************ Sermon on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 25, 2015
"Branded with Christ"
Cadet Sunday 2015
Every Spring when my friends and I cycle up Yokohl Valley on a Saturday morning, we suddenly come across a bunch of pickup trucks, we hear the lowing of cattle, we see a fire, and we smell burnt hair. Cattle are being rounded up and branded.
As you know, cattle are marked with a brand that proclaims who are its owners. The brands are the initials of the owner, or a logo from the ranch or dairy. The branding iron is made red hot in the fire and then the brand is burned into the hide of the animal. From then on the animal has a permanent mark of ownership.
Sometimes cattle roam the foothills, or they break out of a corral and onto the neighbor's land. They get mixed with the neighbor's cattle.
How do you figure out who is the owner? "Is this my steer or is it yours?" "Whose heifer is this one?" "Where did this cow come from?" The brand is how you know the owner.
That is the Cadet theme for this year: "Branded with Christ."
I Who is God? (verse 4)
A Our beginning point is God. Who is God? Verse 4 answers that question: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4).
This verse is called the Shema, from the Hebrew word translated as "Hear." This verse tells us that the LORD is one of a kind. He alone is God. He is not just a god, He is the GOD. He is not one of many. He is the one only true God. He stands alone.
In the Ancient World this belief in one God made the people and nation of Israel unique. You see, Israel's neighbors, the heathen nations, believed in multiple gods. There was a sun god, a moon god, a god of fertility, a god of war, a god of thunder, a god of the river Nile, and so on. But the children of Israel know better than their heathen neighbors. They know there is only one God.
B "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4). This belief in one God gave the Israelites a sense of security that was impossible for the pagans with their multiple gods. You see, the pagan gods were jealous of each other and acted against each other. They rarely acted in harmony with each other. Each god was unpredictable and impulsive. So a pagan worshiper never had a sense of security. He or she never quite knew what the gods would do. Loyalty to one god might make a pagan worshiper in trouble with another god. The Israelites, however, did not have to worry about this because they had to deal with only one God Who loved them and cared for them and saved them and was bringing them to the Promised Land.
C "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4). Different heresies, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, use this verse to argue against the doctrine of the Trinity. They are arguing out of ignorance. I say this because the Hebrew word for "God" in this verse is plural, implying the Trinity, and the word "one" suggests a unity of the Persons in the Godhead.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4). So we look at this verse in the light of the New Testament and we know and confess that this one God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We know and confess this one God is the Father Who made us, the Son Who saves us, and the Spirit Who sanctifies us.
D "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4). Notice the phrase "our God." Meaning what? Implying what? Meaning and implying Israel was in a loving covenantal relationship with God. Meaning they belonged to this one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They belonged to Him, body and soul, in life and in death. It is this one God Who has full paid for all their sins with the precious blood of His Son. It is this one God Who set them free from the tyranny of Pharaoh and the devil. It is this one God Who watched over them and even over the hairs of their head. It is this one God Who assured them of eternal life.
It is this loving, covenantal relationship with God that set Israel apart from all the other nations. Meaning and implying, to use the Cadet theme, that Israel was already branded. Though the whole earth was His, out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD chose Israel to be his treasured possession (Ex 19:5; Deut 14:2).
Hear this, Cadets: you, too, are in a loving covenantal relationship with God. In Christ you belong to Him, body and soul, in life and in death. In Christ He has paid for your sins. Like cattle, like Israel, you have been branded.
II Love the Lord your God (verse 5)
A How is Israel to respond to this one God? The answer is found in verse 5: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5). But we can't leave it there. We have to also say what Jesus adds in the New Testament. "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:39). Respond to the one God by loving Him and loving your neighbor. Loving God is most important. Everything else, including love of other people, flows out of the command to love God.
B What does this love look like? If you tried to imagine it in your mind or draw it on a paper, what would it look like? I think of Jesus going on a mountain to pray. I think of the children of Israel making their covenant vows at Mt. Sinai. I think of the Good Samaritan helping the man left for dead. I think of the New Testament church in worship and they were so filled with the Spirit that the place where they were meeting was shaken. I think of family-time devotions. I think of this congregation singing. I think of that solemn moment of silence right after we eat and drink at the Lord's Table.
C What does love for God and neighbor look like? What else can we say? Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (Jn 14:15).
So that's what love looks like: obedience. Following God's commands is how we love Him.
Now, do any of you boys know how many commands there are in the Law of Moses? There are 613 of them. So, in Israel, love means keeping all 613 commands.
III Hearing and Seeing (verses 6-9)
A To obey, we must know what God's commands are. We cannot obey what we don't know. Which means we cannot love if we are ignorant of God's will.
Which brings us to verse 6: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts" (Deut 6:6). How do we do that? This is explained in verses 7-9.
As I said a few moments ago, there are 613 commandments in the Torah, in the first five books of the Old Testament. Cadets, notice what the children of Israel are to do with these 613 commandments. They are to impress them on their children. They are to talk about them. They are to tie them on their hands. They are to bind them on their foreheads. They are to write them on the doorframes of their houses.
B These words were first said to Israel, to the Jews. So let me show you what the Jews do. I have here a Jewish prayer shawl. Notice all the knots. There are 613 of them, one for each commandment. The psalmist says, "Oh, how I love your law!" (Ps 119:97). So with that in mind you kiss the shawl at both ends before you put it around your shoulders. Then you put on this special head covering.
HOLD UP PHYLACTERY. Do any of you boys know what this is? The official word is "phylactery." Inside the phylactery, written on special parchment are four Bible passages (Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21). So what do the Jews do with the phylactery? Anyone have any idea? They bind it on their foreheads, just as our Scripture reading says.
To this day you can immediately recognize a Jew in worship because they wear a prayer shawl on the shoulders and a phylactery on the forehead. This, with circumcision, is a Jew's brand. It is their way of saying they belong to God. It is their way of saying God is their owner.
C You boys don't wear a prayer shawl and you don't wear a phylactery but everyone should be able to recognize that you are a Christian. Everyone should be able to recognize that you are a Christian because you have been branded with Christ.
When have you received this brand? At baptism! You have been set apart by baptism as God's own children. This is one of the reasons we baptize children. We want the world and the church to know that our children and youth belong to God. We want the world and the church to know that our children and youth have been branded with Christ. Boys, Jesus is your Owner, your Master. You belong to Him, body and soul, in life and in death. You have received His brand.
D Let's go back to the first sentence of verse 7. Speaking of God's commandments, Moses writes, "Impress them on your children."
In the Hebrew, the word "impress" is actually the word "sharpen." The same word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament for sharpening a sword or the tip of an arrow. Now, how did the people of Israel sharpen a sword or an arrow?
I have a knife here. HOLD UP KNIFE AND FILE. I take a file and I rub it against the edge of the knife over and over and over again. I do it repeatedly. Israel used the same method to sharpen a sword or an arrow – repeatedly rubbing the steel or stone up and down the blade.
"Impress them on your children." In other words, sharpen your children. How do we do that? The same way we sharpen a knife or a sword: with repetition. Endless repetition. Doing it over and over and over again.
Moses mentions two kinds of repetition.
The first kind of repetition involves hearing. "Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut 6:7). Talk. Talk. Talk. Again, and again, and again. Impress them on your children. Sharpen your children. Brand them with the words of Christ. Cadets, there is a reason your parents and counselors and teachers keep saying the same things to you. They want you to be branded with Christ.
The second kind of repetition involves seeing. "Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deut 6:8-9). Show. Show. Show. Again, and again, and again. Impress them on your children. Sharpen your children. Brand them with the words of Christ.
This means our children and youth can never hear and see the Word of God too often. We are to remind them over and over again. We are to take every opportunity we can to place God's commandments before their ears and their eyes.
E Some here might be thinking to themselves, "I don't know the Bible that well. So how can I teach my kids?" You don't have to be a minister or an elder to sharpen your children. Even though it is your God-given role to be your child's primary teacher about God and His ways, you never have to do this alone. God has given you other believers who can come alongside and help: believers in the Christian school; believers in a home schooling network; believers in church – such as pastors, elders, counselors, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers, and adults who have a genuine interest in and love for your children.
F Let me give some practical hints on how to impress God's Word on your children, on how to sharpen your children.
-be in the habit of daily family devotions
-send your kids to Cadets, GEMS, youth group
-make sure your kids attend Sunday School and Catechism
-enroll your kids in the Christian School or give them Christian schooling at home
-bring your children to worship
-surround your children with Christian music
-put severe limits on what they see and hear from TV
-keep them from listening to the wrong kind of music
To sum up:
-fill their minds and hearts with whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy
Cadets, you have been branded with Christ. You belong to Him, body and soul, in life and in death.
Because you have been branded with Christ you want to love Him. Because you love Him you want to obey Him. Because you want to obey Him you need to hear and see His commandments over and over again.
Branded with Christ. That is what you are. And that is how you are to live.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page