Based on: Deuteronomy 11:18-21,26-28
“No, you may not just eat dessert. You have to eat real food too.” “Get your homework done, then you can go play.” “Yes, you have to wear a coat. It’s cold outside.” Do you remember your parents ever saying things like these? Or how about this one, “Don’t run while you are holding those scissors.” Our parents gave commands for us to follow. Perhaps we didn’t understand why at the time but usually, as adults, we see the wisdom of their words.
In our Lesson from Deuteronomy God gives us a command. It is certainly a command for our own good. Even now we can see the wisdom in this command, but we will see that wisdom even more as we reach the mansions of heaven. God tells us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word – for us, for our children, and for God’s blessing.
If you want to to learn a new language, one of the best ways to learn the language quickly and effectively is to take a language immersion course. In a language immersion course you go to a foreign country where they speak that language and you live with a family there for an extended period of time. That new language is spoken all around you, and you can’t help but learn it.
As God speaks to us in these words from Deuteronomy, he tells us we should be involved in an immersion course. He tells us to be immersed in God’s Word, but not just for a week or month or even a year. God says this immersion course is an ongoing process, an ongoing lesson in God’s Word.
Listen to what he says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds.” The Hebrew word translated as “mind” could also be translated as soul. Perhaps “heart and soul” gives a slightly different emphasis. What do you think about when you hear “heart and soul”? We are talking about what makes you, you. We are talking about the very essence of who you are. God says fix or attach his Word to you. He says make his word an intimate and integral part of who you are.
How do you do that? You immerse yourself in God’s Word. Your surround yourself with things that remind you that you have failed God over and over again and yet God in his mercy sent his son, Jesus Christ, to rescue you from the punishment you deserve. You immerse yourself in God’s Word by using God’s Word in every area of your life. Isn’t that what God is talking about when he says, “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
This isn’t a suggestion. God says, “Do this because it’s for your own good.” But what is often the case? Do we know more about our favorite sports celebrity than we do about the life of our Savior? Do we know more about the weather or about our favorite hobby than we know about how God won our salvation for us?
Another problem we comes from the culture that we live in. Here in the United States we tend to compartmentalize our time. We put things into little blocks on our calendar. So there’s time that we go to work. There’s a place on the calendar for taking our kids to their sports event. We set aside time for this thing or that thing and we set aside a little time on Sunday morning for God. Sometimes that’s all he gets. God deserves more. God says, “My Word is too important for you to restrict it to one hour a week or even two. I have something to say to you that will be a blessing to you in every area of your life.” Why not, as we make our calendar, write these words across the whole week or over the whole month, on top of every other event, “Walk with God.” And whether we do that literally or just keep it in our minds, we give attention to God’s Word throughout the week.
We do this for our own eternal good, but there’s another reason. We do this for the good of our children. God knows that the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree. God knows how the attitudes and views of one generation are passed on to the children through what we say and especially through the example we set by our actions. God knows that if we immerse ourselves in God’s Word and we involve our children in that immersion, our example will have a tremendous influence on them. God will bless them through our example.
This isn’t just for those parents with children at home. This command is for all of us. When adults in general surround themselves with God’s Word, that makes an impact on all children. And do not underestimate the influence that a high school student or a college student has on a younger child. As a child is growing up and getting close to high school or college, they watch and they know what the people are doing who are a little older than themselves.
I have heard people talk about and express concern over the the younger generation. I’ve heard people lament about how children grow up and leave the church. I have heard it here at St. John’s and in the Synod and in fact it is a concern in other church bodies as well. People think and sometimes they say, “the church needs to do something about this.” Yes, the church does need to do something about this, but don’t think that the church is an individual or that the church is some abstract entity . No, the church is you and me. We are the church, and we need to do something. By our example and our words we can keep the next generation immersed in God’s Word. We can keep them in church.
But this is so difficult. This is hard to carry out. Yes, it is. It goes against our sinful nature. And sometimes our sinful nature will win the battle. Time and time again we will fail to do what God says and immerse ourselves and our children in God’s word. That is when we confess our failure to God, trust in his forgiveness and look to his Word for the strength to carry out his command. This too is a good example for our children.
Why even try? Why is this so important? God says, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and curse.” Let’s talk first about the curse. What happens if you don’t take time for God’s Word? What happens if you ignore God’s Word? You already know. If you ignore God’s Word, eventually the faith that God has placed in your heart will disappear. If that faith is gone and you continue to ignore God’s Word until the day you die, then God will pronounce on you the greatest curse that anyone could ever receive, he will ignore you for all eternity.
But for those who remain in his Word there are tremendous blessings. First, there is forgiveness. We have all failed in one way or another, and for that reason we come to God and confess our sin. God responds to us and says, “I forgive you. That’s why Jesus died. Now go to my word, and you will find strength for the future.”
We see more blessings as we consider the gospel for today. Jesus talks about false prophets. He warns you about people who will come claiming to speak in Jesus’ name and yet will be preaching their own ideas. By being immersed in God’s word you will recognize those people.
Being immersed in God’s Word makes us like that wise man that Jesus talks about who built his house on the rock. By surrounding yourself and your children with God’s Word you and your children will be prepared for the storms that come in this life. You will be ready for the temptations, the sickness, the disasters; even when the time of your death comes near, you will have a firm foundation.
Finally, your days will be many in the land God has promised you. This doesn’t mean that you’ll get to live in Sleepy Eye for a long time. No, this means that the life that began at your Baptism will continue on through all eternity in the heavenly home that God has promised you.
You still shouldn’t run with scissors. You can eat some desert, but be sure to eat some healthy food as well. Most importantly God tells you to surround yourself with his Word. He isn’t saying that just to keep you busy or to punish you. No, he wants you to immerse yourself in his Word, because he loves you. It is for your spiritual good. If there’s ever any doubt that what he does and what he says is done and said out of love, then look to the cross. At the cross we see his love.