A Beautiful Servant Heart
The book of Deuteronomy is Moses' last opportunity to speak to Israel because they're about to enter into the land of Canaan. They're going to cross the Jordan, but he's not going with them. God's already said, you're not crossing the Jordan, and so he has one last speech and it's so important to him, you can just sense the urgency as he gives this message of utmost importance because he wants it to go well.
When they cross that Jordan and enter that land, he wants them to do well and you can just hear the blessing of God in it because he would say the same thing to us. I want it to go well with you. I want to bless your life and I'll give you the principles to show you the way of greatest blessing. That's what he says to them. Israel, you ought to listen, take these words, write them on your heart, do these things, it's the way of blessing. They need the judgments of God, the wisdom of God. They need the principles of righteousness to guide their steps.
He's reminding them now of the significance of the words of God and the law that they received. He reminds them now the law that they received that Mount Sinai some 40 years before. Many of them were not even alive when Israel received the law of God those 40 years before at Mount Sinai. They needed to be reminded. It's interesting to think about because they didn't have-- we have the book of Deuteronomy. We can open the book anytime we want to. We can read Deuteronomy and we can read the words that God spoke there at Mount Sinai anytime we want.
They did not have this and so it was of utmost importance that he speak this to them. Once every 40 years, like that's not enough. You got to hear the words of God. I was just thinking, this is the fourth time we are on our fourth time through, we do the whole Bible start to finish. This is our fourth time through. It doesn't take 40 years. It only takes 10 but the word of God is very important. Would you agree? It's a foundation. It is the principles of the Lord. It's the wisdom of understanding and he has that same sense of urgency in our lives. These are the things that'll bless. These are the things.
See, what Moses is seeking after here he wants revival. He wants revival. He knows this is the key and I tell you; God wants revival today. I want to see revival. I want to see revival in my life in this church and in this community. God is still stirring up. God is still moving, and we need revival today and he knows the key to it. Moses calls Israel to have their heart right with God. That's why he says more than 10 times in the book of Deuteronomy, you shall love. This is the key to revival. You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. This is the key to revival, but then he shows us something.
I. Never Forget What God has Done for You
If you love Him, then do these things, then serve Him. See if you love Him, then serve Him. He goes through and he shows what it means. When you get to chapter 15, he's reminding them of a particular, an interesting aspect of the law. It has to do with what is called the Sabbath year. Now we know of the Sabbath day. That's the seventh day. Every week, the seventh day they have devotion, they have dedication, they have rest, but what about the Sabbath year? Every seventh year they were to have this year at the end of which they would forgive all debts.
Now that is an interesting thing all itself, every seven years, all debts paid in full. That's pretty amazing. There's two sides of that. One side is it's pretty awesome to have your debt forgiven every seven years, that's for sure, but what about the other side? Those who then must forgive when something is owed to them. That's another important part of it and he's really speaking to those people. You forgive, you let go all debts. All debts are to be forgiven, he says, and as part of it, as part of forgiving of debt, they were to set free any slaves that had been Hebrew kinsmen.
In that day's in culture, if a person became severely indebted, they had no such things as bankruptcy laws and whatnot. If a person became severely indebted, they could sell themselves into servitude as a way of paying their debt. Therefore, when you come to the Sabbath year, as an aspect of forgiving of debts, it includes setting free everyone who had sold themselves into indebted slavery.
The spiritual significance of all of this is profound because it's a picture of Jesus Christ. He is our Sabbath. In Him we find forgiveness of sin, the payment of all debt and being set free. There's an interesting twist, almost an unexpected turn in these verses. He points out another interesting provision of the law. If a person who is being released at their debts, forgiven their debts and being set free, if that person has said, I don't want to go out from you, I love this family. I love what I do. I love to serve. I do not want to go out. I love this and I love you. He said that person could then become what we would call a bond servant, servant because they want to servant by choice, bond servant.
Then it says that to make a mark on them. They would actually take their ear lobe and press it against a doorway and then they would take an awl, like a whole punch and then they would punch it through the lobe of his ear and then they would put a gauge in it, see, and then-- okay, just kidding about that part, but this was a mark by which they say, I choose to love, I choose to serve. I love this. I want to, I choose it.
What's interesting is that Paul, the apostle in the new Testament says, that's what I am right there. That's what I am. I love to serve my Lord. I love what I do. I do it because I choose to do it. If you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, there's an interesting provision, then serve Him. Serve Him because you love to, because you want to.
That's an interesting verse which started in chapter 15, verse 12, let's read it. If your kinsmen, a Hebrew man or woman is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years. In the seventh year, you will set him free. Notice this, but when you set him free, you will not send him away empty handed. You will furnish him generously, liberally from your flocks. You're going to provide so that he can get a new start and have what he needs to start out a new life.
You're going to furnish him generously-- generously from your flocks. Hey, here's 10 sheep. Here's two of the herd. Here's a donkey. Provision. Give them generously from your threshing floor. Here's 10 sacks of wheat or barley. From your wine vat. You shall give to him as the Lord your God, He has blessed you so you bless and you will remember verse 15, hey, you were once a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.
By the way, when Israel came out, when they were redeemed out of Egypt, the Egyptians gave generously to them when they left. They actually came out with quite a provision interestingly. God redeemed you, therefore I command you this day, these very things.
Then the twist, verse 16 and that shall come about that if he says to you, I will not go out from you, I love this, I love this family. He says, because he loves you and he loves your household since he fares well with you and he wants to stay, he loves, then you take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door and he shall be your servant forever because he wants to and also you will do likewise to your maid servant who says the same thing I want to serve.
All right, these are the verses I want us to look at. Of course, we'll look at the verses and chapters around them on Wednesday, but I want us to see how much they apply to our lives. One of the themes that runs through Deuteronomy that we've seen over and over, he captures here again, never forget what God has done for you. That's the foundation of what he's saying here. Notice verse 12 in the Sabbath year, they were to forgive all debts, set free any Hebrew slaves that had come into the servitude of indebtedness, but when you set him free, you generously provide so that he can start a new life.
A. Bless because you have been blessed
See when you set him free, verse 13-14, don't send him away empty handed, liberally, generously, generously give. I love this part, this aspect because it shows a beautiful heart of the Lord. He is a God of new beginnings. I love the fact that God sets people free and sets their feet on a rock, on a foundation on which they can rebuild their lives. God is a God of new beginnings. He wanted Israel to be generous, bless abundantly because God has blessed them.
It's a principle of the Lord and it's like this, you bless because you have been blessed. God has blessed you; you bless. Verse 14, you will give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. Verse 15, it says why. Because you will remember. Don't you ever forget that you were once slaves yourselves. You were once in that condition. You never ever forget the Lord redeemed you out of that. Never forget where you came from. Never forget who you once were because it keeps you humble, and it keeps you very thankful.
God redeemed Israel out of oppression and slavery. What did He set you free from? If God set you free, never forget what He's done. When I was growing up, I used to be ashamed of who I was. I was ashamed of our poverty. I was ashamed of my family. I was ashamed of my father and I lived with that shame all growing up years until God did something, showed me a marvelous revelation that He would redeem me, that He would do something with me and that He would take that shame and that He would use it for His glory. It was a tremendous revelation to me that God would take me out and then He would actually use it for His purpose and give meaning to my life.
He set me free, but He set me free for a purpose that He might use me to set other people free because there's a lot of people held in the bondage of shame and God knows all about it and God is the one who redeems the person out of it and then He uses their lives for His glory. He is not finished with you yet. He's going to take you out. He's going to redeem you. He's going to use it for your life. God showed me that gave me purpose, I can be used of the Lord to bring people into a place of freedom.
God even used me to lead my own father back to the Lord Jesus Christ. He received the Lord into his heart. I baptized him with my own hands. God has redeemed. God has used. I was thinking about all those things and I'll tell you what, I will never forget where I came from and I will always be thankful because God has done so much for me. How many people would say the same thing? God has done so much for me. I'll never forget it. It keeps you humble, keeps you very thankful.
I was thinking of the story of John Newton. Many of you know, he is the one who wrote the most famous of all hymns in the church, Amazing grace. The story of that song and of his life is very important because he was involved, he was in England and he was a captain on a slave trading ship. He was involved in slave trading and it said the story of his life is that at one point, God opened his eyes and showed him what a wicked, treacherous, wretched person that he had become. He said, when his eyes were open, it broke his heart. It broke his heart when he began to realize what a wretched thing and what a wretched person he had become.
He said the shame, I was overwhelmed with my own shame. It was too much to bear. He began to write out a confession and he wrote every single name and he said, those names, those beautiful African names, I want never to forget them. Oh, my shame, my everlasting shame, but then, God began to show him, do something with this, use this. He began-- as you know, the end result of it, he started to work with those that he could help and because of this, it was ended completely in the British empire.
But he wrote the song, he put his heart out in the song and it's blessed people to this day. God can take shame. God can do something. God can use it and God can use it in other people's lives. He wrote one of the most beautiful songs, we still sing it today, amazing grace, the words go, and then he adds the phrase, oh, how sweet the sound of those words. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found. I was blind, but now I see.
Never forget. Never forget all that God has done because if you forget, tragedy will come, but when you remember all that God has done, then you give blessing. You bless because of what God has done for you. I love 2 Peter 1:7-9 it says, in your Godliness supply brotherly kindness and in your brotherly kindness, supply love for if these qualities are yours, Godly qualities-- if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind.
This is powerful. If you lack these qualities, you're blind and shortsighted. Having forgotten his purification from his former sins, never ever forget. I don't know about you; I'll just add my own testimony. God has forgiven me much. Anybody want to add their own testimony? God has forgiven me much, how about you? If you forget all that God has done, it'll become a tragedy in your life. You forgive because God has forgiven you much.
Jesus gave a parable in the new Testament that powerfully illustrates it. What had happened was this, the apostle Peter came to him and he said, now Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him up to seven times. And I'm convinced that Peter thought he was doing something magnanimous here because the rule of the day, the custom of the day was three strikes and you're out.
That's once. You know what? That's twice that you have done that thing. You know what? That's three times, you are done. You are out. Three times, you're done. That was the rule. That was the way it was, and actually, that's common today even. Peter says something magnanimous. How many times shall my brother offend me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, this is a Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, I did not say to you up to seven times, but up to 70 times seven. That's 490.
By the way, side note, if you were to do a study of the number 490 in the Scriptures, you would be amazed. The prophetic and spiritual significance of that number alone is amazing. That we'll save for another day, but Jesus says, I say that to you seven times, I say 70 times seven. That's 490. The idea here is not that you would actually keep track. Oh, there's an app for that, I'm keeping track. That's 463 you know what? Not many more and you're done.
No, the idea is that you forgive and then you forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive, and then you choose to forgive and then you forgive and then you forgive. I can do this a long time, and then you forgive and then you forgive and then you forgive. Then after a while you don't have to choose to forgive because you have become a forgiver. It's who you are now. It's your nature now. It's who you are. It's your character. You have been changed.
Then immediately, now here's the thing, immediately after saying those things, He gave a parable.
Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wishes to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents. Now, this is a huge sum. One talent is worth 100 denarii. That's 100 days' wage, one talent.
This is a million day's wage. This is massive. This is a massive sum. One who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. The Lord commanded that he repay. He could not repay. He demanded that he be put into debtor servitude. The servant fell on the ground, "Have patience with me." He says, "I will repay." The Lord of that servant felt compassion and forgave him the entire debt. One million days' wage, all forgiven.
That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii. That's one 10 thousandths. He seized him, began to choke him and he said, "Now you pay back what you owe." The fellow servant fell to the ground and pleaded and said, "Have patience, I will repay you." The servant was unwilling and threw him into debtors’ prison until he should pay back what was owed. This came to the ears of the king, who called the first servant back. Matthew 18:32-33 summoning him, the Lord his Lord said to him, "You wicked slave. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me, should you not have also had mercy on your fellow slave in the same way that I have mercy on you?"
This is such a key word to us, forgive. Has someone offended you? Has someone hurt you? You're carrying something? He says let go. Forgive because you have been forgiven much. Have mercy because you have received much mercy. Be kind because of the greatness of God's kindness. Be generous because of the generosity of the Lord. Then He gives this principle to further show us the depth of insight, He says, bless and you will be blessed in return. If you love the Lord your God, love Him with all your heart, then do these things, serve Him. Do these things. But when you do these things, it will come back to you as a blessing.
B. Bless and you will be blessed in return
If you fulfill what God is asking you, further blessing goes back to you. Notice verse 10, because for this thing, the Lord your God will bless you in all of your work and in all of your undertakings. Want to be blessing the Lord? He's showing you the way. You do these things. You love God, love God with all your heart, then serve Him with all your heart. When you serve Him with all your heart, it comes back to you as a blessing. Luke 6:36 and 38, be merciful just as your Father is merciful. God is a merciful God; you'd be like your father.
Then he says, give and it will be given to you. They will pour it into your lap, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, for by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return. Give grace because you have received much grace and you will be blessed even more when that grace comes back to you.
One of the most powerful principles I know, do these things because you want to serve God, and it will come back to you. It's one of the most powerful principles I know. You give grace, grace will come back to you. You give mercy, mercy will come back to you. I was thinking of an illustration, many years ago, many, many years ago when the church was very young, very small, there was a woman who was very offended at something I did. She was very upset with me. I know this is very hard to imagine.
What had happened was that she wanted a position and I did not think she was qualified for that position. She didn't get the position she wanted so she was mad at me, which confirmed that she shouldn't have had the position anyway. She was mad and she was offended. Apparently, she told her sister who lived 2000 miles away, who then decided to take up her case and send me a scathing letter.
I should have known what was up when I opened the letter and smoke came out of the envelope. I'm exaggerating, but right, this letter was on fire. She's obviously taken up her sister's offense and you are not a pastor; you are a wolf in sheep's clothing. You don't hear that very often. My first response was to get flush with anger. Do you want to cross words with me? I'm pretty good with words. Let's do this thing. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit just check you like right now?
As soon as that flushed in me, are you want to cross words, as soon as I thought that in my head, the Holy Spirit just checked me. No, you're not. No, you're not. You're not writing any such thing. What you're going to do is you're going to send a letter of grace. Of course, immediately, there's a witness in your spirit. That's right. You're right, Lord. It's not what I wanted to do, but that check, no, you're not. If you love the Lord, then serve Him. Do what He's asking you to do. Okay, Lord, I'm going to do it. I'm going to write a letter of grace.
I sat down and I wrote what I thought was the most gracious letter I could write. I decided I better maybe have another set of eyes on this. I brought it to Pastor Matthew, and I came to his office and I said, "Could you read this? Would you take your yellow highlighter and highlight anything that's not gracious?" He said, "Sure." He came back to my office and handed me a yellow piece of paper. You're kidding? Really? He said, "You asked, it is not gracious."
I rewrote it and gave it to him again, he brought back a striped one, "Hey, it's getting better." I said, "Would you just sit right here, please? Sit right here and if I type even one word, it's not gracious just check me." It was so important to me. It's got to be right. I finished it, printed it, made a copy. I sent it off to the offended sister from 2000 miles away. I sent a copy to the person who was originally offended, that woman. I wrote a note on it. I said I don't know what your sister heard, but I wanted you to read my response. I love you, and I'm praying that God will bring peace.
Some months passed. My wife and I were in a store. My wife came around the corner and who should she see? The woman who was originally offended, who came up to my wife with tears. "Thank you so much." I came up to this, she gave me a hug, tears. "Thank you so much. Thank you for your grace. My heart has been healed. Thank you so much." I tell you what? That is a beautiful thing when God brings peace. It came back. Grace came back.
This is so important. if you go the extra mile even when you don't want to, do it because the Lord asked you to do it. Do you love him? You love him? He says, Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If you love Him, then he says then serve Him. Do what He's asking you to do. That's why He gives this very interesting twist.
II. Become a Servant by Choice
There's a picture of this very point, become a servant, serve the Lord become a servant because you want to by choice. Notice verses 16, and 17, God made this provision.
If a person loves, they love to serve they love where they, fares well with them, they want to, he could declare that. They were to take an awl, they would pierce his ear, it would be a mark that he wants to. He's made his choice. There's a great application, you can be more than a servant, you can be a bondservant because you want to, you love the Lord. You love the Lord, then serve Him. Do what He's asking you to do.
A. Jesus was a bondservant Himself
In fact, what's interesting is that Jesus himself is called a bondservant. Jesus himself was a bondservant. He wanted, he willingly, he did it as an example to us. Let me give you the words of Philippians 2:3-11. I'm going to read several verses. It's powerful. Do nothing from selfishness, or empty conceit. God's giving the word. You want to serve God, then do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God and thing to be grasped or held on to, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself. This is what it means to be a bondservant.
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient. He did what God His father asked Him to do. He became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. For this reason, God highly exalted Him. It's a principle of the Lord, you humble yourself, you serve God, He will lift you up. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. That's powerful.
B. You get to choose
Jesus was pierced through for our transgressions; He became the greatest of all bond servants. He did it willingly. He did it willingly. John 10:18, Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me. I will lay it down on my own accord. I will lay down and I'll take it back up again.” Psalm 40:68, “My ears you have opened. I delight to do your will.” Oh my God, I love to do your will. It's my delight. Do you love the Lord? Then serve Him. The provision He gives and verses 16 to 17 are important to recognize, you get to choose. You get to choose.
The bondservant made a choice. He loves, I love what I do I love to serve, I love this whole family, I love this place, I love these people. I want to. See, it comes out of doesn't it comes out of love. If you love the Lord your God, love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And when you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then serve Him. Serve Him because you want to, it's a delight. You get to choose.
It shows us the power of being wholly devoted. It keeps you from being in what I call the miserable middle. Don't be in the miserable middle, because if you're in the middle, you're miserable. The middle, that's between the world and Jesus. If you're halfway between the world and Jesus, you're in the miserable middle. You're miserable because you got enough of Jesus, that you're miserable in the world, but you got enough of the world to be miserable in Jesus.
You're not satisfied. You're not happy. You're lukewarm. You're not hot, you're not cold, you're lukewarm. It's not a very good place to be. God wants you to be hot, wholly devoted. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then serve Him. In the book of Ezekiel, there's a beautiful picture of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the last days. It's a picture of water that comes, there’s a stream of water that comes from the holy mountain. It says that the stream begins as a little trickle. It's a picture of the latter days of the moving of the Spirit of God. He says it becomes from the holy mountain, and it begins is a little trickle. As it continues to flow, it comes up to the depths of a man's knees.
Then as it continues to flow, it comes up to the depths of a man's waist. As it continues to flow, it comes up to a man's chest. Then as it continues to flow, you must swim. It says, wherever the river flows, it brings life. It's a picture of the Spirit. It's a powerful picture of this, how deep you want to go. How deep do you want to go? Some people, they just want to get their feet wet. Some people just get to the knees, I want to swim in this thing.
I want all you've got for me, Lord. I know that you are the one that satisfies my soul. You're the one who's given to me, your Holy Spirit, and I want all that you got. I want to swim in this thing. I want to do what you've asked me to do. I want to walk as you've asked me to walk, and I want to see revival. I want to swim. I want the depths. Anybody else? You love the Lord? You love the Lord? Then serve Him. I want to swim in this thing, Lord.
Father, thank you so much for your grace in our lives. Thank you for pouring out your heart on us. God, I pray for everyone in this room, that you would take hold of us, that you would move by your Spirit upon us, and church, as we’re before the Lord this morning, do you love the Lord? Do you love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? If you love the Lord, then serve Him. Then serve Him with all your heart. Would you say to the Lord today, “I want to be wholly devoted?” I want to be all in. I want to swim in this thing. God, you have won me. I want to serve you with all of my heart.
Church, would you say that? Would you just raise your hand in a bold way and say it to the Lord this morning, I want to be wholly devoted to You? I want to love you with my heart. I want to serve you with my heart, and I want to be all in wholly devoted, I want to swim in this thing. Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and just say it by raising your hand, God, I want to be wholly devoted?