The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

August 4, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Remember God’s Expectations!

 

Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land.  The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Expectations.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that in general parents tend to have certain expectations for their children.  When our children are young our expectations center around some rather simple things.  We expect our children to eat the food that we provide.  We expect our children to say “Please” and “Thank-you.”  We expect our children to go to bed when they are told.  As our children grow and mature our expectations grow to include more mature things.  We expect our children to behave— even when we’re not around.  We expect our children to “follow the rules”— especially when it come to things such doing their chores and being home by curfew.  And we expect our children to be responsible and respectful— even if their friends are not.

 

Expectations.  I think it’s also pretty safe to say that in general children will strive to either live up to or live down to our expectations for them.  If a child is constantly being told that they are “not smart” or “not pretty” they may grow up believing they are “dumb” or “ugly.”  If a child is constantly being criticized for not doing things “right,” they will simply quit trying.  On the other hand, if a child is encouraged to do their very best, if a child feels loved and supported even when they “fail,” that child will grow up with confidence and with high expectations for themselves.

 

Expectations.  That one word serves rather well as a summary of our sermon text for today.  This morning then let’s listen very closely as Moses, the servant of God, says to us, the children of God:  Remember God’s Expectations.  There are two things we want to consider this morning.  First of all, let’s see that as God’s children God expects us to be faithful to Him.  Then let’s see that as God’s children faithfulness to God can only be measured by faithfulness to God’s Word.

 

Since the historical setting of our text is critically important to a proper understanding of our text let’s take a moment to look at the bigger picture in which we find these words.  The children of Israel had now finished their forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  The generation of God’s people who had refused to go up and take possession of the Promised Land— because they didn’t trust the Lord to fulfill His promises to them— had died off in the desert.  Moses was about to turn over the leadership of God’s people to his young assistant Joshua.

 

Before this transition in leadership takes place Moses gathered the children of God together to review the covenant which the Lord had established with His people.  Going all the way back to the rescue of God’s people from slavery in the land of Egypt Moses reminded the Children of Israel of how the Lord their God had showered them with His amazing grace over and over again.  The amazing grace of God was to serve as the motivation for God’s people to live up to God’s expectations and remain faithful to their Lord.

 

Unfortunately, even that brief forty-year history lesson is filled with example after example of why God’s Old Testament children were described as being “stiff-necked and rebellious.”  (See Deuteronomy 31:27)  Therefore, Moses reminds God’s people of both the privileges as well as the consequences that come with being God’s covenant people.  The Lord very clearly emphasized to His people that if they failed to live up to His expectations for them, that is, if they were not faithful to Him and to the covenant He graciously established with them, they would most certainly endure His wrath and His justice.  (See Deuteronomy 30:17-18)  If, however, they stayed focused on God’s grace to them, if they strived to reach God’s expectations for them and remain faithful to the Lord and to His covenant, God would bless them in ways they could not even begin to imagine!

 

The positive consequences of striving to meet God’s expectations, the positive results that come with being faithful to the Lord are emphasized in the opening half of our text.  Moses writes, “Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land.  The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

 

At first glance these words might give us the impression that God’s grace is something that God’s people need to “earn.”  At first glance these words might give us the impression that if you want to be “prosperous,” if you want to be “successful,” if you want to be “blessed” by God then you have to do something first!  Can this be true?  Only— and I emphasize only— if you do not understand these words in the context in which they were written!  When we understand these words in the context of the Lord’s amazing grace, when we understand these words in the context of the Lord’s expectations for His beloved children then we will not fall into the deadly trap of “work-righteousness.”

 

But do not be mistaken, my friends.  God does indeed expect that as His children we will be faithful to Him.  At the same time God expects that our faithfulness to Him will flow out of love and thankfulness for all that He has done for us!  That’s why Moses reminded God’s people of old how faithfully the Lord had showered His grace upon them over and over again.  That’s also why I consciously strive to have you, God’s people today, lift up your eyes and look at this cross every time we gather together here in the house of the living God.  When we truly understand what God has freely done for us, when we truly understand that God loves us so very much that He willingly sent His only begotten Son to suffer and to die to pay the debt of our sin, when we truly understand the amazing grace of God proclaimed so clearly by the cross of Jesus Christ— then, my friends, then we will not only understand God’s expectations for us but we will want to strive by God’s grace to live up to God’s expectations for us and remain faithful to our Savior God!

 

How do we define “faithfulness” to God?  We don’t — God does!  Look at the second half of our text.  When it comes to God’s expectation that we will remain faithful to Him Moses writes, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?’  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.”

 

When it comes to understanding God’s expectation that we remain faithful to Him we don’t need to expend extraordinary effort to determine on our own exactly what this means.  When it comes to understanding God’s expectation that we remain faithful to Him we don’t need some psychic or some mystic or some spiritual guru to explain to us what this means.  No, my friends.  When it comes to understanding God’s expectation that we remain faithful to Him all we need to do is look right here— the pages of God’s holy inspired Word!

 

Every time we open up the Scriptures we will not only see what God has already done for us, but we will also see what God expects from us, His dearly beloved children!  Here in His Word the good Lord very clearly tells us that He expects us to believe, teach and confess the Truth— the Truth as He Himself has revealed it to us, the Truth concerning sin and grace, the Truth concerning Law and Gospel, the Truth concerning heaven and hell, the Truth that proclaims that the Triune God is the only true God and Jesus is the only way to eternal life in heaven.  Here in His Word the good Lord very clearly tells us how He expects us to openly live our life as His saved and forgiven child so that no matter where we are, no matter whom we are with, no matter what we are doing everyone is able to see and to hear the faith which the Lord has created in our heart.  Here in His Word the good Lord very clearly tells us what He expects us to do as well as what He expect us not to do as His saved and forgiven child.  Here in His Word the good Lord very clearly tells us how He expects us to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here in His Word the good Lord very clearly tells us that He expects us to support His Kingdom work and to share the message of the Gospel with as many people as we possibly can.  Here in His Word the good Lord very clearly tells us that in light of all He has so freely done for us (pointing to the cross) He expects that we will remain faithful to Him by remaining faithful to His Word.  In II Corinthians 5:15 the apostle Paul writes, “He (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”  Jesus helps us to understand what all of this means when He says to us in John 8:31, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”  As the children of God we always need to remember:  Faithfulness to God can only be measured by faithfulness to God’s Word.

 

Expectations.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that in general parents tend to have certain expectations for their children.  I think it’s also pretty safe to say that in general children will strive to either live up to or live down to the expectations that their parents have for them.

 

Expectations.  I know that it’s very safe to say that our Savior God has expectations for us, His children.  May God grant that as you and I stay focused on what the Lord has so graciously done for us (Pointing to the cross) that we will indeed remember God’s expectations for us, His children.  With that in mind let’s strive by God’s grace to remain faithful to our dear Lord as we strive by God’s grace to remain faithful to His holy Word.

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen