“True Love’s Unveiling” – Deuteronomy 4:32-40

April 9th,  2017 –  Palm Sunday

Dt 4:32-40

“True Love’s Unveiling”

Aux Text: Luke 19:28-44

Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm 118

 

Service Orientation:  Many of us miss the God of the Universe because we simply cannot recognize Him.  He is so great that our finite, feeble, corrupt and perverted imaginations cannot fathom a God that is as great as His Word and nature reveals Him to be.  Like Jesus on Palm Sunday.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. — Hebrews 1:3

                                                                                                                                           

Background Information:

  • (v. 33) Yahweh’s holiness was believed to be so great that it was a wonder people heard the voice and still remained alive (5:25; cf. Ex 3:4-6; 20:18-19). The Horeb revelation, extraordinary as it was, was completely auditory, for Yahweh did not permit himself to be seen, even by Moses (cf. Ex 33:20-23).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 252-3)
  • (v. 34) Signs and wonders are aimed at bringing about belief in the God of Israel (Ex 4:1-9; 10:1-2). Signs and wonders performed by prophets and dreamers who go on to lead people in the worship of other gods, even if they come to pass, are not to be heeded.  Yahweh is simply using them to test whether people love him heart and soul (13:2-4[1-3]; cf. Jer 44:29).  Signs and wonders get another twist in 28:46, where they refer to the curses awaiting fulfillment if Israel and future generations disobey the covenant.  Signs assume great importance in the NT (Jn 2:11; 4:54; 6:30), with Paul saying that Jews require them (1 Cor 1:22; cf. Mk 8:11-12; Lk 11:29-30).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 254)
  • (v. 37) The covenant with Abraham was unconditional and eternal; therefore it could not be broken (Gn 17:1-7; Ex 32:13; Freedman 1964). The Abrahamic covenant is cited also in 7:8-9, 12; 8:18; 29:12 (13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 252)
  • (v. 38) As this day(“as it is today” – NIV) (clearly shows), viz. by the destruction of Sihon and Og, which gave to the Israelites a practical pledge that the Canaanites in like manner would be rooted out before them. The expression “as this day” does not imply, therefore, that the Canaanites were already rooted out from their land.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 316)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is God, through Moses, trying to tell us in this passage?

 

Answer: God is like no other.  He is the all powerful, all knowing, ever present, Creator of the Universe Who has chosen a people to be His own.  He loves those people and has sacrificed greatly and disciplined them so they can enjoy the best.  

 

The second theme emerging from the statement that God spoke from the midst of the fire is that the Scriptures are awesome.  Sadly, the word awesome, which is so important to Christian spirituality, has become so popular today that our generation has a much diluted understanding of it.  My dictionary defines awe as “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.”  Realizing the supernatural nature of God’s revelation should fill us with such awe.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 149)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Awesome

 

What is God like?:

I-  God is the all powerful, all knowing, ever present, Creator of the Universe Who has chosen a people to be His own. (Dt 4:32, 34-35, 37-39; see also: Ex 24:17; Dt 4:11-12; 5:5, 24-25; 1 Kgs 8:23, 27; 2 Chr 6:14, 18; Job 40:9; Ps 139:6; 147:5; Jer 2:11; Rom 8:28-30)

 

From the night their parents left Egypt to the day they stood to hear Moses say good-bye, these Israelites had seen one dramatic demonstration of the Lord’s awesome power and protection after another.  What other nation could point to how their gods had reversed the forces of nature or redirected the course of history right before their eyes?  Only Israel could claim that.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 56)

 

It’s impossible to find anything pleasing in the Israelites that led the Savior God to select them.  There was nothing in Abraham’s past that made him deserving of that honor, nor was there anything in this generation of Israelites that would make God think he couldn’t exist without them.  God doesn’t love us because we’re valuable; we’re valuable because he loves us.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 57)

 

All the extraordinary wonders of Egypt were to show Israel that Yahweh alone is God and there is no other.  The scribe talking to Jesus in Mk 12:32 echoes the words here.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 254)

 

To think of creature and Creator as alike in essential being is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature.  It is, for instance, to rob Him of His infinitude:  there cannot be two unlimited substances in the universe.  It is to take away His sovereignty:  there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide.  These attributes, to mention completely free wills must collide.  These attributes, to mention no more, required that there be but one to whom they belong. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, pgs. 7-8)

 

An elementary but correct way to think of God is as the One who contains all, who gives all that is given, but who Himself can receive nothing that He has not first given. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 32)

 

From this awfully glorious manifestation of God, Moses goes back in ver. 34 to the miracles with which God effected the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt.  “Or has a god attempted (made the attempt) to come and take to himself people from people (i.e. to fetch the people of Israel out of the midst of the Egyptian nation), with temptations (the events in Egypt by which Pharaoh’s relation to the Lord was put to the test; cf. 6:22 and 7:18, 19), with signs and wonders (the Egyptian plagues, see Ex 7:3), and with conflict (at the Red Sea; Ex 14:14; 15:3), and with a strong hand and outstretched arm (see Ex 6:6), and with great terrors?”  In the three points mentioned last, all the acts of God in Egypt are comprehended, according to both cause and effect.  They were revelations of the omnipotence of the Lord, and produced great terrors (cf. Ex 12:30-36).  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 315)

 

I have also sat in hot classrooms and listened to theology professors drone on about the defining qualities of the deity—omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. Can the One who created this glorious world be reduced to such abstractions? Should we not start with the most obvious fact of existence, that whoever is responsible is a fierce and incomparable artist beside whom all human achievement and creativity dwindle as child’s play.  (Philip Yancey; Soul Survivor, 49)

 

Waxing eloquently as he tried to press home the greatness of the Sinaitic experience–the making of the covenant-treaty with the Lord–Moses grandly asserted by a series of questions that the revelation of the Lord at Horeb was the greatest event of history.  From the creation of man until that time, nowhere else on earth had such an observable event happened.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 48)

 

All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time.  And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure.  Not only could His acts not be better done:  a better way to do them could not be imagined.  An infinitely wise God must work in a manner not to be improved upon by finite creatures.  O Lord, how manifold are Thy works!  In wisdom hast Thou made them all.  The earth is full of Thy riches!  (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 60-1)

 

“Glory” means God’s display to his creatures of the perfections that are his–the wisdom, power, uprightness, and love that, singly and combined, make him praiseworthy.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 259)

 

The presence of God brings with it all that God is.  He doesn’t leave pieces and parts of Himself behind.  He blesses us with the fullness of His partnership in our lives.  His presence guarantees His protecting power, His sovereign direction, His unsurpassed wisdom, His tender loving care, and His just involvement in our lives.  To be afraid, to permit fear to shadow our souls, is to deny His presence.  Yet, embracing by faith the reality of His presence convinces us that He will fully secure us–regardless.  (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series, 23)

 

II-  He loves those people and wants what is best for them and has sacrificed greatly, given His Law, and will discipline them so they can enjoy the best.  (Dt 4:36, 40; see also: Prv 3:11-12; Jn 3:16; 2 Tm 3:16-17; Heb 12:5-11; 1 Jn chps 3-5)

 

To choose lifeless forms in place of God is to be given into the hands of lifeless forms rather than the living God.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 62)

 

Here is the essential and climactic point of verses 32-40.  Undergirding the claim that Israel will return because God is gracious and compassionate is a catalog of God’s acts, laid out at length.  They all manifest the divine will to save, preserve alive, or redeem (vv. 33-39).  God is a jealous God (v. 24), but God is also merciful (v. 31), and God’s grace is triumphant; these acts of God also serve to make the case that there is no other God but the Lord (v. 35).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 63)

 

Moses does not use the word prosperity here.  Instead he says that the result of obedience is that it will “go well with” the people.  This is better than just physical prosperity.  Many rich people are very unhappy, because physical prosperity alone will not truly satisfy us.  What we need is to know that everything is going well for us.  That is true prosperity.  One of the huge challenges facing the church today is motivating Christians to be obedient to the Word when those around them live in ways so different from what is prescribed in the Bible.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 153)

 

Moses appeals to his people to obey the will of Yahweh for their own good and for the good of their descendants.  If they will keep alive the memory of Yahweh’s gracious actions, if their theology remains pure, and if their response is right, God’s mission for them will be fulfilled.  The land has indeed been promised them as an eternal possession, but enjoyment of the promise is conditional.  Each generation must commit itself anew to being the people of God in God’s land for God’s glory.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 144)

 

Moses’ address is a clarion call for Judahites to remember that Yahweh is God and there is no other.  The revelation at Horeb was like no other; the deliverance from Egypt like no other.  Yahweh’s heavenly voice was to discipline the Horeb generation, and if heard by the present generation, it will discipline them too.  Let the present generation of Judahites know and take to heart that Yahweh is God of heaven and earth.  There is no other.  It must keep the terms of the Deuteronomic covenant.  If it does, it will go well for people and their children, and instead of their days ending in the land, they will be prolonged indefinitely.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 258)

 

The words, “that it may go well with you” occur eight times in Deuteronomy, undoubtedly to emphasize the motive for obedience (4:40; 5:16; 6:3-18; 12:25, 28; 19:13; 22:7).  The idea that righteousness lengthens life and sin shortens it is common in the OT (Prv 3:1-2, 5-16; 10:27).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 92)

 

The purpose of God’s self-revelation to Israel was not merely monotheistic enlightenment (so that you might know. . ., v. 35), but ethical discipline.  The two are inseparable.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 56)

 

To the question, “Why did God love Israel’s ancestors?” the only answer would have been, “Because God chose to.”  But if we are tempted to regard this as mere exclusive chauvinism, we must recall that the ultimate goal of God’s loving choice of Abraham and his descendants was the blessing of all the nations, even though it entailed the proximate judgment on specific nations (v. 38).  Ultimately, as Psalm 47 so confidently celebrates, the nations would applaud the saving work of God, which paradoxically included the defeat of some of their number by Israel, because in the end it would enable them to become part of that very people of the God of Abraham (Ps 47:9).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 56-7)

 

The Lord’s love for his people finds its first mention here (v. 37).  The reference to the Lord’s choice of Israel, based on his love for their forefathers (v. 37), and the reference to his gift of Canaan to them as an inheritance (v. 38) go back to the covenant with Abraham and to the promises of that covenant (Gn 12:3,; 17:4-8; 18:18-19).  Further development of this love follows in 7:8-9, 13; 10:15; and 23:5.  Reciprocating love from the people of the Lord is urged in 5:10; 6:6; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 49)

 

The presence of God brings with it all that God is.  He doesn’t leave pieces and parts of Himself behind.  He blesses us with the fullness of His partnership in our lives.  His presence guarantees His protecting power, His sovereign direction, His unsurpassed wisdom, His tender loving care, and His just involvement in our lives.  To be afraid, to permit fear to shadow our souls, is to deny His presence.  Yet, embracing by faith the reality of His presence convinces us that He will fully secure us–regardless.  (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series p. 23)

 

III-  God is so extraordinarily other we fail to experience Him.  (Dt 4:35, 39; see also: Job 11:7-9; 36:26; ch 37; Psa 145:3; Eccl 3:11; Isa 40:12-31; 55:8-9; 1 Cor 2:10-16; Phil 2:1-11)

 

One of the great mistakes we’ve made in modern Christianity is approaching God deductively as an object of knowledge instead of approaching Him inductively as the cause of wonder.  So apologists try to prove that God is factual.  And He is.  But facts don’t awe us.  In my humble opinion, it takes far more faith to believe in macroevolution by random chance than creation by intelligent design.  But it’s about more than just arguing the evidence.  God is more than factual.  He is wonderful.  The mind is educated with facts, but the soul is educated with beauty and mystery.  And the curriculum is creation.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 53)

 

It may be that, in minimizing the supernatural, the Western, prosaic, scientifically trained mind has forgotten a reality which only the Oriental mind ever fully grasped.  For decades the Westerner has gazed through his telescopes and microscopes until a kind of spiritual myopia has developed.  He has forgotten how to see.  The ancient Oriental, for all his naïveté, was more clear visioned.  Man’s little mind does not measure the power of God.  We must again take seriously the possibility that the Hebrew-Christian faith not merely contradicts but really disproves the naturalism of our day.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 360)

 

‘Your thoughts of God are too human.’ said Luther to Erasmus.  This is where most of us go astray.  Our thoughts of God are not great enough; we fail to reckon with the reality of His limitless wisdom and power.  Because we ourselves are limited and weak, we imagine that at some points God is too, and find it hard to believe that He is not.   We think of God as too much like what we are.  Put this mistake right, says God; learn to acknowledge the full majesty of your incomparable God and Savior. (J. I. Packer; Knowing God, 78-9)

 

The glory of creation and the glory of God are as different as the love poem and the love, the painting and the landscape, the ring and the marriage.  It would be a great folly and a great tragedy if a man loved his wedding band more than he loved his bride.  But that is what Rom 1:19-23 says has happened.  Human beings have fallen in love with the echo of God’s excellency in creation and lost the ability to hear the incomparable original shout of love.  (John Piper; The Pleasures of God, 86-7)

 

God’s glory is the beauty of his manifold perfections.  It can refer to the bright and awesome radiance that sometimes breaks forth in visible manifestations. (John Piper; Desiring God, 43)

 

IV-  He is so other we fail to accept there is no other.  (Dt 4:39; see also: Dt 32:39; 2 Sam 7:22; 2 Kings 5:15; 19:18; 1 Chron 17:20; Isa 43:10-13; 44:6; 45:5-6, 21-22; Jn 6:66-69; 14:6; 1 Cor 8:4; Gal 4:6)

 

People bent on worshiping idols will now get what they want–gods of wood and stone, crafted by human hands, who cannot see, cannot hear, cannot eat, and cannot smell.  These they will now have the privilege of serving.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 257)

 

Moses again emphasized personal commitment to the Lord.  In v. 39 this commitment is based on the fact that the Lord is the only God and that he exists both in heaven and on earth.  The people therefore are to acknowledge him as such and fix in their minds that he alone is God.  This commitment would result in prosperity and continued possession of the land that the Lord was giving them.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 49)

 

Worship Point: To know God is to worship God.  If you struggle to worship God you simply do not know Him. (Ex 19:18-19; 20:18-19; 33:18-32; 34:29-35; Ps 96:3-7; Isa ch 6; 55:8-9; 66:1-2; Jer 9:23-26; Ez 1:26-28; Rom 11:33-34; 1 Tm 6:15-16)

 

If God is small enough for us to understand, He isn’t big enough for us to worship.

 

To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)

 

He again inculcates what we have lately spoken of, that the glory of the one true God was proved by the miracles, but he does so by way of exhortation.  For he desires them carefully and attentively to consider what God had shown them, because in so plain a matter there would be no excuse for error or ignorance.  He therefore infers from what had gone before, that the people must beware of shutting their eyes against the clear revelation of God’s power, and therefore urges them to keep it in memory, because man’s ingratitude is but too prone to forgetfulness.  He afterwards reminds them wherefore God would be known, viz., that they might keep His Law and obey His statutes.  The sum is, that they would be inexcusable if they did not obediently receive the Law, which they knew to have come from God; for they must be worse than stupid if the majesty of God, known and understood by so many proofs, did not awaken them to reverence.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 353-4)

 

The exodus/wanderings/conquest period was a time of remarkable involvement on God’s part in the affairs of his people.  Aside from a brief time during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, the next protracted period of signs and wonders took place fourteen centuries later during the NT era.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 64)

 

When Moses went to meet with God, nothing–not even a layer of cloth–was allowed to hinder his gaze upon God.

That passage gives us insight into two things:  the deep revelation of God, and the change it brings to those who experience it.  The greater the revelation, the greater the transformation.  Unveiled in his worship and given incredible access to the presence of God, Moses also became a changed worshiper who glowed with the glory of God.

The NT has amazing news for us that we, too, can be unveiled worshipers:  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

God has invited us into an incredibly privileged place in worship.  In one sense, the Almighty need not reveal Himself to anyone.  He is a consuming fire, blazing with power and holiness.  And yet He burns with a heart of love for His people, longing to usher each one of us into deeper levels of glory.  It is there we are transformed ever more into His likeness.  As someone once put it, “Beholding is becoming.”  (Matt Redman, The Unquenchable Worshiper, 62-3).

 

Gospel Application:  God is so holy, righteous, pure, and just that He cannot endure sin of any kind.  The only way we can have an intimate, personal relationship with the God of the Universe is by being “in Christwho is holy, righteous, pure, and just for us.  We see God when we see Jesus.  (1 Cor 2:10-16; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Heb 1:1-4)

 

Through his death and resurrection Jesus proves his identity with Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel.  If Yahweh’s rescue of the Israelites from their bondage to Pharaoh and his kingdom demanded a tremendous act of divine power, how much more our rescue from sin and the dominion of darkness.  But this is what Jesus has accomplished for us, and in so doing he has demonstrated that he alone is God; there is no other.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 148)

 

It seems to have been a general belief, that if God appeared to men, it was for the purpose of destroying them.  And indeed most of the extraordinary manifestations of God were in the way of judgment:  but here it was different.  God did appear in a sovereign and extraordinary manner; but it was for the deliverance and support of the people.  (Adam Clarke, Commentary and Critical Notes, Vol. 1, 459)

 

We cannot preach Christ by faith unless we have a deep faith in Christ.  We cannot cultivate this faith apart from knowing God’s awesome holiness.  His hatred of sin, and the extent and severity of human sin, including our own.  Only as we are gripped by the greatness of our need before God can we understand faith in Christ and experience the spiritual power that faith gives to life.  We are not likely to get this kind of faith unless we slow down and take time to lay hold of the power of the Cross.    (Jack Miller; Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, 126)

 

God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach Him with cheerfulness; He is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; He is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with the deepest humility; He is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address Him with purity; He is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we must therefore acknowledge His excellency in all that we do, and in our measures contribute to His glory, by having the highest aims in His worship; He is a spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and Intercessor.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 371)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Seek to have the personal relationship that God desires to have with you.  Never forget there is no way this can happen outside of your being “in Christ.”

 

One way to describe this problem is to say that when these people “receive Christ,” they do not receive him as supremely valuable.  They receive him simply as sin-forgiver (because they love being guilt-free), and as rescuer-from-hell (because they love being pain-free), and as healer (because they love being disease-free), and as protector (because they love being wealthy), and as creator (because they want a personal universe), and as Lord of history (because they want order and purpose).  But they don’t receive him as supremely and personally valuable for who he is.  They don’t receive him the way Paul did when he spoke of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  They don’t receive him as he really is–more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying, than everything else in the universe.  They don’t prize him or treasure him or cherish him or delight in him.  (John Piper, Think, 71-2)

 

So What?:  If you fail to enjoy a personal relationship with the God of the Universe, it could very well be you either have unconfessed sin, or you are not looking for the God who is like no other.  (Jer 16:20)

 

Repentance that renews precious fellowship with our incomparably wonderful God ultimately furthers our joy.  Just as we cannot enter into the repentance without sorrow for our guilt, we cannot emerge from true repentance without joy for our release from shame.  (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 88)

 

Therefore, if God is truly Great, this makes perfect sense.  In fact, now we know how great He is.  The greatness of God is greater than we ever thought.  The Most High has become the most low.  (Tim Keller – The Deity of Jesus)

 

At the coming of Christ, love was let loose in the world…and nobody can stop it.  God–the awesome and sovereign creator and sustainer of all that is–is love.  God is not loving; he is love.  God is not sometimes loving and sometimes not; he is love.  The darkness has no reality of its own; it is only defined in terms of the absence of light.  The Light has come, and everything that is dark will be destroyed in its wake.  (“Love is a Lot Stronger Than I Thought It Was” by Steve Brown, Key Life, Fall/Christmas 2006, Vol. 21 #3, 11)

 

Howard Nogle, a friend of mine, was spending some time with his grandson, Chris.  During their few days together, Howard tried to teach him Mic 6:8:  “He has shown you, O man, what is good; / And what does the LORD require of you / But to do justly, / To love mercy, / And to walk humbly with your God?”

As Chris was getting the verse down pat, a thought struck him.  “But, Grandpa,” he said, “I don’t quite understand.  It would be hard to be humble–walking with God!”  What an outstanding concept of the greatness of god for a seven-year-old!  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 92)

 

God loves you, but don’t let it go to your head.

 

 

JESUS:

AWESOME

 

 

 

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