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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Do Not Forget My Law
Text:LD 34 Part 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Law is Good
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-05-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 111:2,4,5                                                                                 

Hy 1

Reading – Proverbs 3

Ps 19:3,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 34, part 1

Hy 11:1,2,9

Hy 65:1,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, what do you do when you want to know something? You’ve got a question, you’re curious about some issue, you need a piece of info—so where do you look? If you’re like most people, you Google it. Type it in, and within a split-second you’ve got thousands of pieces of information. Knowledge is so readily accessible; there’s little that you can’t find out, and in a hurry.

In such a world, where does the book of Proverbs fit? We know it to be a book of wisdom. But is that all it is? It’s more than a collection of platitudes and clichés, more than some database of knowledge. For Proverbs is about a certain style of life, a life that is in relationship with God! So this book addresses many topics for life: work and leisure, earning and spending, drinking and eating, laziness and discipline, marriage and child-rearing. All along, there’s a contrast between a wisdom and folly. That’s not just about education versus ignorance; it’s about living in righteousness, or living in wickedness.

Proverbs 1:7 serves as the cornerstone of it all, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” If you want a definite course for your life, then you first have to walk with God. For true knowledge consists of making wise choices; wisdom is seen in that moment of deciding between a good behaviour and one that is evil. Google probably can’t help you in that moment. But God can! James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (1:5).

This way of wisdom is not hidden from us, for it’s the way of God’s laws and decrees. And once you start looking, you see that the book of Proverbs maps out the same territory as the Ten Commandments. It’s obvious that the authors of this book—Solomon, Agur, Lemuel, and others—have probed deeply into the law. They’ve reflected on their own experience in applying God’s commandments, and now they share the results.

So it can be helpful for us to look at the Ten Commandments with the help of the book of Proverbs. For both teach us the fundamentals of our life on earth, “How to live in relation to God… [and] what duties we owe our neighbour” (Q&A 93). When we study God’s law and ponder Proverbs, we see that these are truths we can work with each day. I preach to you God's Word as summarized in the first part of LD 34,

God says to His people, “Do not forget my law.”

  1. how we forget the law
  2. how we keep the law
  3. how we are blessed by the law

 

1) how we forget the law: Proverbs has been called a father’s instruction to his son. Right from chapter 1, we can picture Solomon speaking these words to his child, sitting him down and teaching him the ways of wisdom. As he says in 1:4, he’s out to “give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” Indeed, that is God’s aim through this book: to put an end to the folly and immaturity of youth. Young ones need to be taught!

For children can be naïve about many things. Isn’t it true that a young person can become confused about what’s really important in life? Can’t our young people fall under the influence of wrong pressures? Sometimes adults will look back on those years and shake their heads, “You wouldn’t believe how ignorant I was about things.” Or they’ll say, “I did a lot in my teenage years that I’m ashamed about now.” That hasn’t changed—a youth can lose his way, and he can get lost in the wilderness of temptation.

So next to lessons and instruction, in this book there’s a lot of correction and discipline and warning. That’s how chapter 3 begins, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands” (v 1). Solomon knows that this is the tendency of his own son, and every son and daughter: to forget! We forget our parent’s good teaching, we lose our grip on holy wisdom, and we start to live like fools.

Now, before the children and young people think that we’re picking on them, we should be reminded of what lives inside each of us. We’re not just talking about the young in age—those of fewer years and less experience—but this is for all of us who still struggle with spiritual immaturity. And we’re all children, aren’t we? Sons and daughters of God, who have to fight every day against the pull of our sinful desires, and who have to fight to keep a grip on God’s Word. We’re forgetful of what we once learned. We’re easily convinced of wrong ideas. We’re weak in spirit, and have so much to learn about living in God’s way.

Just in the last Lord’s Day, the Catechism spoke about our good works being those based on God’s law, and not “on our own opinion or precepts of men” (Q&A 91). But that’s exactly the problem: we’re often so sure of what we know, sure of our opinions, sure that what we’re doing is fine.

For example, what do you do when you’re tempted, and no one is there to see your response? How do you manage your money, or what do you say at a given moment? How do you do the work that you don’t enjoy? So often we act according to what seems right to us. As Solomon puts it, we like to “lean on our own understanding” (3:5).

We even have our own wisdom we apply. We’ve got little mental tricks to help with moral decisions. We say things like, “The main thing is that I’m happy.” We respond with, “She started it!” Or we say, “If no one gets hurt by this, it’s probably OK.” Or we console ourselves, “There’s lots of people who do worse things than this.” But they all come down to this: we’re “leaning on our own understanding,” and we’re acting by our own opinions or the precepts of men.

This is earthly “wisdom,” which is no wisdom at all. Listen to how James describes it in his letter, “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (3:14-15). Each of us, whatever our age, is ready to believe the deceitfulness of sin—ready to buy into the wisdom of the world.

Here Solomon tells us that our own opinions can be very wrong! “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,” he writes in 28:26, “but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” Part of true wisdom is admitting that you’re not wise. If you finally acknowledge that your own heart is not a reliable guide, then you’re at last getting onto the path of understanding. In the heat of that moment of temptation or an argument, or even in the slow grind of life, don’t trust your heart. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Don’t assume that the sins that have ruined many people will not ruin you. But seek out true wisdom.

This is why our giving in to sin is often directly proportionate to how much we’re reading the Word of God—or not reading the Word of God! There’s a close correspondence. Is that really surprising? That when we’re not reading Scripture in a meaningful way, and we’re not making time for devotions, that we’re so much more ready to break God’s commandments? We have “forgotten God’s law”—or at any rate, it’s not close enough to our heart and mind to help us.

This is what Solomon says can happen to a person, “He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (5:23). Dying for lack of instruction—so sad, because it’s so avoidable! There is much instruction that God gives us in his Word, wisdom that is accessible and relevant and life-changing, yet we choose to stay in our folly. Because we forget. We don’t listen to what God is saying. We don’t read it.

Or in Proverbs 29 it says, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint” (v 18). Notice again how those two run so closely together: revelation, and restraint. When we’re willing to hear the Word of God and submit to it, we can enjoy a huge boost in our self-control. A memorized verse of Scripture can become like an emergency brake on our sinful desires: Stop, and obey.

So that’s a requirement for us all, whether we’re young or old or middle-aged: to grow in Scripture, not to forget the Bible’s teaching. Solomon says in 1:5 that the process of godly instruction needs to continue for all of life, “A wise man will hear and increase learning.” Grow in this knowledge! Listen to the law of God, Sunday after Sunday. Study the commandments with Catechism’s help, year after year. Because we need this correction, and we need this instruction.

It’s true that God’s correction can be painful. No one likes to have their shortcomings pointed out. But if we’ll mature and grow—if we will live—it’s necessary. And for God it’s something done out of his great love: “For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (3:12). God wants to keep us on the path of life!

So if we’re listening with any honesty at all, Scripture will correct us. At times, it can be humbling just how accurate is God’s Word in describing the sinful ways of our heart. It’s got us figured out, and it tells us the truth about ourselves. We know that Scripture is compared to a light, or a lamp to our feet—well, this is what Proverbs 20:27 says, “The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.” The Word of God is revealing, for it exposes the thoughts and intentions of our heart.

We listen to the Scriptures a lot, and we read them often. Because of that fact, it’s easy to let the words go in one ear and out the other. But we know that we’re listening properly to the Scriptures when it makes us uncomfortable—when the Lord confronts us with our weakness of faith, our shortage of zeal, our stubborn pride, or something else. If we’re listening, we start to hear it! The Word searches us out, like a powerful flashlight shining into dark and scary places of your backyard. And in that is a blessing! For we are blessed if we follow its leading, not forgetting God’s law, but keeping it.

 

2) how we keep the law: “My son,” says Solomon, “there’s a better way.” Instead of being self-taught and listening to your heart—instead of being a fool—you need to be instructed by God. True wisdom begins with humbling oneself before this God, and fearing Him alone. Every good choice can find its origin in that moment when a person begins submitting humbly to God’s direction.

That’s the gift and wonder of the Scriptures: that God has come down to our level and told us true and worthwhile things. He’s given us hundreds of thousands of words that we can work with. Like the Spirit says in 2 Timothy: the Scriptures are all “given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction… that [we] may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (3:16-17). The Scriptures are the most practical thing you can ever take in your hand. If we listen, we gain so much!

For the Scriptures give you understanding of the most critical issues of life. The Scriptures tell you who the living God is, and who you are as his children. It reveals the good news of what God has given in Christ Jesus. If you will read and listen, Scripture will mold and shape you into someone who honours LORD.

Later on in this Lord’s Day when the Catechism speaks about what is required in the first commandment, it gives a big place to the idea of knowing God. Not just knowing “about” him, but actually and rightly knowing Him, as “the only true God” (Q&A 94). That is, what kind of God is He? How has this God revealed Himself in the Word? We know him as the Creator. We know him as the Saviour, the Judge, the King. We know him as our Shepherd, our Defender, our Rock and Fortress. We know him as God and Father in Christ.

And this God is so worthy of our obedience. Solomon’s theme statement for Proverbs is this: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” By fear we don’t mean a trembling, cowering, knees-knocking sort of fright—but we mean having an attitude of reverence for his glory, awe at his majesty, submission before his power, dependence on his grace, and gratitude for his favour. In our life there should be this recognition that God is greater, God is wiser, God is stronger than us in every way. So we can acknowledge that his path is always better for us to take. We acknowledge that his laws are always perfect, and his will is always good.

Sometimes people talk about a blind obedience, just like they speak of a blind faith: that we should obey God, just because—we don’t have to understand what He’s telling us, or why God’s telling us it, we just have to do it. There’s a bit of truth to that, of course. We shouldn’t be like those little children who answer every command of their parents with a “But why, Mum? Why should I do this?” We should never need a reason to obey God, but simply and humbly submit. All that is true. Yet our obedience to him isn’t blind. Because we know this God. He’s a gracious Father. And we love Him!

Just remember again where we are in the Catechism: the third section, dealing with our thankfulness to God for his deliverance. Out of his justice and mercy, He saved us. In faithfulness, He redeemed us. This is what we know about God! We trust that He’s got our best interests at heart, in everything He says, and everything He does. So we need to be mindful of this God: Remember him! Starting every day, continuing every day, and ending every day with a recognition of the greatness of God in Christ. That He is God, and He is Lord!

That’s why Solomon instructs his son, “In all your ways, acknowledge him” (3:6). “In all your ways”—when you make your budget every month, when go to bed at night, when you choose your weekend activities: Acknowledge him. In how you use every hour of the day, let it be seen that you thankfully acknowledge your God and Saviour. Acknowledge God by loving others in the church, by forgiving, and by helping. Acknowledge God in your prayers, seeking his wisdom, confessing your sins, and praying for others.

When we acknowledge God, we automatically gain a sense of direction. If you acknowledge God, it becomes an instinct for us: What is my Father’s will in this situation? What does the LORD require of me? Instead of becoming muddled in confusion, or scared of life’s uncertainty, we have a firm bearing. The fear of the LORD gives us reliable coordinates by which to travel. Whatever He tells us, we know is true and right and good. His commands won’t bring us harm, but they’ll be for our benefit.

No wonder that Solomon keeps calling his son to remember the commands of God. Like in chapter 23:12, “Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.” Or in 23:23, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, and get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

Wisdom is available, yet here’s an implication, a calling we hinted at before. We need to seek this instruction! If you affirm that every word of God is pure, then you need to cherish that Word. Read it. Know it. Don’t just look at that closed Bible on your shelf, and resolve to read it more next month. Don’t be so busy with a hundred other trivial “searches” on Google that you have no time to search the Scriptures! Don’t fire off a hundred texts per day, and not read one text from God’s Word. There’s a greater knowledge to seek out, a greater database to be connected to—where every word is pure.

In this chapter too, Solomon says, “Write [these] on the tablet of your heart” (3:3). Where’s the tablet of your heart? And how can you write God’s law there? Put the Scriptures at the centre of your life. Let his Word direct you in everything. This is just like what God says in Deuteronomy 6 about his laws and his will, “These commandments are to be upon your hearts. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (vv 6,8). In your life, put the Word where you can never forget it. Put your love for God in a place where He can direct every decision and every thought.

 

3) how we are blessed by the law: If you try to go through life by your own understanding, you won’t get very far. Maybe you’ll have temporary success; or you’ll even become smart by worldly standards. But ultimately there’s a need to navigate this life according to a better plan, a more reliable guide.

And when we do, there’s a great blessing. When you read through Proverbs, you see that again and again. “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded” (13:13). Or in Proverbs 13:14, “The law of the wise is a fountain of life.” The law is compared to a fountain, because from the law of God flows so much blessing for us: God’s law is a source of wisdom, a source of encouragement, it gives us needed warnings, and it sets before us our purpose for living.

In this chapter too, Solomon wants to persuade his son that obeying God is always best, and it will lead to good things, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct your paths” (v 6). God has promised you the blessing of his wisdom, and He’ll give it: He will direct your paths. Of course He will! Can you imagine a young man coming to his father to ask for some advice, and being completely ignored? Or can you imagine a child getting lost in the shopping centre, and the parents leaving him to find his own way home? This would never happen; any normal parent will give guidance to their children, to show the way.

If that’s what sinful parents do, then our Father in Christ will do so even more! “He shall direct your paths.” You can read Scripture, and be confident—his Word is true. If God wrote commandments with his own finger, won’t these words be a reliable guide? Won’t God’s lessons be good? If we trust in God with all our heart, then He’ll teach us and instruct us. The Father won’t leave us in confusion.

Not that a child of God will never have a hard decision to make. Not that we always know immediately what the will of God is for this situation or that circumstance. There are many times that we simply cannot see our way clear, because our prayers for guidance seem unanswered. It’s troubling, not knowing what God wants us to do now, where He wants us to go. What is the wise way to follow? What will please Him? If only He’d show us!

But there’s no need to despair. Because we remember who gave us his law. He’s the true God, and He’s our Father in Christ Jesus. He wants us to walk in his ways. So in those two most vital areas of our life, God’s law teaches us clearly: “How to live in relation to God,” and “what duties we owe our neighbour” (Q&A 93).

In an unstable world, living with hearts that are weak and easily confused, the Word of God gives us the great blessing of stability. We can read God’s Word and say with confidence: “This is how my relationship with God must be. And this is my calling toward my parents, and my friends, my children, my fellow saints, my spouse, my neighbours.” The guidance of God’s law gives our starting point, teaches us fundamentals that’ll never change.

We don’t often equate law with freedom. We think that the law is a bunch of rules that are going to restrict us. But truly, living according to God’s law means the blessing of freedom: freedom from moral confusion and uncertainty; freedom from being driven this way and the other way by our changing feelings. Guided by God’s steadfast Word, we have the freedom to live for his glory.

To return to our first question, then: What do you do when you want to know something? Who do we ask? It’s in his Word that God reveals the path to life everlasting. And in Christ Jesus, God gives the pattern into which He wants us to mold us. If you desire this, then—if you want a definite course for this life, and if you want to go forward in wisdom—then walk with the Father and his Son, in the power of the Spirit, and with his Word in your hand.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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