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Jul 18, 2010

Reenlistment Decisions

Passage: Deuteronomy 28:1-30:20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Taking the Land

Category: Old Testament

Keywords: reenlist, commitment, false gods, wholehearted devotion, covenant


Reenlistments are a part of life. In everything from military life to going to work every day, we're choosing to "reenlist" in something we believe in. God periodically calls for his people to "re-up" in their commitment to Him. He did so with Israel before they entered the Promised Land. In so doing, he calls us to let go of the gods of our day and love God fully. As with the Israelites, God promises a host of amazing blessings for those who get rid of false gods in their lives and hold steadfastly to the only true, living God. To do so, we must identify and foresake false gods and take public steps of commitment to Jesus Christ.


Reenlistment Decisions

July 18, 2010

Deuteronomy 28-30


Intro:  When was the last time you “re-uped” for something?  Re-enlisted?  Re-committed?  Ever had any recommitment or reenlistment decisions that were difficult…and costly?

      When I was in junior high school, my older brother Chris was a Captain in the U.S. Army.  He had been sent to Vietnam for his first tour of duty.  He didn’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior yet.  And I remember praying for his salvation every night and often many times each day. 

      He came home from Vietnam after his first tour of duty to inform us that he had signed up for a second tour.  I can’t imagine how my parents must have struggled with that decision.  I just remember that I was disappointed he wouldn’t be closer to home.  Reenlisting can be a very big deal when there’s a war on.


About three years ago I did the funeral of Sgt. James Craig, a casualty of the war in Iraq.  He had been newly married to his bride.  It was his third tour of duty in Iraq. He loved what he did and he knew God had led him to be a soldier.  Not all reenlistment decisions are so momentous or grave.  Some are.


This morning we’re looking at a reenlistment decision of mammoth proportions.  It involved several million people.  It involved a choice between life and death, success and failure, the blessing of God or the punishments of God. 

      An entire generation of God’s people had died off in the desert over a period of 40 years.  They had left Egypt 40 years earlier anticipating a several week journey to the Promised Land.  But when they came right up to it, they weren’t up to the challenge.  They doubted God’s ability to give them the victory and they grumbled against both God and his servant Moses.   

      So here their children were, 40 years later, camped on the edge of the Promised Land with the same Moses giving a speech about the choice that was now before them.  They didn’t have to go into this Promised Land.  They didn’t have to fight the battles.  They could opt out now, keep doing the “Sinai Shuffle” and walk away from the presence of God, the blessing of God and the calling of God.

      Or they could “reenlist.”  They could agree to follow God into the future and into battle.  They could agree to let go of the familiar way they had experienced God the last 4 decades and experience a fresh way of knowing him.  But they would have to make a decision about which battles they were going to fight and whether or not they would be a part of the advances God wanted to send them into. 


We’ve all got battles in life we’re going to fight…or run from.  Our parents had their own.  Some of them may have gotten passed on to us, some because they were unwilling to enter the fight and now we’ve got to face the same enemy.  Others may have done their best but still left to us some significant battles about the same stuff. 

      Sometimes several generations of people fail to “reenlist” and face the challenges head on.  Sometimes families (and even churches or communities or whole nations) settle for the predictable but deadening patterns of the past rather than forge ahead into healthier yet challenging changes for the future. 


So to begin with today, I’d like you to take a little inventory of the battles people around or who went before you chose not to address.  They are battles you will probably have to make a decision about too. 

  • What battles did your parents/grandparents/some relative fight that you are grateful they did? 
  • Which battles do you wish they had tackled in their lifetime but didn’t?
  • Who in my life right is facing a real challenge and needs my prayers and God’s intervention on their behalf? 
  • What challenge is facing me right now in which God is asking me to step forward?



“Reenlisting” or “re-uping” is a part of life.  If you stop to think about it, we do a fair amount of it. 

  • If you’re a renter, you usually re-commit to a one or two year lease.
  • If you subscribe to magazines or newspapers, you’re having to regularly “renew” your subscription.  In doing so, you make a commitment to give them your money in return for them giving you bad news. J
  • Most of us “reenlist” with our cell phone provider about every year or two. 
  • If you’re in the military as a career, you’re all too familiar with every 2-4 years signing away another chunk of your life in return for the privilege of being ordered to some far away part of the world to become the target of suicidal fanatics.   


When God asked his people to “re-up” in Deuteronomy, the terms of the agreement were really amazingly generous.  We won’t read all of it here this morning, hopefully just enough of it to be moved once again by the amazingly generous terms of God’s proposed “reenlistment.” 


Deut. 28—begin the proposed “contract”.  The term God uses is “covenant.”  It is used 7 times in chapter 29, a chapter that refers back to the promised effects in chapter 28 of either keeping or breaking the covenant. 

      Every contract I’ve ever signed, whether for a phone or for a place to live, has a list of things that I can expect, depending upon how I treat the property being used or occupied. If I’m a good tenant, I can expect to enjoy (in some cases) continued heat and water, garbage service and grounds maintenance.  I can expect that my privacy will be respected and my safety guarded. 

      But if I fail to pay the rent or observe the quite hours or respect the property by putting holes in the walls or lighting the place on fire, I can expect to feel some pain and frustration.  I’ll lose my damage deposit.  I’ll lose the right to continue living there.  I may even face additional fines or imprisonment if I’m breaking the law. 

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? 


So when it comes to God asking his people to reaffirm the contract he made with their parents, it’s not surprising that he would give a list of benefits/blessings they could expect if they kept the contract or penalties/curses they would bring upon themselves if they didn’t.  There is nothing unfair or strange about this arrangement.  It’s what every landlord and every renter does world-over today. 


Chapter 28, vss. 1-14 give some very specific benefits/blessings the people could expect if they held up their end of the agreement:

  • Vss. 1-6-- 1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.  4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.  6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
  • Vs. 7--Victory on the battlefield
  • Vs. 8--Blessing on crops
  • Vss. 9-10--Respect in the eyes of the world as “God’s people.”
  • Vss. 11--Prosperity of offspring
  • Vss. 12-13-- 12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.


But then the “penalties” are stated.  Misuse and abuse of the property and/or the Landlord would have certain unpleasant repercussions, as seen in vss. 15-68.  80% of the chapter is a warning about the horrible things that will happen to God’s chosen people if they break the covenant; 80%!  Listen to just a few of the rather spine-tingling penalties they would experience.

  • Vs. 18—kids would be cursed, crops cursed, flocks cursed. 
  • Vs. 21—plauged with diseases
  • Vss. 22-24—scorching heat, no rain, dustbowl conditions
  • Vs 25—defeated in battle
  • Vs. 30—robbed of marriage/fiancées, of food, of property, of children. 

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, you read this in vss. 53-55 (read).  It’s the stuff of which nightmares and horror movies are made! L

53 Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities.


Then in chapter 29, Moses changes gears with his “reenlistment campaign.”  He points to what they have already experienced of the presence and work of God on their behalf and against their enemies. 

29:2-6-- 2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:
      Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. 6 You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God.

      Then God reminds them of how God enabled them to defeat their enemies on the east side of the Jordan.  Doing the same with their enemies on the west side would not be a big deal either.


29:9-15  -- 9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the LORD your God, a covenant the LORD is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God but also with those who are not here today.

(Vs. 13—“…that he may be your God….”  God is not calling upon his people because HE needs it.  He’s offering this relationship because THEY need it.  They (as all people do) need relationship with Him, need blessing from Him, need all that He is to people.)


Starting in vs. 16, it becomes very clear that at the core of this contract is not the issue of how well they will take care of the property or how well they are keeping up on the rent payments.  At the heart of it is really what is at the heart of the entire focus of Scripture.  It’s what is at the heart of God’s every appeal to relationship with him. It’s about which God/gods we will choose in life, about who/what has the affection and attention of our hearts.   


Read 29:16-18The “bitter poison” (vs. 18) of idolatry. 

16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.


Now, the Israelites were pretty clear at this point on what the “gods” of the Egyptians were.  They were pretty clear about what the gods of the Canaanites were whose land they were about to enter.  Some of them had been kids when the golden calf debacle happened at Mt. Sinai.  They knew the folly of false gods compared to the favor of the Living God. 


False gods always produce bitter poison.  But when we’re worshiping false gods, they don’t look like a disaster waiting to happen.  They look rather beautiful.  They shine and sparkle.  They make us feel alive and life look exciting.  They give us a thrill, a challenge, a payback that nothing else seems to deliver. 

      But God is right:  in the end, they yield bitter poison.  In the end they are deadly and deadening. 


It’s easy to see the gods of pagan nations. 

  • Visit a Hindu people and you will see thousands of different Hindu temples with physical images representing over a million gods.
  • Visit a communist or dictatorial nation and you will see posters of the political leaders and monuments to their military or technological exploits…but no churches. 
  • Visit tribal or animistic cultures and you will see people worshiping and appeasing spirits in trees or rocks or rivers. 

But what about our own culture?  What are the “gods” WE can and often do so easily end up worshiping?  How can we know when something has become a god though we may never want to call it that? 

(Charlie’s comments in staff meeting one day—“Every bad choice is really a worship issue:  what besides God am I choosing to follow and orient my life around?”)


Maybe a few questions would help us identify the god-competitors in our lives.  What kinds of questions could we pose to ourselves to help us be brutally honest about whether or not “other gods” have captured our affection, our desires and our worship?  Let me try to prime the pump and then I’d like you to take a couple of minutes to come up with some more…probably far more insightful and spiritually deep than mine. J 

      For instance, a good question that would reveal a false god should be able to identify when a good thing or person has become too important or controlling in my life.

      It should be able to reveal when anything less than God has taken on a dominant and controlling role in my life.

      It should be able to identify when sinful or unhealthy things or people have taken charge of our life, things like addictions to chemical substances, to harmful sexual behaviors, to unhealthy control issues, etc.

  1. What or who do I find it extremely difficult or impossible to say “no” to?  (Could be a person, a behavior pattern, an activity, a dream…any number of things.)
  2. For what or who do I sacrifice things for which I later regret?  (Sacrifice too much time, sacrifice important relationships, sacrifice my walk with Christ, sacrifice my integrity, etc.)
  3. What tends to make me angry, depressed, sullen, judgmental, manipulative, critical or hopeless when I don’t get it how, when, where, the way I want it? 
  4. What frequently preempts my time with God, be it daily or weekly worship?
  5. What keeps me from periodically telling God, “You can do anything with my life, my possessions and my loved ones that you deem good and right whenever you choose, wherever that leads”?


[Give time for small groups to reflect and develop other questions.]


APP:  God’s Spirit is well able to speak to all of us about potential or actual false gods in our lives.  When Moses spoke to the people of God in his day, God’s Spirit identified for every person in that nation the things and people that either were or could be false gods.  I think he’s doing it here today. 

      So let’s do something about it.  Let’s take these questions and let God’s Spirit point out some of those false god dangers in our own hearts.

--Write out the numbers of the questions we’ve identified.

--Next to each number, put the first letter of the word that represents that “god.”  For instance, you might write down an “S” for “sex” or “social life” or “summer vacation” or “success in my career.” 


Chapter 30

      When I was in college, I started out as a pre-med major.  That was, until I had to take cell biology and realized that no matter how hard I studied, I just didn’t have what it takes to be able to grasp all the stuff you need to understand if you are going to succeed in the sciences. 

But I had a hall-mate on our floor who was a genius.  Really, the guy was brilliant.  He not only pulled straight “A”s taking a full load of science courses.  He was bored doing it.  One semester he even stayed up all night partying the night before his finals, got drunk, and went in the next morning with a hangover to take his chemistry and biology finals…and aced them. 

I remember him saying to me one day when I met him in the hall and asked him what he was going to do the next year, he answered something like, “Well, I’ve decided I’m dropping out of the sciences.  I’m not going to pursue it anymore.  I’m kind of bored with it all.  I think I’ll take up psychology or business or something.”  He ran on and on about that for a minute or two.  Finally, he admitted that he was just pulling my leg. And he summed it all up by saying, “There’s no way I could do anything else in life.  Science IS my LIFE.  I’d die if I couldn’t do this the rest of my life.” 


Science was his god…right up there with beer and women and his own intelligence. 


Moses closed his challenge to this new generation of God’s people with a challenge about what was to “be their life.”  What was it that was to really make life worth living for them?  What was it that  should have enabled them to say, “Now, we’re really living.  This is life at its best!”

      Surprisingly, it wasn’t to be a bunch of victories in battle…or new houses…or lots of property…or abundant harvests…or lots of children…or happy marriages… great as all those things may be.  Moses knew that for people to “really live it up,” whatever it was they wanted to make their life about had to be big enough to really deliver.  It had to be great enough to withstand the storms of life.  It had to be able to deliver no matter what came down the pike. 


My genius hallmate’s life would have, and maybe has, crumbled if he couldn’t be a doctor…or if he bombed out of med school…or if he lost his medical practice through some unfortunate turn of events.  Science and medicine were his god…and without them his life would be meaningless. 


That’s the problem with false gods.  They aren’t big enough to encompass all of life. 

  • If a loving marriage is your god, then life will cease to be good when your spouse ceases to be loving.
  • If a healthy, happy, successful child is your god, then your life will crumble and cease to be “good” if you child is born with an abnormality…or contracts a serious disease…or doesn’t perform in school or sports or whatever as you dreamt they would.
  • We could say the same thing about careers or friendships, pleasures or entertainments, family or health or anything we might be tempted to say we must have in order to “really have life.” 

That’s why Moses said this in Deut. 30:19-20—

19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


Who wouldn’t want to “choose life” for heaven’s sake? 

Door #1 is life; door #2 is death.  Who wouldn’t choose door #1?  Who in their right mind would choose death? 


Isn’t this just what Adam and Eve did?  It isn’t that they chose death…yet they did.  God told them, a choice for the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” would mean death. But then there was this other beautiful creature…the serpent.  He said that tree was really where life would be found.  He said that God was the one lying.  He said they would not die if they ate of it.  So Adam and Eve chose what they thought would bring life.  They choose what looked good at the moment to them.  They chose what some other very intelligent, very beautiful and very convincing being told them would be life.  And they chose it over the clear instructions of God to the contrary.  They chose their own wisdom over God’s.  Real “life”, they thought, was to be found somewhere else…in a forbidden fruit…in the middle of a very blessed and God-ordained garden. 


Is this not what Moses is speaking to in his farewell address?

Is this not the same fundamental call God is giving to every one of us?

Deut. 30:15-16


Is this not “THE Great Commandment”…that which all the other commands of Scripture simply specify and apply?  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength…and then you will be choosing LIFE!  Then you really will be living. 


Is this something that is beyond us?  Too hard for us?  Impossible? 

Deut. 30:11-14-- 11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Let me put it this way.


Men: imagine we are all 25 years old, single, still trying to figure out life, not always super-responsible, still a bit adolescent, still fighting an occasional pimple…and dodging some of life’s responsibility…a typical, average 20 year old kid. 

      Imagine that a drop-dead gorgeous young woman (the kind that makes your mouth fall open unknowingly) not to mention…intelligent, funny, fun-loving, talented, kind, gracious, all-around amazing young woman way out of your league…comes to you and says, “You know, I’ve got a serious offer for you.  I’ve waited my whole life for the right man to marry.  I’ve guarded my purity and I’ve developed myself (body, soul, mind and spirit) to their fullest potential.  I’ve been waiting for that time when you would be ready to make one of life’s most important decisions—who you are going to marry.  You now are, and I’d like to invite you to enter into a life-long love relationship with me.  I’d like to live every day of my life with you from here on.  I’d like you to be the focus of my deepest and most enduring love and affection.  I’d like to be wholly devoted to you…bear your children, build your home, be there on the good days and the bad days, love you through poverty and plenty, through health and sickness.  I’m inviting you to love me…because I’m already in love with you.  But it’s your call.”

      Men, how difficult would it be to accept that invitation?  How long would you have to wait and think that one over, assuming everything I’ve mentioned about this woman is true and you were serious about wanting a life partner?  You’d be a fool to refuse the offer, right.  (Wow, just painting that scenario makes me realize how close I came as a 24 year old to being the fool in that scenario!)


Women, imagining that you were 25, single, eager to be married, not someone who has ever stood out from the crowd in lots of ways but someone who has huge dreams and longings for life, love, family and the future.  How difficult would it be to say “yes” to a dream-boat 25 year old single man who was 10-times more handsome than your favorite movie star, 20 times more romantic, far more responsible, loving, considerate, caring, kind, generous, pure, responsible, successful…you name it?  It’s the same scenario as I painted for the men but for you, a woman. 

      If that man came to you and said, “I’m asking for your hand in marriage.  I’m inviting you to be my wife…for life.  But in saying “yes” to me, you will have to say “no” to other possible suitors.  But I can promise you a life unparalleled, a marriage unmatched, a family to die for and more amazing than your wildest dreams.”


So the most perfect being in all the universe, more beautiful and glorious, more loving and powerful, more grace-filled and glorious, comes to us and says, “Now choose life…life with me…so that you and your children may live…and that you may love me, the Lord your God, that you may listen to my voice, and that you may hold fast to me.  For I, the Lord, am your life….”


Col. 3:3-4—“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God, When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”


God hasn’t promised to us, the church, the exact same things he promised to the nation Israel.  He promised them a land, an offspring, physical prosperity and health if they would but let go of the false gods of their day in order to embrace the True and Living God with their whole heart. 


Ours is not a promise of national blessing.  But God daily promises to “meet all [y]our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).  To those who by faith have said “Yes” to the offer of an eternal love relationship with God through faith in Christ, the promise is greater than a physical country or offspring or health.  The dimensions of the offer are massive and eternal, not limited and temporal. 


Do you want to “love the Lord your God”?

Do you want to “listen to his voice”?

Do you want to “hold fast to him?” 

There are times in life when both we and our children and children’s children need to know that we are “re-uping”, “we’re “re-enlisting” in our acceptance of God’s call to an exclusive, one-of-a-kind, no-other-gods love relationship with the Living God. 

      We do that every time we identify something or someone who has inched into the god-spot in our life.

We do that every time we take communion and by doing so we are “reenlisting” in Christ—telling God, “Yes, I accept your offer of love…and I love you.  Yes, I want to hear your voice and I will listen and obey when you speak.  And, yes, I will cling to and hold fast to you, forsaking all other gods, by faith I Jesus Christ.” 


1.)     Before you take communion today, allow the Spirit of God to search your life and point out potential or real “false gods” that he is asking you to turn from and let go of.

2.)    As you take communion, tell God in your own words, “I choose life.  I choose you, the Author of Life.  I choose your word, your instruction, your call, your voice.  I respond to your love for me…and I LOVE YOU.