Deuteronomy 32:47

Sermon preached on July 4, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

The first car that I remember having a special affection for was my grandfather's 1957 Ford. I remember the day my grandfather bought it. I was with him at his country house and they actually delivered his car to him there. My grandfather took it for his first ride and my father, my brother and I went with him. It was my first memory of being in a new car. We loved it. It was a great car. It was like a workhorse of a car—my grandfather believed in using a car and I remember many trips going fishing on old logging roads, getting stuck and pushing it out. My grandfather kept the car for six years and then sold it to my father. He used and abused it for another six years or so, and then he sold it to my brother. It ran well, could go fast and we had a lot of fun in it. But then one fall the car started acting up. It just wasn't running well. The engine sounded awful. It was like it wasn't getting enough gas. Back then we used to tinker with cars a little and my brother decided to take a look at it himself. He suspected that the problem had something to do with the carburetor. So we decided to investigate. We went out and started the car. It sounded horrible, like it was going to stall any second. We popped the hood. The air filter housing was screwed on above the carburetor and we had to remove that in order to see the carburetor. We removed the bolt holding that on and lifted the air filter housing off the carburetor. As soon as we did that the engine stopped sputtering and started purring like a kitten. It was the air filter that was the problem. We took the top off the housing and the air filter was so dirty that it was black. Not enough air was getting through. All we had to do was put a new air filter in and the car was back to running perfectly.

In order for that engine to run well it needed air. You could say that air was its life. If you cut off the air the engine would die.

In our text Moses is telling the Israelites that God's commands are their life. He tells them if they live by God's commands that they will be able to prosper and flourish, but if they don't they will face misery. That's what Moses' song was all about. He said to them,

"Take to heart all the words
I have solemnly declared to you this day,
so that you may command
your children to obey carefully
all the words of this law.
They are not just idle words for you
—they are your life.
By them you will live long in the land
you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

I like how the REB puts verse 47,

"they are your very life,
and by them you will enjoy
long life in the land which you are
to occupy after crossing the Jordan."

God's commands were the very life of the ancient Israelites. If they obeyed the commands of God, they would be blessed and prosper. If they disobeyed suffering, misery and death would result. God's commands were their life.

This is also true of us. The New Testament makes this very clear in a number of places. For example, Hebrews 12:14 says,

"without holiness
no one will see the Lord."

In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus said about the rich man, who was concerned about himself and his comfort, (Luke 12:18–21)

"You fool! This very night
your life will be demanded from you.
Then who will get
what you have prepared for yourself?"

Jesus concluded the parable with these words,

"This is how it will be with anyone
who stores up things for himself
but is not rich toward God."

We need to be rich toward God. We need to live in accordance with His commands. It is the only way to blessing. We see this as well from the apostle Paul's teaching in Galatians 6:7–8. He wrote,

"A man reaps what he sows.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature,
from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Thus Moses' words are very important and we will be blessed if we pay close attention to them. This morning we're going to look at the two main things that Moses tells us about God's commands.

The first thing he tells us is that

God's commandments aren't empty words.

In verse 47 Moses said,

"They are not just idle words for you…"

Moses is saying that his words are not empty words, they are not vain words. They are not useless, profitless, meaningless words of no value. Quite the contrary, they are of great value.

Yet, the world today will tell you the exact opposite. They will tell you that God's commands are meaningless. They will tell you that you'll be a lot better off if you ignore God's Words and do what you want. You'll be happier and much more fulfilled—a much more rounded and healthy individual. They view God's commands are cumbersome and restrictive. They will tell you that the Bible's commands are not really from God, but in reality are commands that were made up by intolerant men many years ago and that those commands merely reflect the cultural milieu of that ancient society. They will tell you that that society was patriarchal, superstitious and homophobic and that you are foolish if you follow the Bible's commands.

A few weeks ago I had some quotes about divorce. Many of them said that divorce is good, that you're really wasting your life if you stay in your marriage. They will tell you that emotionally healthy people move on.

It's the same with people who live together before marriage. It's no longer looked down upon. It's no longer called, 'living in sin'. The world will tell you that that's good, that it makes economic sense, that you'll find out if you're compatible. They'll tell you that the biblical commands against it are just outdated.

Economic reasons? Wow. How much is your soul worth? Are you going to throw it away for a few hundred dollars a month?

We also see this in our society with regard to our speech. It's hard to watch a modern movie today because of all the foul language and the taking of the Lord's name in vain. Yet the world not only accepts that, but they endorse it.

They don't want to be told to clean up their language. Some are even proud of their foul language. I'm currently reading a book about a World War II counter-espionage plan the British had try to fool the Germans by planting a dead body with some false papers in the ocean off the coast of Spain. One of the men involved in planning the operation went to Hollywood with a friend before the war where they met movie star Charlie Chaplin. The book says that one of the things that he did was that he taught Charlie Chaplin to swear in Russian. (Operation Mincemeat) You see, it's not enough for some people to know how to swear in one language—they have to know how to do it in two or three languages. They learn part of another language just to do that. They think it's funny. They view God's command not to let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth (Ephesians 4:29) as outdated.

Or consider the New Testament work ethic. In Colossians 3:23–24 Paul wrote,

"Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord,
not for men,
since you know that you will receive
an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

But the world says that's crazy. I read in the paper this past week about a French civil servant who was suspended from her job because she wrote a book exposing the lack of work among French civil servants. The book is called, "Absolutely Snowed Under" she describes the "five-hours-a-week" culture that exists in government workers in France. She tells that upon starting her job as a civil servant, her boss gave her a week to write a summary of a few sheets of paper. She asked if it was some kind of joke, Her boss replied,

"It's a tough assignment I know. Listen, you can have until the middle of next week if you can't finish it."

One and a half hours later, she had completed the task. She said she was making over $45,000 a year working five hours a week. In her book she describes how her co-workers would compete to see who could linger the longest at the coffee machine, take bogus sick days and stay away from the office for weeks at a time. She said that when they were at work many of them spent most of the day browsing the web for personal purposes, spending time on sites like Facebook.

You have to love it—workers competing with each other to see how much time they could defraud from their employer. Most of them obviously didn't have a problem with not working. They think that they're better off slacking off at work. They think that God's commands about working hard are nonsense. The world thinks that God's commands are empty.

But Moses says that they are not empty words. He says that

God's commands are your life.

God's commands are good for us. God hasn't given them to us to harm us, to unnecessarily restrict us, to make us unhappy. Quite the contrary, by giving us His commands God is doing us great good. He is showing us how to really live, to get the most out of life.

It's interesting that in the Old Testament Scriptures the Hebrew word that is used here is often contrasted with death. We see this in Deuteronomy 30:15 where Moses said to the people of Israel, (see also 2 Samuel 15:21, Jeremiah 8:3, Jonah 4:3-8, Proverbs 18:21)

"See, I set before you today
life and prosperity,
death and destruction."

So when Moses tells the Israelites that these commands are their life, he is telling them that

these commands are the way to blessedness, to happiness, to satisfaction, to contentment.

They are our life. As David said in Psalm 119:144,

"Your statutes are forever right;
give me understanding that I may live."

If you don't obey God's commandments, suffering, misery and death will come. God's commands bring life.

But the great point that needs to be made is that when Moses says that these commands are your life, we must
not understand this as referring exclusively to earthly prosperity, as the world would understand it. Psalm 73 makes this clear. Sometimes the wicked prosper. They become rich. They have no troubles. Everything goes well for them. At the same time, those who are godly face difficulties and one bad thing after another happens to them.

That sometimes happens. It doesn't always happen. Sometimes God blesses His people so that things go well for them from an earthly perspective. But even that can be temporary, it may come and go, as Job's example shows us. But if God does bless you with earthly goods, such blessings are merely pointers to the higher life that consists of knowing God and enjoying Him and His presence.

What is life about?

Real life consists of fellowship with God.

To really live is to know God. To really live is to enjoy communion with Him. You can have nothing from a worldly perspective, yet if you have Jesus Christ, you have much, much more. In Him is blessedness, contentment, satisfaction, fulfillment, joy and glory.

The apostle John tells us about this in 1 John 1. In verses 1-3 he writes,

"That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked at
and our hands have touched—
this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
The life appeared;
we have seen it and testify to it,
and we proclaim to you the eternal life,
which was with the Father
and has appeared to us.
We proclaim to you
what we have seen and heard,
so that you also may have fellowship with us.
And our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

We obtain fellowship with God through Jesus. No matter how good we were, we're still sinners and we could never deserve anything good from God. As we read in Lamentations 3:22,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

We are saved by Jesus. It is through His work that all blessings come to us. Even if we do our best we are not deserving of good things. As Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 17:10,

"So you also, when you have
done everything you were told to do,
should say,
'We are unworthy servants;
we have only done our duty.'"

Our good works play no part in our justification, our right standing before God. We are justified and saved on the basis of what Jesus did.

But having said that, our joy, our life, our enjoyment of God is to a great extent dependent upon whether we walk with Him.

But once we know Jesus, we must walk with Him by obeying His commands. One of the reasons we are saved is to be holy. In Jesus we are freed from the bondage of sin. We are to be holy as God is holy. Therefore we are to work hard at our sanctification.

It's by living according to God's commands that you experience the joy of knowing Him. 1 John 1 continues, (verses 5-7)

"This is the message we have heard
from him and declare to you:
God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with him
yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live by the truth.
But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin."

Walking in God's commands, being righteous, being holy, brings immense satisfaction. It brings immense joy because it brings us close to God. There is nothing like it. We see something of it in Isaiah 61:10. The prophet wrote,

"I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me
with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

Being righteous, acting righteously brings such joy, such contentment, such satisfaction. If you walk close to God you will experience His glory and that will fill you with such delight. as Peter said on the Mount of Transfiguration, (Luke 9:33)

"Master, it is good for us to be here."

Christians, love God's commands. Love righteousness. That's what real living is all about. As Jesus said in John 10:10,

"I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full."

There's nothing like it.

So Christians, how much you should value God's commands.

They are your life. Love them. Put them into practice. Have the same attitude as David who said, (Psalm 119:72)

"The law from your mouth
is more precious to me than
thousands of pieces of silver and gold."

Secondly, for Christians, in loving the law, in seeking to obey it,

rejoice in Jesus, in the Spirit, in God the Father. Praise them for their goodness to you.

Never allow pride to come into your life. Why do you desire to obey God? It's because God has given you a new heart. Why are you able to obey His commands? It's because Jesus has given you His Spirit who enables you to do it. (Ezekiel 36:25-30) In serving God recognize that all good things come to us because of Jesus, because of His work on our behalf, because of His love for us. Rejoice in Jesus, in the Spirit, in God the Father—for all their grace to you.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

know assuredly that the way that you have chosen will lead to death and misery.

You are turning your back on God's commands. You are turning your back on Jesus and God's command to believe on Him. By doing so you are choosing death. I know you want life. I know you want contentment. I know you want satisfaction. But you won't find it on the path you've chosen. Ignoring God's commands is choosing the way of death. Proverbs 7:22–23 describes it. It says,

"All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life."

Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus now. Find life today.