“How Commanding Are God’s Commandments?”

Scripture – Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Psalm 25:1-10; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
Sermon Title: “How Commanding Are God’s Commandments?”

Our passage today about the ten commandments is NOT the usual list from Exodus 20. Our verses today are from the book of Deuteronomy when the forty years in the wilderness are about to end. Moses has been the Israelites’ leader for 40 years. Imagine!

And these were not fun years. It would be interesting to know if there were any “light” moments in those 40 years. Did Moses ever have moments of enjoyment? Did any of the tens of thousands of Israelites have light times? Maybe. They were not responsible to lead this huge crowd of people so they could sneak in some joviality. Mostly we just read of their complaining.

I just said “tens of thousands.” “The number is put at around 600,000 men aged between [ages] 20 and 60. If we include the women the number would double to 1,200,000.” (from “The Rational Believer” in jewishbelief.com)

Can you imagine maintaining order with this large mass of people? No wonder they needed the Ten Commandments! Yesterday in the United States, we had 331.89 million people. No wonder we need the Ten Commandments!

The two subtitles in Deuteronomy 30 are “The Lord Will Bring You Back” and “Choose Life, Not Death” Moses bringing the huge crowd of Israelites to the door of the Promised Land happens way before the Israelites are taken from that Promised Land because they did not honor the Ten Commandments. As Moses is reminding these people about the Ten Commandments, the Lord is saying through Moses, “I Will Bring You Back.” God sees the whole giant puzzle! Just as God knows ahead of time how we are going to disobey the Ten Commandments and therefore reject God, he also has plans for our well-being when we come to our senses. God will take us back.

How will we come to our senses? When we see that our rejection of God does not work for us, that is when we will come to our senses. How commanding are God’s commandments? Very! Chaos is around us when we do not respect and trust God and each other. We feel as though we are being torn in two. There is tension. When other things come between us and God, life unravels.

As I was writing this sermon, it came to me that whenever I insist on my own way, it happens that things do not go well. It may be that my idea was a good way but it was my insistence that was wrong. My pride came between myself and God. I was not being kind and respectful of whomever was bearing the brunt of my selfishness. So many times, Lord! Will I ever learn this lesson?

But God, or the Lord, whichever name we choose, is waiting to bring us back; to face God, to be the person God created us to be. The second subtitle in Deuteronomy 30 is “Choose Life, Not Death” We have a choice. We can walk on the track that is laid in Exodus 20 or we can choose the path to nowhere or worse. We can walk into all kinds of snares where we feel we are being torn in two. Verse 15 from the Contemporary English Version reads, “Today I am giving you a choice. You can choose life and success or death and disaster.” This is Moses speaking for the Lord.

Do you notice a tinge of “prosperity gospel” in this writing? Prosperity gospel is when pastors beguile their listeners repeatedly by promising wealth and success if we become “saved?” In reality this promise of wealth and success rarely happens after we go through the motions of being “saved.” Usually the only person who experiences wealth is the TV pastor. And a downfall is waiting for that person who led others astray.

To me, the “wealth and prosperity” that happens when we face God and live the Ten Commandments, is a calmness, a single focus on living as God wants us to live, a contentment, a finding of simple pleasures, a release from using money in the search for happiness, the desire to want only good for the other person, a respect for the gifts of God in the other person, the ability to bring the best of the other person to the front, knowing how to shape our language so that people are motivated to react in a loving and intelligent way rather than a defensive and ignorant way. You see, in focusing on being kind to the other person, we are rewarded by priceless peace.

In case we need a refresher course on the Ten Commandments, it is available in Exodus 20. But, they may seem too harsh with all of the DO’s and DON’Ts. Of course, sometimes we need harshness to get our attention. Looking at our Call to Worship from Psalm 25 may be a less harsh way. “Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.”

I am led now to the nine “Fruits of the Spirit” as they have a connection to the Ten Commandments. Two weeks ago this list of good attitudes was part of our designated scripture lessons. Last week Pastor Ben used them in reference to his young people’s message. Now they shine again. Reading them from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Hear them also from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible: God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.

When we have these goals in our daily living, we can match our behavior to the Ten Commandments and have a pretty good score. The question is “Does God keep score?” What do you think? Is that not why we regularly ask God for forgiveness of our sins? Even listing our sins, our unkindnesses, our wrongs, may be helpful to us and to our relationship with God.. As we confess our individual sins, as they leave our minds and bodies and souls, we can have a renewed relationship with God.

The very best way to assure that we are focused on the Ten Commandments and their expectations are by using these words: “You have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You shall love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” (CEV: Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 22:37-39; Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5)

Can we really make our selves love? Is it not a magic sort of feeling that comes upon us in a surprising way? Well, there is love and there is love. The love that God demands and the love that the world needs now is a solid love based on respect and the nine fruits of the spirit. It is doing what is right. This love becomes solid because it works for the world, for our communities of many sorts, and it works for us as individuals. It is a choice. Amen

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