"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Hear, O Israel!
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The world around us is changing. It is changing rapidly and in so many ways it can be a bit frightening at times. Prices change. Styles change. Attitudes change. Things that were once recommended are now considered silly -- or dangerous. Some things once considered unwise are now acceptable. It wasn't long ago eating eggs was considered bad for your cholesterol -- today they say it doesn't matter. Using salt was considered bad for you, now they say it is only really a problem if you are sodium sensitive. Just recently eating a low-fat diet was considered smart, now they say low-fat is as hard on a body in its own way as the old-fashioned diet, and they say that we are better off eating butter than some of the butter replacements we have begun to use.
What's the difference? Our knowledge has changed. Some of our values have changed. The way the world around us does things has changed. In the midst of all these changes, it is good to know that the Word of God has not changed. Neither has the proper use of the Word changed. Nor has the truth changed. While we wrestle to adjust to the many changes in knowledge and value in this world, it is comforting to know that some things have not changed at all. The words of our text are still God's Word, and still true, and still instruct us today. Our theme this morning is, "Hear, O Israel!"
First thing we note is that this is a confession. It was the fundamental confession of ancient Israel. It is still fundamental to our confession today as the people of God. We still call on all of God's people to listen to this and confess it, Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! We simply add to it the confession of Jesus Christ - that He is God in the flesh, God revealed as our Savior, who took on our flesh and blood to rescue us from sin and death. But while we confess Christ, it is not in addition, for we confess the Trinity but in that confession we confess that God is One and only One.
This is the confession of the Church yet today, and yet it is more than merely the confession of the Church - it is our personal confession! It is the confession of every single Christian. And it describes for us what it means to have a God. To have a God, according to this confession, means to live life in His presence.
Now, since God is everywhere, we can hardly ever live life out of His sight. But living life in the presence of God does not mean living it where He can see you. It means living your life fully aware that He is your God, and that He is with you and aware of you and all that you do every moment. You live your life seeing Him! That is what the binding of the Word of God before your eyes and on your hands and on your doorposts and gates is all about.
The Word of God is to be a part of our lives and of every moment of our day. We are to see things and see one another from the perspective of the Word, that is why He commanded that the Word be as a frontal before our eyes. We are to act in accord with the Word, that is why we are to bind it on our hands. God isn't dictating fashion or style, as ancient Israel approached it, He is commanding that when we reach out our hand we have the Word of God resting on our hands and guiding our use of them. He commands the Word to be on our door frames and on our gates so that when we go out or come in, we are conscious of Him and His Word and His blessings, and so that we deal with those we meet outside and those we meet in our homes -- our families -- with the Word of God in mind, guiding us.
This confession is telling you that this truth - God's truth - shall guide all of your actions, words, and your thoughts.
Now, our text speaks of commands and promises. Keep all His statutes and His commandments. which I command you. all the days of your life. and that your days may be prolonged. That is the promise, so great is the command. God even repeats Himself for emphasis, be careful to do it, that it may be well with you.
And what is that command which is so important? And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
The command which we are to pass on, and the central truth of our religion is the same for us, fundamentally, as it was for them, stated in the great Shema Yisrael, Hear, 0 Israel! The LORD is our God. the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. It is, in very brief form, the heart of their entire faith, and of our own. Know God and hold Him to be your God with every power of your life. It is the will of God for us to pass the truth of His Word and His love to the next generation. And this is not meant to be one task among many -- it is the primary task of the child of God. We are to teach this to our children and teach them to do so to their children also. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk bid the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
And why would God want us to do so? It is for our good. It is so that we and our families know Him as the Giver of all good things -- and as our loving heavenly Father. It is so that we might love one another in word, in deed, and do so quite naturally, rather than finding the doing of it to be a difficult and obnoxious chore.
And what is it that God sets before us as that Word which we are to teach so diligently? It is the Gospel. He wants us to know His love for us. He wants us to treasure our salvation. He wants us to understand what sin is, and how deadly it is, and to know and dread the great evil of it. He wants us to see and understand the great gift of His deep love in sending His Son to be our Savior. Jesus died on the cross for you. God sent His Son to die. He wants you to live, not in fear and pressured by the threats of the Law, but knowing how great His love for you is, and living in the freedom of the one whose sins have been forgiven and whose eternal destination is assured. He wants you to live in love and peace and joy and faith.
And He wants the same thing for your sons and daughters.
The promises of God are for all of His children, and for your children -- and so it is clear that God would have your children to be His children. That is why He commands us to teach them. He commands that we teach by example, and by precept -- that is by deliberate and careful instruction.
Martin Luther took that command seriously. That is why he wrote the Small Catechism. He originally had it printed as a wall poster for fathers to use in schooling their children in the essentials of the faith. Luther expected that fathers would demand the daily memory work from their children, even their wives and servants, before he would permit the family to eat their dinner. That is why each section of the Catechism begins with the heading, As the head of the family should teach it to his household in a simple manner. God expects each one of us to teach our own children, not leave it up to someone else. And so did Luther, evidently.
But just because our children have grown and left home does not relieve us of the substance of this command. God has placed each of us in a larger and more closely knit family than the one you may have raised. He has placed you in His family! We are to teach all of those around us by example, and we are to teach by precept -- by deliberate and careful instruction - everything that the Lord has caused to be taught to us. That means that we should be talking about the Word of God not just here at the church, but at home, and at work, and out among our friends -- discussing His nature and His will, which does not just mean the law, but also the Gospel.
The knowledge of the Lord is not automatic. It must be learned. Many of you know the Lord because of faithful parents who brought you in their arms to the waters of baptism, and drove you to Sunday School and church, often leading the way by example. Some of your know because others spoke of Christ and lived out His confession in good lives of faithfulness and holiness. And what blessings you now have in knowing the Lord and His will for you! And what is His will for you?
Knowledge of the Lord is not easily retained. Everything about the Gospel is contrary to our nature -- and contrary to much of our experience! For that reason, we all need reminders. We need to rehearse the Gospel, that is, tell it over and over again. We need to remember the mighty heroes of the faith, and what made them heroes of the faith. And we need to refresh our memories about God's promises and how good they really are. That is what this text is about, keeping the Word of God before ourselves and our families, and one another, in every way imaginable and at all times so that we do not forget -- or wander into sin and false belief, error and despair.
God is so serious about it, and so sure we need reminders, that He even gave us the reminder of this holy Supper. The Lord's body and blood for us in and with and under the bread and the wine. The elements are so common that we can almost never be without them available -- and then He gives us such a gift through them that we could not ever provide for ourselves -- and that we need so urgently -- forgiveness of sins and the cure for death itself. He even tells us to do it in remembrance of Him. The Apostle says For as often as you eats this bread and drink this cup. you show the Lord's death until He comes. It is a reminder, a teaching tool, for repetition is the heart and soul of learning.
Hear, O Israel. It is more than a simple command - it is a confession and a life-style. Hear, and hear often, and live in it and walk in it, and know the Lord. Know the Lord and His love and His grace - and help each other continue to know it by living your life in His presence and in sight of - and earshot of - His Word.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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