Sermon series: God Speaks - part 2
Connection to unit theme
God spoke His law to His people in order to reveal His holy character and the necessity of holiness in the lives of those who call themselves the people of God. When reading the Law, it is important to understand its nature and purpose. Jesus and the other New Testament writers, particularly Paul, help us to understand the purpose of the Law and its fulfillment in Christ.
As we saw from last week, Moses, in Deuteronomy, is delivers a series of sermons to the people of Israel – those who survived the 40-year wilderness wandering. He comes to the end of his messages and delivers what, in many ways, is the big message of the Pentateuch in particular and the Bible in general. The only way to be rightly related to God is to walk by faith in holiness and obedience before Him. The giving of the Law by God and the keeping of it by the people was never intended to produce salvation. It was designed to show the people their greatest need: a God-provided remedy for man's hopelessly sinful heart. This is exactly what God would provide to enable their obedience and give them life and hope.
I. Our greatest need is not an external standard (vv. 1-5)
Throughout Deuteronomy God's message through Moses is consistent. The people of God either walk in holiness and obedience before God, by faith, and live, or they turn away from Him to worship idols and experience punishment and death. As we come to the beginning of Chapter 30, Moses makes clear what their outcome will be. They will fail to obey God and will chase after the gods of the pagan nations, against which God had expressly warned them (29:16-18). As a result, God will send them away into exile into foreign lands, away from the land of promise. Chapter 30 begins by describing the people in those foreign lands, a picture of the certain failure by God's people to adequately keep His Law.
The certainty of failure on the part of God's people with regard to the Law does not impugn the Law or the Law-Giver. The problem was not a bad God or a bad Law, but rather the bad hearts of the people. Paul would ask, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sinful?" (Romans 7:7). He quickly answers that the Law is not sinful, but good – a gracious gift from a good God – because it taught Paul what sin was. The mistake of Israel, the Pharisees, and many today is the assumption that people can be made righteous by keeping God's Law. God did not give the Law so we could keep it and live. He gave it to us to show us we were sinful, dead, and unable to please Him on our own. What the Law could not do is produce faith in the heart, without which it is impossible to please God. As Paul would say in Galatians 3, God gave the Law as a schoolmaster which would teach us about our need for a Savior, which God provided in Christ.
Application: Are you striving to please God by trying to obey His Law? Are you hoping your best efforts will be good enough for God to accept you? Christian, are you hoping to grow in holiness simply by trying harder to keep the law? Just as you were saved by grace through faith, you will only make progress in holiness by grace through faith as well.
II. Our greatest need is a new heart (v. 6-20)
The people of Israel had experienced serial failure. Theirs had been a cycle of failure, repentance, and restoration. God had given them circumcision as a sign to distinguish them as God's people. He had given them the Law as a standard by which they could know God's expectations and requirements. Their greatest need, however, was not an external sign or standard, but transformed hearts. God promised them that a day was coming when He would do for them what they could not do for themselves. By His grace, God would "circumcise their hearts," which would enable them to please Him with their lives.
The prophets also looked ahead to that day when God would give His people hearts to obey Him. Through Ezekiel, God said to His people: "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezekiel 26-27). Likewise, God said through Jeremiah: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33).
Application: Have you received a transformed heart by repenting of your sin and confessing your faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior? That is your only hope of living in holiness and obedience before God. Christian, are you living by faith from a transformed heart? Or, are you struggling in your own efforts to please God?
Contrary to the claims of many in His day, Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He obeyed God's law completely, fully meeting the demands of God's holiness. He offered Himself as the sinless lamb that would take away the sin of the world. Those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ alone as Savior receive forgiveness of sin and new hearts – hearts in which old things have passed away and all things have become new.
Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled God's Law, we may walk in holiness and obedience to God's Law through Christ's transforming work and the power of His indwelling Spirit. We don't seek to keep the Law so that we will be justified by it. We do, however, seek to live in obedience to God's Law, by faith in Christ, so that our lives will bring Him glory.