Text: Deuteronomy 10:12-21
In the First Article of the Creed, we gladly confess that God, our God, is the maker of heaven and earth. In six days He created all that exists in heaven, on earth, and under the earth – as Scripture sometimes speaks. Everything exists because He made it. We exist because He made us. Our God, however, was not content to let His glory rest in just making things; He continues to preserve them and provide for them. We heard from our Lord a few weeks back that He provides for the birds of the air who, “neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns.” (Matthew 6:26 English Standard Version) He clothes the lilies of the field in greater array than King Solomon in full adornment. We confess in the Catechism that He also provides us with, “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.” This is the meaning of the First Article of the Creed: our God made and does provide for everything, even us, out of love.
The meaning of the First Commandment is connected to this; it’s basically what St. Moses was preaching on in our text today. The Book of Deuteronomy finds the children of Israel at the entrance of the Promised Land, with Moses recounting for them all the events leading up to it. At the end of the book, Moses dies. Led by Joshua, they go in. Moses’ sermon today reminded the children how it is that they got to the Promised Land – God brought them. In love, He chose them out of the whole world to be His people. He provided for them every day of their lives; He moved heaven and earth to care for them, because that was easy for Him. Therefore, Moses said, they should remember the First Commandment and look to God for every need. Since they knew that God provided for everything they needed, they could be confident in their care for others. So can we.
Like we said, in Deuteronomy the children of Israel are at the entrance of the Promised Land. As we well know, they had been there before and refused to enter. They did not trust God’s promise or the good reports of Joshua and Caleb, who had spied out the land. God disciplined them in the wandering and, of the adults who left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb did enter the Promised Land. In our text, Moses is speaking to the children – to those who left Egypt at a young age and those who were born on the way. These were they who had experienced God’s provision directly: the manna, the quail, the water from the rock. On Thanksgiving, we’ll hear how their clothing did not ever wear out and their feet never swelled from walking in all those 40 years. (Deuteronomy 8) God provided for them – as a group and individually – all that time.
Moses said, “To the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set His heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.” (Deut. 10:14-15) In other words, everything belongs to God. He is the creator of all that exists and nothing is impossible to Him. And yet, He chose the children of Israel out of the whole world to be His children. It’s not because they were great, or mighty in number, or especially righteous – but only out of His own love. God chose them in love. He led them, provided for them; He brought them out of slavery.
So, also, has the “God of Gods and Lord of Lords,” chosen us. (v. 17) It’s not because we are especially strong or mighty, nor because we are great in number or especially righteous that God has chosen us. Rather, in love God chose you and me out of the whole world to be His child and heir. Through His holy prophets and apostles, He sent His Word to us and by the Holy Spirit brought us to faith. In Baptism, Christ clothed us in His own righteousness and endowed us with the eternal life He purchased by His perfect life and sacrificial death. In love, God gathered us together in this place so that a Christian congregation might be formed to preach His Word purely and to administer His Sacraments in keeping with His Word. Though we might appear small in the eyes of the world, God’s pure Word and Sacrament are a more precious treasure and beautiful decoration than there could ever be otherwise.
As if all these things weren’t enough, God has provided for us in our daily lives up to this very moment. It is true that God’s wisdom is at times different than ours, but we must confess at this moment that we are alive. We have been fed, we are clothed, we have a roof over our head, we have some money. Our God has not once left us stranded or without aid – even those times we couldn’t yet see it. As the seasons change, He will see that our buildings are warm or that we have warm clothing to wear. As He has so far, He will continue to defend us from illness. Or, if it should be His will that we should suffer, He will heal us either in this life or the next. All these things, both spiritual and bodily, our God provides us out of His own love and mercy. If we would be mindful of these things, we could live without a care in the world – which is what God intends for us in the First Commandment.
But alas, we are not always mindful of these things. We are more quick to criticize the Lord for our lack than to bless Him for all we do have. Even when we are enjoying what the Lord has given us, our eyes are quick to notice and covet our neighbor’s abundance. When our Lord allows disaster to befall us, we first grow anxious and don’t think to pray. These same sinful things, the children of Israel did. Therefore, Moses said to them, “Circumcise…the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of Gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” (vv. 16-17) In other words, God has got your back. In love, He has brought you this far. He always will provide everything you truly need: His Son Jesus for your soul, and He provides for all your bodily needs, too.
Moses reminds the people of these things so that they might remember that they, also, can be generous. If we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, that means that we can also live free and generous lives in the Gospel. Since we know that God provides for us, we are free to provide for others. Ours is a God who watches over the fatherless, the widow, and the sojourner. Some of these are present in our lives, some not; but there are also others in our lives whom we are privileged to serve. King David said, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off.” (Ps. 37:21-22) Since we are freely blessed by God, we are free to be a blessing to others.
This was St. Moses’ sermon to the people. Out of love God chose them out of all the earth. He provided them with forgiveness again and again, and He supported them in all their bodily needs. The First Commandment teaches us to expect and know these things come from God. Therefore, being freed from all worry about where our provision will come from, we can joyfully care for others. It says in Hebrews, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (13:2) God grant the same be said of us.