Fix These Words on Your Hearts

A sermon preached on Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, on June 14 & 15, 2020.

I’d say I have a pretty decent memory. You need to have one to be a pastor. Just don’t ask the front desk how often I get to the office and turn around and run home for something I forgot. I have a pretty good memory. But my wife can ask me to do something for her and I have an impeccable ability to forget to do it. I didn’t mean to…I just forgot. If she asks me to mail something, I can set reminders or alarms…but sometimes it seems like the only way for me to remember it is to physically attach it to my arm or tape it to the door handle so I can’t physically leave without seeing it. I may have a good memory…but I am also very good at forgetting.

No wonder God gave his people some advice on not forgetting his Word saying: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” When did God give these words to his people? The book of Deuteronomy is full of Moses’ farewell sermons to the Israelites before they enter the promised land. Here’s the thing, why would Moses need to remind them not to forget God? Think of the amazing things they had seen over the past 40 years. God had freed them from 400 years of slavery in Egypt with 10 terrible plagues. He had parted the Red Sea for them to escape. For 40 years, they were fed purely by God’s love as he provided Mana in the morning and quail in the evening. He provided water miraculously from rocks.  40 years in the wilderness, their clothes never wore out. I’m happy if my kids’ shoes last the summer. Amazing miracles! How could they forget those?

Yet, Moses warns them not to forget because they of course had forgotten God from time to time. How could they forget God after all of that? Well, I can probably answer that question when I answer how we forget God. After all, God richly and daily provides for us. And yet, we forget him. There’s a reason that the 10 Commandments starts with one saying “You shall have no other gods.” It is telling us to look to God and God alone to satisfy my every need. Yet, I often forget because either God is #1 in my heart and I’m not; or I am #1 and God isn’t.

And it will show who is number one in my heart. It’ll show in a gentle response to a harsh word spoken…or not. It’ll show in our impatience or not. It will show in our ability to say the words “I forgive you” or not. And the devil is working very hard to get me to forget God and his Word. He does not want me to ask what the Bible has to say about every part of my life. He wants it to be at best a very small part of my life because he knows the Bible can shine light on my life and bring joy in to my life. It has the power to guide my life.

That’s why God says – put his Word where you can’t help but see it. Keep it where you can’t leave the house without thinking of God’s Word and God’s protection. Moses said this is so important teach it to your children and grandchildren. Teach them God’s Word and of his love when you walk with them, when you’re sitting at home together, when you put them to bed.

In fact, being connected to God’s Word is so important, God says: I’m giving you a blessing and a curse. “the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.”

Moses was preaching to Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land. God was going to have them clear out every single one of the people living in the Promised Land so they could not distract the Israelites from following God. He didn’t want them distracted by the prosperity that would be theirs in the Promised Land. He wanted them to see everything through the lens of God’s Word. Otherwise they would be led away from God, not closer to him.

Unfortunately, they of course didn’t listen. As you read the Old Testament, you see them slowly but surely slipping away from God and becoming more and more connected with the world. Can you imagine what it would have been like if they had smartphones or Netflix or Facebook?

That’s an important lesson for us to remember. Let me put it this way. You ever seen a child trying to get their parent’s attention when they’re on their phone non-stop? Our first year of marriage, Sara taught preschool in the city. Time and time again, parents would drop their kids off while never looking up from their phone at 6am. Then they picked up their kids without looking up from their phone at 6pm. You could just see how much those kids craved their parents’ attention.

And while something like that might make my heart ache, I wonder, is that how I am with God sometimes? Do I give God my attention when he wants it? Does God get your attention? Because God wants all my attention all the time. What does he have to do to have your attention? That’s why he had Moses tell his people: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” We think differently when guided by God’s Word. We speak differently when guided by God’s Word. We act differently when guided by God’s Word.

The reason is because the more I am connected to God’s Word, the more I see his amazing love for me and all he has done in Jesus. He never forgot about you or became distracted from saving you. I see how I am washed clean in Jesus’ blood. He has removed my sins and they are there no longer. Connected to God’s Word, I can see the blessings God pours over me as he sustains me and protects me through all that 2020 continues to throw at me. When you are connected to God’s Word, he gets your attention with the joy of forgiveness. He will never be too busy for you.

So keep God’s Word before you like it’s tied to your hands and bound on your head. Don’t just be in God’s Word on Sunday morning or Monday evening. Be in his Word every day. Start or end your day with a daily devotion – we offer one on YouTube and Facebook. Or our church body will email you one every morning. Maybe listen to it on your way to work. If there’s one blessing that has come from this pandemic, more and more people have realized the importance of taking responsibility for their spiritual growth.

Teach your children to keep it ever on their hearts. Being in God’s Word isn’t instinctual, it’s something taught and learned. Let them see you in the Word and then share it with them. Maybe it’s a family devotion after dinner. Maybe it’s a Bible story before bed.

Stay connected to Jesus. God says he offers a blessing and a curse. We can see the curse in the world right now when people forget God – whether it’s injustice and prejudice or rioting and looting. But when you are in God’s Word, you can see the blessings you have in Jesus. Your sins are forgiven. You have purpose for your life of living for him and serving others. Most of all, you have the blessing of knowing, no matter how much you forget your keys or forget anything else….God will never forget you. Amen