Faithful is Heby Ed de la Cour on October 26, 2015
Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 11
“FAITHFUL IS HE”
There is nothing like a serious struggle in life to make you appreciate rest. There’s nothing like an illness to cause you to appreciate good health. There’s nothing like a stress-filled situation to make you appreciate the peace of God. Instead of the desiring the opportunity to appreciate any of these things, we would all rather just have God’s rest without any struggles at all. We want perfect health without sickness, and we want to enjoy peace without the testing of stress. We all want to live in a fantasy world where nothing ever goes wrong and where we live every day in wondrous peace and harmony. In a world like that, we would not need God in our lives because we would be completely sufficient unto ourselves. Many of us think we live in that paradise now.
In the real world, however, life is full of stress. Poverty abounds. Everything in life is difficult. The earth is full of war. Lives are full of brokenness. Children die of hunger. In the real world, good people lose and evil people win. In the real world, life brings frightening surprises and the devil does not have to play by the rules. It is in the real world, though, where God meets us. That fantasy world about which we dream is completely foreign to real life, and it is just as foreign to a life lived in allegiance to God.
Our perspective on life is permanently skewed by sin. We wish we could ignore that, but it is a simple fact. You and I are full of self. We are overflowing with self-satisfaction. We pride ourselves with the notion that no one can tell us what to do. We will declare to anyone who dares to confront us, “I am the boss of me; not you.” We won’t let anyone rule over us, except, of course, for those substances that enslave us… except of course for those behaviors that are rooted deep in our childhood and that hold us in bondage… except of course for our lack of ability to have a thriving and mature relationship with another person.
Trusting God is the key to any relationship with Him. When our lives are flowing smoothly, we easily forget how much trusting in the faithfulness of God is foundational to life. When life throws us a curve, whether that interruption is a disease, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, or some other dramatic change, that is when we remember: we need to learn how to trust God all over again.
Here in the book of Deuteronomy, Israel was encamped on the other side the Jordan River. They spent some time looking across to what God called the Promised Land. Moses took the entire book to rehearse everything the Lord had given him to date, the Law, the reasons for their deliverance from slavery, and the ways they were to relate to God and to each other once they began to live in the land God promised them. His purpose was to show that their calling was to trust and obey God in the midst of life. That is exactly how we are to live.
Israel’s relationship with God was about to change. Once over the Jordan River and living in their new home, God’s provision of manna would end. God had provided manna for 40 years and now that was going to cease. They would have to learn new ways to depend on God for their daily bread. The point of today’s message is to help us understand and even to take delight in these new ways of trusting in God’s faithfulness.
Because we are human, we become accustomed to the way things are. Once we have done something a few times, it becomes a tradition, and we are opposed to changing anything that is a tradition. We learn to trust God for some area in our lives, but then when the situation changes, we become insecure. We wonder if the nature of God and promises of God may have changed because our circumstances have changed. For example, in a few weeks, I will no longer have a regular paycheck from the church as my means of support. Can I trust that God will continue to provide for me? Will my life still have meaning and purpose once being a pastor comes to an end?
So, let’s go back to square one, which is what Moses did here in Deuteronomy 7. This passage has particular significance to our church because, much like the people of Israel, we are a very small church. These verses are also significant for me personally because I am just one person. By myself, I am neither rich nor powerful, neither handsome nor brave. God wants us to know that He does not love us for any of those reasons. He does not love us because we are spiritually strong or morally straight. We are loved because that is who God is. We are loved because it is His nature and His character to love. It is encouraging and empowering for us to understand why it is God loves you and me. Of all the people He could choose to love, God chose to love you and me.
This may be the first time in the Bible where God has spoken so intimately and passionately about His relationship with His people Israel. Verse 7 says the Lord “set His affection on” us, and that He chose us. That means God doesn’t just tolerate you; He loves you. Because He set His affection on us, that also means God likes you. Imagine that! God has affection for you and me. Verse 8 says, “The Lord loved you.” The love of God for us is not some fluffy and sentimental love, but a deep-down determination because the verse says God’s love caused Him to keep “the oath He swore to your forefathers.”
God does not love us because of who we are or because of anything about us. God did not love because they were a great nation, or because they were strong, or handsome, or beautiful, or smarter than all the others peoples of the world. As we get to know God, we begin to realize that He simply loves us. Period. The love of God has very little to do with us, and it has everything to do with Him.
To illustrate his point, Moses reminded Israel about their escape from Egypt. Whenever you start worrying about whether God is faithful, remember the Exodus. Remember what God will do for the people He loves. Our God is faithful to deliver. There in the desert, God proved Himself to be faithful in the middle of dire circumstances. He provided water. He provided food. He provided victory over their enemies. God even provided healing from snakebite. We can believe and trust that God will be faithful in every area of our lives. Our God is faithful to forgive. He is faithful to provide. He is faithful to save and He is faithful to heal. The picture Moses paints is of God acting on our behalf “with a mighty hand.” God moved with great power and with awesome signs and wonders and He set His captive people free.
So, why the words “know therefore” at the start of verse 9? They are there because our relationship with God is not based on wishful thinking. Our relationship with God has nothing to do with the cutesy sayings of Facebook theology – those evocative posts people use to show how sincere they are. Rather than being based on emotional language, our faith in God’s reality is rooted in His character and His nature. We can know for certain that God will be faithful because of Israel’s history with God – and because of our own experience with God. Israel’s history is documented in the Bible. Your life holds the sum of your experiences with God. Have you found God to be trustworthy?
Although you and I have been motoring along for some time with most things in our lives flowing smoothly, I can see some big changes are on the horizon for me. I’m sure many of you are facing changes in your lives as well. How will we deal these life-changing events with respect to our relationship with God? Can we put our lives where our mouths are? Can we live in a way that shows we are trusting in God? In good times or in bad times, you and I have to learn how to trust God. The Christian life is all about making our faith a living reality day by day.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God.” In the context of the times in which Moses lived, all the nations of the ancient world had hundreds of gods apiece. Some of their gods governed agriculture, others led in battle, and others governed sexual practices. Most of the gods were capricious. Many of the ancient gods were petty, jealous and vengeful. There were no gods in any culture of the ancient world that could be described as faithful. Faithfulness is an attribute that belongs to our God alone. Our God is God; He is the faithful God.
By definition, a faithful God does not lie and will not lie. A faithful God does what He says He will do. Our God speaks truth and He is faithful to do all He has promised. Typically, people do not struggle to believe the theological truth of such a statement. Sure, God is faithful; I get that. Where we struggle is not believing in a theory but believing – and staking our lives on the fact that our God will act for you. Our God will be faithful to me.
In the life changes we are facing, will God provide for us? Will God honor the promises He has made? Isn’t it amazing how we worry about whether the God of heaven will keep His word to us? That question is essentially the same question with which Satan tempted Eve inGenesis 3: 1, “Did God really say?” The devil sought to cast aspersions on God’s character, to stir up doubt in Eve’s heart, and he succeeded. He still succeeds.
In Joshua 21: 45, Joshua summarized Israel’s experience with God this way: “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” We grow in our relationship with God by day-to-day experience. If we never read the Bible to learn how God acts, if we do not discover what is important to Him, we will never know what to expect in life or what to expect from His hand. If we can learn to trust God, we will develop a strong hope in Him and a lively expectation of all He can do. It’s not that our expectations are unrealistic, but that our expectations are far too low. Our experience with God teaches us that our God can be trusted. Our God is faithful!
If God only kept some of His promises, then we would be wise to wonder if the promise on which we are counting will be one of those that are kept. But Joshua says not some of the promises were kept, but all of the promises were kept. Every promise God made was fulfilled! Anyone can make a promise. Any man can promise to love, honor, and cherish his wife. But only a faithful husband will keep his word and honor his promise. You can see what God is doing here. He was separating Himself from any other possible god. He was declaring that He is unique above them all. Our God is not only a promise making God, but He is a promise keeping God!
If you are having a problem being able to receive the faithfulness of God as a truth for your own life, you are not alone. That’s a struggle we all face. Everyone must come to his own conclusion, and whatever we do next will tell the tale.
I have to say I find verse 10 is frightening to consider. I don’t even want to go there. If, after all God has done, we can still shrug our shoulders and walk away from Him, then you can understand why God considers that hatred. We might call it benign neglect, but benign neglect is not possible in a relationship with God. God cannot be ignored and He will not be ignored. We will either come to love Him with all that is within us, or we will move in the opposite direction, which is to grow to hate Him.
I am faced with a critical decision these days as I face my departure from pastoral ministry. Will I give way to worry and anxiety about my future? Should I begin to think that God might not care as much about me as I had hoped? To answer those questions, I need to recall my own personal history with God. I need to think carefully about my relationship with Him over the years. Has God proven Himself faithful to me in the past?
Now, if I am a young believer, if I do not have hundreds of experiences of the grace of God unfolding before my eyes, then my decision about God’s faithfulness will be based on whatever information and experiences I do have. Have I been reading the faithful acts of God in His Word? Has God ever answered my prayers? Has God ever provided for me when there was no earthly way for provision to come my way? Has God demonstrated the truthfulness of His character in my life at any time? If He has, if God has shown Himself to me as faithful, then I have my answer.
If He has been faithful in the past, if His Word declares His truthfulness and His love for me, as this passage certainly does, then I can have assurance that my God will meet my need today. I can have calmness and peace in my heart as I face my future. I can have confidence that our God holds me in His hand and He will never let me go.
You can have that same confidence today. You can have that same peace, that same sense of His protective love. Our God will never drop you. He will never walk away from you, and He will never ever forsake you. Will you trust God today? Will you decide you can rely on Him for whatever you lack and whatever you need?
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559