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Purpose: Deuteronomy 21:15-21's Reformation: Bringing long-lasting godly changes to our society is the first of three Living Commentary's messages that reveal how good laws help shape a society and that revival of heart is the first needed step to create those laws.
Our object in this message is first to help you see this connection between the blessings of life and God's presence, but also to show you how this specifically works out in our passage. God's presence is preserved by living in a way that honors Him. We need to obey His laws.
I tell people, "We need a revival." My wife says, "We need a reformation." What is the difference? Revival speaks of the change of a heart back to God while reformation addresses long-lasting changes which impact a society. Both are needed. When revivals sweep the land, many changes take place in the society.
For example, during the Welsh revival, the coal miners were so changed by the Lord that the mines stopped working. They stopped functioning. Why? The miners did indeed start going at church but this was during the night. The change that affected the mines was due, however, to the change in the miners' change of language. Where before they cursed, now they talked as Christ spoke, kind and gently. Their donkeys and mules no longer obeyed their masters. They could no longer understand their masters' words and intonations. They had gotten used to the old - harsh shouting and loud curses. These heart changes begin to shape a culture.
Heart changes bring lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes bring cultural changes. When these cultural changes persist over a period of time, they begin to change the way men and women approach life.
The same thing happens in reverse when a society deteriorates. We can easily observe this deterioration of morals in our own Western culture.
The small graph (below) depicts the moral changes in our society just in my lifetime. It is scary. What is considered normal has greatly changed. A minor revival in the 1950s led many people to Christ. The churches were full. But when the 60s came around, the young generation rejected their parents' teaching and despised their authorities.
Many of same individuals who listened to secular philosophies in the 60s and had no certain set of standards now rule this generation. They do not belief there is a right or wrong. They only want to get what they wish. They do not understand principle, ‘what one sows, one gets.'
When the government forced bankers and loan companies to give loans to people who had no credentials to make consistent payments, they were allowing their values, ‘everyone deserves a house,' overcome common sense (in this case principle). They were unwilling to live by the principle ‘give to the hard workers who will care for what they own.'
Today, we are facing the same problem. The American government still is living by the foolish value, ‘keep the stock market up and credit loose' rather than let those who do well be rewarded. They are playing the same game as before, this time with 700 billion dollars. Now they say that is not enough. ￼Give another 150 billion dollars. If this was a rich man who was helping out the government, then this is fine. It is his money. But the fact is, the government is taking us all into wild debt for their failed values. Their values are not built on good principle.
The decline in morals is a decline in living by principles. These life principles operate much like physical properties such as gravity. Step over a cliff and one will fall down. We know a foolish person plays near a cliff edge. Even if we are able to presently escape the wrath of past foolish decisions, we will pay for it in the future.
I discuss these things in length because we are discussing reformation. We will not change the society by a presidential election, not really. Our society needs a change of heart. Our president and lawmakers need a change of heart. We need a change of heart perhaps. How dare we think everything is fine when we have a job and a house when the world is dying before our eyes! Can we not see the evil expressed all around us? Many of us do not even want to call it evil because we participate in the same.
Let us turn back and think about what God is doing in the 21rst chapter of Deuteronomy. We will look at 21:15-21. God is prescribing laws that enable the people of God to live in such a way that God could live in their presence and find His blessings. This is a reform movement if the people would indeed go by these judgments.
God's laws enables His people to live in His presence and be blessed.
Blessings depend on God's presence. Will they be blessed when they live unrighteous lives, God leaves and judges them? No. Clearly not. The Book of Judges reminds us of this pattern: follow God and blessing comes; leave God and curse comes. The same is true in our own lives. When we leave God's ways, God's anger will break out on us, first in small ways, and then, if we do not reform, in greater forms of judgment.
God was establishing a society in which He could be close to the people.
"For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God" (Lev 25:55).
This phrase "I am the Lord your God" is used 21 times in the Book of Leviticus. It is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:6. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Deuteronomy 5:6). The Israelites were rescued out of Egypt and thus became God's people. The phrase ‘brought out of Egypt' is used eight times in Deuteronomy. This is the meaning of redemption. God redeemed them. He bought them.
Under the New Covenant God similarly redeemed His people but with Christ's blood.
"Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
It is said differently in Colossians.
"Through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach--" (Colossians 1:20-22).
Deuteronomy is not speaking about how the basis of the covenant was formed. The Israelites already were out of Egypt just as we have had Christ die for our sins. It is a past event. The question is how is God's people to live in God's presence. This is, perhaps, a question that you have been asking for many years. "How do I get close to God?" "How can I get closer to God?" "How can I grow spiritually?"
These questions are directly related to other questions which other people ask, "How can I get a better life?" "How can I have a better marriage?" "How can I have peace in times of great turmoil?" They are closely connected. Modern people often think that God and His laws holds them back from life's greatest blessings, but the facts clearly show that real life blessings are associated with God's presence and rule.
Modern society, including many Christians, have been dumbed down. They no longer connect the respect we have for God directly to our welfare. The secular society has through the culture's media and national wealth become so desensitized for the need for God in our life, that we actually start believing it. The former graph shows that when we in the 1960s could take prayer to God out of the schools that our society was already on a big decline.
Do you have the big picture? If our society moves away from living in dependence upon God and His ways though Christ, then His curse instead of His blessing will fall upon us. If our country did not have so many immigrants bringing new hope, money and morals into our society, then the problems we face today would have occurred earlier.
America is hardly a Christian nation though it has a number of Christians in it, but so do many other countries. God does not look at what people say but how they live. A people can profess to know God, but God sees the heart. "God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." (Romans 2:16). Religious pretension is no substitute for righteousness.
Old Testament laws helped produce a society in which God could live in their midst and bring His blessing. Right living enables God to bless any people or society that turn to Him and live by His principles. Our generation has gained blessings from others but now since we live unprincipled lives, we will loose it all. This is what is happening in our economy, education, government and family life. They do not realize that God has left us. Judgment is here.
Although our country has many Christians, they live by the worldly philosophy of humanism without even knowing it. They think they follow Christ but really live for their lives. I doubt they are Christians at all. Listen to this generation's ten commandments. They follow the 'Ten Commandments, NOT!'
Ten Commandments, NOT!
Our culture's false prophet speaks through media 24/7. We listen to its message, and it becomes our own. There is two forms of humanism: secular and relgious. The heart message as seen in the above chart is the same for both.
We refuse to shut it out but instead keep feeding its industry with our money. I saw one refugee who has been here about a year. Already he was tuned into the world. The plugs were in his ears and his eyes being fed by the message of the world. (Of course, we must remember there are many other refugees who are struggling to get by).
You might be wondering where we are going in this message. Let me answer you. Our object in this message is first to help you see this connection between the blessings of life and God's presence, but also to show you how this specifically works out in our passage. God's presence is preserved by living in a way that honors Him. We need to obey His laws.
As I speak about these laws, do not think that we are saved by keeping these laws. These laws in the Old Testament cannot save anyone because no Jew could ever have fulfilled them. Even if we did good from now on, we could not wipe out our evil by our good.
We instead want to look closely at these laws to get a better handle how we can learn what is on God's heart and so maintain our relationship with Him. We want to learn how to read the Old Testament for our own lives. Behind it all, we want to learn what pleases God.
Revival is good but if we are to prolong the impact of God's Word in our lives, then we need to establish the principles that lie behind various laws.
We should not be afraid of any Bible passage. We might run into passages that we do not understand or apply to our lives, but do not be afraid. Since the Lord spoke them, He can in His good time speak to us through them. God has singled out these things in order to keep His people pure. The purpose is the same for Old and New Testament writings. The context is different. The Lord was writing a complete law for the society. This is quite different than setting forth principles of life. Behind each of these laws, however, we can see what God is protecting, valuing, and preserving as well as what He hates, devalues and sets out to destroy.
Both of these things have to do with parental responsibilities but are given in the context of societal concerns. Each addresses a problem that we still find in society today along with what is to be done about it. In contrast to the laws today, they are very brief.
As in most laws, explanations for the laws are not given. In this case, God is determining the sentence for each violation. God uses His values to shape the Israelite behaviors in what He thinks is the most important areas. We must keep in mind that the Lord has highlighted these areas of need while not mentioning many others.
These things, then, are to be considered very important to God. We might not be able to identify with what He thinks is important. We might not even be able to see what is so significant about the law. Although these laws do not directly affect how we should live because we live under a different government (both God's New Covenant and temporal government), The time invested in studying these indeed helps us get a glimpse into the ways of God. He thought they were so important that He established laws to shape their behavior.
So let's look at each area of concern.