Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
By Simon ManchesterSunday 15 Mar 2020Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
Simon Manchester presents an eight-part series of messages exploring the book of Deuteronomy. This week, Part 3: “You Must Know This”.
Part 3: “You Must Know This”
[Prayer]: Heavenly Father, we give you great thanks for this opportunity to look into your Word. We pray that your Holy Spirit who inspired the Word would help us to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly. We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.
Well friends we are following the sermon of Moses which is recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and today we are looking at chapters 8 and 9. This is where Moses preached to God’s people as they were preparing to enter into the Promised Land. And you will find our passage if you want to go back to it on page 180 in our Bibles.
In case you think at this particular moment – this sounds like a waste of my valuable time – let me tell you if you have 2 arms and 2 legs, if you have difficult times and good times, this particular passage this morning is as fresh and significant and important and vital to you as it was the day that it was first written.
Because Moses is teaching the people of Israel on the edge of the Promised Land and because he educating them, I am going to try and divide these two chapters up into a kind of a school – 3 points.
- The first one we are going to think about is The Classroom of the Wilderness
- The second one we are going to think about is Two Tests which the people are going to face – one immediately and one ultimately
- The third one we are going to think about is How to Get the Answers for the Tests. So it is a kind of a “school” scenario.
If I could drag up from the past an old apocryphal story – I used to be a school teacher and there was a story of a school teacher who was very young and new and fresh and green and he went into a horrendous class where the boys were big and noisy and difficult. As he was writing on the board and the noise was getting worse, he didn’t really know what to do and he thought to himself – probably the best thing to do is to swing around and throw my piece of chalk at the guy who is making the most noise. This is the day when you had chalk and green boards! Of course you would be arrested if you threw a piece of chalk today and I would be arrested soon if I even tell this story!
He decided in the middle of the noise to swing around and throw his piece of chalk as hard as he could – and he missed the guy by about 2 metres. But there was a large blow fly blowing around on the window and the piece of chalk hit the blow fly in the back and spattered it neatly across the window.
And the boys in the class were impressed and stunned and in a moment of genius he said – ‘next time son it will be you!’
And he had a nice quite class!
How to get the attention of your listeners? Well watch and see how Moses does it. And to get you into the Biblical picture because some of you were not for the last 2 sermons, I want to just remind you:-
- God’s people have been rescued from Egypt (I think everybody knows that occasion)
- They have been given God’s Law
- They were on the verge of entering the Promised Land but they doubted and rejected God
- Lost their confidence in God and he caused them to walk in the Wilderness for 40 years.
Now it is 40 years later and they are again on the verge of entering the Promised Land and very old Moses is speaking to them and telling them “now you must trust and obey God”.
And he has a number of reasons why they should trust God. And chapter 8 begins with a very interesting reason why they should trust God and that is he has miraculously looked after them through those 40 years. It was a miracle. So we are going to think this morning about The Classroom of the Wilderness – chapter 8:1-5. And we had these verses read for us but I am just going to quickly read them to you again because I think they need to be heard.
“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”
There is the first thing that Moses says. He is saying to the Israelites – as you prepare to enter into the Promised Land – as you prepare to go forward – you are going forward – you are going to be helped by looking backwards. Do you want some good reason, Israel to take God seriously as you go into the Promised Land? I’ll give you some good reason – LOOK BACKWARDS – remember how he has looked after you in the Wilderness. It is always a good thing to do.
The Bible is full of Psalms where the Psalmist facing terrible terrible prospects reminds himself of the way the Lord has looked after him and reminds himself of the character of God. So God has put the Israelites into a fairly tough classroom called The Wilderness. And he put them there because they rejected him and he put them there to test them.
So here is the surprising thing – we thought they were testing God. It says back in chapter 6 verse 14 that Israel tested God. And when we test God we stretch the friendship. We stretch the friendship by basically saying, “I am going to do what I want to do – cope with it”, or, “Provide what I want and I will then be responsive”.
This stretching of the friendship is the way Israel behaved for 40 years. But here we read that as Israel was testing God, God was testing them. When God tests us it’s to strengthen the friendship, to strengthen it. And so in the Lord’s mind he was thinking to himself – If I teach the Israelites that they cannot solve the problem and I will solve the problem, will they learn to trust me?
So we test God by stretching the friendship – he tests us by strengthening the friendship.
We are interested in ourselves – how God can fit in with our little life. Isn’t that why some of us come on Sundays? – what have you got for me? – tell me how God can fit in? – Make my life better.
God is interested in our faith in Him so that we might have life with a capital-L. And that’s why he says “I taught you that man does not live by bread alone”. It was to teach them.
Now we know that sentence so well – in fact unbelievers know that sentence that “man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. And then if you are like me you reject it as a bit of nonsense. You say – what are you talking about that you can be a person who doesn’t need bread? What do you mean that you are meant to live on the Word of God that you are meant to live on the Bible? What does that mean – eat the pages and not have your lunch? And so we say in the back of our mind – this is silly, I am not freak, I am normal; I live in the real world. I want you to notice, however, God is not despising bread. He knows we need bread better than we know we need bread. He has provided the manna.
No the problem is when you stop at bread, when you try to live on bread alone, when you say ‘I want the bread and that’s all I want’ – that’s when, says God, you are terribly terribly short sighted – tragically short sighted.
So God, you see, is not setting up a clash between bread and Bible as if you have to make a choice. Oh – I’ll be a Bible man – no food. No, no, no – he is teaching that there is bread and then the climax is the Bible. You can get your bread to help you through today. You can get the Word of God which will teach you to trust him and have life forever. Why stop at bread? God is a God of bread and Bible.
So this desert was a classroom to teach them that they couldn’t produce bread – the manna was a lesson in the power of God and the love of God and the faithfulness of God. As they travelled through the Wilderness and they said
This manna is dull, but where is it coming from? Who’s got the kitchen? Who’s got the factory? Who’s producing this? Where is it coming from? It’s a miracle. It’s coming from God.
And they have to learn to trust him – they are dependent on him – and says Moses in chapter 8 verse 4 “Your clothes were a lesson because they didn’t wear out”. Imagine wearing the same clothes or two sets of clothes for 40 years and they are not wearing out – that’s a miracle – the sovereignty of God.
And then in chapter 8 verse 4 “Your feet didn’t swell as you walked through the Wilderness”. Hundreds of thousands of people that the sovereign God cared for his people through the Wilderness. So Moses has already told them:
- I want you to remember the escape from Egypt – you are a rescued people
- I want you to remember Mt Sinai where God spoke to you
- I want you to remember the Wilderness where he looked after because he can be trusted.
Well if they do look back to the Wilderness and they say ‘yes, God was faithful’ they must also look back with some shame and say ‘we were unfaithful’ – 40 years in the Classroom with very very little to be proud of.
If you read the Book of Numbers you will see how the people of God for 40 years disobeyed and distrusted and were really hopeless. And if today as we sit in this building and we think that our eternal security is going to be by doing a better job, we really are doomed. Do you not find yourself as you read the unfaithfulness of the Israelites thinking – that was nothing compared with what I do. When they sinned to make a few silly mistakes – I just make all the mistakes. And so I hope you will not look back to the Israelites and say ‘they failed but we will succeed’.
I hope that you will remember that there was one man – and I am talking about Jesus Christ who went obediently into the desert for 40 days to symbolize the 40 years and he was tested by the devil very viciously. The devil said to him “if you are the Son of God, well serve yourself and make some bread”. And Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 8 said “No I am trusting God – not responding to you”.
And then the devil said “if you are the Son of God why don’t you show yourself – display yourself and jump from the temple – everybody will be impressed”. And Jesus said quoting from Deuteronomy 6 “you don’t test God”.
And then the devil said “if you bow down to me you can save yourself – I’ll give you everything – no crucifixion – bow down to me”. And Jesus said quoting from Deuteronomy 6 “you worship him only, you worship God only”.
So the fight that Jesus fought and the temptations were more horrendous than we will ever know or understand. They were won by Jesus in the Wilderness and then all the steps of his life he won the battle and stayed faithful and then at the cross he dealt a death blow to the devil because as he died, he took out of the devil’s hand the case the devil had against God’s people.
So imagine the devil is holding my case in his hand and it is a really good case. The devil knows this is a winning case for him. This case against Simon Manchester is absolutely fatal. And at the cross the Lord Jesus takes that case out of his hand and suffers and dies for it and takes the case that the devil has against you and suffers and dies for it. So the devil has no case. Death has no case. Judgement has no case.
So between unfaithful Israel and unfaithful church like a Colossus stands faithful Jesus Christ. And he is the secret of salvation. Past and present – past people would need to look to God and find that their salvation came because of Jesus. We look to him and we find that our salvation comes because of Jesus. His perfection in the classroom is credited to us when we believe. That’s the first thing.
Now the second point (Two Tests) is that they are about to face 2 tests and we didn’t read this passage and we are not going to read this passage because it goes from 8:6 to 9:6. But I am just going to summarize it for you and show you a few verses as we go.
Just look at chapter 8 verse 7 – here is the first test which the Lord wants them to be aware of and in a way it’s the ultimate test – it’s the test of the land. Chapter 8 verse 7 and it’s the test called PROSPERITY. The Lord says you are going to need the Word of God (verse 6) you are going to need to listen very carefully to the Word of God because you are about to face a more dangerous test in a way for some of you which is the test of PROSPERITY. The land that you are about to go into, says Moses, is going to have water everywhere. Streams, pools, springs and there is going to be food everywhere – all kinds of foods. There’s going to be resources everywhere and I am worried about you – I am worried about you.
Now is this a piece of foolishness on Moses’ part to say to the Israelites – you are about to go into the land that’s really dangerous because it’s going to be so prosperous? Not at all. Prosperity for many people is a killer. It’s an absolute killer. Prosperity for many people is more dangerous than adversity. There are lots of people in this Congregation whose faith has been massively helped by adversity – massively hindered by prosperity.
Remember Carl Marx’s famous quote that “religion is the opiate of the masses”. In other words, said Carl Marx, give people some religion – it will kind of dull them – they will think well who cares – there’s a heaven somewhere. We don’t need to think about the present world that annoyed Carl Marx enormously but a much more powerful opiate is MATERIALISM. Materialism really does dull people. No the wealth is a killer. It kills the soul.
Remember that story of the lady who is lying in bed and her husband is snoring beside her. She pushes him and says ‘turn over’ and he in his sort of sleepiness immediately says ‘Oh about 30 million’. It’s in his brain! It’s in his head! It’s in his heart! He’s just obsessed – that’s his life.
Very few people can be prosperous and godly. Some Christians think – you know I am a Christian and I am really wealthy. I’ve got the best of both worlds. The question is – are you godly? There are not many Christians who the Lord gives great prosperity to who can actually rise above their prosperity and see it for what it is and not be contaminated and dulled by it. Unless the Lord gives you special grace for your prosperity (and almost everyone in this room is prosperous) unless the Lord gives a special grace, we are just going to be dulled – maybe even destroyed by prosperity. I don’t think this could be put better if you follow with me chapter 8 verse 11.
“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, ‘my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.”
I don’t know if the Bible ever puts that better? That’s the danger isn’t it? The danger, the test of prosperity – so if we do forget God and become proud and we forget his care for us, rescuing, leading, water and food and if we forget that we are and were helpless and if we think to ourselves we are self-made – we really of all people are most to be pitied aren’t we? The end of the chapter 8 says “If you turn away from the Lord he will destroy you”. It’s the strongest, strongest conclusion to chapter 8.
Now the second test which is the immediate test in chapter 9 verse 4 – this is what I am calling “BACKSLAPPING”. And this is where the Lord says when you go into the Promised Land and you will go into the Promised Land and you will get into the Promised Land and it will go well as you go in because I am going to help you. If you then turn around (chapter 9 verse 4) and you think – this has happened because I am great, well that’s a terrible test as well, isn’t it? And three times in chapter 9 verses 4, 5 and 6 the Lord says ‘it’s not your righteousness that got you in it’s not your righteousness that got you in, it’s not your righteousness that got you in – you went in by grace, you went in by my power’.
So these are two tests which the people of Israel faced – PROSPERITY and BACKSLAPPING. The first one is kind of “I achieved everything”. The second one is “I deserve everything”.
Just imagine how dreadful Heaven would be if it was a matter of getting reward for your greatness that got you there. Just imagine walking around in Eternity and talking to people:
- How did you get here? Oh look at the cheque I wrote!
- How did you get here? Look at the job I did!
- How did you get here? Look at the Ministry I conducted!
Just imagine what a dreadful place that would be. But the mark of Heaven will be that we will walk and we will say –
How great is our Saviour – together – how great is our Saviour.
Do you think it could get into our heads that we actually we are slightly a cut above other people?
Do you think it could get into our heads that we think occasionally that we are just slightly better stuff than others?
See God is more concerned in the Bible about our pride than he is about our self-esteem. Do not think, says Paul, too highly of yourself. And when we know that Jesus, the most impressive, stupendous person in the universe put all of that away and humbled himself and came down and died for us, we’ve not only got our security but we’ve also got our role model. And when Jesus came from heaven to earth and earth to the cross, he dealt with prosperity perfectly and he dealt with adversity perfectly and he is the one in whom we find our answers – our security which leads me to my third point –
How to Get the Answer to the Tests. Chapter 9:7-29 – again a long section that we are not going to read.
But the question we are now asking is – we’ve looked back on the Wilderness and we’ve seen that as a kind of a classroom where God was teaching people to trust him. We are looking forward to Two Tests in the immediate going into the Promised Land – that’s scary but God will help us. Do we then brag about it? NO. Getting into the Land – it’s prosperous – do we then brag about it? NO. And the question we want to ask is – ‘who is actually going to make all this happen’?
And in chapter 9 verse 7 Moses reminds God’s people that they are not gold-medalled people but they are gold-calf people. He recounts the dreadful occasion which took place at Mt Sinai where Moses was up the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments and because he was away for a number of days and week, the people at the bottom of the Mountain said:-
“he’s gone too long, we can’t wait any longer, let’s make an idol, something to focus on” and so they made the Golden Calf.
And it was a terrible terrible occasion and Moses came down from the Mountain and he smashed the stone tablets and he crushed the calf into powder and made them drink it. And then he began to desperately desperately plead with God to have mercy on his people and we might think at that point – thank God for Moses – he saved them. You know God was angry, they were sinful, Moses saved them, and Moses is the great guy.
I want you to remember, however, that God raised Moses up to be the Mediator and God fed Moses his lines in prayer – so God said to Moses “listen these are your people” and Moses said “no they are your people”. And God said to Moses “let’s start again, I’ll make a great nation from you” and Moses said “No you promised to make a great nation from Abraham”. And Moses began to intercede and he said “I want you to remember God, that you have done a great rescue of these people, you’ve already rescued them, and you’ve made big promises. The nations are watching to see what you do with this people and you’ve got wonderful plans for them”. And God used Moses to draw out of God his mercy which was there all the time. And God mercifully went on with them.
We now know who has all the answers because it’s not in the gold calf people – which is us – It’s in the Lord, himself. The solution is not in the people like us who could and would break the covenant when it suited us; it’s in the God who doesn’t ever break the covenant.
And God raised up Moses as a Mediator and Moses did a good job as a Mediator but he was still sinful and ultimately God has raised up a Mediator for us in the person of the Lord Jesus who has not only come in as a Mediator to deal with the sin barrier but he is also one who prays for us to see us day by day through from here to glory.
I couldn’t really think of how to pull this all together but I have been reading the Letter of John Newton with my Weetbix in the morning and I thought I would just read to you a few sentences of John Newton from one of his letters to a friend. I think it pulls the threads of everything that we’ve said this morning together.
It’s also an interesting letter if you are having trouble with some of your family members at the moment! And Newton says this to his friend Daniel West:-
“I learned sometimes from family relations to form a little judgement of the Lord’s patience towards his people. What a family he has to bear with. Those, to whom he stands in the relation of a husband, admit idols in their hearts against him. His friends hold secret correspondence with his enemies, his children complain against him and quarrel one with another, and his servants serve themselves.
I do not wonder that those who are not well acquainted with the freedom and the security of the Gospel covenant should live in daily fear of being turned out of doors. I am sure I deserve it every day of my life but He is God and not man. His ways are not as ours and as it has pleased him to receive us as children; he has promised that we shall abide in his home forever. It is mercy that we have an atonement of infinite value and an advocate who is always heard and ever lives to make intercession for us.”
Therefore as we focus on Christ and we say – thank God for Jesus – we need to remember that the new life which comes to us from Jesus enables us by grace to take seriously this word which we have read today in Deuteronomy 8 & 9.
Let’s bow our heads and pray –
Loving Father we thank you for this lovely 2 chapters challenging, search, encouraging and helpful. And we pray that as we put our trust in the Lord Jesus, so we might live for him in his joy. We ask it in His Name – Amen.