The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2018
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
Up Close and Personal!
Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You’re on the elevator at a large hospital. The person you came to visit is on the twelfth floor. You are the only person on the elevator— until you get to the second floor. The elevator stops. The door opens. The person who gets on the elevator sees that the button for the twelfth floor has already been pressed and so they say, “That’s my floor too.” Then they come and they stand directly beside you. How do you feel? Do you feel comfortable in that situation or does that situation make you feel uncomfortable? Most of us would probably feel rather uncomfortable in that situation. Why? Because we all have this invisible line around us that designates what we consider to be our own “personal space.” For a complete stranger to get on an elevator where we are the only other person there and then stand directly beside us— well, that infringes on our “personal space.” That “personal space” is reserved, isn’t it. It is reserved for family, for friends and for the people we love.
Take a moment, my friends, to think of the names of the people that you gladly welcome into your “personal space.” If you were the only person on an elevator when the door opened and someone else gets in that elevator, who would you feel comfortable having stand directly by your side? Keep that list of names in your mind. We’ll come back to it later.
If you can picture yourself standing in an elevator and feeling comfortable with one of those individuals from your list standing directly beside you then you’ll have no problem relating to how I want to approach our sermon text for today. This morning our goal is to see that the Lord our God is the God who loves to get: Up Close and Personal! There are two things we want to see today. First, let’s see that the Lord gets up close and personal with us through His Word. Then let’s see that we get up close and personal with God through prayer.
Have you ever heard of a belief system called Deism? According to The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Deism is: “The belief that God has created the universe but remains apart from it and permits his creation to administer itself through natural laws. Deism thus rejects the supernatural aspects of religion, such as belief in revelation in the Bible.” I seriously doubt that the people of God in the days of Moses considered the Lord their God to be a “distant” God. Whether it was at the burning bush or throughout the ten plagues, whether it was at the parting of the Red Sea or at Mount Sinai the Lord God proved to His children beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is the God who does indeed get “up close and personal” with His Creation!
That truth is clearly emphasized throughout Scripture— including right here in the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech to the Children of Israel. The forty years of wandering in the wilderness are coming to an end. Because of his own disobedience Moses would not be allowed to lead God’s people across the Jordan and into the Promised Land. As Moses prepares to turn the reigns of leadership over to Joshua he reminds God’s people that even though they are about to experience many changes as they transition from a nomadic life of wandering in the wilderness to a life of settling into the Promised Land, the most important things would not change. The Lord their God would not change. The covenant which the Lord God had established with them would not change. And, the revealed Word of God would not change. To emphasize all of that Moses says in the opening verses of our text, “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”
Does it get any clearer than this, my friends? Could it be stated any simpler? Unlike Islam which adds the Koran as a “superior” revelation of God’s Word, unlike the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints which adds the Book of Mormon as an “updated” revelation of the Bible, unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses who subtract from the Bible both by altering the definition of key terms such as “grace” and the “Son of God” as well as by denying key teachings such as the Trinity and the meaning of the cross (Pointing to the cross) — the Lord God very simply and very clearly says to His children: Do not add to My Word and do not subtract from My Word. Keep My Word. Believe My Word. Teach My Word as I have revealed it to you. (See also Revelation 22:18-19)
When by the grace of God you and I believe, teach and confess that the Bible is the holy, inspired and inerrant Word of God from Genesis to Revelation then as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Bible it will become more and more clear to us that through His Word our God comes into our “personal space.” Through His Word our God gets “up close and personal” with us. And as Moses brings out here in our text, when God gets “up close and personal” with us through His Word He gives to us true “wisdom” and true “understanding.” What does that mean to us as individual children of God? It all depends on what we need to hear, doesn’t it.
When we have sinned the Lord our God gets “up close and personal” with us through His Word to remind us that, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4) and “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). When we confess our sins and repent of our sins the Lord our God gets “up close and personal” with us through His Word as He takes us by the hand, leads us to the foot of the cross of His Son and says, “It is finished” (John 19:30), “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). When we are feeling sad or lonely or afraid, when we are feeling tired or weak or burdened the Lord our God gets “up close and personal” with us through His Word to give us whatever it is we need at that time.
When we stop to remember, my friends, that the God of heaven gets “up close and personal” with us through His holy inspired Word then we won’t want to change God’s Word. We won’t want to alter God’s Word to fit our way of thinking. We won’t want to add anything to God’s Word or subtract anything from it in any way whatsoever. When we stop to remember that the God of heaven gets “up close and personal” with us through His Word we will want to read God’s Word. We will want to study God’s Word. We will want to “inwardly digest” God’s Word both here at church as well as at home.
Before we run out of time let’s turn our attention to the second point I want to emphasize from this text. We’ve seen that God gets “up close and personal” with us through His Word. Now let’s see that we get “up close and personal” with God through prayer. Look at verse seven, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”
As the beloved saved children of God you and I have the privilege of knowing the Almighty Creator of the universe as our “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Through the cross of our only Lord and Savior we know that the sins that once separated us from God, the sins that once kept God from even hearing our prayers— all those sins have been completely taken away. (See Isaiah 59:2) Through the cross of Jesus Christ we know that we now have free, direct and unrestricted access to God’s eternal throne of grace. In other words, my friends, no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing, no matter what time of the day or night it might be and no matter what the reason— you can go to the Lord your God in prayer and say, “Father, Daddy, I need to talk to you.” His response to you will always be, “Come, My child. Sit right here by My side and tell me what is on your heart.”
Sometimes I think it is easy for us to lose sight of the tremendous power and privilege of prayer. We get so busy during the course of the day that we just don’t take the time to get “up close and personal” with God through prayer. We get so overwhelmed by all the things that we need to do and all the things that we are struggling to take care of that we lose sight of the privilege of getting “up close and personal” with the God who has both the power and the love to take care of all those things for us. And yes, sometimes we may even lose our focus in life. We wander away from the Lord. We become like the people who feel that God is “distant” from us— not actively involved in or overly concerned about our personal life.
Do not let your hectic schedule, do not let your stressful life, do not let your old sinful nature keep you from getting “up close and personal” with the Lord your God through prayer. Whether it is in the morning when you get up or in the evening before you go to sleep or at a set time during the course of the day remember the wonderful truth brought out here in our text for today, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”
Think back to the list of names I asked you to compile in your head. Picture the faces of the people that you warmly welcome into your “personal space” and how comfortable you feel in that situation. Then remember, my friends. Remember and rejoice in knowing that the Lord your God is the God who loves to get “up close and personal” with you— His dearly beloved child. Every time you pick up this Book (the Bible) to read it and to study it, every time you hold the teachings of Scripture close to your heart the God of heaven gets “up close and personal” with you. Every time you exercise the tremendous privilege of prayer the Creator of the universe welcomes you to get “up close and personal” with Him by sitting directly beside Him and sharing with Him whatever is on your heart. When we stop to remember that the Lord our God is indeed the God who loves to get “up close and personal” how can we not join together in saying—
To God be the glory!