• Introduction: There was a sitcom in the late 1980’s called, “Out of this World”[1].  It featured a teen-age half-human girl, who had a human mother and alien father.  When the girl, Evie, was only a year old, her father, Troy, had to return to his native planet, Antares, in order to fight in a war.  She did not know him until her 13th birthday.  The daughter was able to speak to her dad via a cube-like structure. She couldn’t hug him or be hugged.
    • Like Evie in the sitcom, our Father in heaven is not someone we can see or touch.   We can only sense His presence in our life.
    • Our Father does understand the distance that exists between us and Him. That distance was caused when our parents sinned.  It wasn’t His choice to leave us; we left Him.  As we explored last week, God, who is holy, will not be in the presence of the common or profane.  But God so loved the world, He provided signs and sacraments that we can experience through our senses.  He ultimately gave a sign of His love for us, by sending His one and only Son to reconcile us with the Father.  That reconciliation came by cleansing us of that sin we inherited from our first parents, and all of the sins we would ever commit.
    • The Lord asks us in Deu 9:4 to not forget the evidence of His love, nor depart from His word, and to pass His word along to the next generation. He asks us to hold fast to His word and the experiences we have had, because it is so difficult to keep a relationship with a person we can’t see nor touch.  We will spend time today digging into how God provided a way for us to experience His love, and what we should do with His love.
  • Let us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, unlike other religions which have an idol that can be seen and touched, we worship You who is not seen.  We only have evidence of Your work in our life.  You have called us in our message for today to hold fast to what we have seen by faith, and to not depart from Your word nor what we have seen of Your actions.  Bless us with a measure of the Holy Spirit, who provides faith and trust in You, to indeed hold fast to Your teachings and inspire us to eagerly guard our soul.  We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • State: Our text for today is from Deu 4:9, and as usual, I will provide a slightly different interpretation from what was read earlier - 9Hold fast to yourself and eagerly guard over your soul, so that you do not forget the words which your eyes have seen, and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; and make them known to your sons and your grandsons[2].  For some background, Moses wrote Deuteronomy by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It is the 5th book of the Old Testament.  Deuteronomy is both a recap of what had happened over the 40yrs of wandering in the desert, and a catechism on God’s word.  The Israelites were about to cross into Canaan which is the Promised Land as promise to Abraham 430yrs earlier.  The nations which were in Canaan at the time of the exodus were heathen.  They did not have the one, true God who gave them a written code to follow which separated them from other nations. Each of the nations in Canaan had idols they could see and touch.  These idols were made by human hands, so right there, people should have been able to figure out their gods were worthless.  The idols not even as powerful than the hands which formed them!
    •  Contrast the gods of the Canaanites with the one, true God we are here to worship on today. No person of the Trinity, that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, can be seen while we are in this Age.  God said as much to Moses in Ex 33:20 - 20 He further said, “You cannot see My face, for mankind shall not see Me and live![3]”  Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt. He met with the Lord to receive instructions to write down for God’s people.  These instructions were for the people who lived in 1450 BC about the time of the Exodus, and everyone who ever lived after those Israelites.  Each time Moses would meet with the Lord, his face would become radiant because of being in the presence of the sheer energy the Lord emitted.  We will one day be in the presence of this same Lord, but in purified, perfect bodies and not in the profane state we live in right now due to the corruption of everything because of sin.  However, until then, we cannot be in the presence of the Lord in His full glory and live.
      • Having established this, our Lord Jesus did become God in man as confirmed by an angel who visited Joseph, step-father of Jesus.  Recall Joseph was going to leave Mary after he discovered she was pregnant.  An angel sent by God visited with Joseph to make clear …the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit…24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he named Him Jesus[4].  Mary was a human just like you & me, except she did not pass sin onto her firstborn son, because the father of Jesus was God the Father through the Holy Spirit.
      • And it is good to note, Jesus did *not* given up His body even after ascending into heaven.  The Apostle John saw a risen and ascended Lord Jesus in heaven.  From the heaven view of Jesus’ ascension, John described Jesus in Rev 5:6 as a Lamb “as if slaughtered”.  Jesus actually kept the nail prints on His hands and feet.  I think He did this in part to perpetually wear the marks of His crucifixion as a badge of honor.  He wanted to make clear, He suffered just like us, when He shared in our humanity, yet without sin.
    • With Jesus back in heaven where the Father and the Holy Spirit live, but are not confined, it is tough to love and trust in someone you cannot sense by seeing Him.  And yet, as the Apostle Peter wrote - and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…[5] 
      • God knows the struggle we have with trying to love Him despite not being able to, for instance, sit down with Him and have a bi-directional conversation.  That is why we have the Holy Spirit given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come in our eternal life.  The Apostle Paul pointed this out in a couple of his letters to churches he visited during one or more of his missionary journeys (2Co 1:22, Eph 1:13-14).  We received the Holy Spirit at our baptism, and He has remained in our soul ever since then, so that we are guided by faith He gives us to one day enter into heaven.  God has pledged this to happen if only we don’t screw it up and deny the truth the Holy Spirit testified into our soul.
  • Past: Deu 4:9 has some tough grammar, because within it, there are verbs in the past tense along with imperatives to do something in the present, and also future tense verbs.  Verse 9 started out with the imperative statement – hold fast!  That imperative instructs us to do something now and for the future time we have left in this Age.  Okay, but hold fast to what?  Let’s recall for a moment what the Israelites experienced in the presence of our immortal, invisible, almighty God:
    • There were 10 plagues leveled by God against the oppressors of the Israelites.  Moses devoted three chapters in Exodus, the 2nd book of the Bible, to describe these plagues. Additionally, we received the details of the devastation, and how after the 3rd plague, God dealt differently with the land the Israelites were living in at the time.  Beginning with the 4th plague, God protected the Israelites in the land of Goshen from the plagues.  Both the Egyptians and the Israelites were able to clearly tell who was getting hit with a plague, and who was not.  Check out Exodus chapters 7-10 inclusive on your own sometime, and see for yourself the mighty hand of God that, at the same time, spared His chosen people from harm.
    • After leaving Egypt, the Israelites headed about 200 miles to Mt Sinai. On the way, the Egyptians had a change of heart and wanted to corral the Israelites by their army and bring them back into slavery.  God purposely detoured the Israelites such that they would be hemmed in by the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba.  God wanted the Israelites to remember the fear they had of being trapped by the most powerful army on earth at the time, so that they would also *not* forget the salvation the Lord provided by parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross on dry ground.  As the Psalmist wrote, 10 So He saved them from the hand of one who hated them, And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.  11 The waters covered their adversaries; Not one of them was left. 12 Then they believed His words; They sang His praise[6]
    • In our Psalmody for today we read responsively earlier, the first two verses refer to God revealing Himself through His word - 129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.[7].  We would have no other way of knowing about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit except by Him revealing Himself to us somehow.  That “somehow” is through the Bible
      • We learned for instance the Father sent His one and only Son, who is the exact image of the Father (Heb 1:1-3).  This was written by the writer to the Hebrews to make clear that when we see Jesus, we see the Father.
      • Additionally, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand the word and believe in it.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit regarding the work of the Holy Spirit - 10For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among people knows the thoughts of a person except the spirit of the person that is in him? So also the thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words[8].  We received the Holy Spirit at our baptism.  We receive faith from the Holy Spirit through the word of God.  That word was breathed out to writers of the books of the Bible, by none other than the Holy Spirit.
  • Present: In Deu 4:9, God cautioned the Israelites, and us to this day, to not depart from what was experienced during the Exodus and thereafter.
    • It’s an exercise of logic, but if you think about it, the present becomes the past.  For instance, last week’s sermon about being careful to not invalidate God’s word is now in the past.  Today’s message will become part of the past.  This present becoming the past, is a continuing cycle.
      • As we mature, there are more experiences for us to taste the goodness of the Lord (Ps 34:8).  Yes, there are bad experiences because this world is corrupted with sin.  But there are also countless rescues from disasters which are performed by our gracious and loving God.  How many of us have observed at one time or another in life when something could have been a lot worse than it turned out.  Maybe the rescue from the “something” {you can fill in the blank} wasn’t as dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea, but that doesn’t diminish the power of our Lord to have the times in His hands.  It doesn’t change the fact that, as we will confess in the Apostle’s Creed very shortly, Jesus rules from heaven.  Nothing happens without it first getting the approval of our Lord.  Yes, the bad and the good.  He sometimes allows the bad so that we have the memory of the rescue and worship Him for ruling in the Divine Providence He demonstrates in our lives each and every day.
  • Future: Lastly, in Deu 4:9, God asks us to pass along the faith to the next generations.  Notice at the end of the verse we are to not forget what we have seen with our own eyes, but make them known to our sons and our grandsons.  We find in Judges 2:10, after Joshua died, another generation of Israelites rose up who did not know the Lord, nor the work which the Lord had done for Israel.  Joshua had led the Israelites in the battles against the Canaanites, and by the Lord’s might, wiped out whole nations of people.  You would think maybe half of the people of Joshua’s generation would have held fast and passed that experience down to sons and grandsons.
    • I fear we are doing the same with the generation that is coming up after us right now.  God has richly blessed this nation, but we now have a generation that knows nothing about how we got where we are today.  We need future generations in our life in order to get the word across, but unfortunately, we don’t see too many here at Christus Rex right now.  What’s worse is other churches are suffering with a similar fate of little or no sons and grandsons of the congregation.
  • Conclusion: We need reminders from God so that we do not forget His grace, mercy, and peace.  We can’t come up to Him, sit on His lap, and let loose on all we are thinking at the moment. We cannot use our senses to experience the Lord directly as we would relationships with other humans.  The challenge is, what is the best way to hold fast to the experiences from the Lord, and hold fast to His word?
    • This is why church attendance is important.  It is here where we are in the midst of fellow redeemed. Each of us has a story to tell of the reminders God has given them concerning His grace, mercy, and peace.  Bible classes in particular have been a time of sharing those experiences.
    • Regular reminders on what to hold fast to are provided in God’s word.  This is why regular devotions, even the 5 min’s a day in Portals of Prayer, serve to continuously keep the reminders in the forefront of our mind.
      • There is no other place in the world where God reveals Himself, except in His word.  Anything other than His word is holding fast to something that will crash into the sea or sink into the ground.  Human philosophy is not steeped in anything but Satan’s lies, including the same lie he told our first parents. 
    • Forgetting the experiences of the Lord’s redemption has dire consequences for anyone’s eternal life.  The Holy Spirit is present in each baptized soul, testifying of the Triune God’s grace, mercy, and peace.  The Holy Spirit is here to make sure He does everything possible to get us into heaven on the merits of Jesus’ redemption paid for in place of our sins.  The only thing that can stand in the way of the Holy Spirit is His respect for those who decide to reject His testimony.  For those people on Judgement Day, God will say to them, “far be it from me to force you to live with Me for eternity. Depart from me you cursed.”  That isn’t God’s first choice in dealing with His most precious creation, but He will have done everything possible to save a person from such a fate.  Let’s follow what we were instructed today in Deu 4:9 - Hold fast to yourself and eagerly guard over your soul, so that you do not forget the words which your eyes have seen, and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; and make them known to your sons and your grandsons. Amen.

[1] Source of information regarding “Out of this World” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out_of_This_World_(American_TV_series)#:~:text=Out%20of%20This%20World%20is%20an%20American%20fantasy,17%2C%201987%20and%20ended%20on%20May%2025%2C%201991 and 

[2] Original interpretation by the author from the Septuagint Greek found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/deu/4/1/t_conc_157009

[3] Ex 33:20 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+33&version=NASB

[4] Mat 1:20b-21,24-25 all from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+1&version=NASB

[5] 1Pe 1:8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+pe+1&version=NASB

[6] Ps 106:9-12 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+106&version=NASB

[7] Ps 119:129-130 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+119&version=ESV

[8] 1Co 2:10-13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+co+2&version=NASB