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How to Love the Lord Your God

To love God is to obey God.


(Read Deuteronomy 11:1-7)

I want to label the message "How to Love the Lord Your God." In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses has already told the children of Israel that they must love the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 says, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Now in chapter 11, Moses will again tell the people of Israel that they must love the Lord. But the emphasis of this chapter is on how to love the Lord.

In his bestselling book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman writes about various "love languages" by which people communicate love. He suggests there is a distinct personal way every person gives and/or receives love. Words of affirmation, physical affection, gift-giving, service, time, and opening opportunity are various ways love is communicated, flowing out and flowing in. His argument is that to have a healthy relationship, you need to learn your partner's love language and communicate love in a way that speaks to the one love.

What is God's love language? God communicates his love in a very clear and definitive way. John 3:16-17 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Later, 1 John 4:8-9 says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

God communicates his love for the world by sending his only Son to die at the Cross to pay for our sins. But how do we communicate love to God? Deuteronomy 11 answers that question for us. The message of the chapter is simply this: To love God is to obey God. Love for God is not about a feeling on Sunday morning. It's about a life of devotion every day.

A call to loving obedience

In John 14:15, Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commands." Love for God is not optional. It is obligatory. Our chief duty to God is to love him, and we are to love God by obeying God. From that perspective, Moses here will teach us what it means to love God, issuing three charges, if you will—three challenges to lovingly obey God.

Consider, first of all, the call to loving obedience. The Book of Deuteronomy records three farewell speeches Moses gives to the children of Israel as they prepare to cross over into the Promised Land. Moses will not be permitted to go into the land himself because of his disobedience, but God will use Moses here to spiritually prepare the children of Israel to finally claim the promise of the land God has given them after wandering in the wilderness for almost 40 years.

Our text is a part of the second of the three speeches that make up the Book of Deuteronomy. The second speech in chapters 5 through 11 is really just made up of general exhortations to obey God. One way or another, he is preaching the same sermon in these chapters 5 through 11: "When you get into that land, make sure you obey God."

In chapter 12 and going forward, he will lay out specifically the stipulations and commands and statutes of God and what they look like in detail, but up to this point, he is giving general exhortations, general calls to obedience. This is what we have in chapter 11: his final general call to obedience in this section. Would you notice the language with which he calls them to obedience in verse one? "Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws, and his commands always."

Distinct from one another but parallel to one another are mutual exhortations here in verse one. Love God. Keep his Word. Moses, from the very first verse, is laying down the foundational truth of this chapter: To love God is to obey God. In verse two, he then says, "Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand his outstretched arm." He says if you're going to lovingly obey God, you've got to consider who God is.

Remember who God is. Set your mind on who God is. Don't let anything distract you from who God is. Noting the urgency of this exhortation, he says in verse two, "Consider today who God is and what he's done for you." There's an awkward parenthetical in verse two where Moses says, "I'm not talking to your children who haven't seen and who don't know what I'm about to tell you. I'm talking to you." The children of the people of the generation here that Moses addresses were not in Egypt. They did not experience all of the wilderness wanderings firsthand. It's almost as if Moses is suggesting that your children might have some excuse because they only heard about these things. They didn't see it, but you've seen God work.

You've seen God in your own life. You've seen too much. You've experienced too much to try to go your own way and not go God's way. This speaks to us. There are some new believers here who've got growing up to do, but some of us have seen God do too much for us to continue in our foolish ways. He says, "You've seen it. Your children didn't see it, but you've seen it." Look in the middle of the verse: Consider the discipline of the Lord, the training of the Lord, the instruction of the Lord.

He is pointing them back to all of their experiences with God, from God bringing them out of the land of Egypt and all that they went through in the wilderness. He says that all of this was a moral education. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, the successes, the failures—you call it life. God calls it school. Through the ups and downs and highs and lows and wins and losses, God is trying to teach you and train you and discipline you and instruct you and prepare you.

Moses says at this point, "You've learned so much—you should be getting better grades now. Consider who God is. You already know." In verse two, we find a great way to describe God. He's great. Consider his greatness: his greatness expressed in his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, that there is nothing too hard for God. But don't only consider who he is. Consider what he has done.

Specifically, he's done four things that Moses will say in verses three through six. He's done signs and deeds. He first did them in Egypt, to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land. God sent Moses more than 40 years ago down into Egypt's land to tell Pharaoh to let his people go free. Pharaoh had a hard heart and would not obey, and God sent 10 plagues on the land of Egypt until Pharaoh changed his mind. Moses says, "You saw what God did to Pharaoh and the land of Egypt."

"You also saw," he says in verse four, "what the Lord did to the army of Egypt—to the horses and to their chariots." Pharaoh finally decided to let the children of Israel go free, and while they were leaving, he changed his mind and he and his armies pursued them at the Red Sea. But the Bible says here, "You saw how the Lord made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued you and how the Lord destroyed them to this very day."

Moses is saying, "You've seen what God does to people who won't obey his Word. He puts them in their place." Watch verse five—Moses says, "You also saw what he did to you in the wilderness." Verses three and four said, "You saw how God whipped your enemies when they would not obey," but not in verse five—he says, "Don't forget there were some times in the wilderness he had to get the belt out for you, too. The God who whipped your enemies sometimes had to whip you in the wilderness."

He gives one specific example, a dramatic example. Verse six: "You saw what he did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, son of Reuben." This is a reference back to Numbers 16 and the rebellion of Korah. Korah rebelled against Moses and Israel. Dathan and Abiram, mentioned here, were just his cohorts, his tag-alongs. Here though, Moses doesn't mention Korah. He just mentions the tag-alongs, which may be a warning: You better be careful how you let people lead you astray.

Korah stood up against Moses and said, "You're not the only one God can speak to. You keep telling us what to do and what not to do. All of us are equal. All of us can talk to God. All of us can talk for God. We don't need you acting in charge of everybody. All of us can communicate with God. Moses, you put your robe on one leg at a time just like the rest of us."

When Moses hears this, he just falls on the ground and says, "Go get your censer, and we're going to have a test and see who God really speaks to." Then Moses instructs the children of Israel, "Get far away from Korah's house. Get far away from Dathan's house. Get far away from Abiram's house." Because when they got ready to show how close they were to God, look at what verse 6 says: "[T]he earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them."

They were bragging about how close they were to God, and God just opened a huge sinkhole in their neighborhood and the earth swallowed them up. In verse seven, Moses says, "[Y]our own eyes … saw all these great things the Lord has done," and this great work in verses three through six is not good stuff. The great works he refers to in the previous verses are acts of punishment on disobedience. But this is the first reason he says why you should lovingly obey God: because when you determine to live life on your own terms, God knows how to put you in your place.

He says, "You've seen it. Your children ain't seen it, but you've seen it. You've seen that anytime somebody tries to stand up to God, saying, 'I'm going to do it my way,' God shows how great he is and puts them in their place. So you better love God. You better love God by obeying God."

God blesses obedience

Then in verses 8 through 25, a large chunk of the chapter, there is not only a call to loving obedience but the consequence of loving obedience. Verses 1 through 7 are a warning of judgment on disobedience, but verses 8 through 25 are a promise of blessing on obedience. I can give you the point of verses 8 through 25, a major chunk of the chapter, in three words: God blesses obedience.

This is not to suggest that you can manipulate the hand of God by doing good stuff to put God in your debt. No, it means God's good nature makes him inclined to be generous—and with his mighty hand and outstretched arm, he's always pouring out blessings. You just have to make sure your cup is in the right position. Here we see that personal obedience is the spiritual key to divine blessings.

Moses says if you obey God, he will bless you, and he describes the blessing. He says God will bless you first of all with land. "Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess" (Deut. 11:8). Note that "all the commands I am giving you today." There's a word for selective obedience. Guess what it is: disobedience.

It's not obedience if you pick and choose what you are going to obey. Moses says you must keep the whole commandment. Then these will be the four consequences: You will be strong, you will go in, you will take possession of the land, then fourthly, in verse nine, "so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey."

Much of this is repetition from previous chapters—going in, taking the land, living long—but would you note there's a new phrase here? He says in verse eight that if you obey God, you will be strong. There's a real sense in which disobedience handicaps strength. But when you are determined to do God's will no matter what, God will always make sure you've got the strength to do it, no matter what the obstacle may be.

He's saying here that if God catches you being obedient, he will bless you. He will bless you with land. Much of this chapter gets spiritualized, but Moses is not spiritualizing anything. Here, land means land. It doesn't represent something else. If you go home this afternoon and turn on the news and hear about a dispute in the Middle East, it's because they understand something we often don't pay attention to. In this chapter, land means land.

The God who chose a people chose a land, and God put his name on the line, declaring that the evidence of his faithfulness to the people he chose is that he's also going to be faithful to the land he chose. They can fight and dispute about that land all they want to. That's God's land, and the New Testament says when Jesus comes back, he is going to set up his millennial kingdom on that land, where he will reign for 1,000 years.

Here God says, "I'm going to give you this land. It's a land flowing with milk and honey." Watch the contrast in verses 10 through 12. He's saying, "The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden" (Deut. 11:10). Egypt is a dry, arid land, but they set up a system to cultivate the land. They planted seed with expectation of harvest, and they watered and were growing vegetables in a desert place.

Listen to what he's saying. This is not a negative thing. This is a good thing. This is what he's saying: "In Egypt, you had a job and you had a house and you had possessions and you had a paycheck. You had resources. Nothing wrong with that." That was good stuff they enjoyed in Egypt—so much so that when they would be in the wilderness and God didn't move the way they thought he should, they would complain to Moses. "Can we just go back to Egypt? We don't know where water going to come from. We're living in tents, but at least in Egypt we had houses, we had jobs."

God is saying, "Some of you all are going to the Promised Land with an Egypt mentality. But let me tell you: '[T]he land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven' (Deut. 11:11)."

This is not just an agricultural geographic reality. Listen to what he says. Look at verse 12: This is a land that the Lord cares for. In verse 12, he says this: "The eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end." If you want to know the real issue about the dispute about the Holy Land, it is not political. It is not ethnic. It's not military. It's this factor. That land is important because God has declared, "My eyes are always on that land."

Watch what he says in verse 12: "from the beginning of the year to its end." This is what my children would call "throwing shade." In the land of Canaan, they worshiped Baal gods who were fertility gods. When Baal was present, the rains would fall and the land would be fertile. But during the dry seasons, they claimed that Baal had gone somewhere far away and was in seclusion. Because he was in seclusion far away, the rain didn't fall until he came back to make the rain fall.

Listen to God saying, "Don't worship a god who goes into hiding and can't help you when you need it. My eye is on that land from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." You all walk around and talk about "my season"; I don't need a season when I've got a God who is watching over me from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

God is saying, "I'm going to bless you with land, but not only am I going to bless you with land. I'm going to bless you with fruitfulness." Verse 13: "So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul …" Notice the cluster of three terms here. Obey God. Love God. Serve God.

To love God is to obey God, and to obey God is to serve God. He says if you do this, he'll give you rain for your land in its season—early rain and the later rain. You may gather in the grain and your wine and your oil, and he'll give you grass in your fields so your livestock can eat. Then, as a result, you'll have plenty to eat, and you will be full.

He says, "If you'll just lovingly obey me, I'll take care of all your needs." Well, let me warn you.

(Read Deuteronomy 11:16-17)

Listen to what he's saying. The key to your provision in life is not the weather, the government, the economy: It's your relationship with God. If you lovingly obey God, he'll take care of everything—no matter what the economy is, no matter what the weather is, no matter who's in charge in the government. But if you don't obey God, he'll shut up heaven to force to you recognize where your real help comes from.

Listen to what Moses is saying. This speaks directly to us. You cannot afford to let anything or anyone come between your relationship with God. He'll bless you with land, as we see in verses 8 through 12. He'll bless you with fruitfulness, as we see in verses 13 through 17. And he'll bless you with victory, as we'll see in verses 18 through 25.

The choice of loving obedience

Verses 18 through 21 are almost a verbatim repetition of Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

(Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

He is saying to love God is to obey God, and to obey God, you need to saturate your life with the Word of God. He already said, in Deuteronomy 8:3, words that Jesus quotes in Matthew 4:4: "[M]an does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." To develop a life of loving obedience to God, you've got to saturate your life with the Word of God.

You need to be getting the Word before you when you wake up and when you lay down. When you go out and when you come in. When you're by yourself and when you're with your family. The keys to God's blessings are found in his Word.

(Read Psalm 1:1-3)

If you'll saturate your life with the Word of God, look at verse 21: "[Y]our days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth."

Notice verse 22: "If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him…" Notice this cluster of terms: Do his command, love him, walk in his ways, hold fast to him. If you will live in loving obedience to God, this is what God will do: He "will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you" (v. 23).

"Every place where you set your foot will be yours": That's the literal promise about land in verse 24. "Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go" (v. 24-25).

If you lovingly obey God, God knows how to put you right where you're supposed to be. Then once you get there, he knows how to take care of every one of your needs. Not only will he take care of your needs, but if somebody rises up against you, he knows how to fight your battle.

So verses one through seven contain the call to loving obedience. If you don't obey God, he will put you in your place. Verses 8 through 25 contain the consequence of loving obedience: God blesses obedience. Verses 26 through 32 are the choice of loving obedience. Let me try it another way: In verses 1 through 25, Moses preaches the sermon, and then in verses 26 through 32, he opens the doors of the church.

He's finished this major point, and he's now saying, "What are you going to do in response to the Word?" Look at verses 26 through 28.

(Read Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

There are two ways to live: the way of divine blessing and the way of divine curse. Oh, our culture loves this word: "choose." Moses said you're free to live any way you want to live. Choose. It's your life. It's your body. It's your world. Choose. That's right up the culture's alley: "Live with independence, live with autonomy, live with self-sufficiency. There is no authority over me. I can live any way I choose to live." They're right about that part. But there's another part that Moses gives that they don't want to talk about.

With choice comes consequence. You can head downtown, go to the roof of a skyscraper there, and choose to jump off. That's your choice, but after that, you're kind of out of choices. Once you choose to jump, you've just got to deal with the consequences. That makes perfect sense to us, but all of life works that way. There are consequences to our choices. In fact, some choices hinder future choices.

A momentary choice can end up having lifelong consequences. So Moses is not just saying "make your choice." He's saying "do the right thing because God punishes disobedience. God blesses obedience."

A covenant-keeping God

In verses 29 through 32, he shifts his focus to the future. "When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you're entering to possess" (v. 29), he wants them to have a special worship service.

"I want you to have one service," he says here, "in two locations: one on Mount Gerizim and one on Mount Ebal." He will further explain this in Deuteronomy 27, and Joshua will actually do this in Joshua 8. Half of the tribes were to climb Mount Gerizim. The other half of the tribes were to climb Mount Ebal. Then they were to have church.

A priest at Mount Gerizim would announce all of the blessings of God in Deuteronomy, in the covenant of Deuteronomy, and the people would respond by affirming the divine blessings. Then the priest would announce on Mount Ebal all of the curses of God in the Book of Deuteronomy, and the people would affirm the curses. Moses is saying, "I'm almost through with my preaching ministry, and I won't be able to go into the land with you to remind you: You got a choice. But when you get into the land without me, I want you to have a special service on two major mountains so that as you live in the land, all you've got to do is look up to Gerizim or look up to Ebal and be reminded that you better make the right choice."

Where are these mountains? Look at verse 30: "As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, westward, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal." Here's the phrase I want you to get: "near the great trees of Moreh." All of these geographical places may seem confusing but this is the area of Shechem.

Moses is saying, "I want you to have this service on these mountains, near the oak trees of Moreh in Shechem, because this is where"—according to Genesis 12—"God first spoke to your forefather Abraham and said, 'Leave your daddy's house and go to a land that I am promising you.'" It is there that he built an altar, near the trees of Moreh. Jacob, his grandson, bought land near these oaks of Morah. Not only did he buy land, but he dug a well there.

In fact, centuries later, in John 4, Jesus would have a conversation with a woman at that well, near the trees of Moreh. Joseph's body would be buried by the oak trees of Moreh. This then associated these oak trees of Moreh not just with the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph—but with covenant. God is saying, "I want you to have this service, this special service, near the trees of Moreh where I made covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so that when you get in the land, you'll have a landmark reminder that I'm a God who always keeps his promises. I may not work according to your schedule, but even though I don't come when you want me to come, I'm always right on time. If you want to know I'm a good God, if you want to know I'm a faithful God, if you want to know I'm a covenant-keeping God, I want you to have a service by the oak trees of Moreh."


That same God is still good. That same God is still faithful. That same God is still a covenant-keeping God. Do you need to be reminded of that? Do you need to be reminded that when we are unfaithful, he's still faithful? When our love wanes, his love is loyal. When we don't keep our word, he still keeps his word. Do you need a reminder of that? Then go to a tree. Oh, not these trees in Moreh. Not Mount Gerizim or Ebal, but go to another tree on another mountain: "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross / The emblem of suffering and shame / and I love that old cross where the dearest and best / for a world of lost sinners was slain."

All of us have failed to love God the way we should. But if you run to the Cross and bow at the tree and trust in the One who paid the price, then at the tree you can have a fresh start, a new beginning, and an eternal hope. If you believe that, give God praise for his work.

H.B. Charles, Jr. is the Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Sermon Outline:


I. A call to loving obedience

II. God blesses obedience

III. The choice of loving obedience

IV. A covenant-keeping God