- Sermon Notes
Setting the Course of Your Life
We are nearing the end of the book of Deuteronomy. Moses is giving his last message to the people of Israel to prepare them to cross the Jordan and enter the land God promised. When you read Deuteronomy, you discern right away that Moses is pouring out his heart to the people of Israel.
He wants them to succeed, he wants them to prosper. He knows this will only happen if they stay near to God. Over and over he admonishes them to love God with all their heart and with all their soul.
Moses gave instructions that after Israel crosses the Jordan into the land of Canaan, they were to bring the people into a small valley with Mount Ebal on one side and Mount Gerizim on the other. Then they were to station men on each mountain. From Mount Ebal, they were to call out the curses of God; the troubles and difficulties that would come if they turned away from God and followed the gods of the world.
From Mount Gerizim the men were to call out the blessings of following God with all their heart and with all their soul. They were then to choose. “See, I set before you life and death,” God was saying to the people of Israel, “now choose life that you might live.”
There are things in life of which you have no control that determine the course of your life; the family you’re born into, the country and community into which you were raised, if you were born into privilege or poverty. You have no control over these things.
But there are many other things that are within your power to choose that determine the course of your life. In the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim the people stood and listened. From Mount Ebal they heard of disasters and troubles and difficulties that would come because they did not serve the Lord their God, Moses said, “with joy in a glad heart, for the abundance of all things.”
From Mount Gerizim they heard of the blessings that would come upon them and overtake them if they would obey the Lord their God. “Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Your crops will be blessed, your herds and the young of your flock will increase, your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.”
“See,” God is saying,” I set before you life and death. Choose life that you may live.” Every parent understands this heart. You want your children to do well, you want them to choose life and you know that there are certain decisions they will make that will set the direction of the course of their lives; not just their career, but the content of the their character and whether they choose to follow God and love Him with all their heart and with all their soul.
God wants them to choose life, but He also understands that they may choose to turn their hearts away from Him. If they do, the results will be disastrous. But then He tells them that God will take them back. It’s never too late to come back to God; it’s never too late to start your life over; it’s never too late to make the right decisions and correct the course of your life.
What an encouragement this chapter is. God sets before you life and death, good and evil, and He asks you to choose. The course of your life hinges on the decisions you make. Choose well. Choose God; and choose life.
I. Your Course Can be Corrected
- God knows in advance there would come a time when their hearts would turn away from Him.
- In that day, when you turn your heart away and disaster and trouble come; and then you look to God and turn your heart toward home, God was saying, here’s what God will do. He will welcome you home. It’s not too late to start over. It’s not too late to correct the course of your life.
- God wants you to know His heart in advance, because you face the same choice as Israel.
A. Return with all your heart
- Returning with all your heart is the best possible correction of your course.
- This is one of the most important themes that runs through Deuteronomy. When things have gone badly because they rejected God, they must remember God’s heart; God will not reject them, He will welcome them home.
- If they get off course, they must return to God. But when they return, they need to return to him with all their heart and all their soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29, “From there (from that place of distress and trouble) you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you.…”
Illus – Some people get into some trouble and feel the heat, so then they become contrite and even appear somewhat humble. But only so much as it takes to get the heat turned off. That’s not true repentance and that’s not true revival.
Joel 2:12, “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart… and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”
- Turning their hearts away from God was what got them into trouble in the first place, so when they return, they must return with all their heart and with all our soul.
- In verse 6, Moses said that God would circumcise their hearts. In other words, there needs to be a cutting away of the flesh; that’s part of choosing life; that’s part of revival. Cut away the flesh and its desires and you will find life.
- Cut away the things of the flesh because, after all, what benefit did you gain? What good did it do? Did it not just result in death?
- Now you’re seeing it rightly. You’re seeing it from God’s view.
Romans 6:21, What benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.
B. The Lord will rejoice over you again
- Verse 9 — When they return to the Lord, He will restore them, and He will rejoice over them… again.
- When you first come to Christ God rejoices.
Zephaniah 3:17, The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
- When you come back, when you return after you’ve wandered away; God rejoices again.
Luke 15:7, 10, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance… In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- Verses 3-5 — God promises to restore them as a nation and gather them from the places where they were scattered and bring them back to their land.
- There is both a near and far fulfillment of these verses. There was near fulfillment when God restored them from their Babylonian captivity. There was a similar fulfillment in 1948 when they were restored as a nation. But the greatest fulfillment will be in the last days.
- For something is still missing: after their Babylonian captivity they never again fell into idolatry and a portion of them gave God their hearts…
- But today we do not yet see the spiritual revival that God is predicting in these verses. God is still waiting for a spiritual revival in Israel.
- When Jesus, their Messiah returns in the latter days, there will be a great awakening.
Jeremiah 31:31-34, “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.… “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
- At the last supper with His disciples, Jesus said that He was initiating that New Covenant in His blood.
1 Corinthians 11:25, In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant initiated in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
- The New Covenant was initiated in His blood, and it will be completed for Israel when Jesus returns at the end of the age and Israel receives Him as their Messiah and as Lord and King.
C. There is a sadness that leads to joy
- Moses tells them of the rejoicing of the Lord at the returning of those who fall away.
- Their hearts will be circumcised when they return and love the Lord their God will all their heart and with all their soul.
- But when he speaks prophetically of a great returning in the last days, it begins with sadness…
Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”
- In the New Testament, Paul speaks about a sorrow that leads to repentance.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10, I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
II. God’s Word is not too Difficult
- Moses then said in verse 11, “This commandment is not too difficult, nor is it out of reach.”
- There are many who seem to think that the things of God are difficult or confusing or out of reach.
- But if you love God, there is joy with a glad heart… and that’s when His commandments are not difficult or burdensome.
1 John 5:3, For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Illus – A few weeks ago, I mentioned a story that’s a perfect illustration and it bears repeating. The story is about an old farmer who used to plow with two horses, but when one died, he decided to retire the other and buy a tractor. The horse would walk alongside the tractor every day as if to say, “Plowing is what I love to do; this is not a burden to me.”
A. God’s Word is as close as your heart
- Verses 12-13 – This commandment is not out of reach. They would not need to accomplish some great feat in order to reach the Word of God. They won’t have to climb the seven great mountains or reach some spiritual state of nirvana.
Illus – There is something like this in the concept of penance. This is a practice where some lay great burdens on themselves in order to prove their repentance. The believe they must do some difficult self-punishment as a token of contrition.
In the movie, “The Mission,” Rodrigo Mendoza had abused and mistreated the people of the Guarani tribe in South America. He later became angry when he found his brother in bed with his fiancé. In a fit of rage, he killed his brother. He then sought repentance from the Jesuit priest who tied the man’s armor and weapons in a bundle and attached it to his waist and told him to climb the great Iguazu Falls where the Guarani people lived.
- But Moses said that the word is near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart. In other words, it’s as close as the decision to confess with your mouth and believe with your heart.
- This is what Paul was referring to in the book of Romans when he quoted these verses in his letter to the church at Rome.
Romans 10:8, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
- You may feel that you are far from God. You may feel that God is far from you, but God is near. Correct your course by loving God with all your heart and with all your soul.
- It doesn’t matter what kind of life you’ve been living that has taken you far from God; anyone can be saved at this very service. Confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and surrender your life to him, and you will be saved.
B. God wants you to choose life
- Verses 15-20 — Moses gives them God’s heart; God wants them to choose life.
- It’s not that God sets before them the choice of life and death and then says, “Choose whichever you want, it makes no difference to me.”
- God wants them to choose life. He loves them, so he calls them to choose life; that is the very best thing for them.
- Not just to love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul, but also to walk in His ways and to walk in His judgments.
App – the decisions you make determine the direction and thus the outcome of your life. You have a choice, you have a decision, and that decision will determine not just your earthly future, buty our eternal future as well.
- Verse 20 — Moses tells them how… by obeying His voice and by holding fast to Him.
Illus – The problem is that many are empty, they’re lonely, they’re bored, and they lack purpose; they fill their life with things that will not satisfy the soul.
Correct the course and love God with all your heart and with all your soul and He will fill your soul (Psalm 23).
Deuteronomy 30 NASB
“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you [a]call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the Lord your God and [b]obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the Lord your God will restore [c]you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are at the ends of the [d]earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will [e]bring you back. 5 The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
6 “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your [f]descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. 7 The Lord your God will [g]inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again [h]obey the Lord, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will [i]prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the [j]offspring of your [k]body and in the [l]offspring of your cattle and in the [m]produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; 10 [n]if you [o]obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, [p]if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it [q]out of reach. 12 It is not in heaven, [r]that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, [s]that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.
15 “See, I have set before you today life and [t]prosperity, and death and [u]adversity; 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 17 But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter [v]and possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your [w]descendants, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for [x]this is your life and the length of your days, [y]that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”