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Sunday, February 15, 2015

1 - Shema (One God) (Deuteronomy 6.1-13)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
February 15, 2015
Text: Deuteronomy 6:1-13

:: Sermon Audio (link)
scroll down for written draft

Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "Holy is the Lord" (Tomlin/Giglio)
Hymn of Praise: "Be Thou My Vision/Open My Eyes" (arr.+chorus, Youngblood/Austell)
The Word in Music: "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" (Nygard)
Offering of Music: "Be Unto Your Name" (Deshazo/Sadler)
Our Song of Praise: "The Doxology"
Song of Sending, "Behold Our God" (Sovereign Grace: Baird, Altrogge)
Postlude: Kelsey Gilsdorf, piano

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf): 
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

Today we are concluding our series on Old Testament laws that serve as gracious blessings in the life of Christians. We have often either misunderstood these laws as pre-Christ requirements for salvation or as non-applicable rules that got discarded when Christ came. Neither is the case! God has always been the one who saves – Old Testament or New. And Jesus himself said he didn’t come to discard the Law, but to explain and perfect it. God’s Law – God’s Word – is for blessing us, for helping us to put our lives in order in a way that serves God, blesses us, and blesses others. So we’ve looked at Old Testament laws and practices like Jubilee, tithing, and Sabbath and how those spiritual disciplines are still beneficial to us today.

In each case, we’ve noted the numbers involved, really just to help us remember. So Jubilee was one in fifty; tithing was one in ten; and Sabbath was one in seven. Today we are just at “one.” We are down to the one thing that is the main thing and it really summarizes all the other things. It was well-known to all the Jewish people and is known by the opening Hebrew word in verse 4: shema. It means “Listen up!” and is paired here with Israel. “Listen up, Israel” – exclamation point! Here comes something really important. And this is after a bunch of other really important stuff. In fact, what it follows is the Ten Commandments, re-stated and re-upped by the children and grandchildren of those who were delivered from Egypt. This is a generation later, ready to enter the Promised Land, ready to inherit the promise and blessing of God and freshly reminded of those Laws that God will use to bless them. And after that, one summary teaching: “Listen up, Israel!” I want to make sure you get this. This is the MAIN THING.

The Lord is One (v. 4)

What do you think is the main thing? You might quickly jump to verse five, because that’s the one Jesus quoted as “the greatest commandment.” And we will get to verse five directly. But that’s not the main thing. The main thing is there in verse four right after, “Listen up, Israel!” It is this: “The Lord (is) our God, the Lord is one!” This is what was both headline and content of the Ten Commandments: no other gods, no idols, no other worship; order your week, your family, your community around this truth. There is only one God; not the many so-called gods of Egypt. There is only one God, the one who rescued you from Egypt. There is only one God, worthy of all honor, glory, worship, and devotion. And this is not a god made by human hands or intellect, but the self-revealed “I AM who I AM” (YWHW mentioned twice in this declaration!). Listen up, Israel; listen up, people of God! That’s the main thing!

If THAT’S true…. if THAT’S true… the implications are huge! What we’ve been looking at in previous weeks comes from the Old Testament Law, which presumes that it’s true – there is only one God, the Lord our God. And so, it makes sense that we would prioritize and order our relationships (Jubilee), resources (tithing), and daily life and health (Sabbath) around that main thing.

What follows in Deuteronomy 6 are two “so what’s.” There are two examples of the huge implications I mentioned. I’ll divide them this way: if there is only one God, the Lord our God, then LOVE like that’s true and LIVE like that’s true.

So LOVE Like It’s True (v. 5)

Verse five is the part of this that we are most familiar with: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” I’ve spent time on that with you before. For the Hebrew listener in the time of Moses and Joshua, ‘heart’ was where you made decisions, the seat of the will and of choice. ‘Soul’ was the essence of who you are, your very self. And ‘might’ was like a double-exclamation point on the end of it (as opposed to physical strength). I like to summarize all that by saying, “Love God with all you are and all you’ve got!”

Much more could be said about that, about what it looks like in our lives and about how Jesus validated it as part of the “greatest commandment.” But it’s really just the consequence of the main thing. Remember the main thing? “There is only one God, the Lord our God.”

Otherwise, how would that make sense? Who or what is worthy of love that is “all you are and all you’ve got?” I mean that’s a kind of love that involves intellect, emotion, choice, and self, with a double-boost of effort injected. It’s the kind of love that describes a complete re-prioritizing and re-ordering of life and priorities, of time and space and resources. Exactly! That’s why it’s all of one piece. Only “the one God, the Lord our God” could be worth THAT kind of love.

So listen up; the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. If that’s true, LOVE like it’s true. It will change your life.

So LIVE Like It’s True (vv. 6-9)

And if that kind of love changes your life, you’ll know it and see it. You’ll not only love like the one God is your God; you’ll LIVE like it’s true. Verses 6-13 describe that life. The main thing will be so embedded in your heart that you will “teach [these things] diligently” to your children. (v. 7a) You will talk of them in your home, outside your home, morning, noon, and night. (v. 7b) Though later people like the Pharisees would take this next part a little too literally, actually binding boxes to their hands and heads, these words – the MAIN THING – should be as evident in your life as if they were written on your forehead and on the front door of your house. (vv. 8-9)

Is God so important in your life that it is evident IN your life? Is it unmistakable? That’s the picture being portrayed here – not an obnoxious bumper sticker on your car, but a clear witness to a love that is “all you are and all you’ve got.”

Listen up – the Lord is our God; the Lord is one! So LOVE like that’s true and LIVE like that’s true. That’s the MAIN THING!

And Don’t Forget (vv. 10-13)

The text ends with a caution, which is also a fitting caution to our whole series. These Laws of God – this Word of God – is meant for your blessing, to lead you toward life and health and knowledge of God. Should you find yourself experiencing the gracious blessing of God, as those described in vv. 10-11, don’t forget the source of the blessing. It is so easy to let the main thing stop being the main thing. Maybe we start to think I did this on my own. Maybe I start to think that “all I am and all I’ve got” is a little too much and I can get by with a respectful nod of the head from time to time.

“Don’t forget!” warns the text. “Don’t forget the Lord who [delivered you].” And we end with a reminder of the main thing: only fear or reverence the Lord your God. Worship God alone. There is no other – “the Lord your God, the Lord is one.” Remember that one thing; it’s the main thing. Amen.

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