feast: Deuteronomy: What Is God Looking For?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 05-Oct-15; Sermon #FT15-08-PM; 65 minutes
Deuteronomy constitutes instruction for the Israel of God, serving as a compass and guide, preparing God's people to enter the Promised Land. None of Deuteronomy is done away. The singular book that was read by Shaphan to Josiah was Deuteronomy; the curses in chapter 28 particularly alarmed the king, leading to a re-affirmation of the Covenant and a major house-cleaning, ridding the land of idolatry. Deuteronomy is a compass, giving guidance of how to submit to God, providing us a God approved world-view. We need to evaluate our spiritual heritage and pass it on to our children, as a kind of rite of spiritual civic citizenship. If one does not have a grasp of the history of his nation, he has no real claim to citizenship. If we are not equipped by knowing our heritage through the study of history to live in the Kingdom of God, we will be terrible citizens, ill-equipped to rule. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants are a major part of our heritage. Our heritage is tied to a higher standard of life than we have come out of. Deuteronomy has been written to keep us on track, to be reviewed thoroughly every seven years. Deuteronomy is a detailed, renewed covenant document. We are to be doing the same things required of physical Israel, except on a much higher level; we must consequently respond on a higher level. In Deuteronomy, the character of God is described explicitly. We are exhorted against hiding our relationship with God by compromising with the world's culture. Our faithfulness to God must reciprocate His faithfulness with us.
In the first sermon of this series on Deuteronomy my purpose was to convince you that it is fully intended at this time as to the instruction to the Israel of God—not the physical nation of Israel—and it is not done away in any way, shape, or form. It is still to this day fully valid as spiritual instruction.
Jesus quoted from it many times, in fact more often from Deuteronomy than any other book in the Old Testament. He also showed that He followed it. He used it to defend Himself, and we are to follow Him, and walk in His steps. We are to imitate Him and since He used the book of Deuteronomy, we should use that as a guide as well. He not only quoted from the book many times, He directly stated in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets.
In the second sermon, I directly stated that Deuteronomy is the Old Covenant in its fullest form. It is the agreement between God and Israel. Again, it is not done away because it still has its uses for the preparation of the Israel of God for the Kingdom of God. It is a very clear foundational statement of our responsibilities to God and to each other in a relationship with God. The major difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is the better promises in the new.
Deuteronomy's major use for us is as a compass, it is a tool to keep us on track both doctrinally in regard to the processes of salvation, and it also reminds us of a major part of the history of our heritage as the Israel of God. Much of the sermon I gave had to with our heritage and I am going to continue some of this as well today.
I am going to start where we left off on the weekly Sabbath, because that shows us a very clear use of Deuteronomy by a godly king to restore some measure of Judah's relationship with God because Judah was used by Josiah and his advisers for one of the purposes which God gave it.
II Kings 22:1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David. He did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
This was one good king! They had been for generations without a good king. It is interesting that he was the grandson of Manasseh who was probably the worst king that ever ruled over Judah. Manasseh’s son Ammon came on the throne and was just like his father, he reigned for about three years. Like a bolt out of the blue here comes Josiah. When he was young (he began his rule when he was only eight years old), but he had a good upbringing. An awful lot of that upbringing was because of the high priest at that time. I think Josiah had been blessed by God through him. The first thing we see here as we open up this chapter is, we have a good king reigning.
In verse 8, a minor revival is beginning in Judah. The first thing that they were going to do was fix up the Temple which had fallen into disrepair. That is what they were working on while they were doing that.
II Kings 22:8-13 Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan and he read it. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us”.
To this point we really do not know exactly what it was they found. There are two possibilities: they found the whole Pentateuch all in one scroll or all in one book, but as we go on we find that it was not the Pentateuch that they found. Even when Shaphan is reading it to the king, it is not real clear what it is that they found, it could be the Pentateuch or it could be Deuteronomy. This question is answered in II Kings 23.
II Kings 23:1-2 Then the king sent them together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. And the king went up to the house of Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord.
Do you think you would have enough patience to hang around while the king, governor, or mayor of your town read aloud the entire book of Deuteronomy? How long did it take you to read it to yourself? Probably a couple of hours. These people are probably standing there the entire time while he reads the book.
II Kings 23:3 Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took their stand for the covenant.
It is very clear now, the singular book that was being read by Shaphan and then Josiah, is Deuteronomy. Josiah was scared spitless, as they might say. What he quoted there was the curses in Deuteronomy 28, that is what really scared him. Along the way, before he ever got to Deuteronomy 28, he could see very clearly how short they were falling of having a good relationship with God. Not only himself, he was a good king and knew what was going on in his country to know they were practicing idolatry without any restraint.
He knew the handwriting was on the wall and he had enough faith in God to know what was about to happen to them. What they did in times like that—it happened in Judah and Israel's history before—is they reconfirmed the covenant that they found in Deuteronomy and swore their oaths. They dedicated their life in obedience to follow what was in it.
What occurred after that was what begun as merely repairs to the Temple turned into a full blown revival. He pretty much cleaned house. He got rid of all the Temple prostitutes, and things like that, male prostitutes as well, he torn down the idols, he did everything that he could within his power to clean things up. But we know from history, in the Bible, that it could not work because it was too overwhelming, the entire nation was not like Josiah. The strength of his personality could not carry it, even though people loved him and respected him. They knew he was a man of good character and they enacted the major reforms but it was only temporary.
There we see a very good picture of what one of God's main intention is for Deuteronomy. I will tell you what it is. I used this term before. Deuteronomy is a compass, it gives guidance, it tells the worshippers of God the direction that they are to go in their life, how they are to submit to Him, and therefore it points toward a good relationship with God. Any time anybody gets lost out in the woods, lost out on a mountain, lost out on the prairie, if you have a compass with you there is a pretty good chance that you are going to get out of that predicament.
That is what one of the major things is that God created the book of Deuteronomy for. If anyone of His people get spiritually lost for some reason, they can find their way back by studying the book of Deuteronomy. If any nation has a good king like Josiah, even the nation can be pulled in the right direction by the right kind of leadership that is following what is written in the book of Deuteronomy.
I used another term before as well (in the second sermon). What the book of Deuteronomy does is what we would call today a world view. Here is what so good about it. It is a God-approved world view that is all encompassed within a 34 chapter book. These are the concepts, the ideas that He wants to be guides for our life.
That is what happened in Josiah's revival. They renewed the covenant, their minds were refreshed as to where they stood as a people before the One they were making the covenant with, knowing full well they were in the land that He promised them. It is interesting that some history pointing to the very beginnings of Israel as a nation dominates the opening of Deuteronomy in the first chapter primarily and all the way up to chapter 7. Then the last 5 chapters beginning with Deuteronomy 28, are the blessings and the curses.
Thus the book begins showing the way they were to go, the book ends by showing that this is what happens when we do not do what the book says to do at the beginning. If the covenant is not obeyed they are going to get the curses. What stirred Josiah was how far short they fell and the curses promised by God if they did not conform.
What I did in that second sermon is encourage you regarding the importance of valuing your spiritual heritage and passing those things on to your children. Deuteronomy gives a bird’s eye view of the foundation of yours and my spiritual heritage. It does not have all the information in it, but again it gives us enough so that we can hook onto it and search out the details in other parts of the Bible.
I am going to read to you a quotation from a man named McClain, Mr. McClain gave this speech to a group of college teachers and administrators. What he says should be very meaningful to you and me regarding our place in the Israel of God.
The chief purpose of a high school education in American history is not the development of critical thinking and analytic skills, although the acquisitions of such skills is vitally important, nor is it the mastering of facts, although a solid grasp of the factual basis of American history is surely essential, nor is it the acquisition of a genuine historical conscientiousness although that certainly would be nice to have too.
Particularly under the circumstances in which historical memories seems to run about 15 minutes, especially with the young. No, the chief purpose of a high school education in American history is a right of civic membership. It is an act of inculcation and formation, a way in which the young are introduced to the fullness of their political and cultural inheritance as Americans, enabling them to become literate and conversant in America's many features and to appropriate fully all that America has to offer them. Both its privileges and its burdens, history makes America stories theirs. Understanding American history makes America's stories theirs and thereby lets them come into possession of the common treasure of America's cultural life. In that sense the study of history is different from any other academic subject it is not merely a body of knowledge, it also ushers the student into membership in a common world and situates them in time and space.
I am going to break that last sentence down so that we can understand. He said, “If one does not have a grasp of the history of his nation (he is talking about America), then you are not equipped to be a good citizen of it, because you do not have any idea of what is going on.”
Apply that conclusion to your relationship with God as part of the Israel of God. He is pointing out that Americans do not value their heritage, they do not know what they are part of, they do not know anything about America exceptionalism, and they do not know really where it began or how these things came to be. If we are not equipped to really be citizens of the Kingdom of God we may be as well off as one of a billion living in China or anywhere else. We will not be a good citizen because we will not truly care about its well being as part of God's awesome purpose. All we will care about is getting salvation for ourselves.
McClain’s conclusion is stated in those two last sentences. If one does not have a sense of his heritage he is nothing but a ping pong ball bouncing around within a community with no sense of purpose or responsibilities to the community or its leadership. In that case people will go anywhere they want to, do whatever they want to. They do not care what they are doing to the nation and do not care about what they are doing to the community, they just do what they want to. They do not feel anything about the destruction that they are creating, just so they are free to do what they want to do. Such a person’s sense of responsibility is solely to himself and as a citizen that person is an independent, religiously he is a humanist.
We have to think about that in regard to the Israel of God. We had a sermon about the difference between liberty, freedom, and independence, Americans want to be independent. In their search for independence they do not realize what they help to destroy, they are destroying the liberties that were given to us by our founding fathers and placed into the constitution. If people would just obey them the liberties would be great.
When people want to be independent within religion they become humanist. They are independent from God, they are god and are free to do what they want to do. We will think about this regarding the Israel of God, the Israel of God's heritage ties us directly to the Creator God and His purpose back through Jesus Christ, Israel the nation, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Sarah, Joshua, Gideon, Sampson, Samuel. They are all part of your heritage.
Do you know what they did? Do you know when they did it? Do you know how they did it? Do you know what they produced for you? This is a lot more serious than America's heritage because we know that these people that are part of the Israel of God's heritage. They were people who overcome, who grew, who had a relationship with God, they cared about God, they cared about those they loved, they cared enough that they did not want to see anything that had to do with God in any way marred or destroyed by them.
They did not feel independent. They felt bound by the glory of that God because that is where their liberties came from and that is what they were working toward, ensuring those liberties and that those liberties could be passed on to their children. They cared what they did in public, who they did it with, who they did it to, because they were always upholding the heritage of God and His family. They did not want His name marred in the least.
People do not seem to care much anymore about family ties, they just go their own way and do their own thing and all too often they bring shame upon their father and mother. Our heritage is tied to a much higher standard, a higher way of life, and a greater purpose by far.
Those people that I named were out of Hebrews 11, because they were faithful in what they did before God. That is why their names are in the book. Do we have anything that we can put alongside of their names that was very much like what they did? Probably not. Did you ever stop to think that one of the greatest gifts of God to mankind is the Bible and it is first and foremost a history book? If you think history is not important to God you do not have much sense regarding heritage of a family, the family of God.
Those people that I named are to us, spiritually, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and there are many others as well. They are part of the heritage that passed on to us the liberties that we have in the United States of America.
You know as well as I do that there are people out there who are doing everything in their power to mar the names of those people. We know those people were not perfect, but under the circumstances they did a pretty good job and they gave us a way of life that, if it is used, it is pretty good. This nation really prospered with the help of God under that kind of leadership. There should be a measure of pride in what these people did and what they left us.
Deuteronomy is written in such a manner to keep us on track and not let happen to us what is happening here in the United States, where people left and right are trying to change some aspect of the Constitution. They think that they will benefit with some additional independence and liberty if that is changed they way they would like it to be.
Deuteronomy has a command in it that every seven years it is to be reviewed and that is one of the reasons why He wants us to go through it—so we are tied once again into the very foundation of the doctrines that have to do with salvation and the doctrines and teachings that have to do with our heritage in the Kingdom of God.
Deuteronomy is a fairly large book of 34 chapters, it is not as short as Philemon, John, or Ruth, and certainly not as long as the Psalms. There is no human personality that dominates its pages like a David, or Jesus of Nazareth, unless you might say it is Moses, but he himself is not focused on it, even though he humanly authored it, it is not his story. In it he is reporting and giving wise counsel.
So Deuteronomy is a writing made up of many individual pieces but only one actual named and dominant theme. Genesis is a book of beginnings, Exodus carries the story of Israel's enslavement and being released in order to become a nation, and the book of Leviticus is dominated by regulations regarding holiness.
Deuteronomy's variety is a subtle key to understanding its purpose, we will review some of the subjects that it touches on. It is, first of all, a covenant document. It is a fairly detailed pledging of God and Israel's agreement made with each other. That is its one dominant theme. It is a fairly detailed renewal of the covenant made at Mount Sinai much expanding from what appears in Exodus. The key words for this sermon are renewal and detailed. When this renewal is made, the relationship was beginning a new serious stage because Israel was entering a land promised them by God.
Israel's behavior in the wilderness was questionable to say the least. Were they prepared? That was the big question. I am sure that was in Moses’ mind. He had to trust God that God would keep them on track. Are we prepared for the Kingdom of God even though we are so scattered? Israel was in one bunch, all in one place. We, the church of God, are all over the place now. Are we prepared?
At that time Israel's responsibility was to secure the land and then develop the land, and organize their communities as a nation within it. In Deuteronomy God is portrayed as a powerful but benign conquering King making promises to his captive nation to supply its needs. He is also clearly shown giving warnings that if they do not submit to His benign rule, great tragedy will come upon them.
This new stage was not going to be a free ride to easy prosperity. First they had to go to war, then they had to use the land and build communities within it. So living in it had requirements and living in it has its purpose. I hope that you will put yourself into the book, into the Deuteronomy theme, and realize that we are to be doing basically the same things that were required of Israel, except on a much higher level.
Thus much of Deuteronomy's content is presented as terms of the covenant that bound the Israelites and God in a relationship. Deuteronomy also provides us with a brief but a very serious overview of the history of how these two came together in this union. Though God is a conquering King the relationship is in reality based in His merciful rescue of them from their slavery to another nation. Thus, many of the terms of the covenant touch on how Israel must respond in order to keep the relationship strong.
As a result of God's purpose for Israel it touches on many important aspects of God’s plan for spiritual salvation. It mentions them but it gives little detail, because the details are provided elsewhere in other books. Every doctrine significant to salvation is broached though not necessarily directly named. It is almost as if you have to read between the lines.
Deuteronomy requires careful reading. Remember it is a law doctrine. God did not make the book of Deuteronomy so clear that an eighth grader can understand it. It requires adult thinking. It contains a brief history of the Israelitish people. It talks about faith, it talks about faithfulness, their election, law, sanctification, forgiveness, justification, grace, God's sovereignty and providence, judgment, holiness, and making choices.
I do not see how we can read Deuteronomy without coming to a conclusion like I am going to say. Deuteronomy is uncompromisingly, almost ruthlessly monotheistic, there is not one inch allowed for idolatry. It almost throws in our face that YHWH alone is God and there is no other. God will not brook idolatry and yet we know that is the very thing that Israel went into. You can see it in Ezekiel 16, it is so clear. There is no other book in the Bible that defines the character of God so sharply and completely.
Just like the monotheism, it is almost in your face. Remember what this is: this is a covenant doctrine, it is a law, and this is what our relationship depends on—God doing His part and Israel doing their part.
Deuteronomy is particularly filled with what it means to be the people of God, to be entrusted with the knowledge of God, and to be challenged to not merely believe that knowledge but by faith live out that knowledge in the sight of those around you. Basically God is telling you, “Do not hide what you are from the people. Live it.” That will bring glory upon God and He wants others to see that, not that they will be converted by what we do, but Israel was God's witness before the world, they did not do it. The commands are very direct regarding this.
So many elements of spiritual salvation are touched on that in today's language, Deuteronomy can rightly be said to provide His children with the world view God desires for them to hold in their minds. He desires His children to perceive life through a righteous lens, there is no shading the truth in Deuteronomy. It says do this and that, I want you to do it this way, that way, and at this time and no other way.
Deuteronomy is a looking glass through which we can look at our goal, look at life and our responsibilities in order to keep us on track with His purpose. You are probably getting to the place where if you are thinking about this you will understand that the reason God is so stern with this is because He wants His people to have no excuse whatever for turning away, so it is written bluntly. God is shown in the covenant to be a powerful and yet benign King but it has to be done His way! That is the only way it will work.
What Deuteronomy does is it provides what I call snapshots of important elements His people must use as guides for life within His purpose.
I do believe that I know what it is perhaps above all characteristics or fruits that He desires that Deuteronomy helps us accomplish. It is this: those He calls must respond to Him to a level of faithfulness that is an adequate companion of His own faithfulness to us. The main characteristic that God is after here and why the book seems so stern and so harsh is because He wants those He calls to respond to Him to a level of faithfulness that is an adequate companion of His own faithfulness to us.
I am not saying to you that our faithfulness is an exact copy, we cannot live the way He does. But He wants us to make every effort to do the very best we can. That is why there is no wiggle room anywhere in the book of Deuteronomy.
I want to remind you again of what I showed you in the first sermon in this series, because the church is now the only clearly identified Israel. It is spiritual Israel and it is the Israel of God and this instruction in Deuteronomy is directly for us in a spiritual sense. But if we do not look out or look at it in that sense it will be similar to the Protestant world rejecting Deuteronomy—the Old Testament as interesting but nothing more than ancient history. If we look at it that way we will not be faithful to a very high degree.
Deuteronomy 7:6-12 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandments, the statues, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them. Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers.
Being faithful, I believe, is the first quality of His own character besides His love that He mentions in this paragraph. His love and His faithfulness are inextricably linked—He is the faithful God. He says that knowing full well that the Israelites worshipped a lot of gods, but only He was faithful, they could not do a thing.
It is helpful to recognize: why is God faithful? He tells us, it is because He loves us. Do you know that anybody that you are not faithful to you do not love that person? If you look at it bluntly as God does, we hate that person, we lie to that person, we will steal from that person, we will hurt that person. Those people that we love we do not want to do anything to harm them, we want to build them up, to encourage them, to teach them right things, we want to hug them, we want to kiss them, we want the very best for them, and we will give our life to them if need be.
What does that tell you about that God? He died for us because He loves us, He loves us despite the way we respond to Him! How faithful is that for you? How can we doubt that He will not go to the end of the earth for us, to rescue us, to heal us, to encourage us, to clean us up, to change our mind, to do things for us?
What this sets up for you and me is that loving Him in return is the key to our being faithful to Him. How many times even during this Feast have we done things, said things that are hurtful to our brothers or sisters, even though you might think it is true? It is better to keep those things to yourself until the time is right, the time might never come up because whatever it is is resolved.
Do you think God cannot solve problems? If we love Him we ought to know that He can solve problems, there is no problem too big for Him. Remember this, He loves us and therefore He is faithful to us. In order for us to be faithful to Him we have to love Him in return, because that is where the faithfulness begins.
Matthew 22:24-37 Saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also and the third, even to the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ”
It is love that motivates willing submission to Him in obedience. The word willing is important. If one has to be made under threat of force or pain to submit to God, then that principle kicks in—one convinced against his will remains unconvinced still. It does not meet the requirement, that person is not giving his love to God, he is being forced to love God and that is not really love.
This love that he is talking about here in verse 37 is something that is freely given to God, not upon threat, not being forced, but because we really and truly love Him because we know His character. We know the kind of person He is, we know all the good that He does for us and for others, we know that He has many times forgiven us and overlooked our sins and intervened in our life. We know these things because we are thinking about Him and we are thinking about ways to really and truly please Him.
In John 17, we begin to see why it is necessary that we have a relationship with Him. Jesus said this in a prayer that He made just before His crucifixion.
John 17:3 “And this is eternal life [a quality of life, as the Father and the Son live it], that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
One of the reasons the relationship is established with the Father and with the Son is because growing in love with Him is enhanced by contact with Him. If we are far from God we really do not know Him. The only way to really come to know Him is within a covenant relationship and this time the covenant is the New Covenant. The law is not done away, better promises of the New Covenant added to those laws give us the opportunity to be forgiven by Him. It gives us the opportunity to receive His Spirit, it gives us the opportunity to converse with Him right in His very throne room and He hears our prayers.
It gives us the opportunity to have the kind of relationship with Him where it is almost as if we get to the place where we can see Him operating. To know Him is to love Him. That is how we get the kind of love so that we can respond to Him in the right manner so we can have that relationship with Him.
The Old Covenant did not offer any of those things that I mentioned. I am not saying God did not forgive people under the Old Covenant, I am not saying He did not speak with people or hear their prayers, He did. There are some that He gave His Spirit but they were never promised. It is those very things that enables us to have the relationship with Him and get to really love Him because we know Him.
Those things have been passed on to us as a blessing from God, so that we can come to love Him and so that we can be faithful to Him and that we can obey Him because we love Him freely, giving ourselves over to Him.
Is it possible that because love is defined in I John 5:3 as the keeping of the commandments, that we might get strung up on what is primarily a legal definition when used in reference to God? We do not deny that there is an emotional bond between a man and a woman, do we? What do we call it? It might be lust, but that is not in our better thinking. We call it love. There is a feeling, there is an emotion. Love is not just a legal quality, love has an emotional bond to it. This is what gets in the way. We think of it too much in a legal sense, when God wants the feeling along with the legal things.
When that bond is between a man and a woman, what do they do? They do what God did. What did God do to Israel because He loved them? He set them apart from everybody else and He married her. You can read the whole story in Ezekiel 16. He expresses His feelings for Israel in that chapter so clearly. He also expresses the disappointment and discouragement that was in Him because she turned away from Him, because she loved herself but did not love God and His way of life. The emotional quality toward God was missing.
I can give you more details in Romans 5:5, Colossians 3:1-2, 12-14. I want you to see that because we have God's Holy Spirit we have the power to love, even emotionally it already exists within us. Because we have the direct connection to our resource, the God who loves us, we have to ask Him for it, we share the same Spirit that He has. He can make the connection to our spirit so that we really care about Him.
One of the things that we need to do in this year is that we need to ask God frequently that He will give us the power to love, first of all, Him. I am talking in an emotional sense, a serious understanding of the bond that we have with Him and His power and His character, and all the wonderful things that He has done for us, and is willing to do for us. To love Him in such a way that we will be faithful to Him, not the way Israel was unfaithful to Him, but to really use that love, and He will give it to us because He wants us to love Him, because we will do the right things in order to please Him.
That is something that we can use the time in this upcoming year to do, and right along with that is that we love one another and that there is a true emotional bond between each other in the congregation. If we do that we will treat them rightly.