Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany – Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
Hearing and Obeying God’s Word
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with ‘all the heart and soul’ involved obedience to ‘His commandments… written in this book of the law’ (Deuteronomy 30:10).
We are not left wondering what God wants us to do – ‘…the Word is very near you…’ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Through His Word, God ‘sets before’ us a choice. He calls us to ‘choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Joshua was to succeed Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-2, 7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God’s people needed His Word of encouragement: ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them’.
Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: ‘It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11, 17).
Many will choose the way of disobedience – ‘influential people sit together and slander me’. We must choose the way of obedience – ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23).
Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us – ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) – and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus… The world behind me, the Cross before me… Though none go with me, I still will follow… No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
The teaching of Jesus here may be summed up thus: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus’ teaching was much more penetrating than the pronouncements made by the scribes and Pharisees. Not content to scratch the surface, Jesus asked the deeper question, ‘What’s going on in your heart?’. Jesus’ teaching has real spiritual depth. He takes seriously the Biblical teaching that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt’(Jeremiah 17:9). He knows that we need a ‘new heart’(Ezekiel 36:26). The Pharisees were bogged down in intricate details – Do this. Do that. Do the other. All the emphasis was on what we do. Christ was much more direct – Get the heart right.
Ask God for a heart of love (Matthew 5:21-26), purity (Matthew 5:27-32), and truthfulness (Matthew 5:33-37). Do not say, ‘Look what I’ve done’(7:22).
Let Christ live in your heart; let Him change you. Never think too highly of yourself. Always remember this – ‘only God … gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).