Welcome to Expound, our verse by verse study of God's word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God, by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Greetings. Could you turn in your Bibles, please, to Deuteronomy, chapter nine. Deuteronomy, chapter nine I was in Cuba this last week. I was starting a revolution. Oh wait, One already started there years ago, sorry. But we kind of were starting a revolution of a different kind.
So I was in Miami last Wednesday night speaking, and then, I went to Cuba for this last week. And it's a fascinating place. It's fascinating because of-- especially, not just that there's cool cars there and it's this great country that has an interesting history and is still a Communist-occupied country. But the church is alive and very, very well.
So I had never been to Cuba. It's only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, off the Keys. It's so close, but it is another world. It is a completely different world. I did a Facebook article on it just this afternoon, if you want to read more.
But there was a sense of excitement. It's like, yeah. I've always wanted to go to Cuba. I've heard about it. I've read about it. I know that it's a big population.
There's a huge amount of Cuban population in Florida, so I'd like to see the country of origin. And it was exciting to go there. And it was exciting to come back from there, by the way, too.
But as I was going on this little adventure, I remember a sign that I had seen some years back in an airport. It wasn't in this airport on this trip, but this trip reminded me of this sign. And it was in an airport. I think it was in Spokane, Washington. And it was a Southwest Airlines advertisement.
And the advertisement was, Buckle up, you're going on an adventure. And I think it was a flight to Reno, or something like that. It's like, you're going to Reno. But I love the sign, Buckle up, you're going on an adventure.
The reason I like that is I have always believed-- is one of my core beliefs-- that the Christian life ought to be the most exciting life that one could live. It is an adventure. I mean, think about it this way. Your destination is already secure.
You're going to heaven. That's done. It was finished at the cross. It was paid for in full, and that gift was given to you. So you know your destination. All you've got to do is now just watch the time go by, from here until there. Right?
So the destination is good. You're all good, there. So why not enjoy the ride to heaven? You're going to heaven, why not buckle up and go on an adventure? Enjoy the ride, roll down the windows, breathe the air.
Yes, there will be curves in the road. Yes, there are bumps. Yes, there are potholes. But life would be boring without them, frankly. So why not enjoy the scenery as you roll down the road. Buckle up, you're going on an adventure.
Just before the service began tonight, I met a young man named David, who just became a believer recently. He said, I'm a new believer. I said, what's the most exciting thing about being a Christian? And he didn't even have to think much. He just said, letting God control it all.
It is pretty exciting, because you don't know where you're going to end up. Now, some people are afraid of this. They're afraid to let God take control.
I remember this bumper sticker I used to see on cars, God is my co-pilot. I never much cared for it. Because he wants to fly the plane, baby. He doesn't want to be a co-pilot. He is the pilot. Whether you know it or not, he is.
So life really happens when you learn to take your hands off that wheel and enjoy the ride. Well, chapter nine. That's all introductory for this chapter.
Chapter nine of Deuteronomy is a look forward. Moses has reviewed the past. He will, from time to time yet to come, talk about the past. But he turns their eyes toward the future. Looking back is valuable, but moving on is essential.
Did you get that point? Looking back is valuable. We all need to look back and remember. But moving on is essential.
For all that has been Cuba's history since 1959, when Fidel Castro overthrew Batista and that government-- and some remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, with our President John Kennedy and all that went on since then. For all of that past history, the church is moving on. That's one thing that I saw.
They acknowledge their history. They acknowledge they still live in a restricted country, they live in a communist country. But there is a joie de vivre, a joy for life, a simple trust in the Lord, knowing that God wants to change the country through them, through his Word, through his work. So there is a revolution of faith going on in that country that was very, very inspiring to see.
And I suggest that you live the same way. Be in touch with your past, but move ahead. I think that the most miserable way to live is living life while always looking back over your shoulder. Again, it's good to remember, but it's essential to move on.
If you live your life looking backwards-- and some people live in the land of regret, should have done that, could have done that, would have done that. It's always looking back to regret. They live in the land of regret.
Some live in the land of reminiscing. Oh, I remember how good it was when, and this and that. It's all good. But that was then. This is now. What's ahead for you? Look back, but then face the future.
Imagine a runner trying to run a race while looking backwards. He or she would fall flat. And so Moses, 120 years old, almost dead. In a few weeks, he will be dead. By the end of the book, the end of the three-week jaunt that he is speaking to them, it'll all be over for.
His race is about finished, but he's getting them to realize, you're crossing over the Jordan, you're on the edge of the promised land, but you're going into that place God has promised for you to take over. So remember the words of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, in chapter three of that book, "Forgetting those things which are behind and looking ahead, or forward, to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, or the goal of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus."
And so in chapter 9, verse one, Moses speaks to them, "Hear, O Israel, you are to cross over the Jordan today and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, the giants, whom you know and of whom you heard it said, who can stand before the descendants of Anak?"
They heard it said. Where did they hear that from? Their parents, at Kadesh Barnea, years before. Remember that was the pivotal moment in their history? They sent those spies into the land.
And the 10 spies came back and said, don't go! These guys are big! They're tall. It's a military impossibility to take that land. We will be food for them. They live in fortified cities up to heaven. The Anakim are a great people.
So they heard that from their parents. And what's interesting is their parents then used them, their children, as the excuse. Why would we dare go into that land? Doesn't God care about our children? Moses, don't you care about our children? We have to watch out for our children.
God said, OK, I heard that. I'll take care of your children. You'll all die in the wilderness, and I'll make sure your children get into the promised land.
And so that generation is dead. But this new generation, they heard these words from their parents, who were no longer around. This generation has grown up in the wilderness, and they're about ready to possess this land.
Now, the Anakim. Let me give you a few extra notes about them, if you don't know who they are. They were a giant race. When I was down in Miami and I was speaking afterwards, I met a whole bunch of people. We're on the radio down there, and I heard from a lot of people, saying, you don't sound that tall on the radio, but.
I didn't really know what that meant. How do you sound tall? But they realized, you're like Anakim. You're like a giant man. And a lot of them had come over from Cuba, so they were much smaller. Let's just put it that way.
Now, the Anakim, they lived, at the time of Moses, in the area of Hebron, which is in Judea. It's a beautiful place, actually. So that was the neighborhood they lived in. But before that, in the time of Abraham, these were a people east of the Jordan River in the land of Edom and Moab.
Now, it is believed, though we don't know for certain, but it is believed that the Anakim were the original occupants of the land, the Holy Land, the promised land, before the Canaanites dwelt there. And remember, the Canaanites are going to be expelled, and the Israelites are going in.
But before the Canaanites, it is believed that the Anakim were the original occupants of that land. And that they were originally a Cushite tribe, with the same gene pool as the ancient Phoenicians, from some of the islands in the Mediterranean.
All of that aside, just a little FYI on that, verse three, "Therefore, understand," Moses continues, "understand today that the Lord your God is he who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you, so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said to you."
I love this verse because essentially, Moses is saying, God is a trailblazer. He will go before you and blaze the trail as a consuming fire. You're going to discover as you walk by faith, as you move ahead, as you walk into uncharted territory, fearful areas, that it's not as fearful as you thought, that God has gone before you and blazed the trail before you. The Lord is with you.
It was Martin Luther who noted that one is a majority with God. I've always liked that. With God, one is a majority. Who's going with you? God.
So God will go before you. He will be with you. "Do not think in your heart," verse four. "Do not think in your heart after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying, because of my righteousness, the Lord has brought me in to possess the land. But it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations, that the Lord your God drives them out from before you, that he may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers-- to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Very intriguing point.
You're getting this land not because you're so good, but because they're so bad. You remember the principle we have unlocked from Genesis 15, the last few weeks? In Genesis 15, God tells Abraham what's going to happen. Your descendants are going into a land not their own-- Egypt, for about 400 years. Then I'll bring them out into this land, that Moses says you're going to occupy.
Because He said this, the iniquity-- the sin-- the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. The Amorites, one of the Canaanite tribes, had occupied Canaan already for 400 years. 430 more years would be, at this spot, when the children of Israel, under Moses' direction, are going to occupy the land.
800 years, God has been patient with them. God waited year after year after year, patiently waiting for them to turn, based on the testimony of the Red Sea opening up, God preserving the children of Israel in the wilderness, bringing them out to this land, and conquering the land. It was a testimony to the Canaanite tribes.
They didn't listen. They didn't heed the testimony. So God would judge them. They were so wicked. And so God says, it's not because you're so good. It's because they're so bad.
I've been patient with them 800 years. They haven't paid rent for 800 years. I would say I'm a patient landlord. Now, I'm booting them out.
So I don't want you to be in the land thinking, well, it's because I'm such a wonderful person that I'm here. It's because I'm so amazing, and I'm so spiritual, and I'm so faithful. Aaaaaaaah. Wrong answer. They're just so bad.
Now, a lot could be said on that. But actually, this is just a wonderful testimony of you're getting something you don't deserve. This is an act of mercy, and it's an act of grace. You're getting a gift, not because you deserve it, but because God is good and He'll dispossess the land.
He's been patient with them. The judgment will be incurred. And as a gift of grace, not because of you, but oftentimes, in spite of you, God will bless you. Keep that thought in mind, because it'll be fleshed out and expanded on in the next few verses.
"Therefore, understand," verse six, "that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people." You're stubborn. You're intractable. You have hardened your neck. It speaks of somebody who's just stubborn-willed, recalcitrant. You're a stiff-necked people, stubborn people.
"Remember, do not forget, how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord." I know, it sounds like Moses is a cranky old man. And all the children of Israel are rolling their eyes, saying, here goes Dad's speech again. But it's true.
Since the very beginning of Moses' interaction with them, they've been rebellious. When Moses was still an Egyptian, and he tried to introduce himself to the children of Israel, back in chapter two, they said, who made you to be a ruler and a judge overall us? That was their first encounter with Moses.
Then, God delivered them with a mighty hand, by 10 plagues, delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians. Through the wilderness, he immediately brought a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them. He took them to the Red Sea.
And the Red Sea opened up. And that was The Miracle; that was the state-of-the-art miracle. It's the miracle that the Bible keeps referring to over and over again. The children of Israel will always be, even to this day, looking back to the time God delivered them from the bondage of the Egyptians, in the Book of Exodus.
But also, as a part of their record, was their stubbornness. Because as soon as they get to the Red Sea, after seeing the miracle of the 10 plagues, after seeing the miracle of the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire-- that'd be enough to just go like, I'm in perpetual Disneyland. I mean, this is a miracle a day.
Still, they have the audacity, once they get out in the wilderness, the Egyptian armies behind them-- there's mountains and desert on one side, mountains and desert on the other side, the Red Sea in front of them. They're in a perfect box. They're boxed up, they can't get out.
They say to Moses, did you bring us out in the wilderness? Were there no graves in Egypt that you could bury us? You brought us out here to die. You led us all the way out here, just to kill us in the desert.
And it was downhill from there. God delivered them, told them to stand still, see the salvation of God They get over. They beef and are angry at God over the fact there's no water, or there's no food, or food to their liking, or they've just been out here a long time, or there's giants in the land.
So this is not a stretch. This is not an old man going off on these people. This is history. It is the truth. You have provoked the Lord, and you have been rebellious, from the time you left Egypt, against the Lord.
"Also in Horeb, you provoked the Lord to wrath, so that He was angry enough with you to have destroyed you." Hey, let me throw a thought out at you. Because we can look at them, and we can say, yeah, man, they're just a bunch of complainers, grumblers, gripers. But now, let's just turn the spotlight on us for a moment, shall we?
When we're in our own wilderness, when we feel like we're boxed in and there's no way out, and we complain-- don't say you don't; we all do. But let me throw this thought at you. It's better to be in the desert with God than anywhere else without Him. It's better to be out there, completely dependent on God, with no resources other than God, than to be slaves in Egypt.
Why is that important? Because they will say, oh, we miss the food in Egypt. Oh, the leeks, the onions, the garlic, the quail, oh, the food, the fish, the fillets were awesome!
But it's better to be there, with God, than anywhere else without Him. It's something the disciples learned when they were with Jesus. Out in the Sea of Galilee, it looked like the boat was going down. The storm was all around them. And they needed to learn the lesson that it's better to be in a storm with Jesus, than anywhere else without Him. It's the safest place to be.
And God made a way when there was no way. So they saw miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle, and they were rebellious and rebellious and rebellious and rebellious. There's another principle tucked in there. I don't want you to miss it.
Miracles dazzle for a moment, but unbelief settles in quickly. People say, oh, if I only saw a miracle, I'd believe. You would today. Tomorrow, however, you would say, I wonder if there's a natural explanation for that? Maybe my eyes thought I saw it. I psyched myself into it.
And unbelief, which is part of the human nature, settles in quickly. The Pharisees were dazzled at the Resurrection of Lazarus. The people of Bethany were amazed at what they saw. Jerusalem was moved by it, for a week.
But as the time rolled on, they would say, in unison, as a city, as a people, Crucify him! Crucify him! Miracles dazzle for a moment. Unbelief can follow you all of your life. They quickly turned from God, even after those miracles.
Verse 10. "Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone, written with the finger of God, the Ten Commandments, you remember. And on them were all the words which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain, from the midst of the fire, in the day of the assembly. And it came to pass at the end of 40 days and 40 nights, that the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
And the Lord said to me, Arise. Go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them, and they have made for themselves a molded image." The reference is to the 32nd chapter of the Book of Exodus. I call that the, oh-oh chapter.
Everything is great. God is moving. Then, you get to chapter 32 of Exodus, it's like, oh-oh. Oh-oh, now what? Because in that chapter, while Moses was receiving revelation, they resorted to their imagination. Moses was hearing from heaven, from God, and he's coming down with the commandments. And there in the valley were the people in a drunken, dancing kind of an orgy before a golden calf.
It's the oh-oh chapter. And and just like they will always remember the exodus out of Egypt, that will also be remembered. Over and over again, that story will be told in their history, the oh-oh chapter, the golden calf chapter, when Aaron took the gold and made that calf.
So Moses, he's receiving revelation. Children of Israel, they have resorted to imagination. Two important words-- there are only two sources of information about God, period-- one is revelation, the other is imagination. The first one is true, the second one is false.
The first one is God speaking about himself. The second one is people speaking for God. It's people going, you know, I know the Bible says that, but I've always believed, and I picture God as, and my thoughts about the way it ought to be is.
You can see the clear distinction. One is revelation, God has spoken. The other is imagination, you're speaking on behalf of God, negating what He has said about Himself. So there's really two sources of information. One is true, the other is false.
God's revelation, as preserved in his word-- and that can be demonstrated, by the way, more than a preacher just saying it. That can be demonstrated-- or imagination, somebody trying to imagine what they think God is like. And then every time that happens, you have a new religion created.
OK. So they're down there, in the desert. Moses comes down with the Ten Commandments. And the first guy he talks to is Aaron, right? And so Moses goes, OK, Aaron, so what happened? He goes, oh, well, you know these people. They got so tired of you being up there in the mountain all that time, that this is what they said. They said, make us gods that will go before us; as for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what has become of him.
They'd waited so long for him. So they decided, let's make our own god, based on what we imagine it to be. So they made a golden calf. But the funniest part of the narrative is when Aaron says these words to Moses. Listen to his excuse.
So I took the gold from these people, and I threw it into the fire. And out came this calf.
I've talked to police officers about the excuses that people have when they get tickets. And it's not far off of what Aaron said to Moses-- the crazy, the tree just sort of jumped out in front of me, as I was driving down the road, after a pint of alcohol; but nonetheless, it just appeared-- all sorts of crazy excuses of why they should be exempt.
So Aaron tried that with Moses. It didn't work well, as we will see. "Furthermore, the Lord," verse 13, "spoke to me, saying, I have seen this people, and indeed they are a stiff-necked people."
So he's underlining that thought. It's not because you're righteous. It's because they were wicket. Don't think you're really great, God gave you this land. In fact, you've been stiff-necked, that's your history. This is an act of God's grace in giving you this land. He's simply underscoring these truths before them.
God says, "Let me alone." This is God speaking to Moses, back then, back there, at that time, with the previous generation. "Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they." Wow.
What happened? I mean, what happened to get God to say this about them? Now, let me explain. In chapter three, when they're in the throes of slavery in Egypt, the Lord speaks and says, I have seen their affliction, I have heard their groanings, I know their sorrow.
How they God go from that to, They are a stiff-necked people; like me blot them out. How do you go from an afflicted people, being the object of God's mercy, to a stiff-necked people being the object of God's wrath? It wasn't that God changed. Their heart had changed. They moved.
If you feel far from God, guess who moved? Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So their hearts changed toward God. And God says, Moses, move out of the way. I'm just going to blot them out, and I'm going to start all over again, with you.
Now, does that sound a little bit familiar? It sounds to me like God is making a deal with Moses, the same deal he had made with Abram, in Genesis 12. Abram, I'm going to make you a great nation. I'm going to take a one man, and I'm going to make a huge, impacting nation on the face of the earth.
So here is that nation. They've broken the covenant. They failed God. And God makes this, almost this offer, to Moses, saying, Moses, I'll tell you what. They've been a snare in your side. They've grumbled and complained against you. Move out of the way. What I did with Abraham, I'll do it with you. I'll make a nation using just you.
Now, I don't know but that that wasn't tempting to Moses. I don't know whether Moses thought, you know what? I kind of like that deal. I'm kind of tired of this. I think I would be tempted, were I Moses.
But what's interesting is that this offer didn't make Moses fold his arms and say, yeah! Judge them. Start over with me. What it does, it forced Moses to his knees, to pray for them, to intercede for them. And this is what Moses said. Oh, God, forgive this people, but if not block my name out of your book. Incredible.
It moved him into intercession. And really, I believe God said that to draw that out of him, the draw that out. It was a test for Moses. I don't think it was a temptation. It was a test for Moses. For me, it might have been a temptation, but it was a test for Moses. It drew him into intercession for his people, and God spared them.
Moses had been up in the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights without food. Now, he is coming down. And God makes him this offer-- I'll make a kingdom, a nation out of you.
Now, this also sounds to me very similar to what Satan said to Jesus after his 40 days in the mountain, in the desert. He said, bow before me. I will give you all the kingdoms of this world.
And I think if you compare them, you get a principle. What God uses as a test, Satan wants to use as a temptation. The Lord knew the outcome. The Lord knew what Moses would do, and he did exactly what He thought he would do. He stood in the gap for them, he prayed for them, he passed the test.
And so verse 15-- "I turned. And I came down from the mountain. And the mountain burned with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord your God and had made for yourselves a molded calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded you.
And then I took the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes." Why did Moses do that? Was he just ticked off? I've just had enough of these people. I'm just so mad, I'm going to throw a tantrum. I'm going to throw a prophet tantrum.
I imagine that could be pretty big. He did not do it for that reason. I think it was symbolic. They had already broken the covenant. Breaking the tablets of the covenant was symbolic of what they had done already in breaking the terms of the covenant.
So it was broken, because they had broken it. "And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first 40 days and 40 nights. I neither ate bread nor drink water because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the Lord was angry with you to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me at that time also.
And the Lord was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him. So I prayed for Aaron also at the same time." So while Moses was fasting, they were feasting. And Aaron-- the religious leader, the head of the priesthood-- he went along with the whole thing, which makes us ask, how is it possible for someone to be used of God so powerfully, a mighty spiritual leader, used by God, picked by God, singled out by God for an anointing, to fall to idolatry?
To do something this grievous, how was that possible? And yet, yet, we see it all the time. Because even those in these high positions are human, as well. We all have a human nature. The flesh wars against the spirit, whether you're in the ministry or not.
And Egypt is never too far from the Christian. You know, you can take Israel out of Egypt. The problem is you still of Egypt in the Israelite, inside the heart.
Ananias and Sapphira, shortly after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, were found to be hypocrites, in the early church. So we find this throughout church history. The church of Corinth, founded by Paul the Apostle himself, a great work of God. I've been in Corinth, I've imagined that city hearing the gospel. And yet, within the church itself, there was some of the grossest form of sexual immorality that was found.
So we see this principle peppered throughout history. So he said, "I prayed for Aaron also at the same time." I know we're surprised when somebody that we respect or love falls.
Or we hear about somebody like an Aaron, or whatever, or a friend of yours or relative. That person, I saw him at church, they were walking with the Lord, they were in my group. We went out and did volunteer work at the prison, or whatever. And I hear they're into this now. How is that possible?
Remember, Jesus spoke about the seed of the Word, the truth being sown on different types of soil? And of all the seed that was sown, only 25% of it, only one-fourth of the seed-- in that parable, at least-- fell on good soil that was well rooted and planted and bore forth fruit?
Jesus spoke about the seed that falls on shallow soil, rocky soil. They don't have earth to put down roots, and they grow very quickly. And they have an emotional response. But persecution arises. Tribulation occurs because of the Word. And Jesus says, they quickly fall away.
So sometimes you don't know. That's why in another parable, Jesus said, don't be so quick to judge among believers, because you have tares among the wheat. And you look over a group, and you might think everybody's wheat. But you don't know, Jesus said, until the judgment, because tares and wheat look an awful lot alike.
So don't you try to separate them now. Give it some time. And let God handle that, and He will.
Verse 21. This is an interesting part of the narrative. "Then I took your sin, the calf," he's calling it your sin, "I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and I burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain."
All of that is true. But he's leaving out a very important part of the story. I think he's just summing it up. But do you remember the rest of the story?
He threw the dust of the golden calf burned into the water, and he made them drink the water. Oh, you like your sin so much? Drink it.
So he put this dust into the water. Then, they drank the water with the ash, dust of the burned-up golden calf as fine as dust, and they had to drink it, which perhaps-- I'm guessing-- made them sick to their stomach. That was the idea.
Your idolatry should make you sick, because it makes God sick to His stomach. It ought to make you sick, as well. So that's part of the story in Exodus chapter 32. All of that detail is mentioned there.
Also, and I don't want to get too graphic, but it would also become part of their waste, which is how God saw their idolatry. Paul said, when I look back on my previous life apart from Christ, with all the good things you might say I accomplished and all the religious status that I had, I count it but dung, waste, that I might gain wind, that I might be found in Him, not having my own righteous-- be found in Christ.
And their life was a waste. It was wasted time. Verse 22. "Also at Taberah and Massa and Kebrothhataava," fun names, "you provoked the Lord to wrath. Exodus 17, Numbers chapter 11, talk about those three geographical places where more rebellion took place.
At one place, they said, we want water. So Moses struck the rock, and water came out. Another place, they just grumbled and complained because they were in the desert. And another place, they were bummed out because they had manna, and they wanted meat. Man, I want a good steak; I get this bread from heaven. So time after time, they complained.
"Likewise," verse 23, "when the Lord sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, go up and possess the land which I have given you, then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God and did not believe him, nor obey His voice. You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you."
Do you think they're getting the point by this time? He repeated himself over and over again, and they're feeling kind of small at this point, though it really, the bulk of it rested upon their parents, the previous generation. But he's letting them know they should remember their history.
"Thus, I prostrated myself before the Lord 40 days and 40 nights. I kept prostrating myself because the Lord had said that he would destroy you. Therefore, I prayed to the Lord and said, O Lord God, do not destroy your people and your inheritance, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not look on the stubbornness of this people or on their wickedness or on their sin, lest the land from which you brought us should say, because the Lord was not able to bring them to the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to kill them in the wilderness. Yet, they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought up by your mighty power and by your outstretched arm."
It's a beautiful, beautiful prayer. And when I read this, and I remember this from the previous books we have read in the Old Testament, I'm struck by how much Moses has changed himself. It indicates an incredible change in the heart of Moses.
You see, when the Lord said, Moses, I'm going to use you to deliver the children of Israel with my mighty hand, he had an excuse and another excuse. And finally, he said, Oh, send somebody else. I don't want the job. I don't want to be a prophet, I want to be a nonprofit organization. Send somebody else. But God picked him.
And he went from, I don't want to do, send somebody else, to showing such father's heart, a pastor's, a shepherd's heart, in loving them and in praying for them. His heart is changed toward them. And so he interceded. He prayed.
Do you know what intercession is, when I say intercede? Intercession is different from praise and worship. It's different from petition, personal petition. It's a different form of praying. It's what I think Paul meant when he talked about laboring in prayer, laboring for you fervently in prayer. That's intercession.
And that's where prayer really is labor. That's where it's work. See, it's not work for me to praise the Lord. I don't come in here, when the band comes and starts the service, and go, oh man, I got to praise God, because he's been so good to me and all that stuff. I just hate.
It's so easy for me. God is good. It's like, yeah. It's so good. It's awesome. It just comes naturally. My focus is on Him, easy-peezy.
Then there comes personal petition, praying for myself. Easy. I have no problem asking God for things for me. I'm self aware and pretty self-centered, as you all are. We're in good company, are we not? That's how we live.
We are very, very self aware. All humans are. And so we know our needs, and we're quick to tell God, I need, I need, I want, I want, I need. That's not labor. But when the focus is off of the Lord, who is easy to worship and love, and off of yourself, and on to somebody else for a period of time, it's a little harder.
It's hard to lose yourself and forget yourself and to focus on others. That is intercession. That's laboring in prayer. However, let me say this, because I don't want to dissuade you from this, if you want to add zing to your Christian life, try a ministry of intercession.
Those that I know in this church, who are involved in the prayer ministry, who intercede for people, they're that funnest, happiest, most wonderful people to be around. And if you wonder, well, what's their secret? If you want something that will give-- lift you-- and here's why. Because for a while, you're not thinking all about you.
There's people out there who have much greater needs than you do. I had a friend one time who was starting to suffer depression. And he went to the pastor in the church where I was before I got into the ministry.
And the pastor told him, one of the assistants, Eric, you are so filled with yourself. What you ought to do is go to the local nursing homes and visit the sick. And just find people-- and it'll come easily, you'll see them first visit-- who are suffering much more than you can even imagine you suffering in your present life. Go out there and find people with needs, and find out what they need to be prayed for.
Eric came back about a week later so joyful. He was cured, because he started seeing that God could use his life by touching other lives, by getting involved in their lives, by praying for them. Intercession lifted him up.
Moses is 120 years old. And he's been sustained, I believe, all this time by prayer, this wonderful, wonderful heart. So once again, let me commend this to you. Let me just say stretch your faith muscles a little bit and get involved in this aspect of ministry.
Because frankly, as Christians, the natural, normal thing is to become consumer oriented in our Christianity, where you've joined the First Bless Me Club of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's all about me getting a blessing. I'm here. Bless me. Oh Lord, now I'm over here. Bless me.
Get out of the Bless Me Club. It's good to have an inlet, but you need an outlet. Yes, bring the water, the living water. Get strengthened, get built up, but for a reason.
Become mature for a reason. Learn the Word for a reason. Get strong for a reason, so that you might share and be a blessing to others. And it doesn't take much. There's people everywhere that God could use you to touch.
"So at that time," verse one, chapter 10, "the Lord said to me, Hew for yourselves two tablets of stone like the first." I call this, Take two. First one got busted up. Take two. Scene one, take two. "And come up to me in the mountain and make yourself an ark of wood." That's the Ark of the Covenant.
"I will write on tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke, and you shall put them into the ark. So I made an ark of acacia wood, hewn two tablets of stone like the first, went up to the mountain, having the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, ten commandments which the Lord had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire, in the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me."
Now, this is good news. The fact that God says, OK, you busted up the first ones because they broke the covenant. But now, Moses, you have to cut out the stones yourself, bring them up to me. I won't cut them out of the rock. You will. Bring them up to me, and then I'll write on them, a copy, essentially, of what you broke.
So what God is saying-- the reason this is good news is God is saying, I am renewing the covenant that they broke. I'm not ending it. I answered your prayer. So make another testimony, tablets of stone, indicating I'm now done with them. I'm renewing the covenant they broke.
It's like a boss that fired you who re-hires you and gives you a welcome back letter. God is renewing the covenant with them.
Now, this time, Moses will be instructed to put the Ten Commandments, those two tablets of stone, into the Ark of the Covenant, where they would stay as a testimony of the Law that they broke-- the covenant that was renewed-- in the box, along with a couple of other items-- a pot of manna, symbolizing God's provision; Aaron's rod that budded in the wilderness. Those three items will be placed in the Ark of the Covenant.
Remember, the Ark of the Covenant is a box-- you saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, so it's about three foot by two foot, that box, the Ark of the Covenant. On top of the Ark of the Covenant was a lid call the mercy seat. Blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat. God said, on the mercy seat, where the blood is sprinkled, I will meet with you.
Why is this important? Because God won't meet with them inside the box, over the Law that has been broken. God will meet with them on the mercy seat, where the blood has been shed. That's where God meets with us.
The covenant is made by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, whom Paul calls our propitiation, or our mercy seat, literally. That's where God meets with us. I love that symbolism.
"Then I turned," verse 5, "came down from the mountain, put the tablets in the Ark, which I had made. And there they are, just as the Lord commanded me. Now, the children of Israel journeyed from the wells of Benay Yaakan to Moseroth, where Aaron died and where he was buried. And Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his place," or stead.
"From there, they journeyed to Gudgodah," and no, that is not the cheese from Holland; it's a place, "and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah." You know. Aren't you glad that's there? It's like, oh, yeah. You know. We don't. They did.
"A land of rivers of water. At that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord, to minister to Him, and to bless in His name to this day. Therefore, Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brethren. The Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord promised him."
So the Levites, the tribe of Levi, there were three sons-- the Gershonites. Gershon was the son. All the descendants of Gershon, they carried the cloths and the hides of the Tabernacle. The Kohathites, they carried the holy objects of worship inside that structure. And the sons of Merari-- those are the three sons-- and the sons of Merari carried the infrastructure, the poles and the boards that everything was stretched out on.
So each one had their duty. And the point is they get no land inheritance like the other tribes do. They will get cities. There will be Levitical cities, where they will occupy. But the Lord will be the inheritance, and they will live off of the tithes and the offerings that will be brought from the 12 tribes in their land allotments.
"As at the first time," verse 10, "I stayed in the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. The Lord also heard me at that time, and the Lord chose not to destroy you. Then the Lord said to me, arise. Begin your journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command you today for your good.
Indeed, heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the Earth with all that is in it. The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. Therefore, circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be stiff-necked no longer."
That's the purpose of the covenant symbol of the circumcision of the male. It was for this reason that you cut away the fleshly inclinations and desires of your life. You move that away, and you serve the Lord with all your heart. Don't be stiff-necked any longer, stubborn, recalcitrant.
"For the Lord your God is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe." Isn't if funny how we talk to the Lord sometimes, as if God can be bribed. Lord, if you do this for me, I promise I'll-- Stop. You're trying to bribe Him. It's not going to move him.
And yet, so many people I talk to have told me stories, I've told God, if you would only do this, then I do this. Like that's going to move him. Again, God loves you because He is love, not because you're lovable. It's not because of your righteousness or goodness that I'm giving you this land.
It's not object-oriented. God's love is subject-oriented. It orients, it centers, on His nature, not yours. Grace means favor given to unfavorable people. It's so hard, even for us evangelicals, to get under the spout where the glory comes out, under His grace.
Expect God's blessing. Well, I haven't been good. Expect God's blessing. He's good. So He's awesome. And I lost my place. Oh, there it is.
"He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore, love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." So when you have people in your land, in your country, who are not naturalized citizens, you are to love them, because you were once strangers in another land, and the Lord loved you and He took care of you. And so you are My people, you reflect My love toward people.
"You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve Him. And to Him you shall hold fast and take oaths in His name. He is your praise."
Now, notice again, it says, the fear of the Lord. It's mentioned a couple of times in this passage. Fear the Lord. Fear the Lord. You will find this phrase, the fear of God, or, the fear of the Lord, about a little more than 50 times-- depending on which translation you use-- 50 times in the Bible.
The fear of the Lord-- it's a good phrase. Don't be afraid of it. It's a wonderful description of a world view, I call it, an outlook. and Let me describe it real briefly. We have one minute.
It's not like I'm afraid of God, like Dorothy and the lion were in The Wizard of Oz., so I'm shaking in my boots. But I do have a fear, I have a healthy anxiety, that I would be displeasing and offend Him. I love Him so much, I don't want to displease Him.
So the fear of the Lord is a world view. It's a grid by which one lives. It's a philosophy of life that helps me navigate through the day and keeps me from doing certain things, but engaging in other things. Because my grid is, would this please God? Would he want me to do this? Or would this offend Him? That's the healthy fear of the Lord.
Yirat Yahweh is the Hebrew word. It's a reverential awe that produces a humble submission to a loving God. That's the fear of the Lord. And it's a beautiful world view. It's essential. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of knowledge, as the author of Proverbs tells us.
"He," verse 21, let's finish this out, "is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt with 70 persons. And now, the Lord your God made you the stars of heaven in multitude."
Moses was addressing a church of between two to three million people. From 70 people to that size crowd, God multiplied them, like he told Abraham, I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, like the sand on the shore.
God has been faithful. You've been faithless, he tells them. God is faithful, who loves to take faithless people, forgive them, bless them, and use them.
If you feel unworthy tonight in any capacity, you have come to the right place. And you are in good company. We are all in that company. And we thank God for His incredible mercy and favor.
Father, as we close this service, having surveyed two chapters, thank you. Thank you for the time that is set aside every week to consider larger chunks of scripture than just a few verses and to see the flow of history and the flow of scripture, and to be reminded of these things over and over again, so that our hearts would be open and supple, that we would not stiffen our heart or stiffen our neck. But that we would love you and praise you for who you are, not because of who we are, but because of who you are.
And the longer we walk with you, I'm convinced the more unworthy we know ourselves to be and the more worthy you are of our praise. Thank you for the new covenant. Unlike the old, it is based solely on the finished work, the shed blood, of the man from Galilee, the God-man, Jesus Christ, who came from heaven to Earth, to be our mercy seat, our propitiation, our atoning sacrifice.
We can meet with you on that mercy seat at the cross, and nowhere else. Lord, we believe in you. We trust in you. And by that entrance way of faith, all of the blessings in heavenly places are given to us.
So Lord, I pray that as we go from here, we would see the rest of this week-- and yea, the rest of our lives-- as a great adventure. We would buckle up, get ready for the curves and the bumps and the potholes, and all the wonderful scenery we're going to see, from here until we see you in glory. In Jesus' name, amen. Let's all stand.
Won't you sing this out with us.
[MUSIC - TAMRA ARAGON, "NOW I LIVE"]
[SINGING] I was sinking in my pride, nothing left but pain inside, till your love came down for me, till your love came down for me. And now I live, now I live, live my life for you, Oh, now I give, give my life, give it all for you, oh.
Amen. God bless you. Have a wonderful rest of your evening.