A Sermon Preached during the Kiswahili Service at the ACK St. James Church – Buruburu on Sunday 18th June, 2017
- Psalm 45
- Deuteronomy 10:12-11:1 (Main Text)
- Acts 23:12-35
The book of Deuteronomy is one of the five books of the OT referred to as the Pentateuch or the books of Moses or simply the Law. They are referred to as the books of Moses because of the traditional belief that Moses wrote the books. However, through textual criticism, there are sections which are argued, not have been authored by Moses, but probably by an editor. For example how could Moses have written the following about himself?
Deuteronomy 34:1-7 “1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”
Surely, Moses could not have written about his own burial.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses, not only prepares the Israelites for his imminent departure but also initiates a spiritual renewal and focus; a renewal and focus to know who God is and what He has already done to them; and above all what God requires of them from that time henceforth. The Israelites in this final address, before they crossed River Jordan, are called upon by Moses to respond to God’s love and to what He has done for them:
Deuteronomy 9:1 “Hear, O Israel. You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky.”
Deuteronomy 10:12-11:1, is a transition from Moses’ historical discourse of God’s dealings with the Israelites in the midst of their journey to the Promised Land, to the present lifestyle expected of them in relation to their God; it is a transition in the use of tenses – that is, from the simple past tense to the present continuous and future continuous tenses.
The historical discourse starts from Deuteronomy 1:1, “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the desert east of the Jordan —that is, in the Arabah —opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab” through to Deuteronomy 10:10-11, “10 Now I had stayed on the mountain forty days and nights, as I did the first time, and the LORD listened to me at this time also. It was not his will to destroy you. 11 “Go,” the LORD said to me, “and lead the people on their way, so that they may enter and possess the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”
After the historical discourse, the transition comes with an inferred question at:
Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you…
Micah also gave an answer to the same question:
Micah 6:8 “8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Combining Deuteronomy 10:12ff and Micah 6:8, God expects three types of responses from the Israelites:
- Responses of the Heart
Responses from the heart meant that their hearts were sold out to nothing apart from the Lord their God. This implied that they will manifest this response through their:
- Fear of God
Fear of God does not mean being scared of God but reverence for God.
- Love for God
Love for God is diametrically the opposite of the negative fear for God; being scared of God. Love in this context, for the Israelites is responsive towards all that God had done for them and will continue to do for them. Love is self-giving in response to the gracious acts of God to His people. The love that God expects from His people from their hearts and souls; that’s is from utmost part of their beings.
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Love for God is not “closed ended”; as in loving God and that is all. But it is “open ended” where God has demonstrated that love through loving the weak in the society:
Deuteronomy 10:18 “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”
God’s people are to emulate their God’s love as their response from their hearts towards God’s gracious acts towards them:
Deuteronomy 10:19 “And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”
- Responses By Emotions / Affections
Responding to God’s love and gracious acts, according to the text is through:
- Walking in all God’s Ways
To walk in God’s ways means a transformed lifestyle which is patterned in God’s very own nature and lifestyle. If He loves, we must love; if He forgives, we must forgive. What God is, we must strive to be that He is.
- Observing God’s Commands and Decrees
God’s commands and decrees is the constitution that governs how the people relate with their God and one another. His constitution governs interpersonal relationships. But again, Moses was very clear that whatever commands and decrees that God has given is for the good of the people:
Deuteronomy 10:13 “…observe the LORD’S commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good…”
- Responses Through Action / Deed
Love can be an abstract term but God’s people are called upon to translate the abstract term; love into active, tangible and practical love. Practically, the Israelites are expected to respond to God’s love in the past and future through action or deeds.
Deuteronomy 10:15 “…the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.”
They were to respond through:
- Submission to the only One God – through the circumcision of their hearts
A command and a warning are given to the people to warn them of the seriousness of their God:
Deuteronomy 10:16 “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.”
In order to understand the meaning of “Circumcise your hearts…” we have to see other instances the same phrase is used or implied in the bible:
Later on in Deuteronomy, the phrase “circumcise your heart” is used:
Deuteronomy 30:6 “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
Paul, many centuries later used a similar phrase:
Romans 2:28-29 “28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”
The use of circumcision in the OT was in relation to a covenant relationship between God and His people. The physical removal of the foreskin implied a mark of identity and belonging to a covenant relationship with God. Circumcision was the doorway into a covenant relationship with God, marking safety. Later when the use was transitioned to the circumcision of the heart, the meaning changed to salvation. This is the argument of Paul to the Romans – A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code…
Therefore, Love for God is to be expressed through total submission and acknowledgement that He is the only God; the God of gods and the Lord of lords. That is, God is the Saviour and He expects of the redeemed, His people, a true heart response to His majesty and goodness. True fear and true love produces wholehearted service and obedience to God.
- Social and Humanitarian Responsibility
Social and humanitarian responsibility is a way of service to God in response to His love. The Israelites are to “Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him…”
God, through His benevolent love, reaches out to meet the needs of the fatherless, the widow and the alien / stranger. The Israelites are asked to come out from their comfort zones of revelling in God’s love and deeds, and show the love of God to others. The love of God compels us to go out and show the same love to those outside our networks of the blessed.
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 “18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”
“Love God for His Steadfast Love”. Indeed, God’s love for us compels us to respond to His great love for us. The response can be summed up as the circumcision of the heart – salvation; responding to God’s love through salvation.
1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”
God first loved us, giving us the standard of His love. At the end of the discourse, Moses categorically summarises what God had done to the Israelites as an expression of His love and at the same time should induce their love for God:
Deuteronomy 10:21-22 “21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.”
God’s love calls for a response from us. The response involves the disposition of our hearts. It requires hearts that have been conformed to love God in reverence instead of being scared of God. That heart can only respond if it is circumcised!!
1st Sunday after Trinity
The Rev. Simon J. Oriedo
Curate at ACK St. James’ Buruburu
P.O. Box 14814 – 00100, Nairobi Kenya
Mobile: +254 – 722 838 023 / 772 838 023 / 735 62 11 72 / 752660620