Topical Sermon based on Deuteronomy
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 3/5/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch
To watch the entire worship service, click the link just below:
Please open your Bibles to Deuteronomy chapter 5.
This is another sermon in a series I’m calling “Finding God’s Heart.” It’s based on this week’s reading range in our Bible year plan. Each week in our church bulletin, on the announcement page, we’re including a paragraph which tells you the Bible reading range for the week ahead. If you glance in this week’s bulletin, for example, you’ll see that for this coming week, if you’re following the plan, you should read Deuteronomy 26 – Joshua 17.
I don’t know about you, but I find I get the most enjoyment out of this kind of Bible reading if I settle down and just read through all or most of the reading range at one time. I generally do it Sunday afternoon, and it helps me get the flow of several chapters at once.
Anyway, do the kind of reading you prefer. Some people listen to the Bible in their car with an audiobook, or online. Some people get a chronological Bible and read it that way. There are number of ways to do this. But I think that we need to make sure we get not only Bible words, but the flow and throb of Bible thought, into our minds and out through our speech and actions.
When I was a kid, my parents at one point gave me a toy doctor’s kit, sort of a black plastic case that looked like a lunchpail.
Did any of you get a doctor’s kit as a child? I don’t know why my parents got me this. I don’t remember ever asking for it. But I guess they thought it would be interesting to me, and it was. I don’t remember everything the kit contained, but there was a pair of plastic scissors, and a small roll of adhesive tape, and a fake thermometer, and a few Band-Aids, and a toy stethoscope with gray rubber tubes.
It was just enough of a real stethoscope that you could actually hear your heart if you put those plastic little earbuds in the areas and held the microphone part up to your chest.
I remember being startled by the sound – an ominous, gooshy, thumping sound. I remember thinking, “That’s my heart! It’s beating so steadily, and I don’t even have to think about it. I hope it keeps beating for a long time.”
Then I learned how to take my pulse, and feel that little part of your wrist which throbs rhythmically back against your finger when you press on it.
I knew from a very early age that my dad had heart problems. He had high blood pressure, and needed to control it, but his heart just kept beating on and on. When he did die, at almost the same age I am now, it wasn’t from heart problems but a variety of other things.
The Bible reading passage for this past week takes in most of the book of Deuteronomy. It’s easy to think of Deuteronomy as one of the Old Testament’s “law” books. In fact, that’s what its title means: “Second Law.” It’s sort of a recap of some of the laws God wanted His people to observe back in those days.
But anybody who does a thoughtful read-through of Deuteronomy knows that it’s far more than a thick old leather bound legal book you might find in some lawyer’s office. In fact it’s quite different.
A couple of days ago, just as an experiment, I got out my Young’s Concordance and counted how many times the word “law,” which is the Hebrew word torah, shows up in Deuteronomy. Torah shows up 21 times.
But then I looked up how often the word “heart” shows up in Deuteronomy. The Hebrew word for “heart” is levav, and I was astounded to see that levav occurs 43 times.
So when you look at numbers like this, you see that Deuteronomy is almost exactly twice as much a “heart” book as it is a “law” book.
So when I discovered this, I went through Deuteronomy and studied every time the word “heart” shows up. And I discovered something that I had kind of suspected – Deuteronomy is actually God’s “heart care plan” for you and me.
First of all, of course, it was a heart-care plan for the Israelites. Deuteronomy is one long oration or speech Moses made to the people just before his death. Some of it is made up of laws, but large parts of it are earnest pleadings to the people to turn their hearts back to the Lord, and learn to love Him, and learn how much sense His laws make.
But Deuteronomy wasn’t for the Old Testament Israelites only. Deuteronomy might have been one of Jesus’ favorite Bible books. At any rate, He considered its words so valuable that He had memorized enough of them that when the powerful evil angel Satan confronted him in the wilderness with three carefully-designed temptations, Jesus answered each one of them with a Deuteronomy quote.
So if Deuteronomy was useful to Jesus, Deuteronomy can be useful to us as well. As I was studying this week, I discovered three “heart-care” facts this book has for me.
And we’ll find God’s first heart-care fact here in Deuteronomy 5. What’s happening here is that Moses is reminding the people about when God came down on the top of Mount Sinai and spoke the 10 Commandments out loud. Now, since it’s been 40 years since this happened, most of the people had been children or teenagers back then.
But Moses is speaking to them the way he often does, by using the word “you” to refer to their ancestors. Jesus does the same thing. When He said in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets,” He wasn’t actually speaking to the literal prophet-murderers, but to their descendants. Yet it wouldn’t be long before those descendants turned on Him and murdered Him as well.
Anyway, here in Deuteronomy 5, Moses reminds them how frightened the people were when they heard God’s voice. Let’s pick up the story in verse 23:
Deuteronomy 5:23 – 28 [NKJV]: “So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. And you said: ‘Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? You go near and hear all that the LORD our God may say, and tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.’ “Then the LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.
Now, listen carefully to what the Lord says next.
Verse 29: Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
Isn’t that interesting? You know, the Lord could simply have left off the first part, and said, “Oh, if only they would fear Me and keep all My commandments.” But first He said, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them.”
So if Deuteronomy is indeed God’s “heart-care manual,” what could be its first principle? Here comes what I’d call Sermon Point One.
God has high hopes for my heart.
How many parents have lamented about a rebellious child, longing for them to have a sensitive heart and a tender conscience.
Shelley and I have quite a number of books on health in our personal library. As I mentioned, my dad died at the age which I am right now. Heredity gives me tendencies toward his problems – but my lifestyle is a lot different than his was. And it is Shelley, through her study of health principles and nutritious food, who is the reason that I am as healthy as I am.
And if I glance into one of the books on health that we have, the first thing I notice is that the authors have high hopes for their readers. Often these are doctors or nurses or registered dietitians, and they have high hopes that those who read the books will catch this same hopeful spirit. So they do the best they can to encourage and inspire the readers. Their message is, “You can do it! Give it a try!”
And in these health books, the authors spend the remainder of the books giving–and explaining– how-to steps so readers can achieve the book’s goal. It’s the same with Deuteronomy. God spends the rest of the book talking about the heart, and encouraging us to cooperate with Him to strengthen our hearts.
So when God says, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them,” this is not a wail of despair. Instead, we can almost see Him rolling up his sleeves and getting ready to offer us ways that our hearts might be healed.
But this means we need to lay down Sermon Point Two, and then I’ll give some Deuteronomy examples of it.
God has high hopes for my heart, but God also has concerns about my heart.
For the first concern, turn back to Deuteronomy chapter 1. Moses is still in story-telling mode, and here he is reminding the people how the previous generation were discouraged by 10 of the 12 reconnaissance scouts who had been sent into the promised land.
Deuteronomy 1:24 – 28: And they departed and went up into the mountains, and came to the Valley of Eshcol, and spied it out. They also took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought back word to us, saying, ‘It is a good land which the LORD our God is giving us.’ “Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; and you complained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.” ’
God has concerns about the human heart—and here’s one of them: My heart can be discouraged. Sometimes this discouragement can be logical, such as if a doctor talks you through a health problem which you really do have.
But in the case of the Israelites, they were discouraged because 8 out of 10 of those scouts had not kept their minds on the powerful things God had done for them in the past. Instead, they looked at the challenges the way an evolutionist might: to survive, we need to be fitter than the ones we are warring against, and it’s obvious that they are stronger than we are.
And that causes discouragement, if we forget how the Lord has led us in the past.
Besides discouragement, another concern God has about the human heart is found in Deuteronomy 11.
Deuteronomy 11:16: Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,
God knows that our hearts can not only be discouraged, but also deceived. One of the blood-chilling problems of the Ukrainian situation is deception and misinformation. I saw the following eye-catching headline on a BBC website: “My city’s being shelled, but my mum won’t believe me.”
The story is about 25-year-old Oleksandra, who lives with her four rescue dogs in an apartment in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. She and the dogs have been sheltering in her bathroom since the Russians began shelling her town. Let me quote a bit of the story:
[She says] “When I heard the first explosions, I ran out of the house to get my dogs from their enclosures outside. People were panicking, abandoning their cars. I was so scared,” she says.
The news article continues:
“The 25-year-old has been speaking regularly to her mother, who lives in Moscow. But in these conversations, and even after sending videos from her heavily bombarded hometown, Oleksandra is unable to convince her mother about the danger she is in.
“’I didn’t want to scare my parents, but I started telling them directly that civilians and children are dying,” she says.
“’But even though they worry about me, they still say it probably happens only by accident, that the Russian army would never target civilians. That it’s Ukrainians who’re killing their own people.’
“It’s common for Ukrainians to have family across the border in Russia. But for some, like Oleksandra, their Russian relatives have a contrasting understanding of the conflict. She believes it’s down to the stories they are told by the tightly-controlled Russian media.”
A little later in the same article it talks about a man named Mykhailo, who fled his city with his family and got them safely to Hungary, and then he returned to Ukraine to help the war effort. The story goes on:
“He was surprised not to have heard from his father, who works at a monastery near Nizhny Novgorod in Russia. He called his father and described what was happening. His father replied that this wasn’t true; there was no war and — in fact — Russians were saving Ukraine from Nazis.
“Mykhailo said he felt he knew the power of Russian propaganda, but when he heard it from his father, he was devastated.”
The article mentions how these relatives living in Russia listen to the state-run media, and tend to believe what it says.
This is something that really worries me. You don’t need me to tell you that here in America, if we choose to absorb all of our information from a single source, or a set of sources that agree with what we happen to agree with, some very terrifying things can happen – and have already happened.
And in a spiritual sense, we need to gather our information about God and His history by reading the Bible – not by letting a favorite speaker or writer or YouTube person be the filter we learn through.
In fact, that’s exactly what God says to do just a couple of verses later:
Deuteronomy 11:18 – 20: “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
In other words, total immersion. I grew up in a house where mom put up pictures and little plaques on the wall. In her and Dad’s bedroom was a print of a large painting which showed Jesus sitting on a rock, probably in the garden of Gethsemane, in prayer to His Father.
On a wall in the kitchen she hung a little carved wooden plaque about 9 inches wide. It’s engraved letters said, “Christ is the head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation.”
Did anybody here have a plaque or a poster or something which said that in their home, or something like it? If you did, or if you do now, you are doing exactly what God said to do – to take our minds away from our crises and focus them on the God who has preserved us by immersing ourselves in reminders of Him.
God knows that our hearts can not only be discouraged, but that they also can be deceived. But there’s one more concern He has about our hearts. Turn to Deuteronomy 8.
Deuteronomy 8:11 – 14: “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
So God is concerned that our hearts might be discouraged, and deceived, but He is also concerned that our hearts might become “lifted up.”
Because if our hearts become proud and lifted up, we might say what it says in verses 17 and 18: . . . ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth . . . .”
Well, so far in God’s Deuteronomy “heart care” plan we’ve seen that God has high hopes for my heart. We’ve seen that God also has concerns about my heart—concerns that our hearts can become discouraged, or deceived, or lifted up in pride.
But the good news—and let’s make this Sermon Point Three:
God tells me how my heart can be healed.
How can my heart be healed? It’s easier than we might think. Turn to Deuteronomy chapter 30.
Deuteronomy 30:11 – 14: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
And how do we make sure that those words stay in our mouth, and in our heart? We surround ourselves with them, we immerse ourselves in them, we read large portions of the Bible. We come to Sabbath school class and study Bible passages together, passages from all through the Bible, from one end to the other.
And if we do this, we will discover more and more that
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
Let’s stand and sing those words together as we close. Let’s sing them as a personal prayer to our heavenly Cardiologist.