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Saturday, 20 June 2015

The message and not the messenger: Deuteronomy 32:1-4


Deuteronomy 32:1-4
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew,like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Background:

Moses by now was 120 years old, he had, had an eventful life which was coming to a close. From the beginning his life was under threat due to the edict of Pharaoh that all baby boys be drowned in the Nile. Even this evil act was being used by God for a mighty work that Moses was from the beginning being prepared for. As a Hebrew baby he was adopted into the royal family of Egypt where his significant work for the Lord began. It prepared Moses to eventually be the person whom God used to bring the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into freedom and liberty. By the time of the account that we read earlier there were more than a million Israelites waiting to enter the promised land. All of this was because God used a man with humble beginnings for mighty acts of service.

Moses had not only rescued the people from Egypt but by God's directing he had taught them faithfulness and had by the leading of the Holy Spirit of God written down God's Law and directions for life in order that God's people understand all that is necessary to know God and His requirements of them. By now Moses had given final instructions to his people and had appointed Joshua to be his successor which is what brought about this song of praise. What a great example Moses is of how the man of God should end his days. Moses truly died well and is a wonderful example to us:

I wonder what our last words might be!

I deliberately chose this short passage for my inaugural sermon here in the Mustard Seed because Moses by example reminds us that our ministry is all about:

the message and not the messenger.

If the messenger were all important then what is to follow next in Israel would make no sense at all. Moses was going to die and a new man was to take over. BUT the message remains the same.

The message always remains the same.

Led Zeppelin long ago released a live album called “The song remains the same.” it was of all of their popular songs played live but the title tells the listeners that essentially they were never changing. As with rock groups the personnel might change but the message of God is always the same. Moses was about to fade away but the Word of God continued through Joshua and after that through the Judges and the prophets, priests and kings of the Old Testament. John the Baptist began the New Testament era with only the Word of God to proclaim. As time progressed so did the message. With every passing year and person the character of God was more fully revealed until the final appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ when all that was revealed of God over the centuries now found perfect fulfilment in a Person. The message is and always will be simple, it can be quickly summed up in that God is the perfect Creator, man is fallen from grace by our sin but God by grace chooses to rescue those whom He loves. Not as a free act of mercy but by the priceless sacrifice of His own Son Jesus who took all of the sins of His people as if they were His own and replaced them with His righteousness. That is what Moses looked forward to and that is what we know.

Preachers may come, preachers may go but the Word of God is unchanging.

How do we keep it pure, vibrant and relevant?

As with Moses the word must be declared and listened to; then as Moses tells us in his song God will speak to us. He also tells us that if we teach truth then He will refresh us and then when we are refreshed we will happily proclaim the name of God wherever we are.

D.L.Moody said:

Make the message known and not the messenger!”

The messenger is dispensable but the message is not!

From this passage we will consider:

  • Listen and God will speak.
  • Doctrine is refreshing.
  • I will proclaim.

Listen and God will speak

We live in an age when being still and quiet has somewhat gone out of fashion. We go into clothes shops and are bombarded with music at ridiculous levels. Whenever a moment is meant for us to reflect it is always accompanied by some background mood music. Our society is never still enough to listen to the voice of the creator. In the same way the church gathering can be guilty of refusing silence, we often have musicians plonking away on guitars as somebody is praying etc. In scripture the Lord often instructs us to be quiet and to listen to His voice. Psalm 46:10 is an obvious example: it is all about God caring for His people in the face of danger and fear. When we as God's people are struggling He tells us to be still for a while and know that He is God.

One day after the disciples had been busy evangelising and had returned to hear the horrific news of the murder of John the Baptist, Jesus said to His disciples;

come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Mark 6:31

Rest peace and quiet are God's provision for His people to hear his voice and to be comforted. There is no wonder that our whole society is happier with the hustle and bustle of modern life, crammed full of activity and noise in order to drown out the voice of God.

God loves to reveal Himself to His people, He speaks through His Word. Formerly He spoke through the prophets but now normally He speaks by His Spirit through the Word of God which is our bible. Of course He can speak through the earthquake, wind and fire and of course He often does. But normally He speaks into the heart that is quietened toward Him. That is what Moses is saying here in this song of praise. In effect he tells us to:

Stop and listen and God's voice will become discernible. He may speak in the quiet of our hearts but nevertheless He speaks and He wants us to hear it.

Do you set a time every day to be quiet before God in order to hear His voice? Bible notes can be a fantastic aid but it has all done for us and any blessing is second hand. There is nothing wrong with using them but they are only meant to be an aid to direct you into God's presence. Just reading a few verses of the bible and reflecting on one aspect of who God is and what He wants to do in and through us is fine but it is a little bit like getting up after eating the first course of a feast believing that is all there is to eat. God has a feast of blessing for His people if only we will stop and listen to His voice.

Be still and know that He is God.

Doctrine is refreshing

I have deliberately used the word doctrine here because for some it has become a dirty word and that ought to be corrected. I was told off a few weeks ago by a Christian because in his opinion doctrine divides and theology is dull. The poor deluded man had been sold a lie of Satan but sadly it is is not uncommon amongst Christians today. If there is anybody here today believes this then you should stop immediately and repent of it immediately. Listen to Moses from our passage as He quotes God:

May my doctrine drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.

You will see that I have substituted the word teaching from the original with the word doctrine. I am quite at liberty to do this because both words are perfectly inter-changeable.

Now re-consider the teaching or doctrine of God is as drops of rain to a thirsty plant. It is as pure as dew which is simply distilled (perfectly pure) water condensed upon every cold surface. Just imagine walking in the field on a beautiful autumn morning when the sun twinkles on every drop of dew sparkles. I once watched a programme about some elephants who lived in a dry desert where it never rained. Previously it had been a mystery as to how such big animals could sustain life in such arid conditions; until they went out early one morning and discovered the elephants out and about lapping up every drop of dew that they could muster.

Do you get up early to lap up the teaching of our God from His Word? It will keep you all day in the desert that we call life.

God also speaks gently to us. When I water my plants I am in danger of killing the poor things by the my eagerness to get the job done quickly, the poor plants often get bombarded by a torrent from the hose. God is not like that He is as gentle as the rain is upon tender shoots. He does not bombard us with heaviness and pain, He is a loving heavenly Father who wants to care for His children. It is true that sometimes the Word is to rebuke us but that only comes with a heavy hand when we rebel against it. He is gentle, loving and kind and he wants to speak to us often.

Will you regularly give him the quiet of your heart and the the courteousy to listen to His voice?

We sing words such as:

When I look into Your holiness
When I gaze into Your loveliness
When all things that surround become shadows
In the light of You
When I've found the joy of reaching Your heart
When my will becomes enthralled in Your love
When all things that surround become shadows
In the light of You

I worship You, I worship You
The reason I live is to worship You
I worship You, I worship You
The reason I live is to worship You

Wayne & Cathy Perrin.
But do we really mean them?

When we submit to God we will naturally worship Him and when worship Him as we ought then we can do no other than to:

Proclaim His name

Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

When we recognise Him and hear His voice this naturally causes us to worship Him. To some the content of this message might be a bit confusing to you. You may be wondering why or how anybody can hear the voice of God. You may not understand what true worship of God is. You may be asking why it is that some of us seem to have a relationship with Jesus that is beyond your comprehension. The reason for this is that our faith is not a blind hope but is a relationship with God.

Moses 80 years before this had an amazing experience when he was out in the desert keeping sheep. It was not unusual for the dry undergrowth to spontaneously combust and to flare up. On this occasion Moses saw a bush on fire; but what caught his eye was that it was not being consumed. It was a continuous fire which was enough to catch his attention. His inquisitive mind caused him to want to see this phenomena.

As he drew near God spoke to him.

He found himself in the presence of God Almighty. His problem was that God is holy and pure whereas man is sinful and impure. That means that the two are mutually exclusive and so they should never be able to be in each others presence. God's holiness is so great that sinful Moses should have been consumed faster than any desert bush by fire. But he was not.

Why?

Because God in His mercy and grace had called him. When God calls He also deals with our sin. The result of which is that we then become His people. That in a nutshell is the relationship that each Christian has with God. Our sin has been dealt with through the sacrifice that Jesus paid on the cross it has been taken from us and given to Jesus. In the place of our sin Jesus gives us His righteousness and now we no longer are ashamed to be in God's presence and so it is our pleasure to praise Him.

How can we then keep such a great salvation a secret just from others?

The result of listening to His voice and worshipping Him is telling of Him!

Who is he?

He is the name that is high over all, the name above all names! He is our foundation, the Rock of our salvation. He is the author and the creator of our faith. His work is perfect for all His ways are just. There are no mistakes made with our God, He is perfectly just, He is perfectly faithful, He is perfectly holy and with absolutely no taint of sin. Just and upright is He!!!

Moses says that he will ascribe greatness to his God, will we do likewise?



Charles Wesley said it much better than I ever could:


Jesus, the name high over all,
In hell, or earth, or sky:Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.


Jesus, the name to sinners dear,
The name to sinners giv’n;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It brings them peace of heav’n.


Jesus the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Pow’r into strengthless souls He speaks,
And life into the dead.


Oh, that the world might taste and see,
The riches of His grace!
The arms of love that compass me,
Would all mankind embrace.


Him as my righteousness I show,
His saving truth proclaim:
’Tis all my business here below,
To cry, Behold the Lamb!


Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His name:
Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!”

Moses only saw Christ yet to come but yet he glorified Him and proclaimed His work so clearly here. This was his parting words in song, full of truth for all to read. We read the words and are comforted and encouraged and helped for works of righteousness. For Moses it was all about the message and not the messenger, that must be our mindset here.

If we want God's blessing on the church we must:



  • Listen and God expecting God to speak.
  • Be refreshed by the truth proclaimed.
  • Be inspired to proclaim the gospel not as duty but because it is our privilege.

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