously take the time to talk to our children about many things, don’t we? We talk to them about sports. We talk to them about cars. We talk to them about school. We talk to them about careers. We talk to them about the opposite sex. We talk to them about drugs. But how much time do we consciously take to talk to our children or our grandchildren about the Lord, about His Word, about His will for their life and for their eternity? How much time do we spend encouraging our children— and when necessary admonishing our children— to stay the course so that they do not get “lost” on their way home to heaven? Sunday school teachers do a great job talking to our children about God. But that’s one hour one day a week. It doesn’t take much to see why the Lord had Moses encourage parents— especially fathers— to use the opportunities of everyday life to talk to our children about staying the course by both teaching them how to use God’s holy Word and by setting a good example for them to follow.
The same holds true for our neighbors. The goal of having God’s people write God’s Word on the doorframes of their houses and on their gates was two-fold. Not only did it serve to remind God’s people of who they are, but it also served as a witness to the people around them. Try looking at your house from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior. How obviously is your faith in Christ on display in your home? When you have guests over for a barbeque do you skip saying grace before you eat or do you invite them to join you in giving thanks to the Lord?
We know how vital it is to talk to our children about the dangers of drugs. We know how exciting it is to talk to our neighbors about the Warriors winning another championship. Let’s not forget how vital and how exciting it is to talk to others— especially our children and our grandchildren— about staying the course that leads them home to heaven.
Our text for today then ends with words that are sometimes misunderstood. Moses writes, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.”
If Moses had spoken these words to the Canaanites, if Moses had spoken these words to people who did not know who the Lord is or what the Lord has done for His people or what the Lord has promised to His people— then the people today who say that we are born morally “neutral” with a “free will” to decide on our own whether we want to be blessed by God or cursed by God may have a leg to stand on. However, note very carefully that these words are addressed to God’s chosen redeemed people. These words are addressed to people with whom God in His grace had already entered into a covenant relationship. Today we would say that these words are addressed to Christian, to believers. As believers we can choose to humbly continue in God’s grace and enjoy His blessings or we can choose to reject the Lord and all He has done for us. Choosing to stay the course upon which God Himself has placed us will lead to even more blessings. Choosing the path that leads to death only brings us God’s curses.
Stay the course. I have no doubts that most of us has taken a trip or two that requires us to consult an atlas or utilize a GPS to make sure that we Stay the Course and reach our intended destination. In much the same time I pray from the bottom of my heart that each and every one of you will remember how these words of our text say to us on a spiritual level: Stay the Course! Remember that God in His grace has placed you on the only course that is guaranteed to lead you home to heaven. Remember that God in His grace has given to you the “atlas” of His holy Word so you can stay the course that leads you home to heaven. Remember that God in His grace has given you both the right and the responsibility to help others— especially your children and grandchildren— stay the course as well. So remember, my friends: Stay the Course!
To God be the glory!