Read This Page in My Language
Sermon: Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Pentecost 8 – August 4, 2019 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
A couple weeks ago we observed the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing. Two astronauts landed and walked on the moon and planted an American flag while a third astronaut orbited the moon waiting to pick them up again and take them back to Earth. The moon landing was a decade-long endeavor that involved the Mercury program, then the Gemini program, and finally the Apollo flights. It was an extraordinary achievement. Human beings traveled about 270,000 miles and landed on the nearest orbiting body to the earth.
But if we view this achievement from the perspective of the entire solar system and then the entire universe, the distance to the moon was not all that far. Mars, the next orbiting body that astronauts would like to travel to, is 246,000,000 miles away. To travel to the edge of our solar system would be millions and millions more miles, and to travel off into the Milky Way and beyond would be billions and billions of miles, numbers that we cannot even relate to.
In our text today Moses spoke the words of the LORD to the people of Israel, and he had something to say about distance, the distance that the word of God was from them, the distance it is from us. The word of God is very close to us, very accessible to us, so close that it can be in our heart and mind and on our lips. But if God had not blessed us with his word then he and his word would be as far away as the moon or Mars and as inaccessible as the ends of the universe.
So today we ask the question
HOW FAR DO YOU HAVE TO TRAVEL TO HEAR GOD’S WORD? – NOT VERY FAR AT ALL!
Moses’ ministry with the people of Israel was coming to an end. He had led them out of Egypt and then guided them for forty years as they lived in the wilderness. Soon they would enter the Promised Land. But before Moses departed this life he blessed them with words, directives, and promises from the LORD God of Israel. He told them that God would bless them with prosperity and physical blessings if they remained faithful to him and obeyed him. “The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, . . . if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in the Book of the Law . . . .”
Then Moses adds something very interesting. He told them, “What the LORD is commanding you today is not too difficult to accomplish. You can hear his commands and word and obey his word. I have spoken his commandments to you, I have written them down. They are as clear as can be. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be faithful to the LORD.”
We could put Moses’ words in very simple 21st century terms: “This isn’t rocket science. God’s word isn’t as far away as the moon. Following God’s commandments isn’t as difficult as traveling to Mars or as impossible as traveling to the ends of the universe. Moses’ actual words were, “It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’”
Can you imagine what it would be like if God had never given us the Bible, if he had never inspired men like Moses or Isaiah or Elijah or the Apostle Paul to speak and write down his word? What would it be like if God had never communicated to us at all? Just imagine what it would have been like for Adam and Eve after they sinned if God had not confronted them, if God never appeared or spoke to them again. They would have lived in a kind of horrible unknown, the terrible fear of death that he had warned about, and endless judgment from God after that.
It would be no different for us. We’d be born. We’d have a natural knowledge that there’s a God who created us, a God to whom we’re responsible. And yet our sin makes it impossible to faithfully obey him. We would wonder about God’s location, is he watching us, is he going to appear, and if he appears what will he do to us? It would be a horrible way to live.
We might try to imagine ways of communicating with God, trying to reach him, trying to get his attention. But that would be like trying to fly to the moon. Twelve men have landed and walked on the moon. In some of our lifetimes we might see a person or two paying for the opportunity to travel to the moon. Our youngest children sometime in their lives might see a manned expedition to Mars. But for human beings to travel much farther in our solar system or beyond the solar system into the Milky Way and beyond it would be pretty much impossible. The point is that we sinful human beings cannot reach out to find God and his word or any message from him. He’s as far away as the ends of the universe, actually farther than that.
And when we say that God is as far away as the ends of the universe we’re not simply talking about literal distance. God lives in an entirely different realm. He lives in the heavenly realms that we have no access to. We can’t choose to leave the earth and enter the heavenly realms. It’s a physical impossibility. It would be as impossible as any of us going home today to build a rocket that could fly us to the moon. Scientists and astronauts may fly a man to Mars one day, but they’ll never cross from this world to God, to the heavenly realms.
If the story of our lives ended there it would be pretty depressing. It would be terrifying, even pointless. But the LORD’s words from Moses to the people of Israel, and to us, tell us the most amazing truth that we could ever hear. God has come from the heavenly realms to talk to us, to bless us, to save us from our sins. And he’s left us with the Bible. He’s given us his word, his message of forgiveness and salvation.
God could travel from the earth to the moon without a spaceship in a portion of a second. He could pick up the earth and the moon in his hands if he wanted to. He created them both. He could travel to Mars, to the ends of the universe and back to earth in that same portion of a second. It’s a good thing he’s the one who has come to our world and spoken to us.
He did appear to Adam and Eve after they sinned. And his word promised them a Savior and forgiveness for their sin and a Savior and forgiveness for all their descendants, for you and me. He kept that promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then through the prophets and apostles, and finally to all of us here today.
That’s why Moses told the people of Israel that finding God, listening to the LORD, and obeying him was not an impossibility. They didn’t have to travel to heaven or beyond the sea to find God and his word. He told them, “No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”
How far do you have to travel to hear God’s word? – Not very far at all! If you were sitting at home how far would you have to go to find a Bible? In the next room? A few feet? I hope you all have a Bible readily accessible to you and that you make use of it. When I get up in the morning I have time to read God’s word and pray right away. I sit in my recliner beside a table where I have a couple Bibles and some devotional books. That’s not to pat myself on the back. It’s just an indicator of how accessible the word of God is to us. There’s a Bible right here in front of us. The word is written in all our bulletins.
We can have a Bible right next to us. We can hold a Bible in our hands. But Moses says that the word of God is even closer than that. When we know and believe what God says in his word it’s then in our mind and in our heart and we can speak it from our own lips and mouth. Have you ever memorized any Bible passages? I’m sure you have. When you’ve memorized a passage like “the LORD is my shepherd” from Psalm 23, and you believe that word, that word is in your mind and heart, in your very being and soul, and it’s a source of comfort and hope. When you’ve memorized a passage like “the LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” from Psalm 27, and you believe that word, that word is in your mind and heart, in your very being and soul, and it’s a source of comfort and hope. The closeness of God’s word is not just a matter of distance. It’s also, and mostly, a matter of how it comforts us, strengthens us, saves us from our sins, and gives us eternal life.
We don’t have to travel to the moon to find God and get his attention so he talks to us. He came to earth to find us and save us. Have you noticed how quickly the year is going? It’s August already. In 153 days we’ll celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus our Savior. Jesus once said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” He came to seek and save you and me. And he didn’t come by spaceship like Superman. He didn’t travel a thousand years to get here. He was born as a human being of the virgin Mary. He came to suffer and die on a cross to atone for all our sins. He rose from the dead to proclaim his victory over sin and death.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that it is simply by faith in Jesus that we are forgiven and saved. He even quotes these words of Moses from Deuteronomy to demonstrate to us that our salvation is by faith alone. Similar to Moses Paul says we don’t have to travel to heaven or to the bottom of the sea or anywhere else to find Jesus and his message of forgiveness. He writes, “‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Yes, it is amazing that human beings have travel the 270,000 miles to the moon, landed, walked on the moon, and returned. But that distance is but an inch compared to traveling to the ends of the universe. And it doesn’t even compare at all to traveling from this world to the heavenly realms. Today and always we can be so thankful that God has come to us with his word, with a message of love, forgiveness, and eternal life.
How far do you have to travel to hear God’s word? Not very far at all! Amen.