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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:I Love the Law of God!
Text:LD 34 92-93 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-07-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Exodus 20:2

Lesson: Lord’s Day 34 (Q/A 92 and 93)

 

I LOVE THE LAW OF GOD!

  1. Because It Proclaims My Liberty

  2. Because It Proclaims His Love

 

  1. Psalm 99: 1, 2, 5, 6

  2. Hymn 11: 1, 2, 9

  3. Psalm 19: 3-6

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 82: 1, 2

  6. Hymn 8

 

Words to Listen For: gold, view, crazy, cackles, tree

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are some challenges we might have with hearing the Law each week?

  2. Where does the Law start?  Why is this important?

  3. Are we slaves, or are we free?  Explain.

  4. What 3 things does the introduction to the Law tell us about God?

  5. How is God’s love shown in each of the commandments?

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


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

There was a special joy and privilege we have this Lord’s Day that we don’t normally have.  Did you catch it?  What was different about this Sunday than most other Sundays?

We heard the Law of God read twice!  This Sunday, we heard the law read, word for word, twice.

As I said, this is a joy and a privilege.  But I wonder if we all see it like that.

Don’t we have it so often, that when we hear the Law read, our minds switch to autopilot. This is one of the reasons why I try to witch it up, sometimes reading the Law from Exodus 20, other times from Deuteronomy 5.  Sometimes continuing to read after the 10th commandment, sometimes starting before the first commandment.

Because the church is no place for autopilot.

And so, every Sunday morning, I try to keep you on your toes when I read the Law, though I do not add anything TO the Law, or take anything AWAY from the Law in order to do so.

There was a minister that I heard of who did this in a different way...on certain Sunday mornings, he would specifically leave out one of the 10 commandments, and afterwards, ask his wife and children if they caught which one he left out.  The results were...disappointing...to say the least.

It is disappointing, the lack of focus we have when it comes to the Law.  And I say WE, because I can be guilty of it too.  When I am in the pew, or even when I read the Law from this pulpit, there are times when the words are so familiar, that my mind begins to wander...even as I read them.

But why?  Why do we have this problem, congregation?

Though it may be different from person to person, and there may be some of you who rejoice to hear the Law read each Sunday, let me suggest a few options here.

  1. The Law is a Burden

I don’t want to hear this long list of things I know I can’t keep anyways.  It just makes me feel bad.  I don’t come to church for the guilt, but to be filled with hope and joy!

       2. The Law is Restrictive

God’s law seems to forbid all sorts of fun - the use of illegal substances, sexual pleasure, even gossipping with my friends.  It forbids fun, and insists on what is dull - worshipping God, going to worship services, obeying my parents.

        3. The Law is Judgemental

Whatever happened to grace?  Did Jesus do away with the Law?  Reading the Law belongs to the Old Testament, not the New Testament.  I’m a Christian, not an Israelite!

These are a few of the reactions that I have heard from Christians and non-Christians alike, when they hear that, in the Canadian Reformed Churches, we read from God’s Law every Sunday morning.

But we will see this afternoon that there are answers to each of these objections, so that we can proclaim with Scripture:

I LOVE THE LAW OF GOD!

  1. Because it Proclaims my Liberty

  2. Because it Proclaims His Love

 

I love the Law of God because it proclaims my Liberty

There is a certain excitement about the law, a certain love for it that we see all throughout the Bible, isn’t there?

In the Book of Psalms, where Scripture is most emotional, there are so many psalms that speak in awe and wonder over God’s Law.

  • We will sing it in Psalm 19 after the sermon - that God’s law is sound and whole, that His decrees are worth more than the finest gold, that they are sweeter than honey.
  • Psalms 1 and 15 speak of delight in the Law, and the reward for following it
  • Psalm 17 speaks of the protection of God’s law
  • Psalm 25 proclaims that the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and mercy
  • Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible is a beautiful acrostic poem about the law.

I could go on.

The Psalms show a great delight in God’s Law, and Moses in Deuteronomy 4 says much the same thing.

Deuteronomy 4 - See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me...keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”...what great nation is there that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

I don’t want to gloss over this:

  • Moses, the human law-giver, who saw the seriousness of the Law, who shattered the stone tablets when Israel broke the law…
  • Moses, the one who saw the Israelites die by the thousands in the wilderness for breaking the law…
  • Moses, who himself died outside the border of the Promised Land for his own sin and rebellion… Moses LOVES the law!

So why don’t we?

I’ll put it out there for you.  We don’t love the law.  Some of us all the time, and all of us some of the time.

There are times when we do not love the law of God.

In the introduction I already gave you some of the possible reasons to resist the reading of the Law in the service, and perhaps those reasons struck a chord with you.  Some of them, or all of them reflected your own heart.

But instead of trying to guess what your reasons are for not loving the law, let us instead look to reasons that we SHOULD love the law.  Reasons that we should be filled with the same joy as Moses.  The same joy as David.

The Law does not speak of your imprisonment, but rather, your liberty, and it does so in two ways.  Firstly, we see liberty as the theme and foundation of the law, shown in the introduction to the Law, sometimes called the preamble.

Unfortunately this introduction is something that we skip in our minds when we think about the Law.  We think of a list of 10 commandments, and so, for us, in our minds, the law starts off with the words:

You shall have no other gods before me.

But we must realize that the law starts one sentence earlier, and it is a very important sentence.  That’s why we read it as our reading.

The catechism recognizes this when it quotes the law in its entirety in Answer 92

God spoke all these words:

    I am the LORD your God,

    who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

    out of the house of slavery.

We should view these words as the foundation that they are, not only to the first commandment, but to all the others.

Not only should we think:

I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery...you shall have no other gods before me

But also, I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery...you shall not make for yourself a carved image.

And the same goes for all the rest.  The preamble belongs to each of them.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Introduction to the Law.  It serves as a foundation for the Law, and it runs through each and every Law.

You see, the Law was given, not as the way for the Israelites to CONVINCE God to save them (to EARN THEIR FREEDOM), but rather it was given to them because He HAD ALREADY FREED them.

The Israelites desperately needed a Saviour when they were suffering in slavery for 400 years in Egypt.  But who was it who saved them?

Was it the Law?

Here are 10 simple rules to live by and gain favor with God?

     No!

Did God give the Law as a self-help book: 10 Simple Steps to Gain National Freedom ?

     No!

God gave the law, not to FREE the Israelites, but rather to inform the Israelites’ new-found freedom.

There was a freedom FROM

And there was a freedom TO

There was a freedom from slavery

And there was a freedom to serve.

It sounds hardly different, doesn’t it?  Slavery and servitude.  Being a slave, being a servant.

And this is difficult for us to understand with our human limitations.

We read the law in Exodus, all the dos and don’ts, and then we look at another text such as James 1, and read the law described as “the law of liberty” and we are left scratching our heads.

Again and again, Paul joyfully proclaims freedom for the Christian, and yet in Romans 6, he declares that we are slaves of righteousness.

So which is it?  Are we slaves, or are we free?  YES.

Our entire Christian life...the life of freedom and joy, the life of strength and separation from the world is rooted in our relationship with God.

This relationship is, on the one hand, slavery, because He is sovereign, with absolute power and authority over us…

But on the other hand, it is glorious freedom, because we have been saved from a truly cruel slavemaster - sin.

This slavemaster infected our minds so that we thought we wanted what was twisted, what was corrupt, what was evil.  We were lied to in the Garden, being told that slavery to God was their worst possible life.  He convinced Adam and Eve that their best life was found apart from God, and they believed him and became enslaved to the cruellest master.  A lying and manipulative master, making us think that this slavery was our idea, our fault, and that we were crazy if we protested.

We were bullied into submission...until God freed us, that is.

He freed us, He cleaned us off, gave us hope and a future, giving us every good and perfect gift, including His law.  His law is how we avoid slavery to sin.  His law is how we avoid death.

Martin Luther put it like this:

A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none… [but at the same time]

A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

It is not clear, it is not easily understandable, and many throughout the years have recognized it.

Paul wrote about this tension between freedom and slavery, saying that he put it in human terms because of our limitations.

Martin Luther wrote about it, seemingly content with the tension.

George Matheson wrote a hymn about it: Make me a captive Lord - Make me a captive Lord, and then I shall be free; force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.

But it was musician Bob Dylan that cut through all the confusion and put it most simply and directly in his song: Gotta serve somebody

    You’re gonna have to serve somebody

    It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

And this is the simple truth congregation.  With all the energy that we spend, thinking about freedom, trying to attain freedom, we need to be still, and recognize that there is a sovereign Lord and ruler over all.  Whether you live as His enemy or as His beloved child, at the end of the day, He is still your King, and you will submit to Him.  Either willingly and lovingly bowing before Him in endless praise, or through weeping and gnashing of teeth in endless torment.

True liberty comes through listening to your Creator.  True freedom comes from following His will, His directive for your life.  God’s law does not take your life away, but rather it functions as the roadmap, the instruction manual, for true and lasting joy and peace.

But it does more than this too, for the law not only proclaims MY LIBERTY, but it proclaims HIS LOVE.  Our second point.

The introduction to the law contains three aspects of who God is to His people

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery

I AM THE LORD - I am Almighty

I AM YOUR GOD - I am yours, and you belong to me

I BROUGHT YOU OUT OF THE LAND OF SLAVERY - I acted for you, out of my immense love

The Almighty King of Creation extended His sovereign hand to a nation of slaves and said: Come.  I will be your inheritance, and you will be mine.  Let us work together.  Let us go together in this covenant.

How else could you describe this but love?

The law is, in a strange but very real way...a love letter from the Almighty.

The Law is God showing Himself to His people - this is who I am.  This is what is important to me, this is how the world should be.  Please show me that what is important to me is important to you as well.

This is what would be important to you, had you not plunged yourself into sin, polluting your heart and your mind.

Author C.S. Lewis explains this well, explaining that when sinners hear about God’s law, they are offended - I wish God was more loving.  I wish He was so loving that He would accept me the way that I am, without wanting me to change.

But what they fail to realize, is that they have been deceived.  For what this is really saying is, “God would be more loving if He left me in my sin.”  And that is exactly what the Devil wants us to think.  That HE is the loving master, for he will never tell us to give up our sins.  But this is not true love, but rather abuse.  Satan cackles with laughter as we rush headlong over the cliff to our demise, running away from true love.  Running away from the true love that cares enough to stop us in our destructive behaviour.

The truth is, God is TOO loving to leave his redeemed people in their sin. 

We can see God’s care and concern for His people in each one of the commandments.

You shall have no other gods before me

God knows what will satisfy the human heart, and He knows that it is only Him.  Serve nothing and nobody else, for you will be disappointed, you will be hurt, and you will be lost.  Serve me, and me alone.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God knows that those who do not depend on God to tell them HOW to worship, very quickly do not depend on God to tell them WHO to worship.  Breaking of the second commandment will quickly lead to breaking of the first.  God wants His people, and their children, and their children’s children to worship the right God in the right way.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain

God wants His name to be treated with respect, for who worships what they do not respect?  He even allows for oaths to be made in a legitimate manner, thus safeguarding society.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Six day you shall labor, and do all your work, but he seventh day is a Sabbath ot the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male servant or your female servant or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

God protects strangers, servants, and even cattle against being overworked and from a trust in themselves and their abilities, working so that they do not have to trust anyone else.  He reminds us that we are not only workers.  We are not here only to gain the “stuff” of life, but to rest, to enjoy Him and the blessings and beauty of His creation.

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

God cares about the joy of the family life and the stability of society

You shall not murder.

God protects our life

You shall not commit adultery

God protects our marriage

You shall not steal.

God protects our possessions and our property

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

God protects our reputation

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.

God protects our hearts against envy and bitterness.

 

Beloved, Scripture is the story of God showing His love for His people time after time after time.

     He Pursues His wayward people

          He Rescues us from our enemies

     He Woos us, gently healing, persuading, and correcting our sinful wills

He Protects us, from those who would snatch us away from Him

     He Lavishes us with His love, preparing a heavenly dwelling for us

He pursues, rescues, woos, protects, and lavishes.

But what do we do?

The Israelites of the Old Testament built a golden calf and bowed down to idols throughout their history, whether it was to Baal or Asherah, to Gideon’s ephod, or to the Bronze Serpent.

God’s people rejected God’s law, and they gave up their liberty, going

into captivity to Assyria and Babylon.

They rejected God’s law, and withdrew from God’s love.

The Jews of the New Testament did not worship idols, but they twisted and warped the law.  They put a DO NOT DISTURB sign over their hearts.  DO NOT DISTURB, BUSY OBEYING...and they rejected their Messiah.

Once again, God’s people rejected God’s law, living in a Roman-occupied land.

They rejected God’s law, and withdrew from God’s love.

And that brings us to ourselves.  The church of today.  How would we describe our relationship with God’s law?

When we read the Law, when we hear the law, do our minds switch to autopilot?  Do we harden our hearts against it?

Beloved, let us not reject God’s law in favor of a misunderstanding of freedom, and lose out on true liberty.

Beloved, let us not withdraw from God’s love in favor of the poor and temporary love that this world has to offer.

God saved Israel from slavery to Egypt, but He didn't want to leave them enslaved to their own sinful passions, so he gave them the law.

God saved us from our sin - Jesus Christ ransomed us so we might be free from sin for eternity. But He doesn't leave us to go on sinning now - but instead He has given us His Law and Spirit, so that already now we can begin to live in liberty - as slaves of God.

Do not withdraw from God’s love, but put yourself in the long line of God’s faithful ones who love God’s law.

Declare with Moses that the Law is a blessing beyond that of this world.

See the beauty of God’s law like the psalmist, comparing it to a tree watered by a river.

Sing with David that God’s Law is sound and whole, reviving the soul.  That God’s decrees are sure and even sweeter than combs that drip with honey.

Congregation, love the Law, and in doing so, love your God.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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