- Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 17-22
- Revelation 13:1-10
Dear friends in the Lord,
They tell of the event when an umpire made a questionable judgment during a footy match. It sent the crowd into an uproar. The line judge was asked for his opinion. Then just for a brief moment, there was total silence. In that little window of quietness someone yelled out, “He wants to know how the rules work because he doesn’t know it himself!”
Can you imagine the confusion on any sports field between the players if there were no rules! More than that, can you picture the situation on the stands if there were no rules! We have vivid pictures in our minds of soccer fans being stampeded and even killed in support rage.
God and his law
We don’t read the Ten Commandments every Sunday as we did this morning, be we surely should pay more attention to it. In God’s Kingdom, there is just no room for people to follow their own minds and make their own laws. We heard in the children’s address about the need to walk by the Law and to think according to the law.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5, ESV)
Because God is the one and only God, there is only one law to live by. “For the Lord, your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24, ESV) He poured out his love on his people, holding back nothing to save them.
…it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments… (Deuteronomy 7:8–9, ESV)
Moses repeatedly called the people to obey God with an undivided heart. He used the phrase “Hear now…” in 4:1, 6:4, and 9:1, and in between he repeats phrases like “remember” and “keep”.
The book of Deuteronomy is a section of sermons of Moses which he preached to the people after their forty years of wanderings through the wilderness, but before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. He reflects on lessons of the past and prepares them to occupy their God-given inheritance.
He stressed the importance of undivided loyalty to God by observing his laws. One major point of his sermons was his warning not to mix with the heathens and so become like them.
It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— (Deuteronomy 6:13–14, ESV)
The gift of an inheritance
You know how one can read the same pages of Scripture for years and still miss things. In my study last week my mind caught specific threads running through the Scriptures, but previously I just couldn’t make the connections. To be honest, it is not so obvious, and one needs to cross-referenced through the pages to get it.
In Deuteronomy 7:22, Moses says:
The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. (Deuteronomy 7:22, ESV)
Just a few verses further he mentions the silver and gold of the idols and calls them “a testable thing”.
On the surface, the “wild beasts” and the “detestable thing” may just mean what it actually says, but John in Revelation draws from these pictures of the Old Testament. He leans very heavily on the visions of the “wild beasts” in Daniel who also makes mention of the “detestable thing” of which we read about in Revelation 13. One commentator thinks that the “wild beasts” can indeed serve as a figure of the demonic which perverts the divine image of man into something sub-human.
John, as one of the apostles of Christ, wrote the Apocalypse to prepare Christians for an era of unprecedented persecution. Christ sends his church into the world to spread the good news about his victory over sin and death, and he also prepared them for the abuse they would face. The apostle John received the word of the Apocalypse from Christ Himself (Revelation 1:10), all the while being persecuted himself (Revelation 1:9), to encourage the Christians during the persecution, but also the warn them to serve the Lord with undivided loyalty.
John uses known elements of the Old Testament in his book. To all seven of the congregations he wrote to he uses the phrase very similar to the one Moses used to warn the people against the mixing of pure obedience to the Lord. Moses repeated “Hear Israel”, and John uses “he who has an ear, let him hear” to the six churches in Asia Minor. He also uses the phrase “he who overcomes” repeatedly, meaning “he who resists” the evil and not give in. When it comes to Chapter 13 as we read it this morning, he repeats “he who has an ear” in verse 9. In verse 18 he uses a phrase which connects back to both hearing and overcoming: “This calls for wisdom and insight.”
A fierce battle
The connection between Moses in Deuteronomy is more than just accidental. Moses prepared God’s people to cross the Jordan with the Word of God in their hands and minds, facing fierce resistance in a land filled with idols, false gods, and demons — “wild beasts”. For them to overcome and settle the land as God promised they had to serve God with undivided loyalty; compromise with any god other than their Covenant God would lead to disaster.
When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it but will be utterly destroyed. (Deuteronomy 4:25–26, ESV)
But they had God’s promise of his absolute love and compassion, his unfailing love to go ahead of them, to destroy the wild beasts before them, and live with them. Their inheritance was free, a gift of grace, they just needed to take hold of it by faith and obedience to their God.
…you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt…You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. (Deuteronomy 7:21, ESV)
The same applies to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will receive a Promised Land one day, but in the meantime, we need to “occupy” the mission field of the world with undivided loyalty to Christ and his Word. From this Word we shall not take away anything, to it we cannot add; we need to pay absolute obedience to it — it is the only warranty for success. We are engaged in a fierce battle with the “wild beasts” — not only symbols of resistance but the real deal: the devil!
I apologise for not really getting into chapter 13 of Revelation today as announced. But know this: the church of Christ is the target of Satan who seeks to destroy her. We know that he employs all he can, both political structures and false prophets to try to seduce God’s people away from the truth by all possible means.
Satan hates Christ and his church
Let’s just get the framework which Chapter 12 gives us. It tells the story of God’s people of the Old Testament from whom the Messiah would be born. The picture is of a pregnant woman, about to give birth. But as she was about to give birth an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns appeared. It was a mighty beast who had much power. The dragon (verse 9 identifies him as the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan who leads the whole world astray) wanted to kill the child, Jesus Christ, as soon as he was born. We learn for this scene that the actual war was aimed at Christ, who brought salvation and had authority over him.
However, as soon as the child was born, he was taken into a place of safety under the guard of God, and Satan was hurled down. Satan has no authority against the blood of Christ, and Christians loved Him more than their lives. This is undivided loyalty.
But Satan is more than ever determined to undermine the work of Christ. He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short. He knows he has no authority over Christ and focusses his destruction on the church. What he just cannot understand is that God’s people, those whose names are written in the Book of Life (13:8) live under the protection of Christ. What he is aware of, is that not everyone in the church is indeed a faithful follower of Christ. Satan is enraged and makes war against the offspring of the woman, which is the church, those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus (12:17).
My friend, do you get the picture? If you belong to Christ, if your name is written in the Book of Life, if you are under that protection of the blood of Christ, you are the target of Satan who will try whatever he can, he will employ all the forces he can to drag you away.
Therefore the warning of the Word of God: serve Christ with undivided loyalty, have his Word in your heart, in your mind, let it reign your thoughts and your decisions. The battle is fierce and if you don’t stand firm, you will not endure. But don’t be afraid. Your Saviour gave you this command:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)
Lord-willing, next week we will concentrate on the beast out of the sea, and then, the beast out of the earth.