Partnering with God for
This is an adaptation of a message
given in Grace Harbor Church.
Have you ever felt that the commandments and statutes in
the Old Testament are too ancient and obsolete to have any
relevance today? Knowing this, many churches intentionally
avoid preaching out of more difficult and outdated texts
of the Bible. If you don’t believe me, think of how many
sermons you have heard come out of the book of Leviticus
or Numbers. This is my burden, and hereafter, I seek to
explain an ancient Biblical verse, Deuteronomy 10:16.
In the earlier chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses describes
the history of Israel after the Exodus event, before
exhorting the nation to trust in God’s promise to enter the
land of Canaan. He stops this long list of commands to
remind the Israelites of how they partook in idolatry by
worshipping the golden calf. Then, beginning in verse 12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask
of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking
in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the Lord
your God with all your heart and all your soul?
Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am
giving you today, for your own good. The heavens,
indeed the highest heavens, belong to the Lord
your God, as does the earth and everything in it.
Yet the Lord was devoted to your fathers and loved
them. He chose their descendants after them—He
chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today.
Therefore, circumcise your hearts and
don’t be stiff-necked any longer.
Let’s zoom in on verse 16, the last sentence. Moses is telling
the Israelites to do two things - circumcise their hearts, and,
stop being stiff-necked. Actually, they are two sides of the
same coin - a positive imperative to circumcise their hearts,
and a negative one to stop being stiff-necked. Circumcision
was a badge of having the covenant identity, having its roots
in the Abrahamic covenant. Being circumcised meant that
you were part of God’s chosen people. On the other hand,
the heart symbolises the inner man, what one really thinks
and feels. When you put that together, circumcising one’s
heart means removing the stubbornness that prevents the
heart from properly loving God, which is really the same
as the second part of the sentence to stop being stiffnecked, an ancient way of describing stubbornness. Moses
is basically saying that God wants more than just outward
conformity to His laws, He wants the hearts of the Israelites.
In light of that, this is the main point of the passage Partner with God in His sanctification of your soul. This
is done in three ways - 1) Accept God’s immeasurable
love for you, 2) Recognize your need for a Savior,
and 3) Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you.
Firstly, accept God’s immeasurable love for you. The
first word of the verse is the conjunction, “therefore.”
This tells us that there is a reason why Moses is asking
the Israelites to circumcise their hearts. The reason is
clear in its preceding verse - God chose the Israelites.
Moses is basically saying that God wants
more than just outward conformity to His
laws, He wants the hearts of the Israelites.
Moses is saying that because God chose and loved the
Israelites, therefore, they should circumcise their hearts
and stop being stiff-necked. God didn’t just choose the
Israelites, He chose you (Eph 1:4). He didn’t just love the
Israelites, He loves you. All He’s asking you to do is to
accept this great love that He has for you. To be clear, God
didn’t choose you because of anything you have done.
Isaiah says that all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags
(Isa 64:6), and that includes the exam you aced, that huge
sum of money you gave to a charity and that sleepless
night when you consoled your depressed friend. None of
that can stand up to the perfectly just God, because of
the sin in our hearts: the sin that causes us to lust, raise
our voices in anger and be arrogant. We all deserve the
judgement of God, but instead, He gives us love and grace.
So how do you accept it? The same truth Moses spoke
of thousands of years ago still apply - give your heart
to God and stop being stubborn. One of the best ways
to do this is committing to come under the teaching
of the Word every Sunday at church. That is how you
can accept God’s love for you, by listening to His Word
preached and explained. Beyond that, accept God’s love
through daily devotions, quiet time and prayer. When we
intentionally take time out of our schedules to read the
Word or come into God’s presence, we let Him and His
love into our hearts. This is how we partner with God in
His sanctification in us, by accepting His love for us.
But, we cannot do this alone. Moses tells the Israelites
to circumcise their hearts and stop being stubborn. But
God knows that we cannot achieve this on our own. He
knows that we are sinful and that we cannot cleanse