#2 (The “Remember” Series)
“REMEMBER MY WORD!”
TEXT: Deut. 4:1-14
INTRO: The purpose of books is to preserve knowledge from one generation to another so that each generation doesn’t have to start from scratch when learning about life. Verbal language alone was not enough to preserve knowledge, books were required to preserve the huge pool of knowledge gleaned from one generation to another, it has been the ability to preserve this knowledge in written form and thus making it available to each generation that has transformed humanity!
It is therefore highly significant that God was so concerned for His people to preserve knowledge about Him and His ways that He Himself wrote one of the earliest documents on tablets of stone so that each generation of His people could pass this information on and on.
Israel’s knowledge about God often determined the quality of their life, when that knowledge declined through avoiding or losing it Israel’s national life declined, usually ending with their captivity! No wonder David said in Psa 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” David meant by “hiding” that he had committed God’s Word to his memory and soul, by doing so he was much less likely to sin.
Where are you in your knowledge of God’s Word? How much do you really remember? Where is our country in the knowledge of God’s Word?
ILLUS: A study was conducted by a teacher at the Newton High School in Massachusetts among college bound juniors and seniors on their knowledge of the Bible. This was done prior to a class on “The Bible as literature.” This High School is considered one of the better high schools in the country. The responses to the questions went like this: “Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers;” “Jezebel was Ahab’s donkey;” some students thought the 4 horsemen appeared on the Acropolis;” that the New Testament Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John; that Eve was created “from an apple” and that Jesus was baptized “by Moses. The answer that took the misinformation prize was given by a fellow who was academically in the top 5% of the graduation class, the question was: “What was Golgotha?” His answer: “Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the apostle David.” – Source Unknown
I wonder how much better (or worse!) many Christians would do on the same test today?!
Numerous times throughout the Bible God called His people to “REMEMBER MY WORD!” Many whole Psalms were written with this as the single theme in them! Such statements by David as in Psa 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” certainly carry this theme strongly! In fact, much of the Bible was written with mnemonic devices or structures that aided memory for this reason, and because paper books were nearly impossible. (Stone tablets were awful to check out of libraries!) Just like sermons which have alliterated main, points (each point starting with the same letter – a mnemonic device) sections of the Bible were written this way as well, or the use of acrostics or verses that followed each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. *(in the original language it was, when translated this is lost to us completely – and so these mnemonic devices completely disappear in our translations!)
PROP. SENT: It is not enough to learn new things, we must remember the old things too, and especially those things God has recorded for us in His Word. There can be no progress without remembering the Word of God; revivals come from renewal of His Word!
I. REMEMBER THE CONDITIONS OF THE WORD 4:1-8
A. Complete! 4:1-2
1. In order for Israel to live and possess the land they would have to adhere to God’s Word.
a. These would not be temporary laws they would be spiritual dynamics that would be universal!
b. These decrees and laws might have a cultural dynamic to them when given but there is a timeless principle behind each one that will always remain true! i.e. “not eating yeast in bread” ... while cultural, in some way the principle of “pollution” is taught by this image, thus the idea to not become polluted by the world – the timeless truth even if the cultural part ceases to be true.
2. These laws and decrees of God were not optional, not something designed for them to pick and choose which ones they liked or disliked or ones they agree with or disagree with.
3. How unlike people today, they pick and choose which of God’s laws they agree with or disagree with, like buying optional packages for a new car -- they build their own type of Christianity based on the laws of God they like or don’t like.
4. The condition of God’s Word was clearly stated by God, they were not to add to it or take away parts of it and thus change God’s plan.
a. God’s laws are complete as they stand alone.
b. Any attempt to change small parts will only lead to false principles and ideas!
ILLUS: An example of the damage that can be done when someone attempts to alter a verse by addition or deletion was found a few years ago with some Christmas cards that attempted to show that Christians should give gifts at Christmas time. The verse of Scripture on the cards was Rev. 11:10 “They exchanged gifts and made merry...” What was lost was the context of the whole passage which had to do with the 2 witnesses that God will send to preach the Gospel to the wicked during the Tribulation period; the wicked will so hate these men sent from God that they will kill them and leave their bodies in the street for several days and then have a world-wide celebration to show their hatred toward God by “exchanging gifts and making merry...”! Talk about lifting part of a text out of its context!! What a total change of meaning just because something of God’s Word was left out! – Source Unknown
5. God’s Word was not given to us to be a menu of what we like or don’t like.
B. Consequences 4:3-8
1. As if to remind them of what happens to those who slowly drift toward a “pick and choose” mentality toward His Word God reminds them of what happened in the past to those who forgot His Word!
a. When Israelite men chased after the women of Moab they forgot God’s laws and started fooling around with the idolatrous ways of Moab in worshipping Baal Peor. (Num. 25:1-9)
b. This resulted in a plague that took many many lives.
2. Their success depended on their obedience to God’s Word, here obedience is connected to knowing!
a. They might have remembered the Word but they were not following it!
b. Consequences were God’s way of jolting them back into an obedience stage much in the same way parents use consequences to correct disobedient children.
3. Yet how often do we think we can be the exception to the rule, that God’s laws only apply to weaker people than us!!
a. And how tragic the consequences when they come, and they will!
b. No one is above the law, especially God’s!
ILLUS: The winter 1991 issue of the UNIVERSITY OF PACIFIC REVIEW offered this chilling description of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia. “Two electrical engineers in the control room that night decided to play some games with the generators. Later the Soviet officials called it “an unauthorized experiment.” The 2 men decided to see how long a turbine would “free wheel” when they took the power off it. Taking the power off that kind of a nuclear reactor however is a difficult and dangerous thing to do because that type of reactor is very unstable in their lower ranges. In order to get the reactor to do that kind of event they had to override manually six separate computer driven alarm systems. One by one the computers would come up and say, STOP! DANGEROUS! GO NO FURTHER! And one by one, rather than shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms and kept going. You know the results; nuclear fallout that was recorded all around the world, being the worse industrial accident ever to occur in the world! They were warned over and over again just as people are in the Bible and finally the consequences showed up! – Source Unknown
4. God has called us to hold to all of His Word, that we not take a selective memory approach to it!
5. Their example of remembering all of God’s Word and living it out would send a powerful message to the other nations of the Wisdom of God, for God would be able to bless them as a nation and people!
a. God’s Word is full of wisdom and justice.
b. His laws would demonstrate God’s Word as superior to men’s.
II. REMEMBER THE CALL OF THE WORD! 4:9-12
A. Concept 4:9
1. God never intended for this obedience to His laws to be merely external action!
a. If it became this, it would easily disappear or become nothing more than a harsh legalistic approach to life, it was meant to be a law within the heart of His people!
b. He might write it on tablets of stone, but it was meant to transfer to tablets of flesh!
3. Forcing people to live by some external codes will not produce righteousness!
4. However, God’s laws on the heart will produce righteousness in keeping with holiness!
5. Only the laws written in our hearts are what gets passed down from one generation to another, external codes have a way of passing out of existence over time!
6. “Form” takes over when the heart is absent from God’s laws!
B. Conviction 4:10-12
1. God put on quite a show for Israel in giving them His Word, fire from the top of a mountain, His booming voice declaring that Word for them, they saw no form of God, they only heard His voice. (4:12b)
a. Why? God didn’t want them sidetracked on the wrong issue, “what does God look like?” Instead He wanted them to stick to the real issue: “What does God want me to be?”
b. His Word is all they would need, not another image or idol!
2. God wants His Word to bring CONVICTION, not curiosity about how He looks!
3. Had they seen an image of God they would have always needed to find that image to find God – but with His Word they could always find God as long as they could remember His Word!
ILLUS: Karen’s mother was startled to find her 5 year old going through a new Bible storybook and circling the word “GOD” wherever it appeared on the page. Holding in check her first reaction to reprimand her daughter, she asked instead “Karen, why are you doing that?” Karen’s matter-of-fact answer was: “So that I will know where to find God when I want Him!” Karen had captured the whole idea behind God giving us His Word – so that we can always find Him whenever we need Him or want Him, He is the Word! – Source Unknown
4. This “WORD” from God would bring “reverence” toward God throughout their lifetime, and from generation to generation; it was something that could keep each generation in a right relationship with God all the time!
5. This provided a source of conviction for God’s people in terms of their lifestyle, much as the Word of God does today for those who hear it!
6. This work of conviction acts as a constant monitor and gauge to keep us on track, to keep us moving in the right direction all the time, not only for our lifetime but for our kids and their kids and their kids, etc.
a. Thus God’s blessings could flow from generation to generation!
b. And so would the knowledge of God!
III. REMEMBER THE CONTENT OF THE WORD -14
A. Covenant! 4:13
1. His Word was part of a binding contract or covenant with His People!
a. If they remember and obey His Word He will always fight for them and bless them!
b. To ensure this happens in more than one generation He preserves that Word in stone tablets – the book of the time!
2. To aid Israel in remembering His Word God gives His laws in a succinct form of 10 laws: these were divided on two tablets, one set of laws dealing with man’s relationship to God, the other with man’s relationship to man!
a. The first 4 commandments (probably on one tablet) dealt with our relationship to God.
b. The second set of 6 laws dealt with man’s relationship to man.
c. This would make it easier to remember.
3. All these laws had more to do with the heart than just merely external action!
4. These laws dealt with issues of anger, resentment, greed, lust, pride, hate, etc.
5. They were to remember this list and use this Word from God to guide and check their hearts, and thereby check their actions!
6. God made them responsible to know these laws and to understand their content!
7. It is vitally important for us to know God’s Word!!!
ILLUS: Mark Twain once said, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I have always noticed that the passages in Scripture that trouble me most are those which I do understand!” – Source Unknown
8. It is not just a matter of knowing more but knowing better!
9. Do you know what God’s Word says for you to know? Have you put His Word away in your heart by memory for easy retrieval!?
a. God covenanted to give us His Word.
b. And we are called to know it and hold to it! You can’t hold to something you don’t know!
B. Conveyance 4:14
1. God employs servants to help dispense His Word.
a. It is not just through Pastors either!
b. This is a way to encourage remembering!
2. It is important that we spur each other on to better remember God’s Word!
a. Hence the importance of Bible studies together, etc.
b. This is the reason for Sunday school for children!
c. Home fellowship groups fall into this area of importance too!
3. The disciples were taught by Jesus so they could teach others and to write down His Word to preserve it for all generations after them!
4. It is important that we study God’s Word so that we might pass it on to others!
ILLUS: In an interview, Billy Graham was asked this question: “If you had to live your life over again, what would you do differently?” His answer: “One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing.” Another man, Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in 3 years, he would spend 2 of them studying, and one preaching! [Sept. 12, 1977 Pg. 19 “Christianity Today”]
5. The bottom line is simple: “REMEMBER MY WORD!” This was the whole point of this passage:
a. This alone would ensure victory for the Promise land.
b. This would be required in order to hold the Promise land.
c. This was necessary for God’s blessings to flow.
6. Israel’s identity in the world would be GOD’S LAWS AND HIS WORD! This would set them apart from the rest of the world and display the wisdom of God over the wisdom of man!
CONCLUSION: God’s Word was not just to be a document in stone; it was to be a dynamic in spirit! For God’s people, worship is connected to walk; it is not just a weekly performance or ritual. There can be no renewal without God’s Word at center stage! Israel’s renewal was not based on a feeling orientation, it was based on faithful obedience to God’s Word – both to remember it and practice it!