Bellevue SDA Church 5/9/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch

(To watch the YouTube broadcast of this worship service, click the link at the end of this paragraph. The sermon starts at the 1:15:00 mark. You can find other YouTube worship services at our church by clicking “Worship” and “YouTube Channel.” For today’s service, click

Please open your Bibles to Exodus Chapter 31.

Okay, here’s a raise-your-hand vote in which I will have absolutely no clue about the results. Raise your hand if you still write in cursive.

I have a feeling that if you’re female, your answer is most likely yes, but maybe not always. And if you’re a guy, you may have switched to handprinting long ago. However, I know one man in this church who when he was back in his home country learned absolutely perfect Spencerian script, or maybe it was the Palmer Method of business writing, and can still do it. He has elegant handwriting.

I think I was probably fourteen when I switched from my tortured cursive to handprinting. Yesterday, just to see if I could still do it, I tried to write a sentence in cursive—and sure enough, it looked just like my 14-year-old style.

My handwriting wasn’t pretty, but until the day of her death, my mom saved several thick, brittle sheets of construction paper o0n which I had laboriously scrawled Mother’s Day greetings when I was in first grade. I can still see how deeply my pencil had dug into that paper. Cursive was hard work!

But handwriting still has power, doesn’t it?

I hold in my hands two examples of powerful handwriting. These are treasures that I’m going to be sure that I take safely back home today.

They don’t look powerful; they come in humble packages. One is a yellow legal pad and one is a spiral notebook with a kitten on the cover.

But they are precious to Shelley and to me, because they contain our mothers’ handwriting, and they were written for us.
Shelley’s oldest sister Julie asked their mother to write the story of her life, as, she said, “before it’s too lage.” And so, not long before her unexpected death, Shelley’s mother wrote page after page about her childhood in Chelan, her years working her way through Seattle General Hospital’s four-year nursing school, her move to Alaska, and all the subsequent years. She lived through many tough times, especially her childhood, but wrote how the Lord brought her through these to much happier days.

The notebook with a kitten on the cover was a birthday gift for Shelley, one she asked my mom for. She loved to hear my mom tell stories of her life, and how God had helped her all along the way. She asked Mom if she would write down some of those stories, so when we weren’t right there in South Dakota visiting with her, we would still be able to revisit those experiences. And so one day my mom sat down and, in her beautiful teacher’s penmanship, wrote story after story about her life and God’s leading.

How thankful we are that they both took the time to put their stories, to put their hearts, on paper! They both died at the age of 73, many years ago, but their written words continue to teach us and encourage us. We can turn to them at any time, and read of their love for us, and their love for their God, who never failed them, no matter what challenges they faced.

Did you ever wonder what God’s handwriting looks like? Because He did do a bit of writing. Actually, I know of three Divine writing experiences in the Bible, and I’d like you to join me in looking at them this morning. Once in a while we hear about something that is called “full gospel.” Well, I think you can find a good bit of “full gospel,” by which I mean “complete gospel” in the three examples of—not “penmanship,” but “penGodship.” All three examples are desperately important. We can’t leave any of them out.

Let’s take a look at the first example of God doing some writing. This one you’re probably already thinking about. The time is somewhere in the 1500s BC, and an entire nation has been liberated from slavery by a series of divine miracles, and are now camped around a mountain in the Sinai desert.

God descends on that mountain amid a lot of thundering and flames, and speaks a series of ten commandments, out loud, in His own voice, from the top of that mountain.

After some additional conversation with Moses, watch what God does.

Exodus 31:18 [NKJV]: And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

The next chapter gives us a bit more detail about these tablets of stone.

Exodus 32:15 – 16: And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

So here we have some actual handwriting of God. Have you ever wondered how He wrote those letters on that stone? Did sparks fly? Did His fingertip become a blinding torch? That’s kind of always what I assumed, but this week I was thinking about it, and I wondered, “Well, here is the Creator working with materials He has created from nothing, from His voice. Maybe as His finger descended to the stone slab, maybe the atoms of the stone cooperatively melted away to help Him form the letters? Maybe it was a quiet process.”

We don’t know for sure how it looked when God engraved those commands in those stone slabs. But we know that He didn’t use paper. We know that He didn’t even carve out a smooth part of a mountainside cliff and write those commandments there, so people would keep having to make pilgrimages to that mountain to look at them.

No, He not only wrote them in stone so they would be permanent, but He wrote them on portable stone slabs so they could be carried around.

If we turn to Deuteronomy chapter 10, we’ll find out where those stone commandment tablets end up. By this time, of course, the Israelites have started ignoring those laws (even as they are being written) and carried down the mountain, and Moses smashes those stone tablets into bits. Our very patient God gives him – and his people – another chance.

Deuteronomy 10:1 – 5: “At that time the LORD said to me, ‘Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to Me on the mountain and make yourself an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke; and you shall put them in the ark.’ “So I made an ark of acacia wood, hewed two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain, having the two tablets in my hand. And He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the LORD had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, just as the LORD commanded me.”

So, the first time we know of that God wrote anything down, He wanted what He wrote to be permanent, and portable, and carried with those wandering Israelites, and be central to their worship, right there inside the ark, inside the Most Holy Place.

In fact, let’s lay down Sermon Point One. When we see that God wrote those words on that stone, what do we learn?

God wrote his laws to make them permanent.

So, what about here in 2020? Are those laws still valid? Well, does He still want us to refrain from creating and worshiping other gods? Does He still want us to not defame His name and reputation? Does He still want us to honor our parents, and not murder, not commit adultery not steal, not lie, and not covet?

Of course. Then He still must want us to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Because the Sabbath commandment is not a prologue or an afterthought to the 10. It is showcased right in their center, using more words, and containing more detail, and any of the other commandments.

So what do I do, now that I know God wrote his laws to make them permanent?

One thing I need to do is to study them in their relationship to selfishness. Because breaking each of those commandments is selfish. It says “I am the center of my universe. I am my own God. Therefore, I need not worship Him, or respect His reputation, nor do I need to honor my parents. And if it is advantageous to me, I should be able to do a lot of bad things to a lot of people.”

A couple of days ago, I was driving through a neighborhood near where Shelley and I live, and I spotted one of those fenced-in dog parks, where owners can bring their dogs to play.

Posted outside the gate to this dog park was a sign which was titled in big letters “Bark Park.” And underneath those words were six rules you had to follow if you brought your dog into that park. Here’s a summary of the six rules: “Stay responsible for your dog, have your dog leashed when entering or leaving, clean up after your dog, stay with your dog, be at least 18 or accompanied by an adult while you’re here, and don’t eat or drink or smoke here.”

Now I would imagine that a few people might find some of those six commandments a little inconvenient, and going against their personal preferences, but if these laws are all followed by everybody, then both the owners and the dogs will have the best chance of enjoying a happy time in the park.

You probably heard about the man in Ohio who in early March was spouting on social media about how the coronavirus news was a political ploy. Sadly, this man himself got the virus, and died on April 20. Here was somebody who was seriously mistaken about the importance of social distancing and other COVID regulations, and who ended up paying the penalty. His wife says that, once he realized the importance of these laws, he quickly started urging his employees to work from home. But chillingly, because he depended on faulty and biased sources at first, he took seriously too late what might have kept him alive.

So the next time you read through the Ten Commandments, remember the finger of God, the permanent stone, the portable nature of those tablets, and how Revelation 12:17 says that God’s faithful people at the end of time will “keep the commandments of God.”

Now let’s look at another example of divine handwriting. To do that, we need to go to John chapter 8, to another familiar story.

John 8:1 – 6: But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

Okay, what was He writing? The Bible doesn’t say. Many Bible commentators over the years, including Ellen White, say that He most likely was making thoughtful notes about the sins of those who were accusing the woman of her sins. Maybe He was writing the first few letters of the name of someone’s mistress. Maybe He was writing the name of a widow who had been defrauded by someone else in the group. Or maybe He was writing the Aramaic word for “setup,” which this obviously was.

Whatever it was He was writing, they decided to call his bluff.

Verses 7 – 11: So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers 1of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

So the biggest hypocrites, with their lifelong history of hypocrisy, slunk away first, and then the younger ones, and then even the younger ones, the “trainee hypocrites.”

So here we have divine handwriting. But this divine handwriting is different from the first writing we saw. The first was engraved in stone, and this is traced in dust.

The first writing was designed to be portable, carried around and maybe once in a while displayed. That writing must be treasured, memorized and repeated. But this second example of divine handwriting is liable to disappear in a strong breeze, or from a sandal scuff, or from the cleansing broom of an industrious temple custodian.

So what’s the amazing truth about the second divine handwriting?

Well, if God wrote His laws to make them permanent, Jesus writes our sins to make them erasable.

Adultery is wrong. It’s so wrong that it even had a place of dishonor on the stone tablet. And if what Jesus was writing with His finger were indeed sins, they were wrong too. And by the way, hypocrisy may be one of the worst – pretending that, spiritually, you are someone you’re really not.

So Jesus wasn’t excusing adultery. At the end of this scene, He gently tells the woman to “leave her life of sin,” as the New International Version puts it.

Back when I was in elementary school, we had actual chalkboards, green ones. Their surfaces were really remarkably grippy when you wrote on them with yellow chalk. (Some of the earlier, black blackboards could be kind of slippery.)
And all through the school week, even though you erased those chalk marks vigorously with the eraser, you couldn’t get it all. Sometimes through the smear left behind you could see a portion of an arithmetic fraction, or half a word, or a silly drawing done during a rainy recess.

But sometimes on Friday afternoon, the teacher would tell you to get a cloth and a little water. And then when you wiped that board, everything came off.

And this is another part of the gospel. The first part says that there is a right way to behave, and unselfish way, a loving way. And if you need to have those “love God and love your neighbor” principles spelled out in detail, that is what the 10 Commandments are.

But once we see the importance of God’s law – the same way the Ohio man eventually saw the importance of those COVID guidelines even though for him it was too late – we can look into that law, and compare our lives with it, and turn to our self-sacrificing Savior and ask for His forgiveness.

Because as First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Yet that’s all very well, but once we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, what happens then? Do we stay cleansed? Once we test negative for the virus of sin, can we become reinfected?

Unfortunately, yes. And that is exactly why we need to take a close look at the final, incredible example of divine writing. Turn to Hebrews, chapter 10. Hebrews 10, versus 16 and 17 are actually a quote from Jeremiah. But let’s see what these verses say. Let’s start with verse 15.

Hebrews 10:15: But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

We need to pause right here and take a close look at this verse. Which of the divine personages is mentioned here? It’s the Holy Spirit, right? Back in Jeremiah 31, it says that God is doing the talking in these verses. So keep that in mind, as we continue reading here in Hebrews 10.

Verses 15 – 17: But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

So it sounds as though it is the Holy Spirit who writes God’s laws in the heart. Either that, or God and the Lord, and the Spirit are so closely intertwined, that they are all three involved.

However, if you open any study Bible and look up references to the Holy Spirit, you will find that He is deeply involved in spiritual nurture. I’m just going to read you some of the headings in the Thompson chain reference Bible section on the Holy Spirit. People can be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a teacher. The Holy Spirit guides, and quickens (or makes alive). He is called the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit inspires the word of God.

So it seems as though the Holy Spirit could be given this very important role.

I think we need to read those verses one more time

Verses 15 – 17: But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

So what’s the amazing truth about the third divine handwriting?

God wrote His laws to make them permanent. Jesus writes our sins to make them erasable. And the Holy Spirit writes God’s laws within us to make them instinctive.

A couple of days ago on a morning walk, Shelley and I were on a sidewalk passing a very nice house. The elevated lawn had a beautiful brickwork wall, but between that wall and the sidewalk was a filling of stones the size eggs and tennis balls.
But along the edge of the stone side of that sidewalk, a mole, or maybe several moles, had dug a series of holes, about four feet apart.

What with one thing and another, I haven’t had either the abundant leisure or the obsessive interest to study exactly why and how moles do what they do. I would assume that a major objective is to make a tunnel network under the ground, and to get rid of the excess dirt.

Okay, that’s fine (in theory, that is. Homeowners have a less tolerant reaction). But let’s say the mole burrows a little tunnel about yard long, and wants to go further. How does it transport the new excess dirt up to the top? Does it just dig another hole straight up, and shove the dirt out there? Evidently so, judging by this series of holes.

I went to YouTube and discovered a short video of someone who had discovered a mole doing some excavating. Of course, we’re only seeing it from above-ground level, but it’s fascinating.

Do you know what word came to mind when I saw the above holes? Perseverance. It can’t be pleasant to burrow up through what you think is a soft green lawn and discover stones. But this mole keeps doing it, again and again. It’s instinctive. That mole’s instincts are what causes him—or her—to keep going in spite of trials and troubles.

And if I’m reading this Bible passage right, that’s what the Holy Spirit promises to do for us—write God’s loving laws, His loving attitudes and ways, within our hearts and minds so that we can instinctively become more like Him.

That’s what happened to Marian Forschler’s mother, as we heard earlier. That’s what has happened in many of our lives.
Would you like to have that happen to you, again or for the first time? Would you like to treasure God’s law of love, and remember that the writing of our sins can be erased through Jesus’ blood, and that the Holly Spirit can infuse us with the Christlike qualities we need?

Would you like to raise your hand if that’s your desire?