Sermon: God Speaks ... and Commands Total Obedience

Israel's only hope, and ours, was for God to provide a savior that would meet His demands on their behalf. He did just that by sending His own son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sermon series: God Speaks - part 2

  1. God Speaks ... and We Disobey
  2. God Speaks ... and Commands Total Obedience
  3. God Speaks ... to Reveal Our Greatest Need
  4. God Speaks ... and Promises a Savior

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 8:1, 6, 19-20

Connection to unit theme

God is holy. In order to please Him, nothing less than holiness will do. God commanded Israel, through Moses, to obey His commands completely and worship Him exclusively. They failed, and so do we. Israel's only hope, and ours, was for God to provide a savior that would meet His demands on their behalf. He did just that by sending His own son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Introduction idea

Standing in the plains of Moab, just east of the Jordan River, Moses delivered a series of sermons to the people of Israel. We call that group of sermons Deuteronomy, the last "book" in the larger book known as the Pentateuch, or the Book of Moses. Far from giving a new or second law (as is sometimes assumed by the book's name) Moses proclaims God's law to the new generation of Israel - those who survived the 40-year wilderness wandering that resulted from the faithlessness and disobedience of their parents and grandparents. God's message to this new generation was the same one He had given to the previous generation – worship God alone through faith and obedience and live, or rebel against the God who made you and called you to Himself, worshipping idols and other things, like the pagan nations, and die.

I. Faith-driven obedience leads to life (vv. 1, 6)

Right from the opening verse, God makes His demands for His people clear. Nothing less than complete obedience will do. The absolute holiness of God demands the standard of holiness of those who worship Him. He expressly commanded this of His people – "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2; 20:26). This demand is not flippant or arbitrary. It is rooted in the very character and nature of God. God created man without sin in the Garden of Eden. Man was to live a holy life of faith and obedience as he walked with God and worked in the Garden, all for the glory of the God who made him and gave him life.

True life is found in being rightly related to God, who is the giver and sustainer of life. And to be rightly related to God is to walk with Him in obedience that flows from faith. God, through Moses, called the people to walk in faithful obedience to all that God had commanded. If they would walk by faith, in complete obedience, they would live.

If the people failed to live faithful lives of obedience, they could not rightly blame it on God. Throughout Deuteronomy 8 and the rest of the book, God testifies of His own faithfulness to His people. He had been faithful to lead them and provide for them in every way - from water in the desert, to food, to clothes and shoes that would not wear out. The question was, how would they respond to the goodness of God? Would they respond in faith-driven obedience like Abram had (Genesis 15:6)? Or instead, would they rebel against God and worship other things?

Application: Are you living in obedience to God, driven by faith in Him and His provision for you through Jesus Christ? Or, are you depending on your own attempts at living a "good" and "holy" life, hoping that God will be pleased with your best efforts?

II. Faithless disobedience leads to death (vv. 19-20)

As surely as God promised life to His people if they would walk in unwavering faith and obedience to Him, He promised death for those who would rebel and disobey. This pattern began in the Garden when man rebelled against God and demanded his own way, leading to the death (both physical and spiritual) that God had promised – "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Adam rebelled and died. Israel would rebel and die. We, likewise, rebel and are spiritually dead, apart from Christ. We do not, because of our sinful nature and by our own choice, walk in complete, faith-driven obedience to God. We, therefore, are deserving of the physical and spiritual consequences of our sin.

While some people believe God grades on a scale, wherein your "good" deeds simply must outweigh your "bad" ones, the Scripture gives no such option. Holiness is the divine standard. James makes this clear – "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). How can a person rightly be judged guilty of "all" based only upon one offense? Because to be anything less than holy, is to be unholy. As Paul says in the New Testament, "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10). He also reminds us that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Application: Have you lived as though God grades on a curve? Have you hoped to live a "good enough" life so that God will be pleased with you in the end? The Scripture says that anything less than perfect holiness is not good enough. What are you going to do?

Conclusion idea

God called Adam to walk in holiness through faith-driven obedience. Adam failed. God called Israel to walk in holiness through faith-driven obedience. Israel failed. God has commanded us to walk in holiness through faith-driven obedience. We fail. Adam's only hope, Israel's only hope, and our only hope was for God to provide one who could and would obey His holy standard in our behalf, because they, and we, could not. He did just that in the person of His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father, walking in perfect holiness through complete obedience to the Father's command. When He was tempted to provide for Himself, test His Father's goodness, or worship another, He walked in perfect obedience to His Father's commands, quoting His Father's word from Deuteronomy 8 at each temptation. By walking in perfect obedience to the Father's commands, He showed His qualifications to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus was tempted in every way that is common to man, and yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Because of this, Paul could say of Jesus, "[God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin, to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The lost man's only hope is repentance of his sin and faith in Christ, the one who lived in complete obedience to His Father's commands, and laid down His life for us, so that through His death and resurrection, we might have life.

Randy Mann is minister of education and evangelism at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina.