“The Word Is Very Near You” (Deuteronomy 30:11-30; Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 10:2-16)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 7, 2018

“The Word Is Very Near You” (Deuteronomy 30:11-30; Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 10:2-16)

In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses is having a review session with the people of Israel. They’re about to enter the promised land of Canaan, and Moses has some things he wants to go over with them. That’s the Book of Deuteronomy in a nutshell. Moses reviews all that the Lord has done to bring them to this point. How he had brought them out of Egypt, out of their bondage there. How he had provided for them during their wilderness journey, in spite of their grumbling and unfaithfulness. And Moses especially goes over how the Lord had made a covenant with them at Sinai, giving them the Torah, the Law, a way of life that would mark them out as being God’s holy people. The Lord gave them his law as a blessing. It truly is the best way for his people to live. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That pretty much sums it up.

The Lord gave Israel his law in the form of the Ten Commandments. Moses got them straight from the Lord on Mount Sinai and brought them down to the people. He had gone over these things with Israel time and again. And he told them to pass these words on to their children, to talk about them when they get up in morning and walk along the road and go to bed at night.

Moses told the Israelites that if they walk in the ways of the Lord, things will go well for them. There will be all sorts of blessings, and they will live long in the land. But if they abandon the Lord and walk not in his ways, then things will go badly for them–a whole bunch of curses–and eventually they will be driven out of the land.

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses tells the Israelites: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.”

So there are two ways set before them. One is the way of faith, of trust in the Lord, the faith that shows itself in obedience to what the Lord has commanded. That is the way of blessings and of life. To do otherwise, though, to blend in with the nations around them that know not the one true God and thus to not hearken to his voice–that is the way of curses and of death.

So now Moses is wrapping all this up, and he’s saying: “Look, this is no great mystery here. You don’t have to speculate about what God would have you to do. You don’t have to guess what his will is. It’s not like you have to travel up to the heavens to find out. You don’t have to sail across the sea to discover his will. He’s already told you. And it’s not too hard to understand. He’s made it plain. He’s brought it close. The Lord has made you his people, and he’s given you his word, right here in your midst. “The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

So it is for us. The word is very near us. The Lord has made us his people. He has gifted us with his Spirit. We know his will for our lives. It’s not a lack of information. We know what we ought to do. But do we do it? We know what we ought not to do. But then we go ahead and do it anyway.

Take, for example, an issue that comes up in the other readings today, and that is marriage. How well have we walked in the ways of the Lord in this? Or have we instead let ourselves be influenced by the ways of the world?

What does God’s word say about marriage? In Genesis, we see how the Lord established marriage between a man and a woman. Oh, notice that, marriage is to be between a man and a woman. That used to be so obvious that everybody understood it without question. But in the last ten or fifteen years, our country has lost its common sense, and many now think that a man and a man or a woman and a woman can get married, which is utter nonsense. Now I’m guessing none of you here would actually do that, try to get married to someone of the same sex. However, if you condone those that do, or if you support those who advance that wrong practice, then you are fighting against the will of God.

OK, but how about a more common breaking of what God has established regarding marriage? The question of divorce comes up in the reading from Mark: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” the Pharisees ask Jesus. You see, they thought that as long it was legal, it was OK. As long as they had a valid certificate of divorce, it was allowed. That was their cover for divorcing their spouse, if they wanted to get out of their marriage or if they wanted to marry someone else. In other words, they thought the legal certificate made it a “no-fault divorce.”

Sound familiar? That’s what our society has descended to, people breaking their sacred marriage vows, divorcing their spouse, and they try to rationalize it away. Even when their spouse has not committed adultery or has not deserted them, which would be legitimate causes for obtaining a divorce, still they go ahead and get a divorce anyway.

Well, people back then and people today may try to rationalize divorce, but they won’t find Jesus agreeing with them. He takes marriage back to the beginning, to God’s intent that marriage be an inseparable bond. Jesus says: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

What God has joined together, let not man–or woman–separate. Yet the prevalence of divorce in our society–even among Christians–is widespread. When we do this, though, or when we rationalize divorce for less than biblical reasons, we are despising God’s will, and that is sin.

The rationalization of divorce, or anything we do that contributes to a breakdown of the marriage–not loving and honoring our spouse, or even avoiding the marriage commitment and cohabiting–all this is sin. It defies God and damages people. All this is walking in the ways of the world and not in the ways of God’s word.

Even though the word of God is near us. God has given us his word and his will regarding marriage. God has given us his Spirit to do it. But in spite of all our advantages–like Israel, we know what we ought to do, and God’s law is good, it’s the best way to live–in spite of all that, we need something more. And the good news is, God has provided that for us, as well.

That something more comes to us in the form of Christ, the Son of God, the Word of God incarnate. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven . . . and was made man.” This Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. He kept God’s commandments on our behalf. He lived the life of righteousness that each of us ought to live but repeatedly fail at. And then this same Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross, the righteous for the unrighteous, setting us free from sin and death and judgment. Christ then rose from the dead, reversing the curse and declaring victory over death. He now gives us his life and his Spirit in Holy Baptism. Now we are his people–new people, God’s holy people, his distinctive people in the world.

But what about when we fail and fall short? Dear friends, God forgives your failures, for Christ’s sake. Including your failures in marriage. God lifts us up and gets us going on the right path again. His word clears up our wrong thinking and straightens out our mind to know and do his will. How important it is, then, to be in the word! Being regular in church and Bible class. Romans says, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” 2 Peter says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” God’s will for our lives as Christians is to be in the word, to let it sink deep into us, that we would know his will and be empowered to do it.

“The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Indeed, the Word of God incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ, is very near you. He is right here with us. He has given us his promise: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I with them.” “And lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The Word is in your mouth and in your heart. Christ is dwelling in your heart. And today you will receive him in your mouth, his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, for the forgiveness of your sins. Yes, dear people of God, the Word–the Word is very near you!

Published in: on October 6, 2018 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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